2) CHAPPIE – While Ex Machina dramatically pondered the scientific ethics, ramifications and wonder that could come from achieving artificial intelligence, Neill Blomkamp’s latest showed us what happens when a self-aware robot goes gangsta and gets viciously beaten with a pipe. Genius takes many forms, they say. Anyways... This major artistic setback for District 9’s once-promising helmer, a woefully confused, grating and sociopathic blend of 80s science-fiction, violent techno-thriller, parental abuse cautionary tale and Die Antwoord music video, is a triumph of technology and a total debacle of storytelling. Sharlto Copley’s titular creation, an innocent mechanical lifeform manufactured for police crowd control, is utterly convincing and sympathetic. Yet, for reasons unclear, we’re supposed to be compelled by bearing witness to the poor frightened thing being tortured, verbally abused and exploited over and over and over again ad nauseam. Chappie isn’t just a bad movie; it’s a morally reprehensible and toxic one, and enduring it is akin to spending two soul-deadening hours in a more extreme version of that creepy droid torture room from Return of the Jedi.
JUPITER ASCENDING – Back in 2012, Andy and Lana Wachowski (with Tom Tykwer) made Cloud Atlas, a hugely ambitious jumbled-timeline sci-fi opus featuring a handful of actors in heavy makeup, each playing multiple characters, in a labyrinthine story spanning 500 years. And, impossible challenge be damned, they pulled it off! So what the hell happened with Jupiter Ascending, their allegedly more straight-forward space opera headed by Channing Tatum’s sky-rollerblading, half-canine warrior and Mila Kunis’s intergalactic princess in waiting/luckless janitor?! Exploding at the seams with half-baked plot threads and poorly fleshed out ideas, this bloated mess feels like a dozen cruddy fantasy novels stuffed into one very chaotic narrative that’s long on numbing action sequences and baffling exposition, yet utterly devoid of logic, restraint or fun. It’s a real bummer to see such gifted filmmakers crash and burn so disastrously, stamping their ticket to director jail over a movie destined to be remembered for little more than a silly short-lived meme depicting Eddie Redmayne’s screeching camp overlord villain. They might as well have called the picture Careers Descending.
TERMINATOR GENISYS – In a year noticeably populated by torch-passing legacequels both stellar (Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Creed) and lousy (Jurassic World), this fifth Terminator installment was the absolute nadir of the suddenly prolific trend. Never mind that nearly-70-year-old Arnie – God bless him! – is more rust than steel, director Alan Taylor’s creatively short-circuited brand revival fumble is a tensionless, often incoherent drag, bombarding the audience with shamelessly salvaged plot elements and boring fan service in a desperate bid to feel relevant. The worst film in the beyond-exhausted series, Genisys manages to make Schwarzenegger’s wearily recycled “I’ll be back!” catchphrase officially feel like a threat to ticket-buying audiences everywhere.
Dishonorable Mentions: ALOHA, BLACKHAT, PIXELS, TAKEN 3, TOMORROWLAND