Posted January 4, 2023

 

An interesting thing happened at the movies during the past year.   

I was attending a screening for a movie that shall remain nameless (other than to say that it graces the list of shame below) and there was a family with young kids sitting several rows in front of me.  The movie in question was a large scale blockbuster, but one of the overstuffed, overlong and assembly line dullness variety.  There was a point during the screening when the kids got up out of their chairs and walked away, but not to go to the bathroom or to get a drink/popcorn refill.  They started to play with the exit doors.  When their parents rightfully went over and told them to stop being nuisances to the other patrons, the kids sat back down...but then they started to squirm, fidget and play with their seats' electronic recliner buttons.  The tykes then proceeded to make propeller noises to mimic some sort of hydraulic lift.  The parents told them to "shush!" many times, but I for one became kind of fascinated by this behavior, so much so that I started to forget that I was there to watch a movie. 

Then it dawned on me.  These kids were so bored senseless by everything that was on screen that they felt the need to entertain themselves by toying around with the theater doors and recliners.  Worse and more revealing yet?  I was more enamored with observing this behavior than anything the movie had to offer me.  It was at this point when I realized that the filmmakers have fundamentally failed their audience - both young and old alike. 

I've been seeing a rather odd discourse on social media over the last few years that admonishes year end WORST FILMS lists because they're perceived as being "mean spirited" and "hurtful" towards filmmakers and films (the standard line I here is that movies are hard to make  and criticizing them is offensive to the people and hours put into making them.  Say what?!  This type of rhetoric seems to be completely antithetical to what film criticism is all about.  I've spent a better part of my life championing great movies and their equally great filmmakers and celebrate such efforts in my annual BEST FILMS lists (and have been doing so for nearly two decades).  Having said that, you can prop up masterful films and lambaste mediocre ones in equal measure.  Plus, am I supposed to play nice with a film/filmmaker if the end result of "hard work" is indefensible trash?  Making films is a huge and stress inducing undertaking.  No one should doubt or minimize that, but cinema can't evolve, mature, and get better without legitimate forms of criticism.  Giving a film a free pass regardless of its quality seems pretty illegitimate to me.  

The films listed below need to be held accountable.  They not only wasted many precious hours of my life that I will never, ever get back, but they also surely wasted the valuable time of countless others that went to them in good faith and came out feeling cheated.  2022 - as was the case with every year that I've been a critic - had its ups and downs for quality releases, but the below listed ten were of the bottom of the barrel variety and scraped said barrel bottom until reaching dirt.  Consider this list a public service as opposed to something venomously hostile.  Who among us wouldn't want to be told "avoid these films and save yourself the burden and cost?"

I'll start with the single WORST film of 2022 and then discuss some very worthy (or should I say unworthy?) runners-up:

 
 

MOONFALL

 
 

I've never had such an easy time selecting my worst film of the year than I did with MOONFALL, a spectacularly awful would-be thought-provoking and epic sci-fi thriller that I described in my original review as being so bad that it was "an accident masquerading as a movie."  You also know that a movie is in deep, deep trouble when it completely foregoes a theatrical release here in Canada (despite opening in cinemas in the U.S. and elsewhere).  Ironically, MOONFALL was shot in Canada and our Mongrel Media citied concerns over COVID earlier in 2022 as for why they didn't release it.  Hmmmmm...perhaps this distributor had the keen foresight to unceremoniously bury it versus giving it any theatrical playtime. 

And this was not some sort of putrid micro-budget indie.  This was a massive $140 million production directed by Roland Emmerich, whose previous films - yes - I have mostly defended as an apologist.  I just couldn't - with any clear conscience - defend this space themed disaster picture on any level.  The actors are made up of Oscar winners and nominees that look like they're about to say "Do it for the paycheck!" after every take, the VFX (usually an Emmerich strong suit) are abysmally rendered in spite of the resources available, and the actual science on display in this science fiction effort was so nonsensically dopey that it made ARMAGEDDON look like INTERSTELLAR.  Perhaps most offensive of all was that MOONFALL made NASA scientists look like misguided imbeciles and made the "hero" of the picture a subscriber to crackpot conspiracy theories.  That's certainly a tone deaf approach these days considering how rampant misinformation is ravaging the world, but that and so much more made me react with such condemnation for MOONFALL several months ago.  This was easily the most idiotically scripted and executed disaster pictures that I've ever seen, making it highly worthy of its worst film of the year moniker.

