ZACK CLOPTON’S 2015 MOVIE RETROSPECTIVE!!!
And some, I assume, are good people.”
Welcome to the end of 2015. It was a year like any other, full of tragedies and victories, upheavals and compromises, heroes and morons. We all did our best to survive and sometimes it was a struggle. Most pressing to this blog’s topic, it was a year full of movies. Good ones, bad ones, blockbusters and flops. I saw a bunch and I’m going to tell you about ‘em.
In 2014, I did my best to make Film Thoughts worth reading as often as possible. This effort continued into 2015, I’m happy to say. I completed seven Report Cards, including a lengthy one covering the James Bond franchise. Each series was bolstered by multiple Recent Watches reviews. I completed two themed “weeks,” revolving around eighties action stars. I launched two new features, in hopes of varying the blog’s content some. The Bangers n’ Mash Show kept up its two-episodes-a-month schedule and found fans here and there. The Halloween Horror-fest Blog-a-thon was maybe the most consistent I’ve ever had. I even managed a 25 day long Christmas movie marathon! All of this contributed to the blog reaching its widest audience yet. Thank you all so much.
Every year, I devoted a paragraph to the talented people we lost in the year past. And 2015 was a dozy. In particular, the cult/horror genre lost so many iconic faces. The passing of Christopher Lee and Wes Craven both hit me especially hard, as their work touched my life in so many ways. Leonard Nimoy, Robert Z’Dar, Roddy Piper, Yvonne Craig, Betsy Palmer, and Gunnar Hansen were people on my wavelength. To loose them made the universe less of a cool place. We lost Omar Shariff, Dick Van Patten, B.B. King, Louis Jorduan, Anita Ekberg, Rod Taylor, Robert Loggia, James Horner, George Barris, and “Motherfucking” Lemmy Kilmister. We also lost the Dissolve, perhaps the greatest film website that will ever exist. Let’s have a moment of silence for all of them. Except for Lemmy, who is better honored with a shot of Jack and a flash of the devil horns.
As for the year in film, it was an interesting. 2015 will go down in the books as one of my favorite summer movie seasons. Not only did I like most every movie I saw in the theaters this year, I really liked the majority of them. Maybe I’m getting better at calibrating my expectations. Or maybe not. I found myself slightly disappointed with the indie horror scene in 2015. There were some great films released, sure. However, I found the year a little lacking in surprises.
Either way, I was left with an interesting year-end list. In the months between January 1st and December 31st, I saw 86 new releases, three shy of last year’s record. Below is THE LIST, ranking all of them, from most to least favorite. Give it a look and reflect on the year that was.
1. White God
Heart-wrenching and powerful tale about dogs, cruelty, and the healing power of love. The dog sequences are incredible, the film getting fantastic performances out of the talented animals. The human scenes tell a parallel story about acceptance and rebellion. The violent last act is surprisingly visceral. Intended as a political allegory, this is just as potent as a fable.
2. The Hateful Eight
Tarantino’s most political and brutal film. Despite its western setting, the script examines what “hate” means in modern terms. The super-wide framing gives a small story an epic scope. The ending is bitterly ironic. The cast is excellent, especially the unlikely friendship Sam Jackson and Walter Goggins form. In other words, another fantastic film from my favorite filmmaker.
3. It Follows
Tension builds and builds, leading to fantastic shocks, without letting up. The simple image of someone walking is packed with dread, creating an original threat. The ordinary setting roots the story while the pulsating musical score prepares the audience for the chills to come. Moreover, the director never cheats and story is full of meaning and complexity.
4. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
Out of all of the protagonists in 2015, I think I related most to sad, lonely, awkward Kumiko. The world’s inability to understand her and her quest for a special meaning via her treasure hunt, is beautifully brought to life by Rinko Kikuchi’s touching, subtle performance. The film’s sad story is heightened by eccentric humor. The ending is incredibly cathartic. And Bunzo is awesome.
