The Guilty Pleasure Films of 2009

[4 January 2010]

By PopMatters Staff


cover art

Jennifer’s Body

Director: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, J.K. Simmons, Adam Brody, Amy Sedaris

10

Jennifer’s Body
Karyn Kusama

Jennifer’s Body was the perfect follow-up to screenwriter Diablo Cody’s Juno, not because it was nearly as good, but because it had the backlash-ready gall to use Cody’s dialogue style—quippy, wise-assed, occasionally nonsensical—in a mere genre exercise! The barbs against Cody (trying to be funny is so lame and annoying) were predictable, but the movie isn’t. Granted: as horror, Body isn’t particularly scary—but it is a lot of fun, with snappy performances from Amanda Seyfried and even Megan Fox, whose baby-voiced chirp perfectly fits Cody’s superficial wit. I can’t pretend that it’s as smart or perceptive as Mean Girls, but I’ll certainly watch it again, no guilty necessary. Jesse Hassenger

 


cover art

A Perfect Getaway

Director: David Twohy
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Milla Jovovich, Steve Zahn, Marley Shelton, Kiele Sanchez, Chris Hemsworth Katie Chonacas

9

A Perfect Getaway
David Twohy

Writer/director David Twohy had been largely absent from Hollywood following the flop of 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick, but he finally returned this year with this B-movie thriller. A little too meta and self-impressed for some, A Perfect Getaway hit me in all the right places. Milla Jovovich and Steve Zahn each play against type as a happy couple on their honeymoon in Hawaii. Once they hit the trail for a two-day hike, they start hearing stories about a serial killing couple on the loose. Soon enough, they’ve run into two other couples, both a little suspicious. They end up traveling with Timothy Olyphant’s Nick, a self-described “American Jedi” and movie fan. Since Zahn’s character is an aspiring screenwriter, it allows Twohy to make lots of movie and screenwriting references between the two as they hike along. Olyphant is great as the intense, slightly creepy Nick, and the movie’s climax, while predictable, is an action-packed rush. Chris Conaton

 


cover art

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

Director: Ace Hannah
Cast: Deborah Gibson, Lorenzo Lamas, Sean Lawlor, Vic Chao

8

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus
Ace Hannah

With its amazingly sloppy CGI, uproariously illogical plot points (a shark vs. a 747?) and ludicrously lame acting, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus becomes the kind of instant camp classic we just don’t get from the standard cinematic stool sample. It’s bad, but in the wink at the audience way that understands it could never be taken serious. Jack Perez, writing and directing under the pseudonym of Ace Hannah, loads the screen with so much overinflated dialogue and inert action scenes that you’re literally giddy anticipating where he’ll take this mess next. And with heartfelt attempted turns from former teen queen Debbie Gibson, rough and tumble renegade Lorenzo Lamas, and TV vet Vic Chao, there is nothing to stop this sensational stupidity from being anything other than groovy. Bill Gibron

 


cover art

My Bloody Valentine 3D

Director: Patrick Lussier
Cast: Jaime King, Jensen Ackles, Kerr Smith, Betsy Rue, Kevin Tighe

7

My Bloody Valentine 3D
Patrick Lussier

Along with the Marcus Nispel update of Friday the 13th, this is one of the best horror films of the last ten years. It’s brutal and insane, packing more grue and gratuity in its stunning 90 minutes than many scary films can find in an entire franchise. Eyes pop, guts fly, and axe points infiltrate all manner of human body parts. There is so much blood in this boffo macabre that even the most cynical of gorehounds will find themselves feeling a bit squeamish here and there. And for those who enjoy a bit of bare ass bodkin with their shivers, there is one scene that is destined to go down as a ‘naked chick being chased by a maniac’ classic. It’s full frontal, ferocious, and so frisky that you can’t help but feel a little twinge… of spine-tingling terror. What did you think we were referencing? Pervs. Bill Gibron

 


cover art

Halloween II

Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor-Compton, Danielle Harris

6

Halloween II
Rob Zombie

Many Halloween purists work themselves into anger over director Rob Zombie’s reimagining of the horror movie classic. They accuse him of distorting the mythology, characters, and spirit of the original film. Yet long before Zombie was in a position to execute his vision, the series had gone in several directions – dubious psychic communication, the Thorn cult, Busta Rhymes as a topliner –- that had little to do with what John Carpenter and Debra Hill achieved in 1978. After so many deviations from the original, what would be the harm in a new resurrection? Following his inaugural 2007 installment, which was in many ways a reverent treatment, Zombie finds his authorial groove with Halloween II. The temporal structure of the film is intentionally vague, and that choice pays off very well in an extended, nightmarish hospital sequence. Throughout the film, evocations of family madness play like a B picture companion to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. One wonders whether some of these images might have been received more warmly had they carried a “Lynch” rather than a “Zombie”. If Zombie ever returns to the series, perhaps he should direct under a pseudonym to escape the elitism of the still-hungry Halloween fan base. Thomas Britt

