A high tech thriller with plenty of tech and not enough thrills.
We've given you the four-star, three-and-a-half-star, three-star and two-and-a-half-star reviews written thus far on RogerEbert.com in 2015. Now, for our fifth and final entry in this series, we present the films that have each been given one star or less. The following list has been neatly divided into one-star reviews (such as "Chappie," "Serena" and "Zombeavers"), half-star reviews (including Adam Sandler's "The Cobbler"), and zero-star reviews (look no further than "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2"). Concluding the list are unstarred reviews that received no rating at all because, as Roger aptly put it in his review of "The Human Centipede," these movies occupy "a world where the stars don't shine."
There is one surprise entry on this list, "Mommy," by Xavier Dolan. It actually shared the Jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014, and also was widely praised by others, scoring 90% on the Rotten Tomatoes meter round-up of critics. Even Glenn Kenny who reviewed this movie for our site acknowledged its strong performances. Xavier Dolan is undoubtedly a talented director.
The reviews are presented in alphabetical order and are written by our superb team of critics. They include editor Brian Tallerico; featured critics Glenn Kenny, Simon Abrams, Peter Sobczynski, Odie Henderson, Christy Lemire, Susan Wloszczyna and Sheila O'Malley; and contributors Dan Callahan and Mark Dujsik. Click on the name of each title and you will be directed to the full review.
Accidental Love by Susan Wloszczyna
Just how awful could it be? Really awful. Unwatchably awful. As in, “Give it the Razzie now and be done with it” awful. From its intrusively generic soundtrack heavy on cheesy strings to the painfully frantic attempts at supposed funny business (consider that Paul Reubens aka Pee-Wee Herman provides probably the only well-modulated performance), “Accidental Love” could easily qualify for disaster relief.
Addicted to Fresno by Brian Tallerico “Addicted to Fresno” is such a mean-spirited, dull and silly movie that it buries its talented cast under the weight of a horrendous script that they can’t possibly redeem.
Addicted to Fresno by Brian Tallerico
“Addicted to Fresno” is such a mean-spirited, dull and silly movie that it buries its talented cast under the weight of a horrendous script that they can’t possibly redeem.
Alléluia by Simon Abrams
Sadly, there's nothing funny, or especially provocative about “Alléluia” since the film's impressionistic style is so shallow that one can't help but feel like you're watching a technically accomplished vision of love according to an especially angsty goth teenager.
Any Day by Brian Tallerico
It is the kind of film that opens with “I Shall Be Released” and actually gets less subtle from there. Worst of all, what at first feels like a mediocre character drama becomes something more insidious when writer/director Rustam Branaman uses unspeakable tragedy as an unearned device in a morality play.
Chappie by Peter Sobczynski
"Chappie" is such a misconceived work from a once-celebrated science-fiction visionary that I think that all the people who were lambasting the Wachowskis a few weeks ago over "Jupiter Ascending" now owe them an apology. [...] An exhausting slog through overly familiar cliches that is nowhere near as profound or touching as it clearly thinks it is.
Contracted: Phase II by Simon Abrams
"Phase II" follows the spread of Samantha's disease without delving into the knotty themes of sex-negativity and slut-shaming that the first film tackles with admirable confidence. One-note characters suffer the same symptoms that Samantha did in the last film, but never at the same length, nor the same kinds of psychological hang-ups.
Dirty Weekend by Matt Zoller Seitz
"Dirty Weekend" is a decent idea for a low-budget movie that never gets past the idea stage, and after a brief while, you may start to question whether it should have been a movie at all, much less a 90-minute one.
5 to 7 by Glenn Kenny
Writer/director [Victor] Levin, an old television hand, is clearly looking to make his own “Stolen Kisses”—his Truffaut fandom extends to strategically placing a “Jules And Jim” clip in the movie—but the stupefying level of wish fulfillment here makes the film play, oddly, like a much more refined “Killing Zoe.”
The Gallows by Peter Sobczynski
While I cannot in good conscience recommend the film to members of high school theater departments, I will say that groups that do choose to watch it will probably bust their collective gut laughing at it. Finally, I am amused by the notion that, if only for appearances sake, Kathie Lee Gifford will one day find herself watching it as well. My recommendation to her in this regard? Forgo a mere glass of wine and bring the entire box along instead—you are probably going to need it.
