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The Worst Movies of 2018

One of the things I found most interesting about 2018 was it actually seemed like there were a lot fewer bad movies. Instead, we had a big middle of mediocre, forgettable fare.

So several of these I wouldn’t say are “bad,” but merely disappointing. As with my lists from previous years, I’m trying to keep this away from merely being a slam dunk contest, and to ignore films for whom I am not the intended audience. There’s also a large number of films that were never screened for critics and I had zero interest in seeking them out on my own. So I have no opinion on, for example, Insidious: The Last Key, Holmes and Watson, or The Week Of.

However, I’m going to stray from my principles in a few places here because these film are so egregiously, aggressively awful that I can’t help but say something. But I like to think of this more as an exercise on what went wrong in movies in 2018 and what we can do so much better in the coming year that I hope we can learn from.

10. Pacific Rim: Uprising

Pacific Rim: Uprising

There are, actually, worse films out there than this sequel, but it was just so egregiously bad that I had to start the list here. How do you take such a surefire premise as giant robots fighting monsters and make it bad? Step 1: don’t bring back director Guillermo del Toro or star Idris Elba. Step 2: Make Charlie Day the bad guy for some reason. Step 3: End your film with a snowball fight!

It’s not all bad. There is, in fact, a decent amount of enjoyment to be had here if you don’t pay too close attention. Just turn the sound down and pretend you’re watching a better version of the movie.

9. Take Your Pills

Netflix brought us some great things in 2018. One of them was not this documentary, which premiered at SXSW, which was where I caught it and was immediately enraged. Hey kids, did you know that if you’re being treated for ADHD, you’re basically just doing meth? This film takes the overly complex issues surrounding treatment of attention deficit and basically makes the case that not only are we over-prescribing medication, but it’s being used as a party drug, and drug companies are evil and everyone should just stop taking their medication.

This is a complex subject and this documentary offers no solutions, but shames people for having ADHD and suggests we’re better off not being treated at all. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

8. Rampage

Does The Rock really just say yes to every ridiculous movie they pitch him? This film was not at all based on the 1980’s arcade game involving a giant ape, lizard and wolf attacking the city because that game was fun and this was a tedious mess. This film had a great cast — Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Naomie Harris, Malin Ackerman, Jake Lacy — all of whom are just wasted here. As are a giant effects budget and a premise that might have been interesting if they’d done it properly.

PS- Watch the first five minutes of this movie and the first five minutes of Venom and tell me they aren’t the exact same movie. Mysterious goo on a satellite causes a malfunction and it crashes, infecting people while the evil corporation tries to control their discovery. It’s the same. damn. movie.

7. Gotti


I just want to know what the hell was going on with this movie. Who told them to make this movie this way? Not only is John Travolta’s hair and makeup somehow even more ridiculous in every single scene he’s in (begging the question. . . why?) but this movie seems like it was made by someone whose only exposure to organized crime or the mafia was by watching The Godfather and Goodfellas. It’s like that fresco painting of Jesus they tried to restore and it turned out looking like some weird deformed monkey. It’s like the cooking disasters you see on Nailed It or Cake Wrecks. Oh, it was written and directed by Kevin Connolly from Entourage. Nailed it.

For a film with so much voice-over exposition and cutaways to the news to explain what was happening and long car rides explaining the structure of the Gambino crime family, this film doesn’t actually make any sense. There’s also no bigger story or theme. Am I supposed to feel some way about John Gotti other than I please want this movie to be over now please? At least Vice made you feel some things about its characters– and managed to coherently explain recent events.

There’s also this weird soundtrack which tries to remind us we’re in the 80’s and 90’s by playing The Bangles and Duran Duran but also this weird hip hop that samples what sounds like the Nina Rota / Carmine Coppolla scores for The Godfather movies.

This film is also deserving of some special scorn for being financed by MoviePass. At the same time MoviePass was running out of money and limiting the movies you could go see, somehow, you could go see Gotti with your MoviePass. Even for free, this movie was not worth it.

6. Den of Thieves

It’s a testament to what a slog 2018 was that this movie from January feels like it was from eight years ago. Or maybe that’s just because it was so tired and hackneyed it felt like that watching it. Cops and robbers, but maybe we’re rooting for the robbers because the cops are bad guys, too? By the end, I wanted everyone to die and I mostly got my wish. Too bad it took two and a half hours to get there.

5. Sicario: Day of the Soldado

As disappointing a sequel as Pacific Rim: Uprising was, this was far worse. The original Sicario is such a taught, gripping film. And prior to this, I felt like Tayler Sheridan could do no wrong in writing scripts. This, apparently, is what you poop out when the dollar signs are right. The film misses its moral compass in not including Emily Blunt, but it also perpetuates some ridiculous ideas about ISIS terrorists coming across the Mexican border to blow up a Wal-Mart. This is like the fever dream of someone who’s been watching way too much Fox News and doing a lot of cocaine.