 

 

 

 

PINOCCHIO

 

 

If it were not for the release of MOONFALL then PINOCCHIO - Disney's umpteenth live action adaptation of one of their beloved animated classics - would have easily been the worst film of 2022 for me.  I'm not sure what was more mind-blowing about this woefully misguided venture - that it was directed by the usually assured and Oscar winning filmmaker Robert Zemeckis or that it starred multiple Oscar winning actor Tom Hanks.  

BTW, this was their first film collaborating together in nearly twenty years. 

Let that settle in for a bit.

I can't think of a 2022 film that was more guilty of misappropriating fine talent than PINOCCHIO, which emerged as easily one of the most soulless, cynical minded, and terribly unnecessary films of the year that was.  I've spoken at great length about how utterly needless all of these live action redos of the House of Mouse's animated catalogue have been over the years, but what made this PINOCCHIO fall so flatly and be so mindlessly dead on arrival was that it did nothing fresh and novel with the very cherished source material, outside of spiffy CGI cosmetic upgrades and some very minor tweaks to the story.  If you're going to just lazily rehash the original beat for beat then what is the point?  Disney's 1940 feature film represented a pioneering watershed picture as far as the industry and animation genre was concerned, and one that blazed a trail for the studio into becoming a leading titan of daring innovation.  Flash-forward 82 years and...well...this is what they're pawning off on families.  The titular character may have been a wooden puppet that came to life via magic, but this live action remake was mournfully lacking in it.

 

 

THE REQUIN

 

I'm a real sucker for creature feature and outdoor survival thrillers.  And I also like actress Alicia Silverstone quite a bit.  But the Le Van Kiet directed THE REQUIN -  which starred the CLUELESS actress as a vacationing wife whose Vietnam based resort property gets whisked out to sea during a devastating tropical storm, leaving her and her horribly injured husband stranded and facing off against a killer shark -  never once gripped me because it was easily one of the phoniest looking thrillers that I've sat through in many a moon. 

Here's the deal: Kiet made this entire film on soundstages and utilized (it has been reported) over 1000 VFX shots with a budget that wouldn't have covered the catering on an MCU film.  That's kind of ambitious, when you think about it.  The main problem, though, with this approach of not shooting anything on location for a scant $10 million is that the level of movie fakery on display here ranged from middling to shockingly bad.  All I could think of while watching THE REQUIN was how much better served this film could have been with either (a) a higher budget or (b) a better director using better methods.  There's very few - if any - shots or sequences contained within this failed aquatic scarefest that ever made me believe that this poor woman was ever really in the middle of the ocean fending for her life.  And because THE REQUIN used shoddy digital effects and computer compositing throughout, there was just no level of grounded and believable terror to be had here.  Hell, I couldn't even appreciate it on a level of a pure retro-grade B-picture.  Silvestone gave it her commendable all in the film, but everything built around her betrayed that performance good will.  And, yes, far better survival thrillers on minuscule budgets featuring storms and rampaging wildlife have been made (look at 2019's infinitely better CRAWL), but THE REQUIN - by direct comparison - was all washed up with no where to go. 

 

 

AMBULANCE

 

 

No worst of the year list would be complete (sigh) without a Michael Bay flick of masturbatory excess occupying it.  

His chase/crime thriller AMBULANCE was nearly two and a half punishing hours...had good actors screaming at each for nearly every minute of said running time....had frequent usage of dizzying and sometimes vomit-inducing remote drone camera dollies that are used over and over again to eye fatiguing levels...had virtually no shots that lasted longer than 3-5 seconds...and had paper thin characters and lead footed scripting.  Oh, and this attention deficit disorder piece of shameful Bayhem was a remake of a 2005 Danish film.  

I felt like I was going to need an ambulance after suffering through AMBULANCE.  

Or...maybe an - cough, cough! - am-BAY-lance.   

Next...

 

 

THE KING'S DAUGHTER

 
 

If you had no idea whatsoever that this film existed then you're not alone.   

It's typically a bad sign when a film has its release delayed over and over again.  That's usually the ultimate kiss of death sentence for its quality and box office success.   

