The Lady in the Water is but a simple fairy tale. It follows a water nymph Narf – in this case the almighty Madam Narf, named Story – in her quest to find the Writer, or Vessel, so that she may inspire his work of great political change (incidentally, this noble champion for the future of humanity is played by the movie’s director, writer and producer M. Night Shyamalan). Threatening her way are the nefarious Scrunts (sometimes referred to as JG Scrunts, no reason given), green wolf-like creatures who are committed to destroying her, although they only ever seem to leave shallow scratches on her legs, which are healed with the use of a magical mud named Kii. Story the Madam Narf is aided by the Tartutik, i.e. some mystical monkey-like creatures, and the great Eatlon, a big eagle who ferries her back to her home of The Blue World. But before she can make safe passage, she must be helped by the Guardian (a guy who only works out on one side of his body), the Guild (seven sisters, who aren’t all actually sisters), the Healer (a hapless janitor who has the power to attract butterflies, made evident by the fact that he saw one once), and the Interpreter (a young boy who unearths the destiny of the universe by reading the blurbs on cereal boxes). Of course, the quest to identify these great heroes is momentarily hindered by an evil film critic, who understands not the magnificent quest of the writer, and whose misguided meddling is only rectified after his own violent death, which he monotonously narrates as it unfolds. Typical of a film critic to be so detached, so soulless! All these people live in the same shoddy apartment block, where most fortunately also live a woman and her grandmother who are well-versed in the laws and prophecies of the Narf, referred to here as an “Eastern” bedtime story. Yes, just a simple, non-convoluted, humble, classic bedtime story. A typical compelling narrative and realistic characters. Not unhinged, confused, pretentious or ludicrous. Nothing to do with Shyamalan’s great big bulging ego whatsoever. Nope. Nothing to see here, move along. The Lady in the Water is just your average Shyamalan production which manages to make The Happeninglook sane and unassuming by comparison.
Jiu Jitsu is a truly baffling experience. The plot is beyond confusing: every six years, martial artists have to fight an alien race, but now a comet has appeared in the sky and made the ritual different and more dangerous for some reason, but the aliens – although we only ever actually see one alien, and defeating him is supposedly akin to total victory – are extremely polite and seem to cater to the rules of martial arts combat, even though it’s implied they’ll take over the Earth, except that’s never happened in the thousands of years this ritual has taken place, but despite the fact that humankind has apparently always defeated the aliens in the past, now no one knows how to defeat this one alien. And that’s just the start of it. Nicolas Cage’s grizzled mentor character even mumbles something vague about “alien politics” to explain away the intrinsic incomprehension of it all. Beyond that, Jiu Jitsu must have spent all its money on casting Cage and martial artist Tony Jaa, because the actual filmmaking is so rushed and amateur that a first-year filmmaking student would be ashamed of producing it. The CGI is a joke, whilst utterly odd camera choices include a fight scene where the camera is sometimes from the direct perspective of our protagonist, then tumbles to the ground for a bit to view the ensuing combat from the vantage point of his feet, then drifts off to become him again, and so on. It’s all interspersed with comic book art used as a transition tool between scenes, a nod to the comic on which the movie is based, and it’s just about as jarring and ill-conceived as every single other aspect of the film. Of course, despite everything, every single solitary second is meant to be taken completely seriously. Seemingly propelled forward by nothing but unbridled insanity, Jiu Jitsu is a bizarre delight to watch.
Victoria Justice stars as Cassie – a twenty-five-year-old woman who speaks, dresses and behaves like a girl ten years younger – whose life meets with an abrupt end after she somehow drunkenly slams her head on the toilet. She wakes up in the afterlife, is greeted by a guardian angel, and is tasked with improving the lives of her loved ones so she may accrue the brownie points required to ascend to heaven. Afterlife of the Party doesn’t even try to conceal its attempts to rip off The Good Place, but where that show had complex characters, an intriguing metaphysical model, and fizzing humour, this film has mind-numbingly boring characters, a supernatural reality that makes no sense (Cassie can simultaneously interact with the world around her and also, not), and humour mostly derived from people making goofy faces and stumbling around. The film’s excuses for emotional pathos range from dry to downright dangerous, as Cassie desperately bends over backwards in pursuit of forgiving a mother who blithely abandoned and ignored her for most of her life. Afterlife of the Party is much like the fictional singer “Koop” it randomly features front-and-centre for much of the run time: generic, entirely irrelevant, and instantly forgettable.
Time travel is extremely difficult to tell a coherent story about. Even the best attempts, like Donnie Darko, Palm Springs, Terminator, or Your Name begin to fall apart as soon as underpinning logic is thought about a bit too much. All of those movies work well, though, because of their internal consistency and a prevailing commitment to character and storytelling above all else. The Tomorrow War does not do these things. Our hero Dan (Chris Pratt) is summoned to the future to fight a war against aliens due to arrive in a few decades’ time. The film’s own script sounds embarrassed as it tries to explain people’s unfortunately inability to use this time travel power to simply spend endless years preparing to defeat the aliens, or to defend properly against the aliens, or to investigate the aliens’ origins and motive. Instead we’re lectured about parallel eras, and time flowing forward like a river, and a general sense of “it just is”. There are so many questions raised about how any of the film’s plot can actually work, and The Tomorrow War‘s boring characters and turgid pacing do not compel a suspension of disbelief. The film’s merry ending treats us to Dan’s renewed bonds with his father, daughter, and wife, and he happily takes out the garbage, a content family man once more. No matter that this conclusion chooses to ignore glaring plot holes which suggest the entirety of humankind could be doomed at any given moment. The Tomorrow War thinks it’s doing and saying a lot more than it is, which makes its idiotic storytelling even more frustrating to sit through.
The tragedy of Space Jam: A New Legacy (and many sequels of its ilk) isn’t just that it’s an awful movie. It’s that it so entirely misses the point of what made the original a beloved classic. Gone are the wry self-referential jokes, the world-building, the clever fusion of animation and live action, the story- and action-driven pacing. Instead we have a nonsensical storyline about an AI programme hell-bent on destroying people through the inexplicable medium of a virtual basketball game. We have LeBron James finding himself in animated form and immediately, instinctively knowing cartoon logic and how to use it. We have references and cameos shoehorned in so cynically that the entire movie could be a 2-hour advert for Warner Bros media. Cringeworthy “homages” to the likes of The Matrix, Casablanca and Game of Thrones are complemented with an array of strange background cameos such as the boys from A Clockwork Orange or what appears to be Harry Potter’s Voldemort in a dressing gown. Save for a few exceptions regarding DC properties Batman and Wonder Woman, even the animation isn’t all that impressive – the 2D sequences range from impressive to underwhelming, but the classic Looney Tunes characters in 3D are downright terrifying. For it all to centre around a clichéd story of a father learning to let his son be true to himself, Space Jam: A New Legacy struggles to justify its existence as anything else but a tremendous waste of time.
A movie based on the true story of two police officers rescued from under the World Trade Center’s rubble on 9/11 needs to be handled with care, sensitivity, and a consistent commitment to realism. Yet World Trade Center doesn’t really do any of this. Half of the movie is too dark to see, fairly representing the reality of being lost in rubble, but forgetting that film is a visual medium which needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. Besides, this attempt at being true to life is swiftly undermined when the dialogue consists of such frantic yelps as “What is happening to our world?!” and “Get your mind right!” No one’s acting is believable or compelling, with usually brilliant performers like Maggie Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon being reduced to wide-eyed stereotypes gazing solemnly into middle-distance. Considering he plays one of the victims it’s probably a good thing that Nicolas Cage doesn’t bring his full Nicolas Cage game to the role, but he doesn’t bring much else either. It’s all scored with insipid soft strings and piano which rarely shut up. World Trade Center is much more melodrama than drama, and the fact it was released a mere five years after 9/11 suggests more time spent on its craft would have resulted in a film of much more substance.
With Holidate, humankind finally has a movie brave enough to acknowledge the desperate pain and shame we all fear if we don’t have a date on Cinco de Mayo. The premise – generic white woman Sloane meets generic white man Jackson, and the two agree to be each other’s dates for holidays so they won’t be needled for being single – falls apart as soon as it’s apparent the duo aren’t even pretending to be a couple. They instead outwardly tell everyone they’re performing a “holidate” ritual, ergo are still needled for being single, destroying the entire point of their actions and indeed the whole movie. Meanwhile the main characters are thoroughly objectionable from start to end, casually sailing through shoplifting, deceit, sheer cruelty, and eerily light-hearted references to sexually active 12-year-olds. The attempts at humour are obnoxious and every single character is a tired cliché, from the promiscuous aunt to the wallflower sister-in-law. Holidate is so fundamentally irritating that by its end, the audience won’t even have the energy to ask why on earth anyone would ever need a date for Mother’s Day.
Passionflix’s Wicked somehow manages to be so generic and so derivative that it becomes its own bizarre phenomenon. Tropes are shamelessly stolen from pretty much all fantasy stories ever: as our heroine Ivy battles nefarious beings in the night, it’s an obvious attempt to emulate Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her burgeoning romance with the extremely underwhelming Ren echoes the plodding, toxic, idiotic love story of Twilight (and its many, many spawned YA atrocities). Ivy’s very status as the chosen one, a hybrid of humans and a mythical race, is one of the most tired fantasy clichés there is. But somehow, Wicked is so atrocious as to not be another boring, forgettable YA fantasy. The dreadful CGI; pathetic action scenes that resemble parkour more than combat; talk of fae and ancients and brownies in a desperate attempt at world-building; all-powerful supernatural entities who eschew their magical powers to just use guns instead: Wicked is genuinely a brimming bucket of laughs, even if it wasn’t attempting to be.
Studio Ghibli has undeniably had its ups and downs. For every heart-rending masterpiece like Grave of the Fireflies, there’s also a mediocre foray into sheer silliness like The Cat Returns. There are amazing spectacles like Laputa: Castle in the Sky or The Tale of Princess Kaguya; there are also more underwhelming tales like From Up on Poppy Hill or the slog that is Tales from Earthsea. But thus far, every single Ghibli feature has had the redeeming feature of stellar animation, which works to accentuate a fantastical and immersive sense of place. Enter Earwig and the Witch, ready to annihilate everything Ghibli stands for. Not only is the story a confusing joke, with random twists and turns of magic that make no sense and culminate in a conclusion that asks so, so, so many more questions than it answers. Not only does the main character – Earwig, a supposedly precocious young girl adopted by a mysterious supernatural couple – manage to be so annoying that every moment with her on screen (i.e. most of the film) is a pain to sit through. Not only is the music, allegedly one of the key focuses of the film with Earwig’s estranged mother singing in a band, so utterly awful that it dares to defy the very conception of music itself. No, beyond all of this, Earwig‘s “innovative” 3D CG anime is so grotesque, flat, colourless and lifeless that, besides the occasional impressively detailed background, it feels less like Studio Ghibli and more like Video Brinquedo. One can only hope and pray that this rare misstep from Ghibli is the only one of its kind we’ll ever see.
That Awkward Moment follows Jason (Zac Efron), a smug chronic bachelor who has his world turned upside-down when he meets his very own manic pixie dream girl, Ellie (Imogen Poots). It’s about as clichéd as every single other male-led rom-com in the world, except That Awkward Moment‘s desperation to distinguish itself is almost palpable. Yet its focus on boorish “comedy” and a confusingly sketched bro code only make it as typical as ever. Jason’s selfish, misogynistic behaviour throughout is echoed and entrenched by his two best friends, as the movie blithely surfs through their deceit, manipulation, and lack of humanity like they’re simply adorable character quirks. Pathetic gross-out humour lands flat as it largely hinges on characters blurting out swear words like giggling adolescents, and people spending an inordinate amount of time undressed for no reason at all (Miles Teller’s character seems especially, concerningly incapable of putting trousers on). That Awkward Moment ends precisely how one would expect, shamelessly declaring that for all its diatribes against romance, everyone’s storyline needs to end in coupledom after all. The entire film is an awkward moment that has the misfortune of lasting an hour and a half.
The Silence follows a deaf girl and her family as they strive to survive an onslaught from mysterious creatures who cannot see, but navigate and hunt by sound. The comparisons to 2018’s A Quiet Place are too obvious to detail, but The Silence doesn’t stop there. The main characters’ insistence on running around making the worst possible decisions in the face of an unknown threat are akin to The Happening. There’s a contrived, confusing nod to Fargo in a scene where several of the flying beasts kamikaze themselves by zooming straight into a woodchipper. The shoddily rendered winged monstrosities themselves even manage to mimic the insanity of Birdemic. An entirely idiotic thread about a cult culminates in a home invasion not unlike The Purge – although the gaggle of fundamentalist villagers also manages to echo Troll 2. As the movie ends on our teenage heroine and her boyfriend hunting with a bow and arrow, practically ripped shot-for-shot from The Hunger Games, The Silence confidently declares itself about as derivative and unoriginal as it’s possible for a film to be.
As an animated underwater adventure with talking fish, Shark Tale was very obviously DreamWorks’ attempt at Finding Nemo. Yet to draw any further comparison between the two would be insulting to Pixar’s masterful craft. Where Finding Nemo is magnificently animated with immersive seascapes and compellingly lively characters, Shark Tale is so hideous to look at that it frequently hurts. The textures are all wrong, with the fish generally looking like they’re made of suede, whilst the character’s designs are goofy and overwrought to the point of being downright unnerving. Finding Nemo has an emotionally charged story, mixed with gentle humour and perilous stakes; Shark Tale has a squeaky Jack Black shark moaning that he wants to be vegetarian while a Will Smith fish dances around and makes contrived pop culture references. Undersea car washes and graffiti and glasses of wine, coupled with the lazy animation of a few bubbles here and there, constantly prod the audience to observe that there’s no way this story could be taking place underwater. The lazy Italian-American stereotyping and Rastafarian caricatures help Shark Tale to culminate in an overall experience which is simply uncomfortable.
Radio Rebel follows the story of shy young student Tara (Debby Ryan), who secretly runs an online radio show as Radio Rebel, using her persona to enthuse and inspire the local teenage masses. It is difficult to fathom how Radio Rebel has earned such a devoted following, seeing as Tara herself is so awkward and idiotic that she’s regularly rendered incapable of basic human abilities such as writing, walking or talking. Debby Ryan also sees fit to pull bizarrely contorted, gormless faces in lieu of her character doing anything useful. Of course, her ostensible charms win over the resident bland heartthrob. Of course, they also catch the ire of the school mean girl. Of course, there are two creepy dorks with rhyming names running around achieving nothing, constituting the movie’s attempt at comic relief. As Radio Rebel’s popularity goes to her head and she behaves ever more erratically, her antics result in prom being cancelled. Oh no! But it’s okay, because prom still happens, with all its requisite funding, chaperones and traditions – it’s just called “Morp” now instead. Oh good. Taking the same old thing that’s been done a thousand times before and trying to pass it off as something entirely different is fundamentally what Radio Rebel is all about.
