Oh hey! Yeah, we're still doing 2009 stuff, deal with it.
Surely there's worse movies out there, but often times we try and purposefully avoid the "The Love Guru's" of the year (though admittedly in 2008, we did go out of our way to catch up on all the garbage, and boy did we regret it). In many cases, we just avoided as much trash as we could, but you know, you see so many films a year, you're bound to see some dreck.
Whatever, we're all obviously pretty much over 2009, but we had to make sure these odious, noxious pictures got their due in our 2009 hall of shame. Never forget.
"The Lovely Bones"
Peter Jackson's woeful misfire is really two movies: one, a melodramatic murder mystery with vertiginous, constantly-on-the -move cameras that make you seasick over the most mundane things (our review described it like directing a prosaic breakfast scene like it was the siege of Helm's Deep), and two, an after-life dreamscape that plays out like it's a tampon commercial scored by Enya. What the hell was Jackson thinking? We thought he knew his female sensibilities after "Heavenly Creatures," but dude might just want to stick to high-concept tentpoles and special effects from here on in. It's a shame to think that Lynne Ramsay ("Ratcatcher," "Morvern Callar") was once attached to this. Can we go back in time and see her presumably infinitely better version?
"New York, I Love You"
Easily one of the most captured cities on celluloid, the real magic of New York City is that it can always feel breathlessly exciting, romantic and full of possibility. Unless you're one of the directors of this egregious followup anthology to "Paris, I Love You." Though it featured lesser talent behind the camera than its Paris incarnation, even we couldn't guess the final result would be as awful as this. We're not even sure where to start with this one. How about the hamfisted uses of "No Surprises" by Radiohead and "The Only Living Boy In New York" by Simon & Garfunkel (clever!)? Or how the film completely missed the multicultural, neighborhood vibe that makes New York City so amazing? Each and every segment felt like it was written on the back of a bar napkin a few days before shooting, the lone exception being Joshua Marston's effortlessly charming short featuring Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman who in their brief appearances obliterate every other big name star playing "indie" in this colossal misfire.
"Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen"
Before we're bombarded with hate mail from nerds, let's be clear: we liked "Transformers" for what it was. It promised robots beating the hell out of each other, and that's pretty much what we got. For the sequel however, it seems Michael Bay was so busy eyeballing Megan Fox's ass and playing with special effects computer programs he forgot ask the screenwriters if their script made a lick of sense. It didn't. Weirdly alternating between slapstick comedy (we were ready to leave the theater when Sam Witwicky's Mom was tripping balls on pot brownies), offensive Jar Jar Binks-esque minstrelsy and bloated action sequences that were all flash and no choreography Bay (to his credit) who usually has a grip on the tone of his film, seemed lost here. While it was only six minutes longer than the previous film, it like were in the theater for a week. Stupid and dull, "Transformers: ROTFL" was so bad it couldn't even cheekily live up to its own acronym.
"The Twilight Saga: New Moon"
While all the talk this winter has been of James Cameron's revolutionary "Avatar," "New Moon" is equally revolutionary. For one thing, it's the most successful film ever to be targeted at teenage girls, and yet remarkably, manages to be a real slap in the face for feminism: idiot girl puts herself in danger, can't decide whether she wants to be rescued by big strong boy werewolf, or big brooding boy vampire. Furthermore, it's a blockbuster in which ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENS. What little there is resembling a plot doesn't make a lick of sense (what's Robert Pattinson doing in Rome, exactly? Where does the red-headed lady vampire go? And let's not forget, the inciting incident of the whole film is a papercut), the soundtrack finds the dullest possible songs by some half-decent bands, and the leads all put in three very different, but somehow equally terrible performances.
Not to add insult to injury — the film was both a critical and commercial bomb and it wasn't cheap either — but god Richard Kelly needs to get his head out of his ass. "Donnie Darko" evinced that the filmmaker clearly has talent (though his director's cut ruined the ambiguity and did him no favors), but "Southland Tales," proved if you give the kid an inch, his wild, esoteric ideas will take a unruly mile. We're all for grand ambition, but it's clear that the only person who truly understands his convoluted and messy films is Kelly himself (and perhaps the eggheads at Film Comment who seem to adore his "deep" films). Based on a thin, dated story that never really had enough substance to begin with — a silly and forgettable "Twilight Zone" episode on TV — Kelly's mumbo jumbo-ish sci-fi mystery thriller was confused from minute one and only got worse and worse. Also? Hiring sub par actors like Cameron Diaz and James Marsden certainly didn't help. If the rumors are true that Andrew Dominik is currently in director's jail because of his artful, but expensive commercial bomb, "The Assassination of Jesse James," then Kelly might as well be shot without trial after two massive, and unsightly, near-valueless misfires in a row.
