2017 in Cinema : Part 2 – 100 to 91

So here we are with the second list, the movies that in any other year would have comfortably made the bottom ten. These are the films that tried too hard, had poor characters, were boring, or a combination of all three, amongst others. These were just bad.

Some actors actually appear multiple times in this list, as does a father and son. So here we go, as promised, I am now switching to counting up rather than down, so might as well start with a film that barely escaped by the skin of its proverbial teeth…..

100) The House

Cast : Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, Ryan Simpkins, Nick Kroll and Allison Tolman

Plot : Scott (Ferrell) and Kate (Poehler) are thrilled when their daughter Alex (Simpkins) is accepted into college, but their joy soon ends when the scholarship offer is rescinded and they’d have to pay for it. They know that they can’t afford it, but they don’t want to destroy Alex’s dreams and look for ways that they can still help her go onto college.

Eventually they get in contact with their neighbour Frank (Mantzoukas) and he convinces them to open up an illegal casino. It proves to be a huge success and they are closing in on the $500,000 target, but then a pesky councilor (Kroll) suddenly starts poking his head in.

Why in this position? : I never used to like Amy Poehler, I found her to be horrendously unfunny and tedious to watch, that was until I watched the comedy series “Parks and Recreation”. She was brilliant in that show and it was the only thing that convinced me to watch this. I wish I hadn’t bothered.

This was in my bottom ten for quite a while. The comedy is boring and predictable. There is precisely nothing that is original about this thankfully short run time. I feel sorry for young actors, in this case Simpkins, who seem likable but ultimately end up in bad films, simply in an attempt to get their name out there.

I can’t think of anything redeemable about this and it doesn’t surprise me that this didn’t even come close to redeeming the $40,000,000 budget, yes, the budget really was that high!

 

 

99) Hampstead

Cast : Brendan Gleeson, Diane Keaton, Lesley Manville and Jason Watkins

Plot : Emily (Keaton) is an unemployed widow following the death of her husband a year prior. She is facing having to leave her nice apartment, but she hasn’t told any of her pretentious friends about this. One day she looks through her attic roof to see a man entering a hut before getting attacked. The next day she goes to find him and make sure that he is ok. Donald (Gleeson) is far from impressed and demands to be left alone in his shack, even though it is likely that he will be thrown off soon after three eviction notices were served.

The two strike up an unlikely relationship, and Emily is determined to help him keep his shack, but the problem is that everyone else hates him a feels that he should move, and Emily doesn’t jump to his defence when they find him in their attic as he prepares for a meal with her.

Why in this position? I wasn’t expecting much from “Hampstead”, I thought it’d be a nice little movie for a Sunday afternoon, but what I ended up getting was arguably the most predictable movie of the entire year. This movie is so generic that it is hard to really give a crap. The implausibility of the plot also fails to really draw you in, and I refuse to believe that anyone who has a fairly high up apartment would never notice a shack that is on the opposite side of the road.

Diane Keaton looks disinterested for the vast majority of the film, and whilst Brendan Gleeson is very likable, the two just have very little chemistry on screen, making it hard to really invest in them as characters, or even a couple.

Whilst it is well meaning and attempts to be a pleasant enough story, it just comes across as a bit pretentious, which is ironic as it’s about a man who is very down-to-Earth. 

 

 

98) Goodbye Christopher Robin

Cast : Domhnall Gleeson, Will Tilston, Margot Robbie and Kelly MacDonald

Plot : Still recovering from the trauma of World War I, acclaimed writer Alan Milne (Gleeson) and his wife Daphne (Robbie) had their first child, a son that they name Christopher (Tilston in youth, Alex Lawther in late teens). Shortly after hiring Olive (MacDonald) to be their nanny as neither feels they can be full time parents, Alan convinces them all to move to the country so that he can write.

Despite this he struggles to produce any work as he wants to write about the pointlessness of war, and Daphne moves back to London, refusing to return until he writes again. With Olive going to tend to her ill mother, Alan is left alone with Christopher for the first time and they eventually bond over creating a story together that they name “Winnie the Pooh”. The book is a critical and commercial success, but the overwhelming schedule pushes the family to the edge and will have lasting effects on Christopher.

Why in this position? : Whilst this is a pleasant film and watchable, it is ultimately a flawed film because none of the characters are actually good people. Alan and Daphne are horrible parents, especially the latter, Olive doesn’t really have a second personality trait and Christopher is largely tedious watch. None of the actors do a horrible job, but it certainly wouldn’t be an outrageous claim to say that they are a bit wooden in places.

As I say, it isn’t an awful film, but it is certainly one of those that seems to have very little point or meaning. It is just sort of there. There’s no overwhelming negatives about it, but on the flip side there are no major positives either.

 

 

97) Secret Spitfires

Cast : Various members of the RAF and Salisbury residents

Plot : During the war Salisbury became the hub of building spitfires in secret locations around the city. This docu-film tells the story of the people who helped build it, including how they were forced by the government to build the planes and also how they kept them secret.

