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The Worst Films of 2018

31 December 18 words: Ashley Carter, Natalie Mills, Gemma Finch, Jake Leonard, Hilary Whiteside

The LeftLion Screen team pass verdict on some of the worst films released in 2018... 

Ashley Carter - Screen Editor

Gotti dir. Kein Connolly

Gotti

Gotti was disappointing to me on a fairly unique level, having watched it after it had suffered the well-publicised ignominy of getting a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Brilliant, I thought, this is going to be hilariously bad. However, other than an opening scene featuring John Travolta as the ghost of John Gotti directly addressing the audience, during which I almost shat myself laughing, it was otherwise humourless. Just two hours of drab nothingness, crammed full of awful b-movie performances, a directionless plot and utterly terrible dialogue. And that’s the worst thing about Gotti: it’s fucking terrible, but not bad enough that it’s funny. 

I Feel Pretty

Second year running on the list for Ms. Schumer, who is quickly becoming the single most irritating human being in the world.  This time around, she plays an average girl working in the cosmetics industry that cracks her head and wakes up thinking she’s stunning. Armed with this newfound confidence, she quickly becomes a major player in the cosmetics company she has always dreamt of working for. A moral message that at best makes no sense, and at worst is utterly repugnant, I Feel Pretty is blatantly pandering to an audience obsessed with commercialism, and is utterly devoid of humour. Schumer, you’ve had your fifteen minutes, kindly join Lena Dunham in fucking right off forever. 

Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

Holy mackerel, where to start with this one. Funded by the Vatican, this ugly little project from Wim Wenders isn’t just a bad film, it’s a morally repulsive propaganda piece that doesn’t deserve to be labelled as a documentary. For two hours, the Pope is lobbed softball questions, which provides him with a platform to discuss his ideas for the future of the church with a smug sincerity that made me want to burn down the cinema in which I was watching it. Not once does Wenders challenge him on any of the many scandals the Church has been guilty of, instead presenting us with a lengthy, pointless sermon. An absolute pile of horseshit from start to finish.

Natalie Mills - Screen Writer

Peter Rabbit dir. Will Gluck

Peter Rabbit

I’m going to sound like an old fart here. Can’t we let Beatrix Potter’s beloved franchise die in peace? This wacky retelling of the story (another one, I also hated the TV series) sees Peter Rabbit played by James Corden, and he’s a bit of “a lad”. In that he’s really annoying. Mr McGregor’s heir is now Domhnall Gleeson, and he is having a romance with Rose Byrne. Because of course he is. He’s also pelted with blackberries by Peter and the gang, despite having a serious allergy. It’s a live action-slash-CGI animation film, and seeing Potter’s characters frolicking in modern times is all a bit meta for me. Why not be brave and make it the pitch-black furry fest we never knew we wanted?

Hereditary

Although it’s not really the worst, it’s definitely the most disappointing. When you hear whispers like “it’s this generation’s Exorcist”, you have high expectations to live up to. The bad bits in Hereditary sting, because when it’s good, it is SO good. It starts as a subtle Babadook-esque grief metaphor, but ends up throwing in every supernatural horror trope going. The special effects are just imperfect enough to jolt you out of any suspense you might have built up. Some sequences had the audience laughing rather than screaming, and frankly Rosemary’s Baby did it better. Enjoy the sublime first act, then turn it off when you start thinking it’s getting silly – you might salvage your experience.

Slender Man

Remember when Slender Man was an internet phenomenon, and how edgy and cool it was? And how you played the terrifying computer game (with the flashlight) and thought, “Wow, this would make a great Blair Witch-style horror film”? Well forget that, have this predictable and boring teenage high school film instead. Generic girls 1, 2, 3 and 4 go in search of urban legend/child killer The Slender Man and – SHOCKER – bad shit ensues. This film feels about ten years too late, and its use of technology, gadgets and internet culture feels weirdly dated. There are a few creepy moments, but it is a waste of retro meme royalty. You’ll have more fun reading the fanfics.

Gemma Finch - Screen Writer

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald dir. David Yates

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a disappointing ordeal that foolishly splits up the main group of protagonists of the first film - the one element of that film that worked well. Painfully slow, the narrative is preoccupied with teasing the audience with Credence’s true heritage, as if this information is of vital importance. So insubstantial is his characterisation I found this utterly bizarre. There is a scene that features many of the characters discussing the convoluted plot stood in a circle, adding bits to the story in the form of flashbacks, details coming as thick and fast as additions to the Harry Potter lore from Rowling’s tweets. This scene left me baffled at how poorly an apparently important plot point is revealed and at how bonkers the plot is. Johnny Depp is wasted as Grindelwald, who delivers a Wizard vs Muggle speech, reminiscent of Magneto - J.K. Rowling unable to hide what a brazen X-Men rip off her wizarding world is becoming. No idea is original, and I would tolerate this thematic route if it featured some additional originality as Harry Potter did, but the Grindelwald element lacked so much flair, I cannot help but think the Fantastic Beasts franchise is a mere cash grab for Rowling.  

