THE BEST OF THE WORST 2019

2019 was a fantastic year for movies. It was a treasure trove of instant classics and soon to be classics courtesy of some of the world’s most renowned filmmakers.

These are not those movies.

The movies we will talk about are the ones that received a less (way less) than favorable reception from critics and audiences around the world.

I feel like I need to stress that this is not my personal opinion as I actually enjoyed a couple of these, as I’m sure you may also have. So, if any of the titles talked about here peak your interest I urge you to seek it out and watch it. Always watch movies based on your tastes and ideas and not on those of others.

Remember, The Shining and Blade Runner – two of the most influential films of their genre – were not well received when first released. Of course, I wouldn’t compare any of these films to those, but then again, who knows in the future?

It’s so easy to focus on the “bad” elements of movies, that what they might have done right is easy to fly by. Let’s take a look at what those might have been.

For me, anyways.

HELLBOY

Rotten Tomatoes score: 17%

Reasons critics didn’t like it:

  • Inferior reboot to Guillermo Del Toro’s version
  • Unnecessarily violent and dark
  • Nonsensical plot
  • Cheap cinematography

The Story:

Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy, caught between the worlds of the supernatural and human, battles an ancient sorceress bent on revenge.

Standout: Baba Yaga

Let’s face it, this reboot had a lot more going against it than in its favor from the very start. Creator Mike Mignola’s decision to reboot the franchise without Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman was met with almost universal disdain from fans. Their vision to move away as far as possible from Del Toro’s style, instead aiming for a violent and dark adaptation of the character, was… not successful. (17% on Rotten Tomatoes, grossing $50 million on a $40 million budget).

According to reports, the film’s production was plagued with creative disagreements and fights between director Neil Marshall and producer Lloyd Levin, which lead in part to the final product we got. Thankfully, Mignola’s quirky sense of design survived and was able to creep into one of the more inspiring creatures that Hellboy faces: The Baba Yaga.

With gnarly ghoulish makeup effects and a fantastically eerie body performance from actor/contortionist Troy James, the film could have benefited from having Yaga be the main villain rather than a set up for a sequel that will never happen. It wouldn’t have fixed every perceived issue but at least those few sequences we spend inside the creature’s house feels as if ripped straight out of the comics more bizarre and entertaining tales.

A Little Extra: Marketing

If only the filmmakers and producers had taken as much care as the marketing team did, we may have gotten a more memorable reboot for Big Red. Several excellent posters were commissioned, with homages to heavy metal albums, inspirations from Mike Mignola’s art and simplistic designs being the most memorable, which if anything have served as nice wallpapers from time to time.

Also, it’s final red band trailer (seen below) actually got me quite excited for a moment with its intriguing (though not at all original) use of a cover for Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water“, promising an epic, bloody and (maybe) entertaining alternate take on the character…

Then I saw the movie.

GLASS

Rotten Tomatoes score: 37%

Reasons critics didn’t like it:

  • Dull
  • Slow
  • Anticlimactic
  • Silly dialogue

The Story:

Security guard David Dunn uses his supernatural abilities to track Kevin Wendell Crumb, a disturbed man who has twenty-four personalities.

Standout: Directing

M. Night Shyamalan is a hell of a director. Regardless of whatever flaws the man has as a storyteller along with his propensity for weak endings, he knows how to handle any scene with superb camera work, smart editing, precise direction and fantastic use of suspense. Somewhere in there is usually where people’s disappointment lie with him; he knows how to perfectly set up an intriguing mystery yet many people don’t agree with how he chooses to resolve them.

Despite some fans, critics and general viewers feeling underwhelmed and betrayed by the conclusion to his “Eastrail 177 Trilogy”, Shyamalan’s solid direction still shines through in scene after scene and if you are able to see past disagreements with the thematic choices taken, a mostly excellently made movie peeks through.

A Little Extra: Shyamalan’s Balls

As I mentioned in my original review, I can’t help but admire Shyamalan’s resolve to complete his story his way, audience satisfaction be damned, even when it’s my own. I can almost see the filmmaker sitting in his office with a checklist of what fans of Unbreakable and Split wanted to see in this third entry and then doing the complete opposite. I may not agree with what he did, but I do support it. No filmmaker should cave in to what the people “think” they want to see (You hear that Sonic??)

DARK PHOENIX

Rotten Tomatoes score: 23%

Reasons critics didn’t like it:

  • Disappointing final chapter to X-Men saga
  • Uninteresting
  • Little action
  • Second missed opportunity for Dark Phoenix saga

The Story:

Jean Grey begins to develop incredible powers that corrupt and turn her into a Dark Phoenix, causing the X-Men to decide if her life is worth more than all of humanity.

Standout: Zimmer-Men

Poor Simon Kinberg. The writer/director considered Dark Phoenix his passion project and an attempt to correct what was done on X-Men: The Last Stand (where he also served as the writer).

But in what will be a sad trend here, huge amounts of production issues, studio interference – including the complete restructuring and reshooting for an entirely new third act due to very poor test screenings which in turn lead to constant delays – and original plans for two movies being condensed into one all but doomed the film to a critical and financial failure.

However, the one constant that luckily didn’t change was its composer: Hans Zimmer.

In what is supposed to be his last superhero soundtrack (the same was said after Batman V Superman) Zimmer delivers a grand, moody, science fiction infused, synth heavy and well… dark score for this (unwittingly) final chapter in the Fox X-Men saga with the personal highlight being the track that starts the movie: Gap.

