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The Movies/TV 8 Ball: The Worst Films of 2017 (#16 – 9)

January 9, 2018 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Ghost in the Shell

Top 16 Worst Films of 2017 (#16 – 9)

Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I’m your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You’re free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is “wrong” is just silly. With that in mind, let’s get right in to it!

2017 is officially over, and it’s time for the 8 Ball Year in Review. Every January we take a look at the best and worst of what cinema had to offer in the previous twelve months. And as usual, we’re starting the bar low. 2017 was a lackluster year on average compared to the past few years. Were there great movies out there? Absolutely. But there were also a lot of disasters across all genres. This week we begin our look at 2016’s worst movies with numbers sixteen through nine.

Caveat: In past years, I have not included non-theatrically released films in my yearly “Worst Of” lists. The reason is simple: straight-to-video films don’t have the same level of expectations as ones released in theaters. If I did include them, the list would likely just be full of cheap rip-off movies.

This year, I made a slight change and made Netflix original films eligible to some degree. Netflix puts a ton of money into some of these films; Bright for example had a $90 million budget. So, if the film was a “major Netflix release,” I deemed it eligible. Otherwise, the film had to be in at least twenty theaters to make the list. The only other caveat is that while I’ve seen almost everything, there were a couple that could have potentially made the list based on reputation and such that, try as I might, I wasn’t able to see. This year that includes just a couple: Father Figures, Rock Dog, Spark: A Space Tail and Kidnap.

Just Missing The Cut

All Eyez on Me
Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
The Mountain Between Us
Death Note

#16: Ghost in the Shell

First up on our list is a film that garnered negative buzz right out of the gate. Ghost in the Shell came under serious fire when Scarlett Johansson was announced to be playing the lead role of the Major due to whitewashing concerns since the original character is Japanese. There are problems with how the film handles that, to be sure. But that’s not the biggest issue. Far more problematic for the movie is how Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger’s script bungles the high-minded concepts from the source material.

To be clear, it’s fine to diverge from the source. But if you do, you have to still be able to come up with a compelling story. And Ghost in the Shell, for all its cool visuals, fails at making the plot worth following. Johansson is fine in the lead role, but she’s handicapped by having to fight her way through on action cliché after another. Director Rupert Sanders wants to have it both ways in terms of the adaptation aspect. He pulls iconic scenes from the source to pop the fans, but shows no interest in the themes that makes the original so good. The climax turns into a poorly-realized mess of action and twists, leaving this as yet another disappointing attempt to bring an anime classic to life.

#15: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Speaking of disappointing attempts to bring a classic to life, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword may be the worst offender of that in 2017. Much like Ghost in the Shell, the writing was on the wall for Guy Ritchie’s disastrous retelling of the Arthurian myth. For months, stories leaked about a difficult production and costly reshoots. When the film came out, it was at least easy to see where the money had gone. The bigger question was why it went there. Ritchie cast his film well, at least. But Charlie Hunnam and the rest of the cast were handicapped by a terrible script that gave them nothing to work with. Arthur isn’t a compelling character here, as hard as Hunnam tries. And the supporting cast are practically interchangeable except Jude Law, having fun as the villainous Vortigern.

The cast was also overshadowed by an overabundance of special effects in an attempt to give the film a blockbuster feel it didn’t need. There were so many effects shots that much of the CGI suffers. The climactic end fight between Arthur and the demon knight looks very much like a lesser cutscene from Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor. That’s fine for a video game, but not for a $175 million film. There’s a scant amount of fun to be had here or there, mostly thanks to the cast. But all in all, Legend of the Sword was little more than a costly waste of time for Warner Bros. and moviegoers alike.

#14: Monster Trucks

If I’m being fair here, Monster Trucks might deserve a little slack. In fact, in the 1990s this would have been a forgettable, semi-passable film that flashed in and out of theaters as a kid-friendly grab. Those days are gone though, and standards for family films have risen. A plot that would have felt dumb in the ’90s is absolutely brain-dead in the ’10s, accentuated by a one-note caricature villain and the laughable idea of trying to accept the new MacGyver and twenty-eight year-old Jane Levy as high school teens. It’s no surprise that this film concept was literally created by a four year-old, because it’s that level of dumb.

