Best of the Worst 2018

2018 has come and gone. And with the end of one year and the start of another come countless “worst of” lists. And undoubtedly one of the most popular of those lists are for “worst films of 2018·.

And why shouldn’t there be? It’s easy and fun to deride and criticize any artistic work.

Film is subjective. That, as with any other art form, is one of its beauties. One man’s trash is another man’s gold. So taking this into consideration and trying to keep up with the theme of positivism I’m trying to throw around here, I’d rather focus on another type of list.

“The Best of the Worst”

Now, I don’t really believe these films are the “worst”. In fact, as I usually do, I enjoyed them all. Therefore, I don’t want my opinion to stand as if I disagreed with these movies. The only reason they are here is because I found them on more than one list of “worst movies of 2018” and have a low score in Rotten Tomatoes.

I’m only going to discuss a single point as to what I think worked on these productions as well as a little extra bonus. Also, I’ll be looking into movies I actually saw, so if you think that there’s another movie that should have been included, please let me know and I’ll do my best to watch it.

But as always, good or bad, I urge you to make your own opinion on these films. If you happen to disagree or want to point out another aspect that you liked about these films, I’m always open for an enlightening discussion and invite you to leave a comment below or reach to out to me directly.

Rampage

Rotten Tomatoes score: 52%

  • Reasons critics didn’t like it: Based on a video game, too far fetched, too much action, no story

The Story:

Primatologist/former US Army Special Forces Davis Okoye chase down his Gorilla albino friend George along with a crocodile and a gray wolf after they are mutated into 10 meter monsters and try to stop them before they destroy Chicago and kill thousands of civilians.

Standout: I ❤ George the Albino Gorilla

Unfortunately, this is the first of two Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson movies on this list, and as anyone who knows me can confirm, I’m a big fan of the former WWE superstar turned blockbuster action hero (Disney streak notwithstanding). As most of his filmography, it proudly wears on its chest a type of cinema I love: “Dumb fun”.

And I mean this in the best way possible as it’s the kind of movie you put extra butter on your popcorn, order the largest diabetes inducing drink, turn your brain off and enjoy the show.

As one would expect, the story of giant mutated animals destroying Chicago requires outstanding visual effects and “Rampage” more than delivers.

Weta Digital has a bit of experience animating animals, having worked on King Kong and the recent Apes trilogy (which in my humble opinion still stands as the greatest visual effects of the last decade) and their great work continues with George the Albino Gorilla.

Also helping is a very good motion capture performance by Jason Liles, infusing charm and heart to the giant Ape and creating a nice bond with Dwayne Johnson, making you a little more invested in all those destroyed buildings and giant monster fights.

A Little Extra: Tagline

I will be forever convinced that the only reason The Rock was cast in this movie was to use the tagline “Big meets Bigger”. Please give an Oscar or a raise to whoever thought of that. Preferably both.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

Rotten Tomatoes score: 40%

  • Reasons critics didn’t like it: Too action oriented, not as complex as previous films, ridiculous plot, cartoonish villain

The Story:

Computer hacker Lisbeth Salander joins journalist Mikael Blomkvist to go against her long lost sister while getting entangled in a web of spies and corruption.

Standout: Claire Foy – Action heroine

Although the character of super hacker Lisbeth Salander has been portrayed three times, all three of the performances vary wildly. This time Salander, along with the whole film itself, gravitates towards an action-oriented cyber thriller rather than the slow burn of previous adaptations, somethings that didn’t sit well with most critics, judging by the response it got.

In this semi reboot/sequel to the Millennium series, Salander is played by Claire Foy, of the The Crown fame, and is presented as an avenging angel for abused woman, elevating her almost to a mythic Punisher like figure.

Unsurprisingly, Foy is quite the capable little badass and kicks ass in some solid action sequences expertly directed by Fede Alvarez. Just as in his previous films Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe, the argentinian filmmaker creates great mood and tension aided by framing the petite Foy in some intense situations.

Unfortunately the movie was quite a bit of a bomb ($35 million grossed from $45 million budget) which means we won’t be seeing the swedish hacker for a while, but at least Foy came and went with a bang.

A Little Extra: Opening Credits

Just as in David Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, Alvarez employs a great trippy title sequence which looks like a James Bond opening on some really strong acid surrounded by Roque Baños moody and melodramatic score, fantastically setting the tone for what is to come.

