Someone once told me that there are no bad films. He meant it as a way of discussing perspective and how we all look for different thrills in our entertainment. Some might disagree with this argument, I don’t blame them, but for the most part it is incredibly vital. Disagreement in film is one of the most important parts of going to the cinema and that’s what I enjoy most about this time of year. Compiling my best and worst lists is not just a way of remembering the year gone but also a chance to re-evaluate all the cinematic moments that made it great and discuss them again.
However before we can get to the best we must first look at what didn’t work, the films that disappointed, offended or just plain bored me. To clarify, it’s been a great year for film in general. This list honestly doesn’t do 2018 justice but it does highlight some trends that really need to be put to bed and some concepts that work better on paper than in actual film. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Red Sparrow – A good spy thriller crackles with anticipation, the tension rises with every moment and the twists shock. Red Sparrow does none of those things and proclaims itself to be an intelligent, unexpected delight. Jennifer Lawrence is perfectly fine as ballerina turned spy Dominika and Joel Edgerton does his best as exposition dump/ CIA agent Nate Nash but this is campy in the worst ways and instead of shocking you through clever plotting it uses sexuality and gratuitous violence instead. Director Francis Lawrence does his best impression of Tarantino without the script to back it up. When a first date begins with someone telling a woman of what disease his father died of as a pick up line you realise very quickly that something is not quite right. Top class performers plodding their way through B movie dross.
Molly’s Game – Aaron Sorkin’s first attempt at directing isn’t exactly a snorefest and has a smart script as always but its a film that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Sure the story of Molly Bloom is interesting but the film is bogged down in overly long poker scenes and a story that revolves around the men in her life and not the woman herself. Sorkin does his best to state that this is the point and that’s how she got into the mess she did but he then proclaims this to be a film about female empowerment, but only if you get the permission of the men around you first. Read a more detailed take here.
Hotel Artemis – I was hesitant to bring up Hotel Artemis because despite its many flaws, of which there are dozens, it has one saving grace and that is Jodie Foster. In her first major role in five years, Foster imbues her character, dubbed only The Nurse, with a sublime mix of raw emotion and playfully camp chutzpah. The rest of the film on the other hand is a complete and utter mess. The film’s grand ideas never really materialise and all the buildup fizzles out into nothingness once you realise all the character on display here are paper thin. It’s nice to see actor Sterling K Brown in more films after displaying his impressive range on the small screen but it all amounts to nothing as Hotel Artemis isn’t worth the time.
Now despite these films many flaws they don’t quite measure up to these , as they are easily the worst films I’ve seen all year.
The Five Worst Films of The Year
5.) Leave No Trace – Released earlier in the year, this hit every critics radar as a dark horse Oscar hopeful that has since emerged on everyone’s end of year lists. Well, it hit mine too, just the wrong one. As I said in my initial review, the film prides itself on its raw minimalism but fails to comprehend that the least we ask for is a story or at least a direction. Debra Granik’s family drama is beautifully shot with a breakout star in Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie but fails to capitalise on these facts by saying anything remotely relevant or character driven. In a beautiful forest full of things to see, this film completely misses the point. Read my more detailed review here.
4.) Skyscraper – Dwayne Johnson films never really strive for a high bar, quality wise. The most people expect from them is a jolly good romp through a easily serviceable story where he can crush things with his hands and solve any puzzle with a swift punch or driving a speedboat at it really fast (see San Andreas). That’s what makes it so surprising when it comes to Skyscraper. It was never meant to be more than what critics said it was, “Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno”. However throw in a laughably insulting disability sub plot and some painfully poor direction and you have a film stumbling and collapsing under the lowest hurdle around. Find a more detailed review here.
3.) Final Score – Much like Skyscraper, Final Score takes a working formula (terrorists disrupted by everyman hero) and introduces it to Football and Dave Bautista who has elevated himself above C list action hero thanks to The Guardians of the Galaxy. However he has flung himself right off his Marvel high right into this straight to DVD (or it should have been) lazy disappointment. While it does have a few decent jokes hidden away within its lacking script, this is an action film and it seems that cracking jokes is its main currency. Devoid of heart and lacking in any kind of redeemable characters, Final Score is dead from kick off. Read my full review here.
2.) Aquaman – Back when I started writing this list it looked a little different than the piece you are reading now. Thank goodness for Arthur Curry, a character so disastrously campy he manages to build up and break down a whole world all his own. This Jason Momoa led superhero adventure manages to raise your hopes with an engaging opening teaser only to dash them almost instantly with an opening set piece that is equal parts misguided and derivative. What follows is a tonal misfire of a film that runs the spectrum from techno thriller to sappy romance. It’s impossible to figure out what or who Aquaman is because I’m almost certain director James Wan has no idea either. Discovering the world of Atlantis should have been magical, instead you just wish it had stayed hidden.
1.) Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – It takes something special to be considered the worst film of the year, even by people that don’t watch copious amounts of movies every year. Every film on this list failed to produce a final product that satisfied but they all had one thing in common. They all had some small thing to say, they actively tried to have some relevant thought, be it a 30 second scene or just one line, they all tried. The 2nd Fantastic Beasts film has nothing to say, it just regurgitates everything we know about Newt and his friends in a story tailor made to tread water until the next film. Sure we got a proper introduction to Johnny Depp’s titular villain but beyond that it’s all just spinning wheels. Pretty wheels with sparkles and bright colours to distract us from the fact that this entire picture is a pointless exercise, one I felt mildly annoyed I participated in.
What do you think, what are the films you wish were better?