Hitman: Agent 47 by Brian Tallerico
“Hitman: Agent 47” is aggressively awful, the kind of film that rubs its lackadaisical screenwriting, dull filmmaking and boring characters in your face, almost daring you to ask the theater operator for your money back. It is a film that feels made out of contractual obligation instead of artistic venture, or even a remote desire to entertain.
Home Sweet Hell by Sheila O’Malley
The first 20 minutes of "Home Sweet Hell" are so bleakly unfunny that it reaches an almost existential plane. Questions start arising immediately: Is it satire? Is it black comedy? What is this? Once things move into openly psycho territory, "Home Sweet Hell" gets a tad more interesting, but even amateurs know that you have to start strong. [...] "Home Sweet Hell" doesn't just fail to find the right tone. It doesn't find a tone at all.
Hungry Hearts by Glenn Kenny
This really is the sort of movie which, when you describe it to a relative who’s asking you what you’ve reviewed lately (presuming you’re a movie reviewer), they would say, “Who would want to see a movie like that?” If the movie were actually a good one—which I think in this case would be impossible, not because the material is so inherently intransigent, but because the specifics of the materials are contrived in such bad faith—you’d be left stammering impotently. But because the movie is this very bad one, you just say, “Right?”
Into the Grizzly Maze by Simon Abrams
"Into the Grizzly Maze" is the kind of bad horror film that makes you return to older schlock like "Grizzly" with unearned reverence. This is not productively bad: it's just bad.
Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser by Brian Tallerico
If you’re one of those people who watched the original every time it was on cable (and found something to tweet about it), [the film] contains enough callbacks to the original to satisfy. Anyone else should probably look elsewhere for their comedy. “Joe Dirt 2” is wildly inconsistent, often feeling like it was slapped together quickly before someone changed their mind and put a stop payment on the financing check.
Kidnapping Mr. Heineken by Dan Callahan
The major problem among many in the unfocused “Kidnapping Mr. Heineken” is that very little thought seems to have been given to how this story should be told or why it merits telling.
Kill Me Three Times by Glenn Kenny
The requisite spurting gunshot wounds to the neck are also here; what isn’t here is engaging dialogue, [...] engaging characters, or any kind of convincing reason-for-being with respect to the whole enterprise. One is apt to mourn the time wasted not just by the movie’s living participants, but also by the VW bug. All participants could have gotten up to something far more enjoyable.
The Lazarus Effect by Peter Sobczynski
"The Lazarus Effect" is such a limp excuse for a horror movie that it cannot even get a rise out of a couple of kids out past their bedtime on a school night. The entire thing is shot in such darkness that the mere act of looking at it becomes a chore that is hardly worth the effort.
Lila and Eve by Peter Sobczynski
"Lila & Eve" is not supposed to be funny—indeed, the central topic is about as unfunny as one could possibly imagine—but nevertheless inspires huge laughs, albeit of the unintentional kind, thanks an idiotic screenplay and a supposedly "shocking" plot twist that even the most inattentive viewers should be able to figure out within the first fifteen minutes or so, tops.
The Loft by Peter Sobczynski
A shabby bore that promises viewers any number of kinky thrills and then proceeds to deflate those expectations. [...] It's like a combination of "The Apartment," minus the caustic wit and interesting characters, "Reservoir Dogs" sans the powerful sexual tension and a below-average episode of "Law & Order SVU." Actually, that description makes it sound far more interesting than it actually is.
The Lovers by Glenn Kenny
The scenic cinematography by Ben Nott is often beautiful, which distracts, at times, from the fact that the storyline is both convoluted in the most gratuitous way possible and that it’s enacted in the most unengaging way imaginable. [...] “The Lovers” is both worse and perhaps better than a drag: it’s a tranquilizer.
Mommy by Glenn Kenny
One gets the feeling that Dolan finds [the character of Steve] admirable somehow, which rubbed this critic very much the wrong way. To the extent that as the movie trudged on, whenever some misfortune befell the boy, I found myself reminded of the notorious reactionary conservative cartoonist Al Capp’s observation that by his lights, “Easy Rider” had a happy ending.
