2015 is shaping up to be a good year for movies. There are new Star Wars, Avengers and James Bond flicks on the horizon, as well as plenty of promising art-house films. But you’re a busy person who can’t see everything, so how do you decide what’s worth your valuable time and money? It’s not easy, but we can help with a list of movies you can definitely ignore.
10. Fifty Shades of Grey (Feb 13)
We’re Sorry to Tell You This, But If You Found This At Your Parent’s House They’re Definitely Having Sex Again: The Movie was slated to be released on Valentine’s Day but was pushed forward to the 13th, presumably after they realized that releasing a movie that glamorizes an abusive relationship on a day dedicated to romance would be like releasing a movie glorifying The Troubles on St. Patrick’s Day.
There’s little to be said about the story itself that hasn’t been said a hundred times already. Honestly, for anyone looking forward to this movie it looks like you’re going to get about as good of an adaptation as you could reasonably expect. Everyone involved, from the stars to the writers to the director, have respectable if unremarkable resumes. It seems they’ve come together, pardon the phrasing, to make a film that delivers exactly what it promises.
No, the reason to not look forward to Fifty Shades is the spectacle that will surround it. The tacky merchandise that will flood every bookstore. The identical opinion pieces clogging up all of your favorite websites. The friends and family who will all make the exact same disparaging remark and think they’re clever for doing so. The people who will just giggle whenever it’s discussed because tee hee, it’s a movie about unorthodox sex. Even if you have absolutely no interest in Fifty Shades, and we’re guessing you don’t, you’ll have to endure its very existence. And that makes it worth dreading as much as IRA Hooray! a movie that went into pre-production shortly after we finished writing the first paragraph.
9. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (Mar 13)
In 2007, the found footage horror movie Paranormal Activity was declared a ground-breaking phenomenon by people who forgot that The Blair Witch Project did the same thing but better in 1999. Made for just $15,000, the rights were acquired for $350,000 and it went on to make over 193 million at the box office. It was one of the most profitable movies ever made in terms of return on investment, so Hollywood immediately decided to run it into the ground.
Three sequels, a spinoff and an unofficial Japanese adaptation have been released to increasing critical disdain and audience disinterest, but the latter is a term we use relatively for a franchise that can crap out 90 minutes of spooky noises and jump scares and still get 20 times its budget back. And thus we’re getting Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, a title they settled on after Horror Movie: Boo! Ghosts! was rejected for not being generic enough. The family doomed to enter the Ghost Dimension features housewife Emily, who’s “more serious than her young husband—she’s constantly on the go, does yoga, and though loving, has an air of maturity about her,” young daughter Leila, “a fearless, opinionated tomboy,” and a husband and son who are also boring cookie cutter characters no one will care about. One’s named Steve, maybe.
If you’re hoping that diminishing returns will kill the franchise off, we’ve got bad news—while an end-game has been planned, they “need time to get there.” Yeah, we can see how you might need a few more flicks to wrap up the complex mythology that is “demons are killing people.” They might as well call future installments Normal Activity, because when this many houses get haunted it’s hard to sell it as something unusual.
8. The Divergent Series: Insurgent (Mar 20)
Read that movie title again. Read it slowly. Really bask in how awkward and stilted it is. It kind of says it all about this Hunger Games knockoff, doesn’t it?
To some extent, criticism of The Divergent Series: Insurgent: This Thesaurus Has Really Paid Off is going to come across as petty. It’s a series marketed at teenagers, especially teenage girls, and since TopTenz hasn’t been run by teenage girls for several years we don’t think Hollywood executives are losing sleep over our opinion. Adults who pick apart teen franchises can sound out of touch and arrogant, because while they may be technically correct neither the fans nor the creators could care less. On the other hand, any movie with a plot summary of “Tris Prior tries to figure out the intention behind Erudite’s insurrection as well as information the Abnegation are trying to protect” deserves to be mocked at least a little bit.
Besides, while these movies are made for teens, their fan base sure isn’t limited to them (half the audience for The Divergent Series: Divergent: That’s Implicitly Its Title In Retrospect And Wow, Is That Ever Dumb was over 25). Teen dystopias are the hot new thing, which explains why 2015 is also seeing the release of The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials: Please Don’t Tell Us You Already Forgot About the First One and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – Stuff Happens In This One, We Swear. Americans of all ages have stood up and demanded young adult stories.
And that’s fine, but in that case can we at least demand good ones? Everything about The Divergent Series is rote, generic and coldly calculated to check as many boxes on a marketing spreadsheet as possible. There isn’t a mote of creativity or soul in it, and if we reward it at the box office we’re just going to punish ourselves with more of the same.
