For most 2016 was a year to endure. Terror attacks interrupted the steady passing of numerous cultural icons, all during the most repugnant Presidential election in history. And if that wasn’t harsh enough, the CMT Network cancelled “Party Down South”!
We have just entered the long season of Hollywood congratulating itself with a perpetual stream of awards honoring the year’s best, (fingers crossed that “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” wins that Satellite Award for Best Film Editing!) I have no interest in repeating all the same titles and names that get stroked this time of year. My interest lies on the other end of the spectrum.
I prefer to get down in the dumpster behind the awards auditorium, to look for those performers and studios that bombed, broke down, busted, and became non-trophy worthy. A lot happened last year in entertainment. Despite all the pageantry and gowns you will be seeing over the next few months, not everything was great.
Here are the items that experienced less-than glamorous results.
James was mired in mediocrity, and he needs to rise above that. Let’s face it: Paul Blart is typecast as mediocrity. His new CBS sit-com is little more than a carbon copy of any oafish suburban husband, in other words a carbon copy of “King Of Queens”. He also appeared in the NetFlix original film “True Memoirs of an International Assassin”, which could charitably be called “a stretch”. For his prior appearance in “Pixels” I had to use titanium braided cable, and steel I-beams, to suspend my disbelief when he portrayed the President of the United States. Seeing James cast as an action star was beyond my skill set.
The Aokigahara Forest
If you are unfamiliar with this location, stick with me. This is an infamous Japanese forest at the base of Mt. Fuji where dozens of people go each year to commit suicide. Hollywood saw fit to release 2 dismal titles using this cheerful glen as the setting. In “The Forest” a young American woman seeks out her twin who ventured into the wicked woods. “Sea Of Trees” finds Matthew McConaughey stepping into the taiga to take his life, and he befriends a suicidal Ken Watanabe. The title was laughed out of the Cannes Film Festival.
Seemingly content to merely play bit roles these days (and coast on Pixar voice-over work) Wilson managed to take light duties last year, but only in notably bad efforts. He reprised the role of Hansel, in the laughably unfunny sequel to “Zoolander”, and then in the Fall was part of the ensemble romp “Masterminds”, peopled with numerous names in a “wacky” caper. I might recommend making wiser choices, but Owen seems uninterested in such.
His TV show “Buckets” is a like-it-or-ignore it venture, but beyond that was a tough Fall. He was a featured player in “Masterminds”, and then while still in theaters it was followed by “Keeping up With The Joneses”, another ensemble comedy that failed to find an audience. Released just three weeks apart, and neither picture came close to grossing $20 million.
In an effort to jump-start their cinematic universes, much like (exactly like) Marvel has done, DC Comics had two mammoth releases. While financial winners they really have to be considered qualifies successes. “Batman Versus Superman” exploded, however the negative word got out what a muddled feature it was. It had a larger opening than “The Dark Knight”, and “The Dark Knight Rises”, yet in the end grossed $200 million, and $100m less, respectively. In the fall the anticipated “Suicide Squad” also had a massive open, only to quickly flame out after crowds shook their heads at the confounding structure. This was due to Warner Brothers getting hesitant and asking the company that cut the trailers to come in and perform a complete re-edit.
While she has been quite prolific and proficient the past few years Wiig had a tough go of things in 2016. She was part of the ensemble mess “Masterminds”, as well as a role in the execrable “Zoolander 2”. Most prominent however was her being a member of the female quartet in the dismal offering that became “Ghostbusters”. Perhaps an indicator of how rough the year was is her high-water mark was a voice performance in the ribald animated farce “Sausage Party”.
Those with affection for sub-par cinema regard the man as a demigod – and bless him – Nic delivers the goods in bulk. The man’s legendary tax issue means he now churns out DVD-level quality with abandon. In 2016 he gave us “The Trust”, a corrupt cop pot-boiler and he had a small role in Oliver Stone’s ignored “Snowden”. There was also “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage”, a $40 million naval epic that netted all of $750,000, and then “Dog Eat Dog” with Willem Dafoe which was seen by nobody. His most – I’ll describe it as “interesting” – release was “Army Of One”, where a nearly unrecognizable Cage plays a struggling carpenter who is guided by God (played by Russell Brand) to travel to the Mid-East to capture Osama Bin Laden.
For any Cage-o-phile it is required viewing.
