2015 Movies That Were Worse Than I Expected
In an ideal world, I’d post this in a month. But things get busy around here from mid-December until the end of February. Every day is thoroughly accounted for. So here we are. Fortunately I’m just labeling the films as “better” or “worse” and not getting too technical about it. So I feel okay about still having two weeks left to see a handful of films (which means no, sadly The Force Awakens has no chance of appearing on either of these articles). There’s still enough others to talk about.
The purpose of these articles is very simple: I preview a lot of movies each year, and I’m very good about gauging what my reaction to them will be. Most movies will fall within a reasonable margin of my expectations for them. Some, however, do not. And that is why we are here.
Of the many films I see throughout the year, it becomes very clear to me which of them ended up defying the expectations I had for them going in. It’s not a “slightly better” kind of deal. These movies were either tangibly better or worse than I thought they would be.
We begin with the films of 2015 that disappointed me based on my expectations for them:
Regardless of his recent track record (did that zoo go into foreclosure?), a Cameron Crowe movie brings about expectations. The man has made some great movies. And he got Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray to be in it. You’d think that combination is too good to fail. And yet… this movie. We all expected it to be terrible, but the fact that it was terrible still remains one of the biggest disappointments of 2015.
2. American Ultra
The premise is great. The trailer made it even seem moderately fun. I allowed my expectations to be raised for this. And then — generic. Not even that fun. Not well written, not well directed. Just a disappointment all around. If I went with my initial instincts, this wouldn’t be here, but the movie made it seem like it was gonna be better than it was.
Michael Mann. Even on a bad day, Michael Mann movies are watchable. Even his “bad” movies are Miami Vice and Public Enemies, which have positive aspects to them. You don’t expect him to make a movie that’s out and out dogshit. This movie is almost unwatchable. People forgot about this because it came out back in January. And even though it had all the signs of being bad, a Michael Mann movie should not be this terrible and generic. It just shouldn’t. I’m not letting this off the hook because they quietly dumped it in January. This was an abomination.
4. By the Sea
I’m not gonna shit on the quality of this film. It is what it is, and it’s aptly made and they try to turn it into something good. That said, it’s still a disappointment. Jolie and Pitt doing a movie together, her directing — you have to figure a certain amount of quality. And the fact that it wasn’t that at all, and the best you can say about it is, “It looks nice, and they’re putting in work,” it can’t be considered anything other than a disappointment.
The amount of fucking trailers I saw for this movie from October through March. I got exactly what I was expecting to get going in. But this is still a disappointment for me for two reasons. First, the premise is so good. It’s Pinocchio but with a robot. And you can make such statements with it, and make such a beautiful movie. And this movie isn’t interested in any of that. All the interesting parts are fast-forwarded through and this turns into a mindless action movie by the end of the first act. And the second reason this is a disappointment, the main reason, is Neil Blomkamp. District 9 is a pretty good movie. He showed promise. And then his last two movies started off with terrific premises. And then he just ends up doing the same thing over and over again and seems incapable of growing as a filmmaker. And that’s a real shame. He had a chance to prove that Elysium was just a misfire and a sophomore slump, and instead he went right back to the same things that didn’t work the other times. I’m disappointed that he seems either unwilling or unable to see the flaws in what he does.
I’m not even gonna make a “tell the truth” joke. This movie had all the signs, or I guess symptoms, of a good movie. It actually made me go, “Oh, Will Smith is going to try to go back to good movies for a change.” No. He didn’t. This is a complete misfire of a film. The whole thing is paper thin. He looks for answers as to why this former player went crazy despite being seemingly healthy, and nearly everyone around him is basically a moustache twirl shy of being a fucking villain. But fine. That’s kind of what this story is. But then, a love story? Why do we get 30 minutes of this movie dedicated to him meeting his wife? Which, by the way, seems scarily like an arranged marriage. This isn’t Johnny Cash and June Carter. This is Dr. Bennett Omalu. Do we care about his personal life? The only thing we care about is that he’s the dude who found this concussion disorder that’s bringing about major controversy within the NFL. They made some really bizarre decisions with this one, and I thought there was no way this could go wrong. And yet, here we are.
7. Fantastic Four
This speaks for itself. Even if our expectations for this weren’t very high, there is no rhyme or reason why a movie with Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara should be this bad. None. This whole thing is so unfocused and boring, and mistakes were made across the board here, and after a while it looks like they just stopped caring or trying to make it better. The real disappointment is how badly they wasted this cast.