Mortal Engines

Rotten Tomatoes score: 26%

  • Reasons critics didn’t like it: Emotionally empty, poor screenplay, one-dimensional, derivative

The Story:

Hundreds of years after civilization has ended, entire cities are put on wheels and roam the planet. Mysterious young Hester Shaw arrives to London to exact revenge and joins forces with another outcast to stop a conspiracy.

Standout: Shrike

Work on this film was announced all the way back in 2009 with Peter Jackson originally at the helm before being forced to move on to The Hobbit after original director for that trilogy Guillermo del Toro had to depart. The project was later given to Christian Rivers, who served as visual effects supervisor in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as his directing debut.

As is to be expected, the visual aspect of the film is immaculate, with various grand set pieces revolving around entire cities fighting each other.

However, personally the most interesting thread in the film is the character of Shrike, played through motion capture by Stephen Lang (Avatar). A terminator-esque character, Shrike is a former human turned murderous cyborg devoid of any feelings who is hunting the protagonist, Ester Shaw.

Although I won’t reveal the reason for the hunt, it lends what could have been a one dimensional role the thematic and emotional heart of the film rather than the typical “robot stalks human horror” story.

Then, it’s a shame that this is only a subplot in a story that is packed with various plot threads as I would have watched a film with only these two.

A Little Extra: Production Design

Although it’s been called derivative of other post apocalyptic stories – really, how many ways can you present humanity post-civilization? – the production design is great with every frame packed with so many little details from this steampunk world, the passion and hard work by the artists visible on screen, which makes the reception the film got all the more heartbreaking.

Mile 22

Rotten Tomatoes score: 23%

  • Reasons critics didn’t like it: Shaky cam, incomprehensible editing, insensitive, hollow

The Story:

An elite CIA task force (led by Mark Whalberg) is charged with moving an asset 22 miles for extraction while being hunted by the asset’s corrupt government.

Standout: Ending

Intended to start a multi-media franchise which includes a sequel and web tv series, Mile 22 is a quick and brutal slice of action cinema that won’t be changing the genre anytime soon but is an entertaining enough bloody good time at the movies.

However, credit where credit is due for going in the direction of such a bleak and unforgiving ending. Seeing that it made 66 million on a 60 million budget, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any kind of Mile22verse in the near, or far, future.

Which makes the dark ending even more admirable, even going so far as to say that it improves the film, with an ending that you would expect from from a movie with hopes of creating a franchise, but is still a pretty ballsy move going out of its way to leave characters in a huge mess without the assurance that it was going to be a critical or financial hit. Then again, who knows, maybe in some years we’ll get Mile 22…2?

A Little Extra: Iko Uwais

The Indonesian action star known for action masterpieces The Raid series and The Night Comes For Us makes his big budget Hollywood debut (Although he makes a very short appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, not one kick is thrown so we’re not gonna count that crime against humanity), hopefully leading to more roles in big budget action movies as his astonishing fight choreography is sorely missing, well, everywhere.

Also, if this movie makes even one person aware of The Raid series, it was worth it.

The Cloverfield Paradox

Rotten Tomatoes score: 19%

  • Reasons critics didn’t like it: confusing story, plot holes, forced incorporation into the Cloverfield universe

The Story:

After a group of astronauts aboard a space station who are tasked with using a particle accelerator to solve Earth’s energy crisis, are sent to an alternate dimension, freaky things begin happening at the station as well as below on Earth.

Standout: Body Horror

Being dumped into Netflix just a few hours after its existence was revealed did not leave many viewers for high hopes on this Cloverfield anthology film.

And although it’s quite obvious that this film was shoehorned to fit into the Cloververse at the last minute along with some pretty shaky sci-fi reasoning, the movie does present a few nice and unsettling Cronenbergesque body horror moments.

The highlights being a nice gag with a severed arm walking and writing on its own and people being fused into the hardware station, effectively brings to the forefront an uneasy feeling of the situation going out of control and tapping into that universal fear of your body doing things it shouldn’t.

A Little Extra: Marketing

Which is to say, there was none, as one day nobody knew about the existence of the movie and the next… well, like maybe 5 people knew?

Even if it didn’t bring in as big of a crowd as Netflix would have like, it was a quite stroke of genius to surprise release the first trailer, poster and whole movie in the span of a few hours minimizing damage of expectations and keeping with the general air of mystique that the Cloverfield franchise has.

