Here’s my list of the ten worst movies I saw this year. Sadly, many of them starred actors whose work I usually admire — including one who appeared in two of these stinkers! I recommend you not add any of these to your streaming queue or DVD wish lists. Links go to my full reviews.
#1) “The Man Who Killed Quixote” I’ve never liked any of Terry Gilliam’s post-Python movies, so why would I see his new one? Because in the back of my mind, I have such fond memories of the Broadway version of “Man Of La Mancha.” Besides, I held out hope “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” would live up not to Gilliam’s previous work, but to the magic of that musical — and the original source material, written more than 500 years ago and considered the first modern novel, so popular it has been translated into more languages than any other book except the Bible. Unfortunately, Gilliam’s movie turns an impossible dream into an unwatchable nightmare, wasting Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce.
#2) “Ad Astra” I’ll cut to the chase: this is the most boring movie of 2019, ponderous and slow-moving. How slow? It makes “2001: A Space Odyssey” look like an action-filled romp. An absolute waste of Brad Pitt’s talents, “Ad Astra” is a yawn-fest that I’d only recommend as a cure for insomnia. I’m shocked that it made tens of millions at the box office, although I’d bet that if you asked those moviegoers whether they’d pay for it on the way out, it would have grossed about three bucks.
#3) “Lucy In The Sky” The movie is loosely based on the 2007 story of Lisa Nowak, a NASA astronaut who got so jealous of her boyfriend’s lover that she followed them from Houston to Orlando and tried to kidnap the woman. It was a pretty good tabloid story enhanced by a report that Nowak had worn adult diapers on the 14-hour drive. She later denied that detail, but it was the basis of lots of jokes on morning radio, late night TV, and the supermarket tabloids. Unfortunately, director Noah Hawley and his co-screenwriters Brian C. Brown and Elliot DiGuiseppi couldn’t stick to that tale, instead turning it into a psychological drama about a woman coming unravelled. That’s often hard to present on the big screen, and this effort doesn’t work at all — unless you want to see star Natalie Portman stare at nothing at regular intervals.
#4) “Sorry We Missed You” A British movie about a family struggling economically. Ricky, the down-on-his-luck father, hopes to provide for his family by becoming a contractor for a package delivery company. It’s a high-stress, low-reward job that keeps Ricky away from his family twelve hours a day, seven days a week, while dealing with an incredibly mean boss who has no compassion for him. Meanwhile, his pleasant wife, Abbie, is a home health care provider who has to travel by bus because the couple sold her car so Ricky could buy a delivery van. There isn’t a single moment of happiness for any of the protagonists (or antagonists, for that matter) — it’s just one horrible day after another. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to give viewers a lesson in the exploitation of gig economy workers, but instead they drowned viewers in depressing scene after depressing scene — all the way up to the movie’s abrupt ending with no climax, no denouement.
#5) “Frankie” It’s about a woman of means, an actress who has starred in movies and on television, who has gathered family and friends to tell them she’s dying of cancer. But they already know, so most of the time is spent walking around the admittedly beautiful surroundings in Sintra, Portugal, with not much happening. Isabelle Huppert is completely miscast as Frankie, delivering her lines as if each one carried an important message or deep psychological meaning. They don’t. “Frankie” would have been higher on this list if not for my infatuation with Marisa Tomei, who plays Irene, a hairdresser Frankie befriended on a movie set.
#6) “Them That Follow” A movie about dangerous, slithering animals on a mountain in small town Appalachia, where a tightly knit group of drab people belongs to the Holy Ghost church — Pentecostals who willingly take up venomous snakes to prove themselves before god. But the serpents are not the ones who pose the real danger. That comes from the townspeople who fall for this bullshit and raise their children to believe all of it, including the oppression of women. I can’t understand why anyone would want to sit through the ninety-eight minutes it takes writer/directors Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage to tell this story. The pacing is far too slow, the lighting is even darker than the story, and the cast of solid performers (Walton Goggins, Olivia Colman, Jim Gaffigan, Kaitlyn Dever) is wasted on characters I had no sympathy for whatsoever.
#7) “After The Wedding” With a plot so convoluted as to strain believability, a pace too slow, and whole sequences that do nothing but waste time, this movie was a botched job from frame one. I blame Julianne Moore’s husband Bart Freundlich, who directed and adapted the screenplay. I’m particularly disappointed because Michelle Williams has been on such a good run lately, including her sure-to-win-an-Emmy performance in “Fosse/Verdon,” as well as “All The Money In The World” (reviewed here), “I Feel Pretty” (reviewed here), and “The Greatest Showman” (reviewed here). As for Moore, of whom I’m also a fan, this makes two of her movies this year that made this Worst Of 2019 list (the other was “Gloria Bell,” reviewed here).
#8) “The Lion King” I’m not sure how Jon Favreau and his technical team made this version of “The Lion King,” but I’m even less sure why they did it. He took an animated classic and turned it into a photorealistic movie with all the virtual reality of a video game. The animals look like they’re right out of a National Geographic nature special — and that’s the problem. Where the original cartoon characters could dance and wiggle and smile and frown, Favreau’s pride and associated other species show no emotions whatsoever. There’s also a darkness to the scenes that might have been a technical necessity, but makes watching the finished product unappealing. It’s nowhere near as much fun as Favreau’s previous project in this genre, “The Jungle Book” (which I reviewed here).
#9) “Poms” In my full review of this senior-citizen-women-turned-cheerleaders farce, I imagined the ludicrous Hollywood pitch meeting in which this movie was green lit. It’s as believable as anything that ended up on screen.
#10) “Gloria Bell” As the title character, Julianne Moore gives a very solid performance and looks terrific. She plays an empty-nest divorcee in her fifties who’s looking for some companionship. She goes by herself to bars, waiting for a guy to ask her to dance. The problem is the script is horribly underwritten, wasting a good supporting cast (John Turturro, Brad Garrett, Rita Wilson, Sean Astin, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Michael Cera, Holland Taylor). I can imagine any of those actors asking director Sebastian Lelio, “What is this scene about?” and he would answer, “Nothing, just like all the other scenes.” Not only does the plot go nowhere, it gets there very slowly.
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