Earlier this week, I posted my list of the Best Movies Of 2020, as well as The Next Ten Movies. Now it’s time to go to the other end of the spectrum, where really bad films live. Note that these are all movies I was looking forward to seeing and expected to be good, so you won’t see titles of any movies I purposely avoided because I knew they were going to be bad (e.g. “Hillbilly Elegy,” Robert Downey Jr. in “Doolittle,” or anything starring Shia LaBeouf).
So here we go, starting with the Worst Movie Of 2020, followed by the runners-up. In an effort to dissuade you from watching this pile of dreck, I won’t even tell you on which services they are streaming. Linked titles go to my full reviews.
#1) “The Climb“ I think this was intended as a buddy comedy, but it’s hard to tell because there isn’t one funny thing in its 94-minute runtime. The title refers to a bike ride through the Alps that opens the movie, during which the guy we think is the protagonist turns out to be the antagonist. The leads are played by Kyle Marvin and Michael Angelo Covino, who wrote the script together. As the director, Covino is fond of uninterrupted takes that go on for several minutes, a cinematic trick that worked well in Sam Mendes’ “1917.” But in Covino’s hands, it becomes quickly laborious, as he doesn’t even cut away from mundane sequences like a guy changing his shirt or picking up firewood. I found the whole thing unamusing, boring, and a waste of time.
#2) “Wonder Woman 1984” I was looking forward to this superhero sequel with Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, and Kristen Wiig, so I’m sorry to have to put it on this list. But it’s hard to believe that the same creative team that made the first Wonder Woman movie so enjoyable — including director Patty Jenkins — has completely blown it with this second edition. It has not one, but two badly written villains, terrible CGI, and no sense of humor at all. It’s about the same length as its predecessor, but seems so much longer because of all the talk and bloated non-action scenes combined with cheesy CGI effects. If this were the first movie in the series, it’s unlikely there would be a sequel. Since it isn’t, and Hollywood is completely enamored of superhero tentpoles, a third has already been announced. I can only hope it is better than this mess.
#3) “The Midnight Sky” A brilliant scientist at an observatory above the Arctic Circle tries to contact returning astronauts to warn them to stay away from Earth because of “The Event” that happened three weeks before the movie started. George Clooney was clearly trying to make an important sci-fi movie. But to do so, he copied too many concepts from others in the genre. The result is that “The Midnight Sky” is a ponderous, poorly executed, and not-all-that-interesting story which fumbles any opportunity to incorporate real science, make us care about the characters, or ever explain what the hell “the event” was.
#4) “Let Them All Talk” Meryl Streep plays Alice, a famous writer who’s been chosen to receive a literary award in England, but since she can’t fly, her publicist suggests she go by boat, specifically the Queen Mary 2. Alice invites her two oldest friends. Candice Bergen is Roberta, who’s bitter that Alice ruined her life by using some of their shared history in one of her first novels, and Dianne Wiest is Susan, who is, well, just like every other character Wiest has ever played. As they cross the Atlantic, the characters reveal very little other than Alice’s diva qualities and Roberta’s desire to meet a rich man. Nearly all of this exposition is boring as hell, as is a side story about a very successful crime novelist who happens to be on the boat, too. Blame writer/director Steven Soderbergh.
#5) “Synchronic” This is a sci-fi horror movie about a designer drug that causes havoc in the lives of those who ingest it, but it made me want to take an aspirin for the headache it gave me. Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan play paramedics in New Orleans who encounter some odd emergencies. One person was killed by a sword, another fell down an elevator shaft, and another was bitten by a snake that’s not native to the area. Something weird is going on, and it seems to be connected to the packets of something called Synchronic they find at each venue. That might have made for a good story, but directors Justin Benson (who wrote the screenplay) and Aaron Moorehead have done everything they can to weigh it down. They use weird camera moves, odd edits, and a plodding pacing that makes everything cumbersome.
#6) “The Glorias“ Gloria Steinem was one of the most influential people of the second half of the twentieth century. As one of the leaders of the women’s rights movement and founder of Ms. magazine, she helped change attitudes in the US and around the world. Unfortunately, “The Glorias” fails her. Based on Steinem’s book, “My Life On the Road,” the movie is too long because it tries to do too much, telling her story from childhood on, which means less screen time devoted to her accomplishments in the 1960s and 1970s. In any feature-length movie, a good director must make choices about which portions of the story to focus on and what to leave out. Director Julie Taymor failed in that regard, leaving us with a two-and-a-half-hour disjointed mess.
#7) “Cut Throat City” This is the story of four guys — friends since childhood — who, after Hurricane Katrina, return to the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans to find their neighborhood in shambles, no real help coming from FEMA, and no jobs. Desperate for money, they ask a local crime boss for help. At his behest, they rob a local casino, but they don’t have much of a plan other than being armed, so it’s not a surprise when things go wrong. That might have made for an interesting story, but instead, “Cut Throat City” pivots to involve a crooked city councilman (Ethan Hawke), a corrupt cop (Rob Morgan), the father of one of the guys (Wesley Snipes), and big-time cocaine dealer “The Saint” (Terrence Howard). Those four characters all have laborious speeches about Katrina and the government’s lack of response, but they detract from the main story, in which I was already invested. The result is a misguided muddle.
#8) “Mank” If you’ve heard that “Mank” is about the making of Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece, “Citizen Kane,” you’ve been misled. In fact, there’s very little about that movie in this one, despite the framing device of Herman Mankiewicz laid up in bed with a broken leg while he works on the “Kane” screenplay (which won an Oscar). There’s also a side story about California gubernatorial politics that you won’t care about. The whole thing is a waste of the talents of Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, and others at the hands of director David Fincher.
#9) “An American Pickle” I just checked, and it turned out I disliked this movie so much I never wrote a review when it came out last summer. It stars Seth Rogen as a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe who falls into a vat of pickles and gets preserved for a century. When he’s pulled out of the brine, he is taken in by his last remaining descendant (also played by Rogen) in modern-day New York City. There are a few chuckles along the way, but not many, as the plot turns from unlikely to just plain stupid.
#10) “Enola Holmes“ The movie introduces us to the previously-unknown 16-year-old sister (Millie Bobby Brown) of the brilliant detectives Sherlock and Mycroft. She has been home-schooled by her mother (Helena Bonham Carter), who has suddenly disappeared, and Enola goes off to investigate. Meanwhile, there’s another plot line involving young Lord Tewkesbury, whose situation Enola becomes entangled in when she travels to London to solve her mother’s disappearance. From there, I can’t explain any more of the plot because I stopped caring. Brown is as likable as you’d want any leading character to be, and Carter is quite good, too. Unfortunately, the supporting cast and a lazy script fail them — and us.
Previously on Harris Online…