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‘The Girl on the Train,’ ‘Collateral Beauty’ Land With a Thud on the List of 2016’s Worst Movies

So many bad movies, so much wasted time. But how to find the actual junk in a cinematic trash heap? To paraphrase the title of the wooden Warren Beatty drama nobody saw, rules do apply. For starters, every movie released/buried in January gets a bye. And I can’t exclusively single out five nobody-asked-for-them sequels. Just assume that, say, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows lacked the breathtaking nuances of Arrival. And though Kevin Hart may be a comedy superstar and all-around cool guy, his squad goals don’t yet appear to be landing on a best actor short list. Finally, no Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. We all know it was a dud. Just do better next time, OK, guys? With that, presenting the five [insert profane adjective here] movies of 2016. See ya at the Razzies!

Michael Pena, Kate Winslet, and Will Smith in Collateral Beauty.
Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros.

5. Collateral Beauty

Somewhere in a forest, a maple tree wants all its sap back. In Will Smith’s latest misfire, he plays a CEO who writes a letter to “time,” “death” and “love” to air his grievances about the loss of his 6-year-old daughter. His concerned coworkers (Kate Winslet, Edward Norton and Michael Pena) find the correspondences and hire three actors (Helen Mirren — why, Helen Mirren, why?! — Keira Knightley and Jacob Latimore) to play the “abstractions” and interact with him. But wait, there’s more: The colleagues have their own emotional baggage as well. The oversimplified message is that we’re all connected, which translates to heavy-handed mumbo jumbo. For an authentic portrayal of grief, catch Manchester by the Sea and forget this glossy Hollywood-ized treatment ever happened. That’s the sad truth.

Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train.
DreamWorks Pictures and Universal Pictures

4. The Girl on the Train

Read Gone Girl. Saw Gone Girl. Loved Gone Girl. You, The Girl on the Train, are no Gone Girl. What should have been a tantalizing thriller — a sad-sack drunk (Emily Blunt) may or may not have been a witness to a pretty blonde’s murder — is, disappointingly, a melodramatic and non-directional slog not even worthy of a Lifetime TV Saturday-night pick. Blunt’s character is reduced to glassy-eyed stares and word slurring. Justin Theroux, as her unsympathetic ex-husband, makes for a lousy, unconvincing villain. The only mystery worth piecing together: How did all the suspense of the bestselling novel disappear? After all, at this point, the average commute into midtown Manhattan is more terrifying.

Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp in Alice Through The Looking Glass.

3. Alice Through the Looking Glass

Just in case the sight of Johnny Depp looking like a deranged clown didn’t frighten small children in 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, this dreadful sequel seals the deal. It emphasizes schlocky spectacle over storytelling, so here’s the recap: Depp’s batty Mad Hatter is near death and only a now-grown Alice (Mia Wasikowska) can cure him. Using a horribly CGI gizmo, she goes back in time to fix things, then, ugh, gets sidetracked by the petty sibling rivalry between the red and white queens (Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway, cashing in). You know this plot is ridic when the fate of the world hinges on which bratty sister once ate a cookie.

Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe in Swiss Army Man.

2. Swiss Army Man

“So, um, this depressed dude is stranded on an island. And he finds a dead man. The corpse still passes gas so the dude uses the air of the farts to buoy himself in the ocean. And they become friends through the power of hallucination and our hero learns to appreciate life.” Somehow this ludicrous pitch — surely the result of one too many bong hits — got the greenlight and was made into a real live full-length movie. More remarkable, respectable actors Paul Dano (the island loner) and Daniel Radcliffe (the talking, flatulent corpse) signed on. Its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival prompted a massive walkout. And yet, some too-cool-for-school critics praised it as an experimental tour de force. (Seriously. I googled it.) Let’s settle this once and for all: It’s not quirky, edgy fun. It’s not daring indie cinema. It’s just embarrassingly juvenile crapola. Cast it away.

Theo James and Shailene Woodley in The Divergent Series.
Andrew Cooper

1. The Divergent Series: Ascendant

After robots take over Earth, this plodding, manufactured dreck better not be the remaining artifact. In the third installment of what was supposed to be the next Hunger Games (ha), Shailene Woodley’s superspecial Tris goes from kick-ass heroine to gullible bore as she continues to fight for freedom and obliterate those pesky five factions in dystopian Chicago. O’Hare airport = the antiseptic Bureau of Genetic Welfare. Doesn’t that sound exciting, yawn. Tris still hasn’t committed to a hairstyle, but girlfriend does suddenly know how to pilot a state-of-the-art aircraft when it counts. The franchise has plummeted so far, so fast, that its conclusion won’t even get a theatrical release. Better yet, let Katniss Everdeen unleash an arrow and put it out of its misery.

Dishonorable mentions: Ghostbusters, The Legend of Tarzan, Keeping Up with the Joneses, Independence Day: Resurgence, X-Men: Apocalypse, Café Society, The BFG, Wiener-Dog, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Office Christmas Party, The Magnificent Seven


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