The Ten Worst Movies of 2016

2016 was a huge clusterfuck of a year, and I was beyond thrilled when the clock struck midnight on December 31st. For me, it started off with a carjacking, left me with a totaled vehicle, far too many people were met by the Grim Reaper, and it all ended with the wrong person being elected President of the United States. Even when I tried to find solace and relief at the movie theater, I was let down way too many times. Granted, the year did make a comeback towards the very end with cinematic masterpieces like “Manchester by the Sea,” “La La Land” and “Silence,” but it did little to cover up just how much Hollywood let us down.

I did manage to skip seeing some of the bigger bombs of the year like “Warcraft” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” and others like “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” look to have found some salvation through longer cuts on DVD and Blu-ray. Still, 2016 left some awful movies in its wake, and the stench of them gnaw at me months after I sat through them. So, let’s take another swing at these 10 films which had me staring at the screen in sheer disbelief.

  1. Now You See Me 2

Now You See Me 2 poster

“Now You See Me” was both fun and clever, but its sequel tries to outdo the original to such a ridiculous effect to where I came out of it with a massive headache. While it helps to suspend disbelief during movies like these, it quickly became impossible to do so as the magic tricks constantly defied all reasonable logic. By the end, I had long since given up trying to make sense of everything and anything, and not even a talented cast which includes Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson and Daniel Radcliffe among others could use their charisma to make “Now You See Me 2” seem cleverer than it could ever hope to be.

  1. Blair Witch


Here’s another sequel, but this was one I really looked forward to seeing. With it being directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, the same two who gave us “You’re Next” and “The Guest,” I figured they would bring a freshness to this franchise which quickly took a nosedive after the abysmal “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.” Alas, despite some strong reviews which were plastered all over the movie’s poster before its release, “Blair Witch” proved to be the same old thing and terribly unsatisfying. The characters were not the least bit memorable, and after a while it felt more like a bad “Paranormal Activity” sequel than anything else. By the time we reached the movie’s conclusion, I wondered why anyone bothered to make another sequel to “The Blair Witch Project” in the first place.

  1. The 5th Wave


I am now officially burned out on young adult movies which yearn to be profitable franchises as they all look the same. “The 5th Wave” wants to be a “Hunger Games” for the next generation, but instead it feels like recycled material designed to appeal to a demographic which is now on the lookout for something more adult. Despite some strong turns from Chloe Grace Moretz and Maika Monroe, this young adult adventure feels very uninspired as it borrows elements from other movies far superior to it.

  1. Marauders

MARAUDERS final poster

Here’s another movie which tried to stay one step ahead of the audience, and it ended up losing me long before the halfway point. Steven C. Miller’s action thriller has some clever robbery sequences, but the story became so convoluted to where I was surprised I didn’t walk out of it when I had the chance. The plot involves a murder conspiracy which is ridiculously impossible to decipher, and it strands actors like Christopher Meloni, Dave Bautista and Adam Grenier in an infinitely grim motion picture which tried my patience all the way up to the last frame. But worst of all is Bruce Willis who looks like he doesn’t want to be there. While he gets top billing, he’s barely in “Marauders” to where I couldn’t help but think they paid him an obscene amount of money just to show up for a few days’ work. Is this really the kind of crap he has resigned himself to being in on a regular basis?

  1. The Whole Truth


It is very depressing to realize this is Courtney Hunt’s first directorial effort since her excellent movie “Frozen River” as she gives us nothing more than a routine and banal courtroom drama which wastes the time and talent of Keanu Reeves, Renee Zellweger, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Jim Belushi. As soon as we see the snake slithering across the highway at the movie’s start, we know exactly what to expect to where there nothing can surprise us in the slightest, and the case at hand takes turns which baffle even those audience members who never went to law school. Daniel Craig was originally set to play Reeves’ role but dropped out before filming began. Smart move.

