We’re just over halfway through 2016 and the year has already yielded a selection of very varied films – from the good to the bad, via the incredibly ugly. The Best Picture field at the Oscars this year was as wide open as it has ever been, with several major prestige pictures vying for the title.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though, with some real turkeys stinking their way through multiplexes in the first half of the year. Some of those films involve Robert De Niro taking his top off, which is distressing in itself, and others are shameful cash-ins on properties that were popular decades ago.
I’ve already spoken about the best films of 2016 to date, but here are the five worst films of 2016 so far.
5. Zoolander 2
I feel a little bad for Ben Stiller. Ever since his relatively decent fashion world comedy Zoolander earned itself a cult following, he has been beset by calls for a sequel. It finally arrived this year in the shape of Zoolander 2, which is one of the laziest, most depressingly poor sequels of recent years. There was no shortage of material, with the vane world of selfies and social media seemingly the perfect backdrop for the antics of Derek and Hansel. However, Zoolander 2 completely fails to mine that material.
In trying to replicate the first film’s lightning in a bottle, this comes across as an hour and a half of brainstorming rather than a coherent work of cinema. Enormous lengths of the running time pass by without so much as a sniff of a joke and endless celebrity cameos plug the gaps in the script. It’s not big, it’s not clever and it definitely isn’t funny.
4. London Has Fallen
Shouty racism has gone mainstream this year as Donald Trump has mounted his campaign to become President of the United States. Trump probably adored every moment of London Has Fallen, in which Gerard Butler repeatedly shot at anonymous terrorists in service of protecting the American president. He may as well have been singing ‘Star Spangled Banner’ whilst giving a manly hug to a bald eagle. The film is a thoroughly unpleasant slice of action cinema that never seeks any depth beyond how many times Butler can say “fuck” and punch people in the face.
London Has Fallen is made with contempt for everyone, including the people that make up its audience. The CGI effects are ropey, the script is awful and the plot has no logic to it. But the filmmakers have gambled on one cynical idea – the audience doesn’t care. The sad thing is that, with a gross of nearly $200m, they were right really.
3. Independence Day: Resurgence
The first Independence Day movie is overrated. It doesn’t work as an intelligent movie and, if it’s mindless destruction you’re after, there are plenty of more exciting films to choose from. That film, however, is high art in comparison to the horrifying mess that was Independence Day: Resurgence. It’s a movie that was produced on the basis of a balance sheet rather than creative impetus and, as such, has a lifeless plot that squanders its most interesting aspects in favour of nonsense and noise. So much noise.
The performances are leaden and unexciting and characters speak almost solely in winking one-liners designed to pop the viewers of a trailer rather than exist as part of a coherent film. Ropey CGI lets down the aliens and the threat never seems legitimately dangerous, especially as it moves towards a climax so keen to reference other movies that it never works in its own right. This isn’t a problem with silly disaster movies; this is a problem with films where no one seems to be trying.
2. Dirty Grandpa
It’s become a cliché to question Robert De Niro‘s recent career choices. The man who once cemented himself as an all-time acting great with Raging Bull and Taxi Driver has popped in some questionable fare in the last few years, but Dirty Grandpa certainly feels like the nadir of this decline. It’s a dismal, crass comedy that seems to think the notion of an old man who swears and likes sex is inherently funny. With that in mind, the filmmakers chose not to bother with one crucial ingredient – jokes.
With jokes referencing rape and paedophilia, as well as at least half a dozen unfortunate N-words, Dirty Grandpa is a truly unclean experience. It’s a film that leaves its skid marks all over you and ensures that you leave the cinema scratching at yourself, trying to remove its residue from your soul. It’s all the more disturbing given that the script once appeared on the Black List of best unproduced screenplays. Presumably someone just took that script and drew an enormous phallus on it. Although, that might have been funnier.
1. Hardcore Henry
Have you ever been at a party and found yourself talking to a “lad”? They’re the kind of people who think playing FIFA and “pulling birds” are the most important things in the world and they often consider sexual consent laws to be more like flexible guidelines. Well, I’d rather be locked in a room with a lad for an hour and a half than sit through Hardcore Henry again. I can’t recall having seen many films as outright unpleasant as this bad taste odyssey that mistakes strapping a Go-Pro to someone’s head for a unique style choice.
