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The Worst Movies Of 2020

There's always going to be a ton of movies out there vying for our entertainment dollars (yes, even in 2020), but sometimes, you just have to wonder if the filmmakers behind them really want those dollars at all. Not everybody gets to make motion pictures for a living, and one would think that everybody who actually gets a shot at a film career would do their level best to bring all of the heart, wit, and energy to the screen that they possibly could. Unfortunately, one would be wrong.

Every year, we here at Looper round up all of the absolute crappiest efforts to hit theaters, and every year, we're still surprised at just how many of them there are. Sure, it would be unrealistic to expect every film to be a masterpiece — but if you find yourself lucky enough to have a major studio shelling out a bunch of actual money for your screenplay, or to be sitting in the director's chair for a production with a whopping budget and a slot on the schedule for wide release, you'd do well to at least try to make sure that you're not fielding a big old stinker like one of these.

These are the films that arrived in theaters to the sound of a sad trombone, stunk up the joint for awhile, and then slunk away in shame. They're the very worst films of 2020, and the next time you're having an off day on the job, just be glad your job doesn't get released to thousands of screens worldwide.

The Grudge

2004's The Grudge was one of the more well-regarded films of the wave of J-horror remakes we saw in that decade, but if the Hollywood studios are thinking that now is the time to start rebooting all those remakes, the 2020 edition of the flick should make them think again. It had a promising pedigree, with Nicolas Pesce (Eyes of My Mother) writing and directing, and John Cho, Betty Gilpin, and horror legend Lin Shaye among its cast. What it didn't have was an original plot, a consistent tone, or any real scares.

Paul Whitington of The Independent was one of the many critics to bemoan the seeming lack of effort put into the film. "This is shoddy stuff, full of J-horror cliches and supposed jump-scares you can see coming a mile off," he wrote. "It's not particularly frightening, but it sure is depressing." Katherine McLaughlin of The List agreed, calling the movie out for its over-reliance on tired jump scares and "all-too familiar imagery." She, along with nearly every other critic, acknowledged the awesomeness of the cast — but their squandered talent only gave reviewers more reason to trash the flick. Wrote Charlotte O'Sullivan of London Evening Standard, "At the beginning of [the movie], a bag of rubbish gyrates as if something human is caught inside. Trapped in a pile of garbage: I'm sure the cast of The Grudge know how that feels... You don't have to be a twit to enjoy this movie, but it helps."

Like a Boss

Like a Boss was another film that utterly failed to capitalize on the talent of its cast, which included Rose Byrne, Salma Hayek, Billy Porter, and Tiffany Haddish (who seemingly cannot catch a break). The story of a pair of friends (Byrne and Haddish) whose friendship is put to the test when their small cosmetics company is bought up by a corporation, the flick made feeble stabs at both subversive laughs and a "you go, girl" female empowerment vibe — neither of which worked.

"How do you make a movie with [this cast], and have it be so devoid of joy?" wondered Vulture's Alison Willmore. "It's hard to guess whether the story was mangled by studio reedits or just didn't have much to say to begin with — both seem possible. The bigger question is why so many strong actors signed on for this misfire... it feels like a film whose point is clumsily misunderstood by the very people who created it." That innate clumsiness was pointed out by nearly every observer ("It's a film that so desperately wants to be funny, but isn't sure how," wrote Karen Krizanovich of The List), while plenty of sympathy was reserved for that amazing cast — and the audience. "Everyone in this movie deserves better than this movie," wrote Tara Brady of Irish Times, "and so do you."

Dolittle

After being the face of the most popular franchise in the world and getting the most heroic death in recent memory in Avengers: Endgame, Robert Downey, Jr. probably could have followed his 11-year stint as Iron Man with just about any project he wanted to. Inexplicably, what he wanted to make was Dolittle, a retelling of a classic story that baffled critics by being a complete bore (not to mention by giving Downey's Doctor one of the most impenetrable accents in film history).

"This is the family movie we didn't know we needed. Because we really didn't," wrote Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "It really is horribly inert, and every time Downey opens his mouth to say something unintelligible, the film dies a bit more." The film's oddly slapdash quality and poor GCI were called out by many, with the vast majority of praise leveled at the film being of the most backhanded sort ("Dementedly misguided enough to at least be perversely watchable," wrote Flickering Myth's Shaun Munro). Downey's performance was "hailed" as a career-worst by more than one observer, but it appears that there was little the actor could have done to save a movie that was simply ill-conceived and poorly executed. A goodly number of critics couldn't resist making obvious pun, like Quad City Times' Linda Cook, who wrote, "Please do little to ensure you see this ghastly excuse for a movie. Come to think of it, please don't do anything at all, because Dolittle is one of the worst films in recent memory."

The Turning

The Turning seemed like a good idea on paper: an adaptation of the classic Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw directed by visionary filmmaker Floria Sigismondi (The Handmaid's Tale, American Godsdozens of music videos) starring Mackenzie Davis (Terminator: Dark Fate), Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things), and Joely Richardson (Red Sparrow) and produced by none other than Steven Spielberg was bound to be nothing if not visually stylish. Most critics agreed that it was; they also agreed that it was "meandering," "pedestrian," and "incomprehensible."

Those obviously weren't the descriptors Sigismondi and company were going for, and they got worse. David Nusair of Reel Film Reviews called The Turning "an absolutely abhorrent ghost story... an excessively deliberate drama that's almost entirely devoid of dread and atmosphere... an almost uncommonly intolerable contemporary horror flick." There was plenty of praise for the cast, with more than one observer noting the project's wasted potential — but quite a few others simply deemed the film a waste. Wrote Jamie East of The Sun, "That the man who gave us Jaws and Poltergeist had even a smidgen of a hand in this relentlessly dull barrage of cheap tricks is beyond me... [the] intentionally ambiguous but unintentionally hilarious ending had me screaming at the screen... Utterly ridiculous and not worth your time." Spielberg has plenty of projects in the pipeline as a producer, including Indiana Jones 5; let's hope The Turning isn't a sign of things to come.

The Rhythm Section

Director Reed Morano's The Rhythm Section adapts the novel of the same name by Mark Burnell (who also wrote the screenplay), the first of four which explore the transition of Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) into a steely MI6 spy after her family is killed in a suspicious plane crash. The flick might have begun a new franchise, had it not bombed at the box office and squandered what most critics considered an excellent lead performance by Lively.

Perhaps Burnell should have stuck to prose, because critics agreed that he didn't give Lively or co-stars Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown much to work with. "Rhythm Section almost puts on enough of a glossy cinematic show to disguise the film's glaring plot holes and creepy infantilization of its central character," wrote Suzette Smith of The Stranger. "Too bad the dated script is just regular ol' self-reliance porn that ends up being too sexist to even do that properly." Many reviewers pointed out the involvement of James Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli, such as NME's Ella Kemp, who wrote: "[Broccoli has] urged audiences to get behind new characters for women... Morano's mysterious blockbuster offers a well-paced, smartly designed recycling of familiar tropes. That's all it is, though. Broccoli has asked the world to support brilliant new female characters — but hasn't quite given us one here." It looks like this is one would-be franchise that was over before it started.

Fantasy Island

Recycling the premise of the classic '70s television series Fantasy Island (in which guests to a mysterious resort run by an enigmatic figure have their wildest dreams come true) into a Blumhouse horror thriller wasn't the worst idea in the world — even if, as Looper's own Christopher Gates points out, the series ended long before most of the movie's target audience was even born. The setup could certainly lend itself to scares, and casting Michael Peña in the Mr. Roarke role was nothing short of inspired. Unfortunately, the flick from writer-director Jeff Wadlow (Truth or Dare) didn't just botch the adaptation — he somehow, in the words of ReelViews' James Berardinelli, "[made] the original seem smart and fresh by comparison."

Fantasy Island was one of the most brutally reviewed movies of the year, earning such descriptors as "gallingly stupid," "distinctly subpar," and "preposterous and convoluted" — and these were the kinder reviews. Wrote Jason Shawhan of Nashville Scene, "This film is such a haphazard stack of nested fantasies it could be a Cinemax After Dark film if it took any joy in anything... Is this a twisty morality tale in which the selfish get punished? Is this a series of exaggerated tableaux meant to put flawed people through it and have them emerge on the other side as better human beings? Is this a tropical cash-grab? Blumhouse's Fantasy Island is all of those things at the same time. It is an incoherent mess, and it is f***ing exhausting." Tomris Laffly of Time Out was a bit more succinct: "'This place doesn't suck,' someone observes early on," she wrote. "If only."

Brahms: The Boy II

2016's The Boy was an interesting horror effort, and one that didn't necessarily lend itself to a sequel. Ostensibly the story of a killer doll who jealously guards the house in which it lives (the abode of parents whose young son tragically died years earlier), the flick's shocking final twist was one of the more well-done in recent years — so, leave it to Brahms: The Boy II to essentially undo it in the service of a far inferior movie.

Don't just take it from us: wrote The Wrap's William Bibbiani, "Brahms: The Boy II takes the best elements from The Boy and reverses course so abruptly, it practically leaves skidmarks on the screen. It's not just a subpar sequel; it retroactively injures an otherwise superior film." Many critics weren't even that kind, such as The Guardian's Benjamin Lee: "There's something willfully unscary about [The Boy II], as if director William Brent Bell is trying to prove a point, shining a light on the sheer pointlessness of this kind of by-the-numbers genre trash by turning the film into an almost satirically suspense-free exercise," he wrote. "It's so punishingly dull to watch, filled with dry, perfunctory dialogue from Stacey Menear's consistently uninventive script and shot without even a glimmer of style, that even at a brisk 86 minutes, it feels like unending torture." Yeesh. On the bright side, something tells us this is the only sequel The Boy will get.

The Last Thing He Wanted

The political drama The Last Thing He Wanted had a lot going for it, including a jaw-dropping cast that included Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Rosie Perez, Toby Jones, and the great Willem Dafoe. It adapted a well-regarded 1996 novel by Joan Didion, and it was released to Netflix, which literally everyone has, so it didn't even need to get butts in theater seats. Unfortunately, its list of positives ends right there.

Absolutely everything went wrong with the picture, starting with the screenplay, which got roasted like a marshmallow by virtually every critic tasked with sitting through the film. "The Last Thing He Wanted... is almost impressively bad," wrote Fortune's Isaac Feldberg. "[It] begins in a state of near-total incoherence and somehow meanders further from there, plunging into almost experimental territory with its choppily edited mess of ridiculous dialogue and hyper-dense plotting." FlixChatter's Ruth Maramis pointed out that it didn't need to be so complicated: "The plot is actually not that convoluted on paper," she wrote, "but somehow the muddled script and haphazard direction makes it feel that way." The undeniably talented cast seemed to all be phoning it in at once, failing to prop up a flick that seemed like it must have shown an active resistance to being made. Matthew Turner of The List summed it up by taking the obvious shot: "Lacking a single moment that rings true, forget the last thing he wanted, this is the last thing anybody wanted."

The Jesus Rolls

A movie centered on Jesus Quintana from The Big Lebowski sure sounded like a good idea. Star John Turturro obviously thought so, considering that he poured a lot of persistence and a couple decades into getting The Jesus Rolls made. Unfortunately, the film leaned hard into the most cartoonish aspects of the character, and away from little things that make the work of the Coen Brothers shine — things like nuanced humor, a solid plot, and dialogue that sounds like it could be spoken by actual humans.

Brian Tellerico of RogerEbert.com channeled his site's namesake in writing, "It's hard to make a movie about annoying wanderers interesting, engaging, or realistic — three words no one would use to describe this film... It turns out that the main lesson here is that Jesus Quintana shouldn't be going places outside of the bowling alley." Tallerico's panning of the film was actually gentle compared to most; the Los Angeles Times' Michael Rechtshaffen, for instance, called the film "sophomoric, white middle-age male sex farce fantasy that quickly wears out an already tenuous welcome," while Frank Ochieng of Flick Feast laid down this napalm: "The Jesus Rolls  throws a gutterball down the farcical greasy lane in an unimaginative sex buddy road flick where the thin-layered juvenile raunchiness is a strikeout of the unwanted kind." (Never mind the mixed metaphor.) Fans who waited a long time for the flick were roundly disappointed — fans like Jay Stone of The Ex-Press, who lamented, "The Dude abides, but it's hard to bear The Jesus Rolls."

Bloodshot

The Valiant Comics property Bloodshot, about an ex-Marine who is raised from the dead to become a nanotech-infused super soldier, seemed like a pretty good choice for a mid-budget film adaptation — and with Vin Diesel in the title role, it felt like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, two things went wrong for Bloodshot on the way to box office glory. For one thing, it was released on March 13, right as theaters everywhere began to close down. Secondly, it wasn't very good.

While most critics agreed that the cast — which included Iron Man 3's Guy Pearce and Baby Driver's Eiza Gonzalez — made the flick borderline watchable, virtually all agreed that watching a superhero action movie shouldn't feel like such a chore. The Chicago Sun-Times' Richard Roeper certainly knew where to place the blame: with writers Eric Heisserer (Arrival) and Jeff Wadlow (Fantasy Island). "There might be only one thing on this Earth that can stop Bloodshot — and that's the screenplay for Bloodshot. Yep, that did the trick," he wrote. "[The film is] frantically overcooked, bursting with headache-inducing, rapid-cut action sequences and only half as clever as it fancies itself." Joshua Rivera of The Verge wished that the flick had either been a little better, or a little worse: "Bloodshot is the worst kind of uninspiring," he wrote. "Not bad enough to circle back around toward fun, not good enough at action to be even momentarily impressed by a fight scene."

Observers also bemoaned the film's reliance on tired action movie tropes and its lack of an emotional center, but even those who were simply along for a thrill ride left disappointed. Jeff Mitchell of Phoenix Film Festival struck the killing blow with six words: "Boreshot feels like a better title."

Impractical Jokers: The Movie

Fans have been watching comedy troupe the Tenderloins — Joe Gatto, James "Murr" Murray, Salvatore "Sal" Vulcano, and Brian "Q" Quinn — plying their trade on the Tru TV series Impractical Jokers for a decade now. That trade involves members of the troupe having awkward interactions with an unsuspecting public at the direction of the others, then suffering "punishments" if they fail to meet all of the (often arbitrary) requirements of these interactions. It makes for pretty funny TV. Unfortunately, most critics felt that something was lost in the transition from small screen to large.

One thing that was definitely lost: a straightforward approach to their schtick, as the guys inexplicably felt the need to hang their gags on a paper-thin plot involving a missing invite to a party with Paula Abdul. Aisle Seat's Mike McGranaghan lamented that the guys couldn't commit to a feature version of Impractical Jokers as wholeheartedly as they do their actual jokes, writing, "If you're going to make a feature-length film version of a TV prank show, you need to go big or go home. The makers of Impractical Jokers: The Movie should have gone home, because they sure didn't go big... [the movie's just] a longer version of what you can already get at home for free. Nothing here warrants the cinematic treatment." Some fans of the series were won over, if somewhat involuntarily ("The guys did tickle me, against my will, a few times" wrote one critic), but most advised fans to just stay home and watch the series.

Behind You

There's no denying that "a horror movie called Behind You" is a great elevator pitch, but after that pitch is made and the film greenlit, there's the small matter of execution. This might have slipped the minds of first-time feature writers and directors Andrew Mecham and Matthew Whedon (yes, he's Joss' brother), because from its generically attractive young cast to its over-reliance on jump scares to its premise (a demon living inside a haunted mirror) cribbed from a much better film in Oculus, everything about Behind You was up for a lashing by reviewers.

The flick's lack of originality was what got most critics' blood boiling. "Behind You features little that horror film fans haven't seen endless times before," wrote The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck. "There's no compensating... for the contrived plotting... and hokey situations on display." ScreenRant's Hannah Hoolihan bemoaned the flick's "generic story and uninspired performances," going on to trash its "bland color palette [and] generic script," not to mention the fact that "the actors' lack of enthusiasm for the production itself can be felt pretty heavily while watching." While many critics reserved a little praise for the film's atmosphere and practical effects, those redeeming qualities couldn't make up for the film as a whole being a lazy slog. "Derivative, lacking in scares, monotonous, and just overall disappointing, it's a real chore," wrote Joey Magidson of Hollywood News. "Unless you're absolutely starved for a genre entry, you can do way better than this."

The Quarry

Based on the thriller novel by Damon Galgut, The Quarry apparently had designs on being a slow-burn nail-biter, a small town noir populated by seedy characters with shady pasts. Thanks to the talents of leads Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham, most critics agreed that the film was watchable — and also, that director Scott Teems (co-writer of the upcoming Halloween Kills) didn't seem to know what to do with all of the parts he'd assembled, from his game cast to his undercooked screenplay.

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe simply took the film apart. "Watching Shea Whigham and Michael Shannon in The Quarry is like watching two highly qualified surgeons try to jolt a comatose patient back to life," he wrote. "With its... overcautious pacing, you can feel [it] straining for the dust-blown starkness of a parable... There are just two key ingredients, and they're not enough to make a meal." RogerEbert.com's Peter Sobczynski kept running with that metaphor, writing, "Teems has the ingredients, he doesn't seem to have much of any idea of how to put them together in a compelling manner. He employs a deliberately slow and measured approach that works for a little while, but soon becomes plodding before fizzling out entirely at precisely the moment when things should start heating up from a dramatic standpoint." The performances of Shannon and Whigham were enough to garner recommendations from a few observers, but most agreed with MovieWeb's Julian Roman, who called them "the high points in a low adrenaline film."

Lazy Susan

You may be asking for it when you put the word lazy right there in the title of the movie, and if the critics are to be believed, Lazy Susan — a comedy from first-time feature director Nick Peet — is guilty of that self-own. Its simplistic plot follows the titular middle-aged sad-sack, who one day decides to stop skating through life and make something of herself. The fact that the character is played by a man (Sean Hayes, Will and Grace) should begin to give you an idea of its many problems.

Despite the presence of such talents as Matthew Broderick and character actress Margo MartindaleLazy Susan couldn't overcome stiff pacing, a resolute unwillingness to go for big laughs, and the weird stunt casting of Hayes. Wrote The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck, "It's hard to imagine exactly what Sean Hayes was thinking with his new comedy about a middle-aged woman slacker... his casting... seems an utterly tone-deaf choice... despite its talented, overqualified cast, Lazy Susan simply feels like a mistake." Virtually every critic agreed, with Spectrum Culture's Dominic Griffin succinctly summing up the film as "[watching] an insufferably selfish person be irritating for an hour and a half with little to no dramatic progression or catharsis" — but the biggest diss came from Glenn Kenny of the New York Timeswho hammered home the on-the-nose quality of the flick's title. "It's as if the filmmakers tossed a bunch of fish into a barrel," he wrote, "and didn't bother to shoot them."

Clover

Actor Jon Abrahams has a list of film and television credits a mile long, but only had one feature directing credit under his belt — the tepidly received 2016 9/11 drama All at Once — before taking the helm for Clover, an overheated actioner centered on two mob lackeys who go on the run with a teenage girl. Critics agreed that the flick certainly served up plenty of action, violence, and foul language — and that it did so in the service of a story that was neither original nor entertaining.

While the film sported a strong cast which included veteran actors Chazz Palminteri and Ron Perlman, it sunk itself with an overly "clever" script content to recycle beats from better movies. Wrote Dennis Harvey of Variety, "Despite a capable cast and reasonably energetic execution... this violent caper lacks any real wit or novelty... ultimately leaning on tired stereotypes rather than doing anything particularly clever with them." Harvey summed up the film by calling it "a just-passable entertainment that may seem better to those who think Boondock Saints is an enduring classic." The sentiment was echoed by Devika Girish of the New York Times, who wrote, "[Clover is] chock-full of gore and expletive-laden banter, but lacks the key ingredients to make it worthy of its influences: original ideas and a strong script... Every beat in Clover... is overly familiar, and so is every character." Even the flick's positive notices could conjure no more effusive praise than "watchable," and those were few and far between.

Endings, Beginnings

Endings, Beginnings starts with the tired premise of a newly-single woman torn between two new loves, and ends without having done anything original or interesting with that premise. Despite a talented cast that includes Shailene Woodley, Jamie Dornan, and Sebastian Stan as the three principals, the flick — from Zoe director Drake Dortemus — is a slog that never establishes any kind of favorable personality traits for the characters at its center.

Sheila O'Malley of RogerEbert.com lambasted the film in the fine tradition of her website's namesake. "The most unique thing about [Woodley's character] is her love of pinball," she wrote. "Endings, Beginnings is not even a proper character study... The main problem is: It's not actually clear what is appealing and/or interesting about any of these people." The phrase "navel-gazing" or variations thereof was employed by many a critic ("Endings, Beginnings is staring so intensely at its own navel that its head is embedded in its own abdomen," offered Witney Seibold of Critically Acclaimed Podcast) when they weren't simply finding new and creative ways to rip the film to bits, like A.V. Club's Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. "It's a bad film that's bad for the simplest reasons: It's trite, repetitive, and boring, and it looks like a commercial, but not in a good way," he wrote. "Its concluding sentiment... sounds like something from an Instagrammable self-care tip: 'Everything might not be okay, but that's okay.' Somehow, it takes most of 110 minutes to reach this point."

Inheritance

Inheritance is a film with a strong cast and an amazing premise. A family patriarch (Patrick Warburton) passes away, leaving his estate divided among his family. His longtime attorney passes a message to his daughter (Lily Collins) which directs her to a secret bunker under the family home, where a mysterious man (Simon Pegg) claims he was held captive for three decades. It's a scintillating setup, and there are twists and turns aplenty — but most critics simply felt that rookie screenwriter Matthew Kennedy failed to properly wrangle what could have been a totally bonkers story.

"What goes wrong? Let's count the ways," wrote famously acerbic Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers. "You can start with the intelligence-deprived screenplay... [and] if we're assigning blame, director Vaughn Stein should take the lion's share... His misbegotten and, yes, preposterous new movie hits a new low that will test the patience and the sanity of anyone who sees it." 

Variety's Dennis Harvey just wished the film had the courage of its convictions: "[Inheritance] spends most of its nearly two hours as a somewhat draggy, talky mystery before finally deciding to be a thriller, with credibility lacking throughout," he wrote. "There's too much jabber and too little tension." It sure sounds like Inheritance had terminal screenplay issues, summed up best by RogerEbert.com's Nell Minow, who wrote, "First-time screenwriter Matthew Kennedy... gives us a script that didn't think past the trailer."

Survive the Night

Bruce Willis is a national treasure, but nobody — likely including Willis himself — could disagree that he's been in some pretty terrible movies (we're looking at you, Death Wish). His latest actioner, Survive the Night, sees him portraying a retired cop called in to assist when his family, one of whom is a trauma surgeon, finds themselves held hostage at their farmhouse by a petty crook whose partner has been wounded in a robbery. It's a perfectly fine premise — one which most critics agreed was fumbled super-hard by first-time scribe Doug Wolfe.

Jeffrey M. Anderson of Common Sense Media took everyone involved with Survive the Night to task with a review which was probably more entertaining than the movie itself. "This movie looks and sounds like a real thriller, but the premise and the characters' behaviors and interactions are so stunningly absurd that it's nearly impossible to turn your brain off and enjoy," he wrote. "Characters are stuck in one place for long periods of time or else spend long periods of time stumbling around, bleeding all over the place, looking for each other, and shooting at (and missing) each other... This movie is so bad it will leave you gobsmacked." 

Steven Schaefer of the Boston Herald was left shaking his head at how the movie actually seems to deflate as it goes on: "As the farmhouse becomes a battleground, shouldn't Survive ramp up tension? Instead... pacing and suspense evaporate," he wrote. "[The] predictable plot abandons realism — along with any unexpected character revelations."

The critical burns came fast and furious for the flick, but perhaps none was so devastating as the one laid down by Ben Kenigsberg of the New York Times. "Survive the Night," he wrote, "is a flabby hunk of meat that the director... hasn't bothered to season."

The Last Days of American Crime

The Netflix actioner The Last Days of American Crime must have sounded great at the elevator pitch stage. As the government prepares to broadcast a signal that will rewire the brains of the populace, making it impossible for them to commit crimes, one lowly gangster who never managed a big score puts together a team to try to pull off... well, pretty much the last crime ever. Hey, it's even based on a graphic novel by comics legend Rick Remender. But director Oliver Megaton (who helmed the last two installments in the Taken series) and his cast of up-and-comers couldn't make the pieces fit together. The flick did pull off one amazing feat, however: according to Rotten Tomatoes, it has failed to notch even a single positive review.

Critics called it "insipidly sleazy," "cynically opportunistic," and "instantly forgettable tough-guy fantasia" — they called it lots of things, except "worth a watch." Rolling Stone's David Fear hit the nail on the head in calling out the film for its tone-deaf approach to its subject matter in light of current events, writing, "It's escapism for fascists, frustrated off-duty cops and steroid users... The idea of putting these images out there at this very moment, and pimping it out as 'entertainment' is, frankly, nauseating... Netflix, what the hell were you thinking?" 

Perhaps the most supreme takedown among many came courtesy of Alci Rengifo of Entertainment Voice, who wrote, "The Last Days of American Crime is not about crime or America, or about anything... it's the kind of junk food for the brain that could have been cut down."

Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl became a pretty big deal for one reason: the movie, based on a series of YA novels by Eoin Colfer, was to be a major summer tentpole effort for Disney. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the Mouse House changed those plans — and instead decided to release it straight to Disney+, which should have been a welcome move for those seeking big-budget family entertainment in the comfort of their homes. And it would have been most welcome, if Artemis Fowl were any good.

Unfortunately, the flick arrived on the streamer as one of the worst-reviewed films of the year, with critics lambasting the muddled script and lack of emotional punch in a film that most perceived to be all style and no substance — a rare misfire for director Kenneth Branagh (Thor). RogerEbert.com's Christy Lemire called it "a glossy and empty exercise in world-building," lamenting that "there's always another fearsome creature, another giant set piece or fight scene, with a frantic score urging the action along. There's a great deal of exertion on display but very little magic." The film's ridiculously breakneck pace came under fire from nearly everyone who watched it, with Rich Cline of Shadows on the Wall noting that "it's basically a three-hour script crammed into 90 minutes, so nothing quite lands." Most ominous for its young star Ferdia Shaw — the grandson of late, legendary actor Robert Shaw — was the assessment of Charles Koplinski of Illinois Times: "Artemis Fowl," he wrote, "is the sort of movie that kills careers."

The Dinner Party

The Dinner Party is s small horror flick with a relatively unknown cast, helmed by a director who knows his way around the genre in Miles Doleac (Demons, Hallowed Ground). The movie received mixed-to-negative notices, and those who enjoyed it noted that it was indeed well-acted, shot through with dark humor, and manages to get a lot of mileage from a simple premise (rich doctor invites a playwright to his huge estate, is hiding sinister ulterior motives). The film, though, is one that should have spent a great deal more time in the editing room. Not only does it take off too slowly and run too long, but it was noted by more than one reviewer that the flick's editing (not to mention its extreme violence) can at times make it borderline-unwatchable.

"As things get increasingly gruesome, climaxing in a cultish ceremony, the choppy editing makes it impossible to remain engaged," wrote Rich Cline of Shadows on the Wall. "Rambling speeches and anecdotes are delivered in such unnatural ways that they're impossible to follow, so they only drag the running time beyond the breaking point... in the end, the camp sensibility and indulgent filmmaking become merely tiresome." Mama's Geeky's Tessa Smith agreed, also noting that the movie punctuates those slow stretches with bursts of gore that might even turn off genre fans: "Not only is it boring, it is also overwhelmingly disgusting at moments," she wrote. "I love gore, and this was even too much for me at times." Ultimately, the film failed to put its pieces together into a coherent whole, as pointed out by Matt Donato of Flickering Myth. "It's all well-acted and deceptively batty, but at nearly two hours, one has to wonder if The Dinner Party bites off more than it can chew," he wrote. "[It] polishes all its silverware and sharpens its blades, albeit more for show."

365 Days

The erotic thriller 365 Days made an immediate impact when it was released to Netflix, near-instantly appearing on the streamer's Top Ten list. This likely had a great deal to do with all of the publicity given to the movie's lengthy, borderline explicit sex scenes. It certainly wasn't because the film itself was any good. The story of a woman who falls in love with her kidnapper over the course of a year was slammed by critics up one side and down the other for its perceived glamorization of Stockholm Syndrome, becoming one of those rare films to notch a "perfect" 0 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.

"[365 Days] romanticizes an extremely toxic relationship, which is never okay," wrote Taylor Andrews of Cosmopolitan. "For a movie that has multiple young viewers, it's extremely harmful to show... sex scenes without highlighting the proper precautions to ensure a safe, healthy, and consensual environment in the bedroom... I'd encourage Netflix to publish a disclaimer to this movie as for 'what not to do in a healthy relationship.'"

It wasn't just the icky premise critics objected to. "It's the kind of movie you fast forward to get to all the good parts, only to realize that there are no good parts," wrote Pajiba's Dustin Rowles. "It's a profoundly disturbing premise, but the movie itself... is excruciatingly tedious, toxic as hell, and laughably acted." Critics universally agreed, as summed up most succinctly by Kevin Maher of The Times: "Up there with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and contents of Area 51 is the mystery of why this execrable piece of Polish soft porn is the No. 1 film on Netflix... there haven't been line readings this poor since the third act of The Room."

Infamous

Few celebrities have mastered social media quite like Bella Thorne, who has supplemented her insanely prolific television and film career with an extremely lucrative side gig as an Instagram influencer. With the crime drama Infamous, Thorne scored a lead role tailor-made to her persona. She portrays Arielle, a troubled young woman who gains social media notoriety when she robs a gas station with her new boyfriend Dean (Jake Manley) and posts video of the crime to Instagram.

Unfortunately, critics found little to like about the flick other than Thorne's performance, which was roundly praised. Wrote Nick Allen of RogerEbert.com, "There's very little that's provocative about Infamous... As the film gives up its larger ideas, it's a cop-out to the kind of conversation this movie should be having — about how Bella Thorne could legitimately do all this in real life, and America would let her get away with it." Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter agreed that the film didn't go nearly big enough in exploring its potentially incendiary premise. "Infamous doesn't really bring anything new or interesting to its subject," he wrote. "[The] screenplay [makes] its social commentary points in all too obvious fashion, as if viewers wouldn't be able to discern them otherwise... there's no escaping the feeling that we've seen this all before, and done much better." 

The vast majority of observers were in agreement, including Grant Hermanns of ComingSoon.net, who really had the movie's number. "With a plot clearly taking from countless Bonnie and Clyde interpretations... and a cast of wholly uninteresting and unoriginal characters," he wrote, "Infamous leaves audiences begging the question of why this film exists."

Darkness Falls

The indie mystery Darkness Falls has an interesting enough setup: police detective Jeff Anderson (Shawn Ashmore, best known as Iceman in the X-Men film series) comes to suspect that his wife's suicide was, in fact, murder. Digging for answers, he finds himself on the trail of a father-and-son serial killer team driven by their hatred of women — and it's here, in its attempt to be something more than a cliché-ridden thriller, that the movie falls flat.

Sheila O'Malley of RogerEbert.com pointed out the obvious problem with the preachy aspirations of Darkness Falls in her blistering one-star review. "The evil duo's target is successful women, women who have risen above sexism and made it to the highest echelons of their chosen careers," she wrote. "The attempt to create a 'serious' anti-misogyny message through this shallow, improbable material — directed and written by two men, with no complex female characters onscreen — is maybe the worst part of it." 

Rich Cline of Shadows on the Wall was perhaps even more offended by the flick's failure to even generate thrills: "The over-serious tone and lack of subtlety give the film an unintentionally comical slant," he opined. "Wrenching emotional moments become camp... The actors do what they can with the corny dialog, which continually states the blindingly obvious." It was Gary M. Kramer of Cinema 76, though, who really dropped the curtain on Darkness Falls. "The killers' motives, when revealed," he wrote, "are as flimsy as the screenplay of this forgettable film."

Irresistible

One might reasonably expect Irresistible, the sophomore feature from writer-director (and former Daily Show host) Jon Stewart, to be a blistering political satire. Since it stars Stewart's friend Steve Carell and a host of other ringer like Natasha Lyonne, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, and Topher Grace, one might also expect it to be hilarious. Unfortunately, the tale of a small-town election that unexpectedly steals the national spotlight turned out to be neither of those things, as critics found the film to be surprisingly lacking in bite.

Nick Schager of The Daily Beast went so far as to take Stewart to task for depriving us of his always-insightful political commentary so that he could work on Irresistible. "[The film is] content to indulge in condescending clichés and cornball humor," he wrote. "In desperate need of ruthless incisiveness, it goes soft at every turn... a weak and humorless plea for getting money out of politics." Tim Brayton of Alternate Ending offered the film up as proof that our current political moment is so bizarre as to be immune to satire, writing, "The film finds Jon Stewart, ringleader of The Daily Show when that was the most consistent, beloved satire during the George W. Bush years... making little toothless nibbles at a subject that's so cutting edge that this film could have been made in most particulars during the same administration. And it frankly would have felt a bit obvious even then." 

While most critics agreed that Stewart is great, and that his heart was in the right place, the majority simply felt that Irresistible didn't feel even a little bit necessary. Wrote Matt Patches of Polygon, "With Irresistible, Stewart remains a funny truth-teller. He just isn't telling the truths that are vital to this moment."

Desperados

The Netflix original flick Desperados seemed to have all of the elements for a successful rom-com. Its talented cast includes the likes of Saturday Night Live alum Nasim Pedrad, New Girl's Lamorne Morris, and Code 8's Robbie Amell; it was helmed by up-and-coming director LP (formerly known as Lauren Palmigiano), who has also been behind episodes of Tacoma FD and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; and it sports a premise (a woman leaves an embarrassing, drunken message on her new boyfriend's phone, and must go to extreme lengths to erase it) tailor made for hilarious hijinks. Unfortunately, those elements inexplicably came together to form a whole that was more pandering, far-fetched, and borderline offensive than hilarious.

Tomris Laffly of RogerEbert.com was among many critics who called the flick out for its disappointing over-reliance on lowbrow humor. "Yes, this critic always craves stories centered on females in meaty roles being unapologetically messy and problematic," she wrote. "But maybe there is a way to not make it look and feel this much like an insult to women." Detroit News' Adam Graham simply wanted a little more effort from the screenplay, writing that "[Desperados is] a series of painful set pieces and strained life lessons... [the film] can count neither on the flat chemistry of its cast nor any sense of relatability to carry it over its minefield of friendship and relationship clichés." For a film ostensibly celebrating the power of female friendship, though, the most towering insult came from FilmWeek's Amy Nicholson: "This movie," she wrote, "made me embarrassed to be a woman."

Force of Nature

The problems with the clunky thriller Force of Nature begin with the presence of the ever-problematic Mel Gibson, who seems to be in the news more often for jaw-droppingly racist remarks than for any other reason, and continue with the fact that its premise — a gang of thieves plan to stage a daring heist during a hurricane — is shockingly similar to another poorly-received thriller, actually titled Hurricane Heist, from just two years ago. Throw in the fact that this potboiler takes place in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria and add a healthy dash of troubling racial stereotypes, and you have a recipe for an uncomfortable viewing experience.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone took the flick apart for those very reasons. "[Force of Nature is] no more than a routine crime thriller," he wrote. "What's not routine is the tweetstorm of controversy ignited by the casting of Mel Gibson and Emile Hirsch, both actors with assault charges on their records, as white cops battling 'Rican' villains against the carnage of Hurricane Maria. To say that a real-life tragedy deserves more respect than simply being exploited as a backdrop for a trivial B movie... would be putting it mildly." 

Other observers threw around phrases like "eminently skippable," "absurdly plotted," and "generic [and] uninspired" with abandon — but nobody had the movie's number quite like Josh Bell of Crooked Marquee, who simply labeled it "a quick and cheap collection of shootouts and yelling."

Seberg

The French actress Jean Seberg had a fascinating life and career. Always the iconoclast, she was targeted by the FBI in the '60s for her involvement in the civil rights movement, and the harassment and constant surveillance was likely a factor in her 1979 death, which was ruled a suicide. She deserves the biopic treatment, and you could do a lot worse than hiring Kristen Stewart — a ridiculously underrated actress — to bring her to life onscreen. Unfortunately, even though critics largely agreed that Stewart acquitted herself very well in the Amazon original film Seberg, the filmmakers failed to dive deep enough into their subject, producing a frustratingly shallow work.

"There's about one-third of a good movie in Seberg," wrote Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times. "The increasingly versatile and admirably risk-taking Stewart continues to turn in strong performances... and she does fine and fierce work here once again, even when the screenplay puts her in some ludicrous circumstances." ReelViews' James Berardinelli agreed, writing, "The chief problem with Seberg, as is often the case with biopics, is that the filmmakers never really find the character underlying the historical figure... The movie taps into some fascinating issues, such as the power of a movie star for propaganda, but never explores them satisfactorily." 

Stewart's performance was virtually all that the majority of critics found to recommend about Seberg. Wrote Phillip Martin of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "There is a reason to see Seberg — it's a nervous and tender performance from Kristen Stewart that's probably the best thing anyone's done for Seberg since [famed French director Jean] Luc-Godard made her immortal. I just wish it had been in a better film."

The Tax Collector

David Ayer has had a rough few years, critically speaking. There was a time when the writer-director couldn't seem to miss; he opened his career by writing the well-regarded flicks U-571, Training Day, the original Fast and the Furious, and Dark Blue before segueing into directing with the not-so-well received Harsh Times, and while he has since turned in excellent work as a director — most notably 2012's End of Watch and 2014's Fury — he's probably best-known at this point for fielding the massive clunker that was 2016's Suicide Squad and the successful-but-critically-reviled Netflix original Bright.

His latest effort, The Tax Collector, finds Bobby Soto and Shia LeBeouf starring as low-level enforcers afoul of their drug kingpin employer's competition, a loose framework upon which Ayer hangs a never-ending series of clichés. Carlos Aguilar of the Los Angeles Times called the film "one of the most atrocious viewing experiences of the year," and called it out for being a "flagrantly violent, stereotype ridden, poorly realized production" intent on going out of its way to demonize Latinos. Asher Luberto of We Got This Covered agreed, calling the film "95 minutes of grueling, excruciating meaninglessness." Yeesh. Nearly all observers called the film out for its shocking lack of visual flair, certainly an anomaly for Ayer. Wrote AV Club's Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, "[The Tax Collector is] the boring kind of bad that evinces sloppy and confused direction more than spectacular failure... If one is going to make something this cliché... they should at least try to do a good job."

The Sunlit Night

Everyone loves Jenny Slate; the comedian has become a regular presence on screens large and small in the last decade or so, with appearances in features like Venom and Hotel Artemis and on shows like Lady Dynamite and her own excellent Netflix standup special, Stage Fright. The indie drama The Sunlit Night, which follows a young painter as she finds unlikely love while on a trip to the Arctic Circle, seems tailor-made for her brand of quirk, and it surrounds her with a great supporting cast including the likes of Alex Sharp, Zack Galifianakis, and Gillian Anderson. Unfortunately, most critics found the film to be so insubstantial that it threatened to float right off the screen.

"This movie about artistic inspiration is meandering and slight," wrote Teo Bugbee of the New York Times. "It eschews philosophical observations about art for quick, somewhat hacky references... Despite Slate's capable performance, the movie is only postcard-friendly, not an artistic awakening." Besides praise for Slate, the flick's narrative formlessness was a strong thread running through its notices. "Slate is characteristically delightful but she can only do so much with the material," wrote Arizona Republic's Shaena Montanari. "The plot meanders on a road to nowhere. You'll probably be more interested in looking up Norwegian vacations online after (or during) the movie than pondering its ending." The movie's ability to bore while still featuring great performances and looking fantastic seemed to bring out the loquaciousness in most critics — but not all. Deadpanned Kristy Puchco of Crooked Marquee, "The Sunlit Night is a ponderous, pretentious dud."

Paydirt

It's probably a good thing that Paydirt got made; one of its stars, Val Kilmer (who recently recovered from throat cancer), likely needed the paycheck. Kilmer portrays a retired sheriff on the trail of a parolee (Traffik's Luke Goss) and his old gang, who are on the hunt for a buried bag of stolen cash. It's a dead simple plot, although many critics would simply prefer the descriptor "simplistic." Or maybe just "lazy."

Director Christian Sesma's potboiler was slammed up one side and down the other for its derivative nature, with British director Guy Ritchie being name dropped early and often as the victim of Sesma's larceny. "Paydirt forces one to assume the writer/director sat down one morning to write his own Guy Ritchie-meets-Oceans caper, told himself, 'hey, this is a breeze!' and got up before lunchtime having finished a script few other people would recognize as a movie at all," sniped John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter. "Numbingly dumb and impersonally executed, you'd call it derivative if only it managed to steal anything worth using from the many movies it apes." MovieWeb's Julian Roman concurred: "Paydirt is a godawful Guy Ritchie knockoff that fails utterly as a heist flick," he wrote. "We don't even get an actual heist. The violence is poorly staged, either for budgetary reasons or lack of imagination. It would have been more entertaining if everyone just threw their guns at each other like dodgeball." That does sound entertaining. 

The flick was summed up admirably by Joe Leydon of Variety, who wrote, "A thoroughly mediocre but sporadically diverting mashup of elements cribbed from the cinemas of Guy Ritchie, Steven Soderbergh and, yes, Quentin Tarantino, Paydirt... will be enjoyed best while you're periodically distracted by other things — microwaving leftovers, feeding pets, washing face masks — and are unable to constantly focus on arrant contrivances and gaping plot holes."

The Wrong Missy

Netflix original The Wrong Missy was a significant hit for the streamer, and we can totally get behind both its star Lauren Lapkus and the whole "raunchy rom-com" aesthetic in general. Heck, we also love David Spade, who co-stars here as a guy who tries to invite his crush, Missy, to come with him on a corporate retreat, only to find he's been texting... well, it's right there in the title. The majority of critics agreed, though, that despite Lapkus' game performance, The Wrong Missy bore all of the wrong signs that it was produced through Adam Sandler's Happy Madison imprint — those signs being lazy plotting, half-baked gags, and ham-fisted direction from Father of the Year helmer Tyler Spindel.

Spade, seemingly having forgotten how to play a straight man, was singled out early and often for his lack of enthusiasm. "One can't shake the impression that Spade has been handed [Sandler's] unwanted leftovers," wrote AV Club's Vishnevetsky. "It doesn't help that he has the screen presence of an unenthused real estate agent." Jonathan Wilson of Ready Steady Cut likewise slammed Spade's work, but was equally unimpressed with his co-star: "[In] The Wrong Missy, Lauren Lapkus pulls off what might be 2020's most impressive cinematic feat: She's somehow more annoying than David Spade," he wrote. "No right-minded agent would present a client with a script as diabolical as [this] one... except apparently whoever mismanages Lapkus's career." 

Of course, it's easy to argue that viewers knew what they were signing up for, and for anyone who was disappointed in the flick, David Bradley of Adelaide Review had a few questions. "What did you expect?" he wrote. "Originality? Wit? Narrative sense? Emotional resonance? Complex roles for women that reflect progressive contemporary feminist attitudes? Come on! This is a Happy Madison movie."

John Henry

Revenge thrillers are awesome, and Terry Crews is awesome, so one would expect John Henry — which stars Crews as a gentle giant forced to go on the bloody warpath — to at least have been watchable. Alas, the flick ended up with membership in a club nobody wants to be a part of: it was one of the rare films to draw a complete goose egg on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics unanimously agreeing that its ridiculous story is trumped only by its even-more-ridiculous levels of violence.

The New York Times' Jeanette Catsoulis called the film "A thug-life thriller so frequently preposterous that it almost resembles a parody," and she didn't stop there. "[John Henry] is a big slice of ham. The occasional witty line must fight to the death with a soundtrack that flips from flamenco guitars to hustling rap, depending on which ethnicity is onscreen." Most of the film's problems were laid at the feet of first-time writer-director Will Forbes, who seemed to have nary an idea about how to handle his star's towering screen presence. "Crews is an actor with enough charisma and range to carry either gritty genre adventures or more cartoony showdowns," wrote The Hollywood Reporter's DeFore, "but Forbes' tonal uncertainty and a stiff script leave him stranded here, in a world that lacks the gravity to put his conscience-driven reticence in context." 

That's the kind of thoughtful examination that most critics didn't seem to feel the picture even deserved. Wrote Dominic Griffin of Spectrum Culture, "John Henry is both uninspired and uninspiring, a mixed bag and missed opportunity that's as confounding as it is infuriating... Forbes seems passionate about depicting toxic masculinity in black culture and the plight of gangs in inner cities, but has created a film less subtle than a Nancy Reagan speech and dumber than any number of pulp pictures he's awkwardly borrowing from."

The New Mutants

The New Mutants was supposed to be a lot of things: released in 2018, part of an ongoing franchise, and a watchable picture, to name a few. Unfortunately, the oft-delayed, trouble-plagued flick — the last in the Fox-produced X-Men series — ended up fitting none of those criteria, with even its positive notices conceding that it's a jumbled mess that could have used a big injection of personality.

Movie Nation's Roger Moore dismissed The New Mutants as a "disastrously dull pilot to a TV series only comic book diehards would watch," referring to the film's young cast of institutionalized mutants as "Anya Taylor-Joy and a bunch of young players who can't get away from her shadow, or out of their own way." Sandra Hall of the Sydney Morning Herald called out the movie's curious flatness, writing, "The thrills are few despite the grimness of the decor, the crowd of lurid creatures jostling for your attention and the mystery surrounding the identity of the corporation running the place... it adds up to an old-fashioned B-picture bereft of the rousing jolt of bad taste that gave the genre its energy." 

It's unfortunate that The New Mutants took such a long, bumpy road to the screen only to be greeted with all the enthusiasm of a root canal, but here we are. Perhaps the biggest bomb lobbed at the flick came courtesy of The Times' Ed Potton, who wrote, "You could call it One Flew Over the Mutant's Nest if it had an ounce of wit or personality."

The Binge

On its surface, Hulu's The Binge seems like it has the potential to be a stoner comedy classic. Tweaking the premise of (you guessed it) The Purge, this flick from The Wedding Ringer director Jeremy Garelick posits a world where, for just one day a year, all drugs are legal, following a trio of teens as they prepare for the big day. Most critics found the movie to be reasonably inoffensive, but perhaps that was the problem — The Binge had nothing much to offer besides that relatively thin premise, a by-the-numbers screenplay, a few tired chuckles, and a slumming Vince Vaughn.

The New York Times' Maya Phillips seemed to take the film personally, trashing it with a review featuring more zingers than could be found in the actual movie. "The Binge... is only exceptional in its mind-numbing inanity," she wrote. "Unremarkably directed by Jeremy Garelick, the movie seems somewhat aware of its utter lack of novelty... Vaughn regresses to his second-rate deadpan comedy roles of old, forcing his way through a comedically constipated performance... aims to serve a boffo rager of a time but feels more like a 90-minute concussion." 

Of course, virtually every negative notice featured some variation on the sentiment that no amount of drugs could make The Binge funny, but the last word on the flick was written by Allen Adams of The Maine Edge. "Binge tries to give us Superbad by way of The Purge, but falls far short of the bar set by either," he wrote. "Instead of something new or at least interesting, we get a teen movie retread that relies far too heavily on its premise to set it apart. It's a mushy excuse for a mashup, a tame try at parody. You've seen it all before... and you probably don't need to see it again."

The Vanished

The Vanished is a thriller stocked with stars who have seen better days; its main cast includes Thomas Jane, Anne Heche, and Jason Patric, and they all give off the distinct vibe that all things considered, they'd rather be getting a car wash. Critics called out the flick's acting, writing, and direction, sparing only the caterer — but most crucially, The Vanished is a film that relies solely on a third-act twist that nearly every observer found to be completely absurd.

Jane and Heche star as a couple whose daughter disappears on a camping trip, but director Peter Facinelli (also an actor who you may have recently caught as Maxwell Lord on Supergirl) fails to wring convincingly distressed performances from them en route to that twist. "Facinelli has the actors playing for the big reveal, not for the plot as we see it," wrote critic Mark Dujsik on his website. "The Vanished is wildly and weirdly incompetent, featuring one miscalculation after another, after another, and after another. It's an embarrassment of a movie." 

Carla Hay of Culture Mix concurred, writing, "It's as if... Facinelli made the assumption that viewers wouldn't notice certain glaring omissions from the story that were deliberately left out in order for the plot twist to look like it should be compatible with the rest of the movie. The plot twist is meant to elevate the story, but it just ends up sinking the movie, which was already drowning in a swamp of implausibility." Virtually every review blew a big raspberry at that confounded twist, but none were more succinct than that penned by Austin Chronicle's Richard Whittaker. "The Vanished," he wrote, "should live up to its name."

Endless

Endless is a movie with a familiar premise: a couple, madly in love, are thrust into tragedy when one of them is killed. The deceased party is still hanging around, though, in the form of a... what's the word? Ah yes, it's Ghost, as in the 1990 film which helped make superstars of Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. Endless is essentially a teen version of that film, with Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse) in the role of the bereaved Riley, whose boyfriend Chris, portrayed by Nicholas Hamilton (It), is killed in a car accident. 

Of course, plenty of critics compared the flick unfavorably to its obvious inspiration. "I couldn't help but think this is another case of those who make films being out of original ideas and falling upon a previous film which was popular, thinking they could rejig it for teens and bam! A film," wrote OrcaSound's Carey-Ann Pawsey. "Those involved seemed to have dropped the ball or at least fallen asleep while conceiving of and writing the film." Writing for RogerEbert.com, critic Tomris Laffly called the movie "Ineptly shot and listlessly written," lamenting that director Scott Speer (Midnight Sun) seemed to have bitten off more than he could chew: "Ultimately what this film proves is making a good romantic melodrama, however young-skewing, is no child's play," she wrote. "It's a serious lesson any filmmaker aiming to pull one off someday should take to heart." Reviewing the film on his YouTube channel, critic Jackie K. Cooper had no time for such thoughtful instruction, and simply called it like he saw it: "The movie," he said, "ends up being Ghost lite."

The Silencing

The thriller The Silencing was seen by critics more as a missed opportunity than a straight-up misfire. Plenty of praise could be found for its cinematography and its cast, which included Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) as an alcoholic hunter tracking a serial killer who may be responsible for the disappearance of his daughter, and Annabelle Wallis (Peaky Blinders) as the small-town sheriff who comes into conflict with him. Unfortunately, the flick had terminal problems at the screenplay stage, thanks to a lackluster effort by first-time feature scribe Micah Ranum.

"[Coster-Waldau] goes the extra mile in The Silencing... which is more than you can say for the pedestrian work of director Robin Pront and screenwriter Micah Ranum," wrote Rolling Stone's Peter Travers. "[The leads] do their best to promote a rooting interest in characters the script never bothers to develop... You can see this kind of slow-burn thriller done much better in movies like Wind River and shows like HBO's True Detective." Glenn Kenny of RogerEbert.com agreed, writing, "You start wondering if this movie's going to put ANYTHING new on the table... Pront shoots and stages all this stuff with slick facility... but one does feel one's seen all this before." Cinemalogue's Todd Jorgenson nailed the general consensus pretty nicely: "Far-fetched contrivances overshadow much of the suspense in this formulaic thriller," he wrote, "[but it] at least features some pleasant forest scenery."

Hard Kill

After spending decades as one of the Hollywood's most reliable box office draws, Bruce Willis has taken a late-career detour into the kinds of movies one would expect find in the direct-to-video bargain bin at your local gas station. Case in point: Hard Kill, a brain-dead thriller which managed to "achieve" a 0 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The plot, such as it is, involves a group of mercenaries trying to bring down a mad computer hacker before he can start World War III, but that hardly matters; every single critic tasked with viewing it had nothing but massive volumes of scorn to heap on the film from director Matt Eskandri, who also directed Willis in the similarly reviled Survive the Night

Those unfortunate critics seemed to have a lot more fun reviewing Hard Kill than they did watching it. Wrote The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck, "[Willis] seems to have settled on making listless appearances in forgettable B-movie action movies as a retirement funding plan... the unimaginatively titled Hard Kill was filmed in a mere ten days, making you wonder how they spent eight of them." Here's Frank Swietek of One Guy's Opinion: "The title of this noisy, stupid, totally boring bomb should really be Hard Watch." North Shore Movies' Sean Burns wrote, "Willis mopes his way through his umpteenth single-location action picture surrounded by terrorists and unable to disguise his contempt for the material. Can't say that I blame him. It took me three tries to finish watching this fool thing." 

They just go on like that; not one review cited a single redeeming quality, but only expressed varying degrees of contempt. Even Dan Barnes' review for Flickering Myth, while relatively free of snark, was no less brutal: "Hard Kill," he wrote, "is a tiresome, outdated, hackneyed and predictable action flick that follows one trope after another and isn't shot with an ounce of creative flair."

Money Plane

The dopey actioner Money Plane is not, believe it or not, a belated sequel to the 1995 Wesley Snipes flick Money Train, which wasn't exactly a fantastic film itself. Perhaps the filmmakers were somehow hoping to cash in on name recognition by titling their film similarly to a little-remembered, quarter-century old movie; that would make about as much sense as casting Frasier star Kelsey Grammer as a sinister crime boss called "The Rumble," which they did. Money Plane also snared Thomas Jane (who has not had a good year), Denise Richards, and Joey Lawrence — yes, that Joey Lawrence — for its ludicrous tale of a heist involving a flying high-stakes casino.

Nick Schager of The Daily Beast simply couldn't wrap his head around the flick's premise. "To consider the Money Plane for even a second is to realize not only the logistical ease with which such an operation could be thwarted but the bedrock inanity of setting it up in the first place," he wrote. "The fact that the criminals responsible for the Money Plane couldn't come up with a better moniker for their aerial gambling lair is emblematic of the business' absurdity, as well as the film's lack of imagination." 

Peter Sobczyinski of eFilm Critic was simply disappointed that Money Plane didn't lean into that absurdity. "Look, I do not object to the fact that Money Plane is trying to be the most self-consciously dopey movie of recent memory," we wrote. "What I object to is that the whole thing is too stupid and lazy to accomplish even that not-exactly-lofty goal." Common Sense Media's Jeffrey Anderson really had the flick's number, though, writing, "It's almost a guilty pleasure, but is ultimately too ridiculous and awful to qualify."

A Nice Girl Like You

Lucy Hale is a fine actress, but even she couldn't save A Nice Girl Like You, a lame comedy in which her inhibited character, Lucy Neal, goes on one of those globe-trotting journeys of self-discovery we've seen a million times before. Hale, by far the most recognizable name among the cast, did her best to turn in a game performance in a flick that virtually all reviewers found to be shockingly boring for being an ostensible sex comedy.

Wrote the legendary critic Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times, "As Lucy careens from one contrived, relatively tame romp to the next, the film never stops to examine WHY she's so neurotic, so uncomfortable with expressing herself, so tightly wound... [as] Hale... keeps trying to pump life into this movie like a paramedic doing CPR, one has to ask: What's a nice girl like you doing in a film like this?" 

Movie Nation's Roger Moore also bemoaned the film's lack of conviction, writing, "As sex farces go, A Nice Girl Like You is about as nasty, dirty and funny as a sitcom... on The Disney Channel." While most reviews singled out Hale as the film's lone positive, it's clear that no amount of effort on the part of its lead could have made it anything but an utter slog. Wrote Rafer Guzman of Newsday, "[A Nice Girl Like You is] a clunky sex comedy that'll kill your mood."

Ghosts of War

Ghosts of War is a period supernatural horror flick in which a band of American soldiers during the dog days of World War II encounter mysterious, creepy goings-on while occupying a Nazi fortress in the French countryside. If this sounds a bit familiar, it might be because the premise is quite a bit similar to 2018's Overlord — but while that flick was lauded as a goofy, gory good time, Ghosts of War was smacked down for biting off more than it could chew, despite the efforts of a solid cast which included Titans' Brenton Thwaites and Luke Cage's Theo Rossi.

More than a few critics felt that the flick, which might have settled for simply being a solid B-picture, tried too hard to add layers of thematic relevance. "When Ghosts of War finally pulls back the curtain on its preposterous Black Mirror twist, it confirms that [director Eric] Bress' feature is no mere work of tedious, cross-genre hackery," wrote Andrew Wyatt of Cinema St. Louis"It's a very stupid film with some very questionable intentions [regarding] the topics of guilt, trauma, and American neo-imperialism." Angie Han of FilmWeek agreed, saying during the site's AirTalk podcast, "[Ghosts of War] thinks it's imparting some profound lesson, but I walked away from it only 50 percent sure of what it was trying to say. The only satisfaction I felt at the end was 'Thank God it's over.'" 

While a handful of critics appreciated the late-film twist, most agreed with the opinion of The Only Critic's Nate Adams, who wrote, "Maybe one day in the future, you'll be strolling through the boroughs of late night cable or streaming and come across Ghosts of War and think maybe it's worth the watch. I cannot stress enough that it is not."

Run with the Hunted

Everybody loves Ron Perlman — there should probably be some kind of national law. There's nobody better at playing gruff, badass types, he's got a great sense of humor, and he loves engaging fans on social media. Unfortunately, he failed to engage them with Run with the Hunted, in which he plays a private investigator and mentor to a woman with the improbable name of Loux (Sam Quartin) who is determined to find the boy who saved her life as a child.

From that seemingly innocuous premise springs a bizarrely violent picture which doesn't quite seem to know what kind of film it wants to be — or, indeed, if it should have been a film at all. Peter Canavese of the Celluloid Dreams podcast opined that the flick "feels like a TV season's worth of script had to be hacked down to 90 minutes, resulting in incoherent near-pointlessness." More than a few critics complained that the film wasted its potential with its updated take on Oliver Twist, including Cinemalogue's Todd Jorgenson: "This gritty low-budget thriller squanders a potentially provocative exploration of childhood innocence," he wrote. "Despite some solid performances and effective moments, the contrived screenplay... muddles the story's morality in an attempt to generate sympathy." 

Run with the Hunted is another member of that club of highly suspect pictures with nary a single positive review on Rotten Tomatoes, with the finishing blow dealt by RogerEbert.com's Glenn Kenny. "Director [John] Swab handles [Run with the Hunted] with due dispatch and an ability that's a hair or two above what you'd call mere competence," Kenny wrote. "One has to give him that. But not a whole lot more."

The Secret: Dare to Dream

Nobody ever accused the self-help book The Secret (itself an adaptation of an Australian documentary film) of being ripe for a rom-com adaptation, but that didn't prevent veteran genre director Andy Tennant (Sweet Home Alabama) from giving it a shot with The Secret: Dare to Dream. Assembling a surprisingly appealing cast which includes Katie Holmes, Jerry O' Connell, and Josh Lucas, Tennant shoehorned the book's message of... well, achieving your heart's desires by wishing really hard into a maudlin romance that wouldn't have worked even absent its connection to its questionable source material.

"The Secret: Dare to Dream is a gauze-covered, soft-peddled, vaguely spiritual tale of cosmic happenstance," wrote Adam Graham of Detroit News in what amounts to a critical napalming. "[The film] is innocent and innocuous enough to make Nicholas Sparks look like David Lynch." Jade Budowski of Decider acknowledged the excellent casting while likewise destroying the movie: "For a movie intended to be inspiring, there is so little about this that feels genuinely uplifting that it's almost comical," she wrote. "The cast does their best with what they're given, but that isn't very much. Holmes and Lucas have little to no chemistry, and every dramatic development feels totally unearned." 

Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com at least found a silver lining in all of this hokum: "We could all use a little hope these days," she wrote. "But you won't derive much inspiration from The Secret: Dare to Dream besides some unintentional laughter to briefly brighten your day."

Stardust

David Bowie is one of the most remarkable and fascinating entertainers of all time. The late legend reinvented himself often, embracing a number of styles to create a kind of music all his own — one which was always relevant — sometimes portraying characters as he did so, from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke to just plain cool '80s pop star. The world lost a hero of art and an advocate for following one's own artistic path when he passed away in 2016, while that also meant it could be time for a David Bowie biopic in the style of Walk the Line (Johnny Cash), Rocketman (Elton John), or Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddie Mercury). 

That movie may yet come, but until then, there's Stardust, a film about a brief period in the life of Bowie starring Johnny Flynn, an actor and musician who doesn't even look like Bowie. Stardust specifically concerns a young Bowie's American tour in 1971 and his creation of the Ziggy Stardust persona. Actually, Stardust isn't even that, because at the outset, audiences are informed that it's a speculative work of primarily fiction. "Ultimately," writes Kristy Puchko of IGN, Stardust is "bland, not bold, and achingly absent of enchantment." Also, filmmakers failed to secure the rights to any of Bowie's songs, leaving it, according to Barry Hertz of The Globe and Mail, "a pointless exercise."

Superintelligence

Melissa McCarthy and her husband and co-writer, Ben Falcone, have brought a number of hilarious comedies with a through line of warmth to the big screen, including Tammy, The Boss, and Life of the Party. In 2020, they teamed up again for the HBO Max high-concept sci-fi comedy Superintelligence. It's not nearly as funny as their other works, and the difference is that McCarthy doesn't play a brash, crude, or totally over the top character with a number of impressive feats of physical comedy. Instead, she plays a normal person, a former tech executive turned full-time charity volunteer named Carol who is still in love with her ex-boyfriend George (Bobby Cannavale). 

She's just a sad, vulnerable person, which doesn't make for a very fun Melissa McCarthy movie, nor does it add much support to the film's premise: an AI becomes sentient, and, with the voice of James Corden, decides to destroy the world if it can't persuade Carol to get back together with George. It's something about computers learning the true nature of humanity, and selflessness — the moral is a little unclear and half-baked, and Superintelligence is a missed opportunity to say anything about the dangers of encroaching technology. (Far from it — the film is full of product placement from tech companies made out to look like heroes.)

"If nothing else," writes Rob Hunter of Film School Rejects, "it takes real guts to unironically name your fairly stupid comedy Superintelligence."

Ava

The same fates always seem to befall movie characters of a particular type. For example, a male and female who have been friends forever will realize they're perfect for each other and fall in love, and the world's most talented and agile professional killer will find themselves on the run from other professional killers with whom they were previously aligned after she crosses them. That's the plot of numerous hitman movies, and it's also the plot of Ava, a movie so by the numbers it's hard to believe that it's directed by the usually clever director Tate Taylor (Ma, The Help) and starring the always terrific Jessica Chastain. With all of its espionage and cold, precise violence, Ava feels like the kind of action movie Charlize Theron would make, but not nearly as entertaining. "Ava is a napping-on-the-couch movie through and through, with recognizable names and a sexy premise but no distinct personality," writes Katie Rife of The AV Club, while Wes Greene of Slant calls it both "banal" and "seemingly content with its banality."

Iron Mask

A big-budget historical action comedy starring two of the biggest movie stars on the planet should have been a can't-miss, surefire blockbuster. Unfortunately for all those involved with Iron Mask, the film's two stars are Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan, and it was released in 2020, years after both were big box office draws and their style of macho, violent action movie faded in popularity and relevance. Fortunately, and bafflingly, they're barely even part of Iron Mask, which is actually a sequel to a Russian movie called Viy (or The Forbidden Empire) — like its predecessor, the main character is actually an English explorer named Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng), who is seen on a mission to China with prisoner Cheng Lan as his assistant, who is actually a royal with power over an ancient dragon. Meanwhile, back in England, Cheng Len's father, the Master (Chan), is imprisoned in the Tower of London, looked after by warden James Hook (Schwarzenegger), and they have a low-energy fight scene together. Deborah Ross of The Spectator says that Iron Mask is "the sort of the film that, in fact, makes the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise look like a series of elegant, coherent masterworks."

The Postcard Killings

Speaking of increasingly dated pop culture that's dying a slow death, there's The Postcard Killings, a movie about brilliant but evil serial killers playing an absurdly elaborate cat-and-mouse game with the one man who has the guts and skills necessary to take them down. Sure, it's based on a contemporary novel by bestselling author James Patterson, but The Postcard Killings comes to viewers straight out of 1995, when it would've played in a mall multiplex in between theaters screening Copycat and Se7en.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan (best known for playing the complex villain Negan on The Walking Dead) plays New York detective Jacob Kanon, desperately trying to solve the murder of his daughter, killed while on honeymoon in London. After crawling out of a self-dug funk made from booze and wallowing (because of course it is), he heads to Europe and trails the killers, who send a creepy postcard to local journalists just before they strike again. Nicholas Bell of ION Cinema calls The Postcard Killings "a tired, horrendously written thriller which is a chore to sit through from its briefly promising start to its inane finish."

The War with Grandpa

There are a few things about The War with Grandpa that are more than a little unsettling. The film suggests that family bonds are extremely fragile and liable to collapse under the weight of a petty squabble which makes it hard for the audience to root for anyone — tween Peter has to give up his bedroom in favor of the attic when his supposedly beloved grandfather moves in after the death of his wife. Peter (Oakes Fegley) is so entitled that he completely lacks any sympathy or empathy whatsoever for Grandpa Ed, and decides to start a prank war with the old guy, despite the fact that he's a grieving, increasingly frail widower simply because he's sleeping in a slightly nicer place. Grandpa Ed is a veteran and not one to back down, and he escalates the prank war, which isn't so funny because the tables have now turned so that a sad elderly man is conspiring against a child. The other unlikeable thing about The War with Grandpa is that Robert De Niro plays Grandpa Ed — which should be beneath his stature as one of America's greatest living actors. Peter Travers of Good Morning America calls The War with Grandpa "barely passable piffle," but Bilge Ebiri of New York says that at least the movie "seems to vanish from the mind even as you're watching it."

Dangerous Lies

For a variety of reasons — usually just parallel thinking by different studios, or one team of filmmakers rushing to compete with another — two movies with identical plots will occasionally be released at almost the same time. Take for example Dante's Peak and Volcano in 1997, Deep Impact and Armageddon in 1998, or Dangerous Lies arriving in 2020, in the wake of Knives Out. That film, starring Ana de Armas, earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Dangerous Lies, also released as Windfall, stars Camila Mendes, who plays Veronica on Riverdale

In Knives Out, de Armas played a kind and noble nurse named Marta, rewarded for her service to Harlan, the Thrombey family patriarch (Christopher Plummer), when he bequeaths her his fortune. In Dangerous Lies, care provider Katie Franklin (Mendes) gets caught up in deceit, murder, and intrigue in the wake of the death of rich old Leonard Wellesley, who leaves her his money and estate. Plenty of Knives Out-esque twists and turns follow, just not as deftly executed and without the former's black humor and unpredictability. Brandon Collins of Medium Popcorn said Dangerous Lies is simply "not good," and "formulaic, predictable, and at times incredibly boring," and Sameen Amer of The News International called the film "illogical and incoherent," adding that it "aims to do little beyond waste one and a half hours of your life."

Disturbing the Peace

The career trajectory of Guy Pearce is pretty inexplicable. He was an exciting and idiosyncratic actor when he first emerged in indies like The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the neo-noir classic L.A. Confidential, and Christopher Nolan's mind-bending Memento. In 2020, he starred in Disturbing the Peace, a generic and forgettable modern-day Western about a taciturn Texas Ranger who, after a tragic accidental death, winds up the lawman in a sleepy small town forced to do battle with a group of bikers who are so bad that it's unintentionally hilarious. Pearce isn't nearly grizzled enough to play the suitably Western-named character of Jim Dillon, but then he just goes through the motions of being the strong and silent type anyway, the outcome of Disturbing the Peace never in doubt. Todd Jorgenson of Cinemalogue calls the film "a tedious and predictable series of Wild West-style conformations that never generates much consistent suspense within its confined setting."

Fatman

It seems like every year there's a new high-profile holiday movie or two that aims to join the illustrious and small canon of Christmas films that get rewatched by millions every single December. Most of the traditional, straightforward Christmas premises have been done by this point, so to make itself stand out, a brand new holiday film has to really be something special, different, or even edgy — but 2020's Fatman isn't quite Bad Santa or even The Santa Clause. 

Filmmakers tried to register a unique and dark take on familiar elements of Christmas mythology but overshot it, turning out instead a cynical, nasty, and utterly joyless movie that won't go down in history. One-time Oscar-winning mega-star turned Hollywood pariah Mel Gibson plays Chris Cringle, who runs a Christian gift operation in northern Alaska — he's essentially Santa, making toys for good boys and girls of America thanks to a substantial subsidy from the U.S. government. But then he starts to lose his livelihood because kids these days are just too nasty and undeserving of presents, which leaves Chris economically unstable and increasingly hostile. After a bratty rich kid named Billy hires a hitman to kill the Santa stand-in, Fatman descends into endless gunplay and gruesome violence that just doesn't work in a Christmas movie. "This experiment in blending fantasy and felonies never finds its footing," says Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times, while Adam Mock of Film Inquiry calls the film "an exhausting, vile, depressingly boring movie."

Songbird

The COVID-19 pandemic led to some monumental changes in the film industry, shutting down productions and delaying the theatrical runs of many potential blockbusters for a year or more. And then there's Songbird, a movie made during the COVID-19 pandemic that's also inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously put together very quickly, Songbird is a haphazardly produced movie that might make viewers proclaim "too soon" or maybe "no thanks," what with it trying to turn a still-raging disease that's killed millions into entertainment. 

Not quite palatable for viewers stuck in quarantine or under lockdown orders, Songbird takes place in the year 2024, at which point life has turned into a hopeless slog in the face of COVID-19 mutating into COVID-23, the original pandemic now four years old. Temperature checks on smartphones are legally required, and those who test positive are forced into concentration camps called "Q-Zones." A motorcycle courier and immune virus survivor named Nico (K.J. Apa, Archie on TV's Riverdale) is desperate to save his true love Sara (Sofia Carson) from certain death in one of those camps. "Even if one sets aside all potential moral arguments about the very existence of Songbird, it's still just really bad," writes Brian Tellerico of RogerEbert.com. Rachel West of That Shelf posits that Songbird is "one of the most misguided" films of 2020.