  1. I Saw the Light

I Saw the Light movie poster

After a year which saw fantastic biopics like “Straight Outta Compton” and “Love & Mercy,” 2016 gave us this giant lump of coal which attempted to dramatize the life of country music legend Hank Williams. In all fairness, Tom Hiddleston does an impressive job of singing Williams’ songs which are not at all easy to pull off, and he got strong support from Elizabeth Olsen who portrayed his first wife, Audrey Williams. But writer and director Marc Abraham does such a poor job here as the movie goes in directions which leave us wondering as to what point we are at in Hank’s life, and he does little to nothing in terms of digging into the singer’s life to see what made his work so unforgettable. I came out of “I Saw the Light” feeling like I learned nothing about Hank Williams. He may have been a great singer, but the movie portrays him as nothing more than a jerk you wouldn’t want to spend time with.

  1. Cell

Cell movie poster

Far and away one of the worst adaptations ever of a Stephen King novel, and that’s saying a lot. What could have been a gleefully twisted satire on our obsession with cell phones turned out to be nothing more than a typical zombie movie, and the fact the studio dumped it in a few theaters upon its release should give you an idea of the confidence they had in it. Director Tod Williams gives us nothing more than a glum motion picture which reminds us of so many others like it which were so much better, and the cast which includes John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson look so bored to where you wonder why they bothered to show up on set. It all culminates in a very badly lit finale which makes you wonder why no one bothered to reshoot it in the hopes it might save such a lifeless motion picture.

  1. Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad poster

For me, this was the single most disappointing movie of 2016. This should have salvaged a summer movie season where even the best offerings only left so much of an impression, but instead it proved to be the final nail in its beat-up coffin. This should have been a motion picture which exhilarated us with the exploits of villains and bad guys, but even with the talented David Ayer at the helm, “Suicide Squad” proved to be a real waste as the characters were largely defanged to where you want to yell at all those Warner Brothers executives, “THESE ARE BAD GUYS! LET THEM BE BAD GUYS!” This movie played it way too safe, suffers from bad cinematography, and Jared Leto’s Joker was a major letdown. Only Viola Davis seems alive onscreen as her character, who is one of the movie’s good guys, proves to be the most threatening one of all. Such a disappointment, I was expecting it to be one of the most entertaining movies of the year.

  1. Mother’s Day


Watching this movie made me feel physically ill. My body hurt all over as I endured the shameless manipulation and offensiveness of what sadly turned out to be Garry Marshall’s last film before his death. Yes, the man gave us a wealth of great entertainment which included the show “Happy Days” and the movie “Pretty Woman” which made a star out of Julia Roberts, but “Mother’s Day” shows him at his worst as he puts together a terribly contrived story involving a group of unconnected people who somehow come together on yet another holiday (remember, this is from the man who gave us “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve”). Did Marshall even realize how insulting to the intelligence this motion picture would be? Everything about it felt so artificial to where I could never stop cringing from start to finish. Marshall may have been old-fashioned in his approach, but it doesn’t excuse the fact this movie was so incredibly awful.

And now for the worst of the worst, and this is a movie I just love to hate with a passion:

  1. Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

Hillary's America poster

Look, Dinesh D’Souza can hate on Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party all he wants; that’s his right. If I have to sit through one of his movies, I will. But his latest political screed proved to be one of the worst documentaries ever made, and that’s considering if you want to call this a documentary. D’Souza doesn’t even deal with Hillary until the movie’s last half hour, and he instead goes over the racist past of the Democratic Party in an attempt to link it to the Democratic Party of today. In the process, he gives an unintentionally hilarious film which treats all democrats as if they were one-dimensional villains from an 80’s slasher flick, and I eagerly await him to make one of his own called “Democrat the 13th.” Like many filmmakers, D’Souza cherry picks facts and presents them in a way which speaks more to his infinite paranoia and burning desire to rewrite history to his heart’s content. “Hillary’s America” presents us with an endless number of re-enactments, each one worse than the next, a look at D’Souza’s time spent in a halfway house which I’m convinced was co-directed by Tommy Wiseau, and acting which redefines the terms “flat” and “one-dimensional.” When D’Souza does finally get around to dealing with Hillary, my jaw just dropped as his portrayal of her as shrew needing to be tamed spoke more of his anti-feminist views than anything else. D’Souza still wants to prove to the world he was a political martyr, but instead he shows us how cut off from reality he is, and the realization of this is far more frightening than anything he shows us here.

So, those are my picks for the worst movies of 2016. Here’s hoping 2017 is a better year for us all on a personal and professional level.



