While for the most part, I think 2018 was a fantastic year for film; every year is not without its rotten apples. Be they disappointing entries in one of your favourite director’s filmography, straight-to-Netflix wastes of time or lacklustre blockbusters, bad films are unfortunately unavoidable. Here are a few of the films that either majorly let me down this year, or downright infuriated me beyond comprehension:
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel & Ethan Coen)
The Coen Brothers’ latest film, a direct-to-Netflix anthology piece featuring six stories about the old West, is perhaps a surprising first entry on this list. For the most part, as is often the case when it comes to Joel and Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs has received a lot of love with particular note being paid to the film’s cinematography and dark sense of humour. When I watched it however, I unfortunately did not see what all the fuss was about. A few years ago the duo released what is perhaps my favourite of their films, Inside Llewyn Davis; but ever since then I’ve found their attempts at blending musical moments with comedy to be largely insufferable. Five of the six short stories on offer here are too long for the punchline to hold any particular weight, or too annoying and drawn out to pay attention to. ‘Meal Ticket’, a segment starring Liam Neeson and Harry Melling, is the only bright spot. While it is by far and away my favourite of the pieces on offer here, it is not worth suffering through the other drab and dull stories just to enjoy one interesting one.
- Mute (Duncan Jones)
The ninth spot on this list is taken up by another straight-to-Netflix feature. In this instance, director Duncan Jones of Moon fame offers up a Blade Runner inspired future Berlin, in which a ‘mute’ Alexander Skarsgård mopes around for 2 hours. Whilst the film is dripping in sci-fi imagery and religious iconography, nothing of any interest is done with the symbolism plated up and served to the audience. Justin Theroux and Paul Rudd provide some somewhat funny comedic relief to the tedium ridden aesthetic Mute oozes, but more often than not they only make the situation worse. Not only is the film visually a bit of mess, but the murder-mystery, noir-laced plot is paper-thin and full of inconsistencies. Mute is yet another film that probably would never see the light of day if Netflix did not insist on offering every (at one time) acclaimed director money to host their terrible ideas on their platform.
- King Lear (Richard Eyre)
This is a ghastly adaptation of King Lear. I can’t fault most of performances, the delivery is often pretty good with Anthony Hopkins ‘King Lear’ being the obvious stand-out. Andrew Scott is dreadful though, and has been coasting off his Sherlock success for far too long now. My main issue however, is that there is absolutely no need for this to be in a modern setting. It adds nothing to the play, it gains no value from being “King Lear but present-day”, attempts nothing in the way of social or political commentary, and at no point justifies being set this way. Unlike the recent-ish adaptation of Coriolanus, which in transplanting the source text to modern day offers some commentary on the socio-political climate of the time, this adaptation is just constantly distracting as a result of its setting. It’s a shame really. I feel as if it was a period piece it would be much more enjoyable. As it stands however, this is simply dreadful.
- Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (Andy Serkis)
Having bounced around multiple studios regarding it’s distribution, Andy Serkis’ adaptation of the original Jungle Book novel recently found its home on (you guessed it) Netflix. Once delving into the film, which features a surprisingly stacked cast, it’s not hard to figure out why this had trouble getting out of the door and into your living room. I really don’t have much to say about this other than it’s completely uninspired in almost every way. It feels flat, often looks ghastly, and although the voice performances by the star-studded array of actors lined up to play your favourite familiar characters are pretty good, the realistic design of the characters just feels cheap in comparison to the way it was handled in Disney’s most recent live-action adaptation. It’s sad really. Perhaps Andy Serkis should turn his most recent Theresa May outing into a film instead… it would certainly prove more interesting than this.
