Seagal vs. Tyson, a farting cartoon woodpecker, Brian Henson’s desperation, Blumhouse blues, the Russian Schwarzenegger, still more purgin’, the end of self-conscious kink, reheated Romero, curdled life lessons, and Clint Eastwood puts us all to sleep.
These are the Worst Films of 2018.
Clint Eastwood is a film icon. He’s directed his share of outstanding pictures, and his share of duds. “The 15:17 to Paris” wasn’t just another lousy feature from a helmer capable of greatness, but a jaw-droppingly amateurish effort from Eastwood, who transformed the 2015 Thalys Train Attack into pure boredom glazed with a thin coating of curdle jingoism. Without a story to tell, the production filled with movie with travelogue sequences and tedious domestic disturbance scenes. Acting wasn’t any help either, with the real-life heroes from the terrorist attack playing themselves. Professionals would’ve helped the cause. Eastwood doesn’t just tank the endeavor, he flatlines completely, showing a complete lack of interest in anything onscreen.
The Blumhouse Productions formula has created many hit movies, with most of the offerings forgettable multiplex fodder. “Truth or Dare” hit a new low for the company, financing the dreams of writer/director Jeff Wadlow, a helmer who has yet to make a competent film. “Truth or Dare” presented PG-13 frights for a pushover audience, constructing terror with lackluster actors, absurd screenwriting, and poor visual effects. The results weren’t just dismal, but insulting, with Wadlow skating by with the bare minimum effort, offering Blumhouse junk to sell to genre admirers who deserve better.
Intending to present a life-affirming story highlighting tortured characters working through crisis, “Life Itself” offers pure poison for viewers instead, with writer/director Dan Fogelman trusting in the hypnotic power of toxic personalities working to make their lives as difficult as possible. And, for reasons not understood, it’s a coarse, R-rating offering, removing whatever fluffiness this type of melodrama is known for. Misguided every step of the way, “Life Itself” stumbles from the very first scene, with Fogelman thinking he’s made a grand statement on the ways of life and love. Instead, he’s created an excellent reason to see something else.
The world of Woody Woodpecker isn’t hallowed ground, but the cartoon character has endured over the years due to his often inspired comedic insanity. Bringing the looney bird to the screen in a live-action/CGI endeavor, the producers decided to replace sharp timing and endearing stupidity with sloppy slapstick and fart jokes. Fecal-based humor as well. “Woody Woodpecker” bungles longstanding formula, pandering to young audiences with crude jokes and mean-spirited antics, ending up with a movie that doesn’t celebrate the legacy of Woody Woodpecker, but tries to bury it alive. Your kids deserve better.
There’s a man named Alexander Nevsky. He’s a Russian actor, and he wants to be an action hero. He’s built like one, physically resembling a tank. He has the screen steeliness of one, showing no discernable emotion. It’s his taste in screenplays that remains problematic, with the generically titled “Maximum Impact” a particularly hopeless endeavor, blending eye-rolling cliché with crummy filmmaking, ending up with a Z-grade offering that does nothing to sell Nevsky as the next Schwarzenegger.
As the fourth installment of the profitable “Purge” series, “The First Purge” did what many creatively bankrupt productions do, going the prequel route to find inspiration. While some viewers love to defend the franchise as socially aware and teeming with political commentary, “The First Purge” was pure stupidity masquerading as rage against the machine, providing hilariously on-the-nose references to modern ills while still tending to the numbing violence and urban unrest the brand name is known for. The other “Purge” installments were shoddily made and poorly realized. “The First Purge” manages to find more room at the bottom of the barrel. Exploitation shouldn’t be this tedious.
Looking to restart a directorial career that fizzled out two decades ago, Brian Henson elected to make an R-rated puppet movie, hoping to catch some attention due to the raunchiness of the material and its connection to the Henson family name. “The Happytime Murders” tries way too hard to be offensive, frequently using shock value instead of actual jokes to entertain viewers. Jim Henson was a rascal too, but he was also a master of physical comedy, puppet performance, and a man who knew everything about timing. Brian simply goes for the gross-out, over and over again, constructing 80 minutes of awkwardly unfunny, sometimes strangely sincere multiplex punishment.
The good news is that the “Fifty Shades of Gray” trilogy is finally over. The bad news is that “Fifty Shades Freed” was still produced, necessitating one last trip to the land of kinky sex and ghastly melodrama. Lazy storytelling dominates this final chapter, which doesn’t have any particular interest in thinking plotlines or characterization through, simply offering fans plenty of bumping and grinding, pronounced product placement, and the illusion of eternal love, which is really a cover for a truly abusive relationship that resides at the core of this series. It’s all pretty gross, but at least there won’t be another one.
Perhaps there wasn’t widespread awareness that another “Day of the Dead” chapter even existed, but someone, somewhere holds the rights, and they keep cranking out sequels to the original 1985 George Romero movie. “Day of the Dead: Bloodline” isn’t even the worst rehash of the collection, but it does hold the distinction of being the ickiest, presenting a sexually obsessed stalker as the main zombie, with the screenplay hoping to disrupt expectations by making monstrous appetites possibly relatable to the target demographic. “Bloodline” is made on the cheap and looks it, with another generation of filmmakers trying to cash in on Romero’s legacy without paying attention to what he originally did.
A Chinese production in need of something to help attract global audience attention, “China Salesman” presents the screen pairing of Mike Tyson and Steven Seagal, which was enough to get me to review it. My mistake. More of a commercial for Chinese pride with occasional action moments, “China Salesman” is a baffling movie that doesn’t celebrate its weirdest elements. It’s clumsy work, and a lot of it is lost in translation, but the most disappointing aspects of the picture are Tyson, who’s not an actor, and Seagal, who’s not mobile anymore, making their clashes about editorial specificity while the rest of the feature falls into coma.
Also of note: The Hurricane Heist, Father of the Year, The Con Is On, Nostalgia, Showdown in Manila, An L.A. Minute, Backtrace, The Spy Who Dumped Me, Holmes & Watson, Supercon, Reprisal, Peppermint, Acts of Violence, Traffik, and Den of Thieves.