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Scott Mendelson

Scott Mendelson
Location
Woodland Hills, California, United States
Birthday
April 02
Bio
A ten-year Salon reader, Mendelson also has a film and politics blog/column at Mendelon's Memos: located at: http://scottalanmendelson.blogspot.com/. He is also a free lance voice over artist and occasionally contributes film reviews for www.ValleySceneMagazine.com.

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DECEMBER 23, 2009 11:57AM

2009 in Review: Worst Movies of the Year

Rate: 11 Flag

I don't generally do worst-of lists, simply because I try to make a point to avoid movies that I probably won't enjoy.  However, 2009 contained a number of surprise stinkers, as well as any number of bad films that I saw through work or in order to cover them for this site and my other outlets. So this year I saw enough genuinely unfortunate misses to make a plausible list.  There are certainly allegedly terrible films that I haven't seen (The Ugly Truth, Alvin and the Chipmunks 2) and would-be losers that I probably won't see (All About Steve), so I can't promise that your least-favorite flick made the list. I chart the year's-worst not to gloat but to mourn.  Here are ten misses in alphabetical order, plus the year's worst movie-going experience.

Bride Wars
This is the kind of thing that makes chick flicks look bad, an unfunny and borderline offensive farce about two professional adults and lifelong friends who basically destroy each others' lives in order to maintain their own respective wedding dates.  If it were a satire of wedding-mania, it might work, but it eventually ends up endorsing and celebrating the industry.  Furthermore, it cheats its way into a happy ending by turning one of the male counterparts into a villain for daring to question his fiancee's destructive behavior.  Kate Hudson took most of the blame for this one in the press, while Anne Hathaway emerged unscathed.  If one should get crucified in the media, then they both should have to answer for this shameful piece of propaganda.

The Final Destination 3D
An absolutely lifeless and artless nothing of a film.  It contains no character development, no real plot, and no pretense of being a real movie.  But even the 3D death scenes pale in comparison to the previous three films in this franchise, as the heavy reliance on cheap CGI mutes the impact of a series known for over-the-top death scenes that at least looked real.  This is the rare movie that is almost less entertaining than staring at a blank screen for 80 minutes.

Friday the 13th
A film so boring and bland, so utterly uninvolved and inexplicably laugh-out-loud stupid, that it makes every prior Friday the 13th sequel look like a masterpiece in comparison.  The reluctance of director Marcus Nipsel (helmer of the far-superior Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake) to even try to play around with the formula or reinvent the mythology is mind-boggling.  Come what may, at least Rob Zombie's Halloween franchise is trying to be good and different.  This remake/reboot offers no reason for its existence and nothing except bootleg-quality cinematography to distinguish itself from its predecessors.

The Girlfriend Experience
This Steven Soderbergh experiment is shocking, edgy, and fascinating... unless you've seen even half an episode of Showtime's vastly-superior and genuinely entertaining Secret Diary of a Call Girl.  This relatively incident-free 'expose' into the life of a high-priced escort offers no real insights and no real titillation. The film made headlines due to the casting of a real-life porn star in the lead role, and that's frankly the most exciting thing about the picture.  Soderbergh scored later this year with The Informant, and I enjoy his experiments (like Bubble), but this was one of his very worst, most pointless films.

Madea Goes to Jail
Tyler Perry follows up his best film (The Family That Preys) with his very worst.  Returning to all of his worst impulses (overdone farce, shout to the balconies acting, racial and economic stereotypes, illogical plot turns), Perry weaves a narrative that plays on the worst stereotypes in black culture (success and ambition = evil) while stocking the film full of celebrity cameos who exist merely to embarrass themselves on film.  Not even Viola Davis as a no-nonsense social worker/pastor can save this misfire.  Fortunately, I Can Do Bad All By Myself was a step back in the right direction.

Men Who Stare At Goats
This is as bad as Up in the Air is good and one of the worst movies in George Clooney's generally sparkling filmography.  This dreadfully moronic expose on true-life military experiments with ESP and mind-altering drugs may just be a government conspiracy, as it renders the story completely uninteresting to the American public.  No need to hide the truth when you can bore and annoy the audience silly with it.  I actually like the story structure, which basically plays out the entire six-film Star Wars series in 90 minutes and uses it as a metaphor for the false Utopian hopes of the 1970s.  And I will admit that this is not a brainless exercise.  But whatever thematic pay-offs occur in the third-act don't make up for the completely dull and nearly unwatchable first hour.

