In a few years, we might look back at 2022 as the year that the movies broke. There was the streaming war, the collapse of the theatrical market, the continued dominance of franchises above everything else. Not helping matters was the fact that audiences were treated to a metric ton of trash – and not even the fun kind of trash that helps make a Saturday night fly by. For those who avoided the 10 worst films of the year below, consider this a warning against wasting your time and money. For the filmmakers and studios responsible, let this serve as an act of public shaming.
A hack-tastic effort in turning golden intellectual property into lung-clogging coal, director Daniel Espinosa’s Spider-Man spin-off is irredeemable in every fashion. It is charmless, incoherent, ugly and aggressively stupid. There is simply no joy here, even for those (like me!) who can appreciate a nonsensical CGI spectacle that knows it is silly nothingness, and only asks its audience to forget their worries for 90 minutes and play along. In Morbius, there is no playing along, no guilty pleasures to be found – only dreadfully boring pain. So much pain.
2. Black Adam
Like anyone blessed with superpowers – in his case, super-charm and super-brawn – Dwayne Johnson could choose to use his gifts for the good of mankind. Unfortunately, the Rock has more often than not sided with the forces of darkness by producing the most villainous, malignant of blockbusters. And coming on the heels of such dreadfully empty spectacles as Jungle Cruise and Red Notice (the latter my pick for the worst movie of 2021), Johnson’s DC Extended Universe movie Black Adam arrives like an especially diabolical plot to suck the remaining life out of moviegoers. Watching Johnson turn to social media to prove that the film will end up turning a profit – all while the Superman cameo that he helped engineer preceded by Warner Bros. kicking Henry Cavill to the curb – was the moldy cherry atop a rancid sundae.
3. Triangle of Sadness
There are movies that are on-the-nose, and then there is Ruben Ostlund’s Triangle of Sadness, a satire™ that is so pharyngeal that it is the cinematic equivalent of a COVID-19 swab. Arriving in theatres this fall after capturing the prestigious Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival in the spring, Triangle of Sadness was greeted as a breath of fresh air for tellin’ it like it is. By which I mean exposing such unspoken truths as: Aren’t those social-media influencers the worst? And what about Russian oligarchs? Ugh, awful! But in setting up and then obliterating such easy targets, Ostlund has created a self-indulgent and lazy screed that mistakes anger for wit, scolding for irony, and vomit for gags of actual substance.
Good news, Guillermo del Toro: you didn’t make the worst Pinocchio film of 2022. That honour instead belongs to Robert Zemeckis, whose version of the fairy tale arrived on Disney+ this fall with all the grace of a rotten log destined for the wood chipper. This film’s CGI wooden boy looks like a creepy aberration that wandered over from the Child’s Play franchise, unnatural and stomach-churning. And I’ll leave it to you to guess just how the filmmaker treats the story’s most harrowing sequence, a misadventure on Pleasure Island. “Nightmare fuel” may be too strong a description, but if you have little children at home who perhaps you’d like to see get some sleep every now and then: beware.
Take it from an expert in Liam “Action Daddy” Neeson thrillers: You will walk away from the actor’s new effort Blacklight with many questions. The first one being: Can I please have my money and 107 minutes back? No, probably not. But also: Is Liam Neeson … okay, financially or otherwise? The fact that he is churning out forgettable nothingness like Blacklight suggests: no.
If Sugar, the first “Canadian Amazon Original” film from Prime Video, is meant to plant the streamer’s flag in the domestic market with confidence, then someone needs to call back Jeff Bezos from space to testify in front of the Senate because Ottawa, we have a problem. Is this drug thriller even legally allowed to call itself a movie? Scenes don’t make spatial sense, the performances are dreadful in that uniquely open-mic-night way, and the entire endeavour is padded with enough stock-footage shots of exotic locales to make Prime Video subscribers wonder if they accidentally hit the screen-saver option on their Apple TVs.
7. Empire of Light
A dreary and starchy concoction from a filmmaker who should know better by now, Sam Mendes’ drama Empire of Light desperately argues that the societal evils of 1980s England (but, you know, also today) – racism, sexism, homophobia – can be cured by a trip to the cinema. But even the most ardent supporter of the theatrical experience will be compelled to inject Netflix into their veins after sitting through this patronizing, soulless trip to the movies.
8. The Man from Toronto
A stupendously dull action-comedy that is devoid of both thrills and humour, The Man from Toronto features Kevin Hart at his most Hart-iest, playing a fast-talking beta type who must impersonate a contract killer code-named “The Man from Toronto” (Woody Harrelson). As directed/hacked out by Patrick Hughes, the film represents the nadir of the once-reliable buddy/action-comedy genre. The humour is insipid. The fights are incoherent. And the characters are thinly conceived annoyances cooked up with Mad Lib-sponsored Final Draft malware. Deport this sucker.
Alejandro G. Inarritu’s semi-autobiographical drama Bardo knows exactly how to play its audience, but cheapens the emotions that it wrings with faux-expensive tricks from an imagination made lean from years of self-aggrandizement. By the end of the film – following a successful journalist/documentarian who is stylized in both character and even physicality to resemble its director – you will feel full of emptiness, and for what? The privilege of being a passenger on a guided tour through the brilliant, oh-so-tortured mind of back-to-back Oscar winner Alejandro G. Inarritu.
10. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
A cheap and sloppy skewering of celebrity culture that is barely a millimeter above the material it thinks it is so sharply satirizing, Tom Gormican’s film is the definition of disappointment. I would say that the filmmaker hit the jackpot by convincing Nicolas Cage to star in his Hollywood-plays-itself comedy (was his backup choice John Travolta?) but that goes against the movie’s own reality-mining conceit: As we’ve seen time and again, Cage will take any project that lands in his lap. The difference between The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and Cage’s VOD trash like Primal, Kill Chain and Arsenal ain’t that much of a difference at all. Cage’s name still sells, even if he can’t quite sell his own movie. And the joke is still on the audience.
Follow Barry Hertz on Twitter: @hertzbarryOpens in a new window
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