Just because you can make something into a movie, it doesn't necessarily mean that you should. Zack Snyder's painfully over-literal, over-reverent adaptation missed the mark so hugely that it's hard to believe we once held out hope for it. Yes, the credit sequence is good fun, and yes, Alex McDowell's production design was pretty great, but the rest of "Watchmen" showed Snyder as a man with few original ideas, and absolutely no taste. From the miscasting (Malin Akerman turning in one of the worst performances of the year), to the gruesome violence and the abysmal music (oh god, that sex scene to Leonard Cohen), it's a spectacular misjudgment for almost all of its three hour running time. Like "The Lovely Bones," you can't help but wonder 'what if?' — it makes us ache for the lost version that Paul Greengrass came so close to directing.
"Angels & Demons"
On the bright side, "Angels & Demons" marked an improvement on its predecessor in the Dan Brown-created Robert Langdon series. Unfortunately, it was only a slight improvement, and as "The Da Vinci Code" is a strong contender for the worst movie of the decade, Ron Howard's follow up is still a deeply painful movie to sit through. It's not as dull as the first film, but it's at least as stupid, with a big twist that's obvious from the off, and it's alarmingly long. It may not be as offensively terrible as some of the other films on this list, but the kind of bland mediocrity that Howard is peddling here is no better. Oh, and it features a career worst performance from Ewan McGregor, which considering the last few years, is fairly impressive...
If proof were needed that Sundance is not necessarily a stamp of quality, "Adam," which was one of the bigger-money sales at the festival this year, happily provides that proof. Following a romance between a schoolteacher from a wealthy family (Rose Byrne) and her young neighbor, who suffers from Aspergers (Hugh Dancy), the film takes a talented cast (also including Frankie Faison and Peter Gallagher), and squanders it on a shallow, deeply condescending, saccharine movie. It's very hard to get involved in a film where the only apparent attraction between the leads is that they're both extremely pretty, particularly when it's shot, and soundtracked, like a very special episode of "Grey's Anatomy."
We're not sure which was more embarrassing, the inert, tedious film itself or the critics — and generally respectable indie-minded ones — that gave this film a pass because... it needed an A for at least effort? We're not sure what the thinking was for this one, but this dour, tiresome and unfunny excuse for a Michel Gondry knock0ff — mirthlessly directed by Sophie Barthes — was one of the least enjoyable cinemagoing experiences we had all year. Kudos for the bland script and making the usually-charming Paul Giamatti seem as annoying and pouty as a teenage girl. Dull and uninspired, yet somehow trafficking in the illusion of a clever concept. Barf.
The poor man's Brett Ratner, McG, gave us at least one thing to be thankful for — he created a film so bad that it killed the Terminator franchise stone dead, at least for the moment, preventing any other future fuck-ups of this nature. Seemingly filmed on tin foil, and featuring exteriors ripped off of "Children of Men" and interiors straight from "The Matrix Reloaded," it managed to be almost impossibly dull and humorless, for a summer blockbuster, with only Anton Yelchin coming off well from the cast. McG seems to think that people will take him for a serious filmmaker if he makes the grimmest, bleakest film he can. Mate, if Ingmar Bergman had a name made up of three consonants, and looked like he was in Sugar Ray, no one would have taken him seriously either...
"The Ugly Truth"
Is there anything more pathetic than a rom-com doing backflips to amuse its audience and falling flat on its face in a puddle of sexist cliché? Robert Luketic’s dud of a chick flick works overtime to insure that it would be hard to find a worthy competitor in that contest. Katherine Heigl reprises her role as the uptight, frigid bitch, and the typecasting is entirely her own fault, as she and her mother are both producers on this gem. What could they have been smoking when they decided the accidental vibrating-panties scene was a good idea? Katie, when you’re the boss, you can say no to embarrassing, lowest common denominator dreck like that. Oh, and Gerard Butler plays the loud-mouthed asshole who falls for Heigl's annoying wench — they can have each other . It’s not that the film is so offensive or irritating (which it is) — it’s worse: BORING.
