The worst movies of 2018 so far

Not every Hollywood release can be a home run, but if you're working with a cast and crew of professionals who are doing their best to entertain, a film fan could be forgiven for at least expecting a respectable double or triple. Every so often, however, a filmmaker will step up to the plate of cinema, point to the stands of box office glory, and then proceed to strike out super-hard before limping back to the dugout of abject failure.

That is to say that it can be terribly disappointing when what looks like crackerjack entertainment reveals itself to be as awkward and ridiculous as a half-baked baseball metaphor. In 2018, these are the films that perked up our ears, got our butts in the seats — and then sent us home with our hearts unfulfilled, our wallets empty, and our foreheads sore from all the facepalming. They're the worst movies of the year so far, and they sure aren't pretty.

Insidious: The Last Key

Fans of the Insidious series started getting goosebumps of anticipation when a fourth installment was announced in 2016, with distributor Sony setting an October 20, 2017 release date — just in time for spooky season. But it wasn't long before there were signs of trouble. Insidious: The Last Key was shouldered out of that prime spot by the well-received Happy Death Day, pushed back to January of 2018. This isn't exactly prime territory for horror releases, and when the film finally hit theaters, the reason for the shuffle was apparent: it just isn't very good.

Critics absolutely hammered Insidious: The Last Key for its confused tone and for playing like a mishmash of well-worn horror tropes. Chicago Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper nailed it when he opened his review, "The Insidious timeline is becoming so murky, even a scary ghost lurking behind a locked door in the basement might give up and say, 'Time out! Am I even supposed to be in this particular story? Who am I haunting again, and what's my motivation?'" Fans seemed happy simply to get another chapter, however; the film's $166 million worldwide gross is the best showing of the entire series, meaning that Insidious 5 is all but inevitable. It goes to show that diminishing creative returns don't always translate to diminishing box office returns, but here's hoping the next installment finds a way to deliver some bona fide scares while moving all those tickets.

Proud Mary

On the surface, Proud Mary seemed like an absolute sure thing: it's the story of a badass contract killer, played by the immensely talented Taraji P. Henson, who finds herself responsible for the welfare of a young boy after a job goes sideways. The exciting trailers promised an explosively amazing performance from Henson, and she delivered — but unfortunately, she did so in service of a film that seemed slapped together out of spare parts.

The Boston Globe's Ty Burr succinctly pinned down that the major problems lay in "the dialogue, the camera work and the editing," which you may recognize as three rather major components of any film, and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone went even further in taking the filmmakers to task, saying, "Taraji P. Henson is such a firecracker she almost makes you believe Proud Mary might have been a decent crime flick if she fired the asses of the clueless dudes who wrote and directed it and took on those jobs herself." Even Creedence Clearwater Revival singer/songwriter John Fogerty took issue with the film swiping the title of one of his most well-known songs, but he might have just saved his breath, because nobody saw it. The $14 million flick did dismal business worldwide, making it a certified flop — and we can all agree that Henson deserved better.

The 15:17 to Paris

Clint Eastwood has a pretty good track record as a director, and an even better one as a director of historical dramas. So, expectations were high for The 15:17 to Paristhe true story of a trio of American soldiers who found themselves in the middle of an attempted terrorist attack on a train while traveling in Europe. The actual story is a harrowing account, and the soldiers — who were able to disarm a machine gun-wielding terrorist while unarmed themselves — were even recruited by Eastwood to play themselves in the movie. Unfortunately, it turns out that one spectacular act of heroism doesn't necessarily make for a spectacularly entertaining film — and real-life heroes don't necessarily make good actors.

This was one of critics' major complaintsThe New Republic opined that the three stars are "all handsome but just appalling actors. This disjuncture is impossible to forget while watching the film, and it's very uncomfortable." Padding out a relatively brief incident with mountains of backstory also proved problematic. The Austin Chronicle's Steve Davis zeroed in on newcomer Dorothy Blyskal's "underwhelming" screenplay, with nearly two-thirds of the film's run time devoted to tedious exposition: "the childhood scenes are barely a notch above an after-school special, while the trip abroad is a tiresome travelogue." While the centerpiece action sequence was praised, everything surrounding it disappointed — and The 15:17 to Paris arrived at the station to be greeted by wildly indifferent audiences.

Midnight Sun

Music video director turned feature filmmaker Scott Speer scored a minor hit with his first big-screen directorial effort, Step Up: Revolution — a solid if inessential addition to the strangely persistent series. For his next trick, Speer mounted an adaptation of the 2006 Japanese feature Midnight Sun, starring Disney Channel alum Bella Thorne alongside none other than Patrick Schwarzenegger, who has quietly been building a respectable acting résumé over the last decade or so. It's the story of a teenage girl with a rare and life-threatening genetic sensitivity to sunlight, who is finally asked out by her secret crush — but instead of tugging heartstrings, the film left critics and audiences alike cold with its gimmicky portrayal of an actual, deadly condition.

The A.V. Club's Ignatiy Vishnevetsky was among the most offended, pointing out that the condition known as xeroderma pigmentosum "is an extremely disfiguring disease… but thanks to a truckload of dramatic license, [Thorne's character] suffers only the morbid sentimental interest brought on by her condition… her skin is luminously perfect" while slamming the film as a whole for being as "romantic as an ad for a state tourism board or a poem printed in a greeting card." Other critics were no kinder, slinging around adjectives like "preposterous," "manipulative," and "trite." The film staggered to a dismal $4 million opening weekend, and its prospects for the rest of its run look grim, what with critics far and wide advising filmgoers to save their money. 

Forever My Girl

Writer/director Bethany Ashton Wolf helmed her second big-screen effort with Forever My Girl, the story of a country music star (British actor Alex Roe, Hot Summer Nights) who returns home for the funeral of a friend, only to face the lost love (Jessica Rothe, Happy Death Day) he left behind. If that description strikes as you as the type of thing that well-known sobmaster Nicholas Sparks might have come up with, you're certainly not alone, and that's part of the problem — critics couldn't help but note that Forever failed even to clear the bar set by Sparks' formulaic, if wildly popular, weepers.

