The Last ‘Least Favorite’ List of 2009

Lists are funny things because once you get started making them, it’s really tough to stop. My goal with this site isn’t to lay down the law on what movie is definitively better than some other one. That’s impossible, and kind of dumb. Can anyone really hold up Aliens and say, yes, no doubt, this film is better than Terminator 2? Better by what standard? Is it even a fair comparison? I can say that Aliens is better than Ghosts of the Abyss, right? Or is that even comparing the same thing anymore? Apples to Volvos.

My real goal with this site has always been to patch holes in my own film knowledge by critically thinking about individual batches of films, and to hopefully start a conversation or encourage someone to check out a director or a film they might not have given a second thought to before. But, really, it’s all horse hockey. As I keep saying: what we do here is make lists and lists are meaningless.

But then you get to the end of a calendar year and people start throwing out their “best of” lists. How, exactly? Did you see every single movie released last year? Of course not and neither did I, not even close, and I’m sorry but neither did most of these critics. They got way, way closer than I did, true, but they didn’t see everything, so how can they know for sure which was the best? They can assume, sure, but they can’t know, but that doesn’t stop the lists from pouring in. It’s tradition.

Since I’m a sucker for tradition and since (meaningless) lists are what we do here, I’m going to give in and join the noise. I’m very late in the game, true, but I wanted to see a few of the films I missed at the end of the year before I put my final stamp on it. I’m not going to say these movies are the best or the worst, but I will say which are my favorites and my least favorites. Take them for what they are, which isn’t much.

Today’s list is brief. These are my least favorite viewing experiences of 2009, and I honestly just didn’t have too many of them. With the invention of the internet and instant access to the streaming, undulating cultural conversation, how is it even possible to see a load of bad movies in a single year anymore? Word of mouth used to take days to make the rounds, but now Twitterers are revolutionizing all the ways you can use 140 characters to say “sucked!” before they’ve even left the theatre.

Still, these somehow sneaked through my gate.

5.) The Fourth Kind

This movie is a tax on the gullible. A twist on “found footage” films like The Blair Witch Project, pretending to be (wink, wink) based on facts, this half-cooked alien abduction thriller actually cuts grainy video into the movie purporting to be the “real life” incidents that inspired the film. This might have been a nice idea on paper, but the final “real” footage is choked with suspension shattering moments, such as levitation, terrible acting, and a giant flying saucer. Instead of giving audiences the creeps, it just gives them two bad movies for the price of one, which at least provides some value in today’s tough economy. Special no-prize goes to the citizens of Nome, Alaska, whose real life tragic disappearances became just another symptom of alien activity for the film, right alongside (no shit) crop circles.

4.) Friday the 13th

If you believe that remakes don’t have to suck, avoid this one or risk losing all hope. The original Friday the 13th isn’t a sacred cow; it’s not even the best film in its own cheapie franchise. A remake could have brought new life to the series, but for a remake to succeed, it’s customary to actually, you know, remake the film. Instead, the entire movie is a generic bag of teenagers getting wiped out at a lake house party. Period. That’s it. The end. This one could have fit in snugly anywhere between parts 3 and 7 and you’d never know the difference, except for a few bizarre changes to Jason Vorhees seemingly designed to alienate what fan base the series still had. A confusing misfire, strangely fixated on pot as literally everyone’s motivation. I think the writers were trying to tell us something.

3.) Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

This collection of poorly constructed fight scenes and awkward dialogue barely hangs together as a movie, but it will live forever. This movie will last longer than the average cheap-video-game-knock-off-meets-lukewarm-kung-fu-action-film-by-way-of-stereotypical-renegade-cop-film because of its unrelenting, unmerciful hilarity. This is a midnight movie, an exercise in “can you believe this?” filmmaking that will be beloved by stoners and connoisseurs of bad movies for years to come. Chris Klein as Charlie Nash must be seen to be believed. Weeks after this movie hit theatres, fan videos of Nashisms were making the round on YouTube, but the studio quickly pulled them all, I guess to keep the street cred alive for this turkey? Huge mistake. If the movie ever embraces its true awfulness, this could be the next Showgirls. You heard it here first.

2.) Gamer

If you can stomach Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s “epilepsy as a visual style” method of directing… or if you didn’t mind the misguided and self-defeating potshots at gamers and gaming culture… or if you’re not offended by the cutesy references to Blade Runner that dare to suggest this movie’s message is anywhere in the same stratosphere as that film’s examination of free will… can we all at least agree that the abuse of women in Neveldine/Taylor films has got to stop? The presence of a character named Rick Rape (with appetites to match) only brought back painful memories of Neveldine/Taylor’s action “masterpiece” Crank, and its message that if you just rape a woman enough, she’ll think it’s hot.

F these guys. It’s rare that I hate a movie this much.

1.) The Unborn

Yes, I’ve seen The Exorcist, too. Saying “but this time it’s Jewish” doesn’t mean you’re done. You still have to write a script.

Actually, there’s a good idea at the heart of this thing, but you’ll struggle to locate it beneath the layers of unnecessary jump scares, nonsense editing, and silly violence. A movie this bad has no business exploiting the Holocaust just to fill out the backstory. Gary Oldman looked embarrassed to be on set, and he was in TipToes.

The Unborn was one of the most unpleasant experiences I’ve had watching a movie in a long, long time.

Thankfully, there were so many better movies on my 2009 list. Next time, some of my favorites!

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