After ends on our star-crossed lovers reuniting. The opening of After We Collided reveals this never actually happened after all, and the star-crossed lovers did not, actually, reunite. After We Collided then goes on to recount how the star-crossed lovers did, in fact, reunite. After We Collided and indeed the whole sorry After franchise is characterised by these meandering loops and U-turns – weak attempts at twists to try and conceal the obvious fact that these films are utterly bereft of real story, real character, or real emotion. Instead, our heroine Tessa’s descent into darkness is shown by the fact that she – gasp – starts wearing more eye make-up than before. Meanwhile, Hardin’s arc is swooped along by his long-suffering mother, who spends her scenes bemoaning how the physical abuse she’s gone through has damaged Hardin, only Hardin, no one but Hardin. Hardin has a competitor for Tessa’s affections this time around, in the form of a colleague who seems to be an all-round decent, honest, and nice man. Of course this means he’s a terrible red herring, and the audience is compelled to back the angry, violent, shallow Hardin at all costs. After We Collided merrily continues After‘s compulsion to take an abusive relationship and put it on a rose-tinted pedestal. Most unfortunately, this is not the end of things, as there are still two more After movies in the pipeline.
The tragic fact that After is adapted from a book which in turn served as Wattpad fanfiction based on Harry Styles still underserves how atrocious, insulting, and downright dangerous a film it really is. Our insipid heroine Tessa goes to college and falls for the supposedly mysterious and alluring Hardon Scott, who in turn finds his bad-boy exterior crumbling in the face of Tessa’s alleged effervescent charms. So far, so YA – except After takes these clichés to extremes while refusing to regard itself as anything except unique and rebellious. Thus, we’re supposed to like Hardin, even as he lies, whines, and buys his way into Tessa’s affections. We’re supposed to root for the sullen rebel who wears only black clothes, even as he flies into drunken rages and waxes lyrical on his casually misogynistic musings in the middle of class. We’re supposed to find it beautiful and enigmatic when he seemingly mocks Tessa for spending time learning about stars while they’re both sitting in an astronomy lecture. Fundamentally, we’re supposed to be invested in a relationship founded in nothing but toxicity, deceit, and manipulation. Even more depressing is the consideration that After‘s soft lighting, sweeping music, and lingering camera shots will make impressionable young girls and women believe a relationship like this is to be aspired to, rather than avoided at all costs. Naturally, a film this misguided and harmful could only go on to spawn After We Collided.
Even the title is way off, because this story about an aspiring pop star has very few, if any, parallels with the Cinderella fairy tale. Does our plucky heroine Elle live with her evil stepmother and stepsisters? No, she lives with a man constantly referred to as “Uncle Allen” even though the movie is careful to explicitly state that he is not actually anyone’s uncle. But there must be some form of evil stepmother and stepsisters, surely? Well, there’s a bitchy popstar trio who saunter in, call Elle names beginning with ‘E’ that aren’t her name, then saunter out again. Does Elle slave away in forced servitude? She’s an intern at Uncle Allen’s record label, so sort of, but also, not really. How about Prince Charming? A famous pop star overhears Elle singing and falls in love with her instantly; why she decides to adopt a fake British accent and temporarily pretend to be a different person is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile. the glass slipper is replaced with… nothing, there’s nothing. Instead we have classic tropes like the awkward budding romance between the geeky stereotype sidekicks, and a montage featuring our heroine dressing up in all manner of hideous sparkly outfits – all underpinned by Elle’s burning desire to go to music college. It’s not really Cinderella. It’s not really anything.
Easily the most terrifying thing about Jeepers Creepers is the notion that it’s meant to be taken even remotely seriously. Siblings Trish (a terrible Gina Philips) and Darry (an even worse Justin Long) find themselves stalked by a sinister supernatural entity which consumes its victim’s body parts. The plot is primarily propelled forward by Trish and Darry’s predilection for always making the most idiotic, ill-advised, downright suicidal decision in any given situation, whether that’s crawling into eerie rat-filled pipes, or standing and staring at their pursuer, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, for several minutes at a time instead of just fleeing for their lives. Contrived narrative elements – like how the monster emerges for twenty-three days every twenty-three years, or the simple fact of the eponymous song being shoehorned in periodically in a desperate bid to justify the movie’s title – contribute to the general sense that this is a film which has absolutely no idea what it’s doing, but hopes for the best anyway. The final product falls far short of its hopes.
Wonder Woman 1984 (WW84) doesn’t feel like it has anything even slightly to do with 2017’s Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman was a rare success for the DCEU, managing to tell a story with a compelling protagonist, strong emotional stakes, blistering action and just the right level of humour. Fundamentally, it straddled a careful balance between the fantastical world of superheroes and the grounded realm of humanity. WW84, however, ditches any notion of nuance and goes full-throttle into a completely mad mess. Horrible questions are raised, but never answered, when a key character is resurrected using another human’s body as a hapless, helpless vessel. Wonder Woman herself is instantaneously able to wield new powers, like turning things invisible and flying, with no build-up whatsoever. The film’s entire aesthetic is supposed to be ’80s-inspired, yet no one ever dresses the part. Indeed, Wonder Woman is more preoccupied by the frankly ridiculous golden suit of armour she dons for the film’s climax, which proves itself to be as useless as it is over-the-top. The film boasts two villains and yet neither is particularly impactful – while Pedro Pascal is at least enjoyable as a flamboyant businessman, Kristen Wiig’s “awkward unpopular woman” shtick is dialled up to eleven for maximum annoyance in her role as Wonder Woman’s friend-turned-enemy. Basically, neither villain can be taken seriously for any longer than about thirty seconds. Arguably the central conflict is within Wonder Woman herself, and whether she wants to favour the fate of the world or her own selfishness. Obviously this is not exactly a difficult ordeal, especially for our noble hero, and the movie trundles along exactly as any toddler would predict it to. WW84 is an utter disappointment to its predecessor, which rings serious alarm bells for the next planned instalment in the series.
Popularly referred to as “Turkish Star Wars”, Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam is a baffling experience. It lifts footage from Star Wars without batting an eye, as well as its music. Music is also blithely stolen from other movies like Ben-Hur and Flash Gordon; many action sequences are set to the main theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Then again, it’s understandable why Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam would opt to steal so much material when its original content is so utterly insane. Our two heroes – possibly humans from Earth? Possibly not? – land on a planet – possibly Earth? Possibly not? – and are soon embroiled in a struggle against an evil wizard – possibly human? Possibly not? Our heroes must find a magical sword and, disturbingly, a preserved human brain – possibly Jesus’? Possibly not? – to imbue them with the powers to conquer evil. They must endure such trials and tortures as being submerged under sand for approximately four seconds. And constantly, above all, they must deal with arguably the biggest threat of all: their own libidos, as they spend most of the movie talking about women and how much they want to have sex with them. Peppered with action scenes involving fights against evil henchmen clad in cheap fluffy bear costumes, Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam is certainly an experience. But it’s not one that anyone could ever remotely confuse with watching Star Wars.
Well, it certainly doesn’t have any of the magic of the Disney version. Which would be fine, if it retained any of the magic of Hans Christian Andersen’s original. But it does not. The Little Mermaid is an extremely confused story about a girl and her uncle encountering a mermaid being held captive at a circus. Is this mermaid the same mermaid featured in the film’s animated opening sequence, which more closely tells the original fairy tale story? It’s not really made clear. Is the little girl, suffering from an ambiguous illness but constantly referred to as having a special magic of her own, a mermaid too? Also not really ever clarified. Meanwhile, the circus fortune teller is later shown to have the ability to manipulate time and matter to her will, yet never bothered using these universe-commanding powers to escape the circus before. Towards the end of the movie, a random werewolf type character is thrown in out of nowhere. He’s also a hero now. At its core, all the The Little Mermaid really seems to have to say is “believe in things” and “swimming is nice to do”, yet its cinematic attempt to convey these messages is so contrived and confusing that by the movie’s end, the average viewer will likely wind up losing all belief in everything and never wanting to swim again.
Fox Animation Studios’ 1997 Anastasiais justifiably derided for taking a serious and significant historical event, and turning it into a dumb kids’ film complete with basic “good versus bad” dichotomy, magic spells, and animal sidekicks. But Anastasia: Once Upon a Time provides some real perspective on Fox’s efforts. The 1997 Anastasia did not, for example, think a kids’ movie is an appropriate way introduce a scheming, sneering Lenin as the big bad guy. The 1997 Anastasia did not, therefore, reveal that Lenin was secretly in cahoots with a dastardly sorceress all along. The 1997 Anastasia did not declare that Rasputin was actually a good and decent man, until turned evil by the powers of said dastardly sorceress. The 1997 Anastasia did not feature Anastasia’s escape via magical portal which transports her, for some reason, to Madison, Wisconsin. The 1997 Anastasia did not furnish this already ludicrous idea with the casual addition that our heroine is propelled forward in time to the year 1989. The 1997 Anastasia did not feature tween pop stars, singing orphans, dress-up montages, hideous costumes, monotonous bullies, and an utterly confounding 5-second detour to Disneyland. The 1997 Anastasia did not choose to set its big dramatic climax in a children’s playground, with swings and a roundabout being used to outwit the enemy. Truly, Fox’s version of the Anastasia tale is practically cinematic genius when compared to this absolutely bizarre, inexplicable mess.
There is truly nothing that can be said about Christmas Wonderland that hasn’t already been said about all the generic Hallmark Christmas films. Our heroine Heidi returns to her quaint little home town which she left behind to pursue her big city dreams – in this case, being an assistant at an art gallery. She becomes reacquainted with her high school boyfriend – in this case, a square-jawed, blander than bland, personality-devoid teacher. Being in such a nice homely environment reignites her own creative passion – in this case, painting pictures of festive scenes in horrible poppy colours, resulting in art that even a children’s advent calendar company would reject as too offensively terrible to use. It’s a tale as old as time, made only slightly remarkable by little quirks such as one little girl’s cringe-inducing singing, and grandparents who pop up for half a scene and do absolutely nothing before disappearing forever. All in all, it’s what Hallmark does best: frivolous, formulaic and forgettable.
This Soviet-era adaptation of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring aired on Soviet television once. Just once. Then it was considered lost, until almost thirty years later, when it was rediscovered and posted on YouTube for all the world to enjoy. With the caveat that the production is in Russian with no currently existing foreign language subtitles, it is fair to say that even notwithstanding the language barrier for non-Russian speakers, Khraniteli is pretty much an insane fever dream that makes no sense. Sure, a viewer acquainted with the story beats of Fellowship can just about work out what’s supposed to be going on. There’s Bilbo’s birthday party; there’s Tom Bombadil; there’s a Barrow-wight; there’s Bree; there’s Aragorn; there’s Rivendell; there’s Saruman; there’s Moria; there’s Lothlórien. And yet, alongside this reasonably faithful adaptation come so, so, so many baffled questions that it’s difficult to keep track. Why are everyone’s wigs and fake Hobbit feet so disconcertingly dishevelled? Why does Gandalf look less like a mighty wizard and more like the Burger King mascot? Is there a reason Tom Bombadil and Goldleaf have been superimposed to be about ten times the size of the Hobbits? Why does the Barrow-wight look like Harley Quinn went on a bender after failing her audition for clown college? How come Legolas is played, quite obviously, by a woman, and thus never allowed to speak? Any reason that the scene of the eagles rescuing Gandalf utilises a horrifying bug-eyed bird prop slowly looming towards the screen? What’s with Gollum’s giddy dancing? And why, why, why is the entire thing punctuated by appearances from a pipe-smoking narrator, who sometimes pops in to deliver narrative, but many other times is simply captured staring silently into the camera for a few seconds before the movie resumes? Whether or not the audience speaks Russian, Kraniteli is a joyful low-budget mess clearly put together by someone who adores The Lord of the Rings, even if they don’t seem to have particularly understood it.
Nest of Vampires follows Kit Valentine, an MI5 agent pursuing a human trafficking ring which has kidnapped his daughter. Said human trafficking ring thrives on selling young girls to Satanic cult members for some generic ritualistic butchering, for which there is apparently a large market yet barely any police investigation into beyond our dogged hero’s crusade. Also, some of the human traffickers are vampires. But some of the good guys are vampires, too. One man – who spends the entire film snarling and sniggering and pronouncing everything in an absurdly thick accent that is supposed to be authentic Italian but comes across more as a drunk Mario pantomime – turns out to not be a vampire and instead an allegedly normal human man. This man’s absolutely terrible acting is arguably some of the best in the film, with precisely no one able to put in an even halfway decent performance. Technically speaking, the movie is put together with the finesse of a clueless toddler: the camera sways back and forth pretty much all the time, weird lurid lighting in stark reds and greens adds nothing to proceedings except immense confusion, plus the paint-by-numbers spooky soundtrack refuses to ever shut up for more than about ten seconds. In one perplexing scene, two characters sitting on a park bench have breath vapour emanating from their mouths when they speak, because it’s cold. Fine, except it’s interspersed with shots where the breath vapour is very obviously digitally added in. So much thought and effort poured in, with such a useless result. This is the film in a microcosm. Nest of Vampires has no idea what the hell it’s doing, but it commits to everything with an almost frightening level of loving conviction.
The world is, bizarrely, saturated with live-action adaptations of The Jungle Book. This one from 1994 is technically Disney’s first live-action iteration of one of its own animated works, although it has extremely little to do with the 1967 animated adaptation. Jason Scott Lee stars as Mowgli, embarking on his very own Pygmalion as he escapes the jungle he’s been lost in for around two decades to learn how to speak almost eerily fluent English and hold spoons in the right way. His education comes courtesy of Kitty, played by Lena Headey, and Dr Plumford, played by John Cleese. Sam Neill and Cary Elwes are also hovering around, both ostensibly doing their best impressions of John Cleese the entire time in an attempt to sound oh so terribly British. Of course, it wouldn’t be The Jungle Book without a colourful cast of animal characters, so some poor trained animals are brought in to portray Bagheera, Baloo, Shere Khan, King Louis, and so on. Their performances are mostly shots of them writhing around in apparent confusion and despair, cut together to look vaguely like reaction shots to the occurrences around them. They didn’t get a live snake, though – Kaa is a mix of animatronics and CGI hanging about in an underground lake, resulting in him pretty much entirely resembling a pool noodle for the human characters to wrestle about with. Along with the typical racist stereotypes of Indians, a romance utterly devoid of chemistry, some truly terrible spoken Hindi, and a lot of really stupid posing, it’s easy to see why no one seems to talk about this movie – especially not Disney.
