Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Worst of 2017 So Far

As I look back on 2017, I find it is time to search for my Ten Worst Films of 2017 So Far.  I say 'So Far' because I have a lot more films to watch, which means that this list will be updated.  However, at the moment I have 50+ films for this year, so it seems as good a time to look back.

Now, I should point out that as this list consists of films I have seen, my list may differ from other of my fellow reviewers.  Also, I can add that this list will be amended in that there are two films that are on my Worst List but I have not written reviews for them yet.  As such, I don't want to spoil the surprise.

So, without further ado, my Ten Worst Films of 2017 So Far.

10.) Geostorm

It's too easy to bash Geostorm.  It's too easy because it really is bad.  Nonsensical plot!  Bad acting!  Gerard Butler! Am I repeating myself there?

Having said all that, I have a bit of a soft spot for Geostorm, probably because it is trying so hard to be serious and topical but is totally unaware of itself.  It could have been the serious environmental film it aspires to.  It could have been a harmless romp.  Instead, it ended up being nothing.  It took good actors (Ed Harris, Andy Garcia) and not only did nothing with them, but showed just how desperate for work they are.  They reduced Mare Winningham to one scene...I think one line.

Why not make her the President of the United States or the Secretary of State?

Still, while it did not reach the 'so bad it's good' threshold, Geostorm is a film that can be enjoyed if you want to laugh at it, not with it.

Few films have been as full of themselves as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  It's the kind of film that thinks it's oh so clever, oh so funny, oh so wonderful when it really is just the same tired old routine we saw before.

It was too long for the story it didn't tell, it went off in tangents that could have been cut, it was too self-aware, too many fanboy/meme-ready bits and call-outs to the audience.  What was the point of Star-Lord turning into Pac-Man?

The fact that so many of my fellow reviewers loved it makes Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 a nominee for the Most Overrated Film of 2017 too.

I'm pretty pleased that major awards talk for Battle of the Sexes has died down.  It was bad enough that Emma Stone beat out Natalie Portman for her cutesy song-and-dance shtick, but her efforts to pull an Eddie Redmayne backfired on her more than his drag fiasco.

The real story of the 'Battle of the Sexes' between Billie Jean King, a lesbian, and Bobby Riggs, a showboat, is more interesting than the film version.  Why did I mention that King is a lesbian?  Because Battle of the Sexes was more interested in her sex life and sexual awakening as a woman who is sexually active with women than it was with her tennis prowess.

Battle of the Sexes never made the case as to why this event was that important, and it is a terrible shame that it could not muster the interest.

Another contender for the Most Overrated Film of 2017, Blade Runner 2049 is like the dark twin of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  Both are hopelessly self-aware, but while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 thinks it's hilarious, Blade Runner 2049 thinks it's deep.

There was a deaden, dull manner to Blade Runner 2049, a film so pompous it imagines itself to be the final word on science-fiction dystopian features.  It's the type of film that thinks it's on a higher level than a Metropolis or the original Blade Runner.  Avant-garde actor Ryan Gosling is beginning to grate on me, and this story just goes on and one that I was fighting furiously to stay awake.

I wish my dear friend Fidel Gomez, Jr. were here, but I feel that if he had lived to see it, he would have put Blade Runner 2049 much lower on this list.

Maybe even lower than this botched effort to adapt his favorite book series.

In a certain way, The Dark Tower was doomed before it even got started.  The Steven King epic spans several novels, with intricate plots and subplots to create this expansive universe.  It would be already intensely difficult to capture that in one film, but why they opted for a ninety-minute film to begin this series is beyond idiocy.

The Dark Tower was also hampered by the decision to make it a more routine action/sci-fi film and one that centers around the boy versus The Gunfighter*.  Idris Elba was the only good thing in The Dark Tower, with Matthew McConaughey reminding us that he has spent most of his career in bad roles in bad movies.

Had Fidel lived, I might have talked him into seeing The Dark Tower and convincing him that Elba was a worthy Gunfighter, but alas, I think he would have just been angry about the whole thing.

It has not been a good year for Matt Damon.

Suburbicon bombed.
Downsizing bombed.

Then there's the whole 'Damonsplaining' bit.  Not satisfied with telling a black female director how he knows more about diversity in film than she did, he opted this year to tell women he knows more about sexual harassment and assault than they do.

Matt Damon believes that because he played a genius in Good Will Hunting and because he attended (but did not graduate from) Harvard, that he is Hollywood's reigning intellectual.  He genuinely believes his own intellectual prowess, making Damonsplaining all the more amusing.

However, long before his second bout of Damonsplaining, or before Suburbicon, or before Downsizing, there was The Great Wall, his naked play for the Chinese market.  The Great Wall was not made for American audiences.  It was made for the growing and devouring Chinese market, which isn't unusual these days.

