Film & TV

The Most Appalling Films of 2018

Christian Bale (left) as Dick Cheney and Sam Rockwell (right) as George W. Bush in Adam McKay’s VICE, an Annapurna Pictures release. (Matt Kennedy/Annapurna Pictures 2018)
Ranging from awful to atrocious, here are ten movies from 2018 you should be glad you missed.

This year I practiced a little self-care. Mostly I avoided seeing films I didn’t think I would like. So don’t ask me for my take on Deadpool 2, Hotel Transylvania 3, or The Spy Who Dumped Me. I haven’t seen them. Nevertheless, some of the year’s most anticipated and/or highly praised films turned out to be grotesque abominations that should be relocated from the home-video department of Best Buy to the kindling department of Home Depot. Here are ten movies that appalled me in 2018.

10. Avengers: Infinity War. Okay, overall the film isn’t terrible. But that ending was just a waste of everyone’s time. It’s going to lead to the biggest “Never mind!” in movie history. It risks casting the whole Marvel universe under a cloak of absurdity in which nothing matters, and it’s the closest the Marvel series has come to a shark-jumping moment. If you want us to be emotionally invested in your story, don’t trifle with us like this.

9. The Front Runner. A hilariously mistimed effort to resurrect the image of failed 1988 presidential candidate Gary Hart, Jason Reitman’s inept, trite political drama portrays reporters as a pesky, intrusive enemy who went way too far when they uncovered character flaws in a politician who literally dared them to follow him around. The problem is that Reitman, who grew up in a celebrity community (his dad directed Ghostbusters), looks at Hart as a fellow intruded-upon member of a very special club who should have been granted his privacy. In fact, as today’s Left rarely tires of reminding us, the press performs a useful function when it exposes the personal as well as professional failings of those who seek the highest office in the land. No surprise that this movie flopped.

8. Tag. A cute Wall Street Journal story about a group of middle-aged men who have an ongoing game of sneak-attack dating back to childhood was perfect for the A-hed column. But as so often happens, the studio didn’t detect the yawning chasm between “great newspaper story” and “great movie” until this effort was plunging to its box-office death. To make a nice story of friendship wacky and energetic enough for Jackass fans, the filmmakers upended the comedy-cliché dumpster, bringing in dumb slapstick, making Jeremy Renner’s character a sort of Matrix-time ninja, and trying to get laughs out of gay panic and even a suspected miscarriage.

7. Sorry to Bother You. For about the 500th time, a movie that was considered hilarious in the thin air of Park City, Utah, during the Sundance Film Festival just looked pathetic and amateurish at sea level. This slapdash, student-film-level satire about a black man who uses his nerdy “white voice” to make it to the top of the telemarketing world pushes inane sci-fi Marxism in a plot about supposedly oppressed masses in today’s Bay Area cubicles. That this strident, witless comedy about fighting the corporate power enticed Megan Ellison to blow millions of dollars her daddy earned selling software to corporate America is the only funny thing about it.

6. Fahrenheit 11/9. This time flapping his gums in the general direction of Donald Trump, about whom he has already made two movies and a stage play, Michael Moore is trying hard to get out in front of the Resistance parade. In fact it has already passed him by. This movie grossed approximately six bucks at the box office. Buh-bye, Michael.

5. The Oath. Comic Ike Barinholtz tries to deal with his Trump Derangement Syndrome by writing and directing a movie about fanatical liberals who spend all day on the phone excitedly clocking every twist in the Trump saga so they can keep their outrage flowing. This tends to interfere with institutions such as, say, a Thanksgiving gathering and leads the Barinholtz character to kidnap and torture government agents who stand for everything that’s supposedly gone awry in America. The film is, however, a useful blueprint to the mindset of paranoid progressives, who every time a Republican occupies the White House convince themselves that America is becoming a police state.

4. A Wrinkle in Time. A would-be sci-fi blockbuster filtered through the twinkly New Age sensibility of Oprah Winfrey, Disney’s epic debacle showed that a story about two kids traveling through the universe in search of their dad can be as exciting as sitting through a filmstrip on personal hygiene. Trying to rescue their father from a supernatural force, Meg Murry and her little brother Charles plod through one dull, convoluted expository scene after another while director Ava DuVernay abandons the novel’s Christianity in favor of a gooey kumbaya porridge of self-help nonsense. Winfrey’s glam-giant look, though, is hilarious.

3. Suspiria. A wallow in the supernatural and the subconscious can be brilliant (see Mandy) or it can be more like the two-and-a-half-hour jackhammer-headache that is this remake of the gonzo 1970s horror film about a witches’ coven masquerading as a ballet school in Cold War West Berlin. The scene in which a dancer’s limbs get grotesquely twisted and broken isn’t even the most grueling part of this sickening (but not particularly scary) torture-fest. Mostly it’s a morass of unexplained images and narrative non-sequiturs.

2. Aquaman. Even the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise took three films before it became as silly and self-undermining as this blockbuster bouillabaisse featuring underwater fish-mobiles, Julie Andrews as the voice of a monster, the fatally bland Patrick Wilson as an evil king, and a hero who acts like he’s at a keg party: “What’s with the big fork?” is how he reacts to a trident. The very definition of a meaningless CGI garbage tornado. Truly, I’d rather watch Green Lantern again.

1. Vice. What else could top the charts but the movie that thinks Dick Cheney’s heart attacks are comedy gold?

The Daily Beast: “May be the worst movie of the year . . . Borowitz-level-satire, embarrassing and awfully reductive . . . An all-out assault on the senses, and not in a good way . . . a baffling tonal hodgepodge.”

Time: “Exhausting . . . turns Dick Cheney into a cartoon villain . . . why does it treat its audience like idiots? . . . [It seeks to] edify and punish us, all in one movie — and make us pay actual money for the experience? Sounds like a con to me.”

Slate: “Doesn’t just fail as comedy. It fails as history . . . hews to what V. I. Lenin denounced as ‘infantile leftism.’ . . . the characters in Vice are played like cartoon stick figures.”

The Wrap: “This isn’t the film we need right now.”

Variety: “A vengeful circus for liberals . . . a preaching-to-the-choir movie.”

Me: “A spastic mess, an angry upchuck.”

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