The standard line with respect to Stephenie Meyer, creator of The Twilight Saga, is that her work isn’t high art. It’s not exactly cerebral. There’s precisely no need for deep, hard thinking to understand the story of Twilight. But then again, play The Host, which is based on a novel by Meyer, to an audience full of society’s top geniuses – Mensa members, our greatest writers and scientists and inventors and thinkers, whoever – and it’s an absolute guarantee that they’ll struggle to make head or tail of it. Questions might include: In this world where parasitic aliens have enslaved mankind, why do the aliens go from being ruthless vicious captors to eternally benevolent pacifists, changing from scene to scene? And similarly, why do the humans of this world go from despising and killing aliens one second, to warmly embracing them and palling around with them the next? Why would a talented actor like Saoirse Ronan agree to play these annoying characters, a human body inhabited by both human and alien souls yet barely ever in any actual conflict? And if the only discernible difference between a human-hosted body and an alien-hosted body is whether their eyes sparkle like Edward Cullen’s skin or not, then why don’t more people simply take advantage of contact lenses to fool the other side? Also, why do the three bland teenage boys of the story all look exactly the same? Why do none of them seem to understand what consent is? Why is there so much wheat? Since when do mirrors work that way? Truly, with all this pondering and consternation caused by watching The Host, we can only conclude that Stephenie Meyer’s work is that of a genius we mere mortals simply cannot fathom. Either that, or it’s somehow even more stupid and inane than what we already knew to expect from her.
We’ve had the sulky YA version of Beauty and the Beast, with Beastly. We’ve had the shiny rom-com version of Beauty and the Beast, with Beauty and the Briefcase. Now, we get the preachy Christian version of Beauty and the Beast, with Beauty and the Beast: A Latter-Day Tale. In this iteration, the titular Beast isn’t so much a beast, more than just some angry guy called Eric who wears ties at home and shouts a lot. After his handyman accidentally breaks a priceless vase (which constitutes but one hideous ornament in a colossal McMansion stuffed with hideous ornaments), Eric threatens to fire him. So the handyman’s daughter Belle steps in and offers her services as an assistant to placate him. Said services seem to primarily involve carrying post-its around, and handing Eric a towel as he awkwardly clambers out of his hot tub. There’s a bug-eyed rival for Belle’s affections hovering around, but he doesn’t do much. Belle’s little sister seems to have some sort of “rebellious schoolgirl” plot going on, but she doesn’t do much. Eric himself is supposed to be hiding a dark history of bereavement and alcoholism, but even he doesn’t do much. Most of the movie is the same scene over and over again: Eric yells, and Belle gets offended. They just move from room to room as they do it. Of course, by the end they’re hopelessly in love, and loudly affirming that faith in God conquers all. But a movie as weak, lazy, formulaic and emotionally barren as Beauty and the Beast: A Latter-Day Tale only helps to support the argument that there is no God at all.
It claims to be a romantic comedy. A cursory glance at the poster, all bright colours and goofy faces, certainly makes it look like a romantic comedy. But how can a film like Over Her Dead Body truly be classed as a romantic comedy? A romantic comedy only needs two things: romance and comedy. First of all, there is no romance. When Eva Longoria’s character Kate dies (in a truly confusing incident involving an ice sculpture), a year later she’s committed to haunting Ashley (Lake Bell), a psychic who has started to date Eva Longoria’s former fiancé Henry (Paul Rudd). A love triangle is at the centre of the film, yet the lack of chemistry is frankly alarming. Kate’s commitment to Henry seems less affectionate and more possessive, while Ashley and Henry have seemingly nothing to talk about except his dead fiancée. Awkward scenes like when Kate the ghost hovers above the bed while Ashley and Henry try to have sex are just disturbing. Obviously, these kinds of scenarios are where the comedy is supposed to come in, but there is no comedy either. Painfully drawn-out fart jokes, dumb voice effects and spontaneous falls to the ground give Over Her Dead Body the air of a Happy Madison production. But even those usually have bright colours and poppy cinematography, whereas all the visuals in Over Her Dead Body look diluted and grey. The film is already so flat, so joyless, and then it has the audacity to throw in a side storyline where a trusted best friend has been lying about his entire life, for five years, in order to creep on a woman without her consent. But it’s okay, because he says it’s love, and the movie says it’s love. Over Her Dead Body doesn’t know what love is, it doesn’t know what comedy is, and it’s just a shame it wasn’t brutally killed by an ice sculpture before it was unleashed on the world.
Runaway Romance‘s whole shtick is that it’s a romance set in Amish Country. A beleaguered reality TV star runs away from LA and finds herself in a quiet rural community free from the trappings of modern life. Except they all use cars. And electricity. And the internet. They’re all sort of half-Amish at best, it would seem. The movie itself doesn’t actually seem remotely interested in the Amish community beyond vaguely adopting some of its aesthetic, like lingering shots of horses and verdant fields. For example, our heroine quickly becomes best friends with an Amish widow who’s being pressured to enter an arranged marriage. Will the young woman acquiesce, or will she escape and follow her own path? Well, the movie never actually bothers to tell us, focusing instead on our heroine getting her own back on the reality TV co-stars that tried to manipulate her, and falling in love with a bland barely-Amish “architect” who ostensibly spends most of his time hammering nails with Habitat for Humanity. Basically, this is an Amish love story – except with the “Amish” taken out, barely any chemistry or affection to constitute “love”, and tragically little in the way of “story” either.
Jupiter Jones is a janitor who nearly gets killed by aliens masquerading as hospital staff but she’s rescued by Caine Wise, an intergalactic soldier who has orders to kidnap Jupiter so Titus of the royal Abrasax family can marry her, but Titus’ sister Kalique and brother Balem also want to kidnap her, so Caine realises Jupiter is probably of great importance, so he takes her to his half-human half-honeybee friend Stinger Apini, and at his house all the bees swarm around Jupiter which proves she’s royalty, but then she gets kidnapped, so Caine rescues her, but then she gets kidnapped, so Caine rescues her, but then she gets kidnapped, so Caine rescues her… Jupiter Ascending is a sheer insult of a movie. The characters are dreadful, especially our infuriatingly helpless heroine. The plot is utterly incoherent, with the Wachowskis ostensibly believing that throwing in a bunch of made up nouns constitutes world-building. Action scenes are so obnoxiously shot with rapid cuts and swooping cameras that it’s almost impossible to discern what’s actually happening. And to really hammer home how little Jupiter Ascending understands about entertainment, there’s a lengthy scene focused solely on intergalactic bureaucracy. A Terry Gilliam cameo cannot save such a hollow, lifeless dud of a film.
The really disappointing thing about the live-action Fullmetal Alchemist is the fact that the source material is amazing. The 2000s manga and anime series told the tragic tale of brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric with beautiful visuals, complex character development, and meticulous storyline pacing. That last one is especially crucial when you look at the live-action iteration, which proudly tries to tell four manga volumes’ worth of plot in two and a quarter hours. Cue: people churning out wordy exposition at rapid-fire speed; no one spending more than about three minutes in any given location before moving on to the next scenario; characters so thinly-drawn that the villains might as well spend their time on-screen winking and cackling directly at the camera; CGI so poor and fake-looking that you can practically see the tennis balls on string; unbelievably hammy acting from a bunch of grown adults striving to convince the audience that they’re actually teenagers; and an abundance of terrible, terrible wigs. This movie’s complete lack of redeeming features simply proves that there was never any need for a live-action Fullmetal Alchemist to be made.
iBoy is just your average boy-meets-girl YA movie. You know: boy meets girl; girl gets gang raped by generic council block hoodlums; boy gets shot by said hoodlums resulting in shards of a smartphone being embedded in his brain; boy develops extremely confusing and inconsistent cyber-based powers and uses them to enact revenge; girl gets kidnapped; girl’s kidnappers do the all-time dumbest thing possible and simply let go of her, enabling her to pick up a gun for Maisie Williams’ badass promotional shots; and it all culminates in a rainy climactic scene where Rory Kinnear’s villain does a whole lot of sneering and jeering. Just your average boy-meets-girl YA movie. iBoy clearly thinks it’s a gritty, realistic delve into the trials and tribulations faced by teenagers today, but the grimness is so formulaic that there’s a yawning dearth of emotional impact. It’s hard to feel anything but disgust at the way gang rape is used as a plot point. In addition, spot the ethnic minority who isn’t evil or corrupt in some way. Oh, there isn’t one! Of course only white people can be good. To add insult to injurt, the sci-fi is just beyond stupid. Of course sci-fi as a genre generally requests the audience suspends their disbelief – but iBoy takes it to such absurd levels, carried by such a mundane hero, that’s there’s really no reward for giving it the benefit of the doubt.
Vampire Dog is about as stupid and insane as you’d expect a film called Vampire Dog to be. Twelve-year-old Ace inherits his dead grandfather’s pet dog Fang, and swiftly discovers the canine’s supernatural abilities. He can move super fast. He can hypnotise people. He talks, in the slightly pained tones of Norm Macdonald. It’s debatable whether he can go in the sun, seeing as he’s shown in daylight several times, but there’s still a contrived scene about shoving him in a strange hooded onesie to protect him from the rays. Also, Fang is obsessed with eating jelly. Perhaps blood wasn’t sufficiently PG. As if this wasn’t enough to be dealing with, Ace also has to handle his burgeoning school crush (puppy love, if you will?) and a gaggle of mean girls at school. But wait, there’s more – a duo of hapless villains are intent on stealing Fang to use his immortal DNA for their skincare company. But wait, there’s more – Ace must use his underwhelming percussion skills to save the school at the climactic battle of the bands. Vampire Dog manages to take every kids’ film trope from the ’90s and amalgamate them into one idiotic experience; sadly it does so about a couple of decades too late.
In 2001, we were given The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, followed by its sequels in 2002 and 2003. Overall, they gave audiences an epic adventure. Well, in 2018, audiences were finally given the start of what no one demanded, the Time for X to Come Home for Christmas trilogy. Followed in consecutive years by Time for You to Come Home for Christmas and Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas, this trilogy distinguishes itself by ensuring that each of its three instalments have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. Different characters, different places, different stories. One might argue they barely constitute a trilogy at all. Nevertheless, we live in a world where this series exists, and here’s where it all began. Cara is, as the movie title subtly hints, heading home for Christmas, and meets a celebrity singer on the way. At least, the film really tries to convey he’s a celebrity – he plays Madison Square Garden and gets chased by delirious fans wherever he goes. Curious, seeing as his entire act seems to be poorly singing covers of Christmas songs while fake-playing guitar. Regardless, as the two embark on a very sad Planes, Trains and Automobiles knock-off, they find themselves steadily growing closer. Sure, the movie tries to throw in some contrived conflicts, along the lines of, “You never told me you were famous!” and the even more egregious, “How dare you offer to lend me money to save my failing business?!” Will these two crazy kids ever work it out? Time to come home for Christmas and find out.
The second instalment of the trilogy no one ever asked for, preceded by Time for Me to Come Home for Christmas and followed by Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas. Again, this one has completely different characters and a completely different story. Someone cynical might even say these movies have nothing to do with each other at all. In this one, our widow protagonist and her young son journey home for Christmas, and meet a bland shell of a man on the way. Naturally our protagonist, being naught more than a bland shell herself, begins to fall in love. There’s an extremely contrived story around a trinket left behind by the dead husband, and the movie feels obliged to give the son banal stuff to do in order to justify his presence in the movie, but overall this is yet another movie about returning to your simple home town to rediscover the magic of Christmas. As saccharine and formulaic as our two main characters.
Part three of the inexplicable trilogy of Christmas films with fundamentally nothing to do with one another, preceded by Time for Me to Come Home for Christmas and Time for You to Come Home for Christmas. In this one, Lacey Chabert plays Sarah, who’s torn away from her high-flying corporate life to spend Christmas in a small town. How unusual for a Hallmark Christmas film. This time, she’s led to an inn by a mysterious invitation, alongside other guests (including an insulting “wise black man” trope, whose part was likely written for Ron Cephas Jones except he refused to take part) who seemingly have nothing in common… or do they? The central “mystery” of the movie is an absolute joke, with Sarah essentially wandering from person to person and occasionally exclaiming underwhelming discoveries about how her parents once came to the exact same inn. Of course, she also falls for the white guy with a chiselled jaw who runs the hotel. In a baffling side note, it really doesn’t even seem like anyone comes home for Christmas in this one, despite an awkward speech in the final minutes of the movie declaring that home is about people, not places. If that were the case, you’d hope the central couple’s chemistry was a bit more enticing than the complete burnout seen here.
A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting quite possibly has the most childish title of all time. Go figure – it’s a kids’ movie, following a young babysitter who goes on a magical quest to save the boy she was supposed to be looking after. He’s been kidnapped, which would pretty much render our protagonist the worst babysitter of all time; nevertheless she’s permitted to join the secret society of annoying monster-fighting babysitters. The kidnapper is the Grand Guignol, a leader in the world of monsters, played with acutely cringeworthy aplomb by a career-meandering Tom Felton, who looks like a mix of Edward Scissorhands and a Ring-seduced Sméagol. The thing with A Babysitter’s Guide is, while it’s a kids’ film, some of the imagery is genuinely terrifying, like eerie skulls floating in smoke, or monsters getting totally gutted (but their blood is blue, which ostensibly means it’s not gory to see them lying in pools of it). An expectedly stupid, but also surprisingly perturbing, experience.
For a people to think it was a good idea to take a currently unfolding tragedy, Michael Bay-ify it and present it as a legitimate film is a complete insult to everything humanity is living through. In Songbird, we’re a few years into the future and COVID-19 has mutated into COVID-23. KJ Apa plays a courier, helpfully totally immune to the disease and all its mutations, trying to save his girlfriend whose grandmother has just contracted it. There’s also some random tangents about drones, veterans, and a strange subplot regarding a black market dealer having an affair with a social media singer. All of this is extremely hard to follow seeing as the movie is seldom capable of focusing on a shot for more than two seconds before cutting to the same thing at a different angle. Supposedly this makes the film more urgent and exciting. It just makes it even more obnoxious than it already was. Songbird is a truly exasperating experience, made even more difficult by the fact that real people are still suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic. A total mess all around.
The Late Bloomer is, frankly, nothing short of disturbing. The movie makes a big song and dance about how it’s based on a true story, but the parallels to reality are so loose that it completely undermines its own claim within seconds. The story follows Pete (Johnny Simmons), a sex therapist in his late twenties who discovers he’s had a benign tumour pressing up against his pituitary gland which has resulted in him never going through puberty. For the audience, countless questions ensue. Never gone through puberty? But he has a broken voice, an Adam’s apple, a man’s height, countless other indications that he is, in fact, a fully grown man. In fairness, seeing as the film is saturated with coarse sex jokes and pathetic physical comedy, the movie at least did the small mercy of not casting a child in the role – but then it’d still raise questions. How did Pete get so old with no one questioning his alleged lack of puberty? Did his parents never take him to the doctor? Other questions include why Pete’s best friends seem genuinely incapable of talking about anything but sex; why Pete’s hot neighbour (Brittany Snow) seems totally infatuated with him, despite him behaving like a child at best and a selfish incel at worst; and why J. K. Simmons deigned to go anywhere near this movie.