 

5 - 1


cover art

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Director: Chris Miller, Phil Lord
Cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T., Bobb’e J. Thompson

5

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Chris Miller and Phil Lord

Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s manic candy-coated disaster movie parody is the most purely entertaining animated film in a long while. It revels in its outsized concept wherein an awkward inventor crafts a device that causes food to fall from the sky, leading to public praise and then to predictable destruction. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs lobs something hilarious at you in every frame. The endless sight gags are dizzying in a Wallace and Gromit kind of way, and there’s plenty of huge laugh lines layered on top of them. Much as they did on their cult animated show Clone High, Miller and Lord consistently find ways to subvert the genre’s predictable clichés ever so slightly. It may not have Pixar’s top-heavy gravitas, but Cloudy‘s madcap visual invention left me positively giddy, and that’s at least as worthwhile, in my view. Ross Langager

 


cover art

Knowing

Director: Alex Proyas
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Chandler Canterbury, Rose Byrne, D.G. Maloney, Lara Robinson, Nadia Townsend

4

Knowing
Alex Proyas

Since The Wicker Man became a YouTube mini-sensation, it’s become easy to watch Nicolas Cage performances, especially in cheesy genre movies, for snark-ready camp value. Knowing certainly has its moments of deranged rail-jumping, but Cage’s wild-eyed schtick is well-suited to an Alex Proyas apocalypse—which is at least more thought-provoking than a Roland Emmerich apocalypse. Little here matches the visual invention of Dark City, but Knowing, goofy as it gets, at least has the stones to use mass destruction to alienate, confuse, and/or mystify its audience, rather than as an easy crowd-pleasing device. Jesse Hassenger

 


cover art

I Love You, Man

Director: John Hamburg
Cast: Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Andy Samberg, Rashida Jones, Jaime Pressly, Rob Huebel

3

I Love You, Man
John Hamburg

While not exactly Role Models—last year’s beautifully obscene Paul Rudd summer comedy—or Forgetting Sarah Marshall—Jason Segal’s 2008 comic paen to love-lorn obsessives—Rudd and Segal’s 2009 offering is a buddy movie about a guy with no guy friends who finally gets one. The message (men, even mousy guys who are a little too sensitive to their womenfolk’s needs, need guy-time to cut loose and be free) is shot home like a howitzer and the calculated cameos (Rush, Lou Ferrigno) and breezy SoCal setting are a little too Judd Apatow-lite. But the laughs come pretty fast, particularly once the looming, brash Segal gets under the milquetoast Rudd’s skin, and the supporting cast(Rashida Jones, J.K. Simmons, Jane Curtain, Jon Favreau) more than cover up any remaining gaps. Chris Barsanti

 


cover art

Whip It!

Director: Drew Barrymore
Cast: Ellen Page, Marcia Gay Harden, Juliette Lewis, Kristen Wiig, Zoe Bell, Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon

2

Whip It!
Drew Barrymore

Whip It! is wonderful, a clap along crowd pleaser that also speaks the language of an underserved cinematic demographic. Young girls are never really given adult movies to mope about in. In 2009, it’s all questionably talented tweens, high school musicals, and failed family film franchises. Instead of our heroine, they’re our halfway point to a snarky one liner or a major last act denouement. So it’s stunning to watch a 17 year old disaffected gal suddenly discover herself in the bruiser babe burlesque of roller derby - especially this new version of the old UHF sport, complete with tattoos, piercings, proto-feminist philosophies, and male-baiting bravado. Director Drew Barrymore scores a direct hit with her debut directing effort. Bill Gibron

 


cover art

Sorority Row

Director: Stewart Hendler
Cast: Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Audrina Patridge, Carrie Fisher

1

Sorority Row
Stewart Hendler

Although Stewart Hendler’s remake of The House on Sorority Row (1983) is often visually incoherent, the film succeeds as a result of unmistakable postmodern humour. The script, by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger, revamps the fun, self-referencing spirit of the Scream heyday and adds to that starting point sharp jabs at vanity, careerism, and the feeble bonds of “sisterhood”. Reality show starlets including Jamie Chung, Audrina Patridge, and Nicole Moore appear alongside actresses Leah Pipes, Margo Harshman, and Rumer Willis to form the bevy of beauties involved in a prank gone horribly awry. The slasher plot generates suspense not only with inventive kills, but through the presentation of the various moral boundaries and breaking points of the guilty sisters. As each sister becomes “independent” of the sorority (by force or by choice), Sorority Row updates the import of horror’s final girl(s). The film is thrilling and tonally satisfying as it wildly trumps two recent movies that tried and failed to communicate similar messages—the morally backfiring House Bunny and Glen Morgan’s atrocious Black Christmas update. Finally, if the reader is not yet sold on the concept as described, please consider housemother Carrie Fisher defending her girls with a shotgun. Thomas Britt

 

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/118229-the-guilty-pleasure-films-of-2009/