The Worst Films of 2009

When I reviewed my choices for the Best Movies of 2009, I mentioned that the first 8 months were pretty good for movie watching. Well, I didn’t mention that the following 4 months would expose me to so much garbage compacted in such a short time, I was hurtin’. Hurtin’ bad.  So in the spirit of having to deal with a load of  backed-up shit, I dedicate this list to the memory of the late great Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, who knew real discomfort when he felt it (“no one’s actually went out and recorded a song about real pain!“) and expressed it in the classic “Constipation Blues.”

In order to catch up as quickly as possible on movies, I follow the 20-minute rule: watch a DVD for 20 minutes and if it’s not destined to be one of the best or worst of the year, go to the next one. I was able to get through 86 films following this plan, but I have to tell you, two of the first three entries on my yearly stack of cinedung I could not finish, unable to justify watching them until the end. The other films I watched from beginning to end and I have the gray hair and indigestion to prove it.

So let’s get to it. Grab a prune and let’s loosen up:

10.    Gentlemen Broncos

Gentlemen Broncos is probably going to be most noted for Fox Searchlight’s panicked decision to pull the movie from release after it received shitty responses in NYC and LA.  In this case, the studio made the right move. What’s unfortunate is that this comedy by the husband and wife team of Jared and Jarusha Hess had a kernel of promise.  Michael Angarano plays Benjamin, an introverted, talented writer who creates a fantastical novel and presents it at a sci-fi convention.  Appearing at a seminar is the much revered and ego-driven writer Chevalier (Jermaine Clement), who steals the boy’s idea for his own new novel. That is a good premise, especially when the Hesses bring life to the novel’s characters in goofy and imaginative sequences . What goes completely wrong is surrounding Benjamin and Chevalier with a host of inane, stupid, dreary town characters that act as lead weights on what good storyline they had and throws the pacing way out of whack.  Benjamin is made so passive in this film that its very existence depends on other characters that seem unnecessary and act as reminders that rewrites are a good thing.  Why not make Benjamin the eccentric character with the vivid imagination and drive to make his own movies–sort of like a Crispin Glover? That way, he can truly go toe to toe with Chevalier from the outset.  Also, the Hesses need to desperately learn that supporting characters do act like real human beings. I mean, c’mon, the clenched teeth, the droopy faces, the constantly strained smiles–these aren’t real human beings being portrayed, these are auditions for “Constipation Blues: The Musical.”

9.    Bruno

Sasha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles admittedly pulled brilliant pre-release PR moves of this pseudo-doc with Cohen posing as an Austrian fashionista determined to be famous.  Two big problems arise, however. First is not recognizing what type of project they have. Is it a feature? A special? A YouTube short? Ah, there we go! It’s too bad Cohen and Charles didn’t realize they had a short film idea, because through most of this “comedy,” we have to suffer through the same repetitive scenes. Bruno does something outrageous, cue shocked looks. After this happens about 7 or 8 times, you get the idea. Better to make this a series of videos you can have viewers subscribe to on YouTube rather than ask them to show up at the theater for this crap. And besides, the elephant in the room with this movie is that this gay stereotype is the only gay lead character in any Hollywood movie this year.  The counterargument that Bruno was made to show how other people are intolerant is complete and utter baloney. The movie is not about those people, it’s about this character trying to fulfill his egotistical needs and oversexed desires.  If he were straight, he’d just be an asshole.  Having him be a flaming faggot is exactly how Hollywood studios would have it for public consumption, a gay minstrel show pretending to be subversive.  Next up, Cohen plays Aunt Jemima.

8.    Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

This was the other film on the list that I could not finish (Gentlemen Broncos was the first). I tried, oh how I tried, but director Michael Bay seems to enjoy specializing in films that are literally unwatchable.  Apparently, fearing anyone in the audience with Attention Deficit Disorder would be bored, Bay makes rapid fire editing a mainstay, thus creating in Armageddon and in this film some of the worst editing in cinema history.  I don’t even want to spend precious space on my blog telling you the basic plot. Look it up on IMDB if you really want to see this movie.  This will not only make you want to see less of both Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox on the big screen, it has the distinction of having the year’s worst movie line. LaBeouf, as Sam Witwicky, is preparing to head off to college and his car Honeybee is crying, saddened to see him go. Witwicky:  “You’ll always be my first car man. I love you.”  Why don’t you two rent a garage and do some real back seat driving?