Public Enemies
I'm not among those who think that Michael Mann walks on water, and he basically drowns this time around.  By taking the infamous outlaw John Dillinger and completely neutering his lifestory to fit the template of Universal's slate of bullshit biopics ('he's not bad, just a product of society, and he sure loved his girlfriend'), Mann forces Johnny Depp to give life to a poorly-written block of wood.  Christian Bale's pursuing federal agent is far more interesting, yet the film barely touches on his manhunt and the politics behind it.   Not helping matters is digital cinematography that was probably intended to be viewed on an IPhone, and shoot-outs so poorly staged that I couldn't tell which gray-suited character was being shot at any given point (at least three people besides myself swear that Depp gets shotgunned during a forest shoot-out).  All in all, you have a film that makes you yearn for the comparatively rich character work and 'you are there' intimacy of Miami Vice.

Surveillance
What do you get when you base a 95-minute film around a climactic plot twist, but then painfully telegraph that twist so that everyone catches on by the first 20 minutes?  You get lots of tedium, over-acting, a lack of momentum, and no real reason not to fast-forward to the climax to confirm your educated guess. This is a tragic waste of a number of fine actors (Bill Pullman, Julia Ormond, Michael Ironside) and a moody opening act, but there is no story beyond setting up the climax.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
This film fails for refusing to give the audience what they want.  Sure you occasionally get what you paid for; giant robots smacking the hell out of each other.  You even get a first-act climax that's one of the best action scenes of the decade.  But rather than offering up a lean and mean robot-smashing action picture, Michael Bay piles on crude and unfunny sexual humor, astonishing racial stereotypes, neoconservative political sentiments, and an unending plot that takes until the very end of the movie to do nothing more than reverse a narrative mistake from the first hour (absolutely nothing of interest occurs for the entire middle hour). Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the ultimate Michael Bay film in the worst sense of the term.  The problem with Bay isn't that he gives the audience what they want; it's that he feels the need to pile on excess crap to such an extent that he forgets what they desired in the first place.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The only thing worse than an ambitious comic book movie that falls on its butt (Superman Returns, The Spirit) is an absolutely lazy adaptation that doesn't seem to be trying.  With pointless and arbitrary action scenes, plus a narrative that is as paint-by-numbers as humanly possible, this X-Men spin-off/prequel makes X-Men: the Last Stand look like, well, X2: X-Men United.  This is a shocking botch from a number of very talented people (director Gavin Hood, Hugh Jackman, Danny Huston, Liev Schreiber, etc).  What's stunning is the apparent lack of effort to even try to make this film into something unique or special.

And the worst movie I saw all last year is one I won't name.  It was an exceptionally early screening of a movie that will (theoretically) be released this coming year.  I went in excited, as it was from a director I absolutely adore, but I walked out devastated and confused.  It was easily the most shocking and heartbreaking failure of 2009.  Massive reshoots have been conducted, but I can't imagine anything less than a totally reshot film can save a project that was fatally flawed on every level.  I'll name the movie if/when it is released, and I'll happily eat crow if the new cut is watchable.  But for now, (insert director here)'s (insert title here) is easily my pick for the worst movie I saw in all of 2009.

Scott Mendelson

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I'll take a stab at your mystery worst movie: Shutter Island by Scorsese. I was shocked when it got pushed back from October to February.
Interesting guess, Travis! I was surprised at that pushback, so I think you're onto something.

I actually read the book on which the film was based and it was not special, but that didn't necessarily doom the movie.

Scott, I like the list and I'm glad you have no plans to see All About Steve.
Yeah, you can't leave us hanging like that with the worst movie of 2009! I hope it's not Shutter Island, though, I've been looking forward to that...
I was tempted to see the Wolverine movie; now I'm glad I didn't bother.
I think your worst movie was Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones" - screened and reviewed far in advance of its opening and not well.
I reviewed The Lovely Bones two weeks ago. Check it out in my archives. I didn't like it, but it wasn't one of the year's worst.
I have successfully avoided all of these films except for Surveillance, which is fun. It's twisted and hilarious. The mood is creepy, as you would naturally expect from Jennifer Lynch. Beyond the director's signature weird timing and inappropriate musical juxtapositions, it's a delight to see middle aged Pullman and Ormond in roles that encourage them to tear up the scenery.