"Confessions of a Shopaholic"
This conspicuous-consumption champion attempts to be a cautionary tale against super-sized spending, but it wastes its entire run time hypocritically celebrating "Sex and the City"-level spending and fetishization of designer labels. The makers of "Confessions of a Shopaholic" should certainly feel guilty for the product they've made, but not for its message; they should regret making such a truly awful film. There's more chemistry between Isla Fisher's titular spender and a pair of Gucci boots than there is with her costar Hugh Dancy, and the script— filled with talking mannequins and bad dialogue — seems flighty and frivolous in all the wrong ways.
Less fun than a wedding reception without alcohol, "Bride Wars" is like a never-ending "Bridezilla" marathon, except somehow less entertaining. It was obviously marketed toward women, but it's hard not to be insulted thinking that 20th Century Fox thinks you'll like this film just because you have a vagina. If viewers have a brain — and even a little bit of a heart — they won't be able to stand watching 90 minutes of supposed best friends Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson ripping each other apart, all over a wedding date at The Plaza. It's a small, mean-spirited film that embarrasses its two leads, who do their damnedest to make us forget that they were ever nominated for an Oscar.
What starts off as an intriguing idea and innovative approach to the zombie sub-genre is strapped down not only by its gleeful approach to rape and degradation, but also by its truly awful script filled with bad dialogue and scenes that go nowhere. Two high school boys find an undead young woman tied to a gurney at an abandoned mental hospital, and then the, umm, fun begins. If the writing style of James Wan and Tucker Max were united — and then beaten senseless — it might result in this brain dead indie horror film. "Dead Girl" is effectively disturbing, but what's most bothersome is that some people have actually enjoyed the poorly filmed movie that has more holes in its plot than its poor imprisoned woman has in her mutilated body.
"X-Men Origins: Wolverine"
Sometimes stories of a film's troubled production history are just that — stories. But between the reports of on-set strife between director (Gavin Hood) and studio, post-production woes (with numerous re-shoots), and that infamous leak of the entire film, just weeks before its release, and 'Wolverine' was all but doomed to fail. Except that we couldn't have even predicted what a silly, sloppy, sophomoric mess this film really was. Hugh Jackman eked out some charm in the title role (his fourth go-around), but that was all but washed out all the plot contrivances, chintzy special effects, and absurd supporting characters (one word: Will.i.am). Rarely has a superhero film this humorless been so laughable.
"Land of the Lost"
The question still remains: who was this big budget adaptation of the Saturday morning adventure show really for? Kids who were probably too young to remember the show (there was a forgettable revamp in the early '90's but even that seems like ancient history)? Jaded older people who remember the goofy charms of the original and wanted to wax nostalgic? Or those looking for a fun summer movie with dinosaurs and Will Ferrell? The answer, it turns out, is none of these audiences. The movie is neither fish nor foul, a big, loud, dumb-ass comedy that seems too edgy for younger audiences and too infantile for older ones. Not even Danny McBride came away unscathed.
Yes, this actually got some kind of theatrical run. And to be honest, the logline sounded pretty cool: Dennis Quaid as a grizzled cop investigating a series of killings connected to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Well, cool ideas only go so far and after a gripping opening sequence, this thing got stuck in the narrative muck and never moved again. Listless and dramatically inert, this stinker, produced by Michael Bay and directed by one-time music video sensation Jonas Akerlund, was an odious, by-the-numbers mess. For a suspense picture, the only thrilling feeling was during the closing credits, knowing that it was over.
Honorable mention goes to the nerds-who-live-in-their-mom's-basement fantasy film, "Fanboys," "Amelia," so dull it needed to be put out of its misery, "Ninja Assassin," the poor "The Mark Pease Experience," the tonally challenged eyesore that was "Jennifer's Body" and Jody Hill's vulgar and sloppy, "Observe & Report" — though 1 or 2 Playlist members will go to bat for this last one, but alas, they are outnumbered. — Oliver Lyttelton, Kimber Myers, Drew Taylor, Kevin Jagernauth, Katie Walsh & RP