2016 Calvin Awards: Worst Picture
By Reagen Sulewski
February 24, 2016
We return now to our annual dishonorable mentions of the year, a group of films that pissed us off, were colossal misuses of talent and ideas, and/or just plain wasted our time. We have an especially worthy crop of terrible films this year, all of which dare you to find a reason to like them or to even tolerate them. Suffice it to say that we failed in this respect.
What happens when you take a terrible concept, written poorly, that made for an awful series of films , spin it off into a terrible vanity project with an extremely loose connection to the original concept and then write *that* poorly? Well, you get our worst film of the year, 50 Shades of Grey, which doubles down on the misery of the Twilight series and adds bad sex to the mix. Surely by now we're all familiar with the story of how this book series came to life, as literal fan fiction based on Stephenie Meyers' spectacularly bad sparkly vampire novels, which had a formula that this adaptation slavishly copies, beat for beat. There aren't even any supernatural elements to the story for it to fall back on as an excuse, making this just lifestyle porn that aims at being real porn, and fails at all of that. With comically bad sex scenes and chemistry between its two leads that resembles helium and argon (ask your science teacher, kids), it's a film that's utterly without merit. So of course they're going to make two more (probably), much to the chagrin of even its leads. That's why you read your contracts!
Say what you will about the original Hot Tub Time Machine, but it had its charms, as a kind of demented twist on nostalgia and wacky '80s sex comedies, made that much more poignant by the presence of the spirit animal of goofy '80s comedy, John Cusack. And there's the only time the words "poignant" and "Hot Tub Time Machine" have been linked. For the sequel, cleverly titled Hot Tub Time Machine 2, the idea seems to have been, "Okay, but throw them into the future and see how that works," to which the answer is it doesn't, unless you like gay panic jokes and extreme scatalogical humor. A great deal of HTTM2 seems to have been improvised, which can work in the right hands, but when your basically just show up to the set gambling that you'll make the magic happen on the day, there'll be times when you roll snake eyes. That's more or less the case here, as the calm centering aspect of Cusack's performance is absent here, leaving the bulk of it to be carried by Rob Corddry in full jackass mode. It's a singularly unpleasant experience.
It's not impossible to see how Jupiter Ascending, our third worst film of the year, could have lived another life as a rollicking original science-fiction blockbuster. It's got all those elements – adventure, a hero's journey, space battles, a ready-made world that spans the galaxy... and yet, it's all just a mish-mash of ridiculousness, hammy acting and half-baked ideas that never really go anywhere. The Wachowskis are relentlessly inventive filmmakers, but sometimes your invention crashes and burn. This attempt to create something akin to Jane Austen's Dune aims for grandeur and hits only “silly and embarrassing” with things like “Channing Tatum as a half-wolf flying-rollerskate warrior”. I mean, just think about the majesty of the insanity of that idea, that they got someone to pay them to put on film. Cringe watching is usually something for bad comedy, but here we cringed for the sake of everyone involved.