Why the Top 5 most disappointing movies of 2009? Probably because everyone and their momma will be doing a Best Of list as the new year rears its head, so why not do the opposite? That’s just how we roll around these here parts, bitches. Anyhoo. So, what exactly qualifies as a “disappointing” movie? A movie that disappoints you by not meeting your expectations. Yup, that’s all there is to it. You’ll also notice that the final three movies on our list (the top 3 stinkers, if you will) were all designed to jump-start franchises, and are open invitations for sequels. Hmm, I wonder if there is a correlation… But enough questions. Let’s get to the first movie on our list, shall we?
#5. Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino’s World War II fantasy didn’t so much disappoint as it, well, proved me right. I went into the film expecting a talk-fest, the kind of movie where the filmmaker is so obviously enamored with his (oft-praised) ability to write dialogue that you were gonna get plenty of it as a result. In “Inglourious Basterds”, people sit around and talk. About stuff. Then they stand up and move somewhere, not too far, though, just a little bit here or there, and talk some more stuff. Finally, some people get shot. A theater gets blown up. Almost everyone dies. The End. I suppose there’s something to be said about going into a movie expecting it to be something, and coming out realizing you were so right you’re kind of brilliant. Of course, a little part of me was hoping for something more along the lines of the “Kill Bill” films — lots and lots of chatter paid off with some amazing action set pieces. After all, this is World War II. An entire world at war! Leave it to Quentin Tarantino to make a war movie and forget to add, well, the war part of it. But to give credit where credit is due, I was rarely bored with “Inglourious Basterds”, though to be sure, I could have done without the 20-minute chat at the farm house to open the movie. Really, QT? Twenty minutes at a farm house? Now you’re just jerking off in public.
#4. Funny People
According to many comedians who have seen Judd Apatow’s “Funny People”, this is exactly how comedians behave among other comedians. Basically, lots of brotherly back-stabbing, genital jokes, and trying to make the other guy as jealous of your success as possible. A sometimes funny, but incredibly awkward film to sit through, Apatow’s ode to the comedians he grew up with and learned from as a young buck will appeal to anyone who enjoys their comedy with some painfully human moments. Don’t get me wrong: “Funny People” isn’t on this list because I believe it’s a failure, but it is on this list because it doesn’t meet its own promise — it’s just not funny enough. It could very well be the most realistic take on the world of comedians ever put on celluloid, but it’s still not funny enough for me to recommend to people. I enjoyed it as a human drama, which it is at times brilliant at depicting, but I wanted to laugh, and I didn’t do nearly enough of that. A chuckle here or there, but for much of the running time I was squirming in my seat. That’s not what you want to be doing in a comedy.
#3. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I played the “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” game after seeing the movie, and it was immeasurably more fun than having to sit through the convoluted and overlong mess that was the movie. It’s bad enough that the filmmakers give the impression they’ve never seen any of the previous “X-Men” films before writing and making “Origins”, but besides a brilliant and way too short appearance by Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, aka the Merc with a Mouth, Gavin Hood’s big shot at big-time Hollywood moviemaking is a monumental failure on pretty much every level. The script is all over the place, the characters don’t jive, and worst still, it’s just dull. This is definitely one of those movies where a decent director of big-budget action movies could have salvaged an otherwise mundane story. Instead, the studio decided to hand over their $150 million dollar movie to the guy who did “Rendition” and asked him to turn in a blockbuster. So as if to punish them for their idiocy, he gave them a movie stitched together with action scenes that seemed tailor made for trailers designed to impress Comic Con fanboys, and it’s only after he tried to put the actual movie together that he realized, “Uh oh, I done believe I’ve FUBAR’ed it.” You got that right, Gavin. But hey, maybe the sequel will be better.
#2. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Snake Eyes vs. Storm Shadow! The Pit! Cobra Commander! Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols in skin-tight black leather! What could possibly go wrong? Oh, right. Stephen Sommers! Shitty CGI! Accelerator Suits! Marlon Wayons! Channing Tatum! Lots, as it turns out. If you’ve already seen “Rise of Cobra”, I don’t have to convince you that this is one of the worst examples of toy-to-screen moviemaking. It’s as if the studio suits simply got together and decided, “You know what, people are going to see this movie, it doesn’t matter if we let the chimps write the script.” Which, in hindsight, might have been a better idea. Even chimps can write better dialogue and offer up better plotting than what we get here. The one thing that keeps “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” from being our #1 movie on the list? I actually expected it to be just as stupid and silly as it turned out to be. Of course, I didn’t expect it to be stupid, silly, and utterly and completely retard — er, I mean, mentally challenged — as well. Director Stephen Sommers has done some pretty good popcorn movies in the past (“The Mummy” franchise comes to mind), but there’s not even that glimmer of fun in “Rise of Cobra” that can usually be found in his films. Unless, of course, Cobra Commander mind-raping his sister so she’ll go around shooting people for him is your definition of “fun”. But hey, maybe the sequel will be better.
#1. Terminator Salvation
I can pinpoint to you the exact moment when “Terminator Salvation” went off the rails: when the writers came up with the name “Marcus Wright”. Don’t get me wrong, Sam Worthington ended up being the best thing about McG’s continuation to the franchise that James Cameron built, but if you were like me, you were waiting, finally, to see how John Connor led the human resistance against the machines. Apparently the writers and director McG had other, better ideas. Aa result, John Connor became a personality-free dick played by Christian Bale, whose many scenes in the movie felt like (because they were ) perfunctory screentime tacked on to justify having an A-lister like Bale in the role. Instead of watching humans rise from the ashes to fight back and gain a foothold against the machines, the film’s running time was split with Marcus Wright learning that he was a cyborg designed to trick John Connor, who spent the rest of the film running around doing … stuff. The film was loud, sloppy, moronic, and completely substance-free. Basically, “Charlie’s Angels 3”.
So why is “Terminator Salvation” at the top of the list? I’ll admit it, it’s kind of personal: I am a big, big, big fan of the “Terminator” franchise, so much so that I even liked the oft-ridiculed “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”. If nothing else, that movie presented the perfect opening for a “T4”. What we got instead was “Terminator Salvation.” See Hope spring. See Hope run to theater. See Hope utterly crushed beyond all recognition.
Sigh. What could have been… But hey, maybe the sequel will be better.