You can keep the rest of the list. I'll go on avoiding those films. A glance at the trailers made it clear that they had no value.
I like your take on "Public Enemies," and share your dislike for Michael Mann flics. To me, the worst thing about "Public Enemies" was a typical Mann technique: hand-held cinematography. Enough!! Mann is now a passe fad.
I intuitively avoided all on your list. Nice to see my intuitions confirmed by your critique.
My suspicion is also that it's Shutter Island. I loved the book, having specifically bought it so I could read it before the movie spoils the plot. However the trailers I've seen already telegraph the ending. Will someone, some time, please trust the audience to be pleased to be surprised by a twist? Not everyone enjoyed "Murder, She Wrote", where we saw who did it at the beginning and watched the brave detective lady work it out over an excruciating hour.
GeeBee, the worst of those ending-spoiling trailers has to be Quarantine. (It was stupid, yes, but I was excited to see it.) As soon as the night vision camera was turned on I knew exactly where the movie was headed. A still from the last scene is even on the cover of the dvd! It broke my heart.

Scott, it's "Bitch Slap" that disappointed you so. Isn't it? But how?! It looks so good!
I'm with Shaggylocks - you can't do that!! tell!
Haven't seen any of them, although "Public Enemies" is on my Blockbuster.com queue. I might catch a bit of "Goats" when it arrives on cable TV. As for the others on your list, I'll likely pass.
I'm happy to say I didn't see any of them.
You're right about all these picks, especially Goats. My nominee for best picture is "Up in the Air."
must disagree with you on bride wars/transformers. not great movies, but neither were they the worst by a long shot. think this is just showing your reviewer elitism. this list really should be titled "top 10 movies I hated the most". or "top 10 worst movies for ME, an elitist movie critic" ... haha.
didnt really like bride wars ending, but I think it was a positive story in the sense that the girls finally realized their friendship was important and that they had lost it. something that escapes even real life stories like paris hilton & nicole ritchie.
so I believe both bride wars & transformers did very well at box office afaik. so what you're saying is, even financially successful movies can really s*ck hard. that may be true, but you're pushing the river on that one if the movie is successful. box office is the *definition* of success. you have to be kinda crazy or elitist to go against that grain..... what are you saying, also, that moviegoers in general have significantly crappy taste in movies?? it would seem your review is actually a veiled insult against the movie going public... what are you, anyway, an academy member??? :p
Agreed with all except "Men who stare at goats." People either loved or hated it - we loved it.

Worst movie? Hmmm..."All About Steve" or something with Bradley Cooper in it.
I'm such an elitist that I liked GI Joe: Rise of Cobra and really liked Saw VI. Oh, and I also named Speed Racer the best film of 2008 last year.
fine, whatever, but at least explain the cognitive dissonance of saying that a movie was in the top 10 worst when in fact, transformers was in the top 10 as far as ticket sales.... huh?? it really is a veiled jab at the moviegoing public taste.... or is it specifically not your responsibility to take any of that into account? :p
I point this out because it seems like a movie critic hobby/insider club joke to hate michael bay and everything he does. now, I dont think he's a brilliant filmmaker, [even though he's defn a legend in his own mind..] but he knows how to make popcorn tentpole stuff. ps have you seen his victoria secret commercial? brilliant. he's finally found his calling haha. Id like to see him to a music video.... the victoria secret thing is pretty close to that.... but what is up with the critics vs michael bay?? it really seems like the critics are using him as a scapegoat for their veiled public loathing. the critics seem to not like the publics taste very dramatically sometimes. and they figure out subtle/clever ways around expressing that directly....
I guess the critics dont want to admit that Michael Bay actually has a better insight into public taste than they do..... ticket sales dont lie man.....
Fortunately I skipped all of those except 'Public Enemies,' which was a must see since it was filmed locally in Wisconsin, with some trappings from friends, family and local establishments.
The only one I saw was Bride Wars, on an airplane, and it was terrible. It's like giving a girl movie the level of stupid humor usually reserved for guy movies. Like the spray tan scene - what woman thinks that's funny to see a beautiful woman walk around with orange skin? Oh, and we all believed that stick thin Kate Hudson had a weight problem. At least movies like Sex in the City gave us lots of fashion and beautiful locale eye candy. This one was just yuck.
I'm a big fan of the Michael Bay who made Bad Boys, The Island, and The Rock (his one truly great film). I'm not a fan of the Michael Bay who made Pearl Harbor, Transformers, and Transformers 2. I have mixed feelings towards Bad Boys 2 and Armageddon.
I used to go see three movies a week when I was in college. Now I'm luck to see three movies a year. But when you see a ton of movies, you're bound to see a lot of duds. But at the same time, you get to see so many unexpected gems. I love cinema. Even the crappy films are sometimes guilty pleasures for someone. :)
You must have made a wrong turn on life's pathways for you to have seem so many dogs. If you're not paid handsomely, I sincerely hope that 2010 is better for you.
Unfortunately, I was forced to watch three of the movies on your list:
My neighbors bought the DVD of "Madea Goes to Jail" (more about that later) and I watched it on e of their family movie nights;
The X-Men movie was a Net-Flix by the young adults with developmental disabilities I work with, but I didn't pay much attnetion to it;
The man who broke my heart this year took me to see "Public Enemies" and hated the 'love stuff,' giving me a real clue as to how our relationship was going to end - we're now "friends" with rancor (mostly on my part).