5. The Voices
Shows life through the eyes of a schizophrenic serial killer. This leads to funny moments, mostly thanks to the talking animals. When we cut to reality as it is, the film becomes effectively grim. Ryan Reynolds is brilliant and the supporting cast is full of great actresses. Equals parts funny, devastatingly sad, and horrifying, it wraps up with a beautifully cathartic conclusion.
6. Inside Out
Does a surprisingly good job of encapsulating the complexity of the human mind. The characters are lovable and the jokes are frequently hilarious. Typically, Pixar creates an imaginative world full of interesting aspects. Mostly, the story will tug at your heart strings, providing keen insight into the young mind during a crisis and making the case for sadness.
7. Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller still has it. Essentially a two-hour car chase, powered by a pulsing sense of energy that rarely lets up on the action and mayhem. A fascinating world full of weird detail is created. Yet the film engages with some interesting themes of masculinity and feminism. Furiosa and Immortan Joe are already rightfully cult icons. I wish Max himself was given more to do.
8. The Nightmare
Terrifying exploration of sleep paralysis. The recreations of the nightmares are disturbing, with a home-made quality. I like the way it connects pop culture and Jungian archetypes to the subject matter. Like Ascher’s previous film, he lets each interviewee speak for themselves, so this wanders into some woo-y territories. It’s a cliché but: Good luck sleeping after seeing this one.
9. Turbo Kid
Delightful, intentionally retro, hilarious riff on the post-apocalyptic genre. The gore is so over-the-top that it pushes past “Monty Python” territory. Yet the production design is surprisingly good. Mostly, it’s the sense of heart that makes this lovable. You really want to see the Kid and Apple – the Manic Robot Dream Girl for a new generation – run off together.
10. What We Do in the Shadows
Makes the case that being a vampire would be awfully inconvenient. This is a consistently hilarious comedy, many of the laughs coming from incredibly talented cast. Many of the gags – like the Swearwolves, the identity of the Beast, and Stu – pay off brilliantly. An immediate cult favorite because of its brilliant, this is one I suspect movie fans will be quoting for years to come.
Beautifully melancholic tale about an alienated man struggling to find connection. The stop-motion animation is a fantastically deployed gimmick, used to give everyone but the two main characters the same faces and voices. When the titular Lisa appears, it affects the audience as much as it does Michael. The romance is gorgeously created, bittersweet and touching.
THREE AND A HALF STARS:
12. The Martian
Ultimately, this is two movies. The first, about Matt Damon surviving on Mars, features his best performance in years and is equally funny and perilous. The second, about the scientist trying to save him, is nearly as good. Though slightly dry, the excellent ensemble cast helps keep it interesting. The tone remains light but exciting, proving why this was such a crowd-pleaser.
13. Crimson Peak
I’m predisposed to love this. A full-fledged homage to gothic melodrama, del Toro’s latest is gorgeous. The sets are phenomenal. The color, emphasizing the mansion’s coldness and Edith’s warmth, is impressive. The only disappointments are the ghosts, which are overly reliant on jump scares. Of course, since this is del Toro, it’s not the ghosts that are the monsters but the people.
14. Ex Machina
Three strong performances anchor a story about uncertain alliances. The sci-fi story, which can be read as a typical robotic revolt story or a feminist metaphor, builds suspense by making the audience wonder whom the main character can trust. The direction and music are both chillily detached, creating an unnerving atmosphere that pays off with the bloody ending.
15. Jurassic World
Prepare for an unprecedented amount of dino-carnage. Which moment was better? Starlord and his squadron of charming raptors? The pterodactyl rampage? The spectacular Mosasaur? Or the three-way dinosaur battle? The script has some minor issues and the Indominous Rex is perhaps overdone as a threat. There was a reason this was the popcorn event of the summer though.
16. The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Refreshingly comic book-y in its storyline. There’s so much plot here – something is always being thrown at the viewer – but the movie trusts the audience to keep up. Even with hordes of massive action sequences, the film still takes time for some slow-paced character moments. James Spader’s Ultron is a delightful villain and Hawkeye actually makes himself useful.