Think of all the films that have Hong Kong settings or major roles for Chinese characters: Transformers, Pacific Rim, Doctor Strange, The Dark Knight, Geostorm, Independence Day: ResurgenceThe Great Wall, however, was different: a film with a Chinese setting, major Chinese stars, much dialogue in's a surprise Damon didn't end up playing Deng Xiaoping marching alongside his hero Chairman Mao.

Whether Mao is Xiaoping or Damon's hero is still up for debate. 

The Great Wall, however, was boring, with nothing to recommend it except the costumes.  Worse, Damon still ended up on the hot seat for this his first of three flops.  His character was accused of being the 'white savior': the noble European who can save the hapless 'ethnics'.

With this variation of Damonsplaining, 2017 was not a good year for Mao, I mean, Matt Damon.

The first of two Charlie Humman films to make my Ten Worst Films of 2017 list, The Lost City of Z somehow received a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination from my film review group.  This is another film that takes itself far too seriously to where it ends up being dull.

Worse, it is practically a rip-off of better films, particular two of Werner Herzog's masterpieces: Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, The Wrath of God.  As for Humman, he is so blank in The Lost City of Z it amazes me that he keeps getting pushed to be a star when he has yet to show he is an actor (though again to be fair I have not seen Sons of Anarchy).  Even future Spider-Man Tom Holland could not lift up this dull journey to deepest, darkest Peru.

Power Rangers may capture, better than any movie this year or in the past few years, what is wrong with Hollywood.  It takes an old property and 'updates' it.  It goes out of its way to put in 'representation' in terms of casting.  It has shameless product placement to the point of parody.

It just fails at just about everything.

The updating will not bring in the fans of the original series based on nostalgia because Power Rangers is nothing like what they loved.  It didn't bring in new fans because they'll either think it is not for them or because they have no connection to the property and the film does not make a case as to why it should be.

The representation seems like pandering to the point of silliness: having the 'nerd' Billy turned into an autistic character, a Chinese character (again, a stab at the foreign market) and one of them potentially be a lesbian is almost a cry of desperation.  Again, there's nothing wrong with a lesbian character, even if it alters the original.  It's the fact that they wanted it both ways: to suggest it without having to deal with it or have it play a role in the film.

Having the campy Elizabeth Banks pose inside a Krispy Kreme shop while eating one is just unforgivable.

Worse, Power Rangers strongly suggested there would be a sequel.  Take a note, Hollywood: worry about the first film before telegraphing that you plan to make more.

The second of two Charlie Humman films to make my Ten Worst Films of 2017 list, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword also showcases more of what is wrong with Hollywood. 

While Power Rangers suggested that there was going to be a sequel (because all bad movies require follow-ups to their lousy stories), Legend of the Sword flat-out told us this was going to be the first of a long-lasting cycle.  I've long said that a film with a colon in the title means that it is the beginning of a hoped-for series.  The plans for King Arthur were for more than just a six-feature series centered on our Wart.

It was the first of a whole franchise.  The Camelot Cinematic Universe?

Legend of the Sword was going to be a kick-off to a group of films about our Arthurian king, and then there would be stand-alone Merlin and Lancelot films, maybe a whole slew of them, until like The Avengers, they would join forces. 

Am I the only one who thinks this is a pretty daft idea to begin with, let alone unworkable?

As if all that franchise-planning was not bad enough, the powers that be thought their next big franchise should get the thing started by putting it all in Guy Richie's hands. No silly mythmaking or Once and Future King theatrics for our working-class filmmaker.  No, this Arthur Pendragon was going to be a bloke from the mean streets of the East End of Camelot, a commoner with lots of muscle, a brawler and ladies man who liked a good pint and a good wench before wielding supreme executive power thanks to some watery tart.

Richie's frenetic style did not mix with the noble Arthurian legend, but in retrospect, that was the least of Legend of the Sword's problems. 

I almost feel for Charlie Humman, this time being used as so much meat as the thug who would be King. Such a wild misfire, Humman simply needs to get back to basics, and people need to stop trying to force franchises on the public.

01.) Life

OK, so you want to make a cheap Alien knock-off?  Fine.  I really don't object to that.  Really.

I object to you making it so boring, putting in cheap efforts to make me care about these cliches you throw at me and call 'characters'.  I object to making a film that is predictable, down to the 'twist ending' that either signals a sequel or a bad way to end a film, period. I object to making this group of astronauts/cosmonauts into a collection of blithering idiots who cannot do anything right.

I object to just how clumsy, dumb, boring and depressing Life is.

Next Time: Some Odds and Bitter Ends of 2017.

*I know it's 'The Gunslinger', but I would inevitably end up calling him 'The Gunfighter', much to Fidel's irritation.  It's a little bit of humor I can have that reminds me of him, a friend dearly and deeply missed.

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