‘Halloween’ Review

Director: David Gordon Green

Writers: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride & Jeff Fradley

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Judy Greer, James Jude Courtney, Rhian Rees, Jefferson Hall, Toby Huss, Virginia Gardener, Dylan Arnold, Miles Robbins, Drew Scheid, Jibrail Nantambu, Haluk Bilginer, Nick Castle and Will Patton

Synopsis: Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

In 1978, legendary director John Carpenter gave us one of the best horror movies in Halloween, and gave us one of the most iconic characters in film, even to this day, in The Shape aka Michael Myers. It’s a real testament to the movie and Carpenter for what it and he was able to do with Halloween, especially considering the movie wasn’t a big studio movie, but rather an independent movie. Halloween was made on the cheap, and yet, it has had a tremendous staying power over the years that can’t be explained.

Sadly, not all the movies in the franchise have been great. Carpenter never really wanted Halloween to become a franchise, but he was asked to write a sequel with Debra Hill – who also co-wrote the first movie. He ended up making it a family affair when he made Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode siblings. Halloween II was then suppose to end the Myers character, but Hollywood wanted more. We got a different Halloween story with Season of the Witch, but audiences wanted more Myers, and that’s what they got, and that’s where things got bad. Going from continuing the family affair, adding a supernatural cult, bringing back Laurie Strode as it ignored the cult storyline, to remaking them with Rob Zombie, Halloween has come a long way to get back to this point.

That’s why many were surprised and curious to see what horror production banner Blumhouse would do with the property, especially since Jason Blum was able to get John Carpenter back to the franchise. The biggest question mark was who they got to direct, David Gordon Green, and co-write, Danny McBride. However, their idea was said to be okayed by the man himself, Mr. John Carpenter. This new Halloween is a sequel to Carpenter’s first movie, and will ignore everything after it. So, is the wait worth it? Or is Halloween an over-hyped sequel?

Forty years after the events of Halloween, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has waited for the day that Michael Myers aka The Shape (played by original actor Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) would escape custody after being caught for the murder of her friends on Halloween night. The movie starts off with podcasters Aaron (Jefferson Hall) and Dana (Rhian Rees) visiting Michael the day before he’s to be transferred to serve the rest of this time. From there they visit Laurie, who has become a recluse, who lives in the middle of nowhere, and has modified her house for a potential attack.

It’s there that we learn what Laurie has been doing since that fateful night. We learn that she’s been married twice, and had her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer) taken from her at the age of twelve. The two have an estranged relationship, but it’s Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson (newcomer Andi Matichak), who tries to keep some kind of relationship with her. However, almost everyone sees her as a basket case, and no one wants to hear about Michael Myers anymore. Unfortunately for them, Michael Myers does escape, and comes back to Haddonfield to continue his murderous ways.

I have a very special place in my heart for John Carpenter’s Halloween, mainly because it was the first horror movie I ever watched. Not only that, I still to this day, get chills when I hear that iconic theme music. So needless to say, I was looking forward to this and seeing what McBride and Gordon Green would bring to the table that made Carpenter come back after all these years. Turns out, it was still a family affair after all.

Halloween does a great job establishing the relationship of this broken family. Jamie Lee Curtis does a hell of a job playing Laurie again. Gone is the woman who was a victim and dragging herself away from her attacker. In her place is a strong and ready survivor who prayed everyday that Michael would break out so she could kill him. That doesn’t mean that she’s cold and heartless, no, we see the effects that night had on her, and how her actions affected the relationships around her. The relationship between her and Greer’s Karen doesn’t have too much screen time, but it has enough to make its point, and make you care for them by the time the third act rolls around. Then there’s Matichak’s Allyson, who I wished had a little more do to. Sure her character is almost a mirror image of Laurie from the first movie, but for the most part, she acts as the middle-woman between her mother and grandmother.

The rest of the supporting cast is hit-and-miss. Toby Huss plays Allyson’s father Ray, who comes off as the awkwardly funny day/comic relief, which is welcomed especially considering the rest of the movie is pretty heavy. Rees and Hall as the podcasters serve their roles well, but don’t really standout too much. Virginia Gardner, Dylan Arnold and Drew Scheid play friends of Allyson, but the only one that really stands out to me is Gardner’s Vicky, who ends up babysitting Jibrail Nantambu’s Julian in one of the better comic relief scenes in the movie.

We have the always reliable Will Patton playing Officer Hawkins, whose character was apparently there when they took Michael Myers to prison after the events of the first movie. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t really do too much with that, and even when it does it feels like an afterthought or is too rushed. Finally, we have James Jude Courtney playing The Shape/Michael Myers – Castle only plays Michael in one scene – and he does a tremendous job. This Michael is everything that John Carpenter wanted him to be, pure evil. Michael Myers shows no remorse in this movie, and some of the kills some might find borderline over-the-top, but for you gore fans, there is a plenty for you to like.