Just… give it a minute to start…

A Little Extra: Suits

Taking direct inspiration from Grant Morrison’s 2000 run of “New X-Men”, the team’s suits actually look work, going back to the blue/yellow color scheme that many fans prefer. With this look, they’re able to ground it in a reality just as much as the first black suits did while still paying homage to the more fantastical nature of the comics.

At least for the 10 minutes you see them up on screen.

MEN IN BLACK INTERNATIONAL

Rotten Tomatoes score: 23%

Reasons critics didn’t like it:

  • Poor sequel
  • Unimaginative
  • Predictable

The Story:

The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.

Standout: The (Wo)men in Black

Rebooting the Men In Black franchise with Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson was an inspired choice that could have led to the same success seen by pairing Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones if handled correctly. After all, their chemistry is some of the best elements of Thor: Ragnarok and a part of why it’s considered one of the best MCU films.

Thankfully, that chemistry is still palpable, present and enjoyable in Men In Black International. Everything else around them? Not so much. The film went through a troubled production as director F. Gary Gray clashed with producer Walter Parkes.

But it’s a testament to the duos talent that despite reportedly receiving new script pages every day because of these issues, both actors still come out (mostly) unscathed and the best part of the sequel/reboot.

A Little Extra: Kumail Nanjiani

The other bright spot belongs to Kumail Nanjiani, who voices the adorable Pawny, an alien the size of a chess piece who pledges his eternal protection to Thompsons, Agent M. Despite some forced “funny” dialogue, the comedian makes most of it work and the design of the alien itself is quite cute and well made.

ANGEL HAS FALLEN

Rotten Tomatoes score: 39%

Reasons critics didn’t like it:

  • Implausible
  • Illogical
  • Tired plot
  • Cliched

The Story:

Mike Banning is framed for the attempted assassination of the President and must evade his own agency and the FBI as he tries to uncover the real threat.

Standout: Nick Nolte

In the summer of 2013, what was known as the “The Battle of The Die Hard ripoffs set in the White House” (mainly by me) took place, with two movies fighting for the top spot; Roland Emmerich’s White House Down and Antoine Fuquas Olympus Has Fallen. Little did I imagine that of those, Olympus would turn into a franchise that has two sequels, plans for three more and a forthcoming TV series.

For this third entry, it seems the filmmakers saw The Fugitive and thought “sure, let’s just make that”, taking our “hero” Mike Banning on the run after he’s framed for trying to murder the President of the United States. And all that you think will happen in a movie like this does happen, with very little in the way of originality or surprises.

Except for Nick Nolte.

As Clay – Banning’s father -, a Vietnam-era Ranger who has decided to disconnect from the world, living secluded in the woods, Nolte is a breath of fresh crazy air that brings the movie to life for the few minutes he shows up. I’m not even convinced they didn’t just stumble upon the actor in the middle of the woods and decided to film whatever happened.

A Little Extra: Morgan Freeman’s Retirement Package

Hey, at least someone benefited from starring in this. In the last 5 years, Morgan Freeman has made around 20 movies. I can’t name 5 off the top of my head and he probably can’t either. After all, he does it for the money nowadays.

No, really, that’s not me being mean towards his career decision. They’re his words.

So good for him.

GEMINI MAN

Rotten Tomatoes score: 26%

Reasons critics didn’t like it:

  • Generic
  • Boring
  • Unimaginative use of new technology

The Story:

An over-the-hill hitman faces off against a younger clone of himself.

Standout: Technological Ambitions

The fact that Gemini Man was one of 2019’s most ambitious projects is also what turned it into one of its biggest disappointments. Having a visionary director Ang Lee play with groundbreaking technology of 120 frames per second, 4K, 3D IMAX cameras and the digital yet realistic recreation of a 90’s era Will Smith should have resulted in a hit, yet failed to make an impact critically or at the box office, with Paramount projecting a loss of around $110 million dollars.

And even though its story and characters aren’t spectacular, the technology behind it is. At least, I think. When it was released, movie theaters simply didn’t have the necessary equipment to present the film as intended by Lee and it would seem that Paramount Pictures didn’t care anymore, which meant it was only released in its native 4K, 3D, 120 fps IMAX format in exactly… 0 theaters across America.

But ultimately, it’s ambitions and good intentions should be commended even if the result wasn’t as revolutionary as promised. Let’s hope Lee and company continue trying to innovate the medium, but maybe next time the movie actually matches the quality of its film making techniques.

A Little Extra: Colombia Chase

Besides the fascinating behind the scenes method used to shoot Gemini Man, the film does offer a couple of memorable actions scenes, in particular an extended chase scene through Colombia, making good use of the much talked about 3D (if you were lucky enough to see it that way), high frame rate and Smith’s younger digital recreation.

RAMBO: LAST BLOOD

Rotten Tomatoes score: 27%

Reasons critics didn’t like it:

  • Excessively Violent
  • Mean spirited
  • Racist

The Story:

Rambo must confront his past and unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission.

Standout: Home Alone

In what is strangely one of the very few action sequences in a Rambo movie, our protagonist sets up his house full of nasty booby traps in order to deliver painful retribution to a Mexican drug cartel who though it was good idea to mess with a man who has the face of Sylvester Stallone.

Playing like a viciously demented and violently entertaining sequel to Home Alone, these last 20 minutes remind you why you chose to press play on a movie that has the words Rambo and Blood in its title and does not disappoint in delivering both.

A Little Extra: Achy Breaky Heart

At the films most Ramboiest moment, Rambo threatens to rip out a villains heart. Then, in a completely unexpected twist, Rambo rips out a still beating heart with his bare hands.

Wait, I’m confused, why isn’t this included in the years Best Of list?

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