The film seemed to bring out the snark in practically every critic who viewed it. The Detroit News labeled it "barely a step up from a Lifetime movie," while The San Francisco Chronicle's Peter Hartlaub got agonizingly specific: "It's a poorly made film, with rough edits, distracting staging and plot contrivances that can be predicted to the moment… there's an almost startling lack of chemistry between the leads, as if they performed their scenes a year apart from each other on different continents…[it's] as if every third scene was cut out randomly, and every camera angle came down to a fourth choice." The picture managed only a $16 million haul during its theatrical run — further indication that 2018 is decidedly not shaping up to be a great year for romantic dramas.

Sherlock Gnomes

Disney/Touchstone's 2011 animated romp Gnomeo and Juliet was a surprise hit, raking in nearly $200 million at the worldwide box office thanks in part to an insanely accomplished cast which included the likes of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Jason Statham and Patrick Stewart. A retelling of Shakespeare's greatest tragedy but with… garden gnomes, the film earned mixed reviews — but its box office returns were more than enough to guarantee a sequel, Sherlock Gnomes, which inexplicably spent six years in development. 

Unfortunately, all of those years weren't spent crafting a watchable picture. Despite the presence of Johnny Depp in the title role and the ever-solid Chiwetel Ejiofor as his Watson, critics and audiences were simply bored to tears by this outing. Many noted that, like the original, the film seems to exist as a delivery service for the music of executive producer Elton John ("Hope the checks cleared, Rocket Man," deadpanned one) while others damned it with the faintest of praise ("unlikely to do any significant harm if you find yourself obligated to watch it," conceded another). The film's box office struggles may mean that we'll be spared another trip to Gnome world in the future, however, so there's at least that silver lining. 

Death Wish

There may not be a major Hollywood film that has ever arrived with worse timing than Death Wish, a remake of the 1974 Charles Bronson film that left most viewers uneasy even as they cheered the actions of its steely protagonist. The 2018 version features Bruce Willis as Paul Kersey, an everyday Joe who takes up arms to clean up the streets of Chicago (ported over from the New York setting of the original) after his daughter is assaulted and his wife murdered by thugs. Notorious schlockmeister Eli Roth delivered a picture that landed squarely in the middle of the real-life debate raging over guns in America — and suffered immensely for it.

Critics who weren't simply dismissive ("It's vigilante dad rock," scoffed RogerEbert.com's Matt Zoller Seitz) tended to be openly hostile ("Smirking Bruce Willis should be ashamed of this nasty reboot," trumpeted the headline of one review). All took note of the film's incredibly poor timing, although it could have been slightly worse — it was pushed back from a fall 2017 release after the Las Vegas mass shooting that claimed 58 lives — but even pushing all of those considerations aside, the "potentially nasty fun" of Roth directing Willis as Kersey simply failed to materialize. The Bronson original famously spawned four sequels of diminishing returns; with this version failing to strike box office gold, here's hoping that history doesn't repeat itself.

The Cloverfield Paradox

It could have been a virtually unprecedented marketing coup: during the airing of Super Bowl LII in February, a surprise trailer dropped for The Cloverfield Paradox, the third installment in J.J. Abrams' loosely connected sci-fi/horror series. The flick was released to Netflix directly after the game, and millions of eager fans tuned in… to be supremely disappointed.

The film was originally intended for a theatrical release, and at a Q&A during UCLA Law School's recent Entertainment Symposium, Paramount COO Andrew Gumpert revealed that the decision to sell off distribution to Netflix was made because "there were things about it that made us have a pause about its commercial playability in the traditional matter." If that seems like an incredibly delicately worded way of saying that the film wasn't any good, well, you may be onto something. Despite the presence of David Oyelowo (Selma) and Daniel Brühl (Captain America: Civil War) among a roundly impressive cast, Paradox was hailed as "the fastest turnaround from must-see event to disappointing dud in history," with much of the criticism heaped on its undercooked characters and lumbering, exposition-heavy script. Even the ending's big reveal wasn't spared, with The List's Murray Robertson calling it a "damp squib" — pretty painful for a series that aspires to be one part creature feature and one part Twilight Zone. Let's hope the series recovers when the next installment — Overlord, which producer J.J. Abrams has promised is totally crazy — hits theaters this October.

Winchester

On paper, Winchester sounded like the kind of horror slam-dunk that comes along once every decade or so: a supernatural fright-fest based on the insanely spooky true story of Sarah Winchester, the heir to the Winchester fortune, who built what could easily be posited as the mother of all haunted houses, starring Helen Mirren — sorry, that's Dame Helen Mirren — in the title role. Writing/directing duo the Spierig Brothers had recently scored a nifty sci-fi hit with 2015's well-received Predestination, whose breakout star Sarah Snook was also returning. The stars were all aligned, so how did it go so terribly wrong?

Critics agreed that it represented a whale of a missed opportunity, the kind of utterly forgettable film that offends precisely because it should have been so memorable. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone heaped scorn all over the film, saying, "It shouldn't happen to anyone, much less a Dame — not a movie of such barreling awfulness as Winchester, which strands the great Helen Mirren in a gothic house of cards that collapses on actors and audiences alike." The Spierigs were taken to task for choosing jump scares over atmosphere in what amounted to a "meandering, underwhelming attempt at… psychological horror," and one went so far as to call Mirren's presence in the film "inexplicable." With Winchester, the Spierigs delivered perhaps the most disappointing film of the year so far — unfortunately for them, movies aren't made on paper.

Fifty Shades Freed

If there's one film whose presence on this list could have been predicted the moment it was announced, it would be Fifty Shades Freed. Part of the most ridiculously popular multimedia property to ever come from the world of Twilight fan fiction, the third installment in the Fifty Shades series follows a jaw-droppingly awful original and a sequel that sported a dismal 10 percent Rotten Tomatoes score en route to being named one of the worst films in a year that produced lot of stinkers. In keeping with its predecessors' tradition of appalling critics while posting insane box office numbers, then, Freed is certainly an unqualified success.