MARAUDERS final poster

Watching “Marauders,” I kept wondering how this movie even went into production as the screenplay needs a lot more work. It does have some strong action scenes and the cast for the most part does good work, but the plot becomes so amazingly convoluted that it didn’t take long for me to give up following what was going on. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to keep you guessing as to who was up to what, but you have to give a damn about the characters for that to work. What we have instead are cardboard cutouts from every other cop drama ever made, and they occupy a movie too brutal and nihilistic to be the least bit enjoyable.

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Robbing the bank

The movie starts off with a bank robbery where the thieves wear these scary looking masks and use a Siri-like device to give orders to the customers and employees. It’s actually a very clever setup as it looks like these thieves have done their homework and have succeeded in covering their tracks. At the same time, “Marauders” announces loudly, thanks in part to a booming industrial film score by Ryan Dodson, that it is going to be a brutal ride. It’s brutal alright, but brutal doesn’t automatically equate to entertainment.

From there we meet a group of FBI agents played by Chris Meloni, Dave Butista and Adrian Grenier who study the crime scene the way cops and FBI agents do in movies and the evidence points to the bank’s owner, Jeffrey Hubert (Bruce Willis), and his high powered clients as the culprits. Jeffrey treats things and people the way he runs his bank, in an exceedingly cold fashion. Oh yeah, Meloni’s character is a widower who still plays around with his wedding ring and listens to voice messages his wife left him. Grenier plays a newbie to the FBI team, so of course he’s going to be seen as the rookie who has yet to learn how things really work in law enforcement. As for Butista, he plays a seen-it-all kind of guy whose work has long since wiped the smile off his face. You know, it’s the usual cast of characters.

Perhaps I am asking too much of “Marauders” or came into it expecting a fresh take on the heist movie. A movie like this isn’t required to reinvent the genre, but it would have helped if the plot made the least bit of sense or gave us characters who you give a damn about. The term marauder refers to a person involved in banditry, piracy, looting, robbery or theft, and after a while it seems like everyone here is one whether they wear a mask or not. Alliances keep shifting to where the screenplay has plot holes as big as the sinkhole which recently opened up on Contra Costa Boulevard in Northern California.

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Then there’s Bruce Willis whose career continues to take a nosedive as he has been reduced to appearing in VOD releases like this, “Precious Cargo,” “Vice” and “Extraction.” Looking at his face, he seems so disinterested to even be in “Marauders” to where I can’t help but think he did this film just for the money. Heck, he’s barely even in it and is only top billed because he is still considered a big time movie star. Is there anything notable to say about Willis’ appearance here? Well, he does have some hair on his head for a change…

For what it’s worth, Meloni does turn in a strong performance as the widowed FBI agent Jonathan Montgomery. It’s a role not unlike the one he played for years on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” and he gives Jonathan a gruff don’t-mess-with-me demeanor that few are foolish to question or challenge. It’s also cool to see Bautista here as he proves that there is more to him than just being another action hero or a Bond villain. As for Grenier, he’s also good even though his character is essentially a Johnny “Point Break” Utah wannabe who you know is going to mess up on the job at least once.

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Adrian Grenier

But good performances are not nearly enough to save this mess of a movie which goes in all sorts of directions without ever reaching a satisfying conclusion, and the tone is so vile that there’s not much enjoyment to be had. Director Steven C. Miller may have wanted to pay homage to all the great heist movies like Michael Mann’s “Heat,” but it never comes close to reaching greatness. Instead, it leaves a vile aftertaste and you come out of feeling very unclean. A good long shower is mandatory if you bother to sit through this whole thing.

Seriously, “Marauders” is the equivalent of all those straight to video movies that used to pop up at the video store all the time, but it’s not even enjoyable on a “so good it’s bad” level. One has to wonder if Lionsgate had any interest in making a good heist movie when the script for this came along. Perhaps they figured that with stars like Willis and Meloni, the movie would turn a profit even if people hate it. Then again, movies like this one do have “don’t bother” written all over them, so hopefully its target audience will watch “Captain America: Civil War” for the seventh time instead.

* ½ out of * * * *

Copyright Ben Kenber 2016.