2009 Film Review: 10 Worst Movies

As it has become tradition, we begin our annual film recap with those movies we disliked the most. This year we weren’t brave enough to go and see Transformers; Year Zero; Terminator IV or any romantic comedy, which surely saved us from a lot of unsavoury experiences. Not even one of the razzie nominees passed through the filters of our radar. However, there are always particularly vulnerable moments in which some unworthy film manages to fool the boundaries of our rigorous quality control and takes it to a close cinema. The following ten were the worst culprits:

Patrick Lussier

The much talked about arrival of 3-D movies, embraced as both the future of the film industry and the best remedy to fight piracy, was not exempt of controversy. If “Avatar” managed to crush the box office records and left us all open mouthed; there were no few insiders raising their voices against what looks like a likely impoverishment in the narrative of the seventh art, favouring trickery and effects over storytelling.

A good example of the new format’s limitations came with this remake of the cult Canadian slasher from the early eighties, which benefitted from the high profile technological novelty, but was little more than insubstantial B-movie entertainment in which the scary scenes were made through rather predictable visual trickery. What frightened us the most was the possibility from now on that every film made in Hollywood may be like that.

Sherlock-Holmes-poster9-SHERLOCK HOLMES
Guy Ritchie

Guy Ritchie returns to his regular appointment with the list of worst movies of the year, after managing to convince Warners and audiences alike about his revision of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective being like no other before. And it truly was! Ritchie turned the immortal Baker Street resident into a clownish drunk and his intriguing world shaped as a bloated, hollow comic; relying on a spectacularly baroque production design; ready to join the Transformers and Spidermans of this world in the sequel generating process.

Two hundred million dollars just in the US box office; Robert Downey, Jr. winning the Golden Globe and Jude Law getting his career back on track are unequivocal signs of Sherlock Holmes becoming a fixture in any multiplex near you for many years to come.

Jon Amiel

The director of British television cult classic “The Singing Detective”, after a number of Hollywood attempts with irregular fortune, embarked on this half-fiction; half-biographic period drama about Darwin’s life and managed the improbable achievement of reducing the spectacular life of the scientist who masterminded the evolution theory to a boring religious conflict between him and his very catholic missus, who was terribly scared of the repercussions that her husband’s findings would have on proving wrong some of the church’s dogmas. Neither a top-notch cast (Paul Betanny; Jennifer Conelly; and the usual support from veteran British acting greats); nor a production designed with an eye in the Oscars, prevented us from falling into a inescapably deep sleepy feeling.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee movie poster 7-THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE
Rebecca Miller

The multidisciplinary Mrs. Day-Lewis took one of her novels to the big screen, rescuing Winona Ryder from oblivion in the process, who next to Keanu Reeves; Robin Wright-Penn; Alan Arkin; Julianne Moore; Monica Belluci y Maria Bello formed what constitutes one of the worst wastes of an excellent cast we’ve seen in years.

“Pippa Lee” ended up being an unconvincing and pretentious work, placed halfway between a typical chick flick and a catalogue of arthouse stereotypes. The main character’s rather forced life story wasn’t uneventful, but her troubled youth didn’t moved us; her neurosis and bi-polar issues were not convincing; and her dysfunctional romances outside her bourgeois family didn’t strike as anything real. The tone of the film was never focused, jumping from the satirical to the dramatic, without really working as either. Quite a shame!

Jennifer Chambers Lynch

This new example of cinematographic nepotism served, if nothing else, to refute the popular saying “Like father, like son”. David Lynch’s daughters debuted with which being kind could be considered as a tribute to her dad’s disturbing visual universe; and not being so kind looked like a rehash of his most copied stereotypes.