Now, not everything is good. The one real misstep in the movie is an out of nowhere twist that really makes no damn sense. In a way, it meant to get Michael where he’s suppose to be to confront Laurie, but it happens so out of the blue and with no real build-up that it slows the movie down and takes you out of everything that happened. There also the subplot, or lack thereof, of Allyson and her boyfriend played by Dylan Arnold, that again, feels like it happens only to get her alone and run for the third act. Speaking of the confrontation – this isn’t a bad part of the movie – it is a long, tension-filled sequence that is brutal and well worth the wait.

All in all, Halloween is a worthwhile sequel, and the first proper sequel – besides Halloween II – to John Carpenter’s classic horror film. Jamie Lee Curtis returning as Laurie Strode is both powerful and vulnerable, The Shape/Michael Myers is scary again and the score in the film, done by Carpenter, his son and Daniel A. Davies is amazing and totally fits into this new movie. Of course, the movie will be probably divide some fans, but for me, I really enjoyed what they did and I can’t wait to see what they do after this.  Also, for those worried about McBride’s humor being too much for the movie, don’t worry, it’s not all entirely there.

Halloween

4 out of 5

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‘A Quiet Place’ Review

Director: John Krasinski

Writers: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and John Krasinski

Cast: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and John Krasinski

Synopsis: A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

Silence in horror films is always used in two ways. One, it’s used before a jump scare to scare the crap out of you, but since we’ve seen so many horror films we can predict those most of the time. Two, a way to set something up – most likely before a jump scare right before the killer or monster pulls a character out of their hiding place. But, what John Krasinski has done for A Quiet Place, his first directed horror film mind you, is something special. Not only the movie mostly a silent film, but silence almost feels like its own character.

A Quiet Place follows a small family of father Lee (John Krasinski), mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and their two children, Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds) – although their names are never said during the movie, only in the credits – as they try to survive after creatures have destroyed, what seems like most of the country. What makes matters worse, is the creatures are attracted to sound, so staying silent is key to surviving this new world. However, staying silent isn’t as easy as you think.

I’ll start off by saying, if you are not a fan of slow-burning horror, you probably won’t enjoy most of A Quiet Place, especially since most of the movie is silent, and most of the dialogue is said through sign language. It also takes a while to become a full-blown monster movie. That being said, that’s one of the reasons why I loved the film. A Quiet Place also works as a drama, and an effective one, because we get to know the characters from the very beginning and we care about them enough until the credits roll.

However, credit where credit is due to John Krasinski, who has only directed two feature films. Both have fallen into drama and comedy, but watching this, you would assume Krasinski has directed more than that. Not only that, you would think he’d directed some horror movies. His decision to make this a nearly silent movie is both ambitious and a risk, and one that completely pays off in the end. Even some of the decisions he makes his characters take, like creating a system with light bulbs to let others know the monsters are nearby, or even creating a sound suppressing box for the baby. Of course, there’s more, but that’s getting into spoiler territory.

Top that off with the cast he was able to get. Krasinski’s father figure tries his best to protect his family and even teaches his young son how to catch fish, which isn’t even the most touching scene in the movie. Emily Blunt as the mother is absolutely fantastic in this, and pretty much gets the most out of the movie, as her character is pregnant for most of the movie (not really a spoiler guys). Newcomer, Millicent Simmonds, as the daughter has a very prominent role that thankfully wasn’t spoiled in the trailers, so I won’t even hint at it here either. Unfortunately, Noah Jupe doesn’t get enough development, but out of everyone, he does have the best fear face (is that a thing?).

When it comes to the monsters, it takes a long while before we get a get look at what they look like. The design is rather interesting, especially once you realize that Krasinski actually changed the design at the last minute, and while the monsters probably aren’t ground-breaking new they are extremely vicious.

All in all, A Quiet Place is an effective horror thriller, and even a drama. Using silence as a key element has been done before, but I’ve personally never seen it the way Krasinski used it here in the film. The film only has a few minor missteps, but nothing that really takes away from the film. Personally, I loved A Quiet Place, and this is how horror thrillers should be done in my book.

A Quiet Place

4.5 out of 5

Spoiler-Filled Review of ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’

I spoil review Transformers: The Last Knight on another addition of The Movie Pit Podcast, and it doesn’t go well. I do swear and yell a lot, so you have been warned. Also, check out the link below because the podcast is now on Itunes!