The Incredibles 2

We waited 14 years for a sequel, but The Incredibles 2 is underwhelming in comparison to the entertaining original. The film focuses exclusively on Elastigirl, who cracks the case on her own. Meanwhile, Mr Incredible struggles to function looking after his kids in a plot that has a clear political agenda. This would be perfectly acceptable if it was well conceived, but I cannot help but think the message was communicated in quite a depressing way for what is essentially a kid’s film. Mr Incredible is not shown struggling for mere comedy effect, but he is seen suffering in a way that shows quite starkly that without crime fighting he is a depressed shell of his former self, which struck me as going too deep. Also, it is as if the first film never happened - in the first, the family conclude that they should all work together, as they are all equally important members of the team and family, regardless of their age or gender. I was ten when the first film was released, and the quote that always stuck with me is when Elastigirl says “Leave the crime fighting to the men? I don’t think so!” and this was the only message I needed to hear to know that women could be badass too. I didn’t need to see Mr Incredible, who I equally admired, reduced to a tearful wreck to be reminded of a woman’s worth. 

The Little Stranger

As a horror fan with a penchant for a British ghost story, I was particularly disappointed by The Little Stranger. Ruth Wilson is an accomplished actress who deserved better than the achingly dull plot of this film, which concerns a man who moves in with the unusual occupants of a dilapidated and mysterious house - an idea which should have been bursting with promise. With an unintentionally sinister leading man and story threads that lead to dead ends, this film is bitterly frustrating, and as derelict as the house it features.

Jake Leonard - Screen Writer

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom dir. J. A. Bayona

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

It’s so sad that the worst film of the year was directed by J. A. Bayona. But he made his choice. This idiotic, abysmal, portentous, pompous, lazy, patronising, boring, almost-entirely-irredeemable spectacle of mediocrity does not deserve its connection to one of the greatest blockbusters ever made. The franchise has never had good sequels, but this goes beyond any kind of reasonable defence or campy charm. It largely steals the plot from the poor but passable The Lost World: Jurassic Park and manages to somehow make Jurassic Park III look like a masterpiece. Even the charismatic Chris Pratt looks dead inside throughout. If you want a thorough deconstruction of everything wrong with it watch the Honest Trailer. I really can’t be bothered to talk about it anymore.

Darkest Hour

Jonathan Teplitzky’s 2017 film Churchill featured a script from historian and author Alex Von Tunzelmann and a strong central performance from Brian Cox. It may have been flawed and televisual (and was concerned with the events leading up to D-day rather than those leading up to Dunkirk), but it was also unfairly overlooked in comparison with the shoddy yet lauded Darkest Hour. Despite a decent (but not brilliant) turn from Gary Oldman (aided by some terrific make-up), Joe Wright’s film was self-satisfied, dull and preposterous, with a wasted supporting cast and an awful script from Anthony McCarten. The lowest moment was probably the now infamous scene on the London Underground, which stretched the plausibility of history beyond belief and disregarded any respect for the intelligence of the audience in exchange for a seemingly never-ending sequence of stilted dialogue and mawkishness that couldn’t have been more on the nose if it tried.

Downsizing

Alexander Payne’s latest was more a disappointment and a missed opportunity than an all-out bad film. The opening section (which covered the attempts of a couple played by Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig to take part in an experimental lifestyle that required them to be shrunk down in order to achieve material gain within their means as well as to help – quite literally – reduce their carbon footprint) was promising and entertaining. Once in the smaller world, however, too many characters and plot points were introduced and the narrative lost focus, with the film soon sunk by its own ambitious indecisiveness. Despite strong performances from Christoph Waltz and Hong Chau, this second half feels like an entirely different movie and features some truly atrocious writing from the usually impeccable Payne and Jim Taylor.

Hilary Whiteside - Screen Writer

The Shape of Water dir. Guillermo del Toro

The Shape of Water

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, this film was wholly disappointing. It promised so much with a great cast headed by Sally Hawkins and the ‘master storyteller’ del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) at the helm. However, it failed to deliver. Set in Baltimore in the 1960s at the height of the Cold War, Elisa (Hawkins), a mute, and thus isolated women working at a Government research facility becomes embroiled in a classified secret experiment. This experiment involves a scaled creature who is restrained in a water tank. Eliza develops an empathy with this creature, developing a line of communication. Suffice to say that an unlikely bond is built between the two culminating in an improbable sexual relationship. The finale involves an escape and final retreat to the questionable ‘safety’ of the sea. There is some whacky cinematography, some interesting special effects, but this in no way makes up for the implausible plot. 

The Children Act

Another disappointment for me was The Children Act, directed by Richard Eyre and starring national treasure Emma Thompson. Unfortunately, the measured, thoughtful prose of McEwan’s novella on which the film was based did not translate well to the screen. The narrative centres on High Court judge Fiona Maye (Thomson) who takes on a complex ethical case of family law involving the rights of a boy to refuse a blood transfusion on religious grounds. Of course, Emma Thompson is superb as the lawyer, indeed she is the controlling drive behind the film. However, her role as a judge enters murky waters as she allows her emotions to prevail. Her actions become, frankly, implausible as she puts aside her professional code of conduct and begins meeting her client on unacceptable territory. For example, completely unethically and unnecessarily, she visits him in hospital. Her husband is projected as long-suffering, temperate and indeed tiresome; their marriage is clearly in crisis, but as neither character is particularly attractive it was difficult to care. 

On Chesil Beach

Another book adaptation which failed to ignite any enthusiasm, On Chesil Beach, was directed by Dominic Cooke and starred Saoirse Ronan and Samuel West. There was much potential in this film. Excellent, appropriately cast actors, wonderful sets and the cinematography, it has to be noted, was stunning, particularly the beach scenes. The narrative, shaped around two newlyweds both in their early 20s and unable to consummate their marriage, simply did not translate to the screen.  

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