The Worst Ten Films of 2009

. . . or more to the point, the biggest disappointments of the year – after all, with cheaper technology and software, anyone with sufficient inclination can string together 90 minutes of edited footage these days, irrespective of quality. Just ask Marc Price, director of the so-called “£45 movie”  – Colin.

Anyway, I didn’t muster enough patience to sit all the way through Colin, so it’s inclusion on this list might well be an unfair appraisal – perhaps the latter 80 minutes really were an epiphanic herald of a blistering new talent. I look forward to the director’s sophomore effort.

No, what I intend to cover here are the films that some poor, deluded, withering limpet stuck to my brain genuinely thought could feasibly be entertaining and a worthwhile expenditure of my time, only to be sorely disappointed.

For the record, there may well be some plot spoilers to follow, but none of these films could ever truly be “spoilt” any more than they were by the time of release.

10. The Boat That Rocked

Once upon a time, Richard Curtis was responsible for the biting wit of Blackadder. One could almost champion Four Weddings as a British Classic and Notting Hill as a mildly derivative rehash of tropes. With The Boat That Rocked however, a new generation of up & coming British comedic talent was forcibly required to gurn incessantly along to chirpy Sixties pop hits whilst proclaiming they were edgy revolutionaries who were sticking it to “the man”. A hollow sentiment that seemed increasingly insincere with each of the 116 minutes’ passing.

9. Gamer

Neveldine & Taylor’s follow up to Crank 2 can be flawed on many levels. The cardinal sin however was hiring Gerard Butler for what should have been “The Jason Statham Character.”  Without The Stat’s contribution, well, the rest was noise.

8.Clive Barker’s Book of Blood

As a since-teenage fan of Barker’s written work and the patchy range of adaptations to screen, this short story that dated from a similar creative period to novella The Hellbound Heart (aka Hellraiser) was one adaptation I was keenly anticipating. Peeling a man alive on screen really ought not to be this long winded and boring.

7. Pandorum

Director Christian Alvart mistook the cinematic language of “dark” for the literal meaning – this spaceship-set psychological horror asked an audience to sit through an eternity of oblique, inperceivable moving shapes before finally bothering to turn on the light switch and reveal a not-very-shocking twist.

6. Franklyn

The trailers looked great, the cast looked suitably powerhouse, the premise sounded fascinating. So, the 3rd act unravelling of this fantastical drama was triply disappointing.

5. Adventureland

Whilst heralded as others as one of the best of the year, my experience of this film was coloured by mis-marketing.  “A comedy from the makers of Superbad” doesnt translate as “an achingly painful requiem to 1980’s teenaged naivety and love lost” in any language I’m aware of. Definitely not the raucous puerile comedy I had expected to be watching the evening after my birthday.

4. Public Enemies

After Christopher Nolan borrowed Michael Mann’s act to make The Dark Knight, it seemed logical in a backwards sort of way that Mann should steal Nolan’s leading man, and then plonk him back in Chicago.  There were a lot of elements to Public Enemies that were excellent, but a repetitive script and apocryphal obsession with infamy just seemed to drag things on interminably.

3. Synechdoche New York

Again, I appreciate that people genuinely loved this film, and of course will spit venom or scorn on those who did not.  I think Charlie Kaufman is an unparalleled talent – Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine are highlights in a consistently excellent writing career that have pretty much inspired a sub genre of derivative, self-referential works of cinema.  However, these films were anchored to visionary directors like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry. Without the seeming benefit of a creative sounding board, Kaufman went off the deep end a bit with this one. It was somewhere around what seemed to be the 5th hour of this film that I began to wonder whether we were ever likely to reach a point.

2. Terminator Salvation / Wolverine / Transformers 2 : Revenge of the Fallen

Hollywood has developed a nasty habit of using The Writers Strike as a catch-all excuse for any flops or flaws in recent movies.  Seeing how the strike lasted 3 months from November 2007, I can only hope and pray that the excuse window has expired, because this summer saw some of the late 20th century’s most beloved comic book franchises become a jumble of incoherent and half-arsed pixel-porn.  Let’s break it down to their core problems:

Terminator 4 –  unneccesary inclusion of Christian Bale’s “JAAAAAHN CAAAAAAAAAAHNNNAAAAAAARRRRR!!!!”

Wolverine – needlessly retooled comic book canon. Ironically, the leaked CGI-free Workprint was far better

Transformers 2 – zero plot, zero logic, zero interest. I’m well aware that I was initially enthusiastic for Michael Bay’s military propaganda video, but once i’d marvelled at some stupendously large explosions, I begrudgingly had to admit to myself that this film accentuated all the worst elements of the first one, threw in some offensive racial stereotyping for the hell of it, and proceeded to drag the movie series as far from the 1980’s source material as possible before a lawyer stepped in and renamed the whole mess “CGI does ball gags whilst Megan Fox runs around a desert.”

1. Knowing

It is not often that I find myself sat in a cinema getting increasingly angry, but that was precisely the experience that Alex Proyas’ “Knowing” granted me. Yes, that’s right, Alex Proyas – remember him? The CrowDark City? yesss? Ok, granted, he also directed I, Robot but much of the Knowing pre-release bluster was about how his directorial vision had been compromised on that production, and this was a newly reinvigorated director operating at the peak of his not-inconsiderable accumulated powers.

In many ways, the casting of Nicholas Cage should have been the first warning sign, but his transition from Oscar winning Best Actor to “unflinchingly godawful purveyor of crass nonsense” has been an erratic one – just when you think its all going the way of The Wicker Man, he’ll do a cameo as Fu Man Chu in Grindhouse and trick you into thinking he’ll be alright for a while.

Anyway, in a credulity stretching first act, Cage’s scientist character chances upon a sequence of numbers that appear to have accurately predicted every human disaster in recent history – so far, so Outer Limits. A couple of impressive scenes of carnage and nearly 2 hours later, seeing the benevolent angels depositing 2 innocent children in the Garden of Eden, the Battlestar Galactica Fan in me emitted a blood curdling shriek that only occurs when Deus Ex Machina means literally that and a lazy, unsatisfying ending is cobbled together out of “er . . yea . . its God, or something?”

Many people will happily argue that sci-fi and religion have a history of being inextricably linked, but I’m not one of them.  I could have happily written off Knowing as a diverting but worthless piece of fluff – I was even happy to increasingly laugh along at Cage’s overacting, but the 3rd act revelations (hah) warped this into the one film of the year that I truly despised.

At the screening I attended, as the laughs trickled away and the audience slowly realised it had been slipped some Jesus Juice, a stony cold silence had descended on the auditorium by the time the end credits rolled. A silence that was sharply broken by an irate cinema-goer barking at the top of their voice “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!?!?!?

Knowing – Norbit of the Year 2009.


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