Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Worst of 2019 So Far

Having already covered my Ten Best of 2019 (sorry, Jacob Airey, but despite it being a turning point in cinematic history Avengers: Endgame somehow missed the cut), it is time to look at what I think are the worst films of this past year. Curiously, 2019 had three films that I so thoroughly detested I gave an F- to.

With that, let us begin.

NUMBER 10: Isn't It Romantic

Rebel Wilson makes her first appearance on our dishonorable list with this faux-female empowerment film that allegedly is a spoof of romantic comedy tropes. Isn't It Romantic is nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is. It mistakes stupidity for wit, is poorly acted and gives us a horrid lead character that it insist we love. One can make a satire of rom-coms but Isn't It Romantic has such a nasty streak and endless leaps of logic that you want her to fail.

NUMBER 09: Serenity

Anne Hathaway makes her first appearance on our dishonorable list with this nonsensical pseudo-noir. Serenity is poorly acted, as if the cast had some kind of secret bet as to who could embarrass him/herself more. After achieving something of a cinematic redemption, Matthew McConaughey decided to revert to form and emphasize his physical beauty over his acting skills. Hathaway decided to do a parody of a femme fatale, and I think I'm being generous. Serenity is already terrible due to its thoroughly illogical plot, but by opting to use serious issues to mask its stupidity it makes an already terrible film even worse.

NUMBER 08: The Hustle

Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway make their second appearance on our dishonorable list, joining forces in an unholy, almost Satanic alliance of inflicting human misery on the unfortunate soul who stumbles onto The Hustle. Another faux-female empowerment film, The Hustle is a gender-swapped remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Unfortunately, its emphasis on "girl power" ended up making the females look stupid in the end. It was a competition as to who could be less funny in what I figure was intended to be a comedy, but the clear winner is Hathaway. Her "British" accent was so obviously fake that I'm genuinely amazed that no one involved in the production, not even the catering company, told her to stop even trying. Another film that is neither empowering or funny, The Hustle is proof that misandry is just as awful as misogyny.

NUMBER 07: Honey Boy

This is probably the one where I expect pushback, as many think highly of Honey Boy. My issues with Honey Boy, however, are myriad. First, we all know it is essentially Shia LaBeouf: His True Story, which does not appeal to me. Seeing LaBeouf act out his life to me is not liberating but slightly creepy to egocentric. It doesn't help that I think he was deliberately, overtly "actory" in his performance. Second, even its defenders I think would agree that the "present-day" setting is the weakest part. It does not help that poor Lucas Hedges is again playing "troubled young man". Seriously, somebody should hire Hedges for a romantic comedy or at least some kind of Adam Sandler-like film (not Uncut Gems). The "Hedges as Troubled Young Man" shtick is old. Apart from Noah Jupe, I was thoroughly unimpressed with Shai LaBeouf's exercise in therapy.

NUMBER 06: 21 Bridges

A last-minute entry onto my Ten Worst List, 21 Bridges is simultaneously boring and bloody, a remarkable feat indeed albeit for all the wrong reasons. The film squanders fine actors, particularly Chadwick Boseman, who looked bored throughout. 21 Bridges is dreadfully acted, indulgent in almost graphic violence and idiotically predictable one can be falling asleep while watching various police officers get blown away left right and center.

NUMBER 05: Cats

Rebel Wilson makes her third and final appearance on our dishonorable list in this oddball hairball of a film. Unlike other critics, I think well of Cats the musical, but there is no excuse for Cats the film. Attempting to ram a plot into what is essentially a revue was one of its many, many bad decisions. Casting everyone they did was another. Add to that ghastly CGI work, which to be fair had to be done in a hurry to attempt and try get Cats major award consideration. The performances are almost without exception cringe-inducing, and dear God the Dancing Cockroaches!

NUMBER 04: The Goldfinch

Ah, another film with lofty aspirations. The Goldfinch was set to be this major adaptation of a popular albeit divisive novel, a posh production that would have awards tossed in its direction. Instead, The Goldfinch ended up as one of the biggest bombs of 2019, a slow, dull, pretentious production, loaded by awful performances all around. It shouldn't be a surprise that The Goldfinch's lead, Ansel Elgort, would be terrible (his continued film career being one of the great unsolved mysteries of the age). However, The Goldfinch managed to humiliate good actors like Jeffrey Wright, Nicole Kidman, Luke Wilson and Sarah Paulson. Stilted and lethargic, The Goldfinch made you wish the lead character had been killed in the bombing. It would have spared us twenty hours of absolute misery.

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NUMBER 03: Phil

A film so awful that I think it might not have even gotten a real release, Phil (originally titled The Philosophy of Phil) is a dead thing, a comedy that is not funny and a drama that is not dramatic. Phil, the directorial debut of its star, the likable Greg Kinnear, is painful to sit through. It plays like a failed TV pilot, with its whole plot depending on the abject stupidity of every character. What makes it worse is that it genuinely thinks it's insightful, saying something about living life. Trading in awful Greek stereotypes that even Nia Vardalos would think are over-the-top, I feel almost bad bashing Phil given I doubt anyone even knows it exists. That is as it should be, because Phil is just beyond awful.

That means that it's really sad that I found two films even worse than Phil, one a major release, one a minor one.

Terminator: Dark Fate is the worst of all worlds. It thinks, like Isn't It Romantic and The Hustle, that is is a female-empowerment film by casting two females in leading roles, with the bonus of being more progressive by casting two Hispanics. Whatever the acting abilities of Natalia Reyes, Mackenzie Davis or Gabriel Luna, Terminator: Dark Fate is a horrid, horrid film. It demolishes established Terminator canon to essentially be a remake of both The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Every performance save perhaps Linda Hamilton is as robotic as anything Skynet or Legion or whatever machine is attempting to overthrow humanity now. Terminator: Dark Fate is so wildly, almost hilariously misguided, but nothing justifies this naked cash-grab, let alone suggestions to continue a franchise long dead.

NUMBER 01: The Fanatic

Sadly, for the second year in a row, John Travolta appears on my Number One Worst Film of the Year. Travolta is a genuinely talented actor, so why does he keep agreeing to be in such rubbish as last year's Gotti and now this year's The Fanatic? This is simply the ugliest film I have ever seen, perhaps outdoing Freddy Got Fingered for being pure trash. Allegedly an exploration of toxic fandom, The Fanatic is just painful to watch or even remember. I felt genuine sorrow for Travolta and Devon Sawa in finding themselves under the watchful eye and script of Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. Travolta's character of Moose is clearly insane, but Durst opts to make him autistic, vaguely suggesting the two are linked. Sadistic, nonsensical and cruel, not to mention stupid and repulsive, The Fanatic is more than a crime against cinema. It's a crime against humanity.

Next time, my Odds and Bitter Ends.

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