Like it or not, bad movies happen every single year without fail. Action, comedy, drama, horror, fantasy… you name it, here is my personal pick for Top 10 Worst Movies of 2018 that I have seen over the last 12 months.
10. The Happytime Murders
If you think Trey Parker went too far with the acrobatic puppet sex moment in 2004’s Team America: World Police, Brian Henson (son of the legendary late Jim Henson) manages to out-gross that scene with a puppet literally ejaculate his semen (white string, to be exact) all over the place. It’s the kind of scene that is so distasteful where words like “funny” and “hilarious” hardly applicable at all. While the movie’s bizarre mix of a buddy comedy that teams a male puppet (Bill Barretta’s Phil Phillips) and a human female cop (Melissa McCarthy’s Detective Connie Edwards) with a classic whodunit angle does have its novelty factor, the execution is outrageously bad. For all the endless quips as well as sex and profanity-laden jokes, none of them is actually funny. Even the story itself is utter nonsense. Like, how is it a puppet able to smoke a cigarette or having a sexual urge like just any normal human being? It’s like as if Henson and his screenwriter Todd Berger simply thrown whatever piece of fluff they presented here and expect us to suspend our disbelief. But it didn’t work… and I really pity for Melissa McCarthy who actually thought it was a good idea signing up for such unfunny drivel.
9. The Predator
The troubled Predator franchise has hit the final nail in the coffin, thanks to Shane Black’s overly jokey direction. Yes, you read that right. Black and his co-writer Fred Dekker figured it would be a great idea to subvert the otherwise gritty sci-fi actioner into a jokefest. The dialogues are mostly juvenile or trying too hard to be funny, while the characters are reduced to either immature or throwaway caricatures. Black may have made the right choice of putting the Predator franchise back into the 18-rated territory, but all the excessive gore and violence are sadly edited in a frenetic manner. (Read my full review here)
8. Fifty Shades Freed
Just when you thought James Foley would save the best for the last after the dismal Fifty Shades Darker, he repeats the same mistake again in this third and (thankfully!) final trilogy of E.L. James’ novel series. He went auto-pilot, approaching this wannabe erotica with lots of unnecessary fillers that barely advances the plot. The sex scenes feel like an afterthought and the melodrama reeks of a poor TV drama-like script that got dumped out of the primetime slot. There’s even a subplot that tries to spice things up but fails miserably to offer any worthwhile thrilling or suspenseful moments. I’m just glad this franchise is over.
7. Truth or Dare
Jeff Wadlow’s (Never Back Down, Kick-Ass 2) return to his familiar horror-movie territory since 2005’s Cry Wolf could have been interesting, given its Final Destination-style supernatural take on the popular Truth or Dare children’s party game. But he botches that potential by piling up his movie with cheap jump scares and one-dimensional characters. (Read my full review here)
6. The Darkest Minds
Jennifer Yuh Nelson’s (of the first two Kung Fu Panda fame) first live-action directorial debut is a shockingly dull YA movie suffered from subpar performances, heavy-handed storyline and a poorly-structured attempt on worldbuilding. The only consolations here is Amandla Stenberg’s sympathetic lead performance while The Darkest Minds does begin promisingly, only to stumble quickly before it reaches to an open-ending conclusion that we probably won’t see the light of the
day sequel. (Read my full review here)
5. The 15:17 to Paris
Two years ago, Clint Eastwood did a great job with the gripping fact-based disaster drama in Sully. But his latest movie in The 15:17 to Paris — a true story about three American friends (Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alex Skarlatos) who successfully stopped a 2015 terrorist attack aboard a train en route from Amsterdam to Paris — is a polar opposite altogether. While I applaud Eastwood’s bold decision of using the same real-life heroes themselves rather than traditional actors, the result turns out to be a disappointingly misguided effort. Yes, these three men are non-professional actors with no prior acting experience whatsoever and judging them would be unfair. But this is a movie we are talking about, not a home video. A movie that supposed to make us feel emotionally invested with them or more specifically, what they have been through as three ordinary joes who became unlikely American heroes on that fateful day. But their “acting” is so flat that Eastwood must have figured it’s a good idea not to direct them but be themselves throughout the movie. The flatness even spread across Dorothy Blyskal’s paper-thin screenplay adapted from the memoir The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes as well as Eastwood’s sadly pedestrian direction. The otherwise lean 94-minutes feels like forever and even by the time the actual terrorist plot arrives towards the end, the attack itself fails to generate any sense of thrills or raw intensity. Easily one of the worst movies that Eastwood has ever directed.
