My column in today’s Daily Messenger looks at the best movies of 2015, an annual tradition that’s highly satisfying – and also overtly maddening, as there are always movies I haven’t seen and who knows which of those could be better than Mad Max: Fury Road or Ex Machina? For instance, I still haven’t watched Carol or The Revenant; should either of those slip into the list, I’ll try to let you know.
Compiling the year’s worst movies, on the other hand, is a different kind of challenge. There aren’t a lot of truly awful films out there; as with any creative effort, the quality graph swells in the middle, with many movies just winding up mediocre and dully satisfying in various ways. When you see something really bad it sticks with you, like a headache all the aspirin in the world can’t relieve.
Take The Cobbler, the year’s worst film, which I deliberately avoided at the Toronto Film Festival back in 2014 but sought out after it arrived on Netflix so I could write a column exploring Adam Sandler’s recent career choices. A wan fable about a Manhattan cobbler who discovers he can live the lives of his customers by wearing their shoes, The Cobbler is unfunny, unsubtle and very hard to sit through. And it has the dubious distinction of being directed by Tom McCarthy, a normally talented guy whose other 2015 release, Spotlight, made it to my Ten-Best list. I don’t think that’s ever happened before, and I hope it never happens again.
The rest of this year’s cinematic offal included:
A Walk in the Woods. the anti-Wild, this dull Appalachian Trail travelogue (based on the bestseller by Bill Bryson) was slow, pedantic and suffered from age-blind casting; did it really never occur to the filmmakers that we would wonder how 74-year-old Nick Nolte and 79-year-old Robert Redford could possibly handle the rigors of a 2,000-mile hike?
Aloha. I’m a Cameron Crowe fan from way back, but the director’s recent choices have been nothing short of tragic. Vanilla Sky, Elizabethtown and We Bought a Zoo ranged from treacly to terrible, and heading to Hawaii for his latest didn’t make the outlook any less bleak. Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams all deserved better than this weak romantic-triangle conversion melodrama; the soundtrack was nice, but not with that terrible dialogue layered over it.
Fantastic Four. It really was that bad, a dour and lethargic take on super-hero action films that made Avengers: Age of Ultron look like The Magnificent Ambersons. This story of a family-oriented quartet of super-powered adventurers was Marvel Comics’ flagship title for many years, yet 20th Century Fox has been unable to make a decent movie out of their stories after three attempts. It’s time for Fox to punt, and return the rights to Disney.
Anything Starring Pierce Brosnan. Wikipedia says he’s made seven films in the last two years; I’ve seen six of them – The Love Punch, A Long Way Down, November Man, Some Kind of Beautiful, Survivor and No Escape – and all I can say is, fool me six times, shame on me. Only two got to theaters, with the rest landing on Netflix or VOD. But these are too consistently bad to lay blame anywhere but squarely on the shoulders of their aging Irish star.