Pierce Brosnan, angels with bad agents, Marshall law, third purge’s the charm, Pierce Brosnan (again), French feline, trapped in a closet, purging for laughs, shades of Wayans, and De Niro makes a yacht payment.
These are the Worst Films of 2016.
It’s not like Robert De Niro hasn’t been in bad movies before. He’s been paycheck obsessed for decades now, but there’s a special kind of sadness when encountering De Niro trying to nail a performance that’s not meant for his brand of brood. “Dirty Grandpa” is a raunchy garbage, made without wit or concern for invention, and it truly represents the bottom of the career barrel for De Niro, who’s tasked with playing a grotesque creep of a man, with director Dan Mazer trusting the mere act of De Niro acting lewd will guarantee laughs. Little is expected of co-star Zac Efron, but De Niro should know better by now, walking through this dreadful feature dead-eyed and unwilling to challenge terrible filmmaking.
Somehow, the director of “A Good Day to Die Hard,” “Max Payne,” “The Omen” remake, and “Behind Enemy Lines” was allowed to make another movie, with “I.T.” being the expectedly dim-witted result. A stalker thriller starring Pierce Brosnan, the feature reheats every cliché in the book, with Moore piling on a crummy ideas until the picture completely asphyxiates in the third act. “I.T.” is moronic and tasteless, but it’s also thoroughly Moore, who doesn’t possess any sort of discernible filmmaking skill, always reaching for overkill, even during the simplest of scenes.
It’s troubling to realize that after a so-so directorial career, the last Garry Marshall movie would be his worst. “Mother’s Day” is autopilot work from Marshall (who passed away in 2016), laboring to sustain the financial success of his previous holiday-themed productions (“Valentine’s Day,” “New Year’s Eve”), but he’s especially tone-deaf here, managing a collection of lobotomized characters and sitcom-esque situations. “Mother’s Day” is meant to celebrate feminine spirit and the power of family, but it mostly triggers an outbreak of hives, with Marshall indulging his worst instincts when it comes to melodramatic manipulation and Facebook feed-inspired social commentary.
The only thing worse than a “Purge” sequel is a “Purge” parody. “Meet the Blacks” hopes to razz the murder spree concept, putting Mike Epps in charge of extended silliness, which focuses on crass humor and racial tensions, missing a chance to actually do something significant with a “Purge” pantsing. Director Deon Taylor is clueless, turning to fart jokes and last-minute ADR work to fit in unbearable humor. “Meet the Blacks” is surprisingly leaden for such a wacky endeavor, wasting time on the obvious and the inane when something darker and more demented was required.
“Nine Lives” was marketed as a family film about an overworked father who’s magically transformed into a cat to help reconnect with his estranged family. The actual movie wasn’t nearly as cuddly, mixing near-death situations with messages on the toxic nature of bullying, while feline antics include the ingestion of alcohol. That “Nine Lives” is a French production only answers a few questions about the feature, which is directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, helping him maintain one of the most uneven professional track records in the business. Teeming with puns, inert drama, and a loathsome performance from star Kevin Spacey, “Nine Lives” arrives with good intentions, but nothing even remotely works.
Apparently, the only thing worse than “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a parody of “Fifty Shades of Grey” that stars Marlon Wayans. Emboldened by dwindling box office returns for his two “Haunted House” efforts, Wayans suits up to take a shot at “Grey” with this insufferable parody. It’s just awful, but the feature does conveniently summarize Wayans’s tired, cheap brand of humor and habitual need to stick with bawdiness just to fill 90 minutes. Aggressively odious and short on cleverness, “Fifty Shades of Black” doesn’t even inspire a chuckle. It’s DOA, making one long for the unintentional comedy of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
It’s not impossible to predict where writer/director James DeMonaco is headed with his “Purge” franchise, slowly covering the erosion of U.S. morality and order under corrupt leadership. But does his provocative premise have to be routinely subjected to amateurish filmmaking? DeMonaco would like everyone to believe he’s making a powerful statement on politics and perverted patriotism, but he’s really crafting junky B-movies that highlight cringe-worthy performances, hideous cinematography, and on-the-nose screenwriting. Some look at “The Purge” and see a nightmarish warning of future events. I look at “The Purge” series and wonder why DeMonaco seems terrified of true exploitation release, fumbling statements instead of sharpening cheap thrills.
Attempting to combine cutesy antics with real-world pain, “Collateral Beauty” is a bad idea from the start. It’s a strange picture, populated with disturbed characters engaged in vile schemes and lies, and the plot concerns the death of children, giving it an impossible heaviness to overcome. The production attempts to be approachable, which makes everything worse. A bright cast is severely dimmed in “Collateral Beauty,” which stumbles from the first frame to the last, trying to master a special tone of spiritual enlightenment and romance that eventually becomes toxic.
Imagine a thriller where nothing happens, and its star (Naomi Watts) visibly realizes she’s participating in a stinker and tries to remain small enough to get through the shoot. “Shut In” is a chiller without chills, going through the motions of a traditional horror effort just to connect dots that were never there to begin with. Director Farren Blackburn has no skill with screen tension, with the picture mostly built out of extended household prowling sequences that offer no payoff. There’s a plot here, but whatever excitement is promised in the feature’s opening is nowhere to be found in the end.
I like Pierce Brosnan. He’s a fine actor with a long, eventful career, but 2016 just wasn’t his year. Granted, Brosnan’s participation in “Urge” was more of an extended cameo, but his appearance didn’t help ease the stupidity of the movie, which intends to take viewers on a ride of forbidden desires and secret addictions, turning self-destruction into a thriller. “Urge” is a mess with unlikable characters and no real point, quickly irritating with its random grab bag of disorders and fears. Brosnan remains the only highlight of the feature, but it’s not hard to be appealing with the rest of the film is atrocious.
Also of note: The Forest, London Has Fallen, Boo! A Madea Halloween, The Disappointments Room, Norm of the North, The Sea of Trees, The Brothers Grimsby, Independence Day: Resurgence, The Choice, Nina, Criminal, Life on the Line, Bad Santa 2, Yoga Hosers, and Gods of Egypt.