17. The Final Girls
A hugely likable pair of leading ladies gets you in the door. The movie does more then just mock slasher clichés. It ramps the genre up for silly laughs. While there is plenty of humor, what makes this truly good is that it actually has a heart. There’s an effecting mother/daughter drama under the goofball humor and meta-parody. The only problem is… Why is it rated PG-13?
Krampus makes a triumphant screen debut. Despite its horrific content, the film is sincerely about the spirit of the season. It packs in the holiday horror action. Though the titular creature is slightly disappointing, the killer toys and evil gingerbread men are awesome. The reliance on practical effects is admirable. A solid cast is the bow on this twisted Christmas gift.
19. The Boy
Slow-burn psychological thriller about the effects of loneliness on a young boy. The cast is incredible and the film takes its time to develop their world and personality. The film slowly becomes more menacing, developing a suffocating tone of dread, building towards an inevitable act of violence. A very impressive debut from its director, screenwriter, and most of its cast.
Emphasizing comedy over horror, this zom-com has an extraordinarily funny cast. They have no problem juggling the hilarious, absurdist dialogue. As a variation on the zombie premise, it has some fun playing with the subgenre’s rules. If it had been any longer, it probably wouldn’t have been able to sustain the fun, poppy energy it has.
21. Cop Car
Cutting between the quasi-comic adventures of two tween boys and a psychotic cop covering his murderous tracks makes for an interesting contrast. The boys are realistic and hilarious. Kevin Bacon is terrifying as the committed villain. When the two plot threads meet, “Cop Car” becomes an intense thriller and an unlikely battle of wits. A really likable, well-made indie.
Moody but still occasionally funny Bond adventure. The subtext about surveillance or tying Bond’s previous enemies together doesn’t quite work. SPECTRE is reintroduced nicely and Christophe Waltz is a fine Blofeld. Craig and Lea Seydoux have winning chemistry. The action is predictably explosive. If this is indeed Craig’s final Bond film, it’s a satisfying one.
Grisly, pitch black horror-comedy that spins its one note premise into some creepy body horror, producing a decent mythology around the titular clown. Many sequences are equally funny and dark, building towards a fantastic sequence in a kids play-pen. The final act has the film transforming into an old-school, supremely satisfying monster movie.
24. The Hallow
Intense Irish monster movie puts an interesting spin on the fearsome fey concept. The monsters, a cross between trees and insects, make an impression. The body horror element is strong, especially once the main character becomes infected. Tension rises during a number of well-orchestrated scenes, such as a hand reaching through a floorboard or an endangered baby in a car.
25. The Good Dinosaur
Took me a while to figure out that this is essentially a frontier survival story WITH DINOSAURS. The animation is gorgeous. Pixar is unafraid to go to intense places. Arlo and Spot’s relationship is touching and funny. The story is episodic, the protagonists bouncing from encounter to encounter. A dream sequence is a little too on the nose as well.
Quirky found-footage thriller that has fun slowly revealing the psychosis of its central character. Mark Duplass is a compellingly off-putting and oddly funny villain. The movie generates some decent spookiness, like in one nighttime scene. Some of its other reveals are more successfully strange, like Peach Fuzz. The movie even seems to be mildly mocking the found footage genre.
At first, the chilly tone alienated me. However, as Carol’s struggle to reclaim her daughter in an intolerant age comes into focus, the film gets better. The gentle romance between the two leads slowly drew me in. The production design, music, and direction are all as beautiful as you’d expect. Rooney Mara is fantastic but Cate Blanchett is far too melodramatic for my taste.
Destined to become a horror fan favorite. Exist comfortably within the minds of its adolescent protagonists, with everything that implies. The film has a keen understanding of the metal genre. The cast is obviously having a blast and all the actors have fantastic chemistry together. The gory monster effects are perfectly tuned with the outrageous sense of humor.
29. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Determined to please fans, which is both an attribute and a fault. It emulates “A New Hope” a bit too closely. Everything BB-8 does is amusing. Finn and Rey are great addition to the universe, though I’m still not sold on Adam Driver. The original cast are well handled, Chewie and Han given plenty to do. The commitment to practical effects is nice. Overall, it’s entertaining!
