Monday, February 12, 2018


Here we are once again, the time when I take my last licks at my least favorite films of 2017. Now, in all honesty, I actually struggled with coming up with a list for much of this year for two reasons:  most of what I saw I liked or loved to varying degrees and secondly, I really just did not see that many movies in the year that would lead me to write a negative review.

Remember, I am not a film critic. I have no connections whatsoever to Hollywood or to the movie industry. So, with that, I am precisely as you: I pay to see every movie I attend with my own money and precious time. I have no assignments and if I chose to not see something, I do not have to. So, in that respect, there were so many movies that I did not see (umm..."CHIPS," "Baywatch"...etc...) and would not have seen even if you had paid me to do is too short to waste on that kind of garbage.

Even so, there were some that rubbed me the wrong way...

Regarding the ones that simply disappointed me, I turn to Writer/Director Nacho Vigalondo's indie comedy/science fiction hybrid "Colossal" (Originally reviewed April 2017) starring a refreshingly loose Anne Hathaway as a social trainwreck and unemployed writer who magically discovers that her actions and moods in an unnamed Midwestern small town are somehow controlling a giant monster currently terrorizing the citizens of Seoul. A completely oddball and wholly original idea certainly, but the execution was considerably messy and did not add up to terribly much once it was all said and done. But even so, it got points from me for trying.
As for Writer/Director James Gunn's "Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2" (Originally reviewed May 2017), I remain underwhelmed and unimpressed. A gain, I don't feel that this is a bad movie but it was one where I was bored to tears as the vibrant sound and light show did not hing to correct the fact that this so-called "irreverent" space gang are just not terribly interesting characters. OK... yeah, Dave Bautista as the deadpan Drax is fun but I'm sorry, Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana are as numbingly bland as the villains as well as the painfully obvious attempts to try and become "Star Wars" where every character is Han Solo. Yet, in this case of Vol. 2, and with all of the themes of family, Gunn was now trying to become "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)...where everyone was still trying to be Han Solo. I know you love these films but for me, these are the Marvel movies weakest characters and films. Yawn...  

Now for the films that were just plain bad, I give you Director Colin Trevorrow's "The Book Of Henry" (Originally reviewed January 2018), a film so off-the-rails that I would almost recommend that you actually see it just so you can regard how some films essentially lose their minds, and in the case of this film, its entire "and then this happened" aesthetic makes for one hell of a howler!  It would be more than enough if the film were simply about a precocious, savant middle schooler who suspects that the girl next door is being abused by her stepfather but oh no, Trevorrow decided to make his precocious, savant middle schooler wise to the point of being clairvoyant as well as a financial wizard. But that is nothing to say of the plot which also includes a terminal illness, sibling rivalry, a suicide, a school talent show, an assassination plot, a dance routine, and Sarah Silverman who clearly stumbled onto the set from a completely different movie and Trevorrow just decided to keep the cameras rolling. No wonder he was booted from directing "Star Wars Episode IX"...we're better for it.
"The Dark Tower" (Originally reviewed November 2017), Director Nikolaj Arcel's completely unimaginative, anemic and again here's that word, bland, adaptation of Stephen King's much heralded fantasy series concerning itself with the eternal battle between The Gunslinger (Idris Elba) and the Satanic Man In Black (Matthew McConnaughey). While both leading actors are compelling to watch, neither of them really have much to do in a film that seemed to wrestle every nugget of story from the proceedings leaving only special effects, chase scenes and endless shootouts which are kind of fun to watch as they happen but they are instantly forgettable once the sequences end. For fans of the book series, I can fully understand your immense disappointment as the filmmakers took a multi-book series and whittled everything down to a puff piece of 90 minutes. This movie was the equivalent of junk food. I barely remember that I even saw it. 
I never reviewed Director Luis Prieto's "Kidnap" and since the film runs only 80 minutes, why spend more time writing the review than I did to even watch it? Oh people, of course there was no reason to expect anything good from this as a still slumming Halle Berry portrays a Mom who WILL DO ANYTHING to rescue her son who was kidnapped from her while at a park. Now I guess a good movie could have been made from material like this a la Director Ron Howard's relentless "Ransom" (1996), but this movie's ambitions were never that high.  think its ambitions were to get scenes filmed before the production company knew what they were up to and pulled the plug! Nope, it's all just Berry in full hysterical mode (inexplicably taking off and putting back on to only take off her jacket over and again) yet steely enough to instantly become the best stunt driver this side of "Baby Driver" and Mad Max.  You know, as I watched this movie, I had though to my self that any review I wrote woud carry the title of "MAD MOM"...and then,  I never wrote the review until now. So, there...title used.
In the above photo, poor Kate Winslet and Idris Elba (clearly not having a good cinematic year) are gazing into the distance in the hopes of finding their respective agents so they can throttle them for convincing them both to sign on for this terrible movie. Oh people, Director Hany Abu-Assad's "The Mountain Between Us" (Originally reviewed January 2018) is a disaster on all counts as a survival movie, a love story and even as a fantasy for us movie goers because I am certain that there are more than a few of us who have harbored some images of being stranded somewhere with either of these undeniably stunning and charismatic leading actors. And  yet, Abu-Assad found a way to make a mockery of every single moment that could have conveyed any sense of intensity, whether survivalist or sexual or both, through a barrage of awful writing, contrived situations, inconsistent behaviors and an implausibly and deliriously happy dog, who disappears and returns to the movie on a complete whim, thus undercutting any sense of belivability that Winslet and Elba are fighting the elements for their survival.

