It was a feature film year like no other (except maybe last year).
Just when blockbuster movies looked to be coming back, another surge of Covid-19 saw the traditional northern summer season almost completely canned for a second year in a row.
That left local cinemas scrambling for titles, many of which simply weren’t up to snuff. It also sent viewers online in the search for new product, also with somewhat mixed results.
Among 2021’s major disappointments were a Bollywood version of The Girl on the Train, the long-awaited adaptation of best-selling book The Woman in the Window, the latest edition of Fast and the Furious and a string of Liam Neeson and pandemic-themed movies like The Ice Road and Songbird.
However, after looking back over the past 12 months, Stuff to Watch has come up with 10 truly terrible flicks that graced Kiwi screens.
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Just when you thought this wonky and less-than-wonderful young adult romantic drama series couldn’t get any weirder – or worse.
This third instalment of the cinematic adaptation of Anna Todd’s boy band fan fiction series tonally takes things in yet another direction, course correcting after last year’s Collided added extra steam to the on-off romance between publishing intern Tessa (Josephine Langford) and her bad boy British beau Hardin (Hero Fiennes Tiffin).
While there are still regular acrobatic bouts of tastefully, modesty protecting safe-sex (oddly for a Hollywood movie, there’s more condom than lingerie product placement on display), this commits the cardinal sin of simply being deathly dull.
Thirty-three years after the original comedy smash, while much has changed in the world, little progress appears to have been made, either in the fictional world of Zamunda, or what Eddie Murphy and his collaborators find funny.
While not quite as awful as last year’s Crocodile Dundee exhumation, this is a ploddingly predictable, sexist, lazily written throwback that feels as out of touch with today’s audiences as the now King Akeem is from the world his three daughters are growing up in.
In the end, you’re left feeling disappointed and deflated, contemplating the irony of them keeping in a discussion about American cinema and “sequels that nobody asked for”.
Of all the sub-par sci-fi tales (and there were plenty) unleashed on desperate Kiwi cinemas this past year, this was by far the worst. Set up as a kind of Aliens-meets-Stargate by way of Avatar, instead it feels more like Battlefield Earth on a budget and makes Event Horizon look like Alien in comparison – all without anything to say, or much for its protagonists to do.
Those hoping for out-of-this-world action, pyrotechnic mayhem and Bruce Willis’ one-liners are going to be sorely disappointed. The slim running-time mostly consists of our “heroes” sitting around a series of elaborately “dressed” warehouses debating their potential actions, before a short run-out on an alien planet that looks suspiciously like a forest in Georgia.
“Look, I know you love Christmas, but there’s no need to shag the tree.”
And so the tone is set in the opening moments for this flaccid, less-than-felicitous festive farce, a British “comedic” abomination that is neither fish nor fowl, not even remotely funny, nor heartwarming.
A movie whose only footnote in history will hopefully be as a trivia question as the project that brought Kelsey Grammer, John Cleese, Caroline Quentin and Liz Hurley together for nearly two hours of tinsel-wrapped tedium. They should all be embarrassed by what they’ve unleashed on a world already suffering so much in 2021.
Back in March, this left me fearing for the future of tentpole Hollywood moviemaking after bearing witness to a lamentable, unrelenting assault on the audience, consisting of endless CGI fight scenes, one-dimensional human characters, strange narrative leaps and an over-caffeinated soundtrack.
Talents like Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall, Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison are hopelessly wasted, their rare moments to establish character and drive the paucity of plot feeling like cut scenes from an action video game.
“Uh, this is garbage. I don’t know why they are always trying to remake the classics. They’re never as good as the originals.”
Instead of being ironic, a throwaway line, early on in this confused and crushingly cringeworthy “update” of the 1990 festive favourite, ends up as unerringly accurate and faithfully prophetic.
This uninspired effort (which actually feels like the producers wanted a Home Alone-meets-National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation remake starring the kid from A Christmas Story) raises more questions than answers. Why does the promised snowpocalypse never arrive? Why does no one at Chicago airport query why the Mercer party is one light? And who greenlit this travesty?
Even Mark Wahlberg looks lost in this ploddingly predictable slog through a confusing combination of sci-fi cliches and vaguely mystical mambo-jumbo that basically strings out a series of mindless pyrotechnic set-pieces.
The story, an adaptation of D. Eric Maikranz’s 2009 novel The Reincarnationist Papers, offers only a deep sense of déjà vu. At various points you’ll feel echoes of Total Recall, Edge of Tomorrow, Doctor Who, Transcendence, The Old Guard and the Terminator movies, as talk of historical battles, reincarnation and egg McGuffins abound.
In the end, you’ll simply wonder how, Antoine Fuqua, the director who gave us Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen and The Equaliser films presided over such a muddled mess. A film best summed up this line of dialogue: “Don’t Worry. All this s…, it just gets weirder.”
Instead of creating this generation’s Rain Man or Mask, or even this decade’s The Greatest Showman, Sia presided over what may well be this year’s Cats.
Known initially for her elaborate disguises as much as her tunes, the Australian singer has found herself rightly exposed to criticism for this musical fantasy about a troubled woman and her autistic half-sister.
It’s clear, Sia hoped it would strike a chord with many, but instead Music is remarkably tone-deaf, deservedly striking a bum note with autism organisations around the globe.
Characters are one-dimensional, sub-plots come and go without any real payoff, the dialogue is occasionally risible and an inexplicable cameo from Sia herself is simply bizarre. It’s a scene even St Elsewhere’s Tommy Westphall would have rejected as being too contrived and self-indulgent.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the greatest trick M. Night Shyamalan ever pulled was convincing us that he still had another Sixth Sense in him.
This latest effort is a dull, nonsensical tale that not only wouldn’t make the cut as a Twilight Zone instalment, but feels more like the worst-ever episode of TV’s Fantasy Island. He says he was inspired by Australian classics Walkabout and Picnic at Hanging Rock. But they never had a surgeon obsessed with a movie which starred Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson, or cuts that instantly heal.
Instead, this feels like the demonic love child of Insidious, The Blue Lagoon and The Wilds. A po-faced, ill-conceived misadventure where the only entertainment you’ll derive will be from making fun of it.
Sadly, while managing to avoid hitting a new low, this is the disappointing Saw-homage we should have seen coming a mile off.
Strip away the high profile acting trio of Chris Rock (who also apparently gave the “turd-gid” script a polish), Samuel L. Jackson and Max Minghella, and it’s the same thin gruel of extreme vigilantism laced with grim torture-porn scenes where there’s only ever one outcome.
At least here, we learn a little more about our troubled “hero” and the deadly devices are used sparingly, but, at its dark heart, this is still just another ploddingly predictable instalment (No. 9, if you’re still counting) of a series that’s devolved from a smart, inventive opener to a succession of geek shows.