- Early Man (Nick Park)
I’m a big fan of stop-motion animation. I think the craft and work put into it is simply breathtaking, and the advancements that have been made by Aardman Animation Studios in particular have done nothing but improve the genre. However, these advancements in stop-motion techniques were not made so the studio could start producing absolute rubbish like Early Man. A caveman adventure about football, where the stone-age are the quirky English under-dogs and the Bronze-age the brash, arrogant French? If that concept does not scream “go back to the drawing-board before putting in the extreme amount of effort it takes to bring stop-motion to life”, then I don’t know what does. Nick Park and company are more than capable of producing better than this, and hopefully this is just a one-off blip in the creators’ otherwise illustrious career to date.
- The Predator (Shane Black)
A new entry in the Predator franchise, directed by an acclaimed director that was there during the production of the fantastically macho original, should have been a recipe for success. However, all that The Predator offers up is an exercise in frustration, as the film takes classic lines from the original and uses them in what feels like half-baked parody. The action set-pieces in this are nonsensical and downright laughable, and not in a good way. The Predator is a film that does not know what it wants to be, so tries to provide bite-size pieces of different genres that never flow together cohesively in anyway whatsoever. The cast have some good chemistry, and there is the odd genuine laugh to be had from this. Otherwise this is yet another patience-testing film from Shane Black, whose track-record continues to be inconsistent at the very least.
- Johnny English Strikes Again (David Kerr)
Rowan Atkinson returns in the franchise very few thought would grace the world again. In a comedy perfectly suited for people who still think Brexit is a good idea at this point, Johnny English bumbles across Europe under the service of an incompetent prime minister being manipulated by an Elon Musk-esque lead villain. The nonsensical plot strays too far from the James Bond parody it’s trying to be, and straight into just bad comedy territory. The only saving grace that this film has is that Daniel Kaluuya thankfully chose not to reprise his role from the last entry in this god-awful franchise, and chose instead to carry on his fantastic track record in Widows, a film much more worthy of your time.
- ANON (Andrew Niccol)
Andrew Niccol was once known for directing science-fiction classics such as The Truman Show and Gattaca, but these days he seems content in making some of the most nonsensical, monotonous and frustratingly boring films to grace the release calendar. ANON, a ‘Sky Cinema’ original film, is the latest in Niccol’s attempts to become the dullest filmmaker working today, and boy does it succeed. Clive Owen stars as the lead, and whilst I have a lot of love for him, I just wish he had the ability to pick better roles and not have to resort to starring in soulless films like this where he wanders about aimlessly watching terrible first-point-perspective footage of a scantily clad Amanda Seyfried. Thankfully, her performance in First Reformed, one of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year, is more than good enough to make up for her dire run-out here… but I feel as if that is not entirely her fault.
- Venom (Ruben Fleischer)
Without a doubt one of the worst films I watched this year, but that being said, I had an absolute blast watching Venom. Everything about this film is such a diabolical mess, with terrible delivery from established actors to horrible CGI goo monsters, Venom is a laugh riot from start to finish for all the wrong reasons. Failing in absolutely everything it tries to accomplish, it’s kind of hard not to find the film somewhat charming… if it was not simultaneously horrendous from start to finish. Everyone in this film is capable of making something so much better than this, but in a weird way, I’m kind of glad they didn’t. Simultaneously one of the worst and best things I’ve seen this year.
- The Cloverfield Paradox (Julius Onah)
The latest instalment in the Cloverfield franchise took the world by surprise during this year’s Superbowl in being released on Netflix immediately after the game. What mainly took me by surprise, however, was just how bad this film turned out to be. In every way imaginable, this film is terrible. But the main thing that really bothered me about the film was the plot, which mixed confusing alternate universe theories and doppelgangers in ways that were just incoherent from the moment the film started. Character motivations and reasoning are just thrown out of the window, with none of the supposedly brightest individuals the world has to rely on to save them having any sense of logic or reason to them whatsoever. Visually as well, this film is disgusting. Any hope I had for the Cloverfield franchise is now dead in the water after this catastrophe, and my last vestiges of hope dwindling in Netflix’s original programming.
Here’s to a better 2019…