We interrupt this celebration of excellence in 2016 cinema for a brief interlude of things that suck. It was the year when Hollywood's attempt to retread already trampled ground reached what we hope is a peak, and some truly useless and unnecessary films make our list of our most derided, resented and interminable experiences with movies in the past 12 months.
2017 Calvin Awards: Worst Picture
By Reagen Sulewski
February 22, 2017
Topping our list is one of the more dismal superhero efforts in many years, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, in a bit of a runaway. DC's attempts to copy Marvel's world-building exercise continue to flounder, and while not every superhero movie needs to be bubbly and brightly colored, BvS takes the opposite idea to its logical extreme, making us yearn for the sunny experience that was Man of Steel. Filmed entirely in shades of brown, blue, grey, and (occasionally!) neon green, it brought together two of the biggest heroes in the comics for an exercise in punishing its audience for expecting entertainment, or, you know, joy.
The headache-inducing action was matched with idiotic plotting and acting which ranged from somnambulant and sullen to ridiculously over-the-top (perhaps as over compensation). While there are germs of ideas in this film (the fear of a populace intimidated actual gods flying overhead, Wonder Woman's brief scenes as a warrior), the rest of the film acts like an antibiotic to these moments. Amazingly, this is all table setting for DC's extended universe, but it's a table set up to deliver literal garbage.
Second place goes to Zoolander 2, the waaay too late sequel to 2001's sharp comedy on fashion and the celebrity industry – and while that's no less pertinent now (unquestionably, it's more relevant than ever), the wit of the first has been dulled down with repetition, basically trying to tell the same joke again and expecting it to be just as funny the next time. It's a frequent refrain here that nothing is quite as bad as an unfunny comedy, as other kinds of bad films can be enjoyed for all the wrong reasons, but a bad comedy just lays there flat and unredeemable.
Speaking of way too late sequels, we have Independence Day: Resurgence, a 20 years late update on the 1996 alien invasion film that was perhaps peak Disaster Porn. At the time, it was somewhat wisely perceived that this was lightning in a bottle and going back to the well would not hit those same buttons all over again – but then time makes desperate fools of us all. This sequel doesn't even have the interesting build-up of the original, going straight into zipping CGI aliens and a cast of heroes that are laughable as humanity's saviors. While it wasn't great cinema, and I think everyone pretty quickly realized that, ID4 at least recognized human emotion and how ridiculous it was, while Resurgence varies between taking itself entirely too seriously, and veering off into rather embarrassing comedy.
DC's terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad year continued with Suicide Squad, which seemed poised to be their answer to Guardians of the Galaxy – an off-brand counter-culture superhero film about the bad guys – and then production happened. David Ayer's direction ran amok, turning the film into largely a soundtrack with action scenes over it, with a byzantine plot full of characters that (with few exceptions) he forgot to humanize in any meaningful way. When superhero films finally fade out again, this will be one that's pointed to as a culprit.
Fifth place finally goes to an entirely original bad movie, with Dirty Grandpa slotting itself in. Robert De Niro embarrasses himself here in this gross-out sex comedy with Zac Efron, as a dirty old man on a road trip with his grandson, of which calling it sophomoric would be an insult to the sensibilities of even freshmen. If the sole reason your movie exists is because you think it would be funny to watch Robert De Niro say inappropriate things, might I point you towards the VAST MAJORITY OF ROBERT DE NIRO'S FILMOGRAPHY?!?! ... Ahem. Sorry.
Yet another goddamned sequel (YAGS for short) comes in sixth with Alice Through the Looking Glass, the followup to the what-were-we-thinking hit Alice in Wonderland – revisiting Lewis Carrol's Wonderland universe and then doing foul things to his memory. As with Independence Day above, please, Hollywood, recognize when you have caught a fluke win and don't inflict these completely needless sequels on us.
I give seventh place film Gods of Egypt credit, at least, for trying to establish a new canon of heroes, which is about the only thing it gets right. However, centering this film on the “acting” of Gerard Butler is perhaaaps the point where things went off the rails, wait, no it was the $8 spent on FX work, in which you can see clear green screen work (how is that a thing in 2016?) to the “whipped off in three days” screenplay filled with impossible clunkers of dialogue... I can only credit this film's obvious horrificness for scaring people away so that it couldn't get enough votes for first place.
YAGSs Blair Witch, Ice Age: Collision Course and The Huntsman: Winter's War take eighth, ninth and tenth in our survey through sheer pointlessness, as Blair Witch tried to tell the same story of the original Blair Witch phenomenon, but more polished, once again missing the point. The Ice Age series, the bane of sane parents everywhere, finds its ...?th – no one knows – entry clogging up our charts with its irritating slapstick and slipshod animation. The Huntsman sees all its actors counting their paychecks on screen for this weirdly stilted fairly prequel, which once again couldn't let well enough alone.
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music