Thursday, January 17, 2019

2018 Year End Report: Worst Films of 2018

I honestly do try and skip movies that I believe there will be little to no chance I will actually like. Yet, watch 250+ movies a year, and you’re going to see some you just downright do not like.
The following movies weren’t really in the running for the bottom 10 of the year – but they sure as hell aren’t good. Flower (Max Winkler) depends completely on Zoe Deutch for all its charm, without it, the film is pretty deplorable. Marrowbone (Sergio G. Sanchez) is a scareless haunted house horror movies, with some good style, but way too many clichés. The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Fede Alvarez) showed that Claire Foy could be a decent Lisbeth Salander – and not really a whole lot else. Nostalgia (Mark Pellington) was a drippy, sentimental thud of a movie. Operation Finale (Chris Weitz) should have been far more exciting and disturbing than it is – it feels like an old made-for-TV movie from the 1990s. Psychokinesis (Sang-ho Yeon) is a very disappointing follow-up to Train to Busan, which lacks any real sense of what it’s trying to do. The Seagull (Michael Mayer) boasts a terrific cast, doing a terrific play, but it’s all so surface level phony. The Spy Who Dumped Me (Susanna Fogel), takes two charming, funny actresses and abandons them to a silly screenplay they cannot save. Still/Born (Brandon Christensen) is another would-be horror movie that just doesn’t really go anywhere. The Third Murder (Hirokazu Kore-eda) was the worst film by a great director – showing us precisely the kind of film he should not make.
These films may well have been on the 10 worst list, had I seen fewer films, or if you asked me a different day. The Cloverfield Paradox (Julius Onah) is the first misstep from the ambitious franchise – but it’s a big, dull misstep. The 15:17 to Paris (Clint Eastwood) is the worst, dullest film Eastwood has ever made a filmmaker – it comes alive for the foiled crime itself (that’s only about 5 minutes of the film), but it’s deadly until then. Ghost Stories (Jeremey Dyson & Andy Nyman) is a shallow horror anthology film with a quartet of bland, generic, scareless horror shorts. I Feel Pretty (Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein) showed the limitations of Amy Schumer as an actress – and really, aside from the great Michelle Williams, is a pretty insufferable film. Inside (Miguel Angel Vivas) is a remake of an extreme French horror film that removed the extremity – to reveal the only thing left was dull. The Insult (Ziad Doueir) was a didactic and shallow film about the conflict between Christians and Palestinian in Lebanon. Mrs. Hyde (Serge Bozon) completely wastes Isabelle Huppert, miscasting her in a bad role, and then surrounding her with even worse thing. The Ritual (David Bruckner) has a group of friends go into the woods, and find the most clichéd horror movie things they can find. Veronica (Paco Plaza) is a standard issue possession movie, with nothing new to offer. Winchester (The Spireg Brothers) is a very dull horror movie, with a great cast, all of whom are phoning it in – not even the production design, which should be a slam dunk here, is any good.
Bottom 10
10. Mile 22 (Peter Berg)
Peter Berg is a usually a good director of action movies – and I’ve liked films like Patriots Day and Deepwater Horizon more than many did (I did not like Lone Survivor, which fetishized violence and suffering far too much for me. But his latest film – about a group of super skilled US government assassins, trying to transfer a valuable government source out of a hostile country, is perhaps the worst film of Berg’s directing career. Berg’s muse Mark Wahlberg stars as the leader of the team – who is cold and emotionless (he almost seems to be on the autism spectrum at some points) – and speaks a mile a minute. The film is jingoistic, even by Berg’s standards, and leaves a bad aftertaste because of it. More than that, Mile 22 is something that Berg’s films usually are not – dull and boring. The action sequences have been hacked and slashed to pieces and are ultimately unimaginative and confusing. Berg is usually a fine director, whose films I disagree with politically, but have are exciting and interesting. Here, I disagree with him again – but this time, his film is boring to boot.
9. The Legacy of a White Tail Deer (Jody Hill)
I was a big fan of Jody Hill’s last film – the darkly disturbing and hilarious Observe & Report, with Seth Rogen as a very committed mall cop that reminded me of Scorsese’s The King of Comedy. He has spent most of the last decade working in TV – on shows like Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals – that I never saw. So I was looking forward to his return to features with the Netflix film The Legacy of a White Tail Deer. Unfortunately, the result is a rather limp send up of masculinity and gun culture – with Josh Brolin playing a man famous for his hunting videos, Hill regular Danny McBride as his put upon assistant, and a very obnoxious kid playing Brolin’s son who doesn’t want to be on this hunting trip. Brolin is pretty good here – playing his ridiculous character straight – but the movie is largely uninteresting, not funny and very obvious. Hill is talented, but here it seems he didn’t have much past the premise – the film labors mightily to even get to 80 minutes. If this is a sendup of Trump and masculinity, it doesn’t work.
8. Tag (Jeff Tomsic)
I’m not really a fan of movies that celebrate men refusing to grow up – and that’s pretty much all Tag is. The film is about a group of childhood friends who have had a long standing game of tag going – with all of them trying to team up and get the one guy who has never been tagged. I cannot fault the cast too much – Hannibal Burress is the only one in the film who is actually funny – but they aren’t that bad. But the film seems to celebrate this immaturity going on into middle age with zero introspection on it. And the film trying to get all emotional in the final act doesn’t work at all. It isn’t funny, it isn’t insightful – and the weird “action” scenes with Jeremy Renner are just out and out awful. Just a really, really bad film, that I think came out at the exact wrong time.
7. The Predator (Shane Black)