What I’m truly curious about is how Paramount spent a stunning $125 million on this shlock. Sure, there are special effects, but they look cheap, and there wasn’t much set destruction. All of these problems are exacerbated by a script that shoehorns in a stupid environmental message that makes the film seem like an extended Captain Planet episode. The dialogue is corny in the extreme, none of the actors seem to care much about making it work and Chris Wedge is clearly phoning it in. Monster Trucks isn’t the absolute worst big-budget film of the year, but it’s definitely like the laziest.

#13: Geostorm

Geostorm is, without question, the dumbest movie of 2017. That’s a high (low?) bar, too. There’s plenty of idiocy to go around, both in good movies (Fate of the Furious) and bad ones (The Mummy, Flatliners). But no movie has the mind-numbing stupidity of this one. Geostorm is what can only be described as Roland Emmerich-lite. Emmerich, for all his flaws, is an expert at the big, dumb disaster/action film. He makes them exciting and dazzling enough that we forget about the moronic script, or at least have fun with the dumbness. With respect to director Dean Devlin, he is no Roland Emmerich by a longshot.

There are plenty of failings on Devlin’s head with Geostorm. He not only directed this $120 million dud, but also co-wrote the script. His biggest sin, however, is casting Gerard Butler in an action film as a scientific genius and then having him spend three-quarters of the movie reading exposition off computer screens. Butler is great at making dumb movies fun when he’s the charming action hero. Here, we’re forced to listen to what he says because he isn’t doing much else. And that’s when anyone with high school levels of science knowledge starts thinking “That’s not how this works! That’s not how ANY OF THIS WORKS!” That would be fine if not for the fact that Butler and the rest of the cast is badly overacting. Or if the plot didn’t manage to be both predictable and convoluted all at once. Or worst of all, if the special effects weren’t so iffy. Next time, Warner Bros. needs to get Emmerich. Sure, he can’t handle plot coherence to save his life either. But at least he makes blowing shit up look good.

#12: The Circle

With the talent involved, The Circle should have been a great movie. A techno-thriller that stars Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Patton Oswalt, John Boyega and Karen Gillen and explores the moral complexity of privacy issues in the social media age seems like an automatic winner. Sadly, Hollywood’s record of tackling internet-related issues is spotty to say the least. For every The Social Network there are a handful of The Net, Swordfish and other drastic failures. The Circle falls into the latter category. It plays less like a pastiche of those more ridiculous net-thrillers, and more like a combination of the privacy concerns of 2001’s trashy-but-fun Antitrust with the directionless tone and poor scripting of the The Fifth Estate. That is far from a combination for success.

The problems with this film are many, but let’s start with the script. Dave Eggers and director James Ponsoldt wrote the screenplay based on Eggers’ 2013 novel, and it credibility in every way right from the get-go. Watson’s protagonist lacks any nuance to her, wandering blithely through the story and accepting everything at face value. That continues until it becomes necessary for her to reject it all in an over-the-top sequence involving a friend of hers. The corporate world of The Circle doesn’t explore privacy issues as much as accept that the war is already lost. That’s fine to a degree; a film doesn’t have to try to be a thinkpiece in order to be good. However, The Circle clearly wants to ask these questions and yet doesn’t want to think too hard about them itself. Watson is a fine actress but is badly miscast here. Hanks, Oswalt and Boyega are wasted in their roles. Only Gillen gives her role any real interesting dimension and even she has to fight against the script. This could have been something great, but everything is telegraphed and any moralizing is destroyed by the simplistic dialogue. The Circle is one of the biggest disappointments from cinema in 2017.

