Saturday, February 6, 2016


All things considered, for everything that I happened to see in 2015, there really was not that much that I really didn't like r even detested. In fact, for this section of my four art Savage Scorecard series, there are only eight titles and I would say that perhaps three of them are ones that were more of the disappointing variety rather than existing as bad films.

For instance, my most recent review was for Directors Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson's "Anomalisa" (Originally reviewed January 2016), their bold, inventive, visually lush, R rated animated feature. This film was not a bad film whatsoever. Just one that was perhaps more shallow than I had anticipated and truthfully, I have barely given the film much thought since finishing that review.
"The D Train" (Originally reviewed May 2015), the debut feature from Directors Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel was another near miss for me as it was indeed a queasily effective little drama about mounting feelings of inadequacy as we reach middle age plus the insidious nature of popularity and the power one can wield over another. It featured yet another strong dramatic stretch from Jack Black and the film did contain one truly audacious moment that did make this otherwise sleepy film spring to life, But that said, it too tended to be a tad shallow, even though it did exist as a dark, tragic comedy.
Writer/Producer/Director Cameron Crowe's "Aloha" (Originally reviewed June 2015) was a film that broke my heart. While not the disaster that many would lead you to believe, it is unquestionably Crowe's weakest film by a mile, something that really hurt to write as Crowe has been, and will remain, one of my longtime heroes. That said, I calls them as I sees them and "Aloha" was a big disappointment. But first, I feel the need to again debunk the major criticism launched against the film about Crowe's supposed "whitewashing" with the casting of Emma Stone as an Asian character. Again, and with emphatic feeling, the character of Allison Ng IS NOT 100% Asian. This character is 1/4 Hawaiian from a Father who is 1/2 Asian and a Mother who is not. Furthermore, Ng is based upon a real, red-headed, Caucasian appearing Hawaiian woman of this very heritage that Crowe encountered. To me, any sense of racism lies within audiences perceptions of what they feel individuals should look like rather than the wide sweeping realities. This was nothing I felt that Crowe or Stone had to apologize for, although they did and eloquently so.

While the film thematically fits very snuggly with the remainder of Crowe's past work and it has much more on its mind than just existing as a standard romantic comedy, the problems with "Aloha" are considerable. First of all, the romantic comedy element of the film was Crowe's least convincing cinematic romance to date, a surprising flaw considering how beautifully he has mined the highs and lows of the human heart in the past. Returning to Emma Stone, her actual performance felt awkward and unconvincing, a rarity for an actress so solid. Mostly, it felt as if the studio re-edited the film to death, thus sucking any life out of the proceedings because for all of the story threads and themes, "Aloha"  truly felt as if there was a greater, longer film within the material presented. But beyond any possible studio tampering, it was just a film that endured a painful, lengthy gestation and perhaps the stars simply were not aligned for this project. Very sad, since it felt to be as passionately pursued as anything Crowe has ever done before.

But then there are the bad ones, the ones that really let me down, from the ones that could have had some potential but failed to the ones that just need to have the stuffing beaten out of them one last time.

5. "Rock The Kasbah" Directed by Barry Levinson
Legendary filmmaker Barry Levinson found himself a looooong way from the heights set by his own past work which includes nothing less than than the likes of "Diner" (1982), "Good Morning, Vietnam" (1987), and "Wag The Dog" (1997), with this surprisingly laconic, plodding and toothless satire that completely wastes the talents of Bill Murray, who delivers a fully committed performance and is seemingly straining to carry the entire film upon his back from beginning to end. This story about a down and almost out rock music manager stranded in Afghanistan who miraculously discovers his meal ticket: a teenage girl with a golden voice who dreams to be the first woman to compete on the Middle East's version of "American Idol" is a concept just screaming for potent comedic launches against the music business, as well as existing as a striking feminist drama. Frankly, it is a film that is screaming for anarchy. But somehow, the film is afraid to dig deep as it just tosses good ideas aside with paper thin characters and dry as the desert direction.
(Originally reviewed October 2015)