Wild Mountain Thyme got a lot of bad publicity before its release, primarily due to its performers’ terrible Irish accents as showcased in the movie trailer. The accents are certainly bad, but they’re probably the least egregious part of the entire film. This love story between neighbours Rosemary (Emily Blunt) and Anthony (Jamie Dornan) in rural Ireland has absolutely no idea what it’s doing, at any point. The dialogue is laboured and nonsensical. The story is peppered with spontaneous deaths, purely to propel the plot forward. Rosemary is an absolute horror: cold, possessive, obsessive, and yet somehow devoid of any shred of real character that might make an audience warm to her even a little. Anthony has his own bouts of madness to attend to, with a final act reveal about his psyche which is so bewildering that there’s simply nothing anyone can say to make it make sense. The same level of bafflement applies to the entire film, honestly.
Finally! The spin-off for The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D that absolutely no one in the world ever asked for. This one manages to, inexplicably, be even worse. The movie is unabashed about its attempt to be like the Avengers, but for children – so for the majority of it, all the kids just run about with their super powers (including such compelling skills as singing, and making silly faces) and do dramatic poses. At one point, the kids uncover that one of their own is secretly an alien – and proudly announce that they found this out because, basically, the alien already told them. Said alien sounds surprised to hear this news. This is the level of conflict We Can Be Heroes is willing to present; any real sense of peril or danger simply doesn’t exist. Even the central “save the world” adventure turns out to be a giant farce. It’s all total nonsense, especially considering the “lore” of the original film isn’t remotely upheld. Is this all still the dreams of the kid in the first film? Because he doesn’t even show up. Neither does Taylor Lautner, which means poor Sharkboy is relegated to having his face hidden and remaining mute for the whole movie. He probably comes across the best of the lot of them.
Anyone going into this film would assume it’s a modern take on the Jane Austen classic novel, with a Christmas twist. They would be wrong. Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe, aside from calling its protagonist “Darcy”, has basically nothing to do with Pride and Prejudice. It doesn’t even really involve very much mistletoe. Darcy (Lacey Chabert, AKA Gretchen Wieners) takes a break from her high-flying city job to return to her home town for Christmas, obviously rekindling her spark with her childhood sweetheart and realising there’s more to life than her fast-paced corporate life. So far, so Christmas movie. Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe adds on a few extra layers of confusion, though – such as the fact that Darcy’s utterly colossal family home is quite obviously a hotel, but no one ever mentions it. Or the fact that the fundamental moral of the story seems to be that nepotism is good. There’s not even any mistletoe present for the end-of-movie kiss. Way to fail at the title on pretty much all fronts.
A geologist discovers the world is falling apart, due to some random nonsense that’s never explained in any way a scientist would deem valid. A novelist battles to save his family, as natural disaster after natural disaster threatens humankind with extinction. All very grave, as the movie’s ominous tagline “We were warned” impresses upon us. But while 2012 looks decent in terms of its cataclysmic visual effects, the atmosphere is quickly sullied by boring characters, stupid plot, and improbability after improbability. The audience is already going along with the highfalutin disaster scenario – the movie would have done better to just roll with it rather than try to explain it all away with monks and prophecies and other such convenient yet idiotic devices. For a running time of more than two and a half hours, it’s just not worth it.
Freddy Got Fingered is very much one of those movies that loudly, smugly, claims to be in on the joke. But there’s a problem with this claim. To be in on the joke, there has to be a joke. And generally where there’s a joke, there is laughter. But there is no laughter to be found in Freddy Got Fingered. Tom Green’s bewildering passion project sees him play an aspiring cartoonist. Cue zany antics, goofy faces, silly voices, and relentless gross-out gags. Ha, ha, horse penis! Ha, ha, elephant penis! Ha, ha, penis! No, unfortunately, there is no laughter to be had at all. No jokes. No anything. Just Tom Green screaming endlessly, irritatingly, into the void.
The title is all about the protagonist’s shoe addiction, yet they seem to forget about it for massive stretches of the film. And when they remember it, the shoes she wears are so hideous that it’s hard to fathom why she’s so keen on them. In this movie, the shoes are magical and bestowed to her by some mysterious shoe angel, so when she wears them she’s popped back to a time in her past. It’s confusing to say the least – do her decisions back in time alter the present day? They don’t seem to. Yet there doesn’t seem to be any other real point to the flashbacks. The final one is the most confusing of all, where it’s implied she’s actually been in a relationship with her new love interest for many years. Or… has she? We just don’t know.
The title(s) make it sound like a hit reality TV show where bland people flirt with each other on a beach, but it’s actually a fictional rom-com film where bland people flirt with each other on a beach. Amanda Bynes and Meadow Soprano vie for the attentions of a generic pop-rock superstar. Bynes gets the edge when she manages to convince him that the two of them are stranded on a desert island and need to depend on each other to survive. Fortunately for her, he’s too dense to wander one hundred metres in the opposite direction, so he doesn’t discover they’re actually just around the corner from the hotel they both checked in at. Were it not her for guilty conscience, there’s a good chance he’d have never found out. Idiot character for an idiot premise for an idiot movie.
Mamaboy is a horror. It’s not presented as a horror, but it really should be. Mamaboy is supposed to be your average teen comedy – adolescents navigating high school, discovering sex, and getting into routine hijinks on the way. That’s the kind of tone it tries to hit throughout. Unfortunately, it also hinges on the premise that a boy has a medical procedure done so he can carry his girlfriend’s baby for her. So the laidback, just-your-average-teen vibes are dashed pretty quickly.The hero wanders around with his distressingly fake-looking pregnant belly and sighs and shakes his head a lot, while his peers glower over how fat he’s become. The viewer is supposed to just take it all on the chin, and find it relatable and charming. But it’s just unsettling. Really, really unsettling.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone was clamouring for a sequel to Mirrors, but they churned one out anyway. It’s a standalone, so no need to worry about needing to see the first one – they’re basically the same movie. Nick Stahl steps in as our traumatised tough guy, grappling with the memory of a car accident which killed his fiancée. His feelings of grief and guilt are pretty rapidly skipped over in order to focus on the much more compelling idea that he foresees people’s deaths in mirrors. Hooray, back to the never-failing formula of evil mirrors! It’s difficult to get particularly scared whilst watching the hero get frightened by a scary face in a puddle. But Mirrors 2 really does give it a go.
The central premise of Mirrors is that mirrors are scary. That’s pretty much all there is to go on. Malevolent forces live on the other side of the glass. Kiefer Sutherland’s ex-detective does his utmost to battle them, but he does little to battle his stock ex-detective character tropes of “tormented”, “paranoid”, and “always frowning”. Of course, there’s the classic horror shtick of a character’s schizophrenia or personality disorder actually being the work of terrible terrible demons – because a film where mirrors are scary was never going to delve deep into the psychology of the human mind. Why explore trauma or psychosis when you can blame it on that most evil of entities: mirrors?
Three gal pals run around Monte Carlo pretending to be wealthy socialites, after it’s discovered that the generic heroine played Selena Gomez bears an uncanny likeness to a spoiled British heiress played by Selena Gomez. Inevitable hijinks ensue. It throws in a prince, because teen rom coms like to have a prince. But instead of speaking in clipped Queen’s English tones, he’s given the general designation of “foreign”, and the accompanying pseudo-European accent to go with it, so you know he can’t be a real love interest. One of those films that claims to be against vapid materialism, and conveys its message by spending every single solitary second of its running time indulging in the most vapid materialism imaginable.
The Adventurer is unbelievable. It simply cannot be believed. Starring the likes of Michael Sheen, Lena Headey, Sam Neill, Keeley Hawes and Ioan Gruffudd, in 2013 it was heralded as the next Harry Potter. A heroic young man discovering magical objects and fighting nefarious forces. Based on the first of a trilogy of young adult fantasy books, so scope for a franchise. It was received so positively by test audiences that the producers confidently announced a sequel before it was even released. This sequel never got made. The Adventurer was a spectacular failure at the box office, most likely because it’s less a film and more a giddy mess of insanity. The “plot” is complete nonsense. The “hero” is utterly useless. Most story developments are based on the convenient location of a nearby secret passage. Michael Sheen spends half the movie in an obvious disguise even a three-year-old could see past, yet the audience is supposed to be stunned to discover that it was Michael Sheen the whole time. How did so many famous and talented people agree to be a part of this?
Big shock that they had to cancel the cinematic sequels they’d planned for this one. Maybe the original book series works, but this movie has absolutely no idea what it’s doing. It tries to incorporate every YA trope in the book: magic, vampires, werewolves, witches, warlocks, demons… It’s difficult to believe there was established source material to rely on here, because it feels like they made up every stupid twist and contrived turn as they went. It’s a headache to even try and keep up, which the movie insists you do for over two hours, but it’s honestly not worth it. There’s not a single memorable character or original idea here. The cinematography and sets look kind of nice, at least?
dir. Steven Brill, Peter Farrelly, Will Graham, Steve Carr, Griffin Dunne, James Duffy, Jonathan van Tulleken, Elizabeth Banks, Patrik Forsberg, Brett Ratner, Rusty Cundieff, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Steve Baker, Damon Escott
Movie 43 is an absolute marvel. This anthology “comedy” is a genuine contender for being the worst film of all time, and not in a fun way. Sometimes it’s argued that Movie 43 is doing what it does on purpose, but even trying to watch it with that in mind, there’s still not an iota of enjoyment to get from it. And so many celebrities! It’s impossible to understand what drew actors of this calibre to such a mess. Did Naomi Watts think she might get an Oscar nomination out of it? Probably not, seeing as she spends her part in the film playing a woman who tries to seduce her own son. Did Anna Faris and Chris Pratt think their scatological storyline would strengthen their real-life marriage? Outlook: not so good. Did Kate Winslet think she’d have fun going on a date with a man who has balls on his chin? She sure doesn’t look like she’s having fun. Nobody does. The story goes that most actors signed on for this production before actually reading the script. A lesson learned if there ever was one.
Groundhog Day, but starring a naked Wayans brother. That’s the entire movie, although “movie” is a strong word for this one. In essence, this time it’s about a man who’s got cold feet over his wedding, but reliving his wedding day repeatedly makes him realise just how much he wants to commit. Honestly it’s more like “Groundhog Hour” – because it’s the same hour we see Marlon Wayans live through over and over, allowing for very little variation. The one vaguely interesting idea – the fact that the reason Wayans is naked at all is because he went on a drunken bender of denial – is completely undercut by a confusing sabotage plot involving an evil maid of honour and a prostitute. We could have delved into a complicated psyche, but instead, it’s just some naked guy. But what more did we really expect?
Kevin Spacey gets turned into a cat. That’s the whole movie. It’s the only remotely noteworthy aspect, anyway. Nine Lives follows the most basic kids’ movie beats ever – he’s a workaholic father, his big work project is a symbol of his corruption and soullessness, but his time spent as a cat slowly manages to imbue a sense of decency and love into him. Same formula as every other family film about an uptight guy learning to relax – see Beethoven, or Cats & Dogs. It’s just that this time, the guy doesn’t just bond with his pet, he actually becomes it. Neat? The film takes an unprecedented dark turn, lightly flirting with such topics as suicide and euthanasia, all while seemingly forgetting it’s a PG movie whose main character is a cat. Throughout, not a single actor looks or sounds happy to be there, not even the cat. It’s not hard to know why.
A Godfrey Ho masterclass. Like Ninja Terminator and a bunch of his other productions, Ho took his own film and a pre-existing film, then mashed them together and pretended there was a coherent story to be told. In trademark Ho style, the dubbing is absolutely hideous, for the English and non-English speakers alike. Despite the cast and crews love of martial arts, the choreography just isn’t much good – it primarily consists of awkward men flailing around, with the occasional jump cut to try and convey agility. You can try and differentiate the films of Godfrey Ho by their plots, but there’s not much plot to speak of in any of them. But this is the one with the cop in Hong Kong, and drugs, and revenge. There you go.
All of Godfrey Ho’s films, including Ninja Terminator and Ninja: Silent Assassin, are a mad delight. His MO was to film original scenes, then take an existing martial arts film, dub over the top, and cut the two together. In other words, his “movies” are hybrids of two entirely different films. Half of Ninja Terminator is taken from a Korean production called The Uninvited Guest Of The Star Ferry; it doesn’t take a genius to discern that the clipped British accents over the top weren’t part of the original audio. The bits Ho filmed himself include a teeny-tiny threat-delivering robot and a Garfield telephone. Throw in pieces of a magic statue, a couple of extremely tepid sex scenes, and hostages tied to bombs. All put together it creates an inscrutable but hilarious mess.
Obsessed should honestly be appealing by default – plot aside, the leads are played by Idris Elba and Beyoncé, who almost certainly embody the most good-looking couple ever seen on screen. It’s also totally believable that Idris Elba’s colleague would be so infatuated with him to the point of – title drop – obsession. Unfortunately, although all the individual pieces seem perfect, the sum of the parts falls well short. It’s totally predictable and generic. The characters are given no complexity; the heroes are simply good and the villain is simply bad. You don’t get to find out anything about the stalker’s motivations or past. She’s just some psycho. Also weirdly unsettling about the film is the way Elba and Beyoncé suddenly swap importance – the former leads the second half, but by the end the focus is so squarely on Beyoncé that it’s easy to forget Elba was even in it. But it’s easy to forget most things about Obsessed.
There is only one word that really sums up The Open House, and that is “infuriating”. There are plenty of shoddy horror films in the world, but this one takes it to another level. The premise? Open houses – yes, the sorts run by estate agents – are scary. Okay, well, what about the execution? Well, there isn’t one, really. The Open House wanders from scene to scene with no real idea what it’s doing, introducing characters and concepts for no reason at all. Who’s that old lady, what happened to her husband? Who cares?! The Open House doesn’t! Now let’s never mention it again. It honestly doesn’t really even end, so much as just stop. Nothing is explained and nothing is made to make sense. Just a series of random scenes. In a way, it’s the scariest horror film every made – it’s truly frightening to consider that something this terrible and pointless actually got made.
