No use for high-minded arguing over Oscar-caliber releases — these are at the bottom of the discount bin.
As the year-end lists roll out everyone has their opinions about what was the best about the past year in theaters. They’ll debate merits, and hail performances, but operate in confidence that ultimately they cannot be too wrong, as everything mentioned is good.
Anyone can walk the red carpets, It takes not only a more trained eye but a MUCH stronger constitution to wade through the swampy environment in the bad side of Hollywood. I am your guide then through these murky areas in the dark recesses of theaters. Before we memorialize the forgettable releases this year there are a few individual honors to bestow on the industry.
Worst Soundtrack – Sponsored by Spotify
‘’CATS’’ – For the number of non-melodic, mostly spoken ”songs”.
Worst Song – Sponsored by Pandora
‘’PET SEMATARY’’ – Starcrawler
This was a completely uninspired version of the song originally by The Ramones, a perfect representation of an uninspired retread of a film.
Worst Marketing Campaign – Sponsored by Vistaprint
STX ENTERTAINMENT was so convinced its $50 million gamble on ‘’Ugly Dolls’’ would be a hit that it bought the worldwide rights to the toy line, secured 100 promotional partners globally, promised a TV series on Hulu, and nearly doubled the budget on advertising. The movie barely made $20 million, and the international release never occurred as a result.
Best Targeted Marketing
BOULEVARD BREWING created a beer label for the miserable ‘’Dark Phoenix’’, a movie actually helped by alcohol consumption.
Worst Targeted Marketing
IHOP offered branded food for the animated ‘’Addams Family’’ film. Just what a family wants to see while dining together — a menu in the shape of a coffin.
DVD Performer of the Year – Sponsored by Redbox
DOLPH LUNDGREN had the tough task of unseating Nicolas Cage. Appearing in ‘’Dead Trigger’’, ‘’The Tracker’’, ‘’Acceleration’’ and ‘’Hard Night Falling’’ brought him the accolade.
The Big Gulp Award
Many titles were bloated, oversized, content-free, and leaving you with stomach pains, but ‘’TERMINATOR: DARK FORCES’’ leads this category.
The Head-Scratching Award – Sponsored by Tegrin Shampoo
I saw Gerard Butler in ‘’THE VANISHING’’. I saw him play a lighthouse keeper. And I saw him get in a dead seagull fight with another character. I did NOT see that coming.
— Brad Slager: aka Wuhan Solo (@MartiniShark) August 2, 2019
Career Change Award – Sponsored by Zip Recruiter
While Adam Sandler is surprising in a dramatic role in ‘’Uncut Gems’’, he has strained to be dramatic before. But I doubt anyone anticipated laconic comedian JIM GAFFIGAN as an action drama star in ”American Dreamer’’ as an Uber driver who kidnaps a drug dealer’s daughter.
Locale Anesthesia Award — Sponsored by Icy Hot
THE STATE OF FLORIDA. It was a tough year for the Sunshine State in film portrayals. In ‘’Serenity’’ Matthew McConaughey was supposedly a Florida fisherman while clearly jumping off cliffs and driving on the wrong side of the road due to being filmed in another country. In ‘’Crawl’’ much of the film was set in basements, which do not exist in the state that rests at sea level.
ONWARD TO THE BIG PRIZES. The Ten Worst Movies Of The Year. In order to winnow down the field these are titles that saw a significant distribution, appearing on at least 2,000 screens (Sorry, ‘’3 From Hell’’!). In order to provoke more bar fights over this issue I will not rank them, but instead will list the films chronologically based on the release date. Now.. let those barstools fly in response, as here is the list.
Keanu Reeves has been hailed this year for ‘’John Wick 3’’, as well as his fun turn voicing the stunt motorcycle toy Duke Kaboom in ‘’Toy Story 4’’. Most completely forgot about this sci-fi-asco from January. Reeves’ character is a synthetic biologist (umm…) whose family is lost in an accident. He tries to bring them back to life, and has to battle a government agency, the police, ‘’and the laws of science’’ to do so. Fighting the laws of logic was a losing battle.