4. "Spectre" Directed by Sam Mendes
Speaking of dry as the desert, what happened to James Bond????? After the spectacular heights set by Director Sam Mendes' "Skyfall" (2012), honestly the very best James Bond film that I have seen in my entire life, my hopes were indeed sky high for this next installment, which found Mendes back in the director's chair. Yet, after a stunning opening pre-credit sequence and a few intermittent scenes here and there, "Spectre" was a torpid, terrible follow-up, complete with a negligible romance, a painfully loquacious villain (Christoph Waltz), and an overall experience that was drained of all energy, excitement, and even entertainment. Even 007 himself, Daniel Craig, looked as if he would rather be anywhere else other than on a James Bond film set even one more blasted time. And if Bond doesn't wish to be present, then why should we?
(Originally reviewed November 2015)

3. "Mistress America" Directed by Noah Baumbach
All of the good will Noah Baumbach recaptured with me after viewing "While We're Young" early in the year was copiously wasted and depleted by the later half of the year after I saw his other 2015 effort, the frustrating, self-congratulatory, odiously smug "Mistress America," starring the irritating, insufferable, insistently cloying Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote this plastic, insipid tripe with Baumbach. While this film shares themes with Baumbach's past films, essentially literate, highly educated, urban, young and not-so-young characters all attempting to determine their respective places within the world, it remains stunning to me how Baumbach can again fall into such pathetic traps where pseudo intelligence, a series of non-sequiturs, and hipster driven ironic distance rule the film and completely undercuts any sense of truth. Worst of all is Gerwig, who again flails around, mugging endlessly, and so obviously in love with her meager talent that she comes off as the most ungifted kid in the school play but has somehow convinced herself that she is a Shakesperian trained actress...and she'll never let you forget it. It is precisely the very type of indie film that people who hate indie films would point to as to why they hate indie films.
(Originally reviewed September 2015)

2. "Ricki And The Flash" Directed by Jonathan Demme
Even Meryl Streep's most passionate fans would not be able to find anything to defend about this one. "Ricki And The Flash," in which Streep portrays a boozy, belligerent, blowhard leader/singer/guitarist of a Texarkana, California bar band, is a massive failure, a tonal disaster and completely unbelievable that Writer Diablo Cody and Director Jonathan Demme had anything to do with it as it is also a film about a large, dysfunctional family that seems to not understand even one thing about how real world families work, live, breathe, operate, implode and restructure themselves. The drama is non-existent, the supposed comedy is even worse and all of the characterizations have been created in the broadest possible strokes making every moment within the film blatantly insincere. And sitting at the core is Meryl Streep's painfully contrived, giant salted HAM of a performance that contains not even a shred of authenticity. She is downright horrific to regard this time is the film as a whole. Don't say that I didn't warn you.
Originally reviewed August 2015)

And for me, the worst film of 2015 was...

1. "Jurassic World" Directed by Colin Trevorrow
You may have heard about an internet petition that has been created in support of George Lucas returning to the "Star Wars" franchise to direct "Episode "IX" instead of Director Colin Trevorrow. Based upon the steaming pile that is "Jurassic World," I am nearly inclined to sign such a petition.

Dear readers, I know that you have seen it,  perhaps several times. I also know that many of you have loved the film but even while it is a glistening production, visually seamless and so sleek that it could nearly pass for one of Executive Producer Steven Spielberg's own directorial efforts, such a shame it is that the movie is actually terrible. I hated "Jurassic World" so passionately because it only confirmed my worst fears about it before seeing it: that there is no reason for the film to exist...other than to cash in upon nostalgia. It is, simply put, a stupid film about stupid people who do stupid things just to get themselves chomped by rampaging dinosaurs.

I know that having strong human characters has never been the strongest suit of this series and that the dinosaurs are the real stars but Chris Pratt, the improbably high-heeled Bryce Dallas Howard and everyone else are completely wasted in an effort that has seemingly pretends that the other three films in the series don't exist (while also serving nostalgic nods to the original 1993 film) and so, we witness human characters making the same stupid mistakes over and over again. Therefore, we have a film where there are no real thrills, excitement, awe, terror, thrills or anything that would make us give a damn about anything that ever happens within the film.

Vaguely sexist, gratuitously violent (the extended, mean spirited and unnecessary dinosaur killing of a minor female supporting character was truly the year's ugliest sight to me) and again, without even one brain cell in its pretty head, "Jurassic World" was definitely bigger and louder than ever before. But it was so big and so loud that it stomped out any sense of creativity and imagination altogether.
(Originally reviewed July 2015)


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