The Oxford Murders doesn’t just think it’s smart. It thinks it’s the smartest movie ever known to humankind. It thinks no one can handle just how smart it is. Unfortunately, no matter what The Oxford Murders thinks of itself, the truth is it might be one of the stupidest films ever conceived of. As Elijah Wood and John Hurt wander about Oxford trying to hunt down a killer, they don’t really speak in English so much as in unnecessarily obtuse phrases. From “I believe in the number pi” to “As sure as today is Wednesday,” not a single line sounds like an actual human being would ever say it. The murders make no sense and the motivations make no sense. The final reveal of the true killer is so resoundingly idiotic that it’s hard to do anything except gape and babble in disbelief, although the movie would probably take that as proof that it’s simply too smart for everyone who watches it. It’s all offset by a truly ridiculous third act explosion, though. So there’s that.
Prime is ostensibly a rom-com but it’s very low on humour. The premise alluded to in the title is the fact that the main character Rafi, played by Uma Thurman, is 37 – past her prime, so to speak, because everyone knows life ends at 30 – and begins dating a 23-year-old. In addition, Rafi doesn’t know that the therapist she spills her heart out to is actually her new boyfriend’s mother. Oh my! A lot of it’s played for laughs, with Meryl Streep pulling goofy faces and everything hinging on each other’s misunderstandings like a comedy of errors. But all the comedy is sucked out by the sheer mean-spiritedness and selfishness of the movie. Everyone is super quick to judge everyone else; there is barely any compassion or perspective. One point to the movie for not neatly wrapping up all the strands in a bow at the end like most rom-coms do, but it’s so devoid of heart that it doesn’t really matter.
A short 3D animated feature about the magic of Christmas, introducing a brand new gang of adorable kids, and starring voice acting legends such as Paige O’Hara, Jodi Benson, Nancy Cartwright and Mark Hamill. Released seven years after Toy Story, so the world’s already aware of the wonders 3D animation can achieve. Surely a new and exciting franchise in the making, right? A new children’s classic? Well, Rapsittie Street Kids’ first issue is obvious from the get-go. It looks like a two-year-old designed it all on an Etch A Sketch then vomited crayon onto it to get the colour. They just look scary. The plot and character are non-existent – the biggest conflict is the protagonist giving away a teddy bear to a recipient who doesn’t really want it. Ooh. And it’s just straightforwardly unfinished. For entire scenes when the grandmother character is speaking, it seems they accidentally released her audio in rewind. Apparently none of the crew even wanted to watch it back – they just wanted to get it out of their lives as soon as possible. It’s only 40 minutes long but the nightmarish memories last a lifetime. A haunted, haunted movie.
Both Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy are usually consistently brilliant performers, but there’s an exception to every rule. Murphy is especially bewildering in this film – he stars as the antagonist, blackmailing Rachel McAdams’ Lisa on a plane, and by the end he’s genuinely rasping and snarling like an angry monster that’s crawled out of a lake. It’s supposed to be about the terror that could befall any one of us innocent people when we least expect it, but it’s so profoundly dumb that it’s much more funny than it is scary. From airport to airplane to Lisa’s father’s home, Murphy’s character’s inability to corner his prey makes you wonder why they’d hire someone so inept in a terrorist organisation. Maybe solely due to the hilarity of his name: Jackson Rippner. Really.
In a twist surprising no one, the director of Twilight brings us an adaptation of a fairy tale that’s supposed to be dark and brooding, but is instead just pretty goofy. So much doom and gloom, with murder and imprisonment and torture devices. But it’s hard to take the grimness fully seriously when we’re also grappling with all the rules around werewolves: if you kill a werewolf, it’ll revert to its human form, and if a human is bitten by a werewolf they’ll also become a wolf, but only if it’s Blood Week, and sometimes people can understand a wolf even if they’re not a wolf themselves, but it depends on whether the curse has been cast, blah blah blah. Being dead serious about something so stupid just cannot work; it’s remarkable the actors manage to keep such monotonous straight faces throughout.
At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking this was an attempt to rip off Bridesmaids, banking on the hope that people would confuse the two. But nope, because this one actually came out a year before Bridesmaids did, so there’s really no excuse for the fact it feels like a cheap imitation of a cheap imitation. The whole thing is utterly meanspirited, but not in a fun way, unless you get a whole load of fun out of infidelity, fake pregnancies and feigned friendships. It’s all especially jarring because one of the main characters is played by Raven. Women being portrayed as manipulative, deceitful witches in the apparent name of feminism? That is not so Raven.
A woman and her daughter move from the big city to the country. They learn how to loosen up and love life with the help of horses and cowboys. Yeah, it’s a horse movie. The mother is initially planning to sell the ranch she’s inherited, but her ice cold heart is melted by her old cowboy flame. The daughter misses her life in the big city, but then learns that horses are better. Cowboys. Horses. Horse movie. It’s set during Christmas so the colour scheme is primarily red and green, beyond that it’s a horse movie with horses. Definitely feels like one of those where someone came up with the title pun first, then built a movie around it. A girl called Juliet, and a rodeo. Horses. Horse movie. Neigh.
Roxi is an experience. All signs point to it having been an impromptu project filmed on holiday. The acting is dreadful – clearly the director’s friends rather than any actual professionals. The filming is shoddy enough to have been done on someone’s ancient camera phone they found in a shoebox in the back of their drawer. The setting is… nice, actually, a beautiful Greek island called Paxos, but the residents look pretty perturbed by the amateur film production going on. The most obvious indication of all is the fact that the eponymous Roxi owns a bar on the island called Roxi; turns out this is an actual, real bar in actual, real Paxos in actual, real life. They didn’t imagine the bar for the movie’s sake – they just found an existing bar, named the heroine after it and shot the movie around it. Definitely a spontaneous holiday film. Oh and there’s an amazing special effect of someone falling off a cliff and it inexplicably looks like their head comes off. Roxi is an experience.
It’s kind of remarkable that a film this stupid came out as recently as 2019. In general, aren’t kids supposed to be more jaded and cynical these days? In 2019, who is the audience for a film about Santa Claus’ daughter going to college? The plot beats are all for teenagers – the college setting, the rebellion against traditional parents, the bland “hot guy”. But… it’s about Santa Claus’ daughter. The antagonist is Jack Frost. The main character’s quirky nerdy sidekick is an elf. Not that believing in Santa or any of it is a requisite, but still, surely the adventures of St Nick’s offspring would only really appeal to younger kids? The terrible visual effects certainly aren’t convincing anyone over the age of 3. Santa Girl just doesn’t know what it wants to be. And to be quite honest, everyone else just doesn’t want it to be, full stop.
The sheer audacity of this film has to be seen to be believed. Sure, it does the generic thing of arbitrarily centring the film around the brother of the original protagonist, who did basically nothing in Silent Night, Deadly Night. That’s fine, that’s fair. No, the absolutely shameless thing this sequel does is purport to be an 88-minute film, only for its audience to then realise that 40 of those 88 minutes are just clips from the first film. It’s actually incredible how brazen it is. Hopefully nobody in 1987 was forced to pay full-price for this half-film. On the plus side, though, it’s this movie that introduced the “GARBAGE DAY!” guy to the world. So at least there’s that!
Snow White, but with Amanda Bynes and some college nerds. That’s it. That’s the film. The poisoned apple is now a computer virus, and Prince Charming is now a vapid good-looking nobody who just happened to show up at the right time – although on second thoughts, perhaps that second point is entirely true to the fairy tale. Obviously the “seven dorks” are given the most insultingly basic geek stereotypes known to humankind, and all of them fall over themselves at the mere fact that Sydney is a living, breathing woman who has come anywhere within their vicinity. By the end of the movie they’ve achieved such incredible feats as learning how to tie a knot, learning how to talk to people socially, and even getting a girlfriend. To think that nerds could be human after all!
The Fanatic is kind of astounding. It stars John Travolta as an autistic man who becomes obsessed with a celebrity, to the point of stalking him. Unfortunately Travolta – and Durst – seem to believe autism is most accurately conveyed by trembling, whining, hunching your shoulders, and going out of your way to harass everyone in the vicinity. The plot manages to spiral into assault and murder pretty quickly, and at no point are you given a moment’s breathing space to try and work out what the hell is going on. Durst is demonstrably extremely proud of this insulting dumpster fire he’s put together – his smugness is made incarnate in the scene where a father and son talk lovingly about how much they admire the music of Limp Bizkit.
In a nutshell, this is peak Shyamalan. The entire world falls prey to a mysterious force which makes people kill themselves; when a key moment of this premise involves Mark Wahlberg speaking soothingly to a rubber plant, you know it cannot be taken remotely seriously. Everyone speaks as though they’re performing a monologue in a bad school play: haltingly yet with a remarkable conviction that they’re participating in the most important endeavour ever known to humankind. Shyamalan throws in weird traits like the guy who uses “cheese ‘n’ crackers!” as an expletive, or the guy who likes hot dogs – because to Shyamalan, quirks mean character. Basically, absolutely every moment of The Happening is saturated in a solemnity which has no justifiable foundation whatsoever. It’s a delight.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is a truly incredible TV show. It’s marketed as a kids’ show but has tons of appeal for kids and adults alike. Fascinating characters, a complex world, an engrossing story, beautiful colours and shots, an entrancing score. It’s an incredible feat of storytelling. The best way to sum up Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender is as Bizarro World Avatar: The Last Airbender. Same world, same story, same characters, yet somehow the complete and utter antithesis of everything that the show stood for. The movie manages to drain every character of their humanity, to the point where they’re pretty much speaking in monotone. The magic, wonder and imagination are completely obliterated: where in the TV show a single earthbender could command gigantic boulders enough to kill an opponent, in the film a horde of earthbenders perform an elaborate routine of moves only to result in a small pebble drifting through the air. It’s hard to find a worse adaptation than this soulless, soporific mess.
It’s vampire cosplay filmed on someone’s Nokia 7650. Give or take. Released a couple years after Twilight while the franchise was still going strong, it’s clear the creators wanted to get in on the vampire-centric melodrama. Including such subtleties as the pale and brooding love interest being a haematology student, the film constantly bashes the audience on their heads with its message of “Trust that weird stranger – he could be the love of your life!” It also manages to treat the subject of AIDS with a yawning lack of sensitivity. The movie culminates in a woodland stand-off, with all wiles and wit replaced with guns and crying. The crying is especially regrettable seeing how much it risks making everyone’s excessive black eyeliner run.
A Video Brinquedo classic, totally unabashed about ripping off Kung Fu Panda. It was even released at the same time to try and bamboozle audiences into confusing the two. Sadly, about four seconds into the amateur animation and stilted dialogue will inform any half-awake viewer that neither DreamWorks nor Jack Black went anywhere near this one. The weird slant in The Little Panda Fighter is that the panda actually wants to be a dancer, not a martial artist. But he kind of just gets involved in fighting people anyway. One bit of consolation if you did accidentally pick this up instead of Kung Fu Panda is at least this one’s only 51 minutes long.
If you enjoy watching a man walk and walk and walk in silence, you’ll enjoy the first part of this film. If you enjoy a man infiltrating a family, community and life he rightly has nothing to do with, you’ll enjoy the middle part of this film. If you enjoy a melodramatic anti-climax with contrived stakes and very little impact, you’ll enjoy the end part of this film. To summarise, if you are a regular human being then you will not enjoy any part of this film. Nicholas Sparks’ hollow sentimentality is taken to giddying heights, with the movie just stopping short of branding the words “LOVE IS GOOD” onto the screen so the audience really gets the message. Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling both seemingly try to divest themselves of every bit of acting talent they have in order to embody their generic, vacant characters. Just an empty, meaningless experience.
The Mummy (1999) just never needed to be rebooted in the first place – it was already the ideal adventure film, with the right mix of suspense and spectacle. So of course Tom Cruise and co burst in, proclaiming they could do a much better job. The result is just so utterly flat and boring that sitting through the 110-minute film, you begin to heavily relate to the mummy who’s been buried underground for over 3,000 years. There’s an attempted feminist angle, but it doesn’t really do much beyond nudging and winking at its audience as it whispers, “Did you notice the mummy is a woman this time?!” At least The Mummy gives us the consolation prize of Tom Cruise’s unhinged scream, which we can only hope replaces the Wilhelm scream in due course.
Like so many lazy rom-coms, The Proposal tries to convince its audience that two people with no chemistry or rapport can fall in love if they just fake a romance for long enough. In this case, it’s a green card romance, and gives the film an excuse to remain in Sitka, Alaska for a good chunk of the runtime. Cue gushing strings and sweeping aerial shots – wow, Alaska sure looks nice! It genuinely looks so majestic and impressive. It’s like the movie gets distracted, and then has to remind itself it’s supposed to be a rom-com. Then we’re torn back to the thoroughly insipid antics of our thoroughly insipid leads. In summary, your basic “we’re engaged – no, for real this time!” movie, but with the added bonus of serving as an advert for the Alaskan tourist board.
Brittany Murphy was a uniquely talented actor, and she certainly tries her very best in The Ramen Girl. Sadly, she’s the only consistently good thing about it. The rest of the movie mostly revolves around how mystical and spiritual Japanese people are, so Brittany Murphy’s Abby is able to heal herself of her heartbreak and ennui. The entire atmosphere is summed up when Abby looks at a maneki-neko/lucky waving cat figurine, and it winks at her. It’s supposed to be an enticing moment of promising fantasy, but is instead perturbing and just a little bit racist. Like the rest of the film.
Disclaimer: Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole book series is amazing, and The Snowman is one of its best entries. Now that’s out of the way, we can turn to the fact that this 2017 adaptation is one of the most idiotic films ever put together. The difficulty is, the script really heavily relies on the notion that snowmen are scary.Therefore, the script fundamentally fails due to the reality that snowmen are not, in fact, scary. So all the zoom-ins and jump cuts of snowmen sadly do not have the desired impact and just come across as very, very, very funny. In addition, the protagonist isn’t afforded much characterisation beyond “tortured alcoholic detective”, which makes it hard to invest. In fact the characters across the board have about as much warmth and relatability to them as a snowman. In a way, that is actually very scary.
It’s generally accepted that The Stuff is in on its own joke. The premise is essentially “scary yoghurt” so it’s difficult for anyone to try and take it seriously, after all. But the problem with The Stuff is, in fact, it seems to try and take itself too seriously, despite being fully aware of the ludicrousness of its “scary yoghurt” angle. The movie is ostensibly a commentary on consumerism and corporate corruption, but it’s hard to tell such a hard-hitting story through the theme of “scary yoghurt”. The Stuff really does try, though. Scary yoghurt.
What the absolute hell even is Theodore Rex? People in this reality actually sat down together and thought, “I know what’d make a great blockbuster – Whoopi Goldberg teaming up with an animatronic dinosaur to fight crime”? The result is exactly as bewildering and surreal as it sounds. Goldberg’s valiant attempts to stay tough and deadpan throughout are even more impressive when you look at the insanity unfurling around her. Even if the premise weren’t so mad, the movie is still beyond idiotic, with all the clichés and bad dialogue of your standard lazy ’90s kids’ film. It’s just that all of that is complemented by animatronic dinosaurs. This is not a plus, Theodore Rex.
