January 3, 2021
was honestly struggling with the idea of posting a WORST FILMS of the
year blog. Surely, this was
the worst year for the movies...and I didn't want to seem like I
was kicking the industry while it was so clearly down in the last several
question, the current and on-going COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating
impact on the movies as a whole, which began months ago with the closing
of thousands of cinemas across a larger part of the world in an effort to
curb the tide of daily infections (and it was a decision that I
supported). For the past 16
years I've frequented cinemas 2-4 times per week to screen and review films
for this site and occasionally cover them on TV, but this year when local
cinemas for me closed in March and remained closed for several months that
placed myself - and so many other critics and loving cinephiles - in a
real pickle of a situation. It
all begged the question of...what
seriously contemplated going on review hiatus and/or putting my site on
indefinite hold until movies that were supposed to be released would
release. The more I thought
about this the more I had to remind myself that there is indeed a larger movie
world beyond high marquee studio blockbusters (some of which were released
via streaming, and, yes, I would need a whole other blog to talk about the
polarizing subject of releasing movies concurrently in cinemas and on
demand). The more I deeply
looked the more movies I discovered, a measure that I think that all true movie
devotees should attempt. Then
I noticed that many of the YouTube reviewers that I stood by and watched in
previous years all but gave up on covering movies this year...and that
felt wrong. Cinemas closed,
but movies remained out there to consume.
how does this bring me to my WORST FILMS of the year blog?
Well, I didn't want to give up on the movies this year, which also
meant that I didn't want to give up on this annual tradition either.
All in a all - and despite visiting cinemas just twice since last
March - I watched just nine less movies in 2020 than I did in 2019 (which
I'm proud of under the circumstances) and some of them were indeed great
(which will see the light of day in my upcoming BEST FILMS of the year
blog), whereas many others were unmitigated stinkers that deserve their
wall of shame inclusion on the list below.
And as I also preach every year as I post these blogs, there are
movies that need to be championed and celebrated alongside others that,
movies below - no matter how one watched them in the last twelve months -
were thoroughly unworthy of either a cinema ticket price or an at-home
begin with 2020's worst offering, followed by nine other candidates...
If you want to
see a movie involving Russell Crowe punch, kick, stab, choke, set on fire,
and torture women and children for 90 minutes...then by God, this is your
others...be afraid. Be very
UNHINGED was most
certainly not the worst made movie from 2020 on a level of production
It was competently helmed. No,
my issues with this nauseating film were much different and vast. In short, UNHINGED was the kind of mad stalker thriller
(which were made a dime a dozen in the industry decades ago to the point
of eye rolling saturation) that egregiously wanted to have its cake and
eat it to. On one hand, it
desired to be a salaciously blood-soaked road rage thriller on a
level of thoughtless, B-grade grindhouse fare. On
the other hand, the makers of UNHINGED also wanted their tale to be a
platform as a commentary piece. That
rang so falsely offensive to me. This
film might have worked as a pure camp-filled expose of a madman, but it
wanted to say something meaningful about toxic masculinity, road rage
violence, violence against women, and the ever thinning line between
thinking about violence and actually committing it. And trust me when I say this, but UNHINGED had nothing
meaningful to say about any of these issues. Like another recent WORST FILM of the year winner for me in
2018's DEATH WISH,
UNHINGED thought is was attentively dealing with the mental health of
wounded men and the nature of mass societal violence caused by these men,
but then it just reveled in showing us scene after scene of senseless
slaughter to the point of being emotionally numbing.
was as off-putting of a movie as I saw in 2020, and the Oscar winning
Russell Crowe - appearing in beyond-obvious paycheck cashing mode -
definitely should have known better.
pathetically sad is it that FANTASY ISLAND was one of the few films that I
saw in a cinema in the pandemic scarred year that was?
a reboot/re-imagining that was so categorically arduous to sit
through that I spent most of my screening thinking about the awful
restaurant meal that I had before
Of course, this film was a silver screen adaptation of the late
1970s and early 1980s ABC TV series of the same name that involved a
vacation resort where travelers from across the world come to and
literally live out their deepest desires and wildest wishes.
