1. Tomorrowland – If you are wondering how I could possibly had any hopes for this, you most likely didn’t somehow dodge all the trailers and entire scenes it bombarded the world with leading up to its release. But I did. All I had was that first teaser with the magic pin and George Clooney challenging me to a fight at the end.
It was a great teaser trailer that told us basically nothing, but coupled with the title and what that already means, sold a mystery adventure that stood out amongst all the sequels, reboots and otherwise branded titles around it even while being one of those branded titles itself. In just two minutes, it also sold me on the idea that this new person, star Britt Robertson, was as good as the other similarly aged female superstars we have right now and should probably be playing Jennifer Lawrence’s sister in something by summer 2016.
But none of this came to pass. Tomorrowland is a purposely confusing mess of questions without answers (writer Damon Lindelof’s specialty) that are continually shouted at us by the lead character who just cannot fathom that what is going on is really happening no matter how many times it happens.
The best part is an extended flashback that stars none of the people in that teaser trailer. It’s the only part that feels like the Brad Bird movie we might have imagined if all the information we’d been given was that Brad Bird was making a movie called Tomorrowland. Which at one point, was all we had. Well, that plus some hope for the future.
2. Jurassic World – While I didn’t completely avoid the marketing onslaught of this one, it never filled me with certain dread that way it seemed to many others. I certainly didn’t consider it would be so inconsistent. In such surprising ways even. Almost no actor, no matter how experienced, can keep who their character is straight. And neither can the movie as a whole, really.
It wants so badly to get to the punchline it has in mind, it will bend everything else around that joke to its will, no matter how incredibly stupid it makes that everything. If it thinks you will find a spacey teenage ride worker funny, it will give that to you even if everything else its told you about the park says they would never hire someone like that (never mind where they’d hire him from, on a jungle island in Costa Rica.) If it thinks a lazy, slovenly dinosaur guard will be funny, it will forget how it just told you how important and seriously it takes the safety of the park. Because of what happened before, you see…
If you’re sitting there thinking that it wasn’t any more or less dumb that any other Jurassic Park movie then there’s nothing I can do for you. Except tell you that you sound as dumb as Jurassic World. Which you’ll probably take as a compliment.
3. Me And Earl And The Dying Girl – A standing ovation at Sundance!
You hear that sometimes about movies. I mean, I do anyway. And it sounds promising. Even the second or third time you hear it. But I guess everyone is so tired and annoyed at being in Park City for those two weeks that they are ready to applaud most anything. It’s the only explanation as to why something this blatantly disingenuous could be revered.
That, or people who make movies love movies about people who make movies. Even annoying self-centered kids who make purposely and inexcusably terrible ones.
4. Trainwreck – I don’t care about any gender politics that may be wrapped up in Trainwreck’s existence. The exciting thing about it, besides the trailer (which looked pretty good, if not exactly hilarious), was that movies might be moving in the direction FX’s Louie was pushing productions based around the existing persona of an ascending comedian. Never mind that Judd Apatow was going to be the one doing it, which quality concerns aside (because at this point, you just don’t know how that one will go), meant that it was going to be something that couldn’t just disappear after a week in a Landmark theater only to crop up a few years later as some sort of lost gem now streaming on whatever we’ll be using then.
Trainwreck was going to be a giant comedy, an appeal to everyone star-making vehicle that would serve as a perfect counterpoint to a summer full of a wide array of more traditional blockbuster fare. Trainwreck wasn’t just going to be funny, it was going to be so different doing so that it was going to change so much of the bad parts of the giant comedies we’ve gotten used to lately. And with resistance forces finally forcing Adam Sandler into semi-exile, there was even a spot to be filled. Maybe by something that felt as different as Billy Madison did twenty years ago.
Failure on the being funny portion of that equation alone wouldn’t be so surprising. And it’s not as though it was ever going to mishandle that part of it so terribly that I’d have to make another unfortunate Adam Sandler comparison, but it failed so badly at being any kind of different that it had to try and self-reference it’s way out of being so the same as anything else. Which is a death knell nobody can ever seem to hear in time enough to avoid it.
5. He Named Me Malala – This is kind of an unbelievable failure because even if the most boring person you know told you the story of the person it is about, you’d go from disgusted to enthralled to watching this movie because you figured any rendering of it was going to be the greatest thing you’d ever seen.
But unfortunately, this documentary was made by the same person who was following Lance Armstrong around with a camera when the steroid story broke and managed to make an unwatchably boring movie about it.
Straight Outta Compton – When your VH1 Behind The Music feels more balanced and true a telling of a band’s story, you could be disappointed by any band’s story.
Sicario – This score should win six Oscars because it somehow convinced everyone that military trained and equipped Americans are ever in danger from some Mexicans with six shooters in a Toyota.
Pawn Sacrifice – Tobey Maguire is seriously great in this and I guess that made for enough material to put together a great trailer that made me forget to question what a dumb title it had.
Secret In Their Eyes – A clearly telegraphed twist is never good for a movie, but it isn’t impossible to push through. This one though, ruins the whole mystery being put forth and everything falls down around it.
In The Heart Of The Sea – When the release date was March, it seemed like hey, what a pleasant surprise for an early spring release. When it got moved to December it was like, oh, this movie might be so good they wanted to wait for awards season and risk going up against Star Wars at the box office. Neither one was true. Just like this story, probably.