Here are my picks for the Ten Worst Films of 2018:
10. Action Point -- Johnny Knoxville may have performed real stunts in this pathetic comedy about a guy who runs the world's most dangerous amusement park, but putting them in a fictionalized context – where we don't get to see the reactions of his Jackass cohorts – renders them mind-blowingly unfunny.
9. The Possession of Hannah Grace -- The weekend after Thanksgiving is a time when studios tend to dump movies they want to pass in and out of theaters quickly. This scare-free, by-the-numbers story of a young mortuary worker (Shay Mitchell) tormented by the body of a possessed girl landed that spot this year, for good reason.
8. The Happytime Murders -- Probably 2018's biggest disappointment. An R-rated puppet movie that spoofed private eye movies and starred Melissa McCarthy sounded great. There's no inspiration here, though. It's just repeated jokes about puppets swearing, taking drugs, and having sex. Funny for about two minutes, and then just tiresome.
7. The Nun - No modern cinematic trend is more annoying the creating "cinematic universes" around hit movies. This dark, dismal picture is a prequel telling us about the nun in the painting that briefly figures into The Conjuring 2. What's next, a prequel about the flashlight this movie's hero carries?
6. Hunter Killer - Gerard Butler and Common star in this low-rent submarine thriller that has cheap-o effects, a story that's virtually impossible to follow, and all the suspense of watching water boil. It's an exercise in tedium that practically dares you to keep paying attention.
5. Basmati Blues -- Technically speaking, Basmati Blues is one of the worst movies of 2013. That's when this Bollywood-esque musical was filmed. Star Brie Larson wasn't an Oscar-winner then. Presumably, she's not happy that this romantic-comedy/musical about a scientist trying to create a better kind of rice (yes, really) saw the light of day. Bad writing, bad songs, and artless execution mark this embarrassingly amateurish project.
4. Gotti -- John Travolta over-plays notorious gangster John Gotti as though he thinks the role will win him an Oscar. A Razzie is more like it. Aside from a hopelessly muddled screenplay, Gotti has bizarre musical selections (the Pet Shop Boys' “West End Girls” over a mob hit?) and an offensive propensity for making this murderous criminal seem heroic.
3. Life Itself -- Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Antonio Banderas, and Annette Bening star in this sappy drama from This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman. The film wants to be a profound tear-jerker about the unpredictable natures of life, death, and love. The problem is that an incessant use of obnoxious “techniques” (like having characters wander through their own pasts) and contrived coincidences keeps you at an emotional distance. Also, the actors are forced to recite over-written, not-as-witty-as-it-thinks dialogue that doesn't even remotely sound like how actual human beings speak.
2. China Salesman -- You probably didn't know that Steven Seagal and Mike Tyson had a movie together in 2018. That's because China Salesman was barely released. The two have one clumsily staged action scene together. The rest is an excruciatingly boring story about a bunch of different corporations all competing to become the first telecom company in Africa. Oh, and Tyson, trying to act and speak in an African accent, gives a performance that makes Tommy Wiseau in The Room look like Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln by comparison.
And my choice for the Worst Film of 2018 is:
1. The Trump Prophecy / Death of a Nation (tie) - Let me begin by assuring you that my personal political views have absolutely nothing to do with me picking two Donald Trump-themed films as the year's worst. The first is based on the story of former firefighter Mark Taylor, a guy who claims God told him that Trump would become president. (In real life, Taylor also claims Trump will cure cancer and Alzheimer's during his second term, a fact the movie conveniently sidesteps.) It contains laughable acting, inane dialogue, clunky direction, and massive plot holes. For example, a whole bunch of people across the country organize a prayer chain for Trump, based solely on Taylor's unsubstantiated claim. No one shows the least bit of skepticism! The last twenty minutes inexplicably turn into a monotonous talking-head documentary, with various individuals weighing in on the miracle of Trump.
Death of a Nation, meanwhile, finds convicted felon/presidential pardon recipient Dinesh D'Souza comparing Trump to Abraham Lincoln and trying to make the argument that the Nazis were inspired by Democrats. When he's not including endless shots of himself walking through different locations looking pensive, D'Souza makes spurious political arguments and claims that are demonstrably untrue. There are also several laughably overwrought historical recreations of Nazi Germany. Here's the thing -- love Trump or hate him, the way he has galvanized so many people in the United States could be the basis for a fascinating, in-depth film. Neither The Trump Prophecy nor Death of a Nation are serious about exploring the Trump phenomenon. They're just pieces of propaganda, and abysmally-made propaganda, at that.