Consider the plight of THE KING'S DAUGHTER, a period romantic fantasy that was shot on a not-so-inconsiderable sum of $40 million back in 2014 (yup...that's eight years go!) and was supposed to be released the following year.  Then there were production delays to spruce up the film's visual effects and then - as an added kick to the baby makers - Paramount Pictures opted to cancel the film's release altogether and indefinitely.  The rights to the film were acquired by another company, which finally mercy dumped it to the box office graveyard period of January of 2022, which led to it dying as quickly as it was released.  COVID has dealt a massively harsh blow to the film industry over the past few years, but the sad saga of the production and release of THE KING'S DAUGHTER cannot be blamed on pandemic woes.  There's a simpler reason why this film was shelved, then picked up, and then given a little to next to no fanfare release.

It sucked.  

This was as vanilla bland and painfully generic as romantic fantasy pictures go.  

 

 
 

\FISTFUL OF VENGEANCE

 
 

A Netflix production makes its first appearance on this list.  From what I've read online, FISTFUL OF VENGEANCE was a standalone movie sequel to the TV series WU ASSASSINS, which the streaming giant also produced and ended abruptly without tying up narrative loose ends.  If you have not seen the series (and I certainly did not) then FISTFUL OF VENGEANCE will prove to be a befuddlingly hard watch and leave viewers (including myself) hopelessly lost throughout it.  Like a superficially glitzy, colorful, and hyperactive 90 minute musical video that tried to impersonate a film, FISTFUL OF VENGEANCE inspired intense boredom in me.  I think that cast and crew here were aiming for the whimsical charm and adrenaline induced and gracefully choreographed action sequence glory days of Jackie Chan, but everyone here was reduced to blank expressioned action figures being haphazzardly thrust into one brainless and chaotic scene after another.   

A better title would have been A HANDFUL OF MEDIOCRITY. 

 

 
 

CLEAN

 

I nearly forget that this Adrian Brody passion project (no kidding...look it up) was even released during the past year.  Not only did he star in CLEAN, but he also co-wrote and co-produced it.     

Let me set this film up: 

Imagine a painfully by-the-numbers and creatively running on absolute empty action thriller exercise that's a JOHN WICK-ian inspired revenge tale, but with the death dealing Wick persona being a lowly garbage man instead of a world renowned and feared assassin for hire.   

Yes, CLEAN was about as terrible as it sounds, and Brody showed in it that he sure was a million miles removed from his Best Actor Oscar win decades ago.  If you want an instant cure for insomnia, then seek this film out.  If you've seen one film about violent men wanting to atone for their pasts that get placed on a collision course with returning to violence then you've seen them all, and CLEAN emerged as a walking genre cliché factory.  The first 20 minutes of this film did nothing for me and its remaining 70 were almost impossible to sit through without ample watch checking on my part.

 

 

BLONDE

 
 

 

What a vile piece of work BLONDE was in 2022, made all the more shameful that it was from director Andrew Dominik, who previously helmed one of the most atmospheric westerns of all time in THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. 

No film made me stare at the screen in stunned disbelief as much as Netflix's (second appearance here!) BLONDE, an NC-17 rated fictionalized biopic of the life and times of Hollywood sex symbol icon Marilyn Monroe (played thankless by Ana de Armas).  One of the saddest and sickest elements of Dominik's ghastly film was that it really didn't present the silver screen star as a living and breathing person that had a tragic existence (to be fair, Monroe wasn't squeaky clean public figure), but rather showed her as punching bag for an inexcusably long three hour running time.  Like a lurid tabloid, BLONDE presented Monroe in her most unsavory and sensationalistic moments that plagued her, and the film most certainly earned its adults only rating (one sequence involving her and President JFK was beyond irresponsibly tasteless and cruelly unfair to both parties).  Domink employed an evocative sense of style throughout (this was as exquisitely shot of a film as any in 2022), but to what point?  Just to show Monroe as someone that suffered through horrible indignities during her alarmingly brief 36 years on the planet, I guess.  BLONDE was almost pornographic in the voyeuristic extremes it took in degrading this woman, making it one of the sleaziest and exploitative biopics ever made.

 

 
 

THE BUBBLE

 
 

 

Judd Apatow's star studded THE BUBBLE was ironically influenced by the making of another WORST OF THE YEAR candidate below.   This Netflix (wow, third appearance here!) comedy - if one could call it that - concerned a lavish movie production being made during the worst parts of the COVID pandemic and all of the hijinks that come out of putting the cast and crew through ultra strict quarantine isolation and shooting protocols.  Perhaps because the pandemic was raging at the time of its release (and still is an unfortunate part of all of our lives) and causing so much pain, suffering and death that I questioned the timing of the production.    

