The Good, The Bad OK the Really Ugly - Worst Films of 2018
By Jordan Bosch
Contrary to popular belief it’s not fun to watch and review bad movies. Sure it’s sometimes cathartic to rail against a movie that’s disastrous enough to provoke an impact, but I much prefer writing about great movies and why they are so. There’s an emphasis it seems in modern film discourse to enhance the negative, which is bad for both the “critics” and serious criticism itself.
So why even compile a “10 Worst Films of the Year” list? I’ve never done it before. In part it’s because I have seen enough bad movies to adequately fill a list this year, where previous years I either more consciously avoided the really terrible ones or was just lucky. And to that end it should be noted this list is by no means comprehensive, as there was no way I was going to even touch movies with as atrocious reputations as Show Dogs, Fifty Shades Freed, or Death of a Nation. But I think there’s another reason to do this more than simply because I can. Something constructive can come from recalling movies that were ill-conceived, discordant, incompetent, offensive, nauseating, or all of the above. Many are also movies that represent what Hollywood thinks audiences want from the medium and it’s very telling as to how the studios perceive the public. And maybe, just maybe talking about the failures can encourage some to think more critically about the movies we watch and the kinds of movies we make box office hits.
10. Peter Rabbit
Director: Will Gluck
Writers: Will Gluck and Rob Leiber, based on the books by Beatrix Potter
Stars: James Corden, Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne
This movie is essentially everything people feared Paddington and The Peanuts Movie were going to be: a soulless adaptation of a beloved and innocent childrens’ series that would insultingly pander to its demographic with the same kind of effortless yet reliable plotting, structural, editing, and pop culture fixated comedic tools that has resulted in countless Alvin and the Chipmunks and Smurfs movies. It squanders the chance to tell a sweet and presently unique kind of morality tale, and further squanders Watership Down calibre animation in the perfect mould of Beatrix Potters’ illustrations. Beatrix Potter herself has been let down.
Peter Rabbit review
9. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Director: J.A. Bayona
Writers: Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow
Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall
During the creative development of this movie, someone must have watched The Lost World and thought, “let’s do that but even worse”. Ratcheting its concepts to their highest absurd extremities, Fallen Kingdom is not only impossible to take seriously, but convoluted and not much fun. Its characters lack any depth or engaging motivation and though there are interesting ideas beneath the surface, the film is too clumsy to give them any weight or intelligent consideration. Ultimately it plays much closer to archetypal creature features or cheesy SyFy B-movies than to the blockbuster phenomenon it’s descended from that transcended those genres.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom review
8. The Predator
Director: Shane Black
Writers: Shane Black and Fred Dekker
Stars: Olivia Munn, Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Sterling K. Brown
Shane Black’s revival of the Predator series is a messy husk of an 80s action movie that equates bigger with better, refuses to grow past its toxic masculine overtones, and attempts in vain to extract serious commentary from among other things, an autism stereotype. It’s also missing the sharp humour and stylishness that usually characterizes Black’s writing, not to mention the likable characters. Descending into self-parody in more than a few moments, it’s a film that exists to keep a series on life support while those overseeing it are unwilling or unable to acknowledge its complete and utter irrelevance.
The Predator review
7. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Directors: Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston
Writer: Ashleigh Powell, based on the story by E.T.A. Hoffmann and the ballet by Marius Petipa
Stars: Mackenzie Foy, Jayden Fowora-Knight, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren
Disney’s transparent attempt to absorb one more iconic intellectual property into their empire is just as bland, insulting, and tiresome as “The Russian Dance” turning up in bad Christmas comedies. Loosely adapting the story before aesthetically turning into anAlice or Narnia knock-off, The Nutcracker makes for an incredibly dreary and pedantic exercise that’s supplemented by broad themes and even broader performances, chief among them Keira Knightley hamming it up in the most excruciating fashion. Worst of all, it underutilizes Tchaikovsky’s music, and even a real ballet performed in the midst of it can’t save one of Disney’s biggest train-wrecks in recent memory.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms review
6. Red Sparrow
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writer: Justin Haythe, based on the book by Jason Matthews
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts
This movie is just unpleasant. A hopeless, convoluted, borderline sadistic exploitation film disguised as an espionage thriller that carries on too long and makes little sense. Barely anything in it is interesting, enlightening, or certainly entertaining, with its relentlessly bleak atmosphere and a disturbing amount of unnecessary sexual violence. Anchored by a lead character we can only connect to in her pain and structurally confused with a reliance on twists (not to mention at least a few bad Russian accents), it’s a film that leaves you feeling miserable when it dares to present itself as empowering.