This was a title that was anticipated as a mess, and it delivered. Matthew McConaughey is a drunken Florida angler who wants to catch a giant tuna and deals with his ex-wife Anne Hathaway who wants him to kill her new husband. He is frequently naked (except during a sex scene) and has a mystical connection with his estranged son. The ‘’twist’’ is this all exists in the video game the son created to connect with his dead father. It is all dumber than that sounds.
It was a tough year for rebooting franchises (‘’Men In Black’’, ‘’Child’s Play’’ were other casualties) and this attempt went nowhere. David Harbour (‘’Stranger Things’’) took over the title role and nobody cared. For an established property like this to see the worldwide box office not even make back its budget amounts to a dramatic failure, and a big money loss for Lionsgate.
Imagine this script becoming approved by a studio executive; Diane Keaton moves into a retirement village and recruits the other female residents (including Pam Grier and Rhea Perlman) to form a cheerleading squad. Imagine the cast agreeing to this script. Imagine audiences going to see this. You’ll need to on that last point; the film could not even squeeze out $15 million during summer.
X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX
This was being looked at as the culmination of the X-Men franchise of films at 20th Century Fox, and it was uniformly hated by most. It was the lowest-rated, sports the worst opening, and has the worst total of the franchise. Many are grateful that the Disney buyout of Fox means the rights to this property go back to Marvel.
RAMBO: LAST BLOOD
Critics treated this film worse than the title character treated the victims of a sex slave cartel. Rambo has to go into Mexico to retrieve a kidnapped girl and exacts all manner of gore-infused revenge. At one point there was a script involving Rambo battling chupacabras — and it seems as if that daft idea would have delivered a better result. The writer of the original Rambo books called the film a mess, declaring he was embarrassed to be connected to this film in any fashion.
TERMINATOR: DARK FATE
There was a major effort to revamp this franchise. New characters were brought in, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton were brought back, and a millennial outreach was made on screen as the time travel plot was retconned in the process. This was rejected by audiences to such an extreme that they are still calculating how much Paramount Pictures lost on this disaster, with estimates ranging between $100-130 million.
The property is all about female action hero characters. But Elizabeth Banks – who wrote, directed, starred and misguided — pushed heavily on the female-empowerment themes, essentially telling men this movie was not made for them. That cagey move resulted in men avoiding the film, and it opened with a dismal $8 million weekend, barely able to earn $17 million in the end. Banks, of course, blamed this on men being sexist towards the movie they were told not to watch.
PLAYMOBIL THE MOVIE
Maybe just leave the kid movies to Disney. The distributor STX already had a massive failure in the summer with ‘’Ugly Dolls’’, but then while ‘’Frozen 2’’ was Hoovering up all the family dollars the company put out this retrograde animated film based on another toy line. It was panned earlier in the summer during an animation film fest, and no amount of reworking of the concept helped. It had one of the worst debuts of any film opening on over 2,000 screens of all time, and after nearly one month in theaters it has barely made $1 million. You almost have to try to fail this badly
This one is purely amazing. Not just one of the worst-performing films this year, it should become regarded as one of the classic bad film fiascos. (I go into detail in my film review.) Rather than have performers in cat costumes and makeup the cast was adorned in a computer-generated feline outfit, leading to a disturbing appearance of all actors. The dialogue is mostly sung, there is almost no plot to speak of, and the end result is that of a drug-fueled fever dream. Critics tore into this, and what elevates this to classic status is all the earnest effort behind it. There was talk initially of the film being an awards contender, the A-list cast embarrasses itself, and Universal is expected to lose a fortune. This is not to be missed.
If you are up for having a good time with the bad side of Hollywood follow our Disasters In The Making podcast, on most streaming platforms, where we cover the news and releases as well as dig into the production of a classic bad film each episode. And follow our Twitter account @DITM_Podcast
Here is looking forward to more fiascos in 2020!