It shouldn’t be possible for the ever talented Shane Black to make a Predator movie this bad – but here we are. The action sequences in this movie are dark and confusing, the characters are ill defined and for the most part poorly acted, and not even Black’s patented banter works this time – it all feels so forced. The worse thing in the film may well be the plotting though, that makes zero sense (including a character who dies, apparently, although we don’t know how). Worse of all, the movie is really, really boring. Even if this film had all of these problems, it at least should have been an entertaining mess of a film. Instead, we get this dull, boring messy film that has nothing to offer for audiences.
6. Pacific Rim: Uprising (Steven S. DeKnight)
I seem to be one of the few people who actually really like Guillermo Del Toro’s original film, despite Charlie Hunnam being quite dull in the lead role. It was a visual treat from beginning to end, and Del Toro understands intrinsically how to stage huge, entertaining fight sequences between giant robots fighting giant monsters. Del Toro wasn’t coming back for the second film, so there was going to be a step down in quality regardless – but this is a huge stepdown. The cast is much duller than in the original, and not even the giant fights are entertaining. Not only that, this film seems to be setting up a more interesting film than this one is – and I just wonder why they didn’t bother to tell that story. This one is huge franchise filmmaking at its least imaginative and boring – and forgettable.
5. Mute (Duncan Jones)
I’m a big fan of Jones’ first two films – the intelligent indie sci fi film Moon and the studio effort Source Code – both were intelligent stories, well told by Jones. With Mute, he has finally made his passion project – something he had been trying to get made since before Moon, and since Netflix was offering money, Jones accepted. But perhaps there was a reason this long gestating passion project never got made before. This movie, which tells intersecting stories about a mute bartender who has love ripped from him, and a pair of sleazy American doctors in Berlin, doing sleazy things. Other than the pleasure of seeing Paul Rudd playing a bad guy, there isn’t much to recommend this film – the look is faux Blade Runner, the pacing is off horribly as is the tone, and the story takes forever to get nowhere. I do think Jones is a talented filmmaker – but this one is horrible.
4. Kings (Deniz Gamze Erguyen)
Deniz Gamze Erguyen’s debut film, Mustang, was truly a great film – a kind of take on Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, except in Turkey, from the girl’s point of view. I cannot believe the director who made such a great, sensitive, specific film also made this monstrosity. Setting during the LA riots in the aftermath of the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King, this film, centering on single foster mother Halle Berry, and her white neighbor (Daniel Craig) – who inexplicably becomes her love interest, as well as one of Berry’s teenage sons who becomes involved in a bizarre love triangle. The film is a thudding bore that doesn’t seem to understand Los Angeles, American racism, or the pent up anger that exploded in that riot. Instead, it’s a very strange mixture of comedy (really? Really!) and tragedy – none of it makes any sense. A truly awful film – one that I hope will become a forgotten blip on what should be a great career.
3. Death Wish (Eli Roth)
Every time I read an interview with Eli Roth after watching one of his films, I want to see the film he thought he made, instead of the one he did. His remake of Death Wish could have gone a few different ways and been interesting – it could have questioned the idea of vigilantes and the myth of the “good guy with a gun” that the NRA keeps trying to sell. Conversely, it could have firmly embraced that myth, and confronted people with a provocative take on gun violence. Instead, Roth seems to try and split the difference, and the result is a film that doesn’t seem to have any political opinions at all. Instead, it’s just Bruce Willis walking around as if asleep shooting a lot of people. None of it is interesting, none of it is exciting, and none of it is an intelligent take on the issue at hand. It’s just kind of there – a big, deal mess of a film.
2. Show Dogs (Raja Gosnell)
Ah, the things you do for your kids. I love taking my girls to the movies – and want them to love it too – so I end up seeing a lot of movies I always would not, none this year more than Show Dogs – a talking dog movie, about a police dog (voiced by Ludacris) who teams up with a FBI Agent (Will Arnett) to infiltrate a high end dog show to bust a smuggling ring. Even by the standards of talking dog movies, Show Dogs is awful – its an unfunny mixture of puns and low brown comedy and buddy cop movie clichés, with everyone in the film just going through the motions to collect their paycheque. I never even thought about the controversial scene (we saw it opening weekend, before it was cut) – but yeah, that was bad too. Watching this film was out and out painful. I still think it’s important to take your kids to the movies – even bad movies, so they can understand how to read and analyze things. But if there’s a Show Dogs 2, I’m skipping it.
1. The Happytime Murders (Brian Hensen)
I do not understand how you can get the director of A Muppet Christmas Carol (the best Muppet movie ever) and Melissa McCarthy, and a lot of profanity spewing puppets and come up with something this outright awful, this boring, this unfunny, this poorly made. The idea here was not new – take a format that is usually made for kids, and make it for adults – Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebles did this three decades ago, Avenue Q had a huge hit on Broadway doing it. And yet here, in this take on film noir, full of violence, sex and swearing, somehow comes off as halfhearted and ill thought out. The film is poorly made – as if it was directed by someone who had no idea how to work with puppets, and not Jim Hensen’s son. It even lets McCarthy to go completely unchained – get high on sparkles at one point – and still, she cannot generate a single laugh. I honestly didn’t think I would see a film out and out worse than Show Dogs this year – but The Happytime Murders is so, so much worse. Perhaps the worst film I have seen this decade.

No comments:

Post a Comment