Netflix has become synonymous with a lot of things over the years, but the one that hurts them the most is the average and forgettable quality of a lot of their Original movies’ offerings. This year, although it had a lot of good movies, had some bad ones as well, but mostly it was movies that were simply average; they weren’t actively wasting your time, but they weren’t taking advantage of it either. They simply exist without really most people paying attention to them, because they probably shouldn’t; some are on this list because they are genuinely bad, but I don’t watch movies I have no interest in and I rarely hate or stop watching something mid-way. This list is mostly consisting of movies that I watched and expected something better than what they delivered, which is to say that not all of them I consider bad and I will make it clear which ones you should absolutely stay clear off. Having said that, I changed the wording of the title this year to “should have liked more” from “I wish I liked more” because most of these movies are genuinely bad and, although I have a strong interest in some aspect of them, they fail miserably. Like with all other lists I make, the first 8 are tied for 3rd place and are alphabetically sorted, while the top two are ranked as runner up and winner.
- Enola Holmes
For this one in particular, I want to reiterate that these movies are not the worst of the year, because Enola Holmes is a decent movie; like a lot of Netflix Originals, it is average and forgettable. I hoped it would have been more. I like the casting, the premise of Enola Holmes needing to solve a mystery that her condescending brothers won’t is actually interesting, and some of the execution is not bad; the mystery is not particularly interesting and it is kind of predictable, but the pace is great and the performances are good. It’s a shame I didn’t particularly feel anything worthwhile; there are good moments of humor, but they are rare and fare between; there are some good set piece moments, but those are too rare occasions. In the end, I don’t think its worth recommending, but only barely and if you are interested in the movie or the cast or the premise, then I do suggest watching it, because you won’t hate yourself for doing so, but you might not enjoy yourself either.
- Hillbilly Elegy
Out of all the movies that could have released this year, Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy must be the most ill-scheduled. In the time of BLM and social awakening, releasing a movie about this subject matter with this execution was bound to be met by ridicule. In no way do I think the movie or subject matter actually deserve this – in any other year, this would have been met with a collective yawn at worst – but, what disappoints me the most about this movie is how it seems to have been made in a bubble that learned nothing about how to tell social-issue stories. This movie is such clear Oscar bait (especially in its acting) and it takes its outlandish and soapy moments with such straight-faced, unquestioning seriousness that some end up being “so bad its good”, however, most of the movie though is just boring and has a “been there, done that” feel to it; I’m not saying that the real-life memoirs this movie is based on are fake or something to laugh about, the execution of it though is unintentionally funny. Especially with the Hans Zimmer score in the background, which is not bad, but in context it serves to make the scenes seem even more ridiculous. But, I don’t want it to seem like there’s nothing worthwhile here; I like Glenn Close and Amy Adams, their performances are well done and I believe they will get their nominations; Ron Howard is clearly a good director and the flow of the movie is actually pretty good. Most of all, I feel like Hillbilly Elegy could have been a lot more than what it actually ended up being; it could have made points about economic inequality and how chasing the “American dream” is made so much harder and worse by being in certain ethnic, cultural, societal, and economic groups; it could have said something about mental health issues or addiction. Instead, at most, it gives viewers a quirkier version of a typical social-issue drama, but at most it’s just a well-acted boring movie.
This might be my most controversial pick for this list, simply because all the reasons and the wording I will use to describe the movie and why I didn’t like it, can be used verbatim for why it’s a great movie and most would agree with it. Mother is a depressing, unrelentingly bleak, and brutal story that does not compromise what its going for, so it can be more digestible. I applaud that and want to remind that I don’t think the movies on this list are bad and Mother will certainly have a cult following; I’m not among them. I like the cinematography and the acting quite a bit, but the pacing and the story are on a continuous downward slope that keeps getting more depressing, ridiculous, and predictable as the movie goes on; it reminds me of soap operas in that, everything that can go wrong will go spectacularly wrong and it will be shown in the worst way possible. It is certainly going for something, both in terms of style and substance, and it has a lot to say about its themes, situations, and characters in both subtle and unsubtle ways, so it will certainly please a lot of people and satisfy them, but I can think of a few movies that are also as bleak and heavy as Mother and can be digestible and entertaining along the way.
- Project Power
Netflix had an interesting year when it comes to its action-blockbuster offerings; in particular, there’s a trinity of releases that came within weeks of each other, all from the same studio and with the same general style, which are perfect examples of how successful or not Netflix was this year. Extraction was great, The Old Guard was average, and Project Power was bad. Project Power is about a town that is given an experimental drug that gives random super-powers to people that can be good or bad, useful or lethal; this is a movie that will set up interesting ideas and themes, but will forget them immediately in favor of generic CGI action scenes with Jamie Foxx. Unlike The Old Guard though, that can’t save this movie from being a slog to sit through, which I barely got through without finding something better to do like watching my skin age. Hopefully, the studio behind these movies will release more movies like Extraction and will improve on The Old Guard, and write off Project Power as a failed experiment.