And then we get the conflict between Josh Brolin and Benecio Del Toro, and also Brolin bristling at government bureaucrats who won’t let him do his job! (More coke + Fox News)

We deserve better from our movies. We deserve better from our Sicario sequels. (Note: I saw this movie back to back in a double feature with my #1 movie of the year, putting an even better comparison on just how terrible this was.)

4. Midnight Sun

I almost feel sorry for how bad this movie was. A teenage girl is so deathly allergic to sunlight that even a few errant ray can kill her. Spoiler alert: they do. This tragic teen romance is made even more ridiculous by Rob Riggle trying his best as the dad role here.

3. Red Sparrow

Red Sparrow

A movie that glorifies violence against women, has multiple rape scenes, and actually had potential to be the Black Widow movie we all really wanted? It was just terrible, maybe even worse than Jennifer Lawrence’s Boris-and-Natasha Russian accent. In the era of #MeToo, maybe producers would’ve been wise to let this sit on a shelf for a while, instead of explicitly showing on screen how sexual violence is used to subjugate and control women, how their agency is stripped from them in a government-run spy program that is essentially state-sponsored sex slavery where failure to comply means a bullet in your head. It was also incredibly long, which is even more unforgivable, especially given how boring it was.

2. Fifty Shades Freed

Normally I make an exception for the Fifty Shades movies because I’m just not the intended audience. But this year? This abomination came out right in the middle of the #MeToo movement and showed an incredible tonedeafness on the part of the film’s producers. These are a lot of the same problems I had with Red Sparrow, but at least that had a spy storyline going on as well. The best thing I can say about this is I will never have to review another one of these films again.

1. Death of a Nation

Again, I normally wouldn’t include this because I am not the target audience, but convicted felon pardoned under corrupt circumstances by Trump likely in an attempt to suborn perjury or obstruction of justice from his associates Dinesh D’Souza has produced his masterpiece of alt-right agitprop. His major contention is that Donald Trump is basically Abraham Lincoln, and just like Lincoln, those mean ol’ Democrats are going to use violence (including civil war) to overturn a legitimate election.

Death of a Nation

Except a) it wasn’t legitimate, you buffoon, or perhaps you haven’t noticed the increasing number of indictments around Individual 1 (or maybe Dinesh doesn’t think campaign finance law matter, since, after all, that was what he was convicted of breaking) and b) after all of those marches like the Women’s March, March for Our Lives, People’s Climate March, March Against Family Separation we have yet to see any violence from them, but yet we have alt-right violence in Charlottesville (covered in the far better film, Alt-Right Age of Rage) pipe bombs, politically-motivated attacks on synagogues and mosques. If this is a proto-civil war, it is a war of right wing aggression.

And then there’s the weird fascination with Trump being like Lincoln. This is just so baffling on multiple levels.

As a movie, it’s also just garbage. I was not kind to Michael Moore’s latest earlier this year (in fact, if this were a top 13 worst movies list, Fahrenheit 11/9 would be on it), but at least the guy knows how to make a movie. D’Souza loses his narrative so many times, it’s like he’s piecing this together from an underground bunker wearing a tinfoil hat.

But, none of this happens in a vacuum. Whenever I see a movie, I ask myself, “What is this trying to say? How does that add to the cultural conversation we’re having as a society?” This throws gasoline on the worst types of fires, including the beliefs of people who also believe in QAnon and Pizzagate. D’Souza’s films in the past have been terrible and wreckless, but never dangerous. This gives crazy people the fuel they need to commit future acts of violence– in the belief that they are fighting a new civil war.

The First Amendment protects his right to make this movie, and it also protects my right to say this is the worst piece of garbage to be shown in cinemas this last calendar year.

Well, that’s it. That’s the worst. But, I hate being negative, so I’ll come back here in the next day or two with the best of 2018, as well as a look at My Top 5 of Everything and “Who won the year?” If you think it might be the Disney corporation, well. . . you’ll have to read the article.

See you in 2019, where we hopefully avoid these types of awful movies.

Movie Review: Midnight Sun

midnight sun posterIn the subgenre of “tragic teen romances where someone has a fatal disease,” Midnight Sun sets itself apart as one of the absolute worst. It makes saccharine treacle like The Fault in Our Stars look like masterpieces by comparison. It is trite, manipulative, boring, and stupid. People who complain about movies like The Last Jedi having “plot holes” should be forced to watch Midnight Sun as punishment so they can see what actual plot holes look like.

