Here are my 15 worst films of 2015 (in no particular order):
1). “Hot Pursuit” (2015)
A by-the-book cop (Reese Witherspoon) and a widow of a drug kingpin (Sofia Vergara) are on the run as they race through Texas trying to avoid mobsters and crooked cops. Let me say that this film is guaranteed a spot on my Bottom Ten Films list for 2015. I kept thinking, why would Reese Witherspoon, hot off an Oscar nomination, make this crappy film? The movie is full of bad jokes with a script full of loopholes. Vergara’s acting is horrible, and Witherspoon’s isn’t much better. It’s sad when even the outtakes (shown during the credits) are unfunny.
2). “Vacation” (2015)
Rusty (Ed Helms) decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and take his family on a long distance trip to Walley World. If you are nostalgic for the old Vacation series, you might enjoy this film. I found the film funny, at times, but it’s just too long and too predictable. I liked Ed Helms as Rusty, and he has good chemistry with Christina Applegate, who isn’t given enough to do in this film. The kids (Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins) are both funny and have some enjoyable scenes together. Chris Hemsworth is hilarious as the Texas weatherman married to Rusty’s sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann). There is a scene with Hemsworth that had me on the floor laughing, but the rest of the film doesn’t quite live up to that scene. I just wish there had been more laughs.
3). “Pixels” (2015)
Aliens have come to wreak havoc on Earth. It seems, though, they have misinterpreted video feeds of classic arcade games. Now it’s up to a gang of video gamers to save the Earth from a weapons attack in the form of video games. Can someone just give Adam Sandler a hug because he looks miserable making crappy film after crappy film? This film should have been fun and funny. Instead we get a film that wants us to believe that someone like Kevin James can be president and that the character Adam Sandler plays is so devastated by not winning a video game contest that it ruins his life. The only actor who gives a performance with any energy is Peter Dinklage, and it’s just not enough to save this sorry film. The movie has so much product placement in it that I expected the closing credits to say “Pixels brought to you by Bud Light.” At the screening I attended, with about 20 minutes left in the film, the fire alarm went off in the theatre. While waiting for the film to restart, my fellow critics and I were able to figure out how the rest of the film would go; it’s that predictable. The best way to describe this film: unimaginative and boring.
4). “Jupiter Ascending” (2015)
Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) has always felt that she was destined for something better than her job as a janitor. But it’s much to her surprise when an interplanetary warrior, Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), shows up and informs her that her destiny is to be part of a royal family who rules the solar system. “The Matrix” was a fun movie that took a little effort to understand. This film, also directed by The Wachowskis, is complicated, but I could see it forty times and still not understand it all. The film is a big mess, with special effects so horrible that, at one point, I thought I was watching an old Claymation movie from the 60’s. The dialog is incredibly stupid as in, “Bees know royalty.” There is absolutely no chemistry between Kunis and Tatum, with Kunis acting like a 16-year-old girl around Tatum’s character (who, by the way, is part wolf). The movie uses the same plot device twice, making me think; “Didn’t I already see this?” And Oscar nominee, Eddie Redmayne, chews up scenery like he is channeling a 90’s version of Nicolas Cage. By the end of the film, your biggest question will be: “Why does Channing Tatum have Spock ears?”
5). “Poltergeist” 2015)
A married couple (Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt) move into a new house with their children. They start experiencing mysterious things happening inside the house. Now, their daughter is missing, and it seems there is a ghost in their home holding their daughter captive. It’s sad when the trailer and even the poster are scarier that the film itself. The wastes the talents of Rockwell and DeWitt, though it does let Rockwell be funny in early, relaxed scenes with the family. The plot is somewhat similar to the original 1982 film of the same name but doesn’t have the thrills and scary moments of the first film. All of the scary moments of this film are the type where something jumps out of the dark at you. The film has numerous stops and starts, never letting the tension build.
