A&E » Film

No shine on this Jem

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We covered the best a few weeks ago but what was the shittiest film of 2015? It's subjective of course, I know a quinoa-slurping, no-butter-on-your-popcorn, Waldorf mother of three who absolutely hated Mad Max: Fury Road, so I guess my grandma was right when she said, "isn't it nice that we're all so different?"

For my money though, (or for my waste of time) the "worst-of" title goes to Jem and the Holograms, the '80s cartoon remake that set records for the least-profitable opening weekend of any movie ever released on 2,000-plus screens at once. In the vernacular of Jem's imagined target audience, that is an #epicfail.

The poor financial performance doesn't bother me, though, especially considering the entire flick was made for $5 million so it will still be profitable once the download and overseas money comes in. No, what I hated most was the squandered chance to do something awesome, and the fact that parts of little bits of some segments of Jem were actually kind of decent. Those few glimmers lured me into a place of hope before being suddenly and utterly shat upon by the rest of the film. That stings, stinks and pisses me off.

Some backstory (in case you're not pushing 40): Jem and the Holograms was a 1980s cartoon about a band of teenage girls with a magic computer named Synergy that bestowed them super-powered glam-pop alternate identities. They wailed on stage, broke hearts, solved crimes and generally strode around defining strong moral fabric without sacrificing any of their couth and overall awesomeness.

The look and feel of the cartoon paid homage to punk, dance pop and real glam acts like Suzie Quatro and Spiders-era Bowie (RIP). And if your kid-rock proclivities dipped a little darker, Jem's arch nemesis was a band called The Misfits, an animal-print-clad punk-pop all-girl hair band that cheated, lied, trashed their trailers and generally embodied rock'n-effing-roll. There was also a love triangle, a cheesy German crooner band called The Stingers, and plenty of keytar synthesizers. It's hard to imagine now, but all this radness was crammed into a single 22-minute kids' show on Saturday afternoons.

Sadly, the Jem movie threw all the action, technomagic sci-fi, and ass-kickery out the window (not counting a few uncomfortable, pandering catchphrases) and opted instead for a standard success-isn't-easy, stay-true-to-yourself cautionary message dumbed down for the YouTube generation.

And that isn't the worst part. What really sucks is that rather than build on the Riot Grrrl, chick-rocking potential of the franchise, filmmaker (and I use the term lightly) Jon M. Chu (Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, GI Joe: Retaliation, and a bunch of cookie cutter Step It Ups) opted to give us a female protagonist who can't allow herself to succeed without the approval of her dead father and a criminally older new boyfriend. What could have been the cinematic equivalent of a rock'n'roll supershow where The Runaways back up Emily Haines from Metric while also saving the day with laser guns, ended up as a half-assed recreation of 2001's Josie and the Pussycats (which was a parody, at least).

And The Misfits, they were bafflingly absent save for a post-credits bonus sequence that looks to have been tagged on once the internet erupted about their exclusion from early trailers. The Misfits sequence sets up a much more interesting looking sequel except the least profitable movie ever probably won't get a sequel.

Essentially, in a year when Hollywood seemed to be warming up to the idea putting women in prominent roles in movies (and production), Jem could be interpreted (by idiots) as evidence that audiences aren't as ready for female-driven films as we keep telling them we are. The truth is no one is ready for shitty movies and even though this one had some snappy music-vid sequences and decent work by Juliette Lewis and Molly Ringwald (!) Jem and the Holograms is truly outrageously shitty on almost every level.

In theatres this week, also crappy but in much more acceptable ways, The Fifth Wave stars Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Let Me In) as a school kid who has to take care of her brother as multiple waves of alien forces destroy the planet in an obvious attempt at The Hunger Games meets Red Dawn. The scope on this one is a bit larger than needed, with elements of every disaster apocalypse flick you can remember plus the now-prerequisite love triangle. The original Jem cartoon had a love triangle but the asshats who made the film must have thought rock stars crying outside their old house would be more intriguing. Epic fail, indeed.

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