And those critics didn't hold back even a little: The Atlantic's Christopher Orr published a review laden with spoilers, because it's "so awful that it needs to be described in detail to be believed." The famously colorful Rex Reed deemed it "grotesquely mindless and inescapably boring," noting succinctly that it "continues to ignore motivation, character development, logic, and narrative cohesion," but giving it "one star for the furniture." Even the few positive reviews tended to highlight its merits as unintentional satire rather than any redeeming qualities it might have. But there is one cinematic achievement that Fifty Shades Freed deserves unreserved credit for: putting an end to the series.

A Wrinkle in Time

Expectations were sky high for director Ava DuVernay's adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's classic 1962 YA novel A Wrinkle in Time. DuVernay and Ryan Coogler famously worked across the hall from each other on the Disney lot as Coogler was prepping the monster smash hit Black Panther, and Coogler himself appeared taken with Wrinkle in a heartfelt tribute to DuVernay that he posted online. With an amazing cast that included Storm Reid, Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey, the film looked to be another winner for Disney — but unfortunately, it fell surprisingly flat with critics, and posted flat box office receipts to match.

While there were some positive notices, negative reviews focused on the disappointment sure to be felt by fans of the novel, as the adaptation ultimately failed to match the source material's tone. Splice Today's Stephen Silver argued that the film "isn't nearly as successful as the director's previous work. It's based on one of those novels that's long been described as un-adaptable, only to result in a movie that proved such naysayers right." One review went so far as to call it "the Tomorrowland of 2018," a film that "does not stop feeling generic"; another hinted that the film might have been improved with better editing. It seems that it wasn't just one thing that went wrong, but if DuVernay's stellar past work is any indication, she should bounce back quickly from this comparative failure.

The Outsider

The last five years or so have been full of ups and downs for Jared Leto, the divisive 30 Seconds To Mars frontman-turned actor who won an Oscar for his supporting role in 2013's Dallas Buyers Club. He followed up that accomplishment with a turn as the Joker in 2016's Suicide Squad, attempting to avoid trampling the memory of one of the greatest performances ever put to film and failing mightily; his next role was nearly as risky, as a blind manufacturer of replicants in Blade Runner 2049, a very belated sequel to one of science fiction's most beloved films. While that appearance was fairly well-received, Leto's career rollercoaster continues with the Netflix original film The Outsider — which critics have panned, appropriately, up one side and down the other.

Leto stars as a former American soldier who joins the Yakuza in post-World War II Japan, a character that has been called "among the least engaging cinematic protagonists in recent memory" in a film which has been mercilessly bashed as a "clueless misfire" and "another big swing-and-a-miss" for Leto. Decider's review underlined the presence of a much-maligned trope to go with its uninspired lead character: "This is a movie that's way too concerned with justifying its main character than in giving that main character anything interesting to do or be. This white savior movie can't save itself." Ouch.

Acrimony

It's safe to say that Taraji P. Henson is having a rough year. In addition to the colossal disappointment that was Proud Mary, she takes the lead role in Acrimony, the latest relationship-gone-wrong potboiler from Tyler Perry, who has never made a film that critics didn't love to hate. Henson portrays a wife whose cheating husband pushes her to the brink of insanity, and while her formidable acting chops are on display here as in everything else she's ever been in, her presence simply wasn't enough to save this limp, derivative thriller.

Specifically, Newsday describes the film as "an attempt at Fatal Attraction, but the clumsy writing and slow pace prove lethal." The Village Voice also noticed the similarity in its review: "despite all its Fatal Attraction–style trappings, Acrimony is a bloated drama at odds with itself and its characters. Who exactly are we supposed to root for here? The scorned woman or the husband who clearly did her wrong but tries to make amends?" Audiences seemed similarly confused; despite Perry's name virtually guaranteeing a profit, Acrimony failed even to match the box office performance of his latest Madea outing, which itself wasn't spectacular.

Traffik

Paula Patton has been in the public eye for a lot of the wrong reasons, from a well-publicized breakup to a supporting role in a universally reviled film — the fact that she's phenomenally talented and just can't seem to catch a break often gets lost in the shuffle. Unfortunately, her run of dubiousness continues with Traffik, a hackneyed thriller in which her role amounts to a lone bright spot.

The Hollywood Reporter's blistering review acknowledges that Patton "almost single-handedly makes you want to take the film a little more seriously than is in any way warranted," before moving on to savage the "stock characters, hackneyed suspense cliches and predictable notes," along with the "canned-sounding electronic score." The Austin Chronicle's Steve Davis agreed, noting that "if this movie demonstrates anything, it's that this capable actress deserves better than just being known as the ex-Mrs. Robin Thicke." While most also went out of their way to praise the cinematography of veteran lenser Dante Spinotti, who has worked on such classics as Heat and L.A. Confidential, not even his "haunting and claustrophobic" work could redeem a thriller that was ultimately undercooked at the writing stage.

I Feel Pretty

While most would agree that Amy Schumer is a very funny woman, it's hard to deny that she's had a hard time hitting her stride with her film projects. After a promising debut with 2015's Judd Apatow-directed Trainwreck (which she also wrote), her 2017 effort Snatched fell flat with audiences and critics alike. This year's I Feel Pretty — in which Schumer's average-sized woman awakens from an accident believing she is a supermodel — seemed to sport the perfect premise for Schumer's brand of comedy, but it largely turned out to be another swing and a miss.

The New Yorker loudly proclaimed the film "Another Waste of Amy Schumer" right in its headline, calling it a "painful, unaware condescension masquerading as encouragement" and noting that the rest of the cast — which includes Naomi Campbell, Michelle Williams and veteran actress Lauren Hutton — are wasted on the material as well. Most other critics were no kinder, agreeing that the movie's themes of self-love felt pandering and insincere and that the comedic moments were exceedingly tone-deaf (one went so far as to call the film "deeply unfunny"). Perhaps Apatow, the only director who has proven himself capable of harnessing Schumer's vibe on the big screen, should give her a call, because the response to I Feel Pretty has been nothing short of ugly.

