Good movies, bad movies, endless movies from the endless year. 2017 was a shorter year, wasn’t it?  Here is the list from that long ago time.

Another new thing this year is that I’ve joined a podcast recently and since the timing worked out, we just posted a year-end wrap up episode that will include me talking about the bottom five in this list. If you don’t like reading or just want to check if I am consistent between mediums, give that a listen here.

As always, my list is half a “most disappointing” list and half a “these movies are truly awful” list. I could have included stuff like Netflix’s The Open House or teen horror bullshit like Truth or Dare but nah, wouldn’t even really be fun to talk about those. I also would have included the abysmal A Wrinkle in Time if I’d seen it in time, but so it goes. This was a year with some surprises, though, including that this is the first year in a great many where there was a Transformers movie but I didn’t include it on the list. Not only was 2018 an obnoxiously long year, it was also pretty weird. There were a lot of great films, but also a lot of terrible ones. I think this is the first year in a while where I made cuts to my Worst list. That doesn’t usually happen and as much as I enjoy tearing into a bad movie, I’m usually relieved about not having to consider extending the Worsts to a 15 list. There have even been years where I’ve considered dropping this list altogether, but I think it’s still too fun.

It’s also worth noting that several of the movies on this list are Netflix releases. I don’t really subscribe to the notion that Netflix has a lot of editorial concern about the kinds of movies it releases. I don’t think there’s any such thing as a “Netflix” movie. They’re just a platform that, due to the simplification of attribution in critical responses, people treat like a conventional studio or publisher. They’re more like a venue, so adding their role in the context of a release’s evaluation is like basing a review partially on seeing something at a Cineplex vs. a Landmark. Most critics don’t bother talking about venue for good reason. So while I’m noting that there are a lot of Netflix releases on this list, I don’t think it means a whole lot. I had twice as many in the running for my Top 15.

 

10. Mute

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Review

I love cyberpunk and it’s come back in a big way. I also love Duncan Jones, even though the dude can’t seem to catch a break. With Mute, a movie that is in the same near-future universe as 2009’s Moon, I was kind of hoping for him to get back on track and deliver a solid cyberpunk story with a more intimate focus than something like Altered Carbon or Blade Runner 2049. Instead, I got a half-baked mess with shades of the movie it should have been but merged with increasingly weird and tonally questionable characters and subplots. True to form for my lists, Mute is half a movie with some potential and half a depressing mess. I think Jones lost faith in it and after waiting for it myself for almost ten years, it’s not hard to imagine why.

9. The Outsider

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No Review

This movie came and went and no on even noticed. Well, I did. I watched the Sydney Pollack 1974 classic The Yakuza for the first time and was ready for some Japanese crime fiction. The Outsider certainly plays with the iconography of that, but the movie is a hollow thing wrapped in an aimlessly stylized shell. The main character becomes Yakuza for no apparent reason, though the movie continuously suggests that this is all going somewhere, most likely some kind of undercover sting. But it’s not that, so it becomes a kind of banal fish out of water story with a psychopath at the center. Leto’s performance is good, but he has zero charisma to balance the unsettling feeling you get watching him slither through the movie without anything recognizable as human motivation.

8. The Cloverfield Paradox

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No Review

Easily the least controversial or interesting choice on this list. But it’s that bad. So bad that many people saw it and pretty much everyone hated it. Every bad cliche of half-baked science fiction nonsense is here in big doses. The cast is stacked and a few performances, particularly Chris O’Dowd’s, are fun or interesting — for a minute or two. In general, the movie just feels like the script really let it down by having no discernible identity of its own. It cribs from a ton of other movies, most of them too recent for this to feel like an homage. Then it breaks its own rules and strains incredulity to the point of crushing stupidity in order to connect itself to the most unnecessary and poorly motivated (let alone constructed) cinematic universe there is. The fucking Cloverfield universe. Get out of here with that.

7. The Titan

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Review

Every time The Titan threatens to use its premise for something interesting, it skews to some predictable or bewildering place. It wastes generally good actors like Tom Wilkinson and does no favors to young up and comers like Nathalie Emmanuel. The movie’s story makes no sense, but you think as you go that this is by design and there will eventually be a horrible secret or mad scientist reveal. If they ever wanted to do that, they fumbled the execution so bad that The Titan feels like a movie that’s sole reason for existing is that money shot at the end. It feels like another scifi movie made by VFX students who showed a highlight reel to the right investor. That’s a cynical perspective, but I dare you to watch this shit and try to explain how it happened.

