by Patrick Gibbs
M. Night Shyamalan – the M stands for “Mid”- is not one of my favorite filmmakers. I don’t deny a certain degree of talent, but he’s spent his entire career as his own biggest fan, while consistently sacrificing coherent plotting in favor of increasingly silly twist endings, with The Sixth Sense still having the only one that holds up under scrutiny. But despite underwhelming response at the time, Unbreakable does have a substantial group out there who worship as a work of brilliance. I may not agree with those people, but I do think they deserved better than this. Glass gives the character of David Dunn (the late Bruce Wills) one of the most ignominious send-offs in movie history, and instead of giving that story a much needed ending, it merely ruins the last vestiges of what worked about it. Glass has many contrivances and problems that frustrate viewers and betray fans of the original, but by far the worst element is the inescapable feeling that this story of a shadow conspiracy to prevent superheroes from realizing their potential because the world can’t handle the truth is the writer/director’s way of saying “I am too special, the critics are just afraid of my genius.” It’s an embarrassing big screen tempter tantrum.
Frank Walsh (Nicolas Cage), is a roguish big-game hunter who captures wild animals and sells them to zoos, and whose stubbly beard does not look at all like he has glued coffee grounds to his face, and there definitely isn’t an entire scene where it inexplicably disappears only to be back in the next scene, so get all that out of your head right now. Anyway, one happy day, Frank scores big when he comes across a rare White Jaguar. Frank books passage on a ship, taking all of his exotic animals with him, only to discover that the military is transporting a top secret and very dangerous prisoner, Richard Loffler (Kevin Durand), and it goes without saying that Loffler gets loose and so do all of Frank’s animals, including the jungle cat. Frankly, I was really hoping for some stupid, campy fun with this one, kind of a Snakes on a Plane meets the ‘90’s Nic Cage/Jerry Bruckhiemer Die Hard wannabe genre, but it’s remarkably lifeless, and only gets more dull as it goes. The “sexual tension” between Cage and Famke Janssen’s military doctor is more unbelievable than even the terrible CGI Jaguar, and when, at the end of the film, she suggests that if he’s ever in town they should get together, I couldn’t tell whether she was thinking coffee, drinks or collagen injections.
Stranger Things’ David Harbour is a talented actor, and he deserved a shot at headlining a movie. But director Neil Marshall and the rest of the creative team behind this slapdash exercise in futility had no particular vision for the material, and the most impressive thing they managed to do was to deliver a lot of CGI that wasn’t good enough be appreciated on any level but still managed to draw further attention to just how weak Harbour’s make up job was in comparison to what had been done on Ron Perlman in Guillermo De Toro’s classics. Hellboy has the distinction of ranking among the worst films Milla Jovovich has ever appeared in that wasn’t directed by one of her husbands, but that’s about all that can be said for it.
8. RAMBO: LAST BLOOD
It’s hard to fathom at this point that First Blood, the film that introduced audiences to the character of John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), was actually a pretty smart and compelling thriller with a lot to say about PTSD, and about the responsibility that America was ignoring in regards to the returning soldiers who had been sent to fight a dumbfounding war, where success was measured only by the number of kills. Death Wish may be the only other franchise that degenerated this far into being exactly the opposite of the original intent, and the Rambo sequels became one big endless celebration of carnage and flag waving.
But what makes Last Blood by far the worst of them – apart from the fact that it’s such a bizarre mash up of Taken and Home Alone – is the tone deaf “bad hombres” portrayal of everyone and everything south of the border. The story follows the titular Vietnam veteran as he travels to Mexico to save his adopted daughter, who has been kidnapped by a cartel and forced into prostitution. Every time the word “Mexico” is spoken in this movie, it’s done with the same inflection one would normally reserve for saying “The Eye of Mordor”, “Voldemort” or “Diet Mountain Dew”. There is literally not a single Latino in the film who isn’t portrayed as a snarling monster whose disembowelment is a cause for unbridled joy. This one definitively crosses over from action movie to sadistic slasher flick, and while they may not have necessarily been setting out to make a racist, white nationalist statement, they certainly make no effort not to do so. It’s irresponsible, outrageous, and most surprisingly, just plain boring.
Surely you knew this one was coming. Everyone seems to be asking the question: how did this movie get made? Was there really no one looking in on this and thinking ‘Guys, this might not be working?”