Why in this position? : I feel somewhat harsh about having this this far down because it is a docu-film that I struggled to connect with as I am not am not from Salisbury. Whilst the people of the city loved it, I had no prior attachment to the story so for me it wasn’t that interesting. I only went to watch this because I wanted to get to a round number for the end of the year, having precisely zero interest in the actual subject matter.

Even so, the docu-film isn’t presented in an exciting way, with those being interviewed largely having zero charisma, making it hard to get invested in what they are saying, and considering it is only 52 minutes long, it feels like it long outstays its welcome.

I very much doubt anyone will ever see this that doesn’t live in Salisbury, and I would recommend avoiding it if you do ever get a chance to watch it.

 

 

96) Rough Night

Cast : Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Kate McKinnon, Ilana Glaze, Zoe Kravitz and Paul Downs

Plot : Just a few days before she is due to be married Jess (Johansson) travels with her friends for a hen-party in Miami. Her overbearing friend Alice (Bell) has organised everything and is offended that Jess has invited Pippa (McKinnon) from Australia. Meanwhile Frankie (Glazer) has ordered a striper as a surprise, but when he arrives Alice gets too over-excited and jumps on him, causing him to fall backwards and smash his head on a ledge, killing him.

In a panic the women phone a lawyer and he confirms that as they’ve moved the body they become guilty in the eyes of the law, so they decide to dump the body in the lake. Everything seems to go to plan until the body washes up again later and the actual stripper turns up, so who was the man they killed?

Why in this position? : “Rough Night” is everything that is wrong with modern day comedies. It is full of one-dimensional and predictable characters. The character of Alice is unbearably intolerable and each member of the group fulfils a generic stereotype. Actually, I caveat that last statement, every character except for Blair (Kravitz) who is so completely pointless and anonymous to the story that you could take her out of the movie and it would largely be the same.

This is just bland and generic nonsense. The five lead women have no chemistry at all and everything that they do is formulaic to the point where it is not even remotely amusing or entertaining. This is just an awful attempt at a movie and it has no redeeming features. It’s not even that original as basically acts like a female version of “Weekend at Bernies”, and a poor version at that.

For me this was not one of the worst comedies of the year, but one of the worst films full stop.

 

 

95) Ferdinand

Cast : The voices of John Cena, Kate McKinnon, David Tennant, Bobby Cannavale and Anthony Anderson

Plot : Ferdinand (Cena) is a bull that always knew he was different as he wasn’t interested in fighting, unlike his fellow bulls. Following on from his father’s failure to return from a Matador fight, Ferdinand runs away, eventually ending up being taking up by a family. When he has grown to full size, he accidentally causes chaos in a town centre ends up being carted back to his original home.

His childhood friends can’t believe that he is back there and how big he has grown, but more worrying is that they are now of age to become the latest matador conquests, something that none of them seem to realise the consequences of.

Why in this position? : In one of the least imaginative kids films of the year, it seems obvious that they were following the WWE mantra of “John Cena = Money”. Don’t get me wrong, Cena doesn’t do anything noteworthily bad, but yeah, it is obvious that they hoped his name would bring kids in and that they wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore after that.

Admittedly I am in my mid-thirties now so I do feel a little harsh criticising a movie intended for kids, especially one with a Universal rating, but there is precisely nothing in there that I could point to any saying that “that was great”. The best kids films of the last twenty or so years have been those that entertain the kids, as well as having something for the adults in the audience to enjoy as well, whereas this doesn’t seem to do either.

Then we get onto the character of Lupe, quite possibly one of the most annoying characters in cinema during the entire year. It’s hard to really describe just how bone-grindingly awful she is, but just trust me when I say that if this film wasn’t already terrible then her absense would have tipped it over the scales.

 

 

94) The Zookeeper’s Wife

Cast : Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh and Daniel Brühl

Plot : Antonia (Chastain) and husband Jan (Heldenbergh) run a highly successful zoo in Warsaw and they have a great affinity for the animals in their care. One day they are visited by old friend Lutz (Brühl), who runs a zoo in Berlin. On September 1st 1939 the bombing of Warsaw from the Nazis starts, destroying large sections of the zoo. Lutz offers to take the premium animals to Berlin with him to protect them until the war is over.

As time goes on Jan and Antonia decide to start taking in and hiding members of the Jewish community, but this becomes increasingly difficult as the zoo becomes a military base, and Lutz, not Hitler’s head zoologist, is paying frequest visits.

Why in this position? : The very title of the film is very strange as realistically Antonia, the titular wife of the zookeeper, is actually very inconsequential to the majority of the plot of the film. You could take her out of the move and not a lot would really change. It’s Jan that takes the majority of the high risks of getting the Jewish community to their house from the ghetto, whereas she spends most of her time chatting to those in the house. It is only in the final half an hour or so that she actually does anything that is equally as noteworthy as the efforts of her husband.