 

Podcast Itunes Link  – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-movie-pit-podcast/id1249582608?mt=2

 

Spoiler-Filled Review Podcast for Wonder Woman and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

The Movie Pit Podcast is back with spoiler-filled reviews for the animated adaptation of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie and the highly anticipated and much-talked about new addition to the DC Extended Universe, Wonder Woman. So sit back, take a listen and let me know what you think.

 

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ Review

Directors: Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg

Writer: Jeff Nathanson

Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Golshifteh Farahani, David Wenham, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, and Paul McCartney

Synopsis: Captain Jack Sparrow searches for the Trident of Poseidon.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene.*

 

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has been an interesting one for me. I really enjoyed the first film, the second film was okay for what it was and the third film felt like it was an hour too long – I don’t even acknowledge the last film. So, when Dead Men Tell No Tales was announced I was a little hesitant about watching it. But, then they released the first teaser and I loved it. It gave me some faith for the new film. Now after watching it, I was kind of right. Dead Men Tell No Tales isn’t a return to form, but it does make some of the right steps to bring it back.

The film starts off with a young Henry Turner, the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), who goes out every night to find his father and tell him he’s going to find a way to break his father’s curse. The only way to do that is to find the Trident of Poseidon, which is said to give the bearer total control of the seas. We skip forward in time and find out someone else besides Henry (Brenton Thwaites) is trying to find the Trident in Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), an accused witch – who’s really an astronomer. However, their search for the Trident gets them mixed up with the undead Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) who has been broken free of his confinement and Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush), who is once again a pirate trotting the seas with his new crew collecting treasure. Of course, all of them have one person in common: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).

Dead Men Tell No Tales feels like the first film. There’s a blooming romance between Henry and Carina, although it doesn’t help that Thwaites isn’t a great lead actor. Also, the film makes sure that Johnny Depp isn’t the main character – sure he’s the big name of the film and Jack Sparrow has become a pop culture figure, but Jack wasn’t the real lead in the Pirates films, it was who he was following – another reason why Stranger Tides didn’t work. Speaking of Depp’s Jack Sparrow, he’s essentially become a parody of what the character was from the first film which is a shame because his character doesn’t really add anything to the franchise anymore and comes off as a bit annoying. Although, the name of Captain Jack Sparrow is essentially what it’s become in the movie – a revered pirate is nothing more than a drunk, selfish lowlife that is a shell of his former self.

The rest of the cast is fine with Javier Bardem playing a fine villain, who is dead because of Jack before he became the infamous pirate we saw in Curse of the Black Pearl. Geoffrey Rush is always having fun playing Barbosa, but he gets to add some of his more dramatic chops and is also involved in a shoehorned in storyline that could have been more effective if it was touched on earlier than it was. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley do appear in glorified cameos that don’t really add anything to the story, other than Bloom’s scene with a young Henry.

All in all, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is much better than the last film as it follows other characters that aren’t just Jack Sparrow. The film does lack some awesome sword fights and ship battles that made the first two films so great, but Dead Men Tell No Tales is a promising return to form if Disney decides to do more.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

3 out of 5

‘Power Rangers’ Review

Director: Dean Israelite

Writer: John Gatins

Cast: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G., Elizabeth Banks, Bill Hader, David Denman and Bryan Cranston

Synopsis: A group of high-school kids, who are infused with unique superpowers, harness their abilities in order to save the world.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene.*

 

Power Rangers, if you’re like me and of the same age, that means something to you. Of course, the Power Rangers have gone through different incarnations since 1993, but that should show you that, not only is the brand still going strong, but it has a connection with people of every age. So when word broke that Hollywood was taking another stab at a big screen version of the Power Rangers, fans were concerned, intrigued and happy to see where this would go. So, does this new version of the Power Rangers work? Yes, yes it does.

Like mostly every incarnation of the heroes, the film follows five teenagers who are misfits in their own way. There’s Jason (Dacre Montgomery), a now former football star who gets into an accident at the beginning of the film ruining the school’s chances of a championship; Billy (RJ Cyler), who is mildly autistic in this version; Kimberly, the popular one who now finds herself outside her popularity; Zack (Ludi Lin), who is a bit of an adrenaline junkie and is a caregiver for his mother; and Trini (Becky G), the new girl who doesn’t fit in with her “normal” parents.

One night all of them come together, by chance, and find mysterious colored coins which end up giving them special abilities. When they go back to the site they found the coins, they find an abandoned spaceship where they meet the android Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader) and Zordon (Bryan Cranston), who tells them they have been chosen to be the Power Rangers. Moreover, they have to train because the evil force of Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) has risen again and is in search of the powerful Zeo Crystals to destroy the world.