4. Basmati Blues
The long-delayed Basmati Blues was actually shot five years ago in 2013 but ended up
sitting rotting on the shelf. But thanks to Brie Larson’s high-profile acting status after winning an Oscar for Best Actress in 2015’s Room, the movie was eventually released in cinemas earlier this year and the result is… horrendous. It’s like a pot of Basmati rice that has been cooked and left to rot for so long with all the unpleasant smell. Dan Baron’s attempt to combine cross-cultural romantic comedy with a Bollywood-style musical trope is terribly bland and cheesy. The musical numbers are disappointingly average and while Larson may have an adequate singing voice, her overall performance is borderline embarrassing that she should cross this movie off her resume.
The long-in-the-making biopic of the New York City mobster John Gotti could have been a ticket for John Travolta’s second comeback after his Pulp Fiction era. Not to mention this kind of biopic has a shot at Oscar glory, beginning with a possible Best Actor nomination for Travolta himself. But in reality, Gotti succeeded in giving gangster/crime biopic a bad name. Travolta’s titular performance is a joke by making John Gotti a likeable mobster and expected us to root for him. Kevin Connolly’s direction is amateurish, while the script feels like a third-rate version of every Scorsese’s modern gangster movie. Not to mention Gotti‘s limited budget is painfully obvious, as evidently shown in Patricia M. Farrell’s bargain-basement production design and Michael Barrett’s dimly-lit cinematography.
2. The House That Jack Built
Lars von Trier never ceased to stir enough controversy each time he made a new film. Case in point is Antichrist (2009) and the two-parter Nymphomaniac: Vol. I & II (2013). This year, the Danish bad-boy provocateur has already caused major walkouts and outrage during the premiere of The House That Jack Built at Cannes back in May. The movie follows the eponymous serial killer (Matt Dillon), who is responsible for a series of killing spree over the course of five separate incidents. The House That Jack Built is no doubt cold and repulsive but for all the so-called controversy that caused such an uproar, I personally found the movie overly self-indulgent and painfully tedious. It seriously felt like a chore sitting through the 2 1/2 hours running time that could have benefitted some serious trimming. Matt Dillon may look the part in a remorseless serial-killer role. But there is little else about him that made his character worthwhile. And with the exception of Uma Thurman playing a chatty victim and also the only promising scene in the movie, the rest of the supporting actors are forgettable. The violence is hardly shocking, particularly if you are a seasoned moviegoer used to watching such movies. All the philosophical talks and psychoanalysis that tries to be both intellectual and darkly funny is terribly misguided. By the time the movie awkwardly concludes with Buster Poindexter’s groovy cover version of Ray Charles’ “Hit The Road Jack” playing in the end credits, it’s like as if Lars von Trier chose a popular serial-killer trope and then ran it into the ground by subverting every expectation just to piss us off.
1. Iceman: The Time Traveler
The first Iceman remake back in 2014 was already bad enough. But this long-delayed sequel is seriously beyond repair and yes, it was torturing to watch this in the cinema. Nothing works here. Raymond Yip’s direction — replacing original helmer Law Wing-Cheong from the 2014 remake — is shockingly amateurish, given the fact he’s a seasoned Hong Kong director whose credits include Sixty Million Dollar Man (1995) and The Warlords (2007). The action is even a bigger disappointment, with Donnie Yen largely reduced to hastily-shot and poorly edited sword-fighting moments with Yasuaki Kurata. And worst of all, this scant 88-minute crapfest suffers everything from choppy editing to feeble and incoherent storytelling.