Mute

Rotten Tomatoes score: 20%

  • Reasons critics didn’t like it: Boring, dark with unlikable characters and poor handling of a sensitive subject, derivative of Blade Runner

The Story:

Set in the same universe as director Duncan Jones brilliant 2009 debut “Moon”, “Mute” takes us to the bleak future of 2035, where mute bartender Leo (Alexander Skarsgard) goes searching for his missing girlfriend while becoming involved with black market organ dealers and dangerous gangs.

Standout: Cactus Bill and Duck

Even though the film has been unfavorably compared to “Blade Runner” due to its futuristic neo-noir design, it’s quite evident that Jones put a lot of thought and care into building this world.

However, the most interesting aspect is the relationship between Cactus Bill and Duck, played by Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux, respectively. Rudd, cast completely against type as a tough, explosive and violent macho alpha, gives a worthy performance alongside Theroux, a seemingly kind nerd who has some extremely dark secrets.

Within those secrets came some of it’s harshest criticism as many people through the delicate subject matter was treated with no respect, going so far as to try to make us feel sorry for Duck as he is treated like crap by Bill.

But the complex dynamic and power struggle set between these characters displays an interesting and quirky relationship that keeps the movie afloat more than the central mystery which has a predictable outcome since the start.

A Little Extra: Bowie tribute

Director Duncan Jones is the son of one David Bowie and there is a small tribute to honor his late father in a sweet yet unassuming way when Philip Glass’s cover for “Heroes” plays during the opening of the film. Also, the movie is dedicated to the memory of David Jones (Bowie’s real name).

Venom

Rotten Tomatoes score: 29%

  • Reasons critics didn’t like it: No Spider-man, weak action, PG-13, formulaic.

The Story:

Journalist Eddie Brock is bonded to an alien entity called a symbiote which grants him superpowers. Together, they must stop an impending invasion of symbiotes.

Standout: Tom Hardy

Not many people thought that a Spider-manless Spider-man universe would succeed but over 850 million dollars later, oh boy were they (we) wrong. Very wrong.

The biggest reason for its success could be the man inside the suit: Tom Hardy.

Never one to shy away from a particularly strange performance – See Bronson, The Dark Knight Rises and Mad Max: Fury Road – Venom is no different, with Hardy giving one of the absolutely strangest portrayals in a comic book adaptation.

Twitchy, manic energy, high pitched voice and overall awkward, (yet somehow still looking “sexiest man alive” fit although his diet appears to consist of frozen tater tots, beer and pizza) Hardy goes against all expectations of a leading man performance, delivering one hell of an entertaining character that makes you forget the film shows the signs of corporate interference all over the place (the film was, after all, supposed to be a hard R gore fest fitting for a character who eats people).

A Little Extra: Symbiote Kiss

I was close to choosing Ludwig Goransson’s energetic score, but really, I can’t put that over the fact that Tom Hardy french kisses one of the 90’s most eXtreme comic characters, Venom… and still makes $855 million dollars.

Winchester

Rotten Tomatoes score: 13%

  • Reasons critics didn’t like it: Unoriginal, silly, relies too heavily on jump scares, waste of the true story

The Story:

Eccentric firearm heiress Sarah Winchester believes she is haunted by the souls of people killed by the Winchester repeating rifle and decides to build a mansion to contain these evil spirits.

High point: The History behind Winchester

In 1884, Sarah Winchester began building the Winchester Mystery House, a sprawling mansion which includes 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors, 160 rooms, 47 stairways and, if legends are to be believed, countless number of ghosts.

I’ve always found horror films “inspired” by true events fascinating as you can connect the terror you are seeing to real life giving it a unique palpable feeling that creeps up on you… even if it’s not real. That’s why legends remain on public consciousness for so long or why scary stories told at campfires become legends after being passed on by generations.

The possibility that it could happen to you is what makes it scary.

So it is that the concept of the “true story” of the rich heiress being haunted by the ghosts of those killed at the hands of the Winchester rifle has huge thematic potential and presents a unique basis for a film. Whether the film used that for better or worse, well… I’ll leave that to you, my dear moviegoer.

Either way, as is with most movies that bear the “inspired/based on a true story” tagline in their posters, it’s always a great thing to see audiences getting interested in the actual history behind the piece and do their own research.

A Little Extra: Poster

We did get the previously shown nifty and psychedelic poster that I wouldn’t mind hanging on a frame.

Skyscraper

Rotten Tomatoes score: 46%

  • Reasons critics didn’t like it: Unbelievable, over the top action, boring and generic villains

The Story:

Security expert and former FBI Hostage Team Leader Will Sawyer has been framed for murder and must save his family from the tallest skyscraper in the world, which happens to be on fire, after they are trapped inside by criminals.