30. Knock Knock
Though it’s tempting to interpret this movie as either a feminist or sexist statement, in truth Eli Roth is fucking with his audience in much the same way the two femme fatales fuck with Keanu. A cruel psychological thriller with the heart of a sleazy exploitation film and moments of absurd comedy, this beautifully shot and theatrically acted flick is sure to leave people talking.
31. Digging Up the Marrow
Presents a fascinating mythology, about underground tunnels populated with monsters. The scribe of that mythology is played brilliantly by Ray Wise. The film walks a fine line between laughing at and being intrigued by this eccentric character. When the latex monsters appear, they’re quite startling. The mockumentry presentation is mostly a gimmick though an unobtrusive one.
32. Kingsman: The Secret Service
Rarely have I been this split on a movie. The politics are definitely problematic, the script slips up a few times, and Mark Millar’s trendy nihilism rears its ugly head. On the other hand, Matthew Vaughn still has an unparalleled ability for entertaining action scenes, the cast is lots of fun, and the soundtrack is perfectly in tune with the film’s tone. I guess that evens out to three stars?
33. Hungry Hearts
Intense thriller built around two performances. Alba Rohrwacher is totally convinced of her character’s crazy beliefs. Adam Driver, meanwhile, is likable for the first time. An infant’s life is at risk, very high stakes for a character-based drama. Though the conflict is frighteningly plausible, the script eventually overheats with melodrama. The climax is especially preposterous.
34. The Peanuts Movie
Adorably translates Schultz’ style into 3-D. By building a story around Charlie Brown’s mission to impress the Red-Headed Girl, it dispels the episodic aspects of the specials. Snoopy’s fantasy sequences don’t contribute to the story but they’re still damn cute. Though it could’ve been more melancholy, the film still captures the heart and humor we associate so closely with the brand.
Pulpy, incredibly bloody, and slightly sarcastic action thriller. Salma Hyack is a capable action heroine, leaping, bouncing, and shooting through what is essentially a live action anime. This becomes apparent as the story involves in more outrageous, sadistic directions. Yet there’s some heart and even a brief poetry in this gory comic book of a flick, making for a satisfying viewing.
Depressing father/daughter drama that happens to be about zombies and star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie and Abigail Breslin both give fine performances. The movie bleakly captures a world at the tail-end of a zombie apocalypse. Though slow moving, all the talk of death builds towards an emotional catharsis in the final act.
Funny riff on a typical Marvel superhero story. Paul Rudd’s effortless charm, a handful of fun supporting parts, and a genuinely touching love of family roots this one in reality. The size-shifting sequence provides plenty of interesting visuals. The gimmick also makes the action scenes dynamic and amusing. Lastly, the movie is willing to get surprisingly weird in its last act.
38. Tales of Halloween
Like all anthologies, this is uneven. The movie begins with its weakest, most mean-spirited stories. Bousman’s and Gierasch’s segments are dire. Things pick up in the second half. “This Means War” and “Friday the 31st” are both hilarious and the last two sequences aren’t bad either. Funnier and more ghoulish fun then the other indie anthologies we’ve seen recently.
39. Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau
When you hear insane behind-the-scenes stories like this, it’s a miracle any movie gets made. Richard Stanley’s original ideas sound interesting and deeply noncommercial. Watching the production fall apart is interesting but it’s the insane antics of the eccentrics involved – like an asshole Val Kilmer, a trolling Marlon Brando, and a fucking wizard – that makes this fascinating.
Dysfunctional family drama wrapped up in a conspiracy horror/thriller. The direction is showy yet there’s still some horrific jolts. The stagey setting creates a creeping atmosphere. Mostly, it’s the cast that makes this worth seeing. Brian Morvant seems genuinely crazy while Lauren Ashley Carter continues to establish herself as a prime scream queen. The ending is a bummer though.