Insensitivity was not THE BUBBLE's main issue, though, but rather that it was trying to satirize rampant Hollywood phoniness and self-importance and miserably failed at it.  Apatow has certainly made some of the most side-splitting and original comedies of the last twenty years (THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN and KNOCKED UP come to mind on top of producing ANCHORMAN and SUPERBAD), but his genre instincts were miserably AWOL in THE BUBBLE: Beyond being a - holy hell! - horrendously bloated comedy at 136 minutes, it committed the worst sin of being criminally unfunny and a chore to sit through.  If you want to watch a film that feels like spending 14 soul sucking days locked up with a group of detestable strangers with no ability to escape then THE BUBBLE is for you. 

 

 
 

JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION

 

As one of cinema's most famous Chaos Theorists might have said: 

This sequel...now that's one big pile of shit.   

I had an oh-so-difficult task before me in terms of deciding which lavish scaled and expensive Hollywood blockbuster sequel to include on this year's worst films list, and it was essentially a coin toss between JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION and the smugly absurd THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER, but I decided on the former, which is hopefully the last dino-themed entry in this franchise that frankly ran out of creative gas a very long time ago.  It's easy to look back and fondly remember what a lightning in a bottle technological watershed picture that Steven Spielberg's original JURASSIC PARK was way, way back in 1993 (celebrating its 30th anniversary this year!).  I can't think of another massive franchise that has spawned sequel after sequel of ever diminishing qualitative returns than JURASSIC PARK/WORLD, and with DOMINION I was left with the damning thought that what Spielberg dared to dream up decades ago has now just become a cash cow product to be endlessly exploited.  The sequel's fan servicing usage of the old PARK cast with the new WORLD cast was just a hastily executed marketing gimmick that didn't really pay off.  And considering the limitlessly cockamamie material given to the actors young and old here it's no wonder why many of them (especially the legacy actors) looks so disinterested and confused throughout. 

It should be noted too that DOMINION was the first Hollywood production to be resume shooting during the COVID-19 pandemic and well before life-saving vaccines were available to anyone.  Despite draconian security and safety measures used, I just have to ask one thing: Was the risk to human life worth it in terms of the final released product?  Clearly, director Colin Trevorrow and company were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.  

 

 

 

 
Well...that 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.  Consider these:
 

CrAiGeR's NEGLIGIBLE FILMS OF 2022:

 
 
SpiriteD:  One of the tackiest Christmas comedies in many a moon and one that failed to achieve any level of good will with what should have been the dynamic pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell. 

THE Man From Toronto:   Kevin Hart screamed his way through yet another aggressively unfunny action comedy; it was neither exciting or funny. 

Thor: Love and ThundeR:  Probably the final nail in the coffin for this series, with the titular character being further - and annoyingly - rendered as a nonsensical himbo; why has this once mighty franchise been rendered into sitcom absurdity?

Me TimE:  Hey look!  Another idiotic Kevin Hart comedy vehicle from Netflix making the cut; I needed some me time after enduring MET TIME.  

Blacklight:  How could a film that featured Liam Neeson and delved into the world of clandestine FBI operatives and journalists trying to uncover governmental conspiracies be so egregiously boring?

Scream:  This fourth sequel unequivocally showed that the once smart and subversive horror comedy series needs to be dead and buried once and for all. 

the 355:  We all should definitely champion action pictures with a most female-led roster considering what a sausage fest the genre has become, but this one was hardly worth anyone's time.  

the contractor:  An Amazon Prime released thinly veiled JASON BOURNE clone for Chris Pine that wasted the star's talent and brought very little - if anything - fresh to the table.

THE Desperate Hour:   This minimalist thriller from the usually assured Phillip Noyce and starring the equally dependable Naomi Watts became bogged down in idiotic plot developments. 

Marry ME:  Just say NO to this Jennifer Lopez/Owen Wilson romcom proposal. 

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of DumbledorE:  More like DUMBLE-BORE...am I right?

THE Gray Man:  This ridiculously overpriced Netflix espionage thriller from the the Russo Brothers was like a cocktail of JOHN WICK, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and JASON BOURNE...but more awful. 

Bullet TraiN:  Speaking of JOHN WICK, that film's co-director made this over-caffeinated and mostly flimsy action thriller that all but derailed off the tracks. 

