I caught more new releases in theaters in 2017 than any other year before. It ended up being a rather strong year for cinema, but even the best years have a few blemishes. Ahead of our lists highlighting some of the best stuff that we saw in 2017, I am going to share some of the less than good stuff that we had to sit through this year (or worst movies of 2017, if you want to generalize). It’s easier to celebrate only the best stuff out there, but it’s also worthwhile to note what Hollywood got wrong, in hopes that they will learn from their mistakes (yeah, right). Given, I didn’t get a chance to see everything that was released, so of course there are probably some films that came out that are even worse than the ones listed here, but that’s not an excuse for these failures.
Not to be entirely too cynical about it, I have split it up into two sections. The first is not films I think are necessarily bad, or the worst of the year, but rather, stuff that I found incredibly disappointing for either my own expectations or the hype surrounding it built by others and the industry at large. Here are some of those films that I hoped would be better than they were.
Most Disappointing Films Of 2017:
I should start off by making it clear that I didn’t hate Kingsman: The Golden Circle. In fact, I liked most of it. So why is it here, you ask? Well considering how great the first film was, this sequel was quite a disappointment that paled in comparison. It’s way too long and drags it out, lacks the cleverness and oomph of its predecessor, and I found Julianne Moore – who I normally adore – awful in this. Elton John was a cool in a cameo spot, but the joke got spread out way too thin. I could make a few nitpicks that you may or may not agree with, or care about, but overall, this one just lacked a lot of the heart and cleverness of the first Kingsman. Hopefully, they get it right with the next one.
Suburbicon is written by Coen Brothers, directed by George Clooney, and starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Oscar Isaac. I wouldn’t say I had sky-high expectations for this, but it seemed built for a dark ride of satire and success but what we were left with was a lifeless ride that thought it’s dark quirkiness was an excuse for a plot that continued to unravel every step of the way. There was really no character to align with aside from the young child in Nicky (Noah Jupe) and Oscar Isaac, who steals the show in the barely ten minutes that his character is in this film. You could do much worse than Suburbicon but the fact I am not singing the praises of a film built on this much talent is a huge problem.
I don’t think much more can really be added to the conversation about why Justice League didn’t work, but it’s still a bummer that DC and Warner Bros can’t get their shit together, especially when it comes to their own “Avengers picture,” a film that should’ve been an instant homerun that they could’ve hit with their eyes closed. The problem was, of course, they stuck with Zack Snyder until it was too late and only resorted to bringing in a fresh voice in Joss Whedon, but mainly because of the terrible and unthinkable tragedy that occurred with the Snyder family. The most frustrating part about Justice League is that there are some fun moments that show the possibilities of this franchise but it gets bogged down by sins of the past that make it feel more like a rough sketch of mini-trailers that feature the clashing tones of Snyder and Whedon. The fact that they just got it right with Wonder Woman is what makes its failure even more frustrating that this film is as forgettable as it’s villain.
This one hurts as it’s the second Damon-starring film in just this section alone (and we still got the worst films to go), but because there’s no reason I should be putting a film by Alexander Payne here. Payne, who has really done some great work in recent years with some mighty fine looks at humanity in the form of Nebraska, The Descendants, and Sideways returned this year with the Damon-starring Downsizing. A brilliant concept that starts off rather thoughtful and engaging suddenly loses itself with every step further. Instead of running away with this ingenious plot, the film pivots into a weird territory that lost me every step of the way. I also wasn’t as moved as others by Hong Chau’s performance, one that I found annoying and a bit offensive. The fact that she helps anchor the second half of Downsizing with Damon may be a reason why I just wanted the film to end way before its totally gratuitous run time of 135 minutes.
A concept that sounded interesting on the surface, The Circle clumsily looks at society’s reliance on technology and our love for oversharing. It starts out alright but loses its footing with each passing minute, until it’s borderline unintelligible and gets ridiculously out of hand. By its end, the only thing I remember from this is Tom Hanks’ utterance of “we’re so fucked,” which seemed to reach a meta-level about his involvement in this. Still hard to believe this was directed by James Ponsoldt who previously gave us The End Of The Tour and The Spectacular Now.
Going beyond the whitewashing issue of casting Scarlett Johansson as Major, Ghost In The Shell is a lifeless journey that felt as robotic as Johansson’s character. It was a dark endless bore that Rupert Sanders failed to inject any life into. It does have some beautiful visuals that a sci-fi film of this magnitude does, but it’s slow-mo action sequences weren’t enough to lift a plot that was navigated so lifelessly.
And now off to the worst of the worst, out of all the new releases that I caught in 2017, these were the real stinkers that left me in awe of just how wrong they got it.
The Worst Films Of 2017:
Well, apparently this wasn’t Matt Damon’s year. Let’s put aside the fact that Damon probably has no business leading the charge in a film about defending the Great Wall of China. But then again the film is a fantastical action flick about green monsters attacking the wall, so whatever. While director Yimou Zhang somewhat salvages this from being a complete disaster with some cool visuals, the cheesy plot and action did nothing for me. And what the hell was the point in casting the great Willem Dafoe in one of the most useless roles of the entire year? Thank god for The Florida Project …
It’s amazing that Goldie Hawn was snatched from retirement for this. The only genuine laughs I got from this was the ridiculous of Randall Park’s character in the opening and one ridiculous gag featuring Joan Cusack and Wanda Sykes. The rest of it deserves nothing but a viewing while blackout drunk at 4 a.m. on a Saturday night. I can’t believe Jonathan Levine, the same guy who made 50/50 and The Wackness, is behind this.
What could have been a fun, fucked up action film heavy on the camp, ended up being just a dumb excursion of super violence. It doesn’t help that The Belko Experiment is built to the brim with unlikable characters aside from our lead, played by John Gallagher Jr., who deserves much better than this. Surprised to see that this was written by James Gunn, but maybe in the hands of someone else than director Greg McLean this becomes a nutty ride worth taking.
A movie so bad, it almost becomes good when you step away from trying to sort out the madness and just take it in for all its spectacularly shitty glory. The Val Kilmer voiceover is a true disaster, but considering his battle with throat cancer, you can’t fault him for that. What I can’t overlook is the impossibly bad storytelling from Tomas Alfredson (who made Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Let The Right One In). No film with the likes of Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, J.K. Simmons, and Toby Jones should be at a direct to DVD level of bad. Man, what a mess.
A Bad Moms Christmas
The worst part about this is that I surprisingly had a good time with the first Bad Moms last year. A Bad Moms Christmas takes everything good about the first Bad Moms and strips it away leaving a hollow, unfunny movie that has no redeeming qualities. A total waste of time in every way, and it’s just the start. We will have another sequel on the way soon enough, if not an additional Bad Grandmas spinoff. Buckle in.
There was no need for a big screen remake of CHIPS, especially not with Dax Shepard behind the lens. But I went in to this hoping that maybe Michael Pena’s presence would be enough to balance off of Shepard and provide some silly laughs. Too bad this film is devoid of any earned laughs of any kind and is just an unfunny mess. I’d say it’s fine for a late night cable watch but that’s an insult to late night cable.
The Mummy is so bad it single-handily killed off Universal’s plan for their Dark Universe. Thank god, as The Mummy is easily one of the biggest misfires of the entire year. You know things are rough when you’re clamoring for Brendan Fraser. This version makes his 1999 version seem like a masterpiece. It’s almost impressive how much of a struggle it was to sit through this with a straight face. Annabelle Wallis arguably gives one of the worst performances of the year, but even our beloved Tommy isn’t much better. RIP Dark Universe, we hardly knew ya.