Michael Ward on Sunday, December 31

"The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." - Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Anyone who sets out to make a film hopes that an image, a script, a character, or an element of their story resonates with someone who takes the time to watch it. We create art for any number of reasons, but inherently, (most) art comes from a good and genuine place. Sadly, not everything works as well as intended. In fact, some times the sheer task of making movies can overwhelm producers and/or directors, studio heads can clash, actors can assert their celebrity status, and attempt to wrestle the project away from those in charge, and on and on.

Any number of things can go wrong before we even get to the reality that ego can play a large hand in how movies get finished. Directors can demand scenes stay in, editors can be overruled, producers may want sections of the film re-shot or scripts rewritten. Sometimes directors will just freely admit that they didn't have the time to shoot their whole script. (Yes, this happened.)

And so, unfortunately, on any given weekend at the Multiplex, we might find ourselves unwittingly wandering on that "Road to Hell," watching all the good intentions for a film catch fire and burn all around us. 

And it's about to get really warm in here.

Note: Hover or click the image to see more information about this particular list.


10. THE DARK TOWER (Director: Nikolaj Arcel)

The Dark Tower is what happens when everyone thinks they are the smartest person in the room, no one listens or relents for the good of the team, and egos and hubris prevail. Also, a reminder to not let Akiva Goldsman come anywhere near your source material.

A boring, confusing, annoying film that never commits to whether it is a horror film, a suspense/thriller, a Young Adult dystopian sci-fi adventure, an action film, or even a supernatural drama with comedic breaks.

The sooner everyone involved can put this film in their rearview and move on…the better we all will be.

9. THE GHOST IN THE SHELL (Director: Rupert Sanders)

As visually impressive as it is dead inside, Ghost in the Shell is a dull, empty-headed science-fiction adaptation of the iconic manga series from Japan. Scarlett Johansson spins her wheels in a film that devolves into an exhausting movie that not only acknowledges its white-washing but full on embraces it. The less said here the better.

8. TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (Director: Michael Bay)

Michael Bay has run out of all you-know-whats to give with the final One Hundred and Fifty-Four Minute Transformers film. Someone apparently showed Bay "Game of Thrones" because he opens his "movie" in 484 A.D. with Merlin, King Arthur, a hidden stable of Transformers and robotic dragons. By the end, your body is numb for the incomprehensible plot, ear-splitting sound effects, and impossible-to-follow battles and action sequences. Can we finally wave Bay-Bye to this cinematic assault on the senses, once and for all? No. A Bumblebee spin-off is coming in 2018. 

7. THE MUMMY (Director: Alex Kurtzman)

A glimpse into what it might be like watching Tom Cruise direct, as he reportedly used his leverage to take over significant elements of the final product, The Mummy is the movie that killed the Universal Studios' Dark Universe before it ever got started. Cruise finds himself opposite Sofia Boutella in a silly, overlong, action/sci-fi/fantasy that has a half-dead Jake Johnson cracking jokes, Boutella all villainy, and Cruise completely overwhelmed by everything. 

6. THE CIRCLE (Director: James Ponsoldt)

Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and John Boyega get completely lost in a botched thriller (?- this movie kind of defies categorization) about a social media company who become obsessed with access to everyone all the time. Butchered in the editing room, it had to be, full of a wildly swinging pendulum of slow-clap comedy to Young Adult-style subplots to suspense to Millennial angst (or lack thereof) and a historically bad performance from Boyhood's Ellar Coltrane, The Circle is almost so bad it has to be seen to be believed.

5. THE BYE BYE MAN (Director: Stacy Title)

Oh January horror films are the worst. The Bye Bye Manbased on true events (!), gives us a villainous demon who's name you cannot say or even think about because he will be summoned. Hmm, clever. Nevermind the fact that if you consider the logic of the movie, the fact that you’re even watching a movie using that entity’s name means you’re cursed and…oh, wait. Now I get it.

There’s a train symbolizing something never explained. There are scenes were people should be bleeding but can’t because the film is rated PG-13 and blood cannot be shown. The editing is atrocious, the dialogue absurd and absent of any scares. Like any at all.

By the end, so much of this movie devolves into these brats saying that they won’t say “it”, that they can’t say “it”, and they even hold their mouths closed with their hands to avoid saying “it,” WHICH DOES NOT MATTER BECAUSE THEY ARE STILL THINKING ABOUT THE VERY THING THEY APPARENTLY CAN’T SAY!

4. BAYWATCH (Director: Seth Gordon)

Baywatch is the antithesis of fun, funny, entertaining, humorous, joyful, engaging, memorable, and all the rest of any positive superlatives you can throw at it. In a theater full of 20 people, at a Thursday night preshow, four folks walked out by the midway point and no one made a sound, except the one gentleman who laughed uproariously at EVERYTHING. One of the most painful exercises I've had at the movies in years, Baywatch can't even make the idea of Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron starring together worth watching. 

3. THE SNOWMAN (Director: Tomas Alfredson)

The problems run far beyond Tomas Alfredson's coming clean about 10-15% of the script not getting shot. The Snowman is nonsensical garbage, alternating between being predictable and obvious and also making zero sense. This is SyFy-level silliness with a budget. Michael Fassbender looks half-asleep, everyone in Norway speaks English it seems, and a head-turning cast including J.K. Simmons, Chloe Sevigny, Tony Jones, and Val Kilmer (sadly the victim of the worst vocal overdubbing in an English-language movie in years) all succumb to the ineptitude on display. Sure, the snowy landscape looks pretty enough for awhile, but the movie is laugh-out-loud bad and completely impossible to understand, despite “giving us all the clues.”

2. THE EMOJI MOVIE (Director: Tony Leondis)

I could be clever and just use emojis to write this summary, but the movie doesn’t deserve or earn the time spent searching through my phone to find them. By the 8-minute mark of this 80-minute abomination, there are so many questions to be answered with The Emoji Movie that I defy anyone to explain the plot to the degree required, thus spending even one more minute discussing the worst animated movie of the decade.

1. FIFTY SHADES DARKER (Director: James Foley)

Marketed and sold largely to women, Fifty Shades Darker is about the most male-driven and male-empathizing trash imaginable. Everything Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) does here placates or attempts to humanize the monster that pulsates within Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Sure, she has more of a voice in things this time around, but Niall Leonard’s screenplay and E.L. James’ “book” is all about gratifying Grey over and over again.

When she tries to hold him close, he makes her draw “boundaries” on his chest and stomach with red lipstick. When she asks him a question, he gets defensive, apologizes, and half-heartedly smiles. She allows him to do some naughty stuff, but whenever she touches him, he grunts and grimaces and panics in the most ridiculous of ways. Anastasia isn’t a lover or partner to Christian, or even an equal; she’s an expensive human prop he uses to make himself seem and feel normal.

Though I had way more fun with this sequel than I ever expected I would, Fifty Shades Darker is not really much of a movie, and certainly not a film empowering or championing women.

And after everything that has occurred, in a post-Harvey Weinstein 2017, this movie looks more hollow, shallow, and ugly than ever before.