The Best and Worst of Summer Film 2015
From the same old superhero entries to a singular visionary epic, more mediocre Adam Sandler to some surprising new comedic voices, the Summer of 2015 was a rollercoaster of excellence and awfulness. Here are our choices for the best and worst of the popcorn movie season.
It was a season so front loaded that, by August, audiences had already forgotten it was supposed to be a Summer of popcorn fun. Things really did fade fast after Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World promised a billion-dollar payoff at the box office. Of course, both film did breakthrough to that new blockbuster barrier, but did so not with superior filmmaking and entertainment value, but with a renewed focus on the foreign markets. Instead of providing outstanding creativity, Hollywood has just perfected the art of selling eye candy to the world.
This doesn't mean that there weren't great films this summer. It just means that the mediocrity outshined the few masterworks. It was the same with the worst. Something like The Gallows should definitely be present here, but a choice like that (lame found footage horror film) would be like celebrating one of those fish that we always seem to be hunting in barrels. Instead, the 11 films below (an honorary mention and choice of five for both categories) were a true test of filmmaking tolerances. Both pro and con, they all wanted to be part of your May to August fun. Some were. Most weren't.
Dishonorable Mention: Sinister II
The first film had one undeniably creepy thing -- and no, it's not Ethan Hawke during his experimental, indie horror phase. Instead, the original effort got a lot of mileage out of those incredibly creepy Super 8 films, the old technology delivering more shivers than the Insane Clown Posse-looking monster. Well guess what? Said juggalo is the main focus of the sequel, an experiment in exposition mixed with some twin cliches, all to create a backstory for our bad guy. As a result, the focus on establishing Bughuul turns everything else into an afterthought -- a boring, uninvolving, and definitely not scary afterthought.
While not the worst movie in Adam Sandler's shameful career, this movie earns a spot on this list for one important reason - the short film that inspired it. Hollywood can turn any half-baked idea into hack work. What they rarely do is turn something amazing into something this average. The idea of aliens adopting old arcade game methods as a means of taking over the planet is loaded with potential. This movie just pissed it away by tried to shoehorn it into yet another example of the comedian's fading arrested adolescence. When Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage can't save your effort from being mediocre crap, it's time to quit.
#4: Terminator: Genisys
Arnold is back and it wasn't worth the wait. Regaining his role from the CG mess that was Terminator: Salvation, the aging action icon does some of his best work in years. So why is this film on the list? Because it decided to replace Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn with some of the most miscast actors in history, and the movie never recovers. If you're going to have a narrative which encapsulates parts of James Cameron's original one-two punch, you better be as smart and as cinematically savvy as the man who owns the billion dollar movie club. Nobody here was.
#3: Fantastic Four (2015)
In one of those obvious cases where the backstage drama was/is more interesting than anything happening on screen, the makers of this Marvel misstep learned nothing from their namesake's success. Without a Kevin Feige to keep things in check, a stupid idea (the Four as adolescents), an even dumber approach (bifurcated by the studio's need for a "origin" story), and a lot of post-production interference guaranteed Catwoman and Howard the Duck had a new member in their "Worst of" club. And then the name calling and finger pointing in the press began. Not even the international box office responded. What does that tell you?
#2: Vacation (2015)
Where do we begin with this unqualified disaster? The premise had so much promise. Revisiting the Griswolds decades later, watching Rusty try and convince his family that a trip similar to the one he took as a kid will bring them closer together, the epic road journey undermining them at every turn? What could go wrong? Well, the casting for one. Ed Helms is decent. Everyone else shouldn't have bothered. Not even a "bulging" Chris Hemsworth in non-Thor mode can entice us back for another ridiculous reboot. Somewhere, John Hughes and Harold Ramis are sharing a laugh together. It's more than the audience does.
You know the old cliche, the bigger they are, the harder they fall? Well, that massive, Earth rattling thud you heard at the beginning of the summer season was Sony unloading this hacked email horror show on unsuspecting audiences around the world. Remember this, Cameron Crowe has an Oscar (for Almost Famous) and two other nominations (for Jerry Maguire). Apparently, after helping Tom Cruise remake Open Your Eyes, his ability to be a viable cinematic voice just got up and walked out of the writer's room. Since then, his work has become questionable at best (Elizabethtown, We Bought a Zoo) and awful, as in this racially insensitive ode to our island state.