Imagine a future where we focus more on the morality of what we do, instead of what religion or following it’s attached to. The fundamentals of who we are and what we do aren’t relevant to the faith we follow. Instead, our actions should be taken for what they are, and our beliefs should be founded upon on ethos of treating each other well. …All of this is roundly condemned by Time Changer, a Christian movie which declares in no uncertain terms that we can’t be good unless we love Jesus. The man who was foolish enough to try and espouse pragmatic ethics is thrust a century into the future to modern-day New York, where he sees such horrific acts as ambivalence over petty theft and blaspheming in the name of the Lord. That’ll teach him to believe people can be good without Christianity.
Tiptoes genuinely has to be seen to be believed. It’s remarkable that people thought the best way to tell a serious, insightful movie about dwarfism was to ask Gary Oldman to spend an entire movie on his knees. It’s especially baffling when you consider that there are actual dwarf actors in the film, including Peter Dinklage (who plays a French man, whose accent occasionally veers dangerously close to sounding more like… Russian?). But even without the hideous spectacle of Gary Oldman trying to cosplay dwarfism, this movie is entirely idiotic. Not a single likeable character or relatable situation. The women are all especially vapid and useless, though the men aren’t much better. The making and distribution of this film was the basic equivalent of sticking a middle finger up at the entirety of humanity.
The title is more apt than they probably realised. The real shame of it all is, Amy Schumer can be funny – it’s definitely happened once or twice. Frustratingly this is not one of those times. Trainwreck‘s insistence on typical tropes – the woman has daddy issues! The guy has a black best friend! Mild misunderstandings lead to a third act conflict! – would be less annoying if it didn’t also simultaneously insist it’s eschewing all the typical tropes. Sadly it doesn’t seem to realise that a cut-and-paste kooky protagonist with a drinking problem is still a cut-and-paste kooky protagonist.
Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai is one of those Bollywood movies that they seemingly made up as they went. He’s a musician! She has a new car! They’re on a boat! They’re stuck on a desert island! He’s… dead? But it’s okay, because his exact lookalike lives in New Zealand and seamlessly steps in to take his place. Throw in some corrupt cops (their business is simply “drugs”), a nerdy sidekick, and costumes that look like the early ’00s threw up the ’90s, and you have one of the crazier Bollywood films there is. And there’s a lot of stiff competition when it comes to crazy Bollywood films.
Ah, where it all began! The beautiful and insightful Bella Swan, who permanently looks like she’s going to be sick and sometimes arbitrarily falls on her ass. The brooding and charismatic Edward Cullen, who ostensibly slaps on some clown make-up every morning and fervently believes a diet of animal blood makes you a vegetarian. How wonderful that these two souls should finally meet! Who cares that the vampires loiter around Forks for seemingly no reason or benefit? Who cares that the only genuinely likeable character of the whole series, Bella’s poor dad Charlie, gets constantly manipulated and ignored? Who cares that the entire saga should have been based around Anna Kendrick’s character, who’s way more interesting than Bella? Who cares that the girl is 17 and her boyfriend is 108? This is true love. And Twilight knows that when it’s true love, the best thing to do is to stop caring.
Poor lovesick Bella. She spends a good deal of this film sitting sadly on a chair, while the camera spins around her and captions flash up telling us what month it is. It shows she’s depressed. Get it? All because one of the Cullens almost attacks Bella because he’s driven mad by the scent of her blood. Then Edward is all, “Oh yeah, I’m a vampire,” and elects to run away in order to protect his love. Bella responds by talking to some guys who ride around on motorcycles. Truly the epitome of troubled youth. Bella thinks if she nearly dies, Edward will come and save her; when Edward thinks Bella has died, he decides to kill himself. What a healthy, non-manipulative, honest foundation for the greatest love story of all time.
Also known as “Insipid Love Triangle: The Movie”. The most forgettable of the Twilight films, no matter how eager Taylor Lautner is to take his shirt off. The most egregious thing of all is, while he’s undeniably a pathetic, clingy, hollow shell of a figure, Jacob is still about forty million times more interesting and likeable than Edward. But then again, Bella is determined to keep up her raison d’être of being a useless nothing, so obviously she goes for the partner who most resembles herself. So in short, absolutely nothing happens, except some werewolves run around in the desperate attempt to convince us that Stephanie Meyer created a sprawling, complex universe.
In which we’re forced to ponder the most pressing questions of Bella and Edward’s universe: if vampires don’t have blood, how do they get erections? Do they have hormones? How can the undead create life? How do the male vampires even have sperm??? Bella’s at the ripe old age of 18 or whatever she’s supposed to be, and Edward’s a bajillion years old, but they swan about through the trees and get married anyway. Then they’re each so bowled over by the other’s utter lack of charisma and personality that they have bed-breaking sex, although all of a sudden it seems that all Edward has to do is cough gently and the whole house will fall down. It’s truly remarkable he hasn’t accidently pulverised Bella’s bones into a fine dust before now. Anyway, now she’s got a little Renesmee inside her and it’s sapping the life out of her. But who needs life when you’re undead?! Kristen Stewart pops on some red contact lenses and the Twilight Saga concludes its penultimate chapter, having lost none of its audacity in calling itself a “saga”.
Breaking Dawn – Part 2 can only truly be summed up as infuriating. It makes a point of messing with its audience. Of course, there’s all the general Twilight absurdity. This movie decides to dwell on ideas such as Bella’s incomprehensible beauty (conveyed by Kristen Stewart having her eyebrows coloured in darker than normal) and the very normal idea that an adult wolf-man can take a look at a young girl and decide that he is going to lovingly devote his life to her. And everyone’s cool with it. We’re also treated to Bella and Edward zipping around in the woods, because now she’s a vampire she can do all this pointless stuff too. Spider monkey doesn’t need to hold tight anymore! But then the movie does the worst thing, and in its final act, suddenly starts feeling like a credible story. A compelling one, even. A big battle between factions, major character deaths – it’s so un-Twilight, and it’s great. We even get Michael Sheen’s unhinged chirpy cackle. It’s the absolute best thing they ever did in the Twilight films… until they do the ultimate dirty, have Dorothy wake up and realise it was all a dream, and thus turn it into the absolute worst thing they ever did in the Twilight films. Screw you, Twilight.
This is arguably Neil Breen at his most Breenius self. Visual effects that look like Clip Art put through a rotate effect on Windows Movie Maker? Check. Women used purely as plot devices, because we all know they can’t be anything else? Check. Any excuse for the camera to linger on Breen, so that he spends approximately 99% of the entire film on-screen? Check. I mean, there are two of him. What more could you possibly want? In classic Breen style, the storyline centres on a confusing global conspiracy theory which tries to make a grand, sweeping statement about the nature of technology and life – but the message is a bit lost every time Breen animates his character jumping onto a twenty-storey building, seemingly just by dragging a photo of himself up the frame. But the gist of it seems to be: artificial intelligence, something something, explosions. It is an incredible experience.
Unfriended takes the format of a computer screen: the entire view is the protagonist’s interface, including her video conversations, messages, and even her music. And honestly, it works okay. The format is used cleverly, drawing you into the movie even as you can’t help but wonder why all the characters are so unbelievably generic. Of course, it’s all underpinned by a plot that is about as colour-by-numbers as you can get, plus it relies a bit too heavily on the common horror film belief that sobbing teenagers and power cuts are inherently terrifying. But still, despite ending on a revelation that you can pretty much predict from three or four minutes into the movie, it still doesn’t do a terrible job overall. It’s bad, but it’s not that bad. Being that bad is a job left for Unfriended: Dark Web.
Unfriendedmanaged the spectacular feat of having dumb predictable characters with a dumb predictable plot, yet still being a half-decent movie, purely through innovative use of its form. Unfriended: Dark Web decides to eschew the redemption and just stick to being entirely dumb. Most of it seems to be a personal contest between the cast over who can get their teary eyes and snotty nose as close to the camera as possible. At the pinnacle of the “scares”, there’s an unprecedented amount of focus on a pixelated rowing boat drifting through a tunnel, coming across less like a terrifying glimpse into the abyss and more like a screensaver on Windows 95.
It’s beyond generous to even refer to The Adventures of Açela as a movie. It’s more a psychological battering; a foray into the depths of a troubled consciousness; the audio-visual ravings of a lunatic. Here’s a green alien. There’s a tiger. Why? No “why”. Just is. The entire thing leads to a climax, the focal point around which the attempted cinematic experience is based, and that climax consists of our heroes listening while an old man tells them a story. No visuals of the story, just shots of the man speaking to his audience. They’re all sitting in silence. Listening to a man talking. And talking. And talking. For eleven straight minutes. About sultans and crooked noses and septuagenarians. Then before the credits, several quotes pressing upon us the importance of education. If a giant, bewildered, pleading question mark could be turned into a movie, then The Adventures of Açela would not be it, because this is not a movie.
It’s not even Little Italy in New York. It’s set in Toronto. Okay. The confusion only escalates from there, with such madnesses to contend with as: the saga of two warring, neighbouring pizza restaurants; a septuagenarian love story; a professional chef who never cooks; Hayden Christensen’s unrecognisable Italian accent; Hayden Christensen’s unrecognisable face; a pointless one-on-one football game in the middle of the night in the rain; a bitchy and pompous air stewardess set up as the film’s antagonist, only never to return again; a strange man who wanders into family gatherings and sniffs women’s shoes, only never to return again; and most damning of all, alleged professional pizza-makers producing some of the worst looking pizzas the world has ever seen. You’d never have thought that Little Italy could be big enough to fit so much bewildering nonsense.
At one point in this film, Emma Watson’s character (though “character” is a strong term for someone so devoid of personality) is thrown a bunch of questions by an interviewer. The Circle tries to do the same to its audience: Is technology helpful, or dangerous? Is privacy crucial, or isolating? Unfortunately the movie has no idea what it believes the answer is in any given case, so consistently tries to answer with both, culminating in the most confusing non-message ever. Still, this all pales in comparison to the most pressing question of all: did Tom Hanks agree to do this film because of a bribe, or blackmail?
A wedding planner whose usual clientele (judging by the ostentatious yet tasteless occasions she throws) seem to consist solely of very dim billionaires. Then she runs into a man who believes that – CONTROVERSIAL – maybe weddings don’t have to cost a couple every last penny they have. These two seem so different, and yet, could it be that there’s a spark there?! Hallmark says yes. Hallmark always says yes. Typical Hallmark fare with generic white people doing generic white things.
One of the Love Actually knock-offs which dares to ask the incredible question, “What if a city has a bunch of different people in it, but some of them actually know each other?” This groundbreaking premise is built upon with fleeting scenes where cut-and-paste characters waltz through the standard will-they-won’t-they clichés. There’s a whole thread given to Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift, and even the media at the time seemed to decide the most interesting thing about it was, hey, they’re both named Taylor.
This entire film can be summed up by listening to its music. Tiny little piano clinks and and lingering chords of muted wonder, i.e. a tepid soundtrack to match a tepid film. Profoundly ineffectual and forgettable. Even Christoph Waltz doesn’t seem to be sure of what he’s doing there, as the script essentially calls for his character to strut around hissing “I’m the villain! I’m the villain!” Meanwhile our heroes wax lyrical about how great elephants are, therefore they prevail. Tepid, tepid, tepid.
To be rich. Apparently, that’s what a girl wants. To be rich. Every single time, the lonely but good-hearted girl living a quiet life with her single mother always gets unexpectedly thrust into a life of opulence and luxury. Just once, it’d be nice if the girl finds out her long lost father is a moderately-earning insurance salesman. Instead, Amanda Bynes dons a ball gown and goes swanning around at Colin Firth’s mansion, and her zany ways just manage to melt even his cold British heart.
Video Brinquedo’s nudge-nudge wink-wink, “Oh yes, that acclaimed animated movie about a flying house with ‘up’ in the title, yes we totally did that.” As well as being awkward and unfunny, it’s inexplicably offensive. The movie’s not even that long yet they still manage to throw in a whole routine solely dedicated to mocking Chinese people. So if you’re after dilute Pixar with extra racism, this is the way to go.
One of tragically numerous chick flicks where the sole intention seems to be to make all women in the universe feel bad about themselves. Had sex with multiple partners? You’re a slut! Not had much or any sex? You’re a prude! You’re in a relationship? You’re boring! You’re single? You’re pathetic! Anna Faris decides to navigate this perpetual negativity by making hideous little sculptures in her spare time, and because Chris Evan lazily drapes some fairy lights over them, it’s true love. The only number anyone needs in this movie is for the local mental institution.
In Who Killed Captain Alex‘s eternal favour, it’s obvious that everyone involved in the production had a whole lot of fun putting it together. It’s a passion project, done on a low budget purely because the crew wanted to. The action and stunts genuinely aren’t all bad. But you still can’t help but laugh at the strange clip-art style graphics every time there’s yet another unexpected explosion. Even the inexplicable narrator voicing over the whole film ostensibly just to make fun of it seems to agree.
The original The Wicker Man has complex characters portrayed by talented actors; a subtle yet invasive sense of growing dread; and a climax of such viciously casual ruthlessness that it practically managed to redefine the whole genre of horror. This version of The Wicker Man has Nicolas Cage punching women, dressing up as a bear, and screaming at burned dolls and bees. It’s not hard to say which is the better film. (It’s this one. This one is the better film.)
Wish Upon teaches us about the precious fragility of life. For example, it shows us that a mild bump on the head while you’re in the bath can almost certainly lead to you drowning in your own blood. Or that getting the very tip of your hair caught in the garbage disposal will definitely result in your body being pulverised within a matter of moments. Throw in a dose of spooky Chinese mysticism and a lot of Joey King looking perturbed, and you’ve got the box-ticking, paint-by-numbers horror of Wish Upon.
The most egregious thing about it is bacon isn’t even all that heavily featured. Yes, the love interest (who looks like the brother – unsettling) owns a bacon truck. But the entire plot is hinged on persimmons. It’s all about buying the right persimmons, bacon and persimmon sandwiches, persimmons persimmons persimmons. Your standard bland wholesome Hallmark Channel goodness with a giant side order of persimmons. It should be called You’re Persimmons Me Crazy.
In which Zendaya runs around waving a magical mobile phone app at everyone, thereby making the men and boys around her do her bidding. When you think about it this could’ve taken a very dark turn. But it’s a Disney Channel movie, so instead of going down the human slave route, Zendaya uses her universe-bending, free-will-defying, awesome supernatural power to… make people dance good. Awesome!
