2009 was a big year: I started out as a film fan who went to the theater maybe once every 2-3 weeks and otherwise lazily waited until movies made it onto the premium cable channels before I saw them. Not a lack of motivation, just a busy life. Early in 2009 I started to write a series of columns for Linux Journal on how to create a Twitter queueing system and my example subject was film news. So birthed @FilmBuzz, a now-popular film news channel.
This is pretty much in order of when they were released in 2009 and I won’t commit to having exactly ten so don’t bother counting!
Inkheart — Starring Brendan Fraser and based on a smart, creative book by Cornelia Funke, this was a flame-out disappointment because director Iain Softley forgot the rule don’t let your special effects overtake your storyline! The result is a film that while visually striking, doesn’t work and, worse, is too intense and frightening for its young target audience.
Knowing — What’s with Nicholas Cage? Did he alienate a gypsy fortune teller as a child and is therefore doomed to picking idiotic films forevermore? Knowing is one of those films where the premise is certainly interesting, the effects are sufficiently exciting that it piques your curiosity, but the ending is so excruciatingly bad (see also The Box) that you want to run out of the theater screaming. See it if you must, but pray to have the last reel lost or damaged so you’re spared the incredibly lame ending.
Crank: High Voltage — I’ve watched just about every Jason Statham film and really enjoyed it. He’s yet another cookie cutter tough guy but has a little bit of verve and style. Certainly his film The Transporter is a solid entry in the action film genre and worth a viewing or two. But Crank: High Voltage? I couldn’t even make it through the entire film, diving for the DVD remote within about five minutes. I actually tried to watch it a second time and made it to about minute 15. It’s not only bad, it’s insulting and chock full of offensive stereotypes too. What the hell, Statham, did the script look good but the project slowly died as you filmed it?
Land of the Lost — This was the film where I lost my naiveté around what it meant to be a film critic. I went into the press screening of this film thinking my opinion mattered and as I sat through this rude, offensive, insulting dreck in a theater full of people cheering and laughing, the harsh truth sunk in: we critics are the ones out of touch with popular culture and our opinions are only relevant to ourselves. No-one else cares. Now, fortunately, this film was a box office bomb too, but I had the same reaction to Transformers 2 and that’s gone on to make millions worldwide… Seriously, just avoid Land of the Lost. It’s a testament to how Hollywood turns sweet childhood stories into drug and sex laced garbage.
The Ugly Truth — Co-starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, this film aptly demonstrates what happens to a marginally amusing story idea (“I know, let’s have this misogynistic, self-assured oaf teach a stuck-up studio executive about relationships!”) when it finally emerges from an untalented team: it stunk. Worst than just stunk, it was painful and insulting to watch and I was upset that I’d wasted an evening on this. It (and the next film, Gamer) also got me to do something I haven’t done in quite a while: start to dislike an actor: Gerard Butler.
Gamer — again, Gerard Butler. But this time he’s smug and condescending in a complete mess of a futuristic sci-fi film that had a premise rather parallel to Cameron’s Avatar, but failed, failed, failed to pull it off. Prisoners controlled like puppets by kids, forced to battle for their lives? Who the hell thinks up this stuff? Yech.
Whiteout — Okay, Kate Beckinsale, you are a beautiful woman, and I’ll even grant that you’re a decent actor (though nothing in your filmography jumps out) but here’s an important message to the casting director of Whiteout: cast for the role, not the marquee. This stands as one of the most astonishingly miscast movies of the year, and had they even glanced at the graphic novel upon which the film was based, they might have realized that a tough, capable woman could have made the film almost work, but a pretty face like Beckinsale doomed it to a cold, cold grave.
The Box — There are a couple of films I’ve seen this year where the running commentary in my head sounds like “WTF? WTF?” and this was one of ‘em. Like Knowing, the story proceeds in an interesting manner until a certain point and then it’s like the writers dropped a quick tab of acid and said “duuuuuudddee, I know, let’s have aliens, and this like, y’know, massive conspiracy going on, and let’s make – hee hee hee – the government complicit!”. Gad, probably the very worst ending of any film I’ve seen this year.
Whatever Works – I like Woody Allen. I also liked Larry David, though his eponymous show got exhausting after a while. In this film, however, the two conspire to bring one of the most thoroughly unlikeable, whiny kvetching Jewish stereotypes to the screen that I can recall ever seeing. As Boris Yellnikoff, he’s a complete idiot and so bitter that it’s like a drop of poison spreading through the entire water supply. I couldn’t watch it all and hope for your sake you didn’t get stuck in a theater watching this either.
Okay, that was fun. I’ve got that out of my system so let’s switch gears and I’ll share with you my Best Films of 2009.