FANTASY ISLAND was produced by Blumhouse, a studio that, to be
fair, has made some decent horror genre efforts in various forms (like GET
OUT to HAPPY DEATH DAY
to THE GIFT), but where in their
right minds did they think that modern audiences wanted a horror inspired
remake of a quaint television series from so many decades ago that the
same said modern audiences probably have no fondness for or memory of? FANTASY
ISLAND was proof positive that putrid conceptual ideas for movies are best
left unmade; this was as embarrassing of a wrongheaded movie production of
any in recent memory. And
the absolute nerve of this film to hint at a sequel in its finale that
(a) will probably never get made and (b) very few viewers will probably be
clamoring for in the slightest.
Yes, I sat
through this Mel Gibson starring hurricane themed thriller.
And yes, it was a thoroughly traumatizing experience for me.
to be confused with the late 90s Sandra Bullock/Ben Affleck romcom of
nearly the same name, FORCE OF NATURE was kind of a double dipping
offender as far as movies go. It
was not only an action thriller of startling, insomnia curing blandness,
but it also managed to be so senselessly and inexcusably exploitative of
a real life and recent environmental tragedy, which is its worst criminal
offence, in my books. This
amateurishly handled $23 million budgeted production featured a story of a
group of Puerto Rican apartment dwellers trying to evacuate their homes
during Hurricane Maria (yes, the real one that occurred) while a band of
nefarious criminals wreak havoc on them. FORCE
OF NATURE dubiously contained Dollar Store scripting, some terribly
phoned-in performances, and a lack of basic creativity. But
the movie also indecently propped up the very real-life hurricane that
cost 5000 people their lives for the purposes of making a piece of cheaply
disposable entertainment. Add
in some unpleasant white savior elements to the story (featuring
Gibson's white cop saving people of color against other vile people of
color) and what we're left with in FORCE OF NATURE was something uniquely
remember this Kevin James as a neo-Nazi film from last year?
aside, I'm no prude.
I like trash, in the right circumstances.
And BECKY is absolutely worthy of the moniker of retrograde trash
in terms of its HOME ALONE-esque narrative of a young teenage girl
violently defending herself against a barrage of criminal scum. However,
this was simply bad trash in terms of putting a rather bad taste in my mouth
after watching it, especially for the manner it took deeply sadistic glee
in showing a borderline psychotic adolescent inflicting savage
comeuppance on her adult prey. To
be fair, there have been solid sensationalistic films involving female
protagonists murdering people by the dozens (see REVENGE),
but there was something just wrong about thrusting an elementary
school age girl into the mix. BECKY
was more sickening to watch than thrilling as a result, making the
whole endeavor kind of sickly exploitative. And
even the stunt casting of PAUL
BLART himself in an aggressively against-type role didn't assist
this movie at all, seeing as he was simply not credible as a loathsome neo-Nazi thug. Like UNHINGED before it, BECKY celebrated
its savagery far too much for my tastes.
I remember Roger
Ebert's review of MAD DOG TIME from years ago, which began with describing
it as "the first movie I've seen that does not improve on the sight
of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time."
I couldn't think of a finer way to sum up the incessantly terrible
workplace comedy LIKE A BOSS, which proved that you can take a trio of
likeable and talented actresses like Rose Byrne, Tiffany Haddish, and
Salma Hayek and give them virtually nothing to work with that's worthy of
"comedy" (sarcastic quotes intended) was from director Miguel
Areta, who previously made the absolutely wonderful and terribly
underrated comedy CEDAR RAPIDS
a few years ago.
LIKE A BOSS represented a serious demotion for him, which delved
into an "Idiot Plot Syndromed" tale of a pair of cosmetic
entrepreneurs that end up waging war against an ultra rich businesswoman
that wants to steal their ideas and sell them as her own.
LIKE A BOSS was unintentionally insulting to not only its female
characters (all of which are written as monumentally dumb), but to female
viewers that had to sit through such degrading drivel that tries to pass
itself off as a female empowerment piece.
Plus, the film is an utter comic dead zone all but void of even
LIKE A BOSS was released back in January pre-pandemic lockdown and
closures, which seems deeply unfair.
There were so many other films infinitely better that deserved
theatrical release; this one barely achieved the moniker of a horrible and
forgettable direct-to-VOD title that had no place being given the cinema
light of day.
The fact that
DOLITTE ended with a dragon massively farting into Robert Downey Jr.s wide
open mouth and eyes - followed by the IRON MAN star shoving his hands up
the same monster's ass and pulling out a set of bagpipes - was very, very
worthless piece of garbage that was masquerading as a joyous piece of family
entertainment cost over $200 million to produce, and it most certainly deserved
its box office bomb status even well before the pandemic had its
way with box office receipts. The
proverbial writing was on the wall for this dud a long time ago, though.