Video Game Adaptations
For decades Hollywood has attempted to adapt video game properties into successful motion pictures. For decades Hollywood has failed at this goal. Stunningly, Hollywood gave us four attempts at this futility in 2016. How bad was it? The unnecessary “Angry Birds Movie” was a light success in North America, barely grossing over $100 million. It became only the second VG adaptation to cross that threshold — ever. “Ratchet & Clank” was created for no audience, and thus nobody showed up. “Warcraft” was a summer bust, and “Assassins Creed” out this Christmas has been regarded as an embarrassment. Maybe 2018 will be better: there are three such titles slated to be released that year.
Widely respected as an actress prior, and certainly going forward, she still experienced less-than-fawning results. She joined for the sequel “The Huntsman: Winters War”, which managed to finish making less than $50 million. (The original made more in just the opening weekend.) Next came a big marketing push for her late-in-the calendar effort, “Miss Sloane”, an anti-gun agitprop film. Audiences avoided this 2+ hour lecture on gun-control to the point this was 75th worst opening of all time.
2016 seemed to have a glut of sequels that recycled content well beyond the freshness date. A second “Bad Santa” took 13 years to arrive, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” 14 years. The next “Zoolander” came 15 years later, and “Independence Day” was revisited two full decades after aliens first landed. Even a third “Bridget Jones” came in a dozen years since we last saw her squint. Predictably all of these expired concepts were met with lukewarm, or colder, responses from audiences.
While widely acknowledged to be a legitimate comedic talent Kate had a rough year, while increasing her brand. She won an Emmy for her work on SNL and broadened her film career. BUT – she was a member of the disastrous “Ghostbusters”, as well as being part of “Masterminds” (seriously, who wasn’t in that?!) She also held a role in the easily forgotten “Office Christmas Party”. Most notable however was her star-turn as Hillary Clinton having its upcoming 4-year run truncated by the political icon’s election loss. In the first SNL episode after Hillary’s defeat McKinnon took to a piano in character to sing “Halleluiah”, earning derision across the internet for its self-serious hyper-emotional melodramatics.
Across the calendar this studio delivered either ridiculous content, or box office disappointments – and frequently both. Among the risible titles you will find animated dross “Norm of the North”; an unseen Keanu Reeves entry “Exposed”; the unwanted sequel “Mechanic: Resurrection”; and a failed reboot effort of “Blair Witch”. The studio left craters with the overblown action spectacle “London Has Fallen”, and delivered a gem in bad cinema with “Gods Of Egypt”. It would be piling on for me at this point to include numerous other embarrassing direct-to-DVD titles.
It is commonplace to see a performer whose career gets hot taking on numerous roles as their brand value increases. Teller is a talent, but he may need a rotation of agents. He had a pair of possible star-turn roles in “War Dogs”, and “Bleed For This” which were mostly avoided by the masses. Another title, “Get A Job” took four years of delays to see the light of day, and it was completely disposable. Worse yet, he is part of the young-adult dystopian “Divergent” franchise. The third entry, “Allegiant”, was widely panned, leading to the studio to make a decision. Rather than splitting the finale into two films (common practice with a teen series), it is slashing the budget of the final chapter and dispatching it to a television release. Ouch.
The blatantly Scottish actor appearing as an Egyptian in the comedically horrific “Gods Of Egypt” is enough to gain notice. Appearing in TWO deplorable titles in the same year, adding in “London Has Fallen”, is impressive. But Gerard achieved the very rare feat of delivering back-to-back bombs, as these two titles were released one week apart from each other.
It could be argued other studios had more failures, but when it comes to the scope, Paramount was at the summit of futility last year. They have seen a number of key executives leaving, and parent company Viacom has been exploring a sale to divest from the studio. Meanwhile the film slate has been a raging disappointment. Major box office losers coupled with franchises that are tired and losing ground. The lone bright spot was “Star Trek Beyond”, but that delivered a drop in returns from the series averages. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” came in well below projections. Possibly the biggest bomb of the entire year was “Ben Hur”. Budgeted over $100 million, before marketing costs, it drew only $26m.
The biggest sign of trouble came in a stock press release from parent Viacom. The company reported a $115 million writedown for “Monster Trucks”, a film that was not going to open for another four months. The company was that confident the movie was going to be a disaster. For the year Paramount would be reporting losses in the $500 million range.
And you thought YOU had a bad 2016? Hopefully you now feel slightly better.