The 2016 Bottom 5+5

December 27, 2016
A thought by James Berardinelli


This year, I’m going to do something a little different when singling out my least-liked films of 2016. In addition to providing a traditional “Bottom 5,” all of which are examples of unwatchable horror, I will also highlight five films that, although not as awful as those on the Bottom 5 list (or even a potential Bottom 10 list), have earned my loathing for one reason or another. It may be because I was deeply disappointed in the movie or because it fell considerably short of the hype or simply because it pushed all the wrong buttons. I’ll explain my reasoning for each title. First, though, the Bottom 5 (the usual disclaimers apply about my not having seen everything that qualifies as “bad” etc.).

#5: Collateral Beauty - There were rumors about how shockingly sickening this was long before the first public screenings were held. Sometimes, those sorts of rumors are unfounded. Sadly, not in this case. Collateral Beauty is one of those head-scratchingly bad films that begs the question of how so many high-profile and talented actors could agree to appear in something so godawful. Maybe it looked better on paper or maybe it was eviscerated in the editing room. Whatever the case, don’t be drawn in by all the big names - Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Hellen Mirren, and Kiera Knightley - in the cast. This mawkish miasma of manipulation mandates a “must miss.”


#4: Central Intelligence - One of three so-called “comedies” on the Bottom 5 list. Suffice it to say that The Rock and Kevin Hart (despite certain physical similarities) are not the next coming of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. If I was being generous, I might put this on the low side of the “mediocre” scale (at least it’s not offensive) but nothing about Central Intelligence put me in a generous mood.


#3: How to be Single - Film critics perhaps use the term “forgettable” too often, but it applies in this case. As I looked at my list of low-rated films of 2016, I saw this title and couldn’t remember a thing about it. I had to re-read the review to recall what the movie was about and why I disliked it so much. Then all the unpleasant memories came flooding back. This could possibly flip positions with Central Intelligence but since I at least remembered that movie, How to be Single gets bumped down a slot.


#2: The Brothers Grimsby - Quantum leap down from How to be Single/Central Intelligence/Collateral Beauty. It’s been a while since I accorded a movie with the honor of a half-star rating so, when I doled this out, I felt pretty confident it was headed for the “top” of the Bottom list. Not so fast. Although there’s not a laugh to be found in The Brothers Grimsby (unless you count the end credits) - it’s too busy trying to push the gross-out envelope - it couldn’t manage to be the year’s worst disaster. It reminded me of Freddy Got Fingered, however, which a select group of people may consider to be good enough for a recommendation.


#1: The Neon Demon - What’s rarer than a four-star movie? A zero-star one. I haven’t given one of those out in four years. There was nothing I liked about The Neon Demon. Nothing. I despised every moment of this film and couldn’t wait to escape the confines of the theater. Watching a zero-star movie isn’t fun. It’s not “so bad it’s good.” It’s just bad. I have heard rumors that there are people out there who actually liked this film but I doubt their existence. Like Donald Trump becoming the 45th President of the United States, it doesn’t seem credible.


Now, those other five titles I promised. Interestingly, none of these is an original property - three are sequels, one is a remake, and one is a remake/sequel combo.

Allegiant: Allegiant has earned my ire for three reasons. First, it’s not a very good film - not “get me out of this theater” bad but terribly mediocre and not all that interesting. Second, it’s the latest (and, please god, make it the last) instance of the third book of a trilogy needing (but not really) two movies for the adaptation. Thirdly, the movie was so badly  bungled on every level that it appears the only way I’m going to be able to see how it all ends is to watch it on TV with all the major roles recast. Granted, this series has been in freefall but, after sitting through three movies, I feel I deserve a conclusion.


Ice Age: Collision Course: I’ve never been a fan of the Ice Age movies but this one seemed especially onerous to endure. Even the sabretooth squirrel, the best thing about the franchise, seemed tired. I’m not a great lover of mainstream animation and sitting through this one felt like some kind of studio-sponsored torture. The only vaguely satisfying thing about Ice Age: Collision Course is that the public has finally become as bored by these films as I am and I feel relatively confident I won’t have to endure another one.


Independence Day: Resurgence: When you wait two decades for a sequel, you expect something better than this. I thought the original Independence Day was mediocre so it seemed unlikely that the long-gestating follow-up was going to deliver anything memorable. But I wasn’t prepared for this level of epic ineptitude. The core problem is evident: there wasn’t a story. The philosophy seems to have been: get as many actors back as need a paycheck, throw some science fiction-y things on screen, and hope that nobody notices how little sense it all makes. That sounds just about right and explains why this movie pissed me off. Fortunately, Arrival came along a few months later to wash away the bad taste.


The Magnificent Seven: Unnecessary remakes of movies I like always irritate me. Unnecessary remakes of movies I like that defer using an iconic score until the end credits deserve a special place in hell. There wasn’t a thing in The Magnificent Seven that didn’t seem like a distant echo of better material from the ‘60s Western (which was in and of itself an inferior remake of The Seven Samurai) but to blatantly ignore one of the best-ever themes from any movie (until the end credits) is virtually unforgiveable. I doubt a lot of people feel the same way but this movie didn’t just disappoint me; it made me mad.


Star Trek Beyond: Okay, so I gave this **1/2 and that’s probably a fair rating. It’s not all that bad, especially if you’re not a long-time Star Trek fan. But, for me, this is the movie that killed Star Trek (something that had previously survived “Spock’s Brain”, The Final Frontier, Generations, and Nemesis). After this exercise in pointless mediocrity, I no longer have any desire to see any other Star Trek production regardless of whether it’s in movie theaters or on television. I’ll always adore what I have - material that was produced in the first 30 (or so) years of the program’s history. The most shocking thing about Star Trek Beyond is that, on the occasion of the franchise’s 50th anniversary, it managed only the weakest of nods to The Original Series - a publicity photograph from Star Trek V. That’s bullshit. The failure to do more felt like a slap in the face. I left this movie sunk in despondence. The body was already cold but, as we all know, it’s very cold in space.