Just consider: It was a remake of a remake of an adaptation of a
book. It was shot years ago
and then was followed up by nearly 30 days of reshoots.
It then had its release changed not once, not twice, but three
times. It was then
unceremoniously dumped in pre-COVID cinemas back in January, a month
that's routinely acknowledged in the industry as one that you release
movies in to die.
not even sure an actor with as limitlessly likeable of a presence of
Downey Jr. could have saved this thoroughly unpleasant turd.
Perhaps what's most damning about DOLITTLE is how the lead actor
himself is largely AWOL here, as he churned out a frustratingly
idiosyncratic performance on nonsensical autopilot featuring one of the
most non-region specific accents I've heard in a movie.
It's funny that so many thought that TENET's
sound mix was a mess.
Well, try making any discernable sense of what Downey's trying to
gruffly and monosyllabically speak here. Good luck!
Here's a movie
that made so many unpardonable mistakes in front of and behind the camera
that I grew dizzy just contemplating it when I screened it back in the
fair, I've admired some films on writer/director David Ayer's resume, like
his script for TRAINING DAY or his terribly little seen World War II
tank-centric drama in FURY to, hell,
even his SUICIDE SQUAD,
which I still concede was better than most let on.
But his latest in THE TAX COLLECTOR was a meandering and
bewilderingly bad gangster drama that managed to wholly lose my interest
in it within minutes, which led to the following 90 minutes feeling like
holy hell, don't even get me started on the hilariously inappropriate
white washed casting of Shia LaBeouf (a great actor when compelled to be
and given the right material and parts) as an insensitively caricatured
It was just one on a laundry list of many truly dreadful creative
decisions that plagued THE TAX COLLECTOR, which - as far as the gangster
genre goes - commits two sins for the price of one: it was offensive and
dull in equal measure.
but was this movie ever a mess in its released form.
Not only that, but it emerged as one of 2020's most awkwardly
rushed would-be franchise starters, and one that barely felt like it even
deserved future installments in the first place.
from director Kenneth Branagh (WTF?!), ARTEMIS FOWL was like some unholy
combination of HARRY POTTER and MEN IN BLACK, but with none of the
creativity or ethereal magic of those franchises.
This production was set for failure from the start, which
began way, way back in 2001, after which time it went into
development hell before finally be produced and set for initial release in
the summer of 2019.
Disney balked, and opted to wait until 2020, and then the pandemic
reared its ugly head, which prompted the House of Mouse to dump this dud
on its streaming service for free.
This fantasy cost $130 million to make, and it contained some
moments of visual interest, but it's among the most good looking dull
movies that I've come across as of late, and one with no lingering staying
its core mythology is convoluted to the point of inspiring endless
ARTEMIS FOWL was most foul, indeed.
among us wanted a sequel (shot four years ago and released this past year)
to one of the most iconic cult comedies of the last twenty-five years that was
not written or directed by the Coen Brothers, didn't featuring "The
Dude" or bowling (for the most part), and instead involved a very
small fringe character that's so insufferable that he barely deserved our
rooting interest for a 90-plus minute film in the first place?
take a page out of John Turturro's titular character, "You're not
fooling me, man!"
I love giving
directors a second chance for redemption.
Hell, I've given M. Night Shyamalan more chances than I have
A few years back he displayed so much unbridled promise with his
found footage super hero thriller CHRONICLE that I honestly thought that
he could do no wrong.
Then came his unimaginably poor FANTASTIC FOUR reboot, which was not only all kinds
of wrong, but also placed on my list of the TEN WORST FILMS of its year.
After that disaster - and a huge misstep on social media of biting
the industry hand that fed him - I believed that Trank's career was over.
He resuscitated himself in 2020 with a comeback vehicle, of sorts,
in CAPONE, which propped up a compelling idea (showing us a portrait of a
sickly, post prison gangster suffering
from crippling neurosyphilis), but one that sadly represented a failure of
Even though the film featured yet another commendably committed
performance of sheer absurdity by Tom Hardy in the titular role, Trank's
whole handling of the character at this period of his life never achieved
any kind of sustained creative lift-off.
