If you can press pause on The Irishman, then I can press pause on extolling the virtues of all the wonderful films delivered to us in 2019. Those 4-star gems aren’t going anywhere, except for the Oscars. This is a post about the movies on the other end of the spectrum. I’m talking about the ones that make you sit up straight in your theater recliner and question your life choices — like why you just spent good money to deprive yourself of fresh oxygen for two hours.
Mind you, even awful movies have a few redemptive selling points. For all the harping about the adaptation of The Goldfinch, it still featured terrific performances from Nicole Kidman and Finn Wolfhard. And Hobbs & Shaw, starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, was so bloated and campy that it kind of worked, maybe. It’s also no fun to throw stones at low-bar-setting cheapies with zero aspirations for awards glory. That’s you, Miss Bala, Pet Sematary and every Adam Sandler Netflix comedy flick ever. (He’s dynamite in Uncut Gems, though.)
What’s left? Only the most egregious offenders of all: The misguided star vehicles that made a lot of people buckets of money and yet disappointed on every possible level. These truly talented casts and filmmakers all deserved better and, more important, so did we. Per tradition, I’m going to shine the light on this sorry bunch because they truly had it coming. Here are five of the worst movies of 2019.
5. Gemini Man
At the start of 2019, who would have guessed that Will Smith would have fared better in a questionable live-action remake of Aladdin than a highly pedigreed fall film directed by Oscar winner? In this absurdly dull and dire action vehicle, he played a charisma-free assassin betrayed by his own government who must fend off a 30-years-younger cloned version of himself. Ang Lee (Life of Pi) used a technologically advanced ultra-high-frame-rate for his film — which, oops, rendered the actors and scenery weird and synthetic-looking. Besides, the entire clunker could have been lifted off a 1993 Jean Claude Van Damme scrap heap thanks to a stilted plot and dumb lines including “It’s good that you’re scared; it means you’re alert.”
4. It: Chapter 2
That 169-minute running time was the first sign of doom. This wasn’t a sprawling mob epic or the climactic entry in the 22-film Marvel Cinematic Universe. We just needed to see how a group of ex-childhood friends would defeat a demon clown killer. Do the deed, get some therapy, peace out. Instead we were saddled with an excruciatingly laborious and only mildly scary shlock-fest that began with a vicious gay hate crime and couldn’t end soon enough. James McAvoy, Bill Hader and Jessica Chastain all looked lost onscreen, perhaps because they too didn’t understand how the back-end adaptation of a Stephen King novel could devolve so far, so fast. Please let this book on The Losers Club be closed for good.
3. Lucy in the Sky
In 2007, an astronaut named Lisa Nowak drove from Houston to Orlando, in an adult diaper, dead-set on kidnapping her ex-boyfriend’s new love interest. That’s a crazy-fascinating ripped-from-the-headlines story, requiring actual effort to botch in movie form. Ahem, did I mention the diaper? Enter this turgid, way-serious drama, starring Natalie Portman as the titular character and Jon Hamm as her handsome coworker. Director Noah Hawley (Fargo) treated this case as if it were Psychology 101, asking us to believe this Navy-trained pro mentally unraveled — cue the blurry images and close-ups of her staring deeply into the ether! — as a side effect of space travel. Houston, we have many problems.
And now, a moment of silence for the McConaissance. Matthew McConaughey’s glorious career rebirth — which had been on life support for a few years — seemingly bit the dust for good with the DOA January release of an outlandishly seedy melodrama in which he played a fishing boat captain named Baker Dill. His tranquil lifestyle of bedding floozies is upended when his ex-girlfriend (Anne Hathaway! Doing a broad Southern drawl!) shows up at his favorite bar and offers him $1 million to drown her abusive husband. These roles were so thin that the character descriptions were probably scrawled on the cocktail napkin. And no matter how many neo-noir clichés were thrown into the convoluted plot, it was impossible to not smell the garbage washing up ashore.
1. Men in Black International
Sometimes the neutralizer jokes just write themselves, sigh. Indeed, anyone who dared to see this pointless remake almost certainly forgot the whole thing within hours. Here’s a recap: New secret agents (Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson) go to a desert in Marrakesh to battle a Jababy royal lizard and protect some sort of hive. Pair this nonsensical plot with 28 gags about Hemsworth’s hunky looks and special effects that looked like they were fished out of a recycling bin, and the result is a shiny dud with Ray-Bans. (It didn’t feature the catchy theme song about galaxy defenders either). I realize that Billie Eilish wasn’t yet a zygote the last time Men in Black was cool … but this spin-off never even orbited the galaxy of cool.
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