'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen'
Okay, we don't expect a lot from this franchise beyond cool CGI smash-'em-up robots, Megan Fox in a tank top and, um, did we mention the smash-'em-up robots? But even going in with admittedly low standards, we were awestruck at just how stinky this stinker really was. You wouldn't expect to have problems following the plot of a movie about robots, and yet this story was so clearly stuck together after director Michael Bay came up with his ideas for what would look cool to blow up and stomp on we kinda wish he'd done what he obviously wanted to do -- just shoot images of cool stuff getting smashed with the occasional shot of Fox leaning over. At least then we wouldn't have had to watch her "act."
'The Lovely Bones'
Admittedly, everyone knew the book by Alice Sebold would be tough to adapt. Starting off with the grisly rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl, the best-seller wasn't exactly summer blockbuster material. But who better to take on such dark subject matter than director Peter Jackson? While guys might know him for 'The Lord of the Rings,' indie film fans still can't shake their memories of 'Heavenly Creatures,' the searing based-on-a-true-story drama about two murderous teenage girls. But instead of tackling the tough stuff in 'Bones,' Jackson sidesteps the trauma, admitting that he wanted to make a movie his teenage daughter could see. Huh? No wonder 'The New Yorker' called the end result "redundant and undramatic."
'The Invention of Lying'
On the small screen, Ricky Gervais can do no wrong. He created 'The Office' and 'Extras,' for crying out loud. And, even though 'Ghost Town' was so-so at best, we still had high hopes that Gervais would be able to bring his sharp-edged wit to this comedy about a world in which everyone is unflinchingly honest. After all, the trailer, featuring Jennifer Garner as Gervais' deeply disappointed blind date, was screamingly funny. And so were the first 15 minutes of the movie. Unfortunately, the film kept ambling predictably along, getting cuddlier with every passing minute. While Gervais seems happy to make us squirm watching the foibles of his flawed characters on TV, on the big screen he seems incapable of coming across as anything other than a pretty nice guy. And if that's what we wanted, we'd rent a Tim Allen movie.
'Did You Hear About The Morgans?'
Every romantic comedy junkie knows that Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker are possibly the king and queen of the genre. Too bad that they go together about as well as a tuna and chocolate sandwich. Still, even the cutest couple would be hard pressed to save what has to be one of the corniest concepts around -- two urbanites on the brink of divorce are forced to relocate to Wyoming after witnessing a murder and -- gollllleeee! -- don't they just patch things up real nice after being exposed to the wide open spaces and abundant mayonnaise? Darn tootin'! Insulting to the flyover states and perfectly predictable, we certainly wish we'd never heard about 'The Morgans.'
'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'
Hugh Jackman works the extra-long sideburns and wife-beater T-shirt better than anyone we know. And Liev Schreiber as his resentful half-brother? Perfection. But origin stories are often a suspense-free snore, and this one lacks the character development that's usually the bonus for sitting through a movie in which we know Wolverine will turn out just fine. Instead, we get lots of pointless action scenes and a jarring ending featuring appearances by X-Men Cyclops and Sabretooth -- but played by other actors than James Marsden and Tyler Mane. Call it revisionist pre-history, but we could have waited for this one on cable.
'Land of the Lost'
Sometimes great remakes can come from pretty crappy source material ('Oceans Eleven,' anyone?). This would not be one of those. The 1974 TV series was a gleefully silly adventure in low-budget Saturday morning entertainment for kids. The resulting movie is ... well, a mess. Too bawdy for kids, too silly for adults, it's a weird mishmash of 'Chorus Line' jokes (yeah, that's one the kids are gonna get), dinosaurs and sexual aggressive prehistoric men. Will Ferrell, we expect better from you.
We'll watch Johnny Depp and Christian Bale read the phone book any day, no problem. Too bad this movie looks like someone dipped it in coffee grounds, left it out to dry and then stomped on it a few times. We get the sepia tones, but the jarringly modern shaky camera thing just made us want to throw up. And then there's the little issue of Dillinger being a guy who robs banks. Period. Even Depp couldn't make this character more than a head-scratching one liner. If director Michael Mann wants us to sit quietly in our seats for 140 minutes, we need a little more to go on than that.
Sure, we'd about given up on Woody Allen making another good film until last year, when he surprised us by hitting a solid single with 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona.' So yeah, we got our hopes up. After all, with king curmudgeon Larry David filling in as Allen's cranky doppelganger this time around, 'Works' seemed like it just might, well, work. It doesn't. It really, really doesn't. Yet again, Allen has to skeeve us out with a May-December romance that borders on the puke-inducing (Evan Rachel Wood and Larry David? Ewww!), bore us with a hackneyed plot and suggest that anyone who doesn't live in New York is a boob who'll only blossom once he gets to Manhattan. Fail.
'Where the Wild Things Are'
We love Spike Jonze. We love Maurice Sendak's classic children's book. We love Catherine Keener. We loved the amazing trailer, set to the Arcade Fire's 'Wake Up.' There was no way we weren't going to love this movie. And yet, we didn't. Call us crazy, but we never pictured the Wild Things as having mental health problems. One is manic depressive, another is bitterly narcissistic, and let's not even get into Things suffering from what seems to be post traumatic stress disorder. These Wild Things may look all crazy cuddly and fun, but let's face it -- each one is a big, stinking drag. Add to that the fact that Max is pretty much a mom-biting brat on screen and it's hard not to want to bitch-slap Jonze and over-hyped collaborator Dave Eggers for ruining our childhood memories.
Sure, Kate Hudson has starred in an endless string of stinkers since 'Almost Famous,' but that doesn't mean we don't still love her a little. Put her head-to-head with Anne Hathaway (who wowed us last year with 'Rachel Getting Married'), add bridezilla tension, and we're thinking this could be a fun excuse to pack away some popcorn on a Saturday afternoon. But in truth, seeing two intelligent, successful best friends turn on each other like maniac preschoolers fighting over who gets the better Barbie is just depressing.
Honorable Mention: 'Watchmen'
Actually, we kinda liked 'Watchmen.' But the truth was, we never expected anyone to bring Alan Moore's brilliant graphic novels to the screen, much less live up to the source material, so our bar was set pretty low. And in truth, it's a mixed bag. The movie gets bogged down in exposition, yet never delivers quite enough for viewers who haven't read the comic series; it's damn long (161 minutes) but, even so, too short for devoted fans; and it's got at least one laughably bad love scene. It can also be argued that, taken out of its late '80s setting, the movie no longer holds much of a political punch. Still, even a deeply flawed 'Watchmen' was better than most of the stuff clogging up the cineplex, so we'll just leave this one on the honorable mention list.