And now for the bottom two...the worst of them all...
"LIFE" Directed by Daniel Espinsosa
It's one thing when films try and fail--essentially all of the other films on this list (as horrible as "The Book Of Henry" is, it certainly tried)--but when films do not even try at all, that is when I find myself getting angry. In the case of this film, what we have is yet another "Alien" wanna-be, a copycat film to the point of plagiarism culminating in a utterly joyless, often incoherent, and self-congratulatory journey into the heart of prefabricated darkness complete with an utterly stupid "twist" ending that made me want to stone the screen.

This is a film that contains not even one original idea or moment and fro t hat matter, it is a horror film with not even one thrill, fright or scare as what we have is another installment of stupid people doing stupid things to only get themselves dismembered...and to keep the plot wheels spinning. And what a shame as the film houses a handsome production as well as some good performances throughout, yet all of them are wasted ina film that contains nothing to hold onto.

Daniel Epinosa's"Life" is essentially the equivalent of a White Castle slider. It's in. It's out. That's all.
(Originally reviewed June 2017) 


This may surprise you but I have to say that the more I think about this movie, the more I hate it and I am stunned that so many have embraced it so powerfully as, for me, it really is a sloppily written and directed feature that is not at all what it professes to be about and what it truly is about is something that is profoundly irresponsible. 

Look, the core of the film is deeply compelling and truthfully, it is the only good material within the film. The story of Mildred Hayes, a Mother feverishly wanting justice for the unsolved rape/murder of her daughter so much that she publicly shames the local police department with the erection of three billboards outside of town is immensely powerful, blistering material and more than deserving of a film that is the equal to its own concept.

Unfortunately Martin McDonagh clearly chose to not make that film as his leading actress Frances McDormand, who does elicit a riveting performance of equal parts wrath, rage, grief, mourning and even a bit of mounting mental instability, is shuffled off to the sidelines and often forgotten altogether in favor of the the film's male characters: most notably, two racist police officers within a historically racist police department, both of whom through the convenience of McDonagh's heavy, manipulative and again, sloppy storytelling hand uses cheap tricks to manufacture some sense of prefabricated redemption and empathy, none of which is ever truly earned.

For those who do love the film and to some of those very people who have disagreed with my assessment of the film by explaining that "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" is indeed "messy" because life itself is "messy," plus the idea that I may be missing the point that sometimes simple solutions don't exist, the film is purposefully uncomfortable and that the characters are multi-dimensional and through all their dimensions we discover a sense of empathy in the process even though so many of the film's characters are irredeemable.


Yes, life is messy and the film attempts to reflect that very messiness. But to me, it completely failed on that account because so much of the film was so clearly prefabricated, in intent and execution. Yes, people are multi-dimensional but again, McDonagh failed at demonstrating that fact of life with his own characters. Having irredeemable characters performing irredeemable acts and somehow, we, as viewers, are not able to turn ourselves away is nothing new and certainly nothing McDonagh invented--especially as cable television is loaded end-to-end with all manner of anti-heroes and despicable characters that we either love to loathe or are so enraptured with that we would follow their descents or redemption absolutely anywhere.

But in doing so, it all comes down to excellent writing, which McDonagh failed at by injecting elements that are as cheap as they come when trying to elicit sympathy from your audience. And in doing so by forcing us to spend so much time with these men, they TAKE AWAY the film from Frances McDormand's character, the entire reason we're even watching this film in the first place. If the writing happened to be as good as some feel that it is, then I believe that all of those themes the film's supporters have professed to would understand that they are already contained in McDormand's character and therefore, we don't need any of the superfluous material. If only McDonagh realized that and just stuck to what he already had, we would have an infinitely better and more honest film.

By taking the film away from Frances McDormand's character, what we are left with is a film unnecessarily saddled with the subject of race and racism, topics this film did not need and topics McDonagh is clearly unable or unwilling to honestly tackle. Yes, any film about racism should be uncomfortable but in the case of this film, racism cannot be waved away through underdeveloped and marginalized to nearly non-existent African-American characters in favor of the supposed "good hearts" of the racist cops themselves. Very much like Director Kathryn Bigelow's disturbing for the wrong reasons docudrama "Detroit" (2017), I found myself asking the question: "Just who is this movie for?"

Because honestly, why should I care for police characters who have either abused and tortured Black people or were complicit in the abuse and torture of Black people just because they love their Mamas, have pretty wives and adorable children and are afflicted with certain spoilers I will not reveal but only exist because Martin McDonagh could not devise of any real ways to make his characters three dimensional rather than props being held up by more props that are only present to keep the plot wheels spinning. To ask that much of me is insulting to say the least and downright irresponsible at worst.

And then, add to this needlessly over-stuffed experience the tacked on presence of Peter Dinklage, completely wasted in a role that offers him or us absolutely nothing, a flashback sequence that is painfully obvious in its faux irony, the marginalization of essentially ALL of the film's female characters, badly presented tonal changes and a final scene of so-called profound ambiguity but is, in actuality, another piece of prefabricated pap that unearth some troubling concepts that McDonagh clearly just did not wish to involve himself, just end the movie and roll credits. 

"Deliberately messy"? Really?! Martin McDonagh's "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" is a mess due to its own incoherence, plastic emotions and its adherence to upholding White male authority figures as "good people" regardless of their unspeakable actions and at the expense of a woman undergoing an unspeakable loss.

This move had better not win the Oscar for Best Picture!


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