I feel like I write this disclaimer every year and every year I get at least one objection, mainly from friends trying to mess with my weary mind but these lists (Top 10 Worst, Top 20 Best Films of 2019) follow UK’s wide release schedule so if you don’t see some of the 2020 Oscar hopefuls on here or some films that were on other peoples lists for last year its either because I haven’t had the chance to see them yet or they were released late over here. Hell, it could just be because I’m lazy. It’s the internet, you’ll never know.
But without further ado, here are a few films that irked me to the point that I had to say something. This list is chosen out of the 97 films (as of writing) that I saw in 2019 so I may have missed a few (more than a few?) too.
A Dog’s Journey
This follow-up to Lasse Hallström’s A Dog’s Purpose, Journey is a film that is following someone else’s blueprint without ever really understanding the thematic thought behind it. Emotion is pummeled out of you in many a manipulative way, from the score to the dreary script full of toying redemption arcs and irritating coincidences. Despite a game Katheryn Prescott this film reaches breaking point around the time a dog smells a characters cancer.
It wouldn’t be a worst list lately without some Netflix blunders bought on the cheap from companies worried about the losses a wide release would bring. This half-hearted action blunder starring Noomi Rapace was buried in January releases and proved to be just as forgettable as many of the films released that month. While not the sole Netflix title to appear in this article, it is the only one that seems to have something to say. The only problem is it has no clue how to. Read my review here.
Welcome to Marwen
Another January release, Robert Zemeckis’ latest tells a true story but somehow manages to make it both insulting and perfunctory. Moments that are meant to be inspiring are painfully sexist and Steve Carrell despite all his abilities cannot quite lift material that downplays PTSD through the use of jarring visual effects. While the film plays out in two separate worlds, both are woefully senseless and small. For a film about a different kind of therapy, it doesn’t provide any relief. Read my review here.
The 10 Worst Films of 2019
10. Red Joan
A story of the early days of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) and the woman who risked everything to ensure that the world people inherited wasn’t corrupted by nuclear war. The problem is nothing about this soporific feature plays to this idealistic notion, instead, playing as one woman’s lusty, softcore manipulation of two men she fawns over while committing light espionage. Playing the audience for fools while riffing off a very true story in a cavalier way, Red Joan is a film playing to an audience, not a story. Read my review here.
9. Life Itself
Released in January, this family drama is a story of three acts (or chapters) that plays with time and the notion of kismet. With a stark eye-catching opening that draws you into this world of excessive melodrama, Dan Fogelman uses every storytelling crutch in the book to convey a story of coincidences wrapped up as fate. Despite a warming middle chapter that eventually turns sordid, Life Itself wants to be a story of the powerful nature of connection while only really depressing viewers for two straight hours. Read my review here.
8. The Informer
Some films require a suspension of certain cognitive functions. Watch a Fast & Furious film with the absolute belief that these stunts can be performed and survived would be sheer lunacy but we enjoy them none the less. The Informer, however, requires the same treatment but nothing that happens should be this unbelievable. Every character in this painfully slow decline into insane overplotting is intolerably stupid with both the cops and robbers pictured here getting by on how quick they can have someone killed. Joel Kinnaman and Rosamund Pike are meant to look like two people pushed to the edge of what they can handle. They just look tired of it all. The film equivalent of the boy who cried wolf, by the film’s denouement the twists designed to wrap up proceedings just feel fake and painfully arbitrary.
7. X-Men: Dark Phoenix
While at its inception, Dark Phoenix was never intended as the end of an era or a franchise that has been going since the turn of the millennium. While it is easy to forgive such a clumsy final chapter because of this, it is hard to forgive the choices made by a film that rarely steps out of the shadow of its predecessors. Working off of other peoples work instead of finding a unique voice, Dark Phoenix is plagued with bad performances from the likes of Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender, poor writing and a lack of identity. It’s not to say nothing works as the finale is entertaining enough but the film is arrogant enough not to try and that makes it painfully hard not to notice all of the flaws on show.