7.    Miss March

Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore, two of the stars of the cable series The Whitest Kids U’Know, make the big leap from small screen to big screen with this feature they co-wrote and directed.  They made an offensive, racist, sexist and incredibly lame comedy when they should have made an inspirational documentary, because it’s a goddamn fucking miracle these guys ever got the money to make this worthless piece of shit. Cregger plays Eugene, a virginal high school student about to graduate along with his “friend” Tucker (Moore), an oversexed stoner. Eugene is talked into having sex with his girlfriend (also a virgin) during a graduation party, but he falls down a flight of stairs and slips into a four-year coma. Oh, the hilarity. Revived from a coma by his “pal” wielding a baseball bat, he tries to track down his gal, who has since become a Playboy centerfold.  Cregger and Moore have managed one notable accomplishment: they are without a doubt in my mind, the rock-bottom worst comedy team ever in the history of the movies.  These two seem to think repeated jaw-dropping reactions to events are pretty funny, when in reality, it only causes my jaw to drop. Not once did I ever believe their two characters would even say hello to each other in school, let alone be friends. This striking lack of authenticity leads to desperate cloying scenes where the incredibly selfish Eugene has to tell his shitstain “buddy” that he’s such a good friend.  Don’t worry, you deserve each other.  Enjoy your 4% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

6.    Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

If any of you gals out there have a tough time getting your guy to rent romantic comedies, blame movies like this one. Matthew McConaughey continues his quest to move from the big screen to permanent cable TV status in his role as Conner Mead, an arrogant womanizing photographer who could care less about the women he beds until “that one special girl” comes along.  I’ve already mentioned in a previous post about bad adaptations of “A Christmas Carol” that the Dickensian approach of having 3 ghosts come to haunt him amounts to having nothing fresh and interesting to say about relationships or any of the cliched characters in this movie.  What I didn’t mention is that this movie also wastes good actors like Jennifer Garner, Oscar-winner Michael Douglas and Robert Forster.  They better hope viewers have short memories. Finally, the only other thing worth noting in this crapfest is that it’s one of two movies on this list that have the most implausible wedding scenes of the year.

5.    The Informers

Sara Libby at True/Slant gets it right: Crash could possibly be the worst movie of the decade (I’ll have to check over the last decade to make my final decision).  The reason it’s a strong contender is because the supposed “subtlety and nuance” of that film lead to other similarly inspired movies that Crash defenders will have to explain. One example is this crock of steaming dung, already declared the year’s worst by my friend Elric and, boy, has he got it right. I found this movie–another “examination” of LA, this time in the 1980’s–one of the dullest, most confusing and most irritating experiences of the year handled with incredible ineptness by director Gregor Jordan. Rich and poor are examined here showing how they all have terrible flaws.  How profound! Zzzzzzzzzz. Seriously, I don’t think I can remember a single scene of this movie, as it went through me like raisins. I’ve given more of my life than necessary to adaptations of Bret Easton Ellis novels. Three movies: Less Than Zero, American Psycho, The Informers and they all suck like an Electrolux. No more.

4.    Knowing

A time capsule buried at an elementary school in 1959 and retrieved 50 years later holds secrets for the possible apocalypse. Discovered by the son of an astrophysicist, the paper filled with scribbled numbers is actually a guide to future disasters predicting the dates of calamities and the number of casualties.  Oscar-winner Nicholas Cage, who occassionally takes a break to do terrific work in films like Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, gets right back in pay-the-castle-mortgage mode with this howler, playing John Koestler, the drunken widowed scientist who makes the 180 degree turn from rationalist to numerologist.  Director Alex Proyas really coasts on the ridiculous CGI, throwing in a subway crash so bombastic no one could have survived it, except, of course, Koestler and a few others. If you do decide to waste your time on this, check out the ridiculous looking alien spacecraft near the film’s end.  Quite possibly one of the year’s “party” movies.

3.    Couples Retreat

Ever sit in a movie theater during a comedy and hear nothing but dead silence from the audience? That was my experience watching this atrocious film.  Jason Bateman and Kristen Davis play a couple close to divorcing who convince three other couples (Vince Vaughn, et al.) they should all split the costs of heading to a tropical resort to work out their own issues. The other three couples are much more interested in having fun than taking the retreat seriously and alleged hilarity ensues.  Good Lord, I don’t know where to start with this movie.  It tries to be a romantic comedy,  a screwball comedy, a gross-out comedy, a family situation comedy and a sexploitation comedy with both men and women as sex objects. It’s a failure on all those levels, so naturally it was a box-office hit. What the fuck, people?! Couldn’t you find something else to do with your time? Read a book? Scrub the baseboards? Download internet porn? Anything, but this? The script by co-stars Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn is one of the worst of the year.  Several times in this movie the story should have come to a screeching halt, but unfortunately doesn’t. A controversy brewed when the UK promotional ad sheets for Couples Retreat excluded the African-American couple (Faizon Love and Kali Hawk). Those actors should consider themselves lucky to get whatever distance they could from this catastrophe. BTW, if you hated this movie but loved A Christmas Story, you should know that this cinevomit was directed by Peter Billingsley, who you thought was cute playing Ralphie in that obnoxious movie and allowed him further work in Hollywood. Thanks a lot.

