After the plethora of prestige pictures and art-house favorites released in November and December, movie audiences are unfortunately subjected to two months of Hollywood’s most embarrassing rejects in January and February, which are often referred to as “dump months.” There are nonetheless a few gems among all the dreck released at the start of each new year, but for now, we’re focusing on the worst of the worst releases in the weeks to come. To be fair, I haven’t seen these films, so there’s some degree of speculation here.
1. Dirty Grandpa
As the title of this unfortunate comedy suggests, there doesn’t seem to be much to Dirty Grandpa except a string of supposed “jokes” wherein an old man says inappropriate things you wouldn’t normally expect an old man to say. Worse still, that old man is Robert De Niro, further tarnishing his legacy with another addition of lousy buddy comedies, a cycle he’s been trapped in for nearly two decades now. The trailer features plenty of one-dimensional female stereotypes, including an amorous party girl played by Aubrey Plaza and a shrill fiance (Zoey Deutch) who Zac Efron’s character will obviously leave before the movie ends. The trailer offers plenty of hard-partying and vulgarity, but nothing actually, you know, funny.
2. The 5th Wave
Combining the extra-terrestrial mayhem of Independence Day with the disaster porn of 2012 or San Andreas, with a dash of the young adult-skew of the Hunger Games series, The 5th Wave looks like a film that can’t manage to be its own thing long enough to become worthwhile. The trailer is little more than a series of destructive images, or “waves,” a too-brief reference to aliens using humans as host bodies and some of the most uninspired lines of dialogue and voiceover you’re likely to hear in a film this year, including gems like “They took everything from me” and “How are we supposed to fight them if we don’t know what they are?” Early reviews are already confirming the obvious, calling The 5th Wave nothing more than “another plucky teenage girl with the fate of the world on her shoulders, buffeted by smoldering glances from two strong, yet sensitive, young men.”
3. Fifty Shades of Black
A film that’s likely to be no more clever than its groan-inducing title, Fifty Shades of Black is another parody of modern film from the mind of Marlon Wayans, who also brought you such memorable films as A Haunted House and Dance Flick. What’s that? You don’t remember those? That’s probably because the jokes are little more than obvious pratfalls and juvenile gross-out humor inspired by the latest temporary cinematic fad, which will still likely outlive Wayans’ half-assed parody films. Like those other efforts, there doesn’t seem to be anything of substance to this Fifty Shades of Grey takeoff, or even anything a fourteen-year-old couldn’t write after seeing a trailer for that original film.
Regression wants you to believe its a high-quality dark crime thriller in the vein of 2014’s Prisoners, but don’t be fooled. Tellingly pushed back from a prime late summer release by The Weinstein Company, the Canadian-Spanish co-production stars Ethan Hawke as a detective investigating the sexual abuse of a girl by her father, who admits to the crime though he has no recollection of it. For all the darkness and self-seriousness of its trailer, early reviews from its international release suggest that Regression is little more than a poorly-scripted film that can’t quite decide if it’s a silly genre film about Satanism or an earnest “based on a true story” thriller with major psychological implications — and thus fails on both counts.
5. The Boy
From the director who brought you the high-earning but poorly-received horror film The Devil Inside, Boy manages to combine the creepy kid and creepy doll horror cliches into one, following a woman who’s drafted to babysit for an elderly couple whose son is nothing more than an unnerving porcelain doll, a la Annabelle. The trailer is impressive for how many cliches it manages to pack into a lean two minutes, featuring inexplicable Victorian imagery, mysterious backstories, creepy laughter, an inanimate object that somehow moves when no one is looking, a creaky rocking chair, lines like “he’s alive,” and lots and lots of jump scares. It’s a shame that even original horror movies should be so unoriginal.
6. The Finest Hours
In adapting a true story of a dangerous Coast Guard rescue to the screen, Disney seems to have put the emphasis on sentimentality rather than actual tension or character development. Chris Pine takes the lead as the hero with a New England accent, acting opposite a love interest with whom he seems to have no chemistry, played by Holliday Grainger. The trailer tries so hard to be inspirational it never manages to be actually interesting, or funny, or exciting, or involving, or any of the other qualities you’d want from a major motion picture. As with several films on this list, the production company kept moving the film back from an April release date before settling upon a January 29 release, right in the heart of the dump months.
Follow Jeff Rindskopf on Twitter @jrindskopf
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