When I was leaving the press screening, I overheard a boy of around 12 say “that’s going to make Sonic the Hedgehog look like Citizen Kane or something.” I wanted to adopt this kid, to hug him and cuddle him and call him George. I’ll admit that I am not a fan of the source material, but director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables) has made literally all of the wrong choices in adapting it to the screen. The silver lining good may be that no movie can be this gaudy and clueless without eventually becoming a cult classic, and we may at long last have the next Howard the Duck.
Baker Dill (Matthew McConaghey) is a fishing boat captain living a quiet and sheltered life on an island off the coast of Florida and pondering how he ended up with a such a silly character name in a movie that isn’t even based on a John Grisham novel. He spends his days leading tours off a tranquil, tropical enclave called Plymouth Island, obsessing over catching “Justice”, a giant tuna that is his great white whale, and his nights having an on again off again affair with an older woman, which is something you do if the older woman is played by Diane Lane. This shallow but relatively peaceful existence is shattered when Baker’s ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) tracks him down with a desperate plea for help. She begs Dill to save her and their young son from her new, violent husband, Frank (Jason Clarke), offering her ex $10 million to drop her husband into the ocean as shark bait (oohaha).
But the big twist is yet to come, when Dill discovers that he is, in fact, a character in a computer game designed by his son. Dill, whose real name is John Mason, was killed in Iraq in 2006. Junior based the character on a memory of his father taking him fishing when he was three years old. When Karen remarried, Junior introduced his mother and abusive step-father as new characters in the game, and changed his old man’s task from catching tuna to murdering Jason Clarke. If there is any part of the audience that wants to just go with it and buy this preposterous premise, it’s made a lot harder when you consider that this kid’s “game” includes his parents having illicit, angry sex in a shed, which is not something you do even if your Mom is played by Anne Hathaway. The movie ends with Baker/John fulfilling his function in the game, which gives his son the courage he needs to take a big knife and murder the drunken lout beating on his mother. Now, if you’re thinking “You can either have a movie where the main character finds out he is living inside a video game or you can have a movie that ends with a boy murdering his abusive stepfather, but not both”, well, congratulations, you’re sane.
5. THE FANATIC
John Travolta and director Fred Durst (former front man for Limp Bizkit, who apparently felt that it was time to move on and suck at something else), seem to have watched Tony Scott’s legendary stinker The Fan, and asked themselves: could this movie possibly be any worse? Sadly, the answer is a resounding yes.
Travolta plays “Moose”, an autistic man who is obsessed with a movie star. Rather than even trying to be sensitive or do research, Travolta simply plays Moose as a 5-year-old, and the only conceit that is made in creating this of vague amalgam of developmental disabilities is that at least he doesn’t do an overtly stereotypical voice. Moose makes his meager living by performing for tourists dressed up as an old English Bobby and pretending that he is giving tours of London, and I was really hoping that sentence would make some sort of sense when I saw it in writing.
Moose is on a quest to get an autograph from his favorite actor, Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa). When Dunbar spurns Moose at a book signing in order to talk to his wife, Moose becomes discouraged and starts rocking back and forth – he does that a lot in this movie – until his BFF, a young paparazzi photographer, gives him a phone app that publishes the home addresses of celebrities. As you can imagine, this does not end well. Things go from bad to worse, and the contrived acts of violence begin. It’s all very messy, and it leaves possibility of Travolta’s 82nd comeback seeming less likely than ever before.
4. THE BEACH BUM
So, that whole “McConaissance” thing”? Yeah, that might be over.
Director Harmony Korine is . . . a mammal. Seriously, that’s all I’ve got. Yes, I’m aware that there is still a smattering of people out there who insist on pretending that Korine (Gummo, Spring Breakers) is an avant garde genius and that The Emperor is wearing the most beautiful new robe ever created and yes, of course they can see it, but that doesn’t make it so.
Matthew McConaghey plays Moondog, a hedonistic middle-aged stoner (it’s really a stretch, I know) who finds himself in the position of inheriting a great deal of money after his millionaire wife makes out with Snoop Dogg and is then promptly killed in a car accident (you have to wonder which experience she regrets more), but the money comes with the stipulation that Moondog must prove to his daughter that he can be a responsible adult. The Beach Bum is a painful, unwatchable ordeal full of boorishly tasteless moments and shockingly bad performances from respectable stars -Jonah Hill, doing a frightful impression of what I can only assume is Truman Capote as portrayed by either Paul Lynde, Jack Black or both, is a standout – and it simply serves no purpose as art or as entertainment. Stay as far away from it as possible.