6). “The Gallows” (2015)
20 years after a horrific accident during a school play, students decide to put the play on again to honor the anniversary. It’s a decision they will soon regret. This is a cheaply done horror movie with bad acting and very few scary parts. It takes almost half the film before the frightening scenes start happening. The film is shone as a found footage movie, so there are a number of shots of ceilings and people’s feet (so many so, I wonder if the director has a thing for shoes). The film is boring, and the characters are so uninteresting that you almost want them to get killed. I also hated the ending, which was predictable and like most of the film, pointless.
7). “No Escape” (2015)
An American couple (Owen Wilson, Lake Bell) and their kids are caught in the middle of a coup in a Southeast Asian country. Now they must get from their hotel to the American Embassy, running from a crowd hell-bent on executing every foreigner they find. I liked Wilson as an every-man action hero, and while Bell isn’t asked to do much other than needing to be rescued, she is extremely likable on the screen. But, this film is filled with rampant xenophobia, an unknown country filled with horrible people determined to rape or kill every foreigner. There are some action sequences that are so outrageous that at, my screening, most of the audience laughed. And, the two daughters (Sterling Jerins, Claire Geare) are so annoying that you almost wish that, at some point, the parents could leave them behind. This is a strange and messy film that isn’t enjoyable to watch and misses the mark by so much that it makes Vietnam (yes, that Vietnam) the hero of the film.
8). “Pan” (2015)
An orphan named Peter (Levi Miller) has always dreamed that his mother would someday come back and save him from his life at the orphanage. In the middle of the night, he is stolen by Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) and his men. They take him to the magical Neverland, where he meets James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and the beautiful Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara). The legend is that Blackbeard will die at the hands of a boy who can fly. Could Peter be the foretold boy sent to save Neverland from Blackbeard? Where to start with this huge mess of a movie. Oh, I know. It’s not a musical but when we first meet Blackbeard and his mineworkers, they sing “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It’s as jaw dropping weird as it sounds. Later on the mine workers sing The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Why? I don’t know, but it sums up this film. It’s just bizarre and bad. Add to the mix that Peter is living in London in the 1940’s during WWII (not turn of the century London like in the book), horrible CGI special effects that look like they were done in the 1960’s and cast that seems bewildered on how to play their roles. To top it all off, Tiger Lily speaks with a bad Irish accent. There are also some rather scary scenes, so don’t take kids younger than 7.
9). “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” (2015)
On the eve of their last campout, three scouts (Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan) band together to fight a zombie invasion of their town. Full of cliches, this film, has the stripper who is smarter than she looks, the nerds who save the day, and the beautiful high school girl who secretly likes one of the scouts. This film would have been a lot of fun if they had done it right. Well, they didn’t. They went for the easy, cheap, sophomoric comedy, which most of the time didn’t work. If you think singing a Britney Spears song with a zombie or feeling up a zombie’s breasts is funny, and then this movie is for you. If you can stay awake through the whole film, there is a bonus scene after the first portion of credits.
10). “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” (2015)
Ryan (Chris J. Murray) and his family have just moved into a new home. Ryan finds a 20-year-old tape that shows two girls being taught supernatural abilities by what appears to be their mother. Soon, after viewing the tape, strange things start happening in the house, and it seems Ryan’s daughter is being targeted by supernatural forces. The fifth and hopefully last of the “Paranormal Activity” series is the worst of the bunch, going out like a whimper of a person being terrorized by a ghost. While the film was shot in 3-D, it doesn’t look it, as the 3-D effects only show up when the supernatural beings appear. The scares are minimum and are all of the “jump out of the dark” with a loud noise variety. The film uses the “found footage” genre, but that genre is getting old and has worn out it’s welcome. What started out as a phenomenon has ended as a ho-hum bland film. And please, no one stare into a mirror and say “Bloody Mary” three times. I really don’t want to see any more of these films!