7. The Longest Ride (Apr 10)
The Longest Ride sounds affably generic. A Fast and the Furious knockoff maybe, or perhaps a crime drama. And then just when you’ve gotten your hopes up, you discover that it’s yet another Nicolas Sparks adaptation.
Pointing out that movies like The Notebook, Dear John and The Lucky One are critical bombs is like pointing out that the grass is green—no one is surprised, and they’ll wonder why you felt the need to state the obvious. And hey, if you like schmaltzy romances, more power to you. We all have our guilty pleasures, as our willingness to passionately defend Wild, Wild West demonstrates. Sparks’ work has its fans and serve its purpose.
But for the love of two misfits brought together despite all odds, please give the rest of us a break. This will be the 11th Sparks adaptation since 1999, and the seventh since 2010. They’re relentless. Guys and girls who are dating sensitive guys unafraid to be in touch with their emotions can only buy so many packages of Kleenex to bring on so many tedious dates before they burn out. And look at the plot summary:
Ira Levinson, ninety years old and already in poor health, is just holding on; remaining alert only because his wife Ruth, who has died, appears as an image to help him remember their life together. How they met, the paintings they collected and the dark days of WW2.
Just a few miles away, Sophia, a Wake Forest college student’s life is about to change forever as she meets an unexpected love, Luke. Luke is a cowboy and risk-taking bull-rider, unlike anyone she has ever known. Together they experience the joys of love as well as the difficulties that come with Luke’s dangerous career.
Two couples who have little in common, yet whose lives will converge with unexpected poignancy.
Poor health, dark days, unexpected love, dangerous career, little in common, it’s freaking Nicolas Sparks mad libs. Even if you’ve seen nothing but trailers for other Sparks’ movies, you’ve already seen this movie. Please, please, take a year off and then give us a Sparks story featuring robots, assassins and/or time travel. We promise we’ll watch it.
6. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (Apr 17)
There are some movies that, despite not setting the world on fire, earn a sequel through sheer force of will. Maybe it was a cult classic with dedicated fans. Maybe it was a critical darling or a studio pet project. Maybe it left a cliff-hanger that was just begging to be resolved. Paul Blart: Mall Cop was not one of those movies. Paul Blart: Mall Cop was 90 minutes of “fattie falls down” jokes, and with the greatest respect to the comedic masterminds who crafted them, we don’t think we need more. Rest, masters of the craft. Your noble work is done.
Comedy sequels tend to perform worse than sequels in other genres, and Mall Cop 2 isn’t exactly following up on Airplane! Even if you enjoyed the bland and forgettable comedic stylings of Mr. Blart, did you enjoy them enough to want to see another 90 minutes of them? If you think Segways are intrinsically hilarious, then by all means, go and enjoy this film. Just keep in mind that the friend who had to read this article to you probably isn’t interested.
5. Pitch Perfect 2 (May 15)
Speaking of sequels no one asked for, here’s Pitch Perfect 2! “We’re back pitches”? Hang on, we need to go invent movie poster jail. That’s not a pun, that’s a stroke victim trying and failing to communicate. Calling “We’re back pitches” wordplay is like throwing bacon at someone and calling it a football game. And then the trailer picks up that bacon and runs with it, declaring “the pitch is back” in-between fart noises and stereotypes about Europeans.
Alright, so Pitch Perfect got good reviews and was a box office success. But that was back in 2012, and it’s hard to tell a second story about the same ragtag group of misfits coming together to win the big singing competition without either being repetitive or implying that everyone’s lives fell apart in-between the movies. And seriously, people, you can’t read that tagline and have any hope. Every time we look at it we want to punch, just… all the things.
4. The Transporter Legacy (Jun 19)
Legacy is a big word. It takes a lot to earn one. Abraham Lincoln and FDR have legacies. Great artists like Da Vinci have legacies. A trilogy of movies about Jason Statham driving really fast and shooting half the country does not have a freaking legacy.
The Transporter movies were perfectly generic action movies, the kind of flicks that are great for falling asleep in front of after a night at the bar. They knew their purpose, and they served them well. They did not go down as iconic shoot ‘em ups in desperate need of a reboot.
Yup, it’s a reboot. Not to get pedantic, but the whole point of a reboot is to wipe away the old timeline and start fresh. So what, exactly, is the legacy in this situation? Is hero Frank Martin going to drive really old cars and deliver famous paintings? Is he going to be passing life lessons on how to go vroom vroom and bang bang to his kids? Or is it just a stupid title for a stupid movie starring a British rapper no one in North America has heard of? Because if it’s the latter it will probably be about as successful as the Transporter TV series we had no idea existed right up until five minutes before we wrote this sentence, and no, don’t even try to pretend that you were familiar with it.