(DIS)HONOURABLE MENTIONS (in alphabetical order)
1. A Wrinkle in Time
In 2014, Ava DuVernay hit her breakthrough in Selma, a true-story drama that chronicled on the late Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic civil rights movement. But she is clearly out of her league directing her first big-budget studio picture in A Wrinkle in Time. Her direction is choppy and despite a promising cast (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Chris Pine), their performances are largely relegated to thankless roles. The special effects mainly exist to look pretty, while Jennifer Lee’s (Frozen) adapted screenplay based from Madeleine L’Engle’s award-winning 1962 novel of the same name is strangely hollow and uninvolving. (Read my full review here)
2. Bad Times at the El Royale
With a stellar cast (including Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth) and a crackerjack premise involving a group of strangers with different agendas end up at the fictional hotel of El Royale, Drew Goddard’s follow-up to his 2012 subversive horror-comedy The Cabin in the Woods does sound interesting enough. It even opens promisingly enough with a near-wordless prologue shot entirely in one static angle. The production design, particularly the El Royale interior is spot-on while some of the actors — Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Tony winner Cynthia Erivo — made quite a decent impression. But the movie’s 140-minute running time overstays its welcome long before it even reaches to its climactic finale. For all the twists and turns and a time-jump narrative structure that shamelessly ripped off from Quentin Tarantino’s playbook, Drew Goddard’s script turns out to be more ponderous than witty and involving. Don’t get me started with Chris Hemsworth, who is completely miscast as the egomaniacal cult leader Billy Lee.
Heavily touted as “the Filipino version of The Raid“, Erik Matti’s highly-anticipated BuyBust garnered overwhelmingly positive response when it first premiered at the New York Asian Film Festival back in July. On paper, the movie sounds promising enough: An elite anti-narcotics squad led by Anne Curtis’ Nina Manigan is tasked to infiltrate a drug trade in the slums of Gracia Ni Maria to capture the notorious kingpin, Biggie Chen (Arjo Atayde). All hell eventually breaks loose when they are surrounded by Chen’s gang members and the team’s only survival option is to fight their way out. Despite sharing the same DNA with The Raid, the execution turns out to be a different story altogether. The movie is unnecessarily overlong, with the nearly 130-minute running time felt less of an adrenalin rush but surprisingly a tedious slog. With the exception of Anne Curtis and the hulking Brandon Vera as one of the squad’s team members, the rest of the actors barely registered in their roles. The action is another huge letdown, with all the copious amounts of stabbings, shootouts and fistfights lacked a necessary visceral impact to make everything work. It doesn’t help either when the camerawork is too rigid for its own good and the overall choreography resembled of watching these actors practising their fight scenes in a behind-the-scenes training video.
4. Mile 22
This latest Peter Berg-Mark Wahlberg collaboration (fourth, to be exact after 2013’s Lone Survivor as well as 2016’s Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day) is sadly their worst effort yet. But on paper, Mile 22 — which follows an elite task force led by Mark Wahlberg’s Jimmy Silva tasked to get an informant (Iko Uwais’ Li Noor) from the American Embassy to the extraction point — actually has potential. And yet, Peter Berg alongside first-time screenwriter Lea Carpenter figure it’s a good idea to “complicate” the otherwise lean storyline with all the labyrinthine conspiracy and political intrigue. It would have worked both ways if not for her exposition-heavy storyline. Berg’s messy direction doesn’t help either, preferably to shoot his movie in a manic-depressive manner where everything is choppily edited and framed with lots of herky-jerky camerawork ad nauseam. Which makes it a real pity to see all the violent gunfight and Iko Uwais’ otherwise impressive martial-arts display are ruined by bad cinematography. Not to mention the way Mark Wahlberg spewing insults and colourful profanities as if he tries to outdo his Oscar-nominated supporting role of Sergeant Dignam in The Departed and hamming it up with his Marky Mark’s rapper alter-ego.
Director Pierre Morel must have been trying so desperately to emulate his groundbreaking success seen in Taken ten years ago. He actually did try the same thing with The Gunman back in 2015 but faltered miserably. Now, here comes Peppermint where it marks his first time switching gender by choosing 46-year-old Jennifer Garner in the lead role. Garner should be a perfect fit, given her extensive experience in physically-demanding roles in TV’s Alias as well as 2003’s Daredevil and 2005’s Elektra. But her role is sadly undermined by Chad St. John’s awfully generic screenplay shamelessly borrowed from every popular vigilante movie he could think of. Morel’s direction is surprisingly flat, complete with all the limp action sequences that barely raises a pulse. And I know there are times it helps to suspend our disbelief when watching a vigilante movie like Peppermint. But did they actually expect me to buy the fact that Garner’s Riley North able to transform from a mild-mannered working mom to a one-woman avenger who can fight and shoot automatic weapons like a professionally-trained mercenary/soldier in just five years?