Super Troopers 2

Nobody ever accused comedy troupe Broken Lizard's 2002 freakout Super Troopers — the adventures of a group of juvenile, incredibly weird cops — of being high art, but among comedy fans of a certain stripe, it was almost immediately hailed as some kind of demented masterpiece. It spawned enough endlessly quotable lines to keep it from fading from the public's memory, but if belated sequels are always a tricky proposition, belated comedy sequels can be even trickier — as illustrated by the long-awaited, supremely disappointing Super Troopers 2.

The Lizards instilled high hopes in the fans that funded the film via Kickstarter, but rather than attempt to outdo themselves, Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan and the rest appear to have been completely willing to fall back on only the most obvious, juvenile of gags in a sequel that critics found perfunctory at best. The Los Angeles Times called it "a badly degraded copy of the original" while voicing complaints about the film's misogynistic, homophobic humor echoed by the vast majority of critics; one review singled it out as "a case study in why comedy sequels almost never work," pointing out that the film seems stuck in a comedic time warp and calling the humor "even more lowbrow than the original." It may have been meant as a love letter to the fans, but Super Troopers 2 only served as confirmation that these cops need to retire, right meow.

Overboard

Perhaps the only type of film viewed with more suspicion than the comedy sequel is the comedy reboot, an endeavor which virtually never goes well even with a universally beloved property and a stellar cast. This year's Overboard, a gender-swapped version of a little-remembered and even less-loved Kurt Russell/Goldie Hawn vehicle from 1987, was therefore facing an uphill battle from the moment it was announced — and even the presence of the reliably hilarious Anna Faris couldn't save this wholly unnecessary retread.

Faris plays a working-class mom hired to clean the boat of a Mexican playboy (Eugenio Derbez, one of Mexico's biggest stars) who takes advantage of the situation when her employer falls overboard and turns up with amnesia, convincing him that he's her husband. Critics were quick to point out that this premise (which is dubious even by '80s standards) predictably fails to hold up today, and they didn't hold back on the nautical puns in asserting that this is one story that really didn't need revisiting. "Leave this one floating without a life jacket," advised the Associated Press; "[Faris and Derbez] can't keep this reboot from sinking like a stone," said Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. When your film exists only to give critics practice making terrible jokes, you know you're in trouble, and opening against Avengers: Infinity War in its second week was the final nail in the coffin of this limp comedy.

Show Dogs

Will Arnett may have struck critical gold with a TV series featuring talking animals, but that doesn't begin to explain his presence in Show Dogs, a weak comedy which paired him as a human police detective with a wisecracking canine partner voiced by Ludacris. Director Raja Gosnell's filmography reads like a fairly comprehensive list of every inoffensive but clunky family comedy of the last couple decades (Big Momma's House, two Scooby-Doo movies, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, a pair of Smurfs movies), and Show Dogs is nothing if not a consistent addition to his canon.

Arnett's performance was greeted with such humbling descriptors as "lost" and "clearly embarrassed," with many critics noting that even a film obviously aimed at young children has no excuse for boring their parents to tears. While some praise was reserved for the voice performance of veteran character actor Stanley Tucci in a supporting role, the film as a whole was roundly excoriated for everything from its "stupefyingly inane" plot to gags that fall within a narrow range between lazy and nonsensical. We can all agree that Arnett deserved better, but the San Francisco Chronicle's Peter Hartlaub went one step further: "Time with your family should be valuable," he wrote, "so make a stand to Hollywood and vote with your wallet: We all deserve a better live-action talking-dog movie than this."

God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness

While the recent spate of faith-based films have had no trouble turning a profit, they have fallen curiously short on inspiration, and even those based on popular properties with bankable stars among the cast have been treated mercilessly by critics. 2014's God's Not Dead, uniformly panned for its hole-filled plot and hostile take on atheism, was bound for the franchise treatment after posting over $60 million in box office receipts on a paltry budget, and even the diminishing returns of its 2016 sequel couldn't keep production house PureFlix from gracing us with this third installment.

Unfortunately, God's Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness continued its predecessors' tradition of preaching to the converted while being nigh-unwatchable for mainstream audiences. RogerEbert.com's Sheila O'Malley singled out the series' attitude of divisiveness over inclusiveness: "It features all of the familiar elements from the two previous films: a persecution complex, an 'us vs. them' attitude, and visions of the brave faithful going up against a hostile secular society." The A.V. Club's Vadim Rizov concurred, saying, "It doesn't just tap into the bottomless, inexplicable well of paranoia about persecution of white Christians in the United States… it also throws in cameos from NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch and Fox News personality Judge Jeanine Pirro, just to make it absolutely clear where the film and its presumptive audience stands." The film's persecution complex was a recurring theme among critics, but judging by the box office, the message seems to be getting old even for the target audience. 

Mute

Director Duncan Jones, the son of music legend David Bowie, is turning into a confounding filmmaker after showing ridiculous amounts of promise with his early work. His 2009 debut Moon, a Twilight Zone-esque sci-fi thriller featuring a remarkable lead performance from Sam Rockwell, was astonishingly assured and earned heaps of critical praise; his follow-up, 2011's Source Code, was even more well-received and seemed to promise the brightest of futures for the young director. But then came 2016's Warcraft, a limp video game adaptation that flopped in the U.S. but did huge business overseas, leaving fans to wonder if Jones had abandoned artistry for a giant paycheck.

Their concerns seemed to be allayed when Jones' next project, the Netflix original film Mute, was announced as a "spiritual successor" to Moon, indicating a return to the director's heady sci-fi roots. But despite the presence of Rockwell, Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood) and Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), the film arrived as a half-baked "bullet point list of absurdities," a "mishmash of ideas in search of a movie." Many critics praised the film's visual style, with some admitting that the opening act had them hooked only to deliver an "underwhelming payoff." But Rosie Fletcher of Digital Spy succinctly summed up the consensus opinion: "The whole film is populated by people you don't believe or care at all about, behaving in ways that don't make sense against a cheap-looking sci-fi-by-numbers backdrop." Better luck next time, Mr. Jones.

The Week Of

Netflix spent a truly insane amount of money on original content in 2018, seemingly part of its strategy to conquer all realms of visual media not currently dominated by Disney and Universal. But the streaming giant's opening salvos in this gambit have been a mixed bag; the big-budget Will Smith feature Bright (released in late 2017) was a hit for the service but was savaged by critics, and surprise sequel The Cloverfield Paradox couldn't score with either crowd.