41. Jupiter Ascending
The Wachowski create an insanely detailed sci-fi world. Obviously intended as an on-going comic or a TV series, the script has to parse a huge universe into a two-hour movie. This leads to a complex back-story and a plot that misses a few beats. But the gorgeous special effects, imaginative world, boundless ambitions, and fun craziness make the film a good time.
42. Absolutely Anything
At times, you see glimpses of Python-esque absurdity, such as the aliens having girly names. Other scenes are a lighter brand of comedy, like Pegg creating his ideal body. The romantic comedy scenes are routine though Simon Pegg and Kate Beckinsale have nice chemistry. Robin Williams’ talking dog adds some effervescent fun, especially with that tidy ending.
Chappie is adorable, an innocent learning about his own potential. His relationship with his make-shift family is surprisingly sweet. When focused on action, this is less successful. Die Antwoord are unappealing. Blomkamp wears his influences, including “Short Circuit” and “RoboCop,” on his sleeves. Hugh Jackman’s villain is grotesquely cartoonish. An uneven but interesting film.
44. Terminator Genisys
Makes complete mince meat of the mythology, via a convoluted and sometimes confusing storyline. Human Quaalude Jai Courtney is typically bland. However, old Arnold is fun. Emilia Clarke is inspired casting. The action is ludicrously fun, the comic relief is well deployed, and the mechanical threat is a clever special effects creation. I liked it!
Fun throwback to fifties big bug flicks as filtered through gooey eighties creature features. The giant, killer wasps are memorably twisted and the body horror elements work especially well. The reliance on practical effects is nice, though even the CGI is pretty good. The leads are likable and the humor is fun, without being flippant. The ending definitely goes on for too long.
46. The Visit
M. Night adapts so thoroughly to found footage that, aside from his bizarre dialogue, you can’t even tell he directed this. The actors playing the psycho grandparents are creepy. Thanks to them, this relatively typical found footage flick builds towards some good tension in the last act. I appreciate the attempt to incorporate a real theme into the film but it’s a little ham-fisted.
47. Dude Bro Party Massacre III
Exceedingly bizarre parody of eighties slasher films and frat movies. Many of the gags are brilliant, in a weird way. Such as the commercial breaks, the bag of oranges running joke, the celebrity cameos, the over-the-top death scenes, dancing robots, puppies, and ghostly conclusion. Yet it’s so uninterrupted in its weirdness that it’s an exhausting watch.
48. Final Girl
Handsomely photographed mash-up of the “slasher” and “teen girl assassin” genres. The artistic direction pairs well with an exaggerated script. The set-up is suspenseful. Abigail Breslin is better than the actors around her. It’s satisfying watching the prepared heroine turn the table on her would-be tormentors. The hallucinations are distracting, pushing too far into a weird zone.
49. Ricki and the Flash
Either Jonathan Demme softened Diablo Cody’s script or she’s maturing as a writer. The character interaction is honest and thoughtful. The dialogue is only occasionally in-your-face. The romance between Meryl Streep and Rick Springfield proves more interesting than the family drama. Somehow, the ending still feels earned, putting an emotionally sweet bow on the flick.
50. Extraordinary Tales
As a psychological examination of Poe, this comes up short. As an anthology flick, it has the clever idea of maintaining the text. The animation styles are varied, creating creepy, interesting, or pretty images. The “Tell-Tale Heart” and “M. Vladimir” segments are especially impressive. The celebrity narration, including an archive recording of Bela Lugosi, is a clever gimmick.
51. Z for Zachariah
Low-key post-apocalyptic tale with a quiet but nuanced human heart. Margot Robie’s earthy performance anchors the film while Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine play off her nicely. The focus isn’t on the circumstances of the apocalypse or the daily routine of survival but rather on the characters. The film slowly drawls you into its focused, sad world.
52. The Editor
Spoof of giallos that sacrifices laugh-a-minute hilarity for spot-on accuracy of its chosen topic, nailing the color, dubbing, and soundtrack. Even for a spoof, the plot meanders to odd places. Not to say there aren’t any laughs. Many of gags, about fingers or a probably gay actor, are hilarious. A tone of comedic wildness is maintained throughout, up to the amusingly nutty ending.
