The Fast and Fentress Worst of 2019

Burnt paper bag with melted and burnt popcorn in the greased and

Boy, did I have my work cut out for the worst of 2019 this year.  It was all-too easy to rack up ten bad movies, and that’s without having seen The Hustle, The Lion King, or Dark Phoenix!

10. Countdown

countdown2

This ridiculously-premised horror movie – Final Destination, but with an app! – has its so-bad-it’s-good moments, but mostly it’s just plain bad.  Despite a few campy highlights, as well as a hilariously-misguided sexual harassment subplot, its tame PG-13 horror and limp attempts at comedy (excluding a heroic turn by Tom Segura) make for a distinctly “meh” viewing experience.

9. It Chapter Two

it chapter two

Just as in King’s novel, It Chapter Two has a weaker story than its first part, but that’s not what sinks itAndy Muschetti’s sequel is a punishing exercise in maximalism, from its 170-minute runtime to its hokey, overblown effects, complete with a climax that devolves into a horror-free CGI light show.  This kitchen-sink approach extends to the screenplay, which uses humor as a crutch, deflating any would-be creepy moments with tired quips that wouldn’t be out of place in a Marvel movie.  The actors are good fits for their characters (especially Bill Hader), but they’re essentially wasted here.  It’s a major step down from its surprisingly good predecessor, but I’m not mad at It Chapter Two.  I’m just disappointed.

8. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

star wars rise of skywalker

Star Wars’ sequel trilogy staggers to a finish in this soulless blockbuster.  The action sequences are more numbing than exciting, and the plot’s revelations are impossible to care about.  The cast – especially a sleepwalking Oscar Isaac – is clearly bored at this point, as, evidently, were the writers, whose screenplay is built on cliché and charmless fan service.  Let’s hope the merchandise sales were worth it.

7. Hellboy

hellboy

I had high hopes for Neil Marshall’s reboot of this long-dormant franchise.  They were unwarranted.  This new Hellboy is a dull mess, its plot both overstuffed and half-baked.  The whole thing reeks of studio interference, seemingly more concerned with establishing a franchise than creating a coherent narrative.  Despite a game cast and some agreeably gory special effects, it’s far too scattershot to work in any meaningful way.

6. The Dead Don’t Die

the dead don't die

Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy is a stale affair that’s as lifeless as its ghouls.  Its insufferably too-cool attitude drenches every part of the movie in a thick layer of irony, from the script to the performances to the direction.  The ensemble cast is too strong not to get away with good line readings here and there, but they’re in the service of a movie that’s lazy and aloof in the worst way.  With its detached style and shrill meta-comedy, The Dead Don’t Die is impossible to take seriously.  Unfortunately, it’s also impossible to take humorously.

5. Velvet Buzzsaw

velvet buzzsaw

More like Velvet Buzzkill!  Read my review for more.

4. Replicas

replicas

This Keanu Reeves fiasco is the best kind of bad movie: one that’s resolutely, endearingly sure that it’s good.  Telling the story of a scientist in the future who resurrects his deceased family using unethical means, it desperately wants to ask big questions about the human soul, cloning, and artificial intelligence.  It completely fails to achieve this goal, but it excels at unintentional comedy.  From a plot that falls apart at the tiniest bit of scrutiny to Reeves spouting techno-gibberish, it’s a so-bad-it’s-good treat.  Boot the mapping sequence!

3. The Fanatic

the fanatic

John Travolta plays Moose, an on-the-spectrum super-fan who develops a dangerous obsession with his favorite actor, B-Movie star Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa), in this thriller from former Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst.  Though that description sounds like something engineered in a bad-movie laboratory, The Fanatic is gloriously, mind-bogglingly real.  There’s plenty of fun to be had with the snigger-worthy dialogue, but the movie’s greatest pleasure is Travolta’s all-out performance: a manic scenery-chewing spectacle that is decidedly not a sensitive portrayal of autism.  The movie itself stalls in its third act, but thanks to Travolta’s hysterical antics it’s never boring.

2. Serenity

serenity_

This movie begins as a normal-enough neo-noir, but by its end it’s a fascinating heap of terrible narrative decisions.  Read my review for more.

1. Cats

cats movie

Were you expecting anything else?  This ill-advised musical adaptation lives up to the anti-hype, announcing itself as a movie horrible enough to stand alongside titans like Gigli and Battlefield Earth.  Where to start with this abomination?  The “plot,” involving a city of stray cats voting on which one of them will die and be reincarnated, consists in practice of a never-ending series of songs, each one introducing a new cat which, more often than not, disappears from the movie immediately afterwards.

Above all else, Cats is a hellish journey through the uncanny valley, with the actors’ human faces appearing to float on the flat expanse of fur where the cats’ faces should be.  There are moments when the effect is utterly horrifying; other times it’s merely unsettling.  The movie’s ghastly nadir comes in the form of “The Old Gumbie Cat,” a surreal nightmare featuring mice-children that are somehow even more visually obscene than the human-cat hybrids.

When it’s not busy being disturbing, Cats settles for being incompetent.  Given its sizable budget, it’s often shockingly cheap-looking, with several of the cats’ “paws” shifting back and forth between the expected digital fur and plain human hands, and background dancers wearing what are clearly sneakers.  The songs, with one or two exceptions, are terrible; as thoroughly un-catchy as they are endless.  On the whole, Cats is far too unpleasant to become a cult classic, but purveyors of bad cinema should see it at least once – it’s too spectacular a failure to be missed.

Dishonorable Mentions

Us: Jordan Peele’s sophomore effort benefits from Lupita Nyong’o’s memorably creepy performance, but its inconsistent tone and shaky plot make it an overall disappointment.

The Highwaymen: This bland Netflix crime drama manages to waste the charisma of both Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson.

Captain Marvel: Marvel’s safe-as-can-be prequel is aggressively forgettable.  Read my review for more.

Isn’t It Romantic: This parody is great at pointing out romantic comedy tropes, but inept at doing anything funny with them.

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