Standout: Neve Campbell

You would think that in a film like this the MVP would easily go to a great set piece (in particular a tense scene of our hero climbing a super crane to get into the flaming building) or star Dwayne Johnson. And although his role as a family man and wounded veteran is very commendable and quite different than the alpha male we’re used to seeing, I think most credit should go to his co-star Neve Campbell.

Campbell plays Sawyer’s wife, Sarah, a military surgeon and, as one would expect from a trained military doctor, Sarah is not some helpless or useless damsel in distress. Trapped inside the inferno, she is presented as a resourceful, tough and smart match for The Rock. An equal rather than a trophy wife.

It’s far too common for the family to be relegated to crying and screaming cardboard characters full of dumb and frustrating decisions, which is thankfully not the case here. Well, at least not for the mother.

Although she’s woefully underused, it’s refreshing to see this type of female character in a modern action thriller that represents modern times.

A Little Extra: Memes

The great poster up top which was then memed by people who think things like “science” and physics” apply to The Rock. Pfft, foolish people.

https://thechive.com/2018/02/07/the-internet-is-tearing-dwayne-johnsons-skyscraper-poster-apart-and-its-magical-27-photos/

The Predator

Rotten Tomatoes score: 32%

  • Reasons critics didn’t like it: Nonsensical, ridiculous, messy third act

The Story:

A group of soldiers suffering from PTSD must fight off invading Predators and save the world

Standout: Shane Black’s “heroes”

The Predator series has always stood out to me for trying it’s best to find different, weird and quirky protagonists. With the exception of Arnold on the first Predator, none of the other “heroes” are what you would expect for these type of films. Even then, the first one has the fantastic idea of subverting expectations by pitting Arnold Schwarzenegger – indestructible hero of the 80’s – against an unstoppable foe who throws him around like ragdoll, making him go tribal in order to defeat the alien.

Predator 2 had Danny Glover while Predators had Adrien Brody, both great actors and although they both certainly looked the part of tough guys, neither one comes to mind when actually thinking “badass action heroes”.

Therefore, I’m glad to see that Shane Black continued this tradition with his group of PTSD suffering soldiers who are charged with fighting off a possible invasion of Predators. As always, his movies are full of punchy, quirky dialogue and The Predator is no exception.

The core cast comprised of Boyd Holdbrook, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Keegan-Michael Key, Trevante Rhodes have great chemistry and are responsible for some of the best scenes of the movie with characters just bouncing off great quotes giving this Predator entry more of a comedic feel while not betraying it’s gory and action packed roots.

A Little Extra: Behind the Scenes

Perhaps even more fascinating than the movie itself is what went on behind the scenes.

Namely, a whole different third act which was shot to then be switched to the current one. Various multiple endings, one featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and another a direct tie to the Alien franchise. An infamous deleted scene featuring a registered sex offender which was ousted by Olivia Munn, among other things.

Johnny English Strikes Again

Rotten Tomatoes score: 36%

  • Reasons critics didn’t like it: Silly, dated, absurd, unfunny

The Story:

Bumbling super spy Johnny English is forced out of retirement once again when a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all undercover secret agents and it’s up to English to catch the hacker.

Standout: Virtual Reality scene

Look, I’m a man of simple tastes and it’s the simple things that bring me joy.

A nice cup of coffee, a rainy day, reading a book, watching Rowan Atkinson making his way through the streets of London after mistakenly believing he’s in a virtual reality scenario, beating innocent civilians with baguettes. You choose.

As expected from the former Mr. Bean, the scene makes great use of Atkinson’s rubbery physicality. Although the scene is predictable, it’s no less fun to see Johnny English’s ignorance in full hilarious display.

And really, if we can’t laugh at that, are we even sure we’re still alive?

A Little Extra: Winner of two Academy Awards, two Golden Globes, one Emmy and three BAFTA’s Emma Thompson

It’s always fun to see these great British actors take roles in silly comedy movies, with the fun they have on the set after handling many dramatic roles being palpable.

This certainly seems to be the case with the great Emma Thompson playing the first female Prime Minister, who is constantly exasperated by English’s behavior, ordering “vodka tonic: no ice, no tonic.” and flirting with the Mark Zuckerberg-like villain.  

And really, winner of two Academy Awards, two Golden Globes, one Emmy and three BAFTA’s Emma Thompson in anything is that little extra we could all use in our lives.

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