Outcast by Glenn Kenny
Aside from providing an object lesson in how Chinese film financing forces some rather remarkable storyline convolutions into generic international action pictures, “Outcast” provides nothing of interest. There are hundreds of good to great action movies out there that you could watch instead of this. Some of them star Nicolas Cage. You’d be better off. Trust me.
Out of the Dark by Simon Abrams
The biggest problem with "Out of the Dark" [is that] it's not even immediately involving. [...] Spanish director Lluis Quilez doesn't take enough time to show us what his characters are feeling, or how their bodies move in relation to each other. He also doesn't film any of his actors with proper lighting, preferring a murky, brownish-black palette that makes the title of "Out of the Dark" seem like wishful thinking.
Paulo Coelho's Best Story by Pablo Villaça
The movie practically denies Paulo Coelho the respect of being recognized for his books, as if they were not enough to justify honoring him. Even if I don’t enjoy his work, I am fully aware that his success should have yielded at least an acceptable biopic. This is not one.
Pay the Ghost by Brian Tallerico
“Pay the Ghost” is a new low for Nicolas Cage. Just when you thought he couldn’t get any more apathetic about a role, he pops up in this lazy, boring retread of “Insidious” that even his most diehard fans should ignore.
Serena by Brian Tallerico
By the misguided ending, it’s a flat-out disaster, the kind of film that its cast and crew hope gets buried as quickly as possible as they race to move on to other projects. Given the fact that it was filmed almost three years ago, Cooper and Lawrence have likely forgotten they made it by now. Follow their lead.
Some Kind of Beautiful by Matt Zoller Seitz
For Pierce Brosnan completists only—go ahead, raise your hands if you're one of them, this is a safe space—"Some Kind of Beautiful" is a handsomely produced movie full of likable actors that conjures nothing but tedium. A couple of hours of air conditioning, nothing more.
Staten Island Summer by Brian Tallerico
We’re never given one reason to care about Danny. Sure, he seems nice, but literally everyone around him is simply more interesting. “Staten Island Summer” is one of those films in which virtually every time a supporting character leaves, you wish you could go with him or her.
The Stranger by Simon Abrams
It's a lousy little film that is so dark and joyless that it leaves you feeling like you wasted your time watching it. But while "The Stranger" is bad, the fact that it makes you wait and wait for its excessively dismal perspective to be justified by a measly little twist is even worse.
Stung by Simon Abrams
"Stung" is the worst kind of neo-exploitation film: the kind that encourages you to root for a good guy who is essentially a man-child until crisis mode kicks in, and he abruptly becomes Badass Grownupmin.
Unfreedom by Glenn Kenny
Do such outrages happen in real life? Of course they do, and they’re awful, but their representation in this work is so willfully heavy handed that coherence of any kind—artistic, dramatic, ideological—finds no bearing. As accomplished and committed as most of the cast is, one doesn’t so much find affinity with the characters they play as feel bad that they were compelled to enact such ugly movements.
Unfriended by Mark Dujsik
The movie possesses two fatal miscalculations: 1.) All of these characters are self-absorbed, unsympathetic bores; 2.) It simply is not very interesting to watch video chats and text messages, particularly when the participants are of the sort described in item No. 1.
Vacation by Glenn Kenny
“Vacation” is, minute to minute, one of the most repellent, mean-spirited gross-out comedies it’s ever been my squirmy displeasure to sit through.
Vice by Brian Tallerico
It’s one of those nearly straight-to-VOD pieces that fluctuates between boring and offensive, never rising above either adjective. Some will dismiss it by saying it’s so ineffective as to never really aggravate critical faculties, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a complete waste of time and talent as well.
War Room by Matt Fagerholm
It may not be as brazenly offensive as “God’s Not Dead” or as spectacularly inept as “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas,” but it’s still awful, offering all the forced humor and superficial substance of a half-baked homily. […] “War Room” preaches that we have no call to be righteous and judge others, yet the film itself is righteous and judgmental in the extreme.
We Come as Friends by Simon Abrams
Viewers are not privileged with a more thoughtful, specific view of the institutionalized problems that Sudanese natives face because Sauper's not interested in making that kind of film. Instead, he provokes viewers by juxtaposing quasi-archetypal stories and loaded footage that are, as they're arranged in the film, only as meaningful as you want them to be.