Thanks for being honest about the negative stereotypes in "Madea Goes to Jail," as well as all the stage plays featuring this character, which are also on DVD and which I've been forced to watch. I agree about the "Family That Preys," but guess which of these movies most black folks I know like?

I detest this genre so much, I wrote a play contrasting legitimate theatre (which I've done for over 35 years) with 'chitlun circuit' plays. In it an older black couple who are fans of Tyler Perry's worst offerings go to New York to visit their son and his socialite wife who take them to see several Broadway and off-Broadway plays while they're there, including "Next to Normal" and a one-woman show featuring the monologues from the Greek classic play, "Medea."

I posted the play, titled "Ain't No Chitluns On Broadway," on OS.
Unfortunately, I was forced to watch three of the movies on your list:
My neighbors bought the DVD of "Madea Goes to Jail" (more about that later) and I watched it on e of their family movie nights;
The X-Men movie was a Net-Flix by the young adults with developmental disabilities I work with, but I didn't pay much attnetion to it;
The man who broke my heart this year took me to see "Public Enemies" and hated the 'love stuff,' giving me a real clue as to how our relationship was going to end - we're now "friends" with rancor (mostly on my part).

Thanks for being honest about the negative stereotypes in "Madea Goes to Jail," as well as all the stage plays featuring this character, which are also on DVD and which I've been forced to watch. I agree about the "Family That Preys," but guess which of these movies most black folks I know like?

I detest this genre so much, I wrote a play contrasting legitimate theatre (which I've done for over 35 years) with 'chitlun circuit' plays. In it an older black couple who are fans of Tyler Perry's worst offerings go to New York to visit their son and his socialite wife who take them to see several Broadway and off-Broadway plays while they're there, including "Next to Normal" and a one-woman show featuring the monologues from the Greek classic play, "Medea."

I posted the play, titled "Ain't No Chitluns On Broadway," on OS.
I was joyful when I saw "Public Enemies" and "Men Who Stare at Goats" on your list.

Here are some other nominations for your "Worst of 2009" list:

"Angels and Demons"
"The Box"
"The Perfect Getaway"

Runners-up (Don't hate on me, "Twilight" lovers and Coen Brothers fans!): "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" and "A Serious Man" (though I actually fell asleep for a few minutes during the latter movie, so I cannot definitively say it was the worst, maybe just the most boring)
"But for now, (insert director here)'s (insert title here) is easily my pick for the worst movie I saw in all of 2009."

Hmm, a challenge, on my life. :) Can you give us a small hint--for example, is it one of the suspiciously large number of big-star vehicles coming out in January? EDGE OF DARKNESS and SHUTTER ISLAND both had reshoots, but neither sounds like they were so fundamentally flawed they never should have been made.
If you really, really want to mourn, see "The Ugly Truth."

I'm still trying to glue my smashed skull back together again. But I'll forever be assaulted by the taste of bile whenever I think of that movie. That part's just inescapable.
I think transformers was better i mean it didn't excite me as the first part did but oh well it was good nevertheless. However i agree with you rest of them were crap. PLAIN CRAP!

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