By: Henry J. Fromage and Movieboozer Staff & Contributors –
2019 boasted plenty of amazing cinema… and just as many abominations that amused and horrified. Strap in and prepare yourself for the very worst this year had to offer:
9. Trading Paint
8. Rambo: Last Blood
7. The Haunting of Sharon Tate
6. A Million Little Pieces
4. The Fanatic
3. Dark Phoenix
2. Arctic Dogs
10. The Kitchen: If you blinked last August, you likely missed this wannabe cool and gritty tale of mob wives taking over NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen in the 1970s starring Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss. Probably the biggest waste of talent in a film this year.
9. Terminator: Dark Fate: For me, this was the biggest cinematic disappointment of 2019. I was ready to walk out in the first five minutes. (Those who have seen it know why.) I felt bamboozled, hoodwinked, led astray…
8. Last Christmas: They really aren’t going to do what I think they’re going to do… They really aren’t going to do what I think they’re going to do… They did.
7. Dumbo: Tim Burton taking on a classic story of a misfit with a unique and otherworldly talent? Plus getting to recreate one of the trippiest scenes in animated film history? Should have been a slam-dunk, but instead was a baffling misstep. Michael Buffer even shows up and says “Let’s get ready to Dumbo!” Please can we stop with the Disney live-action remakes now?
6. The Beach Bum: This was definitely the perfect role for Matthew McConaughey. It’s just too bad it’s nowhere near as fun for the viewer as it clearly was for him. (I should know better than to subject myself to Harmony Korine’s films.)
5. The Fanatic: From John Travolta’s first line of dialogue (“I can’t talk too long. I gotta poo.”) as mulleted stalker Moose he gives his all in this Fred Durst directed motion picture that must be seen to be believed.
4. Serenity: Contains the most insane plot twist so far this millennium that gets even more insane the more you think about it. How this was greenlit is a mystery, but I’m sure glad it was.
3. Loqueesha: I had completely blocked this out of my memory until forced to sit down and recall everything I watched this year. It somehow manages to be even worse and more offensive than the trailer makes it appear. On top of that it is cheaply produced, terribly acted, and painfully unfunny. Let’s hope “comedian” Jeremy Saville chooses another vocation.
In a class of their own The Heaviside Layer
Some films transcend the labels of “best” and “worst” and exist in a separate realm that, going forward, I will refer to as the Heaviside Layer. We were fortunate enough to have two such films this year.
2. Twisted Pair: It’s a given that any work of Neil Breen’s belongs here, but he truly outdid himself with his fifth feature-length theatrical film in which he plays twins.
1. Cats: A $95M budget, A-list talent, digital fur technology, and an insane musical about cats that could have only come from the 80s. What could possibly go wrong? Everything. And it is magnificent.
10. Doom: Annihilation (Netflix): I’ve watched many, many godawful movies from start to finish because making terrible life choices is a marathon, not a sprint, and I’m in it for the long haul… Except for the few, the proud, the UNWATCHABLE. Doom: Annihilation is about as related to the (gloriously awful) original Doom film (long may The Rock reign) as Deborah down the street is 1/16th Native American. You’re not Native, Debbie, stop wearing your hair in braids to hot yoga and make peace with your melanin-challenged roots, okay? Good talk.
9. The Perfect Date (Netflix): Stop putting Noah Centino in teen romcoms just because he was good in ONE OF THEM. I mean, can we not? Please? Please. Please? PLEASE.
8. 1917: I watched this bland Norman Rockwell of a war-stravaganza with my eighty-three-year-old father who fell asleep halfway through (I’ve never been more jealous that old people are allowed to fall asleep/snore literally ANYWHERE and have it be considered cute). On the upside, though, I did listen to Pandora the whole way through and some truly choice songs synced up to the action playing out onscreen.
7. Black Christmas: Blumhouse is now dead to me like people who use double-negatives in a sentence are dead to me.
6. A Dog’s Way Home: I’ll take “Dead hobo next to a river, tethered to a magic dog, inadvertently discovered by school children” for $1200 and a write-in suggestion of WTF did I just watch, Alex.