2.    Bride Wars

Another movie you guys suckered for was this incredibly insincere comedy and, upon any amount of examination,  one of the most misogynistic films of the year. Why did you go? Was it the title? “Yeah, you see, girls like ‘Bride’ cuz it’s like weddings, beauty, love, you know? Guys will like ‘Wars’, because, hey, what guy doesn’t like war except some pussy, right?” Oscar-winner Kate Hudson sees her golden statuette shrinking distantly in the rear-view mirror portraying Liv, the best friend of Emma (Anne Hathaway). They’re both best buddies on everything until their dreams of each being married in NYC’s Plaza Hotel collide as a result of a scheduling conflict by a wedding planner (Candice Bergen, looking very uncomfortable in this role).  Just as in Couples Retreat, this movie could have ended a half-dozen times, but trudges on, because we had to have one of the most forced happy endings in movie history.  This movie rewards bickering, irrationality, bitchiness and demands that the male fiancees of both these rotters stick by them when it’s clear the guys should have called the weddings off. Hudson and Hathaway were both close to 30 years-old when they starred in this atrocity, but director Gary Winick, fresh from his single-episode lensings of Lipstick Jungle and Ugly Betty, armed himself with writers bearing sketchy credentials to bring the magic of bad TV sitcoms to the silver screen.  Both these good actresses are reduced to acting like girls half their ages.  This movie was rated PG, so a number of you probably took your young daughter to see this movie. In that case, I should become a therapist and charge you triple the normal rate when she comes to see me.

1.    Antichrist

Okay, now I have to get serious. I was very ready and willing to let Bride Wars be the number one worst film of the year and Lars von Trier’s catastrophe sit at number three. However, over the last couple of weeks I’ve been stunned to read and hear folks finding justification for this trash. It’s the thing I fear most: Antichrist is probably going to be studied in film schools because some scholars who’ve puffed up their skulls with “art” films will actually lack the common sense to know when they’ve been taken. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg star as a couple too busy wildly fucking each other to notice their infant son unattended in the next room.  After the tyke slips out the window and falls to his slow-motion death (accompanied by operatic music), Mom falls apart. However, rather than have her committed–which she clears needs for her own safety–Dad takes her on as a patient for psychoanalysis (he’s a therapist, you see).  Taking her to an isolated cabin in the woods, it’s Fatal Attraction meets Hostel time, as “She” goes completely bonkers and “He” is left wondering if there’s some supernatural goings on or whatever the fuck von Trier is trying to get at.  There’s, believe it or not, two seperate scenes where she jumps on him from behind trying to kill him. I’ve actually had someone argue that this movie is a statement against psychology. Bullshit. This movie is about a domineering husband taking advantage of his wife’s desperate situation and later making him the “victim” in her assaults.  Despite Anthony Dod Mantle’s fine cinematography, he’s left with one of the most hateful film ideas ever made. Yes, folks, thrill at the sight of evicerated animals, Gainsbourg finger fucking herself (hey, she had to win Best Actress at Cannes for something, right?),  Dafoe staggering about with a grinder’s wheel bolted through his leg and later digging up a crow buried alive in a cave while Gainsbourg tries to kill him (I almost burst out laughing at that ridiculous scene) and Gainsbourg snipping off her vaginal lips in extreme close-up. This is fucking art?! Please. Don’t shit on my shoes and tell me you dropped a brownie.  And to those of you embracing this movie: don’t complain about the next films in the Saw or Hostel series. Ever.

Other Losers this year:

17 Again:  Zac Efron has to convince us that he grew up to look like Matthew Perry. Plastic surgery or genetic mutations?

Away We Go: Incredibly overrated comedy about a couple seeking a suitable environment to bear their first child. Cloying and irritating.

Fast & Furious: Vin Diesel high-octane action nonsense which lost me in about 5 minutes. That has to be some sort of speed record.

Hannah Montana, The Movie: Billy Ray Cyrus’ revenge against critics: get the youngsters. If your child grows up to be Hannah Montana, start over.

Haunting in Connecticut: Weak horror film riding on a freaky looking promo pic of some funky vomit-like substance coming out of a boy’s mouth.

Killshot:  Mickey Rourke and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as hit men out to off witness Diane Lane who, you guessed it, is stripped and humiliated.  Year of the Woman continues. A snoozer.

My Life in Ruins: My twenty minutes in shambles. Tour guide in Greece discovers love while you will probably discover the nearest exit.

Obsessed: Imma letcha finish readin’ but Beyonce was in one of the worst psycho thrillers of all time! Well, perhaps not so, but this was bad.

O’Horten: Another overrated “art” film (See Antichrist above).  Retiring engineer encounters a goofy night before his final day at work.  Boring and pointless extremely dry comedy.

The Proposal:  Sandra Bullock seeks the comfort of playing yet another irritating bitch a la Crash in this mind-numbing crap that borrows the idea of extreme contrivance from Couples Retreat but was somehow able to convince some people that Bullock deserves a Golden Globe award nomination for this.

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1 Response to The Worst Films of 2009

  1. (500)Days of Summer: Even more cloying than ‘Away We Go’ if that’s possible.

    Inglourious Bastards: Thuddingly dumb and over-rated to the point of absurdity.

    Men Who Stare at Goats: The worst misuse of a can’t-miss premise in recent memory.

    Up in the Air: A breezy comedy about loathsome, indefensible cads. Improbably being pushed for year-end awards.

    Lovely Bones: Some unholy alloy of ‘Contact’ and whatever M.Night Shyamalan trainwreck you choose. Made me glad I hadn’t read the book.

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