3. Hitman: Agent 47 (Aug 28)
Movies based on video games have had mixed results. Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are fun if you’re with friends and intoxicated, that Prince of Persia flick was watchable if you had literally nothing else to do with your time, and pretty much everything else has been garbage. Okay, that’s not really mixed, but we seem to have picked up The Transporter’s diction legacy.
But how hard can it be to make a movie based on the Hitman games? A guy in a tuxedo sneaks around and kills people. It’s basically a James Bond movie, if you replace the clever dialogue with more violence and Bond’s personality with a shaved head (that’s used to commit more violence).
It’s apparently harder than it sounds, because they already tried in 2007 and it was terrible. Like, “We’d rather watch The Super Mario Bros. while sober” terrible. Admittedly, that may bode well for this remake/reboot/legacy/whatever, because it would take a truly titanic effort to make Hitman: Agent 47 worse than Hitman: Not Good Enough For a Subtitle. And it stars Rupert Friend! He’s pretty good in Homeland, right? And he’s played a Nazi and one of the jerkier men in Pride and Prejudice! Those are all the qualities you need to be a ruthless assassin! And Zachary Quinto’s in it, he’s cool! Hey, maybe this won’t be so bad after… ugh, we can’t even finish that thought. It’s going to be dumb, you guys. So, so dumb.
2. Victor Frankenstein (Oct 2)
You’ve recoiled in terror at the classic story of Frankenstein’s monster trying to fit into a world where he doesn’t belong. You’ve recoiled in a different kind of terror as Aaron Eckhart slummed his way through I, Frankenstein, where the iconic creation battled demons, his own tortured soul and every lesson ever taught by every film school. Now learn the gritty origins of the doctor who created the monster in a movie that apparently doesn’t feature the latter character that people actually care about in Victor Frankenstein, starring Professor X as Victor and Harry Potter as his hunchbacked but still dreamy assistant.
Told from Igor’s perspective, we see the troubled young assistant’s dark origins, his redemptive friendship with the young medical student Viktor Von Frankenstein, and become eyewitnesses to the emergence of how Frankenstein became the man who created the legend we know today.
Become eyewitnesses to the emergence of how Frankenstein became a mad scientist? Heck, you don’t need a two hour movie to learn that backstory. We can tell it to you right now: “Who the hell cares? Dude’s a mad scientist.”
That’s not us being flippant, that’s us reflecting the collective critical and commercial shrug given to Dracula Untold, the origin story of everyone’s favorite bloodsucker. Spoiler alert: it was dark and gritty but also intended to arouse sympathy. Bet you didn’t see that coming, huh?
There’s a reason most adaptations of Frankenstein and Dracula don’t give us summaries of the title characters’ college years, and that’s because it doesn’t matter. It’s the classic prequel trap. You already know what’s going to happen to the character, especially one as famous and straightforward as Dr. Frankenstein. So does it really matter how he gets there? The optimists among our readers would say yes, but anyone who had to suffer through Dracula Untold is scrawling “NO” on their monitor in blood.
1. Jem and the Holograms (Oct 23)
We’re going to let Wikipedia lead on this one. “Jem and the Holograms is an upcoming 2015 American live-action romantic musical fantasy comedy-drama film based on the toy line and 1980s animated television series of the same name.”
Did you get all that? A live-action romantic musical fantasy comedy-drama based on a toy line and, oh yeah, some TV show half the audience has forgotten and the other half never heard of in the first place. We’ll say it once more, to really let it sink in. A romantic musical fantasy comedy-drama based on a toy line. That’s not a movie, that’s a marketing executive’s erotic dream.
What could have been goofy fun looks to be taking itself too seriously while also trying to sell merchandise, and that’s a dangerous game for a movie to play. Just look at the poster. That’s not an offbeat cartoon, that’s a European drama about drug addicted lesbian prostitutes. And that’s heavy stuff for the director who’s previously brought us two Step Up movies, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
To be fair, that’s actually the perfect resume for what looks like a semi-dramatic dance movie marketed at teenagers who don’t know or care about the cartoon. But from outside of that demographic’s perspective it looks like an art-house had a fling with a Korean animation sweatshop and their lovechild was a marketing campaign, and there’s something truly outrageous about that kind of cynical filmmaking. So save your money, readers! Or alternatively, when Jem and the rest of these movies become beloved hits, come back and tell us how dumb we were! Either way, you win!