M. Night Shyamalan at his finest, or at least at his most Shyamalan-esque. An idiotic twist where it turned out the hero and the villain had a shared past all along; lots of wide eyes and trembling while the lights periodically turn on and off; and the grand revelation that if you want to find out whether the devil’s hanging out nearby, drop some toast on the floor and check if it lands jelly side down. A tip, Shyamalan – the big twist of “the devil did it” isn’t so shocking when you’ve named your movie Devil.
Wounds sure does manage to throw a lot of questions at you. Are slow-mo zoom-ins on tunnels and close-up shots of air conditioners supposed to be scary? Are those cockroaches part of some psychological haunting, or is this guy just really dirty? Didn’t Armie Hammer and Dakota Johnson have anything better to do? Does something this confused and pointless even qualify as a movie? And, most crucially of all, why is that random lady in the bar permanently naked?!
It is difficult to fathom what talented people like Kelly McDonald, David Tennant, Alice Eve, and Dylan Moran are doing in The Decoy Bride. They’re not acting – no one really does that in this film. The story follows a Scottish woman who stands in for a Hollywood celebrity at her wedding, to throw off the press – and in an utterly shocking turn of events, starts to fall for the groom herself. The confused tone of the film is best summed up by the wise musings of the homely old man the protagonists run into: “When God made time, he made plenty of it. When God made twine, he made balls of it.” In other words, it means absolutely nothing and everything would have been better if it just wasn’t expressed at all.
In the wake of the magnificent Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Narnia films managed to achieve none of the things that made the former such a successful adaptation. There is no spark in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; it simply meanders from event to event with no particular emotion or insight. Tilda Swinton does an impressive job as the White Witch, but she can’t save this film’s fundamental lack of stakes. The visual effects are pretty patchy, and at 143 minutes it drags beyond any reasonable justification. The worst thing of all is the fact that the four main kids are just completely, utterly unremarkable. Perhaps the film would have been saved if they were in any way interesting, but they are not. So it’s not.
ThanksKilling is a very difficult film to describe. It’s obviously making fun – it’s an out and proud slasher film intended to revel in the joyous extremes of the horror genre. Hence the demonic turkey who struts around swearing at people. Or the ancient book of magic that is quite obviously a cardboard box sellotaped together. But even the humour induces cringing – mostly centred around sex and piss and gore. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, it just means that ThanksKilling is kind of a bewildering experience from start to end. It all feels a bit like the film is yelling at you from start to end, in the screeching voice of its evil turkey antagonist. And if you spend even a second not laughing, it’ll screech at you even more.
There are many minorities and downtrodden communities who face adversity in life. Women; ethnic minorities; the LGBTQ+ community; disabled people; the elderly; the working class and others from socio-economic groups with a lower income. But did any of these people stop and consider the most persecuted community of all: tall girls? Well, Tall Girl dares to finally speak up for this subjugated demographic. Sure, the protagonist teenage girl is white, rich, classically beautiful, intelligent, musically talented, able-bodied and straight – but she’s also tall!!! How can she live through such a struggle? Tall Girl is kind enough to give her not one, but two selfish and manipulative romantic interests, with the love triangle forming the core of Jodi’s emotional turmoil. If all that wasn’t enough, the film also takes the step of conveying that your typical entitled, angry, whiny incel actually makes the perfect boyfriend. Just wait until you find out what he carries that milk crate around for.
It is beyond incredible that this was ostensibly DC Films’ attempt at “The Avengers, but antiheroes”. The sad thing is, the premise isn’t half-bad – it could have been fun watching a bunch of villains run rogue. But Suicide Squad doesn’t let anyone run rogue. For all their monologuing about how evil they are, the titular squad doesn’t actually do much in the way of the nefarious. Will Smith’s Deadshot is the worst, constantly brooding over his dark ways and unsalvageable soul, then being utterly horrified at the thought of one of his acquaintances having murdered children. Sure, killing children is atrocious, but didn’t the almighty Deadshot already spend most of the movie talking about how he’s numb to such things? Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress adds yet another layer of silly to the movie, as she writhes around and rasps unintelligibly. Suicide Squad basically expends a lot of energy talking about how it’s not just another superhero, then proceeds to be just another superhero movie, but with none of the joy of self-awareness the more successful superhero movies possess.
This movie was just a mistake. The attempt to turn something as basic as the Snow White fairy tale into a dark and gritty epic was never going to work. Some of the cinematography and framing make a decent start, with the world visually portrayed as pretty complex and intriguing – but it’s let down by script that renders each character just as simple and straightforward as their fairy tale counterpart. Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth do their absolute best to work with it, but at the end of the day, Kristen Stewart frowning and sulking for two hours does not the fairest of them all make. Altogether, this film thinks of itself as much more than it truly is.
A shameless Christmas-themed slasher, about as overblown and pulpy as you’d expect. The protagonist suffers from PTSD due to seeing his parents get murdered on Christmas Eve when he was a kid; as an adult he despises Christmas to the extend he dresses up as Santa and kills people. Standard. It’s pretty funny, especially considering the outraged critical backlash at the time – people were appalled at the film’s flagrant disrespect of a child-friendly holiday and associated gift-dispensing icon. However, it’s still an incredibly stupid film, with no real rhyme or reason to it except to shock. And nowadays, it doesn’t even really manage that.
Showgirls is unbelievable. It genuinely cannot be believed. The director of Total Recall and Basic Instinct helms while Jessie from Saved by the Bell stars as a stripper falling into the seedier underbelly of Las Vegas, soundtracked by Prince songs that characters in the movie claim they wrote themselves? It just can’t be real. But magnificently, it is real. As the main character Nomi, it’s obvious that Elizabeth Berkeley is enjoying embarking on a role other than the uptight, killjoy Jessie, but that doesn’t mean she’s any good at it. But in her defence, she’s not given much character to work with beyond stripping, pouting, and spitting weak one-liners. Nomi ends the movie as detestable a character as she began it, rendering the moral of the story completely non-existent. Showgirls is a real journey, but don’t expect a destination.
One of those films that pretends it’s all about how beauty isn’t just found in physical appearances, then spends the entire runtime scrutinising and judging people’s physical appearances. It’s a thoroughly mean-spirited story, with everyone treating each other pretty poorly. At one point, Alice Eve’s “10/10” character admits her dark secret: she has webbed toes. Nobody in their right mind would care, and the protagonist even acknowledges that this barely qualifies as some kind of defect. But instead of brushing it off as a normal human would, his instinctive reaction is to outright reject her as “too perfect”. So basically, people are either too good-looking or not good-looking enough. As long as all interactions are keenly filtered through looks!
What can possibly be said about Sharknado that hasn’t already been said? It’s all in the title: it’s a tornado, but sharks. That’s the start, the middle and the end. It’s hard to fathom that we live in a world where such a thing as a Sharknado franchise exists, but this is in fact the first of six Sharknado films, and the only one which tries to maintain at least a semblance of seriousness. But the over-the-top acting, campy dialogue, and the whole “tornado, but sharks” thing obviously mean no one else is taking it seriously. It includes bombs being thrown into sharks from a helicopter, after all. No wonder it spawned five sequels.
Robert Rodriguez is not shy about the fact that this movie is based on the dreams of one of his children. A very sweet gesture, but also a sure-fire way to ensure your film makes no sense whatsoever. The main character is a boy called Max, who retreats into a world of dreams to deal with the struggles in his life. Except the dreams are kind of real life, too? He meets Sharkboy, who is a shark boy, and Lavagirl, who is a lava girl. We aren’t given a whole lot more than that. An adventure to save the world follows. Said world consists of random stuff like giant cookie land and an eerie sentient robot. Of course, it’s all supposed to reflect Max’s real-life woes and how he copes with them. The big bad guy is just the whiny little school bully. His evil henchman is just the bumbling class teacher. The comparisons reveal nothing and solve nothing – but fortunately, Max works through his deep psychological issues with his parents’ impending divorce, simply by imagining them holding hands and smiling. Conflict resolved! It all feels a bit like Spy Kids on meth. On the plus side, the spin-off We Can Be Heroes, released a timely fifteen years later, is somehow even stupider.
This one is genuinely mind-blowing. In a sense it’s a typical fantasy movie for kids – an unassuming girl discovers she has magical powers. In this film, rather than a witch or a vampire slayer, it turns out she’s a mermaid. Aside from some very awkward and specific rules around how exactly the physiology of mermaids works, it’s pretty standard fare. All the expected cringeworthy dialogue and clichéd characters. But then the ending happens. My God, the ending. There are no words to convey the shock of this movie’s abrupt and unexpected switch into an extremely dark, disturbing tone. Except the movie itself doesn’t even seem to realise it’s done it, and it skips merrily along to its conclusion as though everything is normal. Leaving the audience stunned, and probably a bit traumatised.
The Sex and the City TV series, for all its faults, was genuinely groundbreaking. It let women do, think and say things they’d seldom been allowed to on TV before, and some of the emotional beats were handled in an extremely affecting way. How sad, then, that the entire Sex and the City journey should have culminated in this sheer abomination. The four women travel to Abu Dhabi to avoid grappling with such immense problems as, respectively: Carrie’s husband buying her a TV; Miranda quitting work to see more of her family; Charlotte worrying her nanny is too hot for her husband to avoid having sex with; Samantha going through menopause. High stakes. The plot beats are beyond contrived – here’s Carrie’s ex-boyfriend, magically in a souk in Abu Dhabi! Here’s some strange dude in a jeep who materialises out of nowhere so Samantha can dub him “Lawrence of my labia”! – and the movie doesn’t even attempt to ease you into any of it. Yet it’s still, inexplicably, two and a half hours long, presumably to make time for all the insults and offenses aimed at Middle Eastern people. It’s hard to say whether the sexism, racism, or materialism is the most egregious; it’s difficult to decide whether the characters are most defined by their selfishness, shallowness, or deceit. Truly, you wind up leaving the movie feeling unclean.
This film makes it abundantly clear that Sex and the City was never supposed to be in cinemas. The antics of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha were perfect for the small screen: a bit of escapism each week, a little “story of the week” while allowing for long-form arcs. Sex and the City flounders as a movie. The most intriguing conflicts – Big leaving Carrie at the altar, or Steve cheating on Miranda – aren’t given sufficient time for exploration. Instead we have to focus on things like Carrie dyeing her hair, or Samantha spying on her neighbours having sex. Oh, and Charlotte’s there too, sometimes. Yet at the end, everything’s just worked itself out to be happy and okay, despite all the deception and betrayal and pain. While the show got away with such toxic optimism, it had a longer running time each season to let things settle and develop. The movie, despite an excessive length of two and a half hours, just feels rushed. It’s an underwhelming instalment in the Sex and the City franchise. But it could be worse. Could be Sex and the City 2.
Considering the “reveal” can be seen coming from miles off, the obsession perhaps isn’t quite as secret as the movie thinks. Taking its cue from stories like Before I Go to Sleep, it hinges on the protagonist suffering from bad amnesia, and therefore having to trust that the people around her are telling her the truth about her forgotten life. Throw in some wacky chase scenes and screaming, and you pretty much have Secret Obsession. You won’t need amnesia to forget this film in a hurry.
The girl who plays Donnie’s younger sister Samantha in Donnie Darko reprises her role in S. Darko. She’s the only one who comes back. The rest of the cast and crew have vocally distanced themselves from this idiotic… sequel? Spin-off? Tribute? It’s very difficult to connect S. Darko to Donnie Darko in any way at all that doesn’t unfairly insult the latter. Donnie Darko was a masterpiece – it delved into its hero’s psyche, bent time and space, and was unabashed about exploring philosophy and morality and existence. On the other hand, S. Darko is a bit like someone tried to make a music video for Evanescence, and it got rejected because the silly frilly dresses and excessive black eyeliner and general moping around were just too much, even for Evanescence. You’d think it was a labour of love, essentially Donnie Darko fan fiction, but it’s hard to respect someone’s adoration of the source material when it seems as though they fundamentally didn’t even understand it. Samantha whispers about how her brother Donnie used to draw pictures of a creepy rabbit; anyone who watched Donnie Darko would get that this is impossible, as in the fundamental timeline of Donnie Darko, Donnie never saw said creepy rabbit. Get a clue, S. Darko.
Video Brinquedo’s entire reason for existing is to make shameless rip-offs of successful animated movies, but this one takes it to unprecedented depths of audacity. As if the title Ratatoing was intended to do anything except trick people into thinking it’s Ratatouille. As if this one just happens, by mere coincidence, to focus on a rat who cooks meals and runs a restaurant. As if we’re supposed to take the animation seriously when it’s so poor it looks like the result of someone drinking a bottle of Absinthe, doodling mice on MS Paint, then throwing their computer out of the window. For entire stretches of time they’re all just running around on a plain white background. The movie’s only 44 minutes long. It had to take extra special effort to be this bad. It’s basically a punishment for liking Pixar.
One of those movies you watch as a kid and think is basically Disney, but then you grow up, rewatch it in a fit of nostalgia, and realise it’s pure trash. The heroine Kayley sets off on a quest to retrieve the legendary sword Excalibur and restore Camelot to peace, but the magic and wonder are quite heavily dented by features such as a two-headed comic relief dragon voiced by Eric Idle and Don Rickles, or the chicken turned into a comic relief talking axe voiced by Jaleel White. The thing these Disney rip-offs don’t seem to understand about comedy bolstered by celebrity voices is it actually has to be funny, not just manifest as creatures shrieking mundane observations in weird voices. But as it stands, we get this dissonant clash of tones. Sure, there’s the wise blind woodman who helps Kayley get in touch with nature. There’s also a giant ogre using Excalibur as a toothpick and hilariously plonking his butt down on the villains. One or two of the songs are pretty decent, but otherwise there’s very little in Quest for Camelot worth embarking on a quest to save.
The seventh film in the inexplicable Puppet Master franchise, this one is noteworthy because it stars none other than Greg Sestero, i.e. Tommy’s best friend Mark in The Room. It’s quite something to watch Mark blustering around trying to get the tiny demonic puppet people to behave. It’s particularly entertaining to listen to Sestero’s faltering attempt at a French accent, something he should be much better at considering his mother is of French descent. Perhaps he should have concentrated on mastering the French accent rather than retro puppets. He’s not much of a retro puppet master anyway – at one point the puppets are supposed to be coming to live, lifting up of their own accord, but you can see a human hand in the corner holding them and moving them around. Anyone can be a retro puppet master if that’s all you have to do.