Samaritan:  An Amazon Prime super hero film featuring Sylvester Stallone as an aging crime fighter forced back on the beat; I'd never thought that I'd ever say "Just watch JUDGE DREDD instead." 

Don't Worry Darling:  Behind-the-scenes making-of drama tainted this film well before its troubled rollout in cinemas, but director Olivia Wilde's sophomore effort behind the camera was hardly worth all the pre-release fuss.  

Fall:  I usually come to the defense of little engine that could films of meager budgets and resources that have high ambitions, but this was - like THE REQUIN before it - undone by its technical limitations. 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever:  This was a noble minded follow-up to one of the biggest MCU films - and films period - of all time and was done with good intentions, but the shadow of Chadwick Boseman and his character loomed too large over this problematic production.    
     
  And finally, here's a dishonorable mention list of films that I felt were more disappointing than truly awful.  Consider these:  
 

CrAiGeR's MISSED OPPORTUNITIES of 2022:

 
 

Italian StudieS:  A conceptually fascinating character study featuring a solid Vanessa Kirby, but creatively it was a mixed bag. 

THE Adam Project:  A Netflix sci-fi time travel comedy that felt too slapdash and disposable.  

Deep WateR:  Director Adrian Lyne's first film in over two decades never fully capitalized on its star power (featuring then real life couple Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas) and failed as a fully charged erotic thriller. 

MorbiuS:  This long delayed adaptation of the Marvel Comics vampire anti-hero had no memorable bite. 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnesS:  Sam Raimi returning to make a Marvel film - and one as beguiling and weird as Doctor Strange's mystical universe - should have been a slam dunk, but instead came off like an MCU committee led affair.  

MemorY:  I almost forgot that this Liam Neeson thriller came out this year.  

Spiderhead:  Director Joseph Kosinski scored big with TOP GUN: MAVERICK in 2022, but his high concept prison-themed sci-fi thriller for Netflix was simply too half-baked. 

NopE:  Writer/director Jordan Peele's hotly anticipated alien-invasion fuelled sci-fi drama had many inventive ingredients that just didn't pay off as handsomely as the filmmaker wanted.  

MeN:  Alex Garland has made some of our best sci-fi films of the last few years, but this foray into social-horror satiric waters was equal parts inaccessible and unsatisfying.  

Day ShifT:  Yet another big budgeted Netflix film that at least sported a novel concept for the heavily stuffed vampire genre, but it was more strangely quirky than enthralling.  

Thirteen LiveS:  Ron Howard made a technically astounding fact-based human survival film here, but on a dramatic level I was rarely moved by the characters or storytelling.  

Amsterdam:  This absolutely star-studded David O. Russell period dramedy was made up of too elements being tossed in for its own good.   

Black AdaM:  A problematic introduction to this classic SHAZAM villain (now retrofitted to be an anti-hero) that failed to capitalize on Dwayne Johnson's sizeable on-screen charm.  

Bodies Bodies BodieS:  This SCREAM wanna-be attempted to be a smart and subversive horror comedy that was unfortunately punctuated by too many disagreeable characters.  

Wendell & WiLD: This dream team-up of stop motion director wizard Henry Sellick and writer Jordan Peele boasted superb animation and character design, but uninspired scripting.  

Clerks IIi:  Coming long (make that very long) after the refreshingly clever 2006 sequel (that, in turn, came out long after the cherished indie darling from 1994), writer/director Kevin Smith's third return to Quick Stop scored decent laughs and had some interesting meta elements, but overall struggled to rationalize its existence.  

HALLOWEEN ENDS:  After the thoroughly disastrous HALLOWEEN KILLS and, in turn, 2018's just okay sort of sequel/ sort of reboot HALLOWEEN, writer/director David Gordon Green attempted some fresh angles with this trilogy closer, but overall it came off like a rushed affair.  

WHITE NOISE:  Writer/director Noah Baumbach - coming off his other Netflix produced drama MARRIAGE STORY - got somewhat creatively lost in his troubled adaptation of Don DeLillo's 1980s source novel.  

THE WHALE:  Brendan Fraser deserved the accolades that he received for his career rejuvenating performance in this Darren Aronofsky drama, but no amount of performance heroics by the lead star and his solid supporting players could overcome the hollowness of this film's exploitative execution.   

 

 

 

  

 

     
 

  H O M E