11). “Love the Coopers” (2015)
Four generations of Coopers are getting together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration. What can go wrong? It turns out just about everything. This is a comedy where no one in the family is happy, and even the family dog has an eating disorder. A grad student could write his dissertation on all the problems this family has and, remarkably, most are solved by the end of this unfunny film. The only storyline (and there are way too many of them) I enjoyed was where Olivia Wilde’s character picks up a soldier (Jake Lacy) at the airport bar to pose as her boyfriend. Their relationship is the only one that has any sparks and is the most enjoyable to watch. Diane Keaton and John Goodman, the patriarchs of the family, are just exhausting to watch as their bickering gets old quickly. There is a scene between Amanda Seyfried and Alan Arkin (she’s his favorite waitress at a diner) that just turns so weird that I couldn’t even begin to explain it. If you hate the holidays and want to get depressed, then this film is for you.
12). “Krampus” (2015)
Max (Emjay Anthony) and his family are just not feeling the Christmas spirit this year. Max gets mad and decides he is done with Christmas. Unfortunately, Max has unleashed Krampus, a demonic force of ancient evil intent on punishing non-believers. Now Max and his family are going to have to fight for their lives. Where to start with this mess of a film? Oh, I know, it’s a horror film that isn’t scary. The film uses a mix of styles to animate the minions of Krampus, and it just doesn’t work. Some of the bad guys are animated, and others are done with a more lifelike CGI. The two styles don’t mix as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide to go campy or scary. I didn’t care what happened to any of the characters as they all deserved a lump of coal under the tree from Father Krampus. Unfortunately, I felt I also got a lump of coal from the filmmakers
13). “Entourage” (2015)
Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) is now head of a film studio. Vincent (Adrian Grenier) is making his directorial debut, and his film is going way over budget. Can Vincent’s manager Eric (Kevin Connolly) convince Ari to cough up more money to complete the movie, or will the gang have to move back to Queens? When you make a sequel or a film based on a TV show, it should bring something new to the screen. Entourage brings exactly nothing new to the storyline. The movie feels a little dated as if time hasn’t been kind to Ari and Vincent. There is a reason the TV show was only 30 minutes long as if it’s any longer, you start not liking any of the characters because they are all too self-involved to care about anything else but themselves. I just didn’t care at all about what happened to any of the characters by the end of the film, and I was almost rooting for them to fail.
14). “Self / Less” (2015)
Damian (Ben Kingsley) is a rich man dying of cancer. He undergoes a radical medical procedure that transfers his consciousness to the body of a healthy young man (Ryan Reynolds). This isn’t a horrible film, but it’s too long, takes forever to get going, and it’s rather easy to figure out. Kingsley barely has any screen time and Reynolds, while doing an admirable job as an action scenes, is rather boring in the rest of the film. I also never bought the fact that when Damian was old he was a jerk, but when he takes over the new body, he become compassionate.
15). “The Transporter: Refueled” (2014)
Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) is a former special-ops mercenary who is now transporting classified packages for questionable people. He gets caught up in a cat and mouse game between some bank robbers and a Russian kingpin. This is the typical movie written by Luc Besson, who created the Transporter series. The film has lots of action and flash but no real character or content. Ed Skrein is asked to fill the very large shoes of the star of the first three Transporter films, Jason Statham. Unfortunately, Skrein doesn’t have the charisma or screen presence. The action, while well-choreographed, is almost comical, reminiscent of an old Jackie Chan film, where the hero uses various devices like a life buoy to subdue his attackers. The acting is horrible, with the exception of Ray Stevenson, who comes off stylish and cool as Frank Martin’s father, an ex-CIA agent. The film is one big ad for Audi. Instead of “Refueled,” I think this whole series needs to be retooled.
Dishonorable Mention: “Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” “Victor Frankenstein,” “The Night Before,” “The Last Witch Hunter,” “Unfriended,” “The Visit,” “Rock the Kasbah,”
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