Saturday, January 16, 2016

MY LEAST FAVORITE FILMS OF 2015

Every year, there are always some wonderful films released. Also every year, there are films that missed the mark and did not live up to expectations. Here are my selections of the films from the previous year I did not get much enjoyment from watching:

"MAD MAX: FURY ROAD"

After thirty years, writer/director George Miller has brought his Mad Max character back and audiences have widely embraced that move. However, I'm in the minority here as I was no fan of "Mad Max: Fury Road". In this new installment set in a post-apocalyptic world, Tom Hardy now plays Max who is held captive by Immortan Joe and his army and used as a "blood bag" for the sick. Joe's associate, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has taken five of Joe's brides to free them from their torturous life. Joe sends his army after them with Max strapped aboard to supply blood. Circumstances bring Max and Furiosa together and they reluctantly team up to escape Joe's men. While I must admit to admiring the impressive visuals by cinematographer, John Seale along with Hardy and Theron's stellar performances but overall, "Fury Road" felt like one long, endless car chase.


"LOST RIVER"

I still love you, Ryan Gosling but I really, REALLY hated your directorial debut, "Lost River". If Detroit didn't have it bad enough, Gosling has set this incredibly tedious drama there. A financially-strapped mother (Christina Hendricks) is struggling to hang on to her house. She turns to working at a mysterious underground club for extra money while her teenage son (Iain De Caestecker) salvages copper from abandoned houses. With his neighbor named Rat (Saoirse Ronan), they discover that a town nearby was buried underwater when a reservoir was built years ago which caused their neighborhood to be cursed. It seems Mr. Gosling was inspired by the surreal cinema of David Lynch. However, he failed to realize that it requires a certain mind set (which very few people actually have) to make Lynch's style of offbeat film-making entertaining. While our novice director managed to create some interesting images, what was missing was any type of emotional connection to what we were watching.



"MISTRESS AMERICA"

Director Noah Baumbach and actress, Greta Gerwig are back with "Mistress America", their latest smug comedy. They first worked together on Baumbach's 2010 film, "Greenberg" and then became romantically linked. The duo teamed up again, in addition to co-writing the script, for the unbearable "Frances Ha" (which found it's way on this list back 2012). This story revolves around Tracy (Lola Kirke), a college freshman having trouble adjusting to life on campus. She meets her future step-sister, Brooke (Gerwig), a wacky, self-absorbed New Yorker living a fascinatingly charmed life, who takes her under her wing. Tracy is mesmerized however, Brooke is not nearly as together as she'd like everyone to believe. Once again, the director has delivered another film filled with humorless writing and unappealing characters. Perhaps I'm just a glutton for punishment, but I have gone in to Mr. Baumbach's recent films optimistically due to my love of his early work like "The Squid and The Whale". Yet, I keep walking out sadly disappointed.



"FANTASTIC FOUR"

This latest version of "Fantastic Four"" was supposed to properly reboot the Marvel comic-book series on the big screen after a couple of uninspired films. However the outcome is far worse than anything previously seen. Director Josh Trank ("Chronicle") co-wrote this ridiculous origins story of teenage scientists who invent a device that can transport people to another dimension. Bruised egos cause an accident which exposes the teens to an otherworldly energy leaving them with super-human powers. The lead actors (Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell and Michael B. Jordan), lacking any chemistry together, struggle to make the best out of a bad situation. Uneven, silly and dull, "Fantastic Four" is just a very sad super-hero flick.

"JOY"

Despite a very impressive lead performance by Jennifer Lawrence and strong supporting turns from Diane Ladd and Isabella Rossellini, "Joy", the latest comedy-drama by David O. Russell, is surprisingly lethargic. Loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano, the inventor of the Miracle Mop, Ms Lawrence plays Joy, a divorced mother of three who is also supporting her mother (Virginia Madsen), grandmother (Ladd), ex-husband (Édgar Ramírez) and recently single father (Robert DeNiro) as they all live under the same roof. While cleaning broken glass on the yacht of her father's new wealthy girlfriend (Rossellini), Joy comes up with concept for her mop and struggles to convince the world it's a great idea. Shockingly, the usually assured Russell has made an ineffective film, unable to find the right balance of over-the-top humor, potent drama and real emotions.

"STONEWALL"

Did you ever wonder what would happen if Roland Emmerich, the director of "Independence Day" applied the elements he uses for his action films to create a drama based on the 1969 Stonewall riots? Unfortunately, with "Stonewall" you can experience it and the film, not surprisingly, is an awful mess. Much has been made about the controversial focus of this fictionalized story on a young, mid-western white boy (Jeremy Irvine) coming to New York and getting swept up in the gay liberation movement while pretty much pushing the drag queens and people of color (the folks actually at the forefront of this fight) far in the background but that's the least of this film's problems. Poorly directed, badly written (I had to check twice to make sure I was actually seeing the name of acclaimed playwright, Jon Robin Baitz credited as the writer) and featuring some of the worst performances of the year, "Stonewall" is not only shameful but shamefully bad.



"BLACKHAT", "IN THE HEART OF THE SEA"

The tech-thriller, "Blackhat" and angry whale drama, "In The Heart of The Sea" have exactly two things in common. One is Aussie hunk, Chris Hemsworth. The other is that they are both really lousy movies. A highly-praised director, Michael Mann ("Heat", "Collateral") is behind "Blackhat" which features Hemsworth as an imprisoned computer hacker who get released to help the FBI (a wasted Viola Davis plays one of the agents) track down a cyberterrorist threatening to cause worldwide destruction. To be perfectly honest, I couldn't understand everything that was going on with this convoluted plot but one thing I do know; not a single moment felt believable. Particularly Hemsworth as an expert computer hack.

Our intrepid performer is back with another much admired film maker, Ron Howard ("Apollo 13", "A Beautiful Mind") for the lackluster, "In The Heart of The Sea". Based on true events that inspired Herman Melville to write the classic novel, "Moby Dick", Hemsworth stars as first mate on the Essex, a Nantucket whaling ship, with an inexperienced captain (Benjamin Walker) leading the crew. After months out at sea with little results, the ship finally spots a massive whale but it's not going down without a fight. When the CGI whale displays more life and passion than our flesh and blood characters, you know you're in trouble.