Potato Potahto is about two people who are forced to keep living together after a divorce. Presumably the title refers to how the two of them are different yet the same, but the title is never actually referred to in the movie at any point so that’s pure conjecture. Either way, if you’re expecting a movie which examines the struggles and conflicts of divorce in a realistic domestic setting, stop expecting that, because this movie has guns! Potato Potahto is buoyed along by scarily fast pacing, zipping from scene to scene, situation to situation and genre to genre without much breathing time. In fact, the movie is in such a rush that it cuts off one of its own characters mid-word at the very end, so we can be taken to the closing credits’ R&B music video quicker. Blink and you’ll miss it.
Like Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve is another film where Garry Marshall follows around a bunch of insipid nobodies in an attempt to rip off Love Actually. It’s very difficult to understand why anyone would want to rip off Love Actually to begin with, but here we are. This one really tries to hammer in the sentimentality: we see a nurse video calling her husband deployed in Afghanistan; a burgeoning teen romance; and of course, a cancer patient who just wants to see that New Year’s Eve ball drop one more time. All the characters are basically copy-pastes of each other, because despite their different ages, sexes and (occasionally) races they’re all so bland that there aren’t many distinctions to draw between them. New Year’s Eve was released in 2011, and it can’t have felt like a good omen for 2012.
Nerve seems to be labouring under the misapprehension that it’s an episode of Black Mirror. Sadly, it doesn’t remotely measure up to Black Mirror, not even one of the bad ones. The general premise of “what if social media, but bad” is taken to extremes that require way too much suspension of disbelief. There’s a huge concentration of people all in the same city willing to do stupid dares for money, and there’s a huge concentration of people all in the same city willing to pay money to watch other strangers perform stupid dares. Nerve tries to flip it on its head with a so-called “twist”, but the annoying characters and incredibly low-stakes plot make it difficult to care. It’s just pretty dumb.
One of those ABC Family movies that is almost entirely dependent on the premise that being single is the worst, most disgusting thing in the world. Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets Joey from Blossom during a wedding at, shock horror, the singles table. At first, they’re scathing about the opulent gifts and cash the wedding receive. Fair. But then they decide to pretend they’re getting married themselves, so they can take advantage of all the same perks, with an extra helping of deceit thrown into the mix. But will a genuine love between them grow by the end, meaning they can actually get married after all? Oh, how hard to say. The movie is very clear about all of Joey’s problems in life stemming from his absent father. Being single is the worst, most disgusting thing in the world; being raised by a single parent comes a close second. Thanks, ABC Family!
“Hey, you know what’s interesting? Money. And you know where’s a good location? Plane.” Thus, presumably, Money Plane was born. The eponymous Money Plane is an incredibly perplexing airborne casino with no real logic to it – it’s just a casino that’s, for some reason, in the sky. People bet on illegal fights, feel up the stewardesses and spontaneously play Russian Roulette. All your typical vices, but on a plane! Money Plane is offset by the delightful decision to cast Kelsey Grammer as a character whose name is Darius Emmanuel Grouch III and whose alias is The Rumble, so it’s blatant that he’ll be hilarious in any context. He shrieks and glares and spends a lot of time talking aggressively about how much he loves money. Only thing better than money? Money on a plane. Money Plane.
Miami Connection undeniably does its damndest to furnish its audience with everything they could possibly want in an action movie, or an eighties movie in general. Ninjas? Motorcycles? Rock bands? Drug deals? A heart-warming rekindled relationship between father and son? All of this in Florida, for some reason?The thing about Miami Connection, though, is its unbridled joy. It’s clearly not a cynical money-maker or a manipulative movie done for a movie’s sake – it’s an obvious labour of love, with everyone genuinely having masses of fun, even if they don’t really seem to know what they’re supposed to be doing most of the time. Part of why it’s become a massive cult hit in the decades following its release. Hopefully that’s some consolation to writer, producer and director Y. K. Kim, who was nearly bankrupted by the whole endeavour. Nearly.
By far the most egregious thing about Mean Girls 2 is its name. Tim Meadows returns as the same principal, despite the setting seemingly being an entirely different high school in an entirely different state, but besides that this movie has emphatically nothing to do with Mean Girls. Sure, they say “the plastics” a lot, while slow-panning over some teenagers strutting around in pink florals. But rather than trying to delve into any actual character, the plastics in this film are simply The Leader, The Germophobe and The Slut. No nuance allowed. Where Mean Girls managed to depict its protagonist’s slow descent into the perils of popularity, Mean Girls 2 puts some ugly coloured hair extensions on its heroines and calls it commentary. For some unknown reason, it all culminates in a bizarrely lazy game of American football. Not exactly Mathletes.
Yes, it’s the ABBA lyrics, but it’s quite something when even the movie sounds sick of itself. Here we go, again. Can’t blame it, though – the Mamma Mia! sequel is such a mess that even Meryl Streep couldn’t be coaxed into returning for more than a few seconds as a smiling ghost. The film is predominantly a flashback, delving into Streep’s character’s past as she and her sidekicks (none of whom have changed their haircuts in the intervening several decades) run about shrieking ABBA covers and trying to convince the audience this is something people would pay to see. The first Mamma Mia! just about dials up its extravagance to a level that only sometimes teeters into annoyance; this one spends the entire time being as thoroughly obnoxious as it can. And as a bonus, it throws in an awkward Cher solo performance that feels like it lasts forever. There they went, again.
It’s painful, the knowledge that our world is a place where the fever dream that is Love on the Leash can be classed as a real film. It’s a 2011 production, but the filming quality is so bad that watching it at home feels like putting on a home movie from the ’80s. Not that a better camera would have saved it – the entire idea is a woman falling in love with a dog, after all. He turns into a man at night, though. So, okay. For some reason the dog’s inner monologue is voiced by a completely different actor to the human incarnation; there’s a discernible personality shift too. Most bizarre of all is the film’s fixation on colour-coding – the protagonist always wears green, for example. It’s as though Love on a Leash believes it’s operating on several levels, a belief it’s hard to accept when it demonstrably doesn’t even operate on one level.
In some ways, Lost in Space was doomed to fail. The ’60s TV show it was based on was kitschy and overblown, so the attempt to make a serious sci-fi epic perhaps utilised the wrong source material. Casting Matt LeBlanc as a fighter pilot was possibly the final nail in the coffin. He accompanies the Robinson family on their perilous space adventures, and is extremely hard to take seriously – probably because in 1998, Joey Tribbiani mode was still LeBlanc’s only mode. But perhaps he’d have a better chance if the villain, played with almost too much gusto by Gary Oldman, wasn’t such a joke. Dr Smith prances about and practically winks at the camera while he does all but tell everyone about how evil he is. Then he turns into a massive spider. Lost in Space is not the home of nuance.
Lord of War begins with a slow panning shot over a giant collection of bullets, This is a pretty unabashed set-up for the whole film. Nicolas Cage and Jared Leto play two Ukrainian brothers who go into arms dealing, with hotshot Interpol agent Ethan Hawke on their trail. Lord of War proclaims it’s a warning against arms and violence – it even ends with a pompous message about the influence of real-world arms-dealing countries – yet spends every second lovingly lingering on bullets, guns and general tough-guy symbolism. Apparently Cage’s character is after the glory, not the money, and that’s the most dangerous thing of all. Really, it just feels like another level of pretentious posturing.
Loqueesha is, frankly, disgusting. It’s just disgusting. There are no other words for it. The story follows a white man who launches a successful radio show by “pretending to be a black woman”. This means he puts on the most utterly offensive stereotypical voice, which roughly equates to him yelling obnoxiously in his own voice and punctuating it with a lot of sassy “mmhmm”s. Perhaps, perhaps, this premise could have worked were Loqueesha a gritty, cynical exposé exploring the dark psychology of a racist. But it’s meant to be a light-hearted, feel-good comedy, with an added footnote about how it’s important to be yourself. When a film culminates with an actual black woman weeping about how the white guy is “a better black woman” than her, you just know there’s no way to save it. Loqueesha needs to be seen to be believed, but it only needs to be seen once. Once.
LOL was released right before Miley Cyrus reinvented her image and sang lots of songs about how she likes to have sex and take drugs. It shows, as LOL itself isn’t quite sure if it wasn’t to be a fluffy teen rom-com or a movie that delves into deeper issue of teen social pressures and psychology. It therefore contents itself with awkwardly bouncing back and forth in between. Cyrus’ character Lola has cheating ex-boyfriends and bitchy rivals to contend with, while her mother grapples with an attraction to her ex that also results in infidelity. Lots of lies and rumours, lots of sex and weed. But the tone of the whole film is still jarring in that it’s much lighter and more giggly than the subject matter it’s attempting to dress. It’s literally called “LOL”. So… let’s all laugh out loud.
Obviously the reason Video Brinquedo even existed was to rip off bigger films and dupe unsuspecting viewers into thinking they were purchasing the real thing. It’s still difficult to fathom why they’d want to rip off Bee Movie, which is a terrible cheap flaming garbage fire all by itself. At least Little Bee has the excuse of Video Brinquedo’s non-existent budget, as well as non-existent creative talent or vague use of effort at all. Animated bees with a disturbingly ugly faces buzz around, although sometimes they walk on two legs, all the better to march in formation. Conflicts include the chief honey maker making bad honey. The humans all wear beekeeping outfits so no one had to animate their faces. 55 minutes of this and it’s done. All in all, still better than Bee Movie.
Because of wins for Best Supporting Actress, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Sound Mixing, Les Misérables can legitimately call itself an Oscar-winning movie. It’s a real shame, because it’s really not very good. As a rule the best musicals are a bit overblown, but Tom Hooper takes this to hilarious extremes, while also trying to convince his audience that he’s telling a gritty, real-life story. Thus, we get Russell Crowe’s off-key bellow-singing while the camera zooms in so close we can barely see anything but his gaping open mouth. We get Eddie Redmayne’s teary tribute to his departed friends, with no opportunity to appreciate his loneliness when the entire frame is filled by his mournfully quivering face. We get Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter desperately trying to out-mug and out-accent each other while the camera sways and stumbles around, unsure what to do when it has more than person to focus on. The colours are desaturated to the point of sheer ugliness – it’s difficult to believe even the real French Revolution looked quite this depressing. The only vague consolation is that, seven years later, Tom Hooper brought us Cats and proved that he could, in fact, do worse.
The very best word that could be used to describe Leo the Lion is “confusing”. It is an extremely confusing film. The eponymous Leo is shunned by his peers for being a vegetarian lion. He goes on an adventure to the heart of the jungle, collecting some zany sidekick animal friends along the way. Sometimes, they sing – not often, just sometimes, when the movie remembers it’s supposed to be a musical. In the end, Leo forges a romantic relationship with an elephant and they have scary lion-elephant hybrid babies. To add to the confusion of the core film itself, the animation is an absolute joke. In addition, the movie’s subtitles don’t fully match up to the audio – the heart of the jungle is called “the lake of milk”, Leo is never called a vegetarian, and other such inconsistencies. The movie is ostensibly pretty confused by itself, so it’s no wonder it’s confusing to its audience too.
Blondes, plural. Ostensibly this loosely affiliated Legally Blonde spin-off decided Elle Woods wasn’t enough, and decided to rectify this by giving us Elle Woods’ irritating twin cousins instead. Twin 1 and Twin 2 – they have names, but they’re so totally devoid of personality it makes no difference – make the big leap from Britain to California and join Elle’s alma mater boarding school. They’re bullied for being scholarship students, and make an alliance with fellow scholarship students to fight back. The plot ticks through the standard teen clichés: dull romance between a generic girl and a generic guy; bitchy nemesis who despises the heroes for no reason at all; a school dance. The film tries to justify the “legally” part of its title by throwing in a bizarre subplot about being on trial in student court. Fundamentally, though, plural Legally Blondes is worth a mere fraction of the singular Legally Blonde.
Who doesn’t want an apocalyptic thriller starring the equally impactful acting forces of Nicolas Cage and Chad Michael Murray? This one involves half the people in the world suddenly disappearing, well before Thanos made the idea mainstream. The ultimate point of Left Behind is a difficult one to ascertain – the tone veers from domestic drama, to survival thriller, to religious treatise, pretty quickly. Half of it is spent in the air while Nicolas Cage’s pilot struggles to keep his plane safe, while the rest follows his daughter on the ground, as she’s told by a priest that all the good guys have gone to heaven and the bad guys have been left behind. This doesn’t allow for any personality growth or moral reckoning – it just sort of is. Left Behind leaves behind only one question: now what?
It’s pretty obvious that they just said, “Let’s take a bunch of George Michael songs” and then built a movie around them, but that’s far from being the most egregious part of Last Christmas. Emilia Clarke stomps around London, destroying her friends’ possessions and putting her boss’ workplace at risk of theft. When she’s severed all ties and has nowhere to go, she begrudgingly goes to her parents’ house and does such caring, relatable things as outing her sister without permission. As her winking love interest Henry Golding oozes charm, but the superficiality and awkwardness of their interactions – all intended to build up to the final “twist” – undermine any potential chemistry. Yet arguably, even none of that is the worst part of the film. Not when Emma Thompson, playing the protagonist’s mother, adopts a hideously offensive generic “European” accent and seems to think this, in itself, constitutes a hilarious joke. She lilts about “lesbian pudding” and the fear that the UK’s move towards Brexit means she’s no longer welcome – a fear she gets over in precisely one scene by downing some shots at Brixton Market. Throw in some casual mocking of homeless people, not to mention a romance subplot for the boss character that is so resoundingly unfunny that it’s essentially the same awkward scene done over and over. There is no sincerity to this film – it’s just trope after trope, done lazily and with no love for the project. And the final “twist” is too stupid to save the formulaic approach. Last Christmas is so, so much more cynical than it pretends to be.
The premise of Labor Pains is a woman lies about being pregnant in order to protect her job. It is extremely difficult to come up with an idea more jaded than that. It could have been a thoughtful drama or a complex character study, but instead Labor Pains maintains it’s all in good hilarious fun, really! Stealing a baby bump from a mannequin – such japes! Whoops, pillow is ruined, better use a balloon! The worst thing of all is the movie never makes Lindsay Lohan’s protagonist face the true awfulness of what she’s done. The repercussions are so short-lived that the moral of the story seems to be actively encouraging more women to do the same thing if they believe their job is at risk. What a stunning step forward for feminism.
Another excuse for Nicolas Cage to run around and grimace heavily. Knowing is an apocalyptic sci-fi drama where Cage’s professor protagonist unearths clues from a time capsule which could be predicting future disasters. As he embarks on a mission to foil the final catastrophe, the movie paints itself further and further into a corner with cosmological revelations and metaphysical realities that genuinely cannot be tolerated even with the biggest possible suspension of disbelief. There is definite intention to do something profound and meaningful here; it’s just that the premise far overshadows the execution. Knowing feels a bit like watching someone running into a wall, and the closer they get to the wall, the faster they go. Although it culminates in disaster, there’s some tiny shred of respect for their sheer determination in sticking to their guns.