Power Rangers takes the basic premise of the first series – well, the American one anyway – and pulls concepts from other incarnations to reboot the whole thing and make it more modern and change the mythology we all know and love, which surprisingly works. The film feels like a mix of The Breakfast Club and Chronicle, but the story and characters stand on their own. Sure they have to save the world, but the characters try to find themselves amongst strangers, a mysterious head in a wall and a weird looking robot. Their journey is what keeps us engaged until we see them suit up. It’s a story that we can probably all connect to in our own way, but it’s the cast that makes it worth it.

For a group of relative unknowns, they did an awesome job making us by their characters. Dacre Montgomery’s Jason isn’t the typical jock although buying him as the leader was a little hard to buy at first, Naomi Scott’s Kimberly isn’t the Kimberly we all remember but carries something with her, Ludi Lin’s Zack is completely different from what we remember, but the caretaker aspect is an interesting one, Becky G’s Trini is the much talked about LGBTQ character, and while I was turned off by her attitude at first, she grew on me as the film went on. RJ Cyler’s Billy will undoubtedly be a fan favorite, and arguably is the heart of the film along with Bill Hader’s Alpha 5, which design is much better and less distracting once you see it move around. Bryan Cranston’s Zordon is perfect, but it’s Elizabeth Banks who fails on some levels. While she’s a bit of wildcard in terms of you never know what she’s going to do, she doesn’t really feel like a villain until the end. It’s nothing against Banks herself, but her Rita was just a little underwhelming for me. Oh, and Goldar is, well, he’s what we see in the trailers.

The film’s tone is also great. It’s got the right amount of cheesiness, humor, coming-of-age style and realness a new modern version Power Rangers needed. Sometimes the tone can be all over the place, but overall it’s pretty spot on. One scene, that is a great scene, but it came at a weird place is when the team start to really get to know each other. One complaint I know many will have is the amount of time the group have in the actual Ranger suits. It doesn’t come until the final act of the film, but I would say the team does deserve to earn the suits, which makes the wait for it to actually happen worth it.

All in all, Power Rangers is a great film for fans of the Power Rangers. The cast is great, the tone is spot on for the majority of the film along with the cheesiness the film needs. Also, for a film that is over two hours, it went by like a breeze. It’s also a great way to introduce new fans to the group of heroes we all loved as kids – and maybe even still to this day. It’s morphin’ time!

Power Rangers

4.5 out of 5

Worst/Disappointing/Least-Liked Movies of the 2016

It’s the end of the year boys and girls, you know what that means? It’s list time!

I’ll put up my list of “Best/Favorite” movies of the year later, but with all those good/great/awesome movies I have, I had to sit through some stinkers unfortunately. Some of these I knew weren’t going to be any good walking in, but I ended up taking the hit anyway. The list ranges all over the place so don’t think I’m attacking certain movies because it’s easy. I walk into every movie with a clear mind and soaking up the movie for what it’s worth.

The list will have the movies in alphabetical order, just to be fair, and because I really don’t want to go through the trouble anymore of picking a number one because they weren’t good enough to make it on my other list. Like all lists, this is my opinion! So if you don’t agree that’s perfectly fine and probably justified. Film is subjective, and that’s why I love it.

Finally, there are other movies that could have gone on the list, but these are the ones that truly stuck out. Alright, let’s get this over with.

 

Dishonorable Mentions

Ben-Hur

Masterminds

Siren

 

 

Disappointments/Least-Liked/Worst Movies of the Year

Anitbirth (IFC Midnight/Traverse Media/Hideaway Pictures)

This is one of the many films I watched at the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival in August, and having heard nothing about the film or even watching a trailer, I didn’t know what was coming. I probably should have watched the trailer, because I didn’t like this movie. At all! I didn’t feel anything for the characters, and the story felt like it was going nowhere. The ending, oh man the ending, it literally came out of nowhere, and while the ending would have been shocking if the story hadn’t been bad, it didn’t help matters whatsoever. I know I said I wouldn’t label too many of the films, but this is easily one of my worst films of the year. Maybe the worst.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Warner Bros./RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Atlas Entertainment/DC Entertainment)

This one may take the cake for the biggest disappointment of the year. Despite finally bringing two of the biggest comic book characters on the big screen for the first time, the film was filled with poor editing decisions along with being too crowed for its own good. Zack Snyder said the film was cut severely, but that shouldn’t mean a movie should suffer. While seeing Batman and Superman duke it out was nice to finally see on the big screen, it wasn’t enough to pick this movie up. Also, it doesn’t matter – I mean it does – but why would I sit through a movie again that’s longer to see the difference(talking about that “Extended Cut” on Blu-Ray).