On the heels of sci-fi strikeout Mute, Netflix shifted gears with The Week Of, a buddy comedy starring Chris Rock and Adam Sandler, whose very name has come to be synonymous with shoddy, borderline-inept comedies of the type that are prone to being mentioned in discussions of the worst films of all timeThe Week Of continued this dubious streak, bringing out the venom in nearly every critic who viewed it. Rafer Guzman of Newsday had a theory as to why the film didn't garner a theatrical release: "There's no way audiences would pay to see The Week Of at a theater," he wrote. "Even streaming it might feel like a rip-off." Daniel Rutledge of Flicks.co.nz deadpanned, "It's mostly just mind-numbingly dull, with the annoyingly unfunny comedy bits at least breaking the monotony" — reflecting the general consensus that the nearly two-hour film is an overly long, boring, slapped-together mess with nary an inspired gag to be found. In other words, an Adam Sandler movie.

Breaking In

Breaking In sounded like a can't-miss: a kind of reverse-home invasion thriller starring the talented Gabrielle Union (The Birth of a Nation), written by up-and-coming scribe Ryan Engle (The Commuter, Rampage) and directed by James McTeigue, a visual stylist who has worked as an assistant director on flicks like Dark City and The Matrix, and whose directorial debut was the classic graphic novel adaptation V for Vendetta. Union portrays a mother who must rescue her children from kidnappers holed up in an ultra-secure home, a winner of a premise which somehow managed to fall completely flat onscreen.

Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers simply unloaded on the film: "The listless, leaden acting, writing and direction in this breathtakingly stupid bomb-ola defies audiences to stay conscious through its drag-ass 88 minutes… James McTeigue, 13 years out from his one good film, uses every trick in the Directing 101 handbook to distract us from the idiocy of what we're seeing. Nothing works." Nearly all of the film's critical praise was reserved for Union's performance, which was unfortunately in the service of a rote, paint-by-numbers thriller with a distinct lack of thrills. Nearly all critics were quick to point out Breaking In's absurd leaps of logic and ridiculous twists, such as Adam Graham of the Detroit News, whose summary was eloquent in its brevity: "Breaking In is broken."

Action Point

On paper, Action Point seemed like sure-fire comedy gold. Based on the famously, dangerously irresponsible real-life Action Park and featuring Johnny Knoxville and his usual roundup of friends willing to put themselves in harm's way for our entertainment, it seemed to sport the perfect framing device for another round of insane stunts, humiliating pratfalls, and gales of laughter — but arrived in theaters only to fall right on its face.

Amazingly, many critics found Action Point not Jackass enough. Rolling Stone's Peter Travers was among this crowd, opining that "Action Point is the first Jackass-related movie to play it safe. Now that is truly painful." Most critics agreed, calling the film disappointingly by-the-numbers and unworthy of its inspiration; Reno News and Review critic Bob Grimm, who survived the actual Action Park as a child, called it "basically an insult to the legend of Action Park — or Death Park, as we liked to call it." It's an exceedingly rare case of not going far enough for the Jackass crew; as they've all been in the business of flagrantly abusing themselves for the better part of two decades, here's hoping they can give us at least one more stellar outing without killing themselves.

Gringo

If this is your first time hearing of action/comedy Gringo, you're not alone. The film flopped spectacularly in wide release, grossing only about $11 million worldwide despite an insanely accomplished cast featuring David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, and Amanda Seyfried. The story of a mild-mannered American (Oyelowo) who goes all Breaking Bad on a trip south of the border, the sophomore feature from veteran stunt coordinator Nash Edgerton failed to score with critics while general audiences were seemingly unaware of its existence.

Not that this was necessarily a bad thing: ReelViews critic James Berardinelli nailed the general consensus in observing that the film feels "as if the filmmakers had thrown away some promising ideas and elements in weaving together a thoroughly generic chase movie and pretending it's something special by employing ineffective stylistic choices." Rolling Stone's David Fear was even less kind: "It can't decide whether it wants to be magnificently toxic or merely mediocre. … This is a 'romp' that's keen on going nowhere… and sloooowly." Most of the critical venom was reserved for its unfunny, contrived mess of a screenplay, on which the film's amazing cast was apparently completely wasted. Let's hope this doesn't become a recurring theme for scribe Anthony Tambakis, who followed Gringo by writing scripts for Suicide Squad 2 and Bad Boys For Life.

Gotti

A passion project for star John Travolta, the biopic Gotti arrived having cycled through producers and directors at an alarming rate; the production endured clashes between the cast and producers, and being flipped from studio to studio like a hot potato. Its release date was pushed back several times as a result, and when it finally landed in theaters, all that discord was visible right there on the screen.

Many critics praised Travolta's committed performance, delivered in the service of a borderline-incoherent film. Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty laid the film's amateurish pacing problems and "buckshot 'this-happened-and-then-that-happened' storyline" solely at the feet of director Kevin Connolly, best known for his role as Eric on the HBO series EntourageNewsday's Frank Lovece concurred, calling the film a "connect-the-dots disaster — the don's greatest hits, so to speak — without discernible theme or cohesive narrative." Some of the blame was also reserved for screenwriters Lem Dobbs (Dark City) and veteran character actor Leo Rossi, whose script "tries too hard to cram too much information into a small space," resulting in audiences "learning almost nothing about the man, other than the filmmakers feel he was a pretty stand-up guy," according to the Detroit News. The types of production problems suffered by Gotti are almost never good news, but critics were unanimous in their assessment of the Teflon Don's biopic as an unmitigated disaster.

Life of the Party

Life of the Party has a plot that seems like the perfect framework upon which to hang a series of comic Melissa McCarthy setpieces (a recently divorced middle-aged woman goes back to college). But McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone, who cowrote the picture, inexplicably failed to provide themselves with the comedy fuel to make this star vehicle run. Based on their previous collaborations Tammy and The Boss, the pair seem to be struggling mightily to find a formula to play to McCarthy's strengths, and with Life of the Party, the struggle continues.