The film simply bounces from scene to scene, objectifying women and fetishising violence at every step of the journey. It’s not long before the violence has a numbing effect and the film just becomes a bland, headache-inducing mess that is shocking in its commitment to replicating the aesthetic of a video game whilst not realising that what makes that medium so entertaining is the ability to play along yourself.
It’s the worst movie of 2016 so far and it will take a very special turkey to beat it.
I also asked Luke Stevenson and Patrick Wilson, my co-hosts on The Popcorn Muncher Podcast, what they thought were the worst films of 2016 so far. Here’s what they said…
Luke’s Worst Films of 2016 so Far
3. Captain America: Civil War
There’s a word that Tom, editor of The Popcorn Muncher, will use when he’s trying to describe a movie that is perfectly fine but he doesn’t really like. “Functional” is Tom’s word of choice in this situation, and is a fitting description for Captain America: Civil War. It ticks the boxes it needs to tick in the order you would expect these movies to tick them.
But what are you left with? You’re left with another faceless and unmemorable addition to a roster of movies so similar and devoid of creative direction you might as well watch a DVD of Tony Pulis’ greatest 0-0 draws on repeat for all the joy you get from it.
I had high hopes for this movie and entered the cinema really wanting to enjoy it. For the first hour it’s fine, if you forgive a few glaring pacing faults, but following that it descends into an unmitigated disaster. It has the elements to be an heir to the Lord of the Rings, but fails to successfully tie them together into any extended periods of meaningful enjoyment.
Tonally it’s a mess, the performances are awful and its plotting is incomprehensible at best. What could have been the launch of a new, exciting franchise has been betrayed by the complete lack of confidence anyone making it seemed to have in the product. If it is to be a franchise, let’s hope whoever takes on the reigns next has some clue about what they are doing.
1. Independence Day: Resurgence
If a brutal alien invasion and systematic extermination of our species, leaving me alone in an irradiated wasteland of the new abyss, was what it took to erase the memory of this movie from my mind, I would gladly welcome it. This is not just an awful sequel; it’s an awful blockbuster that is offensive to casual movie goers and those who hold the first Independence Day in somewhat improbably high regard, like me.
From the characterisation, of which there is none, to the plot, of which there is none that makes a lot of sense, this film is an atrocious example of thoughtless movie making that does little for anyone but ruin the movie that came before it. Kill this movie. Kill it, bury it, throw away the coordinates and never hold an inquiry into its death. Kill it.
Patrick’s Worst Films of 2016 so Far
3. X-Men: Apocalypse
This is the best movie on my worst list, but it still wasn’t fantastic. It’s amazing after the continued success of the X-Men movies that Fox won’t give them a budget big enough to make some of their sets look better than a cheap cosplay shoot.
There’s a lot to like in this movie with Michael Fassbender’s Magneto scenes being show stealers, but unfortunately it tries to do too much with too many characters to the detriment of the movie. It also suffers from the dreaded continuity syndrome and feels like it’s bending over backwards to connect events to previous movies.
2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Zack Snyder is an awful director and this should be the final nail in his directorial coffin. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie so poorly crafted on just a technical level. From the entire first quarter of the movie barely featuring as much as a single establishing shot to the grimy and eyeball-dulling cinematography that steals every ounce of wonder from the movie’s superheroes, the movie is a technical misery.
Jesse Eisenberg is just the worst as Lex Luthor and the movie can barely even muster the enthusiasm to give him a single shred of motivation. The only saving grace was Ben Affleck, but he couldn’t save what was an absolute disaster of a movie.
Despite Batman v Superman being dreadful, it at least had a smattering of saving graces. Warcraft has none of these. The movie essentially acts as a feature length prologue and is boring as sin. I actually checked my watch halfway through the movie and stared in horror at the thought of the next hour I would have to sit through.
Duncan Jones buckles under the weight of what is trying to be a Lord of the Rings style epic, but ends up feeling bloated and moving between locations far too quickly for the audience to care about anything. As well as all of this, it’s horribly miscast and wastes its most talented actors in Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga. Warcraft is the worst movie of the year so far.
Which films did we miss out? Are there any that don’t deserve to be there? Let me know in the comments section.