Some movies of 2016 were pretty awful

By Gary Clift

Every year around this time, press agents start working up stories about movies and movie performances that may win awards. To some people, the least cynical among us, this suggests that many movies are in some way or ways “worthy.”

So every year I write an essay reminding Mercury readers of the worst films in general release during the year. “Remember,” I’m trying to say, “many of the cinematic entertainments offered to us are pretty dreadful.” Several of the weakest films of 2016 were sequels or re-makes. This is partly because such a high percentage of the films offered to us were sequels or remakes. “Ride Along 2,” shirts advertising which were worn by ushers at Seth Childs for months and months, was even worse than the original movie, for example. “Neighbors” was one of those un-funny Seth Rogan movies which begin with the assumption that modestly bad taste is always funny. Imagine “Neighbors 2.” Twice as bad. The political content of “Barbershop 3” managed to get that sequel almost completely away from the series’ comedic origins and into melodrama. “Inferno” was no improvement on earlier thrillers based on Dan Brown’s Vatican City conspiracy-nut books.

It may be that “Batman vs. Superman” was fatally wounded before it was made by the casting of Ben Affleck as the cloak and cowl wearer. Certainly most of my friends who are superhero movie fans think the failed Dare Devil was a poor choice as Batman. And if they didn’t go to see the sequel to “Man of Steel,” they didn’t have to suffer through Zack Snyder’s least important film.

On to the re-makes. The worst movie of the year was Disney’s live action version of “Pete’s Dragon.” Despite Karl Urban’s exertions as the villain, the movie turns out to be “King Kong” with the monster a sort of flying version of comic-strip character Marmaduke. Want to watch that for 90 minutes?

In a way, Wayan brother Marlon’s “50 Shades of Black” is a remake— it is a version of the story of “50 Shades of Gray,” the romance with a little kink that will be followed early in 2017 by an official sequel. Wayan’s “of Black” is a send-up with too few targets, it turns out, though it was vaguely funny to cast the late Florence Henderson, the mother on the old television show “The Brady Bunch,” as a dominatrix. Too bad the young people who go to the movies won’t have been born when that show was on broadcast TV.

And the case might be made that the late Garry Marshall’s “Mother’s Day” was a sequel to his “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve.” No matter what the motivations of the actors who appeared in the newest of these, the final product was one of the least attractive movies of the year. Especially after it announces its maker’s prejudices about Texans. Some viewers may still want to see this in case Julia Roberts, who is almost never shown standing or walking here, is suddenly announced as the star in a re-make of “Ironside.” Then there were some pretty awful movies this year that weren’t related to other films. Worst among them was another Seth Rogan vehicle, “Sausage Party.” At some point movie audiences may revolt against profanity as comedy. This animated film could have gotten some depth out of its relationship with earlier cartoons showing inanimate products coming down off the shelves at night to sing and dance.

But that would have required a certain amount of sophistication on the part of the writers.

“Snowden” ends my list of movie bummers from 2016. After watching it, one wonders what it was that the leaker did that made him seem heroic to some. But more to the point here, director Oliver Stone hasn’t found ways to make the movie active. Movies about computer stuff are almost never visual enough.

If I had an Academy Award vote, I would surely cast it to see that Alden Ehrenreich’s turn as the singing cowboy star in the Coen brothers’ “Hail, Caesar” is rewarded. And you know, that might have been the best movie of 2016, 12 cinematic months with few first class releases. But with lots of sequels and remakes.

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