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers calls McCarthy "comedy royalty," while lamenting that even she "can't keep this mom-goes-to-college fluffball from flatlining. … She allows her laugh instincts to get buried in a blanket of bland." The Atlantic's Christopher Orr notes that the film "doesn't live up to either of the nouns in its title," while bashing McCarthy's choice of writing partner. He writes: "When Melissa McCarthy's husband, Ben Falcone, appears in one of her films, don't worry about it. … When Falcone directs and co-writes with McCarthy, however … Well, extreme caution is advised." It was a common sentiment among critics, with even some of the positive notices simply proclaiming the film "good enough." Falcone is a very funny guy, but after three strikes in a row, perhaps he should take an extended break from writing his wife's movies.

Game Over, Man!

The Netflix original Game Over, Man! has a title specifically engineered to appeal to film fans of a certain vintage, and its pedigree as the creation of the minds behind the awesome series Workaholics made it seem like a safe bet to bring the laughs. A sort of comedic spin on Die Hard, the film features Workaholics stars Adam Devine, Blake Anderson, and Anders Holm as video game developers forced to fight back against terrorists — but insists on falling back on needless raunchiness and vulgarity far more often than that premise would seem to justify.

The New York Times' Glenn Kenny calls the film's level of vulgarity "relentless" yet "strangely listless," an assessment echoed by critics across the spectrum. But Charles Bramesco of The Guardian dug even deeper: "With its inexplicable combination of phallic revulsion, fascination, and revulsion at its own fascination," he wrote, "this wretched film hates itself more than we ever could." IndieWire's David Ehrlich chimed in with an interesting point: "The downside to generating original content for Netflix is that there isn't any oversight whatsoever; no one to point out how many of the jokes aren't working, or tell the filmmakers that Die Hard is actually pretty funny in the first place." The streaming giant's fast-growing library of original content is certainly hit-and-miss, and Game Over, Man! is one of its biggest whiffs of 2018.

Slender Man

Fans could be forgiven for approaching Slender Man — so far, the only film to be based on a creepypasta — with a healthy amount of trepidation. Plot details had been kept tightly under wraps during the film's production, and the entire endeavor wasn't helped by the real-life tragic case surrounding the fictional spook, in which a young girl was stabbed nearly to death. But when the film hit theaters, it became clear why we hadn't heard much about the plot — there wasn't much of one to speak of.

Critics absolutely flogged the picture for its paper-thin story and lack of any genuine scares. Adam Graham of the Detroit News at least came away with a good idea of how to conquer the mysterious fiend: "make his story so dull that no one cares." Felix Vasquez, Jr. of Cinema Crazed nailed down all the film's problems with one succinct sentence: "Deep down beats the heart of a great horror movie, but it's lost in cheap jump scares, bad CGI, and heavy cribbing from Nightmare on Elm Street and The Ring." More than one reviewer noted the film's proximity to the real-life crime which happened just a few years ago, with some even making the case that the film is exploiting the tragedy — but at the end of the day, Slender Man's worst crime was failing to deliver the creepy goods.

The Darkest Minds

Based on Alexandra Bracken's young adult novel, The Darkest Minds seemed to have a winning pedigree. It was the live-action directorial debut of Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who helmed the well-received Kung-Fu Panda 2 and its sequel following a long career as a production illustrator, working on such visually striking films as 1998's Dark City. Working from a script by Chad Hodge (Wayward Pines) and with a stellar cast including Mandy Moore, Gwendoline Christie and the talented Amandla Stenberg in the lead, Nelson looked set to launch a lucrative new franchise with Minds — plans which are probably dead in the water, since the film bombed.

The reasons it didn't connect with its intended audience are varied, but the reasons critics trashed it are not. By and large, they found that — despite the interesting premise of super-powered teens on the run from a dystopian government — Minds fell back hard on tired YA tropes. Its extreme derivativeness wasn't helped by a confusing script that rushed through important plot points from the novel, and even the photography was called out for being drab and visually unappealing. It was an unfortunate swing-and-a-miss for Nelson, whose formidable artistic background apparently translates better to animation than live action.

The Happytime Murders

On the surface, The Happytime Murders seemed like it had an inspired comedic premise: a sort of mashup between the stage play Avenue Q and the classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the film stars Melissa McCarthy as a human police detective in a world where people co-exist with sentient puppets. When the all-puppet cast of '80s kids' show The Happytime Gang begin to meet violent ends, she and her puppet partner are tasked with getting to the bottom of the murders. It had all the makings of a raunchy, edgy laugh-fest — but the film arrived packing plenty of raunch and edge, yet without many laughs to speak of.

The production is the first from Henson Alternative, an adult-themed offshoot of the late Jim Henson's studio, and was helmed by his son Brian — both facts that seemed to depress the majority of critics. The always-blunt Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called it a "toxic botch job" which "deserves an early death by box office," which was actually one of the kinder assessments of the picture; Bloody Disgusting's Scott Weinberg summed it up as "ugly, mean-spirited and aggressively redundant," while Sarah Marrs of Lainey Gossip called it "too boring and mediocre to be the worst movie ever made." (Ouch.) Puppet-based raunchy humor can certainly be pulled off — see Team America: World Police — but Henson and crew couldn't crack the code, and also managed to deliver yet another starring vehicle unworthy of McCarthy's talents.

Mile 22

Nobody ever accused Mark Wahlberg of being the most nuanced actor of our time, even if the man himself is puzzled as to why his movies haven't won more Oscars. Perhaps it would help if he'd stop accepting scripts like Mile 22, a generic covert-ops thriller which breathlessly promises — and fails — to let us in on the inner workings of "the CIA's most highly-prized and least understood unit."

Many critics excoriated the film for its poorly developed characters and emphasis on gunslinging action sequences over all else — sequences which were rendered largely unwatchable by shaky camera work and uneven editing. The film's perfunctory plotting also came under fire; Alci Rengifo of Entertainment Voice hilariously dropped the mic on the film by concluding his review, "if you just seek Wahlberg cocking a gun as only he knows how, this might deliver. But how many rounds can you keep firing into a plot hole?" The general consensus: if you enjoy a lot bullets, gore, and Wahlberg looking grim, you may find Mile 22 to be an acceptable time-passer. If you're looking for anything else — like, say, insight into the CIA's most highly-prized and least understood unit — you're going to come away disappointed.