6. Predator

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No Review

This was a heart-breaker for me. I love Shane Black and I love this franchise, going all the way back to the meathead masterpieces of the first two. I suspect most of the people giving this one a pass either don’t care about the franchise or are telling themselves a comforting lie… because this movie is total bunk. Nothing about it works. The visual effects are unfinished and sloppy, the story is more a series of poorly connected vignettes that last just long enough for a quip or a hackneyed emotional “moment”, etc. The behind the scenes drama and obvious re-editing also don’t help. This movie is such a trainwreck that I’ll be fascinated to see if any juicy stories come out about how it went so off the rails and what the movie they were trying to make even was. You can see glimpses of a better movie in there, a more focused one if nothing else. I have a hard time imagining it would have survived the tone-deaf “humor”, Autism=Superpower tropes, and again trying to make Predators sympathetic for some reason. All that and the ending is almost satirical in its badness.

5. Bad Times at the El Royale

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No Review

Even the handful of fun moments and performances couldn’t save this movie from being a self-indulgent, bloated, and derivative waste of time. Some people are putting it on their “best of the year” lists, the misguided fools. This is a Tarantino movie for people who’ve never actually watched a Tarantino movie, arriving twenty years after it was trendy for smart asses to hire a slew of good actors to coattail ride their way to both mainstream and indie cred — as if Drew Goddard pulled this movie out of a time capsule from 1998. At two and a half hours long and filled with cutesy, unnecessary framing devices and gimmicks, Bad Times at the El Royale does almost nothing worth any of the precocious cleverness that so obviously drives it.

4. A Quiet Place

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Review

Even in a year with a few overrated movies, especially horror movies (looking at you Hereditary), A Quiet Place stands out from the crowd. It’s the most overrated movie of 2018 and I knew that it would be about 4/5’s of the way through. This is a movie that wastes a great premise and well-realized first act in a headlong rush toward just about every cliche and incidence-based lazy screenwriting trick it can pull to convince you that these people definitely survived years of the post-apocalypse through sheer luck. Honestly, the amount to which I get worked up about disliking this movie should earn it a spot lower on this list. I decided not to go for the shock move of making it #1 worst movie, but how could I when these next three are so abjectly terrible? Still, while the world fawns over Krasinski as some kind of directorial discovery, I just want Jim to get back in the fucking office.

3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

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No Review

The only movie I watched in 2018 that I actively wanted to shut off. This is a step down in every sense from the also terrible Jurassic World. This time, they marketed a movie about getting dinosaurs off a volcanic island as if it’s some kind of environmental crisis. This movie uses that stuff as just a way to get to what it really cares about, which is remaking the best parts from the Visitor’s Center sequences from the original Jurassic World. Come to think of it, that first half has a lot in common with The Lost World too. In all, these movies have failed at every step to justify their existence. At best they are harmless dinosaur spectacle but it’s only downhill from there. Vacuous story-lines, underwritten characters anti-performed by capable actors, and a bizarre preoccupation with the ever more ridiculous notion of weaponizing prehistoric lizards. Hard pass if there’s ever a third one. I think I finally learned my lesson.

2. Tomb Raider

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No Review

Gotta have those shitty video game adaptations. Rampage was actually pretty good, wholesome fun. But Tomb Raider has the usual series of impulses that impede a video game adaptation from being good. It is precious about the iconography of the games without ever understanding what parts of them could make for good cinema, which leaves a movie that feels like a series of extended cut-scenes with incredibly forgettable action and unimaginative CGI environments to stitch it all together. Danny Wu, who I really like, is completely wasted here and Alicia Vikander should have seen the writing on the wall when her lad Michael Fassbender tried to vanity project his way into an Assassin’s Creed franchise. She looks the part but the movie built around her just doesn’t work.

1. Future World

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No Review

The most aggressively terrible movie I saw all year was Future World. I didn’t expect much, even with the cast and involvement of James Franco (who is usually interesting at least). Toward the half-way point, I was starting to feel like it was some kind of anti-movie, like a post-apocalyptic version of what Tusk was trying to do. But really, it’s just some trust-fund kid’s wannabe Mad Max. Money and probably cocaine are the only things that can explain this movie. Certainly not sense or the artistic acumen of its cast of middling “stars”. Suki Waterhouse is having an interesting year between this and Assassination Nation but Franco, Lucy Liu, and Milla Jovavich all come off like has-beens trying to pay off a summer home. There’s this dutch ultra low budget (like NERF guns as props low budget) post-apocalyptic movie called Molly that also came out this year and it’s everything that Future World wishes it could be. Check that one out instead.

 


 

So goes the endless year. The bad parts are now gone forever. Especially the cleansing effect of discussing the year’s worst movies. May we managed to avoid reaping the aftermath in this new year while welcoming a new crop of misguided and occasionally well-meaning mistakes.

 

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