Lynch’s twisted psychological plots and enigma-ridden screenplays, so influential in independent filmmaking during the nineties, here appeared rather misunderstood as a mere gratuitous violence spiral. Bill Pullman –a recurrent presence in Lynch father’s movies and the star of ‘Lost Highway’- next to a recovered Julia Ormond, reinvigorates the aesthetic impression of a film that looked as if it was made ten years ago. But not even their acting skill could save a flat script from making no sense at all.

funny_people_poster25-FUNNY PEOPLE
Judd Apatow

The most notorious among the phobias we suffered from this year was the fall from grace that Judd Apatow and his comic factory have experienced in our eyes. A few years after establishing himself as the new king of comedy with “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, Apatow has also become a successful producer, releasing nearly a movie every month. At the beginning, critics hailed his refreshing and contemporary take; but soon his tendency to soak his stories in blandness and old-fashioned American values has started to be a bit too much.

His return as a director with “Funny People” arrived surrounded by the highest expectations. There were even talks about a possible Oscar for veteran Adam Sandler. However, the boring story of a comedian being diagnosed with cancer and finding relief on teaching a disciple the ropes of his trade was anything but funny and consequently tanked. It looks like we’re not the only one saturated by it; as the arrival of a rougher, harshest brand of comedy like “The Hangover” has instantly replaced Apatow’s monopoly in the heart of critics and audiences.

invention-of-lying-quad4-THE INVENTION OF LYING
Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson

Another of the examples indicating this hasn’t been the best year for mainstream comedy. Caustic British comedian Ricky Gervais failed once more to find the right way to make his normally brilliant ideas jump to the big screen; looking more adequate for the TV series format in which Gervais has thrived over the decade, becoming one of the most innovative figures thanks to unquestionable classics such as “The Office” or “Extras”.

“The invention of Lying” began with the interesting premise of a world in which everybody says what they think, until someone discovers that his career and life can improve considerably if he doesn’t. Unfortunately, its development wasn’t as happy as the original idea.

observe_and_report-53-OBSERVE AND REPORT
Jody Hill

More low moments within the genre of laughter, with which is probable the most unashamedly vulgar hour among all post-Apatow comedies. The tale of a pathetic security guard, his fantasies of becoming the mall’s hero and his goal of being admitted in the police force could have been even funny, but its gross jokes about disabled people and the subsequently wishy-washy attempt of redemption at the end washed it off all at once, leaving the audience with little room for forgiveness.

And even if it may not be entirely fair to mention Apatow again -his own directed film was also in our list- as he’s not involved in “Observe and report”; the choice of Seth Rogen –one of his fetish actors- and the overall style of the film are direct derivates from his teachings and that makes him at least partially responsible for this and many other mediocre efforts that have been invading the world’s multiplexes last year.

the_fourth_kind_poster2-THE FOURTH KIND
Olatunde Osunsandi

Since we found out someone was revisiting ‘the concept’ of Spielberg’s encounters –parked during decade surely due to the difficulty to match the original’s masterful results- and had the courage to go and film the fourth kind –allegedly ‘Abduction’- we couldn’t hide a feeling of unease and nausea due to the stench the project was leaving behind.

However, not even the most pessimistic expectations could begin to herald the horrors that so generously were offered in the final product: a melting pot halfway between the supernatural and the police thrillers, with fake documentary touches adding more ‘realism’ to Milla Jojovitch’s character, an impossible psychologist treating the frightened victims of a series of potential alien attacks. At its best, it nearly restored our faith in the sorely missed genre of the ‘involuntary comedy’.

the-blind-side-movie-poster1-THE BLIND SIDE
John Lee Hancock

If there’s any justice in this world, this will end up joining the list of Hollywood’s Academy most embarrassing moments: How this family oriented film, destined for mass consumption during thanksgiving and blessed with a heart of TV movie based in a true story has been able to pull a nomination for best picture, as well as best actress for our favorite (worst) performer –Sandra Bullock- defies all logic.

Bullock puts the cream on top of a comeback year -thanks to a successful series of average romantic comedies where she is in her natural element- with this role of republican lady getting out of the comfort of the golf club and lunch with lady friends, to go and adopt an unfortunate big black teenager; offering him shelter and guidance to develop his skills as American football player and forge his own future through an athletic grant for college. The saccharine morals may work as feel good movie in the States, but elsewhere it feels more like an insult to intelligence, able to shock even the most obstinate of the conservatives.

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