Red Sparrow review
5. Life Itself
Director: Dan Fogelman
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Stars: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Olivia Cooke, Antonio Banderas
Dan Fogelman’s ambitious high-concept drama that wants to be Babel but settles forThe Air I Breathe is laughably alien one minute, gratuitously sentimental the next. This tonal whiplash is only barely hyperbole. Its script is bizarrely bad, its characters thin and undefined, its metatextual devices poorly thought through, and its themes utterly meaningless. Life Itself is the kind of movie that thinks it’s saying something profound about life, love, destiny, and the transcendence of the human experience, when really all it’s offering is dressed-up, affirming platitudes trying to pass for unique insight; and monumentally failing at that.
Life Itself review
4. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Director: David Yates
Writer: J.K. Rowling
Stars: Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Eddie Redmayne
This was perhaps the most fascinatingly bad movie of 2018, the kind that begs further study. From its bewildering story and character choices, to its interest in establishing lore over a cohesive plot, to its striking tonal inconsistencies, to its deeply problematic subtexts, to its lack of any kind of focus, it’s certainly the strangest officially sanctioned anomaly to come out of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe, to say nothing of its general filmmaking and screenwriting deficiencies. You have to be a Harry Potter fan to comprehend half of what’s going on, but if you’re a Harry Potter fan you’re all the more likely to notice the rewriting of canon and the missed opportunities. Either way it’s a terrible film.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald review
3. The Grinch
Directors: Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney
Writers: Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow, based on the story by Dr. Seuss
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones, Pharrell Williams
I’ll admit the reason this movie is so low is inordinately subjective. It’s got some pretty animation and all things considered is probably better than the Jim Carrey version of the story from 2000. But that doesn’t change the fact The Grinch is a vacant, cynical, and enthusiastic butchering of Dr. Seuss’ iconic story and its philosophy. It not only misunderstands the text, but tries to improve upon it with many of the same recycled studio devices referenced in regards to Peter Rabbit; as well as new verses to the poetic narration, sometimes in place of important ones, just to ensure its audience turn into Grinches themselves.The Grinch review
2. Holmes & Watson
Director: Etan Cohen
Writer: Etan Cohen
Stars: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Rebecca Hall
A last minute but nonetheless integral addition to the garbage bin of 2018, this outdated comedy is almost certainly the worst interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes canon yet released in cinemas. Its’ paint-by-numbers plot would be bad enough without the flailing, pandering, mean-spirited attempts at humour by a cast embarrassingly too good to be in this film. But it thinks it can earn even a modicum of investment in its characters. Desperately clinging to a style of movie that’s on its way to extinction, Holmes & Watson would be the pinnacle of unfunny comedies of 2018 if not for…
Holmes & Watson review
1. The Happytime Murders
Director: Brian Henson
Writer: Todd Berger
Stars: Bill Barretta, Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks
Yes, this is a movie the more I think back on the less I like it. Not only everything on screen but the very culture that propagated it out of a thinking that making child-oriented things “adult” and edgy was the same as subverting a style and cultivating something new. Calculated and condescending, thisRoger Rabbit wannabe is of course incredibly vulgar, lazy, and unfunny, and its effort to make some kind of race-relations commentary is hollow and impotent. It is a movie that exists because of a gimmick to be exploited on audiences it hopes are stupid enough, and is indicative of everything wrong with blockbuster filmmaking in Hollywood today.The Happytime Murders review
And in case you did not get enough of bad films check out the video from last year nominees.
Movie and arts critic/writer Jordan Bosch is a former columnist with the now defunct Moose Jaw Times-Herald.