“The Zookeepers Wife” reminds me a lot of “Allied” from last year, a bang average film set in World War II, but is completely forgettable and inconsequential. Even the normally reliable Daniel Brühl can’t save the movie from the monotony from the over two hour run time. None of the cast really excels, and whilst none of them are awful, no-one feels like they are truly enjoying the experience.

There are far better films set in this era that have come out in recent years, watch them instead.

 

 

93) Justice League

Cast : Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Mamoa, Ray Fisher, Ciaran Hinds and Henry Cavill

Plot : Bruce Wayne (Affleck) is tracking down a lead that could lead to the end of the world as an image of three boxes consistently comes into his life. He constants Diana (Gadot) to help him solve the mystery and she reveals that many years ago a being called Steppenwolf tried to take over the world with a box of immense power, but he was successfully defeated and the box divided into three.

Steppenwolf returns and successfully gains the boxes from Atlantis and Themyscira, soon heading to Earth find the other box, so Diana and Bruce decide to put together a team to try and stop him.

Why in this position? : Everyone is always going compare the DC movies to the Marvel equivalents as long as they keep making both, and unfortunately the DCEU vs the MCU is one of the most one-sided “battles” in a long time. The DCEU is so desperately trying to be like Marvel that they don’t realise just how miserably they are failing in that respect.

I’m not the biggest comic book movie fan, but even I prepare Marvel films. When your main antagonist is less well developed than a Marvel bad guy then you know that you’re in for trouble. With boring protagonists, and a story that stalls more often that a car from the 1930s trying to run on modern day petrol, there are so many problems with this film that I really haven’t got enough time (or will) to list them al.

One of my biggest issues is that with “Wonder Woman” being one of the prime examples of strong, female characters during the calendar year, she is someone more eye-candy in this film as she wears far too many low cut and revealing tops that I believe her character genuinely would, and there is also a scene where she is getting out of a train and you see her bottom for a second or two. They’ve taken one of the best parts about the character and diminished it. Don’t get me wrong, Gadot is great, but the character is certainly not as empowering to women as the stand-alone film was.

 

 

92) Live By Night

Cast : Ben Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Chris Messina, Elle Fanning, Chris Cooper, Robert Glenister, Remo Girone, Mathew Maher, and Sienna Miller

Plot : Joe (Affleck) returns from the war in the 1920s and falls in love with Emma (Miller), the mistress of Albert (Glenister), one of Boston’s most notorious gangsters. Knowing about this, and Joe’s criminal record, Albert’s rival, a mob boss named Maso (Girone) blackmails Joe, but he refuses and tries to escape with Emma. A bank robbery to fund their escape goes wrong as Albert has Joe well beaten before the police arrive and arrest him for the robbery.

After being released, Joe asks Maso to join his gang and is signed up as an enforcer in Ybor City, near Tampa. He is to run the rum industry down there and try to bring drugs and gambling into the area. Joe soon starts a relationship with Garciela (Saldana), which brings ire from a lot of the local community due to the differing ethnic backgrounds. As well as the local members of the Klu Klux Klan, Joe soon finds that he also has Loretta (Fanning), a charismatic evangelist, convincing the local area not to go ahead with the planned casino, something that angers Maso.

Why in this position? : There were several films that could be described as completely forgettable during 2017, and one of those was certainly this prohibition era gangster flick. Much like Affleck’s “The Accountant” in 2016 there is very little, if anything, that distinguishes that as being either good or bad, it’s just kind of there.

None of the cast feel like they’re actually trying to put in a lot of effort, a lot of them infact feel like they’re just there to pick up a pay-check and nothing more. Ben Affleck still looks uncomfortable when portraying a character with emotions, and it’s amazing how they get so little out of Zoe Saldana and Elle Fanning, two of the most talented young actresses going at the moment.

The film looks decent enough, but the story just isn’t there to warrant giving this film a second watch, or even a second thought for that matter. It’s not bad enough to be considered awful, but it’s definitely not good enough to be anything other than mediocre.

 

 

91) Why Him?

Cast : James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch and Megan Mullally

Plot : Ned (Cranston) is a love father of Stephanie (Deutch) but is less than thrilled when he is introduced to her boyfriend, the eccentric millionaire Laird (Franco). As time goes on he becomes determined to separate the two as he doesn’t believe Laird is good for Alex.

However, his antics and determination could have unexpected consequences with his family.

Why in this position? : “Why Him” is about as predictable as they come. There is nothing original about the “father doesn’t like her daughter’s partner” plot line and this film offers pretty much nothing that I haven’t seen before.

Some films like this are made tolerable by the characterisation, but the problem is that whilst Laird is a little eccentric, he is ultimately not doing anything that would upset a normal human being. The only person trying to ruin the situation of Ned, and that makes him, and more importantly the story in general, generally unengaging. Everything feels forced.

There is only one reason why this isn’t further down the list and that is simply because of it having a decent soundtrack, namely “Crazy, Beautiful Life” by Thomas Hien. Had it not been the soundtrack then this could have been a bottom ten.

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