Our girl with a disease is Katie (Bella Thorne) and her disease is XP, or Xeroderma pigmentosum, a severe reaction to UV light which prevents her from going outside in the daytime. Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger) is the boy next door who she has been watching through her window every day. They finally meet one night and a whirlwind romance ensues. Her protective father (Rob Riggle) chides her for not telling her new boyfriend about her XP, but she doesn’t want to be “just a disease” to him, fearing he will treat her differently.

It’s just awful, and it’s a mess. The cast is charming enough, and Rob Riggle even shows off that he can do serious roles– just not this movie. He has to swallow lines where a doctor tells him that XP affects less than one in a million people, and he says, no joke, “Well that’s appropriate, because Katie is one in a million.” Nobody could’ve played these roles well, because they’re terrible.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, it’s a musical. Katie is a guitar player and singer and songwriter, so we are frequently barraged by her songs. This wouldn’t be bad if this was Sing Street, Begin Again, or even Jem and the Holograms. Yes, this made me wistful for that trainwreck. At least the songs were decent, and the girls were actually good musicians. Bella Thorne here looks like she got exactly three guitar lessons, maybe only a half hour before shooting.

Now, I’m going to spoil the entire movie in order to explain just how awful this was. SPOILER ALERT — STOP READING HERE IF YOU CARE ABOUT SPOILERS.

So, you know her disease? So it’s supposedly so severe she can’t be exposed to any sunlight, right? (First, that’s not true– the movie is vastly overstating the effects of the disease) But we get the impression that she basically never leaves the house, even at night. First, how messed up is that? There’s being protective, and then there’s being irrational.

So she accidentally stays out all night with her new boyfriend, then realizes it’s almost sunrise, breathlessly tries to run home to escape the oncoming sunlight, and is hit with the briefest of rays!! And it ends up causing her brain to develop lesions and shrink and she’s going to die. From 2 seconds of sun at sunrise, which, technically, is some of the lowest UV light of the entire day.

Well, I guess if 2 seconds of sunrise can kill you, it makes sense how overprotective dad is, right? To not let you leave the house, like ever? And now, you’re cool with her staying out all night with her new boyfriend? Even after having a talk with them about curfew before they leave? So, you send a bunch of text messages and keep calling your daughter’s phone when she doesn’t come home, because you’re a super protective dad … and you don’t have “Find My Phone” enabled? And you live in this tiny town that is walkable in five minutes and can’t find her at the beach?

Also, let’s talk about your town. So many films work because they have such a perfect sense of their place and time. Midnight Sun? I don’t know where this town is, but it’s like straight out of Narnia or something.

The Pacific Northwest’s hottest small town is. . .  whatever the name of this town is that they never say. It has everything:
An old timey train station where Seattle is only a short ride away
A ticket booth man named Frank that everyone knows
A beach
A harbor where 18 year olds can get a summer job taking care of boats
Only one black person
A super modern hospital with doctors who just happen to specialize in the super rare disease your daughter has who make house calls to deliver bad news
A high school that lets seniors who have already graduated participate in swim meets
A bitchy cheerleader mean girl sterotype
An old timey ice cream shop managed by 18 year olds on a boardwalk with a carnival
Crying Rob Riggle
Multiple teenage parties happening every night
Every house in town probably costs at least half a million dollars
The ability to walk anywhere in the town in 5 minutes but everyone still drives anyway
Complete anonymity for people who don’t leave their houses
Amazing Chinese food delivery
No apparent jobs or sources of income for any adults

It’s truly a magical place.

And in the final ridiculous act of this film, with Katie dying from minimal sunlight exposure, she asks if she can go sailing with her boyfriend and watch the sunset with him. Apparently, we’re ok with her just committing suicide by sun, and, yeah, ok, because she’s gotta go sometime, amirite?

Then Rob Riggle gives an unforgivably bad speech after her funeral where he says he doesn’t blame the boyfriend, because all he ever wanted to do was make Katie happy, and he made her happier than she had ever been. EXCEPT HE KEPT YOUR DAUGHTER OUT ALL NIGHT AND SHE WAS KILLED BY 2 SECONDS OF SUNLIGHT EXPOSURE. But, yeah, sure, forgiveness and all that stuff. How very zen.

To believe this movie, you have to believe that Rob Riggle is simultaneously the most overprotective parent ever and also the most lackadaisical. You have to believe Katie’s XP is so serious 2 seconds of sunrise can kill her, but she should be able to watch the sunset with her boyfriend because her life isn’t really that precious anyway. You have to believe that a town like this exists anywhere but in fiction.

There’s suspending your disbelief, and then there’s Midnight Sun. 

With so many better movies out right now, including the charming Love, Simon aimed at a similar audience, there’s no reason to waste your time on this.

1/2 out of 5 stars