5. Alita: Battle Angel:
Me: Manic Pixie Cyborg Dreamgirl says what?
Me: I rest my case, your honor.
4. Five Feet Apart: Imma file a TRO to keep all copies of this sick-lit teen (emotional) torture porn at least 100 yards away from me at all times. Best not to take any chances with genre-infection risk management. Glove up.
3. After: There is no life Before this movie; only shattered dreams and cerebral carnage lie in its wake.
2. Men In Black: International: *waves hand through the air* this is not the Thor/Valkyrie buddy cop matchup you thought you were looking for. Silly women, feminism is for men.
1. Stuber: His name is Stu and he drives for Uber. He’s Stuber. That’s it. That’s the joke.
10. Serenity: God, I love this movie. Serenity appears to be the product of someone who had no one to tell him “no.” Sometimes, that’s a genuinely good thing, and has led to the creation of some of the best and most entertaining films in the industry. Other times, it’s Serenity, a serendipitous mish-mash of some of the most bizarre non-sequitur dialogue since Winter’s Tale, spectacular over-acting by Matthew McConaughey, and by the the nuttiest twist I’ve seen in a film in years. It’s so weird and bad, and best of all, firmly believes it’s transcendentally groundbreaking. It is, just maybe not in the way it was intended. Still, see it! It’s wild!
9. Anna: Luc Besson sort of just remakes La Femme Nikita and, feeling cute, decides to completely blow a linear plotline up and rearrange it into a pointlessly fractured narrative that tries to prop up its own lack of creativity with “twists.” Time jumps, double crosses, retroactive retcons, and false leads collide into a mess of a movie that that somehow manages to be both noisy and boring. I think it was also trying to make some sort of statement on how the fashion industry and the contract killer industry chew up and spit out anyone sucked into them, but really the only people who feel like that are the folks that went to see this.
8. Playmobil: I don’t think I actually hate this movie, because it’s not really anything. It’s a nebulous film very much lacking in humor, heart, and creativity. Even UglyDolls tried to have something to say, despite completely botching that message. Playmobil struggles right out of the gate, killing off the main characters’ parents before sending the main adolescent characters on an animated adventure through the Playmobil brands, and at the end they… are reminded to play more and take more risks? More than anything, this attempt to sell more toys just feels like a waste of time.
7. The Fanatic: Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst directs John Travolta with a bowl cut, Hawaiian shirt, and apparent mental disability as he stalks his favorite actor across Los Angeles. Let your imagination do the rest, and you still can’t fully fathom how crazy this gets.
6. A Madea Family Funeral : This was my obligatory fall on the sword for a more favorable film later on down the line, and I’m still not sure if I made the right decision for my well-being. I’m not sure if this is actually worse than the Madea Halloween sequel, but at this point most of these movies consisting of Tyler Perry in varying states of costume and makeup yelling at himself are starting to run together. Add in a dollop of absurd, theatrical melodrama and unlikeable characters, and it’s starting to get boring that every time Perry makes a movie it’s gonna end up on one of these lists.
5. Dark Phoenix: I’m a card-carrying opponent to the insulting lack of respect to continuity in the X-Men franchise, but Dark Phoenix is all kinds of wrong. Firstly, this is writer-director’s second attempt at the Dark Phoenix storyline, after writing the fatal X-Men: The Last Stand. In addition, this movie represents a profound misunderstanding–and dare I say it, disrespect–for the character dynamics that really define the story of the X-Men. None of the character moments feel earned, threads following Apocalypse lack punch and payoff, and more than half of the cast are visibly tired of being in this franchise. It’s an emotionally inauthentic, pointless last gasp, and just a really awful movie.
4. UglyDolls: I’ve expended so much energy on my disdain for this movie, it’s hard to do anymore, but hopefully this is the last time I have to talk about this deranged dumpster fire. UglyDolls is an unpleasant, boring animated film that can’t even manage to execute its core theme of accepting yourself despite what others may think of you. But guess what? The movie continues to pile on validation of body shame until its absolutely weak positive message towards the end falters, then is brushed away by insultingly misguided end credits suggesting that the disabled, disordered, and “ugly” among us are only worthy of love from the similarly disordered. An ugly film indeed.
