You’re probably reading this while still digesting your Christmas turkey from yesterday, and if you are then get ready, because you’re about to be subjected to even more turkeys!
That’s right, folks; it’s time for our annual countdown of our best and worst films of the year, beginning as always with the absolute worst of the worst! This year has seen plenty of forgettable blockbusters, mediocre horrors, and just all-round terrible crimes against cinema, but the following movies are all guilty of being the biggest wastes of time we have come across over the last twelve months, with some being so horrifically put-together that they make one pine for the days when it was the likes of Paulie Shore making all the bad films.
There’s a whole bunch of garbage we just can’t wait to take out, but first here’s a quick reminder of how these lists are compiled: films are only eligible if they were given an original UK release between January 1st and December 31st 2018, meaning that it has to have been out in the UK between those dates in order to qualify without being released elsewhere in the world beforehand. So, any awards holdovers like The Shape of Water or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which were released in the States and other territories in 2017 before eventually making it to the UK in 2018, are therefore ineligible, as are any other films that debuted in other countries the year prior before its UK release. For example, the utterly baffling cock-up The Bookshop was released in UK cinemas this year, but had a wide release in Spain in November the previous year, otherwise that unholy insanity would have easily been on the list. Basically, as long as it was released in the UK within the same year as its debut elsewhere in the world, it qualifies for either list.
With all that being said, here’s a brief look in no particular order at the films that just missed out on scoring positions in our official Worst of 2018 countdown (though that doesn’t excuse them for their quality!):
- Johnny English Strikes Again
- Book Club
- Dog Days
- Insidious: The Last Key
- Slaughterhouse Rulez
- Nobody’s Fool
- Walk Like A Panther
- Duck Duck Goose
- Mary Magdalene
- Hunter Killer
- The Leisure Seeker
- Sherlock Gnomes
And now, let’s start this list proper with…
15 – THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS
An adult Muppets movie would sound like an easy recipe for comedic success, but A) Peter Jackson already perfected that kind of flick with Meet The Feebles back in the day, and B) The Happytime Murders was anything but a comedic success.
In development for the better part of a decade, and passed around in Hollywood more than your average ragdoll, this dreary, laugh-free slog couldn’t even make puppets ejaculating silly string funny, which on paper should have hit all the irreverent comedic bullseyes, but Brian Henson’s ill-conceived direction went straight for the lazy gross-out gags instead of the smarter and satirical ones that even Sausage Party got completely right.
But while it is indeed a pretty bad movie, there was a slight disappointment that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had hoped it would be. Reviews for this one were lethal, and its box office intake even worse, but upon seeing it, I was finding myself only partially agreeing with what most people were saying. I don’t know what I was expecting, but somehow the movie couldn’t even deliver on those expectations; hell, it’s not even the worst film I’ve seen Melissa McCarthy in all year (don’t worry, that one’s coming up soon…).
Don’t mistake my hesitance, this is still a pretty bad movie, but given how much it was being set up to fail, I just felt so let down that it wasn’t even as horrible as I had imagined…
14 – THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB
A new English-language entry into the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series sounds like it would have been a reasonably smart move, given how David Fincher’s 2011 adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s first book in the Millennium series was met with strong acclaim, but without Fincher involved – not to mention original stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara – there was almost no way that Sony could make it work, and wouldn’t you know it, they couldn’t.
A soulless cash-grab of a movie, The Girl in the Spider’s Web saw the studio completely go against everything that Larsson’s breakthrough character Lisbeth Salander was about, effectively turning her into a female James Bond when all she ever needed to be was nothing more than an anti-social hacker. All praise to Claire Foy for doing what she can with this incredibly misguided material, but this movie felt so unnecessary, and so beyond the grounded and disturbing tone that Larsson and even Fincher had established, that on-screen this world and these characters – including a shoe-horned in Mikael Blomkvist who’s there for absolutely no reason, and played by some young handsome guy that looks like they weren’t even trying when finding a replacement for Daniel Craig – felt completely unrecognisable.
It’s an incredibly dull story told with frustrating direction and editing that feels like it was put into a blender at times, and one that takes an incredibly compelling character like Lisbeth Salander and violates her like that evil guardian character from the first film. If you want a decent continuation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, just check out the Swedish adaptations of Larsson’s two follow-up books starring Noomi Rapace as Salander; they’re still not as good as the first, but they’re a hell of a lot better than whatever this film was.
At least those films actually stayed true to the character of Lisbeth Salander…
13 – JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM
Jurassic World was certainly divisive when it came out, with some calling it a wondrous summer blockbuster that stayed true to the spirit of Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking Jurassic Park, while others called it a dumb and relentlessly dull explosion of mediocre special effects. However, with the follow-up Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, almost everyone could agree that it was by far the worst entry in the franchise to date.