Zombeavers by Simon Abrams
"Zombeavers" is the kind of comedy whose greatest innovation is in its title, a play on words that suggests both a flesh-eating dam-builder, and a deathless female body part. That joke is tellingly flogged like the proverbial dead horse throughout "Zombeavers," a comedy that sounds much funnier than it actually is.
The Cobbler by Brian Tallerico
If one subscribes to the theory that you can learn as much from a bad movie as from a good one, this one’s a master class in what not to do. What starts off as purely harmless mediocrity piles on the narrative and filmmaking mistakes to such a degree that it’s like watching a train wreck…that bursts into flames…and then another train crashes into it.
Dawn Patrol by Peter Sobczynski
So rotten in so many ways that there is a temptation to look at it at first as some kind of demented deadpan spoof of films that celebrate grotesque macho codes above all else, and it is only with a gradual sense of horror that it becomes apparent that not only are we meant to take it seriously but that it thinks that it is saying something profound.
In Stereo by Sheila O'Malley
Mel Rodriguez III’s "In Stereo," a "romantic" "comedy" (quotations required for both words) is one of the lowest-stakes movies in recent memory, and the worst part is that it thinks that it is a high-stakes movie. It also thinks these characters have "relatable" problems. They don't. The main problem they share is that their personalities stink and they don't know it. Rodriguez, who wrote the script, doesn't seem to know it either.
Mad Women by Sheila O’Malley
Jeff Lipsky's "Mad Women" is a series of interminable monologues, two or three per scene. Characters sit around, even during tense confrontations, and listen to each other talk without interruption. The actors feel at sea in a torrent of words. The plot of "Mad Women" is ridiculous, unmotivated and "shocking," but that wouldn't be an issue at all if there had been some attempt at style, or mood, or a point of view.
Marfa Girl by Odie Henderson
This is a listless, uninspired piece of work whose most outrageous sexual material—toned down by [Larry] Clark’s standards—is no match in the offensiveness department for the scene where Marfa Girl (Drake Burnette) verbally dresses down a Mexican border patrol officer from her perch of privilege.
Mortdecai by Peter Sobczynski
One of those rare birds that is so off-putting in so many ways that all I could do for the most part was wonder how so many presumably intelligent people could be persuaded to sign on to produce and appear in something that could not have possibly seemed like anything other than a total mess from its earliest stages.
No Escape by Peter Sobczynski
The screenplay is bad boilerplate with the occasional lapse into outright buffoonery […], the characters we are meant to be rooting for are bores and the action is never especially exciting—but the way in which it treats its ostensibly serious subject in such a flip and exploitative manner is far more offensive than anything [John Erick and Drew Dowdle] have offered up before.
Return to Sender by Peter Sobczynski
"Return to Sender" is dreck of the lowest kind—a sleazy exploitation film that is all the worse because it has somehow convinced itself that it is thoughtful and profound. For anyone interested in a well-told story, its failings at the most basic narrative levels will seem appalling. For anyone who has been a victim of sexual violence, its weirdly dated approach to rape and its aftermath will come across as enraging.
Safelight by Brian Tallerico
“Safelight” is a jaw-droppingly bad movie, a film that doesn’t have characters or a plot. It has mouthpieces who speak in platitudes and clichés, pushing forward through a predictable, depressing narrative that sounds like a flunked high school student’s attempt at creative fiction.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 by Christy Lemire
Think of the worst movie you’ve ever seen – a movie that didn’t make you laugh, didn’t make you cry, didn’t move you or change you in any way besides giving you the desperate urge to flee the theater. Think of a movie that was a massive waste of your time and money. Hold that title in your mind. “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” is worse than that.
The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) by Simon Abrams
This is the first new film I've seen in a while that made me feel like it was made in the same vein as "Blood Feast," an incompetent 1963 horror film that took films from the intentionally off-putting Grand Guignol theater, and sold itself to drive-in and grindhouse attendants as "the first splatter film." [...] If you like your sleazy exploitation films to be joyless, calculating, and obnoxious, you are the only ones who will enjoy "Human Centipede 3."
Welcome to New York by Simon AbramsThe version of "Welcome to New York" that IFC Films is releasing—the film's producers at Wild Bunch cut the film against [Abel] Ferrara's wishes, from 125 minutes down to 109—isn't as powerful, intelligent, or coherent. To put it bluntly: the version of "Welcome to New York" that's being released today isn't worth seeing.
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