3. Cats: Just a couple of minutes into Cats, I messaged fellow writer BabyRuth and asked, “Is this what dying feels like?” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 80s stage musical is weird enough, but it’s a deserved sensation and pop culture staple. Cats the movie feels like being forcibly unplugged from the Matrix. It’s a painful, phantasmagoric viewing experience and I’ve never quite had the sensation of my brain leaking out of my ears be quite so profoundly specific. The proportions are uneven, the human faces on the CGI cats are nightmarish, and there are some very bizarre choices made in regards to some of the characters–for example, some of the things on order here are a shirtless fuzzy Idris Elba, Cat Taylor Swift acting far too sultry for a PG film, multiple characters wearing fur coats over their own fur, and an absolutely stupefying sequence involving Cat Rebel Wilson selectively eating a conga line of cockroaches with human faces. You have been warned. As a bonus, the studio made the unprecedented decision post-release to clean up the movie’s CGI, and I was blessed to experience the pre-updated “ring cut” which prominently features Dame Judi Dench with her very human hand pressed to her chest with a very obvious wedding ring. You can’t make this shit up.
2. Loqueesha: Everyone needs that friend who, after being pitched a movie about a white male pretending to be a black woman on talk radio and becoming a sensational life coach, gently tells that person that they should absolutely not make that movie and, if possible, delete it from their brain. Jeremy Saville does not apparently have that friend, because that’s the movie he’s made. Yes: white male Saville, lamenting his inability to be “heard” because of his whiteness, takes to the airwaves posing as rowdy black woman Loqueesha, and he’s a hit as he doles out advice to the depressed and wayward callers into his show. It’s really hard to fixate on just one of the many fundamentally offensive things Loqueesha does, but the one thing they all have in common is that Saville didn’t set out to offend: he genuinely thinks he’s made something inspiring and uniting.
1. After: Remember Fifty Shades? I’d rather watch that trilogy in repeat for an entire weekend with my family held hostage than have to watch After again. One of the most unpleasant romances ever put to film, After is a frustrating narrative whose main characters are bland, emotionally manipulative, toxic, vindictive, reactive, and just generally awful. It’s also boring, overly melodramatic, derivative. The lack of actual communication and and connection is alarming, and if this is the standard being set for relationships, I’m perfectly fine with locking myself in my man cave and throwing away the key, thank you very much.
Definitely saw more good than bad so here are some of the worst films I saw this year in no particular order:
Where’d You Go Bernadette: Linklater, what was this? I didn’t understand any of it: good cast, good director, what happened?
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: A couple stories were affecting, but mostly a snoozer; your pre-teen might enjoy this one.
The Dead Don’t Die: The trailer brought so much promise. The film was boring with a capital B.
Pet Sematary: Meh, is the best description. Dumb decisions to go around in this movie!
7. Men in Black: International
6. The Fanatic
3. A Madea Family Funeral
2. Dark Phoenix
10. The Intruder: I had fun watching The Intruder, but mostly for the wrong reasons. This misfire of a stalker thriller is as ludicrous as it is insane.
9. Shaft: Seldom will I dock a movie too badly for being merely an unneccesary reboot. But now when mentioning the movie “Shaft” you have three possible movies you could be referencing. And 2 of them are better than this.
8. Maleficent 2: from open to close, this movie smells bitterly of the decision to make a sequel where no sequel was asked for or needed. The movie creates a whole new set of rules and backstory that do little other than to give the filmmakers an excuse to end the movie with a big stupid battle.
7. Poms: I’ve never wanted more badly for a Diane Keaton character to die, and end the audience suffering.
6. Godzilla King of the Monsters: Godzilla is once again relegated to a supporting character in a dull narrative. But this time with an even bigger budget and even less of an excuse.
5. A Dog’s Journey: Essentially a compilation film of emotionally manipulative scenes stringed together under the auspices of wholesome family entertainment.
4. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: If The Last Jedi was the death knell of the franchise, The Rise of Skywalker was the last nail in its coffin.