Months later, I still consider it borderline unwatchable hot
garbage and one that was more of a self-indulgently made endurance test
than a compelling character piece.
felt good. My TEN WORST
list is complete...but I'm not done yet! Here are a few more films that were not
terrible enough to make the TEN WORST, but were easily forgettable all the same.
NEGLIGIBLE FILMS OF 2020
LAST THING HE WANTED:
anyone out think fondly of this dreary and uninspired Anne Hathaway/Ben Affleck
starring Netflix effort from earlier in the year?
BOYS FOR LIFE:
a meaningful sequel than it was a dutifully manufactured nostalgia
generating product to make a quick box office buck.
This homage to Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW with modern day
surveillance twists had a decent premise that was undone by
Netflix misfire that featured and paycheck grabbing Mark Wahlberg
desperately mugging at the camera in hopes of spawning a new
Netflix misfire that tried to cash in on the buddy cop
formula, but failed to generate any serious comedic
of Pixar's oddest animated efforts was also one of its most subpar
A vastly inferior
remake of the 2014 Swedish dark comedy original in FORCE MAJEURE
that utterly squandered the comedic talent of Will Ferrell and
KING OF STATEN ISLAND:
This unfathomably long (136 minutes!?) coming of age comedy from
writer/director Judd Apatow was simply too bloated to sit through.
This Bonnie and Clyde for the Internet generation thriller had
very little to say as a social commentary piece.
SHOULD HAVE LEFT:
Koepp directed/Kevin Bacon starring horror thriller was a definitive
PWP film, or one that contained a "premise without payoff."
of the strangest films that I've seen in many a moon - and
featuring a commendably go-for-broke performance by Daniel
Radcliffe - was simply too empty minded for its own good.
MAX original road trip comedy seemed to be way too frivolously
cute and cuddly with its underlining subject matter.
eccentrically weird biopic of Nikola Tesla that never fully came
together as a meaningful portrait of the famous inventor's life.
passionless retread of the much better Hitchcock original of the
ingredients were here in this Norwegian thriller to make for an
intriguing take on the super hero genre, but the resulting film
landed with such a morose and unsatisfactory thud.
Ron Howard meant well with this adaptation of J.D. Vance's coming
of age memoir of the same name, but it was pure poverty porn
without much genuine dramatic substance.
lost tract of how many utterly unnecessary Disney live action
remakes of their animated classics exist, and this one certainly
wasn't the worst of the bunch, but it was the most cynical
||And finally, here's a dishonorable
mention list of films that I felt were more disappointing than
OPPORTUNITIES of 2020
globetrotting spy/revenge thriller that felt like a greatest hits
package of so many other far better tunes.
CALL OF THE WILD:
was easily the best Harrison Ford acting opposite of a CG dog
film that I've ever seen (sarcasm more than intentional).
potentially compelling take on the most dangerous game/man
hunting man premise that generated a lot of pre-release
controversy, but was ultimately shrug inducing.
LAST FULL MEASURE:
very noble minded Vietnam War drama about correcting sinful
governmental wrongs failed to pack any sizeable dramatic impact.
One of Vin
Diesel's better non-FAST AND FURIOUS action pictures, but its
somewhat misguided choices didn't make me clamor for more sequels
promised in the end.
winning performances by Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae, this Netflix
romcom bared too many similarities to better genre efforts like
DATE NIGHT and GAME NIGHT.
intriguing genre mishmash (part haunted house horror film, part
World War II drama) utterly capsized due to the weight of some of
its incredulous third act plot twists.
SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA:
funny and appealingly weird comedy that dealt with the world of
the real life titular international competition ended up being
about a half hour too long to maintain my sustained interest.
infamously doomed X-MEN universe centered production - which was
supposed to be released years ago - ended up being a lot more
progressive minded with some of its characters than I was
expecting, but the rest of the film built around some good ideas
was of the ho-hum variety.
radiant and commanding Jessica Chastain carried this otherwise
throwaway spy thriller.
minded post-apocalyptic time travel thriller suffered from some
severe miscasting of its main protagonist and a lack of cleverness
with its temporal hopping narrative.
Director Sofia Coppola and star Bill Murray teamed up again for
movie the first time since LOST IN TRANSLATION, but their combined
efforts should have resulted in a better effort.
somewhat nifty take on the body swap and 1980s slasher films
genres had superb lead performances, but not nearly enough
H O M E