Could’ve been subtitled “Reasons I’ll Never Go Camping.” The script does an above-average job of making its characters, especially the idiot boyfriend who’s responsible for everything that goes wrong, seem human. Despite the shaky-cam direction, the bear attacks are still riveting and intense. Though it generates some scares, the movie seemingly trails off in its last third.
54. Slow West
Visually impressive western with a quirky cast and laid-back pacing. Kodi Smit-McPhee gives a truly off-beat performance as the boy that saves the soul of an amoral gunfighter. The film focuses on the price of violence, as none of its gunfights are clean, quick, or dignified. I also like how it shows the diversity of the west, with many different accents putting in an appearance.
TWO AND A HALF STARS:
Frustratingly uneven. There are moments of exciting, sweeping sci-fi vistas. The cast is good. Britt Robertson and Raffey Cassidy could honestly become forces to be reckoned with. On the other hand, the violence is mean-spirited. The action scenes feel like they’re from a different movie. Despite its message of optimism, the filmmakers come off as hopelessly grumpy old men.
Off-beat hybrid of body horror and mumblecore romance. The progression from drama to horror works nicely. Seeing the protagonist integrate himself with the Italian setting is interesting. Both leads are good. The premise allows for many different monstrous transformations. However, the script’s desire to justify its own mythology with convoluted science slogs down the last third.
57. Bone Tomahawk
They say it’s the journey, not the destination that matters. That’s certainly true in “Bone Tomahawk,” a horror/western hybrid that takes its time getting to the action. Yet this provides opportunities for the excellent cast to work with their eccentric characters. When the horror emerges, it’s brutal. Patient fans of either genre will probably find something worthwhile here.
58. Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story
Feature adaptation of a creepy web-series has some spooky tricks up its sleeve. For every effective jolt, it deploys one of those tactics – like jump scares or video distortion – a few times too many. I wish the subtext about addiction or surveillance was expanded on. It’s definitely too long, with several superfluous scenes. It earns points for that Angus Scrimm cameo though.
59. Dark Places
Despite having a loaded cast and being based on a best seller, this grim thriller went direct-to-video. Yeah, the plot is a bit convoluted. The reveal of a second killer comes out of nowhere. The film climaxes with a fizzle. Still, the actors work well, especially Charlize Theron’s gritty turn. The mystery kept me involved. The themes, of memory and forgiveness, are incorporated well.
60. A Christmas Horror Story
The lesser of 2015’s holiday horror offerings. The decision to interweave the stories prevents any of the tales from building up momentum. The haunted school story is full of clichés and lacking in Christmas scenery. The Krampus sequence has a weak ending but a decent middle. The Santa story is repetitive but the twist caught me off-guard. William Shatner’s framing device is fun.
Many undeniably typical Oscar-bait elements, like a voice-over narration or a touchy-feely ending, conflict with quirkier aspects, such as the soap opera framing device or obnoxiously off-beat family members. Jennifer Lawrence’s feisty performance and a handful of powerful moments helps elevate what is otherwise the latest mediocre David O. Russell movie.
62. We Are Still Here
Slow-paced ghost story that mixes a self-involved mythology with a message about grief and accepting death. Long scenes of character development and creeping tension pay off in intense violence. The cast is capable but the script is far too vague, not allowing any actor much room for growth. The overly ambiguous last act is frustrating. I really liked the ghost make-up.
Starts strongly, ends weakly. The young cast is talented and there’s some inspired, gory violence. The forest setting is well shot. By introducing multiple killers, the film negates its own gimmick. Once it becomes a survival story, the movie starts to drag. The nihilistic ending is very disappointing. A scene involving a dog is also very disturbing and not in a good way.
Adds enough quirky, whimsical elements to the typical kids’ movie formula to prevent being totally forgettable. Instead, it lingers happily in the brain for a few minutes. There’s plenty of quasi-comic CGI mayhem, as you’d expect. The cast, both the characters and the actors, are way better then you’d expect though. Parents won’t totally hate this one, is what I guess I’m saying.
65. The Ladies of the House
If we’re supposed to hate the obnoxious male victims, why does the movie play their plight for suspense? If we’re supposed to root for the female cannibals, why are their antics so extreme? Aside from the unsure gender politics, the direction, music, and torture sequences are routine. Which is a shame, as the cast is talented and there are a handful of poetic moments.
66. Harbinger Down
Extended homage to “The Thing” that features some cool creature effects and a nicely gravelly Lance Henriksen performance. The icy location is well utilized. The characters aren’t very memorable. The script construction is totally route. However, there’s something to be said for a humble monster-fest like this, even if the film fades from memory minutes after watching it.
When focusing on being a Halloween-themed home invasion thriller, this works fairly well. The heroine is memorable and the director knows how to engineer tense set-pieces. However, too often the script collapses into weirdness-for-weirdness’ sake abstraction, preventing this from being a truly satisfying horror experience.
68. Lost River
The sequences starring Christina Hendricks, set in a hellish night club, create some fascinating images. I couldn’t care less about the other plot, about her son surviving a post-apocalyptic southern town. The visual design, music, and cast are impressive but director Ryan Gosling is too obviously indebted to other directors. Eventually, this one dissolves into a pretentious slog.
69. The Human Centipede III
Tom Six’s fecal-fascinated franchise fully transforms into gross-out comedy. The movie is essentially critic-proof, as its only goal is to disgust. It succeeds, of course. The “satire” of the prison system is childish but least it has a sense of humor about itself. Dieter Laser’s utterly insane performance is the only reason to watch. Truly, the “Citizen Kane” of shit eating movies.
Makes the mistake many horror remakes do, assuming that just copying the original but with updated effects will be enough. This remake seems ignorant of the original’s subtext and tries, unsuccessfully, to flip it in a new direction about home ownership. The cast, Sam Rockwell especially, does good work. However, the movie spins its wheel with an unnecessary extra act.
71. Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’
Since I haven’t watch anything “Dragon Ball” related in a decade, I’m not sure how to respond to this. The comic relief is baffling. The constant build-up to bigger and bigger fight scenes is tedious. I only have so much patience for the formulas of shows like this, these days. I was bored frequently, proving I’ve definitely outgrown this series. The animation is pretty though.
72. Suburban Gothic
Richard Bates Jr.’s disappointing follow-up to “Excision” saddles itself with an obnoxious main character. Most of the characters are obnoxious, for that matter. Which is a shame, since the dialogue is actually sharp and frequently funny. This is in contrast with the jokes themselves, which are juvenile. The storyline is generic, with little interesting or novel about it.
73. The Green Inferno
Eli Roth’s recycled cannibal cruelty seemingly doesn’t have a point. Beyond some unfocused criticism at college activists, this is mostly a confused act of homage to a long deceased Italian genre. None of the characters are distinct and the gore is sickening. The ending is muddled, throwing in a dumb jump scare and a sequel hook. The cannibals getting high was kind of funny.
74. Goodnight Mommy
Who is creepier, the faceless mother or the weirdly synchronized twin boys? Unfortunately, this Austrian thriller is too chilly for its own good. The pace is agonizingly slow and there’s no music. The script turns in various unsatisfying ways, eventually building towards explicit violence. It wraps up with an incredibly lame twist ending, solidifying the disappointing whole.
75. The Lobster
At first, this eccentric comedy functions as an interesting allegory for being single. The early scenes in the hotel are interesting. However, the script eventually wanders off on unrelated tangents. Combined with the overly mannered dialogue, dawdling pacing, and annoying musical score, not even a pudgy Colin Ferriall and Rachel Weiz rambling bout anal sex can save this.
76. Tremors 5: Bloodlines
Neither of the series creators where involved with this, which is all too obvious. It’s cool to see Burt Gummer back in action but the script doesn’t entirely respect him. The monsters are all entirely CGI and given charmless redesigns. Though the trademark humor is intact, mostly thanks to Jaime Kennedy, sometimes this feels too much like a typical monster movie.