3. The Fanatic: John Travolta tries really really hard here. No one knows why.
2. The Goldfinch: The poorly written indie darling of the bunch. Part misery porn, part mystery, part coming of age drama, all terrible.
1. Cats: if they gave an Academy Award to movies totally bereft of any good ideas, this would win. Bad songs? Check. Badly animated (and creepy) human-like Cat hybrids? Check. An incoherent storyline? Check. Someone gave Tom Hooper money to see their repugnant fetish come alive.
Henry J. Fromage
10. The Dead Don’t Die: I really wavered on this one, but I’ve seldom seen a drop-off so precipitous than Paterson to this film. He’s come back from a misstep before (The Limits of Control), but somebody get this man a coffee. He’s falling asleep at the wheel.
9. Last Christmas: A twist so bad that you can hear it beforehand, realize you always knew it had to be this way, and still be surprised at how truly terrible of an idea this was. The worst thing to happen to Emilia Clarke on screen this year, easily.
8. The Art of Racing in the Rain: Oberst usually takes these goddamn Golden Retriever movies, because he’s as much of a dog person as I am a misanthrope and a cat person (same thing, some argue). Anyway, even he knew better to steer clear of this Hallmark garbagefire. And he watches those Netflix talking puppy movies.
7. Arctic Dogs: This was not a good year for Jeremy Renner’s ego. Case in point, this bargain basement animated film that seems solely to exist to feature his *ahem* singing talents. Please go back to dramatic acting. You were good at that, Jeremy.
6. The Poison Rose/Trading Paint: Ah, the first two bullet points in my obsessed over Powerpoint Presentation: Nic Cage Ain’t Got Nothin’ On John Travolta When It Comes To Bad Movie Actin’. Both of these involve him sporting a poor Southern accent and a worse hairpiece (somehow coupled with the most conspicuous beard dye I’ve ever seen- or is the beard fake, too?). What more do you need?
5. The Fanatic: Now, this the John Travolta performance you probably did hear of this year, the one where he’s somehow trying to simultaneously win an Oscar and a Razzie, and for my money, succeeds. The fact it’s directed by Fred Durst is only the fourth or fifth worst choice made here (the others all being different Travolta simpleton tics that would be offensive if they weren’t so entertainingly pathetic).
4.5. Loqueesha: Is this a cheat? Hell yeah it is, but after doing a first edit of this list I felt straight up obligated to watch the extraordinarily tone deaf Jeremy Saville’s “comedy” in which he plays the world’s wisest bartender (no exaggeration, he’d say) who starts impersonating a sassy black woman when he proves “too white” to land a talk radio show. And it goddamn deserves a place high on this list. Free on Amazon. I’m sorry.
4. Replicas: Don’t cut me, but there’s at least one future timeline where Keanu Reeves gives Face/Off a run for their money in the joyously bad acting department. He’s had stretches before that attest to his capabilities in this arena, and the hilariously cut rate sci-fi faceplant Replicas shows he hasn’t lost his knack for it.
3. Cats: Just every bit as gloriously wrong as they say it is. Just consider how many seasoned professionals lent years of their lives to the critical central miscalculation that what people like most about the Broadway version of Cats are the bizarre human/cat hybrids borne mostly out of the necessity of having humans play cats in live theater. You know where that limitation doesn’t exist? In $100 million dollar-plus budgeted (I call a thousand shenanigans the reported budget of 95m) CGI extravaganzas.
2. Twisted Pair: Neil Breen made a new movie this year, and I paid 35 bucks for a clearly hand-burned plastic CD case-enclosed copy of it. No regrets. Nobody does it better. Special shout-out to the chameleonic properties and crack computer animation department of East Central Albuquerque Community College.
1. Serenity: There are twists, and then there are twist so goddamn batshit insane that of course you wouldn’t guess them, because if you did it would imply unflattering things about your grasp on some fairly basic things, that I won’t specify here, because you need to see this for yourself, and then think deep and hard about the many implications of said twist on the world it is set in. Bonus McConaughey buttcheeks, just in case you needed further encouragement.