A.X.L.

A.X.L. is the story of a boy and his dog — a robot dog designed to be a killing machine by the military. Young Miles (Alex Neustaedter) discovers his new buddy hiding out from its creators while doing sweet tricks on his motorbike, and of course he's forced to go on the run with his robo-canine when the military gives pursuit. We've covered similar ground before — Short Circuit and E.T. just might spring to mind — but the film's major crime is not the derivativeness of its story, but the fact that it seems to want to leave your memory mere moments after watching it.

Critics bandied about such phrases as "utterly forgettable," "lacking charm, wit and imagination," and "as warm as anything you'd find on the Craftsman section of your neighborhood Sears" in assessing the film. In cobbling together various pieces of other, better films for their project, the filmmakers apparently forgot the part that made their inspirations so successful: genuine human emotion. Said Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter: "Oliver Daly's kid-oriented feature only strains hopelessly for Amblin Entertainment-style magic. The result is that A.X.L. feels in desperate need of repairs."

Kin

The debut feature of twin brothers Jonathan and Josh Baker, Kin sports an interesting sci-fi premise. A teenager (Myles Truitt) and his recently paroled older brother (Jack Reynor) tangle with a local drug lord, with a significant variable: a powerful futuristic weapon the boy discovers in the aftermath of a skirmish between mysterious, heavily armored combatants. It mashes up elements of road movies, family adventures and futuristic thrillers, which is perhaps part of its problem; chief among critics' complaints was the film's wildly uneven tone, compounded by its inability to play up the most entertaining aspects of its many elements.

For example, The Gate's Andrew Parker noted that "For a film built around an enormous space gun, Kin boasts precious little action until the final twenty minutes, and the gun's capabilities aren't even glimpsed until almost the hour mark." The film also failed to hit the sweet spot as a family drama; as Jake Coyle of the Associated Press put it, "Given the film's title, and that the filmmakers are themselves twins, you would expect the brother relationship at the heart of the movie to be something more than it is." Many critics also felt that the material might have been a lot more fun in the hands of a more experienced writing/directing team — and if the anemic box office is any indication, the Bakers may not soon get another chance.

The Nun

The films of the Conjuring universe have never done anything less than gangbusters at the box office, but in terms of critical regard, they've been something of a mixed bag. Since the first appearance of the demonic nun Valak in The Conjuring 2, fans have been clamoring for a film centered on the terrifying figure — and while The Nun's box office has indeed been impressive, the film has unfortunately garnered the worst reviews of the entire series.

All the more disappointing is the fact that critics generally considered the film to be technically well-made, with strong performances from its cast — qualities which weren't able to save it from giant gaps in logic and a meandering narrative structure. The San Diego Reader's Scott Marks criticized its "complete and utter lack of a plot," with one ostensibly shocking moment providing "the biggest laugh I've had in a theater this year," which probably wasn't the filmmakers' intention. Many observers also took the film to task for it heavy reliance on cliche. Said the Seattle Times' Soren Andersen, "Entombed the audience is, entombed, I say, in horror-movie cliches… Director Corin Hardy lards on the frights so relentlessly that the moments don't build to any sort of sustained narrative momentum… It's so choppy and predictable that it becomes laughable." The Nun is guaranteed to turn a profit, meaning that a sequel is probably in the works right now; perhaps the next time around, the filmmakers can find a scarier story to tell.

Peppermint

Frenchman Pierre Morel has established himself as a workmanlike director of action with such thrillers as the original Taken and 2015's Sean Penn vehicle The Gunman. But his latest effort, Peppermint, faced an uphill battle even before release; its marketing wasn't exactly pervasive, and fans could be forgiven for confusing a film by that title starring Jennifer Garner for a romantic comedy. But no: it's a gender-swapped take on Death Wish (which, notably, has already been done) starring Garner as a mother bent on avenging the senseless murders of her husband and daughter.

Despite near-universal praise for Garner's performance, the film suffered a brutal beating at the hands of critics who condemned it for, among many other things, failing to have the courage of its ostensibly feminist convictions. Lindsey Bahr of the Associated Press encapsulated this opinion nicely: "Peppermint is not some model of equality, it's just violent escapism that happens to have a woman in the lead role… maybe, just maybe, next time consider a woman or two behind the camera (and script) as well." Others ripped the film for its dearth of creativity or imagination, alongside a troubling reliance on racial stereotypes. Some even suggested that Peppermint works best as a parody — not exactly an ideal take for a film which purports to have Heavy Issues on its mind. Garner is talented and could use more high-profile starring vehicles — but by most accounts, this is one she should've passed on.

The Predator

Fans of sci-fi horror and '80s action alike were psyched beyond belief by the announcement of The Predator, a Shane Black-directed sequel set in suburbia. Black's action bonafides have never been in question, and he even had a small and thankless role in the original film. The trailers looked exciting, fresh and funny, and it seemed highly unlikely that Black would drop the ball completely.

Well, he didn't, if only because the ball never touched his hands. Black is incapable of making a bad looking film, and positive notices focused near-universally on the director's gifts for staging action and violence — gifts which, unfortunately, couldn't overcome a surprisingly bland script and undisciplined plotting. Brandon Katz of The Observer hilariously called it "a thorough grab bag of averageness, made worse by its distinct lack of distinction," while his peers lambasted the film for its over-reliance on zippy one-liners and for emulating '80s B-movies in the worst possible ways. It added up to a shocking whiff from a filmmaker who seemed to have all the ingredients to make an awesome Predator movie, a metaphor which was squarely nailed by YouTube reviewer Achara Kirk: "For whatever reason they had the quantities wrong, or it was baked at the wrong temperature… disappointing."

