2016 In Review: Lisa Picks The 16 Worst Films of 2016!


Well, here’s the time that I know we’ve all been waiting for!  It’s time for me to reveal my picks for the 16 worst films of 2016!

(Why 2016?  Because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers!)

Now, I should make clear that these are my picks.  They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the other writers here at Through The Shattered Lens.  In fact, I know that a few of them most definitely do not!

What type of year was 2016?  It was a pretty bad one.  There weren’t many memorable films released but there was a lot of mediocrity and disappointment.  Do you know why 2016 was so bad?  I think it’s because, if you add up 2 plus 1 plus 6, you end up with 9, an odd number.  For that same reason, 2017 is going to be much better.  If you add up 2 plus 1 plus 7, you end up with 10, which is an even number that can be cleanly divided.

So fear not!  2017 is going to be a great year!

For now, however, here are my picks for the 16 worst films of 2016!

the-girl-on-the-train

16. The Girl on the Train (dir by Tate Taylor)

15. The Fifth Wave (dir by J Blakeson)

14. Alice Through the Looking Glass (dir by James Bobin)

13. Jane Got A Gun (dir by Gavin O’Connor)

12. Mother’s Day (dir by Garry Marshall)

11. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (dir by Burr Steers)

10. The Sea of Trees (dir by Gus Van Sant)

9. Money Monster (dir by Jodie Foster)

8. Me Before You (dir by Thea Sharrock)

7. Independence Day: Resurgence (dir by Roland Emmerich)

6. Zoolander 2 (dir by Ben Stiller)

5. The Purge: Election Year (dir by James DeMonaco)

4. Paradox (dir by Michael Hurst)

3. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir by Zack Snyder)

2. Yoga Hosers (dir by Kevin Smith)

And finally, the worst film of 2016 … drum roll please ….

  1. HARDCORE HENRY! (dir by Ilya Naishuller)

Seriously, Hardcore Henry is one of the few films that I have ever had to walk out on.  I literally got physically ill while watching the film, largely due to the nonstop shaky cam.  Seriously — when your film’s selling point is a technique that literally induces nausea, you’re going to have some problems.  Now, before anyone leaves any angry comments, I did make it a point to go back and watch the rest of Hardcore Henry before making out this list.  Not only does Hardcore Henry feature a nausea-inducing gimmick but it’s also a rather uninspired and dull action film.

Hardcore_(2015_film)

(Feel free to also check out my picks for 2010, 2011, 2012, 20132014, and 2015!)

Agree?  Disagree?  Leave a comment and let us know!  And if you disagree, please let me know what movie you think was worse than Hardcore Henry!

Tomorrow, I will be posting my 10 favorite songs of 2016!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016
  4. 2016 in Review: The Best of SyFy
  5. 2016 in Review: The Best of Lifetime

 

Film Review: The Purge: Election Year (dir by James DeMonaco)


The_Purge_Election_Year

I had really high hopes for The Purge: Election Year.

While the first Purge film was definitely flawed, it still had an interesting and thought-provoking premise behind it.  What would we do, the film forced us to ask, if we could do anything we wanted to for one night out of the year?  Would you hide in your house or would you go out and randomly kill people?  Yes, The Purge had its flaws but it was an interesting film.

And then, in 2014, The Purge: Anarchy was released.  Anarchy was one of the best films of 2014 (a film that saw no shortage of great films).  It was a big, loud, and over-the-top masterpiece of the pulp imagination, one that managed to be as thought-provoking as the first film while also keeping audiences entertained.  It was a political movie, perhaps one of the most overtly political to be released over the past ten years.  And yet, it was also amazingly entertaining.  By further exploring the type of society that would come up with something like an annual Purge, Anarchy forced audiences to think even as it gave them reasons to cheer and hiss.  For many viewers, it also served as an introduction to a tough and grizzled actor named Frank Grillo.  In the role of the enigmatic but ultimately good-hearted Leo Barnes, Frank Grillo gave an outstanding performance.

Well, The Purge: Election Year continues its exploration of the culture behind the Purge.  And Frank Grillo is back as Leo.  It should be said that, just as he did in Anarchy, Grillo supplies Election Year with some of its best moments.  Much like Clint Eastwood, Grillo can communicate an entire backstory just be squinting his eyes.

But overall, Election Year is a disappointment.  As I watched it, I found myself wondering if maybe director James DeMonaco should have quit when he was ahead and ended the series with Anarchy.  Anarchy pushed the idea behind The Purge about as far as it could go and it is perhaps not surprising that Election Year often feels like a rehash that was constructed out of leftovers.

