I don’t see every movie that’s released (e.g. I skipped Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel,” keeping him from making this list three years in a row), but of those I saw in 2017, these were the ten worst. Links go to longer reviews I posted on this site.
1) “King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword.” I don’t know what the hell is going on. That’s what I kept saying while watching this. From the very first scene, where CGI monsters attack a castle and hundreds of stunt people fall dead all over the place, I had no idea what was happening. Having not read any of the King Arthur folklore, I don’t know about the mystical powers of his sword, or who those monsters were, or why there are eel-women swimming in the water under the castle — and the movie doesn’t bother explaining anything. Halfway through, I considered leaving the theater to go home and watch a great movie about King Arthur, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” But I stayed to the end, and I’m sorry I did.
2) “The Comedian.” Robert DeNiro is Jackie Burke, a comedian whose career is on the skids yet finds himself in the spotlight after video of him punching out a heckler goes viral. None of it works, at least partly because it’s so hard to make movies about stand ups with actors who aren’t comedians. Tom Hanks and Sally Field couldn’t do it in “Punchline.” Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler (who used to be a standup) couldn’t do it in “Funny People.” Even Billy Crystal couldn’t make a hit out of “Mr. Saturday Night,” although he was much better at mining the same bitter-old-comic turf for laughs. As for DeNiro, his comic delivery and timing haven’t improved since his days as Rupert Pupkin.
3) “The Sense Of An Ending.” When you name your movie “The Sense Of An Ending,” you leave yourself wide open to easy shots from critics. For example, I wish this movie with Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling actually had an ending. Or, I was worried that it would never end. Or, sitting through this made me wish I’d lost my senses of sight and hearing. You get the sense I didn’t like it? You’re right. The end.
4) “The House.” I didn’t have high hopes for the Will Ferrell-Amy Poehler comedy “The House,” but I didn’t expect that it would come in so far below my already-low expectations. Stay away from this piece of dreck, which has a lot of balls calling itself a comedy, considering it made me laugh zero times. It cost $40 million to make, but only brought in a total gross of $25 million at the box office and a 17% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes — proving that “The House” doesn’t always win.
5) “The Dinner.” Richard Gere is a Congressman running for Governor, Steve Coogan is his brother, a failed teacher with mental issues, and Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall are their wives. Even though I’m a fan of all four of the principal actors, I can’t recommend “The Dinner,” which is an American remake of an Italian movie, based on a book by a Dutch author, written and directed by an Israeli. Perhaps what went wrong was some sort of cinematic version of the game of telephone where, by the time the message is translated through enough people, it makes no sense and has no value.
6) “The Dark Tower.” I knew nothing about Steven King’s Dark Tower stories going in, and I knew exactly the same amount when it was over. Here’s what I can tell you: Idris Elba is the good guy; Matthew McConaughey is the bad guy; Tom Taylor is a boy caught between them; there’s a tower that controls the universe, with portals between places on Earth and other worlds; there are children screaming, special effects galore, dark mysterious people and locations, and a plot that is totally incomprehensible.
7) “Mother!” Speaking of films with an incomprehensible plot, this is the mother of them all this year. It’s the kind of movie where, when Lawrence goes to the basement and sees blood dripping down the walls, she doesn’t tell anyone about it. Is it a horror movie? Is it a metaphor for writer’s block? What the hell is it? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I did sympathize with Lawrence, however, because she’s trapped in that house with something terrible taking place — just like I was trapped in that movie theater for two full hours with a terrible movie unfolding in front of me. “Mother!” is self-indulgent (note the exclamation point in its name), it’s too long, and it’s unsettling to see such good actors locked into a script that takes them nowhere. Lawrence and writer/director Darren Aronofsky became a couple during filming, but she dumped him after seeing how unpopular this mess of a movie was.
8) “Going In Style.” In 1979, director Martin Brest made a little movie called “Going In Style,” with George Burns, Art Carney, Lee Strasberg, and a simple story: three old retired men live together, go to the park together, and basically just hang around together, collecting their social security and pension checks. Bored of sitting on a bench with not much else to do, on a whim, they decide to rob a bank. That movie is a classic. This remake, with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, is the opposite. It’s formulaic, predictable, and has a copout happy ending that’s contrary to everything the original did right. In fact, if this were the first version, it would never be remade.
9) “Norman.” Richard Gere makes the list twice this year. He has made a career playing classy, good-looking Gentiles, but in “Norman,” he’s cast against type as Norman Oppenheimer, a schlubby Jew in his 60s with a Woody Allen accent whose entire life revolves around making business connections. Director Joseph Cedar loses the pace halfway through, and for some reason uses a score that sounds like it was lifted from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which made me wonder if he was trying to make a satire or a straight-on drama. “Norman” fails on both counts, although I give Gere credit for doing smaller movies like these and parts he wouldn’t seem right for.
10) “The Florida Project.” The movie is set in a motel in Orlando that’s decidedly not part of the Disney empire, where many of the residents are lower-class people trying to scrape by day to day without much money. Because it’s summer, the kids don’t go to school, so they make their own fun — and their own trouble. “The Florida Project” is being compared to last year’s Oscar winner, “Moonlight,” for showing us a portion of humanity whose stories rarely get told on screen. That’s true, but the main characters in this are so unlikable that I left the theater with a very bad taste in my mouth. I imagine it would be hell to live in that motel as neighbors of these kids and adults, and I didn’t enjoy spending time with them in a movie theater, either.
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