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Blair Witch (Lionsgate/Veritgo Entertainment/Snoot Entertainment/Room 101)

What we all thought was just another found footage movie called The Woods actually ended up being a surprise sequel to The Blair Witch Project. The film was directed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest) and his usual writing partner Simon Barrett –the previously films mentioned – and that had me from the very beginning. I’m a huge fan of those two, and when it was announced that the film was really Blair Witch, I was both hesitant and excited. Taking into account the film was riding high in praise it was getting in early screening, the end result was a mixed bag – being mostly negative. While the film tried to connect to the spirit of the first film, including revving up the finale, it just didn’t have that same connection the first film made. Some parts were interesting, but at the end of the day, I don’t think it was executed well.

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Gods of Egypt (Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment/Mystery Clock Cinema/Thunder Road Pictures)

Gods of Egypt was one of those movies I was excited to watch when it was announced, and when the cast came together with director Alex Proyas, I thought this has to be good, right? Turns out, I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Filled with very questionable (to put it very lightly) CGI throughout, the film felt more like a glorified SyFy Channel movie than it did a big budget Hollywood movie. It didn’t help that despite the pretty good cast, they couldn’t save this either. Dumb fun popcorn film at its finest, but still COME ON!

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Independence Day: Resurgence (20th Century Fox)

Oh boy, this was…ugh. The sequel was something many fans have been wanting for a long time, and I’m sure Resurgence destroyed any hope of getting a worthy sequel. The film had its moments, but only a few to be honest. It just was bad. I mean, I could point out the things I didn’t like with this movie or what was wrong, but that’s too much to write. Also, the more I thought about the film afterward – even know as I’m writing this – I can feel myself getting angry.

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The 5th Wave (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/GK Films/LStar Capital/Material Pictures)

Based on the book by Ricky Yancy, The 5th Wave had a good set-up and source material to set it just a tad apart from the other young adult novel adaptation out there. I read the first book way before the film came out and was looking forward to seeing what they were going to do with this. Unfortunately, the film was bland, and felt way too generic for its own good. It never felt like anything was really happening even when it was, and one of its supposed standout twist moments involving a character reveal was to dark to see what was going on. A big disappointment considering what the book had to offer.

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The Neon Demon (Amazon Studios/Broad Green Pictures/Bold Films/Vendian Entertainment/Space Rocket Nation)

Oh, Nicolas Winding Refn. For me, Refn is a hit-or-miss director for the films I’ve seen. I really liked Bronson and Drive, but Valhalla Rising I couldn’t even finish, and I’ve heard nothing but bad things from Only God Forgives. When it came to The Neon Demon, I didn’t know what to anticipate, and even while I was watching it, I thought, what the hell am I watching? So The Neon Demon wasn’t even a disappointment, least-liked or bad movie, it just was a movie I watched that had its very Refn-esque moments, and some what the hell did I just watch moments.

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Triple 9 (Open Road Films/Anonymous Content/Worldview Entertainment/MadRiver Pictures)

Triple 9 had a lot of good things going for it with an amazing cast and a great director in John Hillcoat (The Road). So it’s a shame that the film ended up being a bit of a disappointment. The film had some great potential, and while the film does live up to some of it, it didn’t capitalize on what the film promised or what it could have been.

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Suicide Squad (Warner Bros./DC Entertainment/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Atlas Entertainment/Lin Pictures)

If Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a disappointment, Suicide Squad just added to it. I didn’t get on the hate train like a lot of other people did. I liked most of it, and I thought some parts worked, but I couldn’t get over all the missteps the film had to make it good or even great. To even say it was better than Dawn of Justice (the theater cut) isn’t even saying that much either. I didn’t hate Suicide Squad, and while I had more fun watching this than Dawn of Justice, I can’t honestly say I loved it either. Also, Jared Leto’s Joker: ugh.

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Warcraft (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures/Blizzard Entertainment/Atlas Entertainment)

I never played the games myself, but I knew how big the game was to some people. I also knew this film was in the works for a long time – Sam Raimi was originally attached to direct for a while – so finally seeing this on the big screen was a big deal. Unfortunately, for me, the movie didn’t click for me. The film at times felt too much like it was catering to the fans then casual or non-game fans, which is something I always thought the film shouldn’t have done. I didn’t dislike Warcraft, some of it was pretty good, but overall, the film felt jumbled at times and I had a hard time connecting to some of the characters.

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All right, so there are my worst, disappointments, least-liked films of the year. What were some of yours?

Be on the lookout for my other lists coming out soon.