Election Year finds Leo working as head of security for U.S. Sen. Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell).  Charlie, who saw her family massacred during an earlier purge, is running for President on an anti-Purge platform and it appears that she’s about to overtake the candidate of the New Founding Fathers, the Rev. Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor).  The New Founding Fathers decide that the best way to take care of Charlie would be to assassinate her on Purge Night.  They announce that, for the first time since the Purge began, government leaders will no longer be granted immunity.

In short, anyone can be killed!

Leo’s idea is for Charlie to stay inside during Purge Night but, if that happened, there wouldn’t be a movie.  Naturally, Leo and Charlie eventually end up on the streets and they get to witness a few surreal and violent moments, none of which have quite the impact of anything we previously saw in Anarchy.  They are given some assistance by a deli owner (Mykleti Williamson) and, naturally, they meet up with rebel leader Dante Bishop (Edwin Hodge).  Just like in the previous film, Leo is eventually forced to decide between purging and showing mercy.

And it’s really never that interesting.  The whole film just falls flat.  The first two Purge film worked because they convinced you that something like The Purge could actually happen.  When, at the end of Anarchy, Leo chose not to murder someone, it felt like a great moment because you truly believed that Leo could have gotten away with murder if he wanted to.  But Election Day is never convinces you that you’re watching anything more than a standard issue sequel.  With the exception of Frank Grillo and Kyle Secor (more about him in a moment), none of the actors are particularly memorable or believable.  In fact, Mykelti Williamson gives a performance that is almost amazingly bad.

I think a huge part of the problem is that the character of Charlie is never credible.  Elizabeth Mitchell is a good actress and has appeared in some of my favorite TV shows (she was Juliet on Lost, for instance) but you never believe that she’s a dynamic senator who is destined to save America from itself.  Every character in the film has at least one moment in which he or she is required to talk about how much they love Charlie.  The film spends so much time worshipping her that it apparently forgot to make her believable.

(It’s hard not to compare Election Year to Anarchy.  Anarchy advocated revolution.  Election Year argues that the system will eventually correct itself, going so far as to present the revolutionaries as almost being villains because they’re not properly deferential to a wealthy white liberal.)

However, I do have to say that Election Year is occasionally elevated by the thoroughly over-the-top performance of an actor named Kyle Secor.  It’s almost as if Secor alone understood that Election Year needed a jolt of pure adrenaline and, at the end of the film, he goes out of his way to provide it.  He bulges his eyes.  He shrieks out his lines.  His entire body shakes and it’s damn near brilliant.  He’s a lot of fun and his performance is probably the most entertaining thing about Election Year.

Undoubtedly, there will eventually be a sequel to Election Year.  Hopefully, it’ll be an improvement.

the-purge-ey-pstr01

For Your Consideration #2: The Purge: Anarchy (dir by James DeMonaco)


The_Purge_–_Anarchy_Poster

Yes, I know what you’re saying.

“Seriously, Lisa!?  We should give awards consideration to The Purge: Anarchy!?  Are you serious!?”

Yes, actually I am quite serious.  Notice that I didn’t say that we should necessarily give The Purge: Anarchy any awards or that we should even nominate it.  I just said consideration.  For whatever flaws that The Purge: Anarchy may have, it’s actually one of the better and, in its way, one of the more thought-provoking mainstream American films released this year.  Working within the guise of being a simple genre film, The Purge: Anarchy is one of the few films to give serious consideration to the politics and culture that could both lead to and result from dystopia.

What I’m saying is that — despite what the critics may have said last summer — The Purge: Anarchy is actually one of the most subversive and intellectually curious films released this year.  You just have to be willing to look past all of the action conventions and instead focus on the film’s subtext.

The Purge: Anarchy takes place one year after the end of the first Purge film.  America is still led by the New Founding Fathers and every year, for one night, all crime is legal.  As the national media constantly assures everyone, the Purge is responsible for every good thing about America.  And even though there are a few rebels who claim that the Purge is not necessarily a good thing, most people chose to believe that — as long as it’s government-sanctioned — it’s for the best.

Whereas the first Purge film took place solely inside one family’s house and focused on the domestic melodrama within, The Purge: Anarchy focuses on what goes on outside of the gated sanctuaries of the rich.  As quickly becomes apparent, the Purge is less about purging negative feelings and more about keeping the non-rich, non-white population under control.  While the poor kill each other in the streets, the rich pay for the privilege to kill poverty-stricken “volunteers” in the safety of their own homes.  (Some of the volunteers agree to die out of the hope that their family will be sent some money.  Most are just rounded up on the streets, killed, and forgotten.)