77. Area 51
Oren Peli’s long delayed follow-up to “Paranormal Activity” is unextraordinary in every way. The characters are all stock parts and the film takes far too long to arrive at the titular location. The finale features some interesting visual yet yields zero answers. The rest of it is filled to the brim with the found footage clichés we’re all sick of, including the abrupt ending.
Surreal horror film set in the world of dreams. Many of the images, such as the equine villain or an underwater sequence, are striking. The story remains inscrutable, the direction is sometimes annoying, and some scenes produce laughs. The pregnancy/mother imagery doesn’t seem to have much purpose. Maybe this would make more sense if I took a dream analysis course…
79. Fantastic Four
During the first act, I thought “This isn’t so bad!” The relationship between the cast is fairly solid and some of the variations on the mythology are interesting. Once everyone gets their powers, it falls apart. Why are they working for the military? Mr. Fantastic’s stretching still looks awful on-screen. Kate Mara is barely conscious. And the film screws up Dr. Doom beyond recognition.
80. Da Sweet Blood of Jesus
Glacially paced and excessively arty, Spike Lee’s vampire story addresses themes of black heritage, addiction, Christianity, fluid female sexuality, and more. The film never coherently focuses on one idea. Stilted dialogue, wooden performances, and a distracting musical score makes this another ambitious but horribly unfocused movie.
81. Night of the Living Deb
For every decent zombie comedies, it seems like there’s ten crappy ones. Every character in this movie is annoying, from the titular Deb on down. The movie’s attempts at comedy are frequently forced and lame. The script has no drive, the plot flopping around in search of a point. The final reveal, concerning how the virus is spread, is mildly clever.
ONE AND A HALF STARS:
82. The Vatican Tapes
Who would’ve thought that one of the guys who made the “Crank” movies could crap out something this dull? There’s very little of that manic energy here, save one scene involving rioting mental patients. Soon enough, this devolves into dreary exorcism movie clichés and overblown CGI before ending on one of more unpromising sequel hooks I’ve seen recently.
83. Apartment Troubles
Amazingly lacking in entertainment value. The characters are insufferable, floating around on whims. The supporting cast is nothing but abrasive quirks. The plot lacks motivation, bouncing from random encounters. The script is incredibly uncertain about the lesbian aspect. It’s a shame as the cast is talented and there’s an occasional nice moment, such as the poetry reading.
84. Barely Lethal
“Barely Lethal” is right, as the action in this is anemic. The movie claims to parody the high school comedy genre but it actually plays all the clichés totally straight. Most of the cast seems embarrassed, even the usually shameless Samuel L. Jackson. Except for Jessica Alba who is amazingly awful as the villain. Oh, when will we get the teen girl assassin movie we deserve?
Doesn’t really utilize its ridiculous premise that well. The beavers only cut down a tree once! The characters are obnoxious and intensely unlikable. For an intentionally absurd film, the script frequently takes the characters’ romantic bullshit drama seriously. There’s actually very few jokes, as the movie seems to think its knowingly silly premise is enough. It’s not.
86. Burying the Ex
Maybe not the worst movie I saw this year but definitely the one I hated the most. The characters are obnoxious, especially the slob brother who somehow sleeps with models. The script is built upon sexist garbage, of a bitch girlfriend who restrains her boyfriend’s fun. Most of the “humor” is lame puns. Joe Dante should be ashamed and Alexandra Daddario deserves better.
If you've waded through all of that, thank you. I know just presenting a general "best of" or "worst of" or "year in review" article would be easier. That's not how I function. I've been presenting these huge retrospectives for a while now. It's a testament to how many hours I spent plugged into a movie screen every year. That's important to me.
Return tomorrow for Film Thoughts' 2016 Preview, in which I'll discuss the stuff coming next year that I'm excited for. Thanks so much for reading. Let's toast to the year past and the one before us.