- Rogue City
Rogue City is a crime thriller that should have starred Bruce Willis in early 2010s and that is the only way it could have been worst (although it does have a Bruce Willis-esque “bored out of my mind, only in it for the money” performance from Jean Reno). It is gritty and real, it has dirty cops that make you wonder “are they really better than the criminals”, but in a cool “I’m only doing what needs to be done” sort of way, unless it’s the crazy, alcoholic cop, or it’s the part where the movie criticizes how underpaid cops are and how alluring dirty money can be. All these cliches are not bad on their own, it’s the smugness and the “oh yeah I went there” feel of the whole thing that makes it intolerable; it reminds of David Cage (studio head of Quantic Dream) promoting the idea behind “Detroit: Become Human”, which literally is “what if androids are more human than humans”, like it’s something new and not been done to death in the cyberpunk genre. At least Detroit was a decent game (according to critics, at least) that was tried to be passed off as something more original; Rogue City has this lame attitude for its entire runtime and is extremely complicated, badly acted and directed, with boring action sequences and badly written dialogue. It’s not even the worst of the year, but it might be the most frustrating.
- The last days of American crime
Just like with Rogue City, I’m going to be incredibly harsh on The last days of American crime, because they are two of the three movies on this list that I consider to be bad and would advice anyone not to waste time on them. This was especially disappointing because I really like Edgar Ramirez and want him to succeed, but even he is extremely poor and ill-cast in this movie. I wanted to see this movie because I thought this was going to be a moody crime movie with action; instead, this was a heist, crime, western, action, character drama, romantic, mish-mash of bad ideas and worst execution. Even worse, it is 2 hours and 20 minutes long with a plot that honestly takes 20 minutes to develop. Its bloated, boring, and provides more yawns than thrills, more eye-rolls than jaw drops, and it’s a shame because it has a good premise and some interesting casting choices (like Michael Pitt), but it is not worth the time or your attention.
- The last thing he wanted
Yeah, this came out in 2020, weird right?! I saw this movie, wrote down my notes, and the next day I completely forgot I even watched it, which is not something that happens often with me. This is a spy/investigative thriller starring Ben Affleck and Anne Hathaway, but it seems that no one even remembers this movie exists, and it’s pretty clear why; this is a well-acted and directed movie that is incredibly boring to sit through, unnecessarily convoluted, and – at times – so over the top it became unintentionally funny. However, Hathaway and Affleck are good actors and do their jobs respectively, and while the story and characters are not great, there are some ideas for genre fans to enjoy, but I would keep the remote handy to skip through all the fat and bs along the way.
- The Platform
The platform is exactly the movie this list exists for; I was so interested in this movie and after seeing it, my reaction is not one of anger or discontent, but one of seeing something that is average at best and how it should have been so much more. It has clear social commentary it wants to make, it is very gory, and its actually paced well enough, but it is a convoluted, unfocused movie that opens up several discussions and adds nothing to them.
The Runner Up for this year is…Ghost stories
In one of the previous entries, I said that there are 3 movies in this list that I consider bad and you may be surprised to hear that Ghost stories is not amongst those 3, but that’s not entirely true; this is a fascinating example of doing the basics right before even attempting to add something to your movies, and that is why I don’t consider it a bad movie, but it certainly is one by most definitions. This is a horror movie that is not scary; just that statement makes the entire project a waste. Interestingly though, Ghost stories is an anthology movie and all the short stories have the same problem in common; they are all about something more that spooky ghosts, something more personal, but they are all – at best – mediocre character dramas, which is the least scary thing I could write. That is why it is both my runner up and one movie I’m bound to return to at some point (I wouldn’t watch any other movie on this list), and that is why this is only a runner up.
The winner is…The paramedic
I rarely quit on a movie; I think a lot of people worked on it and I owe it to them to watch the whole movie. If I don’t like it or if it is a complete waste of time, I won’t hold back criticism, but I rarely stop watching a movie. Even rarer is me getting angry at a movie and the time it took from me and that is what The paramedic achieved; I was visibly and audibly angry at the movie and myself for watching it all the way through. This is a terrible movie about a terrible character that only gets more obnoxious and annoying as the movie goes on, with no real point to it whatsoever. Its poorly written and directed, the cinematography is awful, and the actors are bad; those are all traits that I will sit quietly through if I’m tricked into seeing the movie. What I couldn’t stand is that, at the end of the day, this movie is about nothing; it says nothing, it has no goal or something it drives towards (besides a laughable conclusion). It is dead-set for wasting your time and it has done so successfully for me, so I shall reward it with the winning spot on this year’s list.
There you have it, 10 movies I should have liked more from 2020, Netflix edition; I was considering to make an actual worst movies list after writing up the winner, but I hate that sort of content, so next week I’ll talk about the great movies on Netflix in 2020.