#11: Transformers: The Last Knight

I know it feels almost pointless to mock the Transformers franchise at this point. Michael Bay’s film series is the quintessential “critic-proof” franchise, or had been at least. Age of Extinction was the first film were cracks began showing in the franchise’s armor. With The Last Knight, the armor is all the way off. I absolutely admit to having been a minor fan of the first film, and I didn’t hate Dark of the Moon. However, there’s nothing to praise in this latest entry, which makes the stupid concept of Transformer heaven from Revenge of the Fallen look grounded and realistic in comparison.

The Last Knight has the distinction of being Transformers’ most tedious and goofy film all in one. The plot is legitimately difficult to explain with a straight face. Basically, Transformers are revealed to be part of Arthurian legend, and Mark Wahlberg’s Cade Yaeger teams up with Laura Haddock’s inappropriately-dressed English Lit professor (and heir of Merlin) to save the world from Optimus Prime. None of it makes any sense, and Bay doesn’t care about it either since he quickly tosses most of it aside along with Isabela Moner’s scrappy teen girl from the trailers. Optimus has a half-hearted heel turn here, an entire story arc that could have been its own movie. Instead, it gets tacked into the final, forty-five minute-long act. The Last Knight suffers from the franchise’s usual pacing issues and ugly CGI, then tacks on the loopy plot and dialogue that makes the previous films look good by comparison. Bumblebee has a lot resting on it to try and bring this franchise back from the edge of this cinematic cliff it’s on.

#10: Collide

Poor Nicholas Hoult. It’s easy to see why Hollywood keeps trying to make him a star. Hoult has some fantastic acting chops and definite screen presence. As a result, studios have been trying to make him into their next bankable young movie lead. It’ll happen someday, but Collide was not the film to do it. The appeal for Open Road Films in giving Eran Creevy’s action flick a wide release was obvious. It’s a film filled with big names like Anthony Hopkins, Hoult, and Felicity Jones. And it was able to be cut up into marketing materials and sold like a low-budget Fast & Furious film, which should have been an obvious draw for audiences.

And yet, there’s nothing good in this film at all. Hoult and Jones are cast in two-dimensional roles as a former criminal his girlfriend Juliette. Her need of a kidney transplant sends him back into the underworld for a last job. That’s where Hopkins and Kingsley come in, hamming it up for a paycheck. Casey’s plot arc mostly involves him ending up in increasingly tedious and unlikely escapes. Creevy’s direction of the action basically amounts to a pale imitation of the action scenes in The Transporter. Meanwhile, the dialogue (mostly those of Kingsley and Hopkins’ characters) gives definition to the term “cringe-worthy.” Even at under 100 minutes this one gets old very quickly, leaving us with yet another 2017 cast that deserved a much, much better film.

#9: CHiPs

As fun as 21 Jump Street and its sequel were, Hollywood needs to stop bringing 1980s TV shows to the big screen. From Baywatch to CHiPs, it’s clear that Jump Street was a case of lighting striking just right. And yes, make no mistake: Baywatch was bad. But at least it had a few funny moments in it. The same can’t be said for CHiPs. Dax Shepard’s buddy cop action-comedy take on the 1970s/1980s cop show has nothing that could be referred to as fun in any real way, making for one of the worst comedies of the year. And that’s saying something.

To be honest, this film never really seemed like a good idea. Sure, there are fans of the series out there, but none of them would likely see much appeal in turning it into a broad, R-rated buddy cop film filled with passé sex jokes and other juvenile humor. The half-thought out plot about corrupt cops is less funny than it is stupid, and Shepard and Michael Peña lack any sense of camaraderie or chemistry with each other. Shepard is a terrible director to boot, failing to capture a comedic rhythm or make the action sequences worthwhile. Vincent D’Onofrio is the only person who seems to get what kind of a movie it is; the rest of the cast is too busy trying to figure out what kind of a film it is to do anything of note. This film is DOA from almost the very first scene and never does anything to even begin to recover from there.

And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for as we count down numbers eight through one! Until then, have a good week and don’t forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.

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