The Low Points of 2018 by Zephyr Ash Ostrowski

So, there were quite a few films that I recommended in the last article. But for everything that’s good, there are those that miss the mark. Some tried their hardest but couldn’t stick the landing. Others were just flat-out torture to sit through. And let’s face it, more people are curious to read about the bad stuff because it’s much more entertaining to see a critic have to recall the low points of the year. I’m not going to waste anymore time so let’s just jump in with the worst films I watched in 2018. Just like the other list, the only stipulation is that I had to have seen the film within the calendar year.

The Worst Films of 2018:

The Predator: Folks, I really don’t need to explain why this made the cut when you can just read my article. It boggles my mind that some people think the film is better than what it clearly shows but I don’t plan to waste my time trying to figure that out. Heck, the short holiday special was much better despite it being a third-rate Robot Chicken sketch. I am more than happy to leave this film in the dust where it belongs and hope that 2019 is a better year for autism depiction in film because this was atrocious.

Hurricane Bianca: From Russia With Hate: Look, I get it. Comedy is difficult to do in the Trump era. There are so many jokes you can make before you sound like a broken record. When you bring queer material to the table, the range is much narrower. Case in point, this monstrosity. This sequel does nobody any favors, especially when the first one was just rather okay by most standards. It’s every single gay joke you’ve heard concerning Russia and US relations as a movie with a tiny handful of self-deprecating comments and slurs thrown about. Queer films can and have been better in 2018.

The Cloverfield Paradox: Since 10 Cloverfield Lane, word about a third installment was hush-hush. Then the trailer dropped during the Super Bowl, advertising it would launch after the game. A movie from a successful franchise that premieres only in hours? That’s some great marketing. Problem is, this was a far cry from the first two installments and was incredibly dull for a space film. You know where it’s going to land and you’re better off watching the first two films again. At the very least, the viral websites from 2008 were updated to reflect Paradox, meaning that there’s some more lore (which I’m always down for).

A Wrinkle in Time: I’ll give this film props for having a young minority actress in the lead role as well as some striking visuals reminiscent of a Yes album. However, the film is weighed down by the protagonist’s obnoxiously precocious brother and some underdeveloped story elements. My partner and I went to see it because I wanted to support the film’s crew and to see it succeed for the younger kids. I couldn’t shake the feeling of watching Bridge to Terabithia with my father over a decade ago but at least A Wrinkle in Time delivered the goods with the magical fantasy stuff unlike the former where the trailer was misleading. The box office results do put a pause on Disney’s next young adult film, Artemis Fowl. The trailer for that looks promising but will it perform at the same level as A Wrinkle in Time? We’ll see. For the here and now, this wasn’t an utterly bad film; just disappointing to the point where some script revisions could’ve elevated this into what it wanted to achieve.

Ralph Breaks the Internet: When the proposed sequel was announced years ago and stated it would be based on the Internet, I was excited because the first film was a blast to watch. As time went on, Disney collected more properties and the looming specter of capitalism reared its ugly head. Once the news got out that there would be a section of the internet devoted to Disney properties, it wasn’t so much of a light-hearted roast but more of Technicolor masturbation as it tried to tell some diluted jokes about the empire’s faults. On top of all of this, the worldbuilding and character arcs were sorely lacking in this installment.

“But what about The Lego Movie? That’s the same thing, right?” Yes and no. Yes, because it borrows other properties and tosses them into the mix with some humor. However, The Lego Movie was a more significant gamble because a lot of people were initially skeptical of a movie based on toy blocks but saw that it could be something much more. With Disney, there’s a hyperaware need for brand quality (as we saw with the ousting of James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3) and whenever Disney does decide to let their hair down, people praise their actions and it comes across as crass. It’s better done outside of the company than inside. I might write more about this difficult relationship but needless to say, I wanted a shower after sitting through Ralph Breaks the Internet.

Worst Films Seen Before 2018:

Hell and Back: Before Sausage Party hit the scene with raunchy animation in the late 2010’s, there was Hell and Back. This cynical stop-motion take on the Orpheus tale (complete with said character in a minor role) tries to make the afterlife look hilarious but it would be a few years later before NBC did it right with The Good Place. Here, it’s an ugly and unfunny film with zero character growth and some of the most unlikeable people to be put in motion. Despite the short running time, it’s a chore to sit through. Hard pass on this one.

Shrek: The Musical: Frankly, I should thank my partner’s mom for this one because it became a learning experience thanks to one incredibly offensive lyric concerning a transphobic slur in the first act. As soon as it was uttered, I looked at him and we both had this knowing pained look. Considering that the first production was in 2008, the filmed version was released in late 2013, it took until 2016 before someone piped up and the lyric was scrubbed. Eight whole years before this mistake was removed from this “family musical”. Not to mention that for something that cemented itself in animation and pop culture (for better or worse), the musical doesn’t do much in terms or memorable tunes. The one person that made out of this alive and flourished is John Tartaglia, best known as a part-creator for some characters in Avenue Q and the creator of the currently-running underwater children’s show Splash and Bubbles. Honestly, you can watch this musical and be fine but be forewarned that the official recording does have that transphobic slight.

Palindromes: The only thing going for this film is the gimmick: the main character is played by various ethnicities, genders, and ages. This idea would be revived for the Bob Dylan film I’m Not There but with far less troubling aspects. The child protagonist deals with abortion, sex with guilt-ridden adults, discussion of molestation from family members, and an assassination plot that targets abortion providers. I’m no stranger to films that deal with raw topics and depictions of adult themes but this was too much. I have absolutely zero reason to recommend this or have someone sit through it with me. Please avoid at all costs.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: Ok, so this is low-hanging fruit due to the film’s notoriety for being an utter disaster but I just had to know. There are some interesting sequences that would eventually inspire Pink Floyd: The Wall but when the plot is just a celebrity-filled fetch quest not unlike The Oogieloves with Beatles music, what exactly is the point? Across the Universe was able to do more with a similar premise and, love it or hate it, made it a work of art. If anything, it’s marginally more interesting than the Flaming Lips tribute album and that’s saying something.

Adam: Oh look, Yet Another Autism Movie. This one at least has the audacity to let him experience sex at least once as opposed to the majority of other autism depictions but that’s a really low bar. The film treats Adam’s disability as something so Gosh Darn Quirky that the girl falls for him. That’s not how this works. Not to mention it doesn’t go beyond checking off the boxes of the usual traits. You’ve seen it all before and done better like Mary and Max (only released a few months earlier), not like the bar was high to begin with.

And there you have it. Fingers crossed we have some better stuff for 2019.

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