Perhaps even more so than the first film, The Purge: Anarchy works because it feels so plausible.  We live in a society where we are continually told that moral rights and wrongs can be determined by man-made laws.  When a man is filmed being literally choked to death by a pack of police officers, we’re told that it was the man’s fault because he was failing to respect authority and many choose to believe it because “the law is the law.”  (Never mind, of course, whether the law is being fairly applied or makes any sense to begin with.)  If a man in uniform is murdered, it’s rightfully called a crime.  If a man in uniform commits a murder, we’re told it’s simply a part of the job.

And so, that’s why I suggest that The Purge: Anarchy deserves greater consideration than it’s been given.  Yes, it is a genre film and yes, it is an installment in an action franchise.  However, it’s also far closer to the truth than many people are willing to acknowledge.

44 Days of Paranoia #32: The Purge (dir by James DeMonaco)


For our latest entry in the 44 Days of Paranoia, we take a look at one of the more unexpected box office successes of 2013, The Purge.

The Purge takes place in the year 2022.  In some ways, America is much the same as it is today but in other ways, it is significantly different.  Unemployment is down to 1% and crime rates have plunged.  Before you can say, “So, this is what we have to look forward to once Obama is no longer President,” we are told that America is now being led by the “New Founding Fathers.”

We also learn that every year, for one 12-hour period, all crime is legal.  The Purge is designed to act as a catharsis, a time for the American people to release all of their pent-up frustrations and act on all the desires that the government has since forbidden.  As the film opens, we listen to people discussing how they’re going to celebrate 2022’s Purge.  Some say that they’re going to stay inside and keep their doors locked.  Another brags about how he’s planning to take the opportunity to murder his boss.

The Purge has also created an entirely new economy that is completely centered around preparing for the Purge.  As a result, men like James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) have become millionaires by selling home security systems.  The Purge opens with James pulling up in front his gigantic mansion, going inside, and getting his family prepared for that night’s Purge.

When the Purge begins, James, his wife (Lena Headey), and his family believe themselves to be safe inside their mansion.  However, things don’t go quite as planned.  For one thing, daughter Zooey’s (Adelaide Kane) older boyfriend Henry (Tony Oller) is hiding out in the house.  Henry knows that James doesn’t approve of him but is convinced that he can either change James’s mind or, failing that, simply kill him while it’s perfectly legal to do so.

An even bigger complication arises when a bloody stranger (Edwin Hodge) approaches the house and begs to be let in.  When James’s son opens the door to the man, the house is suddenly surrounded by a group of masked purgers who demand that the stranger be sent back out.  When the purgers start to attack, the Sandins’s jealous neighbors suddenly see a chance to take out their own resentments on James and his family…

The Purge got terrible reviews but, judging from its box office success, it obviously struck a nerve with audiences.  And why not?  Like many so-called exploitation films, The Purge may not be subtle but it does manage to perfectly capture the fears and prejudices that everyone in the audience has.   I saw The Purge when it was first released and then I recently rewatched it on DVD and I have to say that I was a little surprised to discover just how well The Purge holds up to repeat viewings.   The Purge is effective because, as over-the-top as it may seem, it’s still a disturbingly plausible portrait of the type of society that our “leaders” seem to be so eager to create.

As a side note, shortly after the film completed its initial run, George Zimmerman was acquitted in the Trayvon Martin case and I can still remember seeing hundreds of people on twitter saying that it was time to have a real-life Purge in Florida, which indicates how much of a part of the popular culture this film became.  It’s not surprising that a sequel is going to be released in 2014.

Other Entries In The 44 Days of Paranoia 

  1. Clonus
  2. Executive Action
  3. Winter Kills
  4. Interview With The Assassin
  5. The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald
  6. JFK
  7. Beyond The Doors
  8. Three Days of the Condor
  9. They Saved Hitler’s Brain
  10. The Intruder
  11. Police, Adjective
  12. Burn After Reading
  13. Quiz Show
  14. Flying Blind
  15. God Told Me To
  16. Wag the Dog
  17. Cheaters
  18. Scream and Scream Again
  19. Capricorn One
  20. Seven Days In May
  21. Broken City
  22. Suddenly
  23. Pickup on South Street
  24. The Informer
  25. Chinatown
  26. Compliance
  27. The Lives of Others
  28. The Departed
  29. A Face In The Crowd
  30. Nixon
  31. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire