I'm an artist, a writer, a director, a film critic and occasionally I cook. Here I will be mainly focusing on film critiquing.
Ripping Off the Band-Aid
Shall we rip the band-aid off straight away by saying that 2020 was possibly the worst year for many peoples’ lives around the world? Not even a joke, last year just flat out sucked, and 2021 doesn’t seem to be shaping up any better after the events of January 6th at the Capitol building alone. Here’s to hoping for a brighter future and to finally being rid of COVID-19 once and for all.
Seriously, in the final months of 2020, I barely mustered up the energy to write a single article; my last one was posted in the middle of November and it was originally intended for Halloween! That’s how bad I had gotten with being exhausted of everything going on throughout the year that; I couldn’t even find enjoyment in writing about the one thing I genuinely love more than anything: film. It was a bad year, and unfortunately the bad streak seemingly continues, but I’m now saying enough is enough and I am back to typing away my life discussing movies, movies, and more movies!
I apologize for starting this article off on such a downer note. Frankly, I felt it was necessary to acknowledge last year’s historical terror at some capacity before getting into the topic of some terrible movies acting as the cherry on top the travesty which was 2020. After catching up on a number of major titles that I had missed, I figured I would hop back into the swing of things by talking about movies out of the year I personally found dreadful. Admittedly, this was a bit of a strange year for film, many delays for film releases were made and in any other normal year the entries on my list may not have actually made the cut, but because of the Coronavirus pandemic, this is what we’re left with!
Art Is Subjective
For anyone reading, please keep in mind that all art (including film) is completely subjective; what I might find to be mind blowing and masterfully crafted, others might say is a pile of sh*t. On the other hand, what I may say is one of the worst of the year, someone else might argue that my opinion doesn’t matter because the film hides behind a certain moral or falls under a specific political stance that they agree with… that doesn’t make a movie ‘good.’ In the end, let’s all agree “to each their own,” right?
Just so everyone knows for incoming context, I have not seen every single movie released out of the year 2020. In a declaration of the obvious, there weren’t nearly as many flicks released last year as there normally have been in previous years and there were quite a few limited releases that were a smidge too difficult for me to lay my eyes on in time to write this article. And admittedly, there are simply some flicks that I didn’t get around to watching and decided to move forward with writing the article anyways. So if there are entries out there that certain readers would debate deserve a spot on the list, I either didn’t make the time to see it or I simply didn’t them nearly as bad as what I wound up including. Apologies!
So without further ado, here is my personal list of what I found to be the very worst films of 2020!
10. Jiu Jitsu
The Plot: Every six years, an ancient order of jiu-jitsu fighters joins forces to battle a vicious race of alien invaders. But when a celebrated war hero goes down in defeat, the fate of the planet and mankind hangs in the balance.
Surprisingly, Jiu Jitsu is the only action feature to make my ‘worst’ list… since there were quite the large amount of disappointments within the genre last year. However, there’s really only one reason why this particular movie angers me so much. No, it’s not because of the poorly choreographed fight sequences seemingly designed by a blind kindergartener. No, it’s not because of the ‘straight-to-video’ quality aesthetic of someone filming with a cheap camera they got from Best Buy in their recycled section. Not the sloppy editing or the goofy special effects superimposed from someone’s Mac Book Pro on a lazy Sunday. Nor is it due to the blatant rip-off of the 1987 classic sci-fi, Arnie action flick Predator, that this hunk of crap clearly is. No, no, no my fellow readers, no.
While all these points hold true and are present in every frame of Jiu Jitsu, there is truly only one reason why I have decided to sneak this little stinker into the junk pile… reason being the cold hard fact of how all these filmmakers and producers mistakenly thought it was a good idea to cast the great Nicolas Cage and not have him be the lead character, while instead dumping this 200+ pound talentless and emotionless robot of muscles as the frontrunner… ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME?! This guy, Alain Moussi, I’m sure is a terrific dude who has maybe even performed terrifically in the past. I honestly have no idea as this is my introduction to this specific actor. But in this performance, Moussi is an empty vessel with zilch in the way of personality or screen presence. Which for a Z-rate action movie that’s randomly thrown out into the world without a care in the world, it makes sense that the lead likely won’t be all that great. But when we’re stacking this extremely bland acting up against one of the greatest actors who ever lived, Nic ‘F*cking’ Cage… I’m sorry, but I’m going to be pretty damn livid!
It was unbearable sitting through this 100 minute slog of our lead actor giving me absolutely nothing to work with or care about. And yes, I understand that this is a shlocky production that never really had a chance of being very good, however that doesn’t mean our leading man is allowed to sleepwalk through the script while practically putting me to sleep myself with his uninspired acting. At the very least, this could have managed to be entertaining in a bad way if the actor had shown some form of enthusiasm. Hell, the supporting cast obviously knows what type of movie they’re in and they still make the most of their time. Then there’s Nic Cage seemingly going nutty and enjoying his time being a crazy old samurai guy living in a desert cave… God, I love Nic Cage. Anyways, when we’re seeing how much fun we could be having if Nic Cage was leading the show, but we’re stuck with ‘McExpressionless Joe’ over here… it hurts. It hurts so bad.
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Maybe I’m being harsh on Moussi and I apologize because perhaps it was more the direction he was given rather than the talent behind it. Either way; please, makers of Jui Jitsu, if you’re reading this… if you’re going to cast Nic Cage in another one of your bad movies, be sure to bring in someone who can actually stand up against Cage’s colorfully eccentric persona or just make Nic the lead. Plain and simple.
In the meantime, luckily Nic Cage starred in one of last year’s best movies, Color Out of Space. If anyone is reading this, skip Jui Jitsu… forever. Go watch Color Out of Space instead, that was the better weird sci-fi Cage magic show we can all love!
9. We Can Be Heroes
The Plot: When alien invaders capture the Earth’s superheroes, their kids must learn to work together to save their parents and the planet.
Another entry on my ‘worst’ list in a row where aliens are coming down to destroy Earth... how odd. Anyways, I truthfully have a slight agenda including this one on the list, kind of like with Jiu Jitsu; pointing out a person with astonishing talent churning out crap that is beneath them. Robert Rodriguez… why do you gotta do this to me, man?! If for whatever reason, a reader of mine is unfamiliar with Rodriguez or his work; this is the man behind several low budget action/genre movies that he turns into gold such as El Mariachi, Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, The Faculty, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Sin City, Planet Terror, Machete, and only a couple years ago directed what was undoubtedly his biggest budgeted film in Alita: Battle Angel. Robert Rodriguez is a legendary director, who apparently can also make some really delicious looking pizza after I watched an episode of Jon Favreau’s Netflix series, The Chef Show. Hell, last year Rodriguez even directed one of The Mandalorian’s most pivotal episodes, The Tragedy. This man has remarkable talent behind the camera, but for some unknown reason Robert decides to make a kids flick every couple years and they’re pretty damn awful every time.
Starting back in 2001 with the very first Spy Kids movie, which truth be told has been a long time since I had last watched any of the Spy Kids movies. Although I do vaguely remember the first one being passable? Maybe? Which is not saying much since the integrity and dignity of these ‘family pictures’ quickly diminishes as his ventures into the family genre went on with endless Spy Kid sequels, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl… IN 3-D! Now all the way to the year 2020, we find ourselves fifteen years later with what appears to be a loose sequel to Sharkboy and Lavagirl, We Can Be Heroes. I am… overjoyed. Yippee.
This was a horrendous sit; from the vomit inducing special effects that still would have looked terrible by the standards of twenty years ago to the painful child acting that made my blood boil! The only way I can describe the CGI in this movie is “pure nightmare fuel.” Seriously, some of the images presented by the film (particularly from the kid with the ability to stretch like rubber) is beyond terrifying to watch. Creating unintentionally creepy imagery that I won’t be able to shake off any time soon. Then when it comes to the acting from all these kids, it freaking kills me. I couldn’t stand the pompous line delivery or the “trying too hard to be cool” dialog they had to read throughout the movie, making absolutely none of our cast remotely likable and wishing it was over the very second any of the characters first open their mouths. Not to mention, because it’s Robert Rodriguez directing here, he miraculously manages to con his friends to appear in his movie who all are gifted actors, but are stuck in this awful material while also being sidelined by a bunch of kids who can’t act. Resulting in an even more frustrating experience.
My final thoughts on the matter, Robert, if you’re reading this… Unlikely, but first of all, I apologize for my insolence and please don’t kill me! Secondly, I respect the hell out of you and your body of work. You make great entertainment and I wholeheartedly remain excited to see what the future holds for your filmography. However, these kids movies are bad. Very, very bad. And no, this is not coming from a cynical mind that believes all children’s movies are “dumb” or can never rise to mature quality that adult features can. No, not at all! I mean, just last year I had not one, but two family pictures in my ‘Best of 2020’ movie list. My real problem is these family movies that you have made feel as though they don’t respect the intelligence of their audience and are crafted to be condescendingly dumb because the writer (a.k.a. you) don’t believe children can handle mature themes or visuals. Respect your demographic, give them entertainment that feels genuine with charismatic characters we can fall for, just like when you make an action movie, only a little less blood and cursing… just a little though, some blood and cursing is still fine, kids gotta grow up some time.
Want Good Examples of Family Friendly Action Flicks?
So, Mr. Rodriguez, if you so choose to continue on this 20 yearlong tirade of family movies, I hope that you do it with a bit more respect and care. I know for a fact you can do it, there’s literally no reason why you can’t. Yes, it’s definitely good to retain your own style, but maybe it’s time to branch out and try something different with these kid flicks. Experiment, take reference from some of the greats within the genre and make your own… or you can simply stick with making kick-ass action films, I’m cool with that too. Just put a stop to whatever this crap is with We Can Be Heroes, it’s not working and it hasn’t been working for a very long time.
8. Secret Society of Second-Born Royals
The Plot: Following Sam’s (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) adventures at a top-secret training program for a new class of second-born royals obtaining super powers with saving the world.
First of all, I’d just like to say that I don’t get the weird ass genetics behind this concept. Like, how does this work exactly? Apparently because these specific families of royal blood have two children, the first child is born completely normal with no super powers of any kind, but the second kid is just randomly given these gifts? Why? How does that work?? What if these families don’t have two kids? I guess no super powered babies to provide this secret organization for saving the world. What if they have three kids? Is there a society of third-born royals? What about if the first baby is miscarried; is the next baby considered the first or second? I guess the first since they’re the only ones technically born, but that seems like such a specific set of genetic coding to account for that. What about if the second baby is a stillborn or miscarried and the family has another after that; is the third baby then considered the second so they’ll get superpowers or are they jipped because there was the one before that didn’t survive? I really, REALLY don’t like how much this crappy movie is making question the survivability of babies…
Alright, now that my bit of nitpicking is over, onto the reasons why I was ready to throw my television set out of a frikkin’ window while watching Secret Society of Second-Born Entitled Whiny Rich Kids with Parental Issues. This movie has some of the most ill-guided lead characters for a movie that I’ve seen in a while; revolving around a bunch of literal royal brats who have no relatable consequences to bare as regardless of how this story might go for any of them, they’re still going to be stupidly rich and completely fine. The writers trying making the main whiny rich girl “likable” by painting her as the angst ridden rebel who fights against the system and plays in a rock bad on street corners to protest nonsense… but then goes back home to her sweet mansion while squandering any actual power she could have to make the world a better place through her wealth, but instead believes that it’s a better idea to pretend like she’s not rich because she’s so “deep.” F*ck off.
The rest of the group of super-powered brats are generic with no reason to care about any issues they might face because there really aren’t any repercussions for them at all. If they fail at this knockoff school for the kids who couldn’t get into Xavier’s mutant institution, it really does not matter since they’re still going to live the rest of their lives in wealth and luxury, while someone like myself would be screwed for life if I got kicked out of a regular campus. Can we see the problem here how there is no reason to give a damn about these rich punks? Especially when we have one girl who only learns how to control her invisibility powers by having her phone taken away, so she has a b*tch fit about being seen slightly sweaty on social media… #TotesRelatable
‘Misguided’ is the best word to describe this hunk of junk. Secret Society of Blood-Sucking Brats could have easily been forgettable direct-to-video Disney schlock that I wouldn’t have even bothered including on my ‘worst’ list, but because these characters are so unlikable and written to be a cynically repugnant ‘cool’ group of teens that I hated every minute I was trapped watching this garbage. Disney can make some terrific films, we all know this, but their direct to TV stuff that tries so desperately to be ‘hip’ with the kids and relate to them seems to never understand what the hell it’s actually talking about. Resulting in aggravating blandness like this! Although I will say that I did enjoy watching a young actor in this by the name of Niles Fitch, not necessarily because his character was written any better than anyone else in the movie, but the fact that he looks remarkably like a young Moris Chestnut. Seriously, if Hollywood ever remakes Boyz n the Hood or simply needs a “young” Moris Chestnut, this is definitely your guy!