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The Worst of 2017 (So Far)

I can't very well talk about some of the most rewarding films of the year without putting my $0.02 cents on the ones which rewarded the least; the ones that left a bitter taste in the mouth, months after first watching them on the big screen.

Transformers: The Last Knight - I was going to review Bay's latest toy commercial during a week-long retrospective on each of the installments of the Transformers franchise (and I will end up finishing said retrospective soon, I promise...), but here's the cliffnotes version on what I've got to say for movie no.5: It's still the same mindless junk he's put out since the surprise 2007 hit, just even more tedious and uninteresting than before. I'm tired of Optimus Prime and his cohorts, the Autobots, in yet another attempt to tell us stupid humans that the Decipticons are bad news and that they'll never leave our world alone unless they work together to stop them; I'm tired of the unrelenting obnoxious comic relief and lowest-common denominator-style humor; and I'm tired of watching distinguished actors like Anthony Hopkins trade off some dignity for an easy payday. But most of all: I'm tired of Bay's sound and fury approach to filmmaking, signifying nothing and leaving me empty inside. Despite his departure from the franchise, the series still persists, with a spinoff on Bumblebee set to land next year and a sixth entry in the works. The slogan of the Transformers is that there's more than meets the eye. The more I see of this series, the more I want it to end. And speaking of a film series that needs to be put down.....

Alien: Covenant - I really don't want to say this of Ridley Scott, a director who's re-defined the sci-fi genre twice with 1979's Alien and 1982's Blade Runner, as well as craft wildly entertaining fare from Gladiator to The Martian, but I'm sorry - this sequel to 2012's Prometheus was the most infuriating picture to sit through this summer, and it didn't need to be this way. I enjoyed what he tried to do in Prometheus: scientists, explorers and hired hands blasting off into the cosmos in search of meeting their creators, only to discover they plan on ending the very thing they made, and the very themes are somewhat touched on in Covenant: Michael Fassbender's mischievous android David wanting to create life himself because he has a god-like complex like his maker, Peter Weyland did with him, thus creating the xenomorph, the alien race that will later haunt Ellen Ripley through four movies. Unfortunately, Scott doubles down on what people didn't like about Prometheus and made those problems even worse: a lack of developed characters, Kathrine Waterson as the Ripley-ripoff, a plot twist which everyone and their mother could see coming down the tracks, and characters making spectacularly ill-advised decisions that puts the crew in serious jeopardy. If 2015's The Martian was the English director at his most playful, then this bitter, middle-finger to the fans is Scott at his most indifferent.

Fifty Shades Darker - In the five years I've been reviewing movies for this site, I've never come across a line this astronomically stupid and inept: "Here I am, trying to be all romantic, and you're distracting me with your kinky fuckery." I wonder if they crew had to pull a Fincher and to go through this one scene almost 100 times because the star, Dakota Johnson had either cracked up while uttering it because it was so blatantly ridiculous, or that she said it with such contempt and disgust that it was included in the script. And yet, the film sinks lower from there: this sequel to 2015's mommy-porn hit is one big snore; the romance between Johnson and Jamie Dorman's Christian Grey is about as hot as a pile of ashes, and outside the supposed romance, nothing remotely interesting happens. There's plenty of plot points, like Steele's rape-y publishing boss and Grey's old fuck-buddy stalking him and his GF, but they're just as discarded and wrapped up as fast as they came in. When the pornographic knockoff, The Submission of Emma Marx does a better job at being an interesting, erotic drama than the Hollywood original, you know you fucked up.

The Emoji Movie - Not since The Fault In Our Stars have I come across a movie which rewards the least, which left me feeling absolutely nothing. It's the kind of experience that just makes you wonder why do you go to the movies when the studio bigwigs can craft something this empty, this devoid of qualities where even a bad movie should be. It's a checklist of what the studios think kids and parents will eat up: a worn out message of being true to yourself, product placing up the wazoo, jokes only older audiences will get, talented actors lending their voices for a quick payday, and cheaply and cynically borrowing from better, more satisfying animated fare (ripping off the inside of Riley's subconscious from Pixar's Inside Out in the form of what a smart phone looks like on the inside is borderline shameless). Emoji is the entertainment system at it's most cynical, as well as it's most insulting.

The Mummy - Sure, writer/director Stephen Sommers might be seen as a studio hack, but at least his two Mummy entries were at the very least fun and exciting popcorn flicks. Whatever problems I had about the first two films, I would gladly take over whatever first time director and co-writer Alex Kurtman brought to the table. There's so many tonal shifts, from action-adventure beats, to horror shots, to building an Avengers-style universe of Universal's classic monster movies, starting with the introduction of Jekyll as a leader of a secret agency dedicated to vanquishing evil, that this messy, inconsistent thing of a movie becomes a tiresome and joyless chore to endure. It doesn't help that Tom Cruise and his ego are wildly unchecked to the point where his natural charisma turns smug and obnoxious, and nor do the bland performances of everyone in this slog, from Sofia Boutella as the titular Mummy to Russell Crowe as friggin Jekyll. Universal is planning more installments in the future, beginning with Bill Condon's Bride of Frankenstein in February 2019, but if it's anything like what we got here, I'll pass.


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