The Five Worst Movies of 2017
Alright, the five worst movies I saw.
That's actually true every year, but for some reason I feel the need to qualify it this year. Maybe because I have less distaste for these films? None of them horrified me like “Tusk,” or sickened me like “Nocturnal Animals,” or turned iconic heroes into ponderous boobs like “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” None tried to make comedy out of a massive social anxiety. They just suck. They just dim down the culture a notch.
So maybe this year I got lucky? Or I'm inured? (Voice inside my head: Yes, you‘re a nerd.) Or maybe it’s this: Nothing Hollywood produces could dim down the culture as much as the low-IQ ego-spurtings of Pres. Trump.
Now on with the countdown.
5. “The Mummy” (Universal): How many movies kill off an entire universe? This one did. Universal wanted to do with its monsters what Marvel did with its superheroes—create an interlocking, continuous, ka-chinging series of films—but “Mummy” sputtered out of the gate. The movie itself sputters out of the gate. It begins in 12th century A.D., shifts to modern-day London, then, why not, takes us all the way back to ancient Egypt for our intro to the titular character. That's a lot of throat-clearing before we get to Tom Cruise playing a devil-may-care opportunist in Iraq. Right, that's another thing: Our hero is an American trying to steal ancient artifacts from a country we already destroyed. Tone? Light comedy.
“Wait a minute, I do what to Iraq?”
4. The Fate of the Furious (Universal): You know a series has run out of ideas when it makes its hero evil. Dom (Vin Diesel) doesn‘t become evil—like Superman in “Superman III” or Spider-Man in “Spider-Man 3”—he’s just blackmailed by Cipher (Charlize Theron) into doing evil stuff. The announcement to the rest of the team is made with all the gravitas of a newsman reporting on the JFK assassination: “Dominic Torretto just went rogue.” They‘re not even trying to not make this a cartoon anymore. The final battle in Russia involves a nuke sub that breaks through the ice and fires a heat-seeking missile at Dom in his muscle car. But Dom deeks out the missile (yes), and, in slow-mo, drives his shit up over the submarine, causing the missile to do its chicken-coming-home-to-roost thing with the sub. Boom. There are, I’m sure, more ludicrious scenes in the long, sad history of movies. But there shouldn’t be.
The classy-as-ever “Fast/Furious” opening credits.
3. The Circle (Image Nation Abu Dhabi/Playtone/Likely Story/IM Global/STX Entertainment): At first, it seems like our hero, Mae (Emma Watson), a new employee at TrueYou, a Facebookish Silicon Valley megacompany, will provide a cynical viewpoint for all things techy and corporate and awful. She even jokes with another savvy insider about people who drink the Kool-Aid. Then she becomes the Kool-Aid. She agrees to have her entire life recorded 24/7, and in this way accumulates millions of followers and power. And what does she do with this power? When CEO Tom Hanks suggests allowing people to register to vote via TrueYou, she one-ups him. She suggests that everyone be required to have a TrueYou account. That it would be law. The scales only fall from her eyes when she inadventently kills her childhood friend (the kid from “Boyhood”) but by this point we‘re long done with her. And the movie.
2. Transformers: The Last Knight (Paramount): Remember when you were 9 or 10 and played at war, and it was basically, “And then this happens, and then this happens”? No logic, no sense of connecting the past with the now? That’s this. It’s a movie written by 9-year-olds. A big robot named Optimus Prime and a bunch of army men chase our heroes—Mark Wahlberg and a hot newbie chick (British, named, I shit you not, Vivian Wembley)—who are trying to find a MacGuffin (an alien staff) that could lead to the end of the world, and which only they can find. Meaning if they don't find it, no one can find it, and the world isn't destroyed. So of course they find it. And of course the bad guys immediately steal it. And of course the big robot and the bunch of army men now join our heroes for the final battle, which takes place over jolly old England, and which involves a U.S. government scientist (Tony Hale) yelling orders at generals, as always happens. It's all so bad I kept flashing to that “Curb Your Enthusiasm” season in which Mel Brooks hires Larry David for “The Producers” because he wants his hit Broadway show to finally end. Because he's sick of it. Is Michael Bay doing the same with “Transformers”? Or is he simply boundary-testing how stupid we are?
1. “Baywatch” (Paramount): The biggest boobs here are the ones behind the scenes—particularly director Seth Gordon, who has already given us “Four Christmases” and “Identity Thief” and yet somehow keeps getting work. You know how “Jumanji” managed to make Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson both heroic and mockable? That's what this needed. It doesn't come close. The arcs in the movie belong to Zac Efron's gold-medal swimmer, who goes from douche to team player, and Jon Bass' Ronnie, who goes from schlubby tech guy wishing to be part of the team to ludicrously becoming part of the team (because “he has heart”). No, that's not really his arc. His arc involves his not-so-secret crush, C.J. (Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kelly Rohrbach), who is out of his league by 20,000 or so. For most of the movie, he's constantly humilated around her. I.e., 1) he gets food caught in his throat, 2) she performs the Heimlich to save his life, 3) he gets a boner as a result, 4) he falls on a raft to hide his boner, 5) he gets his boner caught in the slats of wood, 6) medics are called in and a crowd gathers, laughing, as he's extricated. So of course C.J. falls for him. What S.I. model wouldn‘t? After the team saves the day, they wind up in bed together. Cuz movies.
What S.I. model woudn’t?
See you next year, Hollywood. Same time?