8. Jem and the Holograms
Yeesh. I can’t say I thought it would be good going in. But for some inexplicable reason, I guessed this would be a 3.5 star movie back in January. Somehow I got excited for this. Don’t know why, but that’s what happened. And because of that, I have to list this here. Because technically, this was worse than I expected. They’re outdated expectations, but they are documented expectations. So when I put out my list at the end of the month where I talk about the films that I guessed at least a full star or more off from what I actually thought about the films (almost all of which will be on this list or yesterday’s list), this will be on there.
9. Jupiter Ascending
Another one we all went into expecting it to not be good. But it’s the Wachowskis, and you’d at least expect them to make something partially worthwhile. They haven’t made an out and out disaster yet. Until now, of course. Their last two movies were Cloud Atlas and Speed Racer. I love both of those. And yet, even though this movie had all the signs of disaster, you had to figure there was no way these two (like Cameron Crowe, like Michael Mann) couldn’t make something that bad. And when they did, this was a lock for this list. This has to be considered one of the top disappointments of 2015 by everyone.
Another one people are going to ignore because it came out so early. We all should have been prepared for it when they dumped it in January, but even so, if you can’t get anything out of that cast (Depp, Paltrow, Bettany, McGregor, Munn, Goldblum), you have to be considered a disappointment.
Top five disappointment for the year for me. What was this? I thought Joe Wright would elevate the material, but this movie, despite being moderately fun, made me wonder why they made it. Why is Captain Hook Indiana Jones? Why is Tiger Lily a white woman? Why is Hook about to have sex with Tiger Lily? What does that say about the kidnapping in the later story? Why are all the pirates singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Blitzkrieg Bop”? Why is this story even being told? Why did they spend so much money on it? Why are WWII planes firing at flying pirate ships? I don’t know what this was supposed to be, and was so, so utterly disappointed with this, I considered for a long second making this an Unforgivable.
12. Paper Towns
This is me being deluded, but I have to cop to it. The Fault in Our Stars looked like another bullshit Walk to Remember type movie, but it was actually kind of fun. And that, coupled with the synopsis of this story, and what the story was actually supposed to be about, made me think this could transcend the typical bullshit YA story. And then it just turned out to not be that at all. The part about the girl next door coming into your room, dressed like a ninja takes all of five seconds and happens way too late in the story. And then the reveal of why she’s missing isn’t at all what I thought it was or should be. And maybe that’s my fault for lightly reading a synopsis once and letting my imagination run with it, but still, in terms of movies that disappointed the shit out of me this year, this is definitely one of them. I still think someone could make a great movie out of this story if they tried. But as it stands, I tricked myself into thinking this could be good, and got a movie that embraced everything I hate about the YA genre.
Oh, absolutely one of the biggest disappointments of the year for me. Here’s a potential Oscar type story. And it turns into an overdone, melodramatic, no tricks up its sleeve, generic boxing movie. They fucking tell you McAdams gets killed in the trailer! And then the villain of the story is kind of forced. And then the drug angle… I don’t really care about that. I’m supposed to be interested in the character, and instead I feel like I’m being forced a TV narrative. Which might just be the fact that a TV writer wrote this and the director wasn’t strong enough to overcome that. But even so, I thought this movie could have been great. And I got something that was forced. Gyllenhaal is trying too hard, the narrative isn’t there. A huge, huge disappointment.
I think we all felt this one. It’s not that it’s a terrible movie. I actually enjoyed it. It’s just that — you had a movie that could have been great. A movie that had a lot of secrecy and excitement about it going in. And then you see it, and… they spent all this money, on that? There’s no story! The first two acts of this movie are the first act of most others. And the third act is this weird, preachy, environmental message mixed with, “We gotta fix the machine and press the button!” I really don’t know what happened here. This isn’t quite John Carter, but for the money they spent, you’d think maybe they’d try to shore up the story a little bit more. I think most of my disappointment is centered in the amount of money they spent on this. If this was just a $50 million movie, that would be one thing. But this was $190 million. And that’s just what they reported. Plus marketing. They barely made that back worldwide. That’s how much of a bomb this was. Needlessly, too. They didn’t need to spend all that money. And now everyone including the studio can consider this a major disappointment.
Because you’re rebooting a franchise that a lot of people love. You’re rebooting a franchise that, if you simply made a remake of it, could give you a decently watchable movie. Even though I expected I wouldn’t like the brand of comedy it was going to have, I thought at worse I’d end up going, “You know, whatever.” But holy shit, was this bad. This was really, really, really bad. And while I’m not disappointed in terms of expectations, I’m disappointed that they allowed a movie like this to be made. And we’ll likely find out the extent of that disappointment in two and a half weeks.
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Tomorrow is the last batch of reviews for the year before we start wrapping up 2015.