#1: Transformers: Age of Extinction
I admit it. For the first 30 minutes or so, I actually liked this movie. It started out being halfway decent. I liked the whole device with Mark Wahlburg finding a discarded, beaten-up semi truck in an abandoned movie theater, only to discover that the truck was actually Optimus Prime. It started out strong… and then it quickly turned to shit.
This movie was boring, ridiculous, and incomprehensible. The hell of it is that I continue to be one of those rare movie fans who actually likes Michael Bay as a filmmaker. When he wants to, he can make an entertaining film (his movie “Pain & Gain” made my honorable mentions list last year), but I feel like this Transformers franchise brings out the worst in him. These are (with the exception of the first movie) loud, incoherent, stupid, lazy films that pander to the lowest common denominator.
This movie was the cinematic equivalent to Billy Madison’s description of the industrial revolution. Those of us who were unfortunate enough to spend our time watching it are now “dumber for having [seen] it.”
#2: Rio 2
Apparently, there are two schools of thought in animated, “family” friendly filmmaking. School 1 is the Pixar school (spawned from classic movies like “Toy Story,” “Cars,” “Wall-E,” and the like), where attention to detail and storytelling are priorities, with the end goal of making a movie that will stand the test of time. School 2 is the Dreamworks school (spawned from the “Shrek” franchise) where the filmmakers focus on churning out low-quality junk infused with sass-talking characters using current slang with a dash of “adult-friendly” jokes.
“Rio 2” is definitely a product of the second school. Unlike the first “Rio” movie, this one was a piece of crap from start to finish. It took the thinnest-possible storyline – barely more than an idea – and augmented it with sass-talking characters meant to entertain the kids and a liberal helping of “adult” jokes meant to keep the parents’ attention. As far as I could tell from my fellow audience-members, it failed on both fronts.
Demand better from your animated movies, people. Spend your money on the quality ones like “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” and skip the crap-fests. Pay attention – there is a difference, and your kids know it.
Melissa McCarthy turned in one of my favorite performances of the year in “St. Vincent.” In that movie, she portrayed someone who was sweet, caring, loyal, and easily one of the most sympathetic and human characters of the year. I’ll say again, I LOVED her in “St. Vincent.” Which makes “Tammy” all the more disappointing.
“Tammy” was apparently what Ms. McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone (who directed the movie) thinks America wants to see: a series of pratfalls and fat jokes without story and without heart. Honestly, this movie is horrible. It’s not funny, it’s not interesting, and it has no emotional weight. Don’t waste your time, and don’t encourage Melissa McCarthy to continue making movies like this one. See “St. Vincent” instead.
The director of Happy Christmas, Joe Swanberg, is one of the icons of the indie-film “mumblecore” movement, having made one of the protypical examples in “Hannah Takes the Stairs.” Mumblecore movies are typically low-budget movies that don’t have a script per se, but instead have a loose outline of a plot where the actors are given the freedom to improvise their lines. The camera is just permitted to roll, and the ultimate movie is edited down from the footage of these improvisations.
Many of the key members of the movement – the Duplass brothers, Katie Aselton, and Lynn Shelton for example – have matured as filmmakers in recent years and grown out of making mumblecore movies. Joe Swanberg, on the other hand, seems stuck there; nowhere is that more apparent than in Happy Christmas.
Okay, this is one of those movies that most film critics went nuts for this year. In the movie, Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who seduces, and kills, a series of men.
I don’t get it.
To me, there was very little in this movie that was interesting or even watchable. Put simply, it is boring. There is barely any story; the action is virtually non-existent, and the visuals read more like an avant-garde art show than a piece of entertainment. I can’t help but think that the critics who chose it for their annual “top 10” lists are engaging in masturbatory self-congratulation designed to inflate their opinions of themselves; it’s the film critic version of fart-sniffing. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the South Park episode “Smug Alert!” right now.
#6: Vampire Academy
The current craze for movies based on popular young adult fiction (which resulted in some admittedly good stuff this year, like The Fault in Our Stars and If I Stay) reached its nadir with Vampire Academy.
Wow, this movie was terrible from start to finish. Even when I dislike a movie, I often am able to find something enjoyable in it. I can’t think of anything I enjoyed in Vampire Academy.
#7: The Monuments Men
I can’t say for certain whether my strong negative reaction to this movie is because I really, really hated it, or whether it’s because I was so very disappointed in it. I love Seth Macfarlane. I am a big fan of Family Guy and American Dad. I think he’s witty, intelligent, and irreverent in all of the right ways. It’s very possible that the reason I disliked this movie so much is because it was such a huge failure given his talent: the jokes flopped, the framing device didn’t work, and the story was barely there.
It may be that I’m grading this on a weighted scale – because I had high expectations, its flaws were all the more exaggerated – but even without the benefit (or disadvantage) of inflated expectations, I think this movie would have sucked. Skip it.
Okay, I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion because everyone loves Jon Stewart, me included. But this is not a review of Jon Stewart; this is a review of a movie he directed. And that movie SUCKED.
“Rosewater” (kind of) tells the story of Maziar Bahari, a journalist who was arrested in Iran following the 2009 Presidential elections. . . but it does so in the dullest way possible. 70% of the movie was set inside of Bahari’s prison cell, and most of the “action” took place inside Bahari’s mind using flashbacks and visions. Very little actually happened. It was amateur filmmaking at best, using film school 101 devices to advance the story in the most plodding way possible. Jon Stewart should stick with his day job.
#10: The Boxtrolls
I really, really wanted to like this movie. It was made by Laika Entertainment, which made the excellent Coraline and Paranorman. Sadly, The Boxtrolls was not in the same class as either of those films. The boxtrolls being charming and fun to look at did not make up for an uninteresting, thinly-plotted story that was more appropriate for a short film than a feature.
The Theory of Everything
Horrible Bosses 2
Wish I was Here
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
America: Imagine the World Without Her