Unbroken: Path to Redemption

2014's Unbroken had an interesting pedigree: a dramatization of the life of actual World War II hero Louis Zamperini, it was directed by Angelina Jolie from a script by Joel and Ethan Coen. While it was a minor box office hit, the film split critics down the middle, and — as it told a complete, self-contained story — didn't seem like a strong candidate for the sequel treatment. But Pureflix, that reliable purveyor of critically derided "faith-based" films, saw the franchise potential nobody else did in Zamperini's story, and tapped God's Not Dead director Harold Cronk to tell the tale of Zamperini's religious awakening after the war — with predictable results.

Pureflix brought their preaching-to-the-converted aesthetic to what most critics found to be a wholly unnecessary addendum to the original film. Gone are Jolie, the Coen brothers, and every last member of Unbroken's cast; in their place are Cronk, a cast of virtual unknowns, and a pair of screenwriters who seem to have done all of their best work decades ago. Steven D. Graydanus of the National Catholic Register thoughtfully summed up the film's major problem, along with those of virtually every other Pureflix offering, succinctly: "Worthwhile religious movies explore the implications and the lived experience of faith or perhaps illuminate the reality of life without it. Regrettably, Path to Redemption has no interest in the first and isn't up to the second."

Life Itself

Writer/director Dan Fogelman made a name for himself by scripting the animated features Cars and Tangled before finding his greatest success as the creator of the television melodrama This Is Us. For his sophomore feature film Life Itself, he aimed to bring that series' aesthetic to the big screen, with the aid of a killer cast featuring Olivia Wilde, Oscar Isaac, and veteran actors Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas. Perhaps, as many critics suggested, his talents are simply better suited to television — because Life Itself arrived in theaters curiously devoid of life.

The always colorful Adam Graham of the Detroit News raked the film over the coals: "Fogelman wants audiences to feel his love, but the only tools at his disposal are sap and cheese, which he hits viewers with like an errant bus driver," he wrote. "Life Itself is an atrocity, one of the year's worst films. Fogelman wanted tragic, and he certainly found it." Slightly kinder (but still negative) reviews acknowledged Fogelman's talent while noting that his story and characterizations were a complete mess, but most critics simply took the opportunity to break out the big guns. Said IndieWire's Kate Erbland: "It's a movie made for people who can't be trusted to understand any storytelling unless it's not just spoon-fed but ladled on, piled high, and explained via montage and voiceover."

Night School

Everyone knows Kevin Hart is a very funny man, and Tiffany Haddish has been on the rise since the critical and commercial success of 2017's Girls Trip. That film's director Malcolm D. Lee returned in 2018 with Night School, which pairs Hart and Haddish in the story of a bunch of lunkheads taking adult education classes in hopes of passing the GED exam. With this simple premise and the talents of two of the best riffmeisters in the business, the flick had all the makings of comedy gold — but unfortunately, the pair ended up hamstrung by a poor screenplay which failed to take advantage of their comic sensibilities.

Todd Jorgenson of Cinemalogue couldn't resist coming off like an annoyed headmaster in his review, saying "Night School needs a lecture about paying attention and applying itself in class. Indeed, some remedial screenwriting courses might be in order for the creators of this arrested-development comedy." Adam Graham of the Detroit News was one of many critics to notice that Hart and Haddish "are both wildly gifted comedians, but Night School doesn't allow them to riff." Perhaps a more freewheeling, improvisatory style could have rescued the film, which the majority of critics labeled as not egregiously awful, but profoundly disappointing. The Film Pie's Matthew Toomey summed it up best: "Kevin Hart has been better. Tiffany Haddish has been better. Night School should have been better."

Johnny English Strikes Again

2003's Johnny English, the Rowan Atkinson-led spoof of James Bond flicks, was not exactly a critical darling. Critics generally found the film to be limp and uninspired ("Mike Myers has worked this material to death," deadpanned Peter Travers of Rolling Stone), but audiences cared not in the least. At least, non-American audiences; the picture vacuumed up the lion's share of it $160,000,000 worldwide gross overseas, and history repeated itself with 2011's sequel Johnny English Reborn, which did nearly identical numbers while garnering… well, nearly identical reviews. Could the third time be a charm for the bumbling spy's stateside fortunes? In a word: no.

Once again, 2018's Johnny English Strikes Again barely registered a blip at the U.S. box office while positively cleaning up in foreign markets, to the continuing bafflement of American critics. Entertainment Weekly's Dana Schwartz certainly wasn't amused: "With its simple key-in-the-hole plot and gags like pants falling down and revealing a bare butt to reporters," she said, "this movie might succeed as a competent but forgettable romp for 8-year-olds in a world where Austin PowersThe Pink Panther, and Get Smart didn't exist for some reason." Others were even less forgiving, pointing to stiff supporting performances and a general dearth of laughs. But true to the spirit of her website's namesake, RogerEbert.com's Nell Minnow summed it up best: "Raise your hand if you were waiting for another Rowan Atkinson movie about the bumbling British spy, Johnny English. Yeah, me neither."

Hunter Killer

Adapted from the 2012 novel Firing Point, Hunter Killer looked like it had the potential to be a Hunt For Red October for a new generation. Star Gerard Butler has not exactly been box office gold of late, with 2017's Geostorm and 2018's Den of Thieves both falling woefully flat with critics and audiences. But with an interesting supporting cast including the likes of Gary Oldman and Common, Butler hoped to turn his fortunes around as a Navy SEAL who winds up coming to the rescue of the Russian president after a failed coup. Unfortunately, it didn't work out quite as he'd hoped. 

Critics found the film to be a waste of an interesting premise, a "generic and underheated" thriller with a lead character "whom you wish you could call a man of few words; he talks way too much." Legendary Chicago Sun-Times critic and former Roger Ebert cohort Richard Roeper blasted the film as a "bombastic, preposterous, cliché-riddled, overstuffed, not-so-Cold-War political thriller which seems all the more ridiculous given the current state of American-Russian relations," and he was not the only observer to point out the film's "unfortunate geo-political timing." Such considerations aside, the majority of detractors simply found the film to be excruciatingly boring — unless you happen to have a fetish for shiny, gleaming (see: CGI-rendered) military technology. It's a film that tries and fails to ask big questions, leaving the biggest of all — how it even got a theatrical release — open for debate.