Taking dumb to a whole other level, this sequel saw characters do things that nobody in this situation would ever think of doing, but the film thinks its audience is so stupid that it just throws everything it can at you without ever requiring you to think too hard about it. However, not even the more forgiving audiences for the previous film could abide a script with way too many plot-holes and inconsistencies, set-pieces that defy the very laws of physics (in one scene, a character limps out of the way of incoming lava, the heat from which should already fry his skin, but despite being surrounded by the stuff – and even putting his hand through it (!) – he’s completely fine), irritating characters like Justice Smith’s Shia LaBeouf-esque cowardly hipster that would have fit better in a Transformers sequel than a Jurassic Park movie, and an ending that made people everywhere feel no sympathy whatsoever for an adorable young girl.
The worst part of it all, though, is that there are no emotions that can be felt from it in the slightest. Even the worse Jurassic Park movies at least had heart to them, and clear ambition in what kind of story they were telling (even though it wasn’t always the right one), but with this one, the awe and wonder is completely absent, and replaced with something so manufactured and ill-conceived that it’s not worth feeling even the slightest bit of feelings for a series that started out with the most wondrous idea of dinosaurs being brought back to life.
While Jurassic World proved divisive, not many people ended up disagreeing over Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the latest in a franchise that is slowly becoming extinct before our very eyes…
12 – FIFTY SHADES FREED
It’s the final film in the Fifty Shades series, and people couldn’t have been happier to finally see the back of this utterly ridiculous franchise. However, nobody could have predicted that Fifty Shades Freed would end up being the craziest one of them all.
Outside of giving us everything we’ve come to expect from these films, from the incessant extravagance of wealth to the terrible dialogue to the non-existent chemistry between Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan – who both throughout look like they want out of this series as quickly as possible – and the most vanilla sex scenes you could imagine from an erotic film like this (so much so, that they end up using vanilla ice cream at one point during their lovemaking), this film featured some of the biggest unintentional laugh-out-loud moments of the whole series. They ranged from, again, some truly terrible dialogue delivered blandly by two actors who clearly hate each other’s guts, and a crazy thriller sub-plot that saw a bug-eyed Eric Johnson as Jack Hyde (geddit?!) turn into a super-hacker and low-rent James Bond villain. These things and more certainly made for entertaining viewing, and not the kind they were intending at all, but the bland direction by James Foley and wooden performances also left us feeling so glad that this series was finally complete.
My personal experience with this film was odd this year; it was one of four movies I saw all in one day, and I deliberately ensured that this was my last film of the day, because I was so sure that this would be the stinker out of the lot that it would be a “saved the worst for last” situation. As it turned out, Fifty Shades Freed was the SECOND-BEST movie I ended up seeing that day. I repeat, it was the SECOND-BEST film out of a total of four I saw altogether. And yes, the two that are beneath this movie are indeed going to pop up at some point on this list, but not just yet.
Before then, we must take a moment and bid a fond farewell to the Fifty Shades series, a collection of films so innately mockable that they have been a gift to people in my line of work for the last few years, and for that reason only they shall be missed…
11 – NIGHT SCHOOL
It was a toss-up between Night School and Nobody’s Fool for this spot; I ultimately ended up putting Night School here, because at the very least Tyler Perry’s film was fascinatingly bad in ways I had never really seen before, and for that I had to give it the edge.
Night School, meanwhile, was just bad throughout, with jokes that very rarely landed, executed in such obnoxious and poorly made ways, and wasted strong comedic talent like Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and others with a script that could not work in the slightest, despite their combined efforts. Hart is the one to largely blame for this, seeing how he not only starred but also produced and co-wrote with five (!) other credited writers, because all of the low-brow and painfully unfunny humour in this film all had to go through him, and apparently he saw no issue with any of them so decided that it was worth putting into the movie, which is just poor oversight when putting together a comedy like this.
However, the film’s biggest misgiving is its treatment of people with learning disabilities; Hart’s character clearly has multiple disorders like dyslexia and lack of concentration, and the answer to having him excel in the classroom is apparently to just beat him mercilessly until he comes up with the right answer. That’s a rotten and harmful message, even if it is just meant for comedy; as someone who went through school with a learning disability, I found it unnerving that people could watch this film and conclude that the best way to treat people struggling with their education is not to give them the proper support they need, but to instead take them to a gym and beat the shit out of them in an MMA ring.
That was the point in the movie where I completely gave up hope with this movie, but in fairness there wasn’t anything else to this movie that was winning me over before then…