3. THE PROFESSOR
A self indulgent, narcissistic ordeal, even by Johnny Depp standards, The Professor chronicles the last days of Richard Brown, a tenured Ivy League English professor who learns that he is dying of cancer, and decides to spend the next ninety minutes alternating between pedantic pontificating and trying to boink anything that he can’t drink, all the while finding comfort in his perfectly styled hair. It’s a bit like what you might get if Leaving Las Vegas had a head on collision with Dead Poets Society and Captain Jack Sparrow wandered onto the set saying “I saw the whole thing, Officer” and for lack of a better idea, they let him play the lead as long as he promised to attempt an American accent and stay awake through most of it. The Professor is the kind of film that wants you to believe it possesses insight, human drama and depth, and in fairness, it does have all but three of those things.
2. THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE
When you’re making Quentin Tarantino look like a paragon of good taste and restraint, “ya done f***ed up”, as Trevor Noah would say. Former Disney kid Hillary Duff stars as Sharon Tate, as the film chronicles the last three days of her life, playing off an old interview the actress gave wherein she mentioned a dream that some said foreshadowed her death. It’s a certainly creepy thought, but the filmmakers use it as a jumping off point to portray Tate as being riddled with full on elaborate supernatural visions, which is to say the least tacky, and to say the most surprisingly dull. The movie is so sluggishly paced and the acting so wooden and silly that any attempts at trying to create a spooky atmosphere fall utterly flat. Duff is trying so hard to stay committed to her hammy impersonation that she has a hard time focusing on anything else, which is made even more puzzling because whoever the hell she is trying to impersonate it certainly isn’t Sharon Tate – Madelaine Kahn? Joan Collins? Hugo Weaving? – Even worse than the acting is the stilted, heavy handed and just plain laughable dialogue, as Sharon and her friends clumsily and ironically ruminate about the nature of fate for what feels far longer than the 90 minute run time (“We call all look back at the choices we’ve made – the roads taken and not taken – and wonder if this all life has in store for us. But, as for you, Sharon Tate . . . well, I think life is working out exactly how it’s supposed to.”). The final third turns into Cape Fear as we see Sharon and company fight off the attackers, killing them all. But as Sharon roams the grounds as the police investigate the crime scene, she approaches one of the bodies and pulls back the cover to reveal (dum dum dum!) her own face. The movies presents the preposterous and wildly offensive conclusion that the she was trapped by the insidious machinations of fate because of reasons.
And the Worst Movie of 2019 is . . .
If you’re talking about the 10 worst films of 1959, you don’t leave out Plan 9 From Outer Space because of the low budget, and Loqueesha has caused enough of a stir to earn its place in bad cinema history somewhere up there with The Room and Troll 2 (though at least you can laugh at those films. I should know, I was in Troll 2).
Writer/director Jeremy Saville also stars as Joe (he’s multi-talented, except for the talent part) , a middle aged, divorced, white bartender, who dispenses advice and armchair psychology to his customers all day. After counseling a woman struggling with relationship problems, Joe is encouraged to audition for a local radio time slot. Joe hesitates to apply, but auditions in the hopes that he can make enough money to afford sending his son to a private school. After getting rejected by the station, he decides that it is because “they don’t want me, they want women and minorities!” He resubmits an audition recording as “Loqueesha”, a no-nonsense sassy black woman, and becomes a national success
The moment the trailers hit the internet, a collective “WTF?” went up through cyberspace, and with good reason. The movie starts out with the premise that a white man must pretend to be a black woman in order to get a job and goes downhill from there. But for just a moment, let’s set aside the dumbfounding and wildly offensive minstrel show element, as well as the ridiculous and tone-deaf world view. The fact is that Saville, who seems to be basking in the glow of his own perceived cleverness and versatility in every painful frame, has no talent of any kind, and the voice could never be mistaken for anything other than a guy who got banned from his improv class. It’s a performance made all the worse by the fact that the filmmaker is so clearly in love with his leading man (whether you believe that Saville is a genuine racist or not, his embarrassing level of narcissism is undeniable.).
Loqueesha is destined to be written about in chronicles of the very worst that film has to offer for many years to come, but without the cult following that comes with the kind inept of bad drama or horror movie that you memorize and chortle at during a late night screening. To put it simply, it doesn’t even succeed as a failure.