Adam McKay is known for farcical comedies such as Anchorman and Step Brothers but with the release of The Big Short he became a voice of political satire thanks to the way it lambasted the major banks that crippled the global economy. This year he was back with Vice, a vapid critique of the life of vice president Dick Cheney and the immense power he accumulated over his lifetime. Not only full of conjecture and supposition, the comedy this time around is painfully forced. Cutaway gags and fakeouts replace the clever forms of exposition he managed to make seem revelatory in his prior work. Instead of Anothony Bourdain explaining AAA ratings using fish, here we are given a Brady Bunch fake ending that goes down like a lead balloon. The way it uses circumstantial facts as proof treats the audience like morons. It might have a singular voice, one that paints a horrific picture of a man but that picture has holes in it and McKay’s way of justifying them is to ignore them entirely. That wasn’t good enough for me, especially considering this was trying to play itself off as a discussion of the man. Read my review here.
5. The Perfect Date
Never has softcore faux prostitution been so boring. Many this year took offence to this Netflix release and the odd nature of a story wrapped up in painting an escort as anything but. Starring Noah Centineo and Laura Marano, The Perfect Date isn’t so much crass and degrading although at times it feels like it, the main characteristic of the film is how fabricated it feels. This isn’t so much a film but a collection of ideas pumped into a formula machine. Even the films central characters spout off each other’s full names so frequently you feel like even they don’t think they possess the importance required to make them interesting. Designed to fill a Netflix release schedule gap while never really justifying itself.
4. Men In Black: International
The last instalment of the Men In Black franchise, the finale of a trilogy that broke the mould in terms of science fiction films was a tribute to the characters it had followed. Despite developing a world that could survive beyond K and J, International doesn’t construct characters worthy of carrying on the legacy of a series that made waves when it first began in 1997. More interested in creating a series with long-lasting potential instead of telling a functioning story, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are stuck in a film full of disappointing action, poor visual effects and some painfully obvious misogyny. The film effectively killed the notion of a world outside of the original trilogy which some might see as a blessing, I know I do.
3. The Last Laugh
The last Netflix title of the list, The Last Laugh is a film about getting old and still striving to live out your dreams. Only, it isn’t. Most of the time the film mocks the elderly and the concept of senility even though neither of the film’s lead characters are even slightly senile. The film’s core relies heavily on Chevy Chase being a compelling dramatic lead, something that proves to be beyond his expertise. Filled full of stilted dialogue, unfortunate gags about stoned pensioners and a long list of characters with zero impact, The Last Laugh feels like the death of comedy. Read my review here.
2. Paris Is Us
There is a beauty to existential, experimental films such as Paris is Us if they have something to say beyond some breathtaking cinematography. Despite the aforementioned filming, some of which took place over years during events such as the Charlie Hebdo riots, this think piece doesn’t contain very much thought. The relationship at its core is lacking in substance, the dialogue is needlessly airy and the performances suffer from a lack of direction. However, the final nail in the coffin here is that a film so consumed by questions of what makes people tick, it doesn’t particularly care for them outside of decorating some picturesque scenery. Read my review here.
1. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
While one could argue that there are many bad films more worthy of taking the top spot for 2019’s worst film, The Rise of Skywalker fails to live up to the ideals of a film. Structured like a video game with quests disguised as story progression, nothing in this concluding chapter is constructed for the sake of the story. While Star Wars has always been a mixed bag of likes and dislikes from many a fan, Rise of Skywalker seeks to amuse everyone while avoiding the quintessential essence of the series itself. This is a Star Wars of iconography and callbacks, not adventure or exploration. The focus suffers from tunnel vision, moments of catharsis and joy play as comedy and new and interesting locales feel squandered. While a film can use nostalgia as a proponent of change, here it represents the status quo, the idea that old stories and ideas can play out again and again. This notion, however quaint doesn’t serve a film of fantastical proportions. Despite all the colour, this is a lifeless, listless affair lacking in flavour.
So there it is, my list of this year’s disappointing viewing experiences. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my choices and a belated Happy New Year from me.