There were a lot of movies and television programs in 2018 – probably more than ever before (at least in terms of quantity/quality TV).
That said, Sturgeon’s Law (90% of everything is crap) still applies – and though I strenuously avoided much of what I thought would be crap TV/films, there were, unfortunately a few things that managed to get through my shields.
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While I did well at managing to avoid crap TV, there were four main disappointments for me in 2018:
4 The Romanoffs (Amazon Prime Video) – after Mad Men, I expected much more form Matthew Weiner than a self-indulgent series about people who thought they were descended from the last royal family of Russia.
3 Insatiable (Netflix) – when a satire about discrimination towards overweight persons become indistinguishable from the real thing, is it even satire anymore?
2 Black Lightning (The CW) – this earnest series from the Greg Berlanti factory of innovative superhero shows is so intent on Saying Stuff that it loses the fun that such a show is supposed to provide. Still, it’s nice to see the amazing Cress Williams picking up a regular paycheck.
1 The X-Files – The ponderous portentousness of Chris Carter’s mythology episodes – and the wonky cliffhanger at season’s end – totally extinguished any entertainment value to be derived from the show’s monster-of-the-week episodes.
My list of disappointments among 2018’s film releases is also pretty short, but not quite as long as long as the list of films I found truly awful.
5 Hotel Transylvania 3 – Sure the first two films were fluff, but they were well done fluff that introduced and used a collection of interesting and funny secondary characters that were almost completely ignored here.
4 Fantastic Creatures: The Crimes of Grindelwald – far too dark/grim with very little charm or wit (or even humor). Every bit as woeful as the first film was wonderful.
3 The Sisters Brothers – this tale of assassin brothers in the Old West was faithful to the terrific novel; the performances were bang on and the cinematography was amazing. Unfortunately, the whole thing felt like I was watching from a great remove (kind of like seeing it through the wrong end of a telescope.
2 The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – three of the five tales recounted in the Coen Brothers’ western anthology were purely depressing; the other two had some wit but only one of those really felt like a fully realized story. The Coen Brothers first swing-and-a-miss in a long time.
1 Vice – following Adam McKay’s brilliant The Big Short, Vice is unfunny; misses most of its satirical targets and plods along at an even slower than deliberate pace.
In my humble estimation, these were the worst movies of 2018:
8 Ocean’s 8 – a good heist flick requires more than a great cast – which is all Ocean’s 8 really has.
7 12 Strong – John Wayne’s The Green Berets of the 21st century. Well intentioned, but obvious and completely without nuance or style.
6 Game Night – lovely concept; terribly uneven, unintelligent execution. Plus the jet engine gag that is completely at odds with the tone of the rest of the movie.
5 Venom – never decides what kind of film it is (comedy? drama? satire? melodrama?), leading to a concluding battle that looks like an Oreo in a blender. Pfui.
4 The Happytime Murders – coming from Brian Henson, you’d think this would have been a laugh riot. It’s not.
3 Mortal Engines – how can a movie this big – and with such great FX work be so boring and bland? I don’t know how they did, but I hope they don’t do it again.
2 Destroyer – Nicole Kidman does Clint Eastwood for half the movie; for the other half, she plays a gung ho, idealistic young detective who breaks bad in what seems like no time at all. Neither is convincing – nor is the circuitous storytelling.
1 Death Wish – Eli Roth remakes the Charles Bronson classic with a bored out of his mind Bruce Willis. Then he edits the pace down to a crawl. An utter waste in every respect.