Monday, January 16, 2012

The Sixteen Worst Films of 2011

Counting down the Sixteen Worst Films of 2011 shouldn't be so hard, except that it is.  It's not hard finding more than sixteen lousy's narrowing it down that's the difficult part.  I suppose that is why I have sixteen Worst Films of 2011.

At first, it was just ten, then it went up to twelve, then fifteen, and finally sixteen.  Why sixteen in particular?  Well, it just worked out that way.  Now, some of these films I have yet to review, but I have seen them all.  With that, let us begin.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night
Bringing up the rear is this failed effort to start a franchise that mixes horror and comedy with a faux-epic storyline.  I've always found films with colons to be a sign that they are the first of a hoped-for series, and Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is no exception to this rule.  We had a terrible series of blunders with this film: voice-over narration that spelled out everything for you, a curiously dead lead (Brandon Routh looked as though he were a waxwork attempting to come to life), lousy special effects and a story that could never decide if it we were to be scared or amused. 

I have a feeling that Sam Huntington (one of the few good things both here and in his previous teaming with Routh, Superman Returns), will find more and better things to do in the American version of Being Human.  However, all my thoughts about Routh not being to blame for the failure of Superman Returns are now in serious question after Dylan Dog.  Despite its hopes, there will not be more Dog tales. 

How would YOU like to wake up with that grinning face staring back at you?  Katy Perry, silly girl, now at least is spared that.  Some of us, however, we're spared this blunder of a remake.  The original Arthur, I think, is a classic: a light film where our lead was an alcoholic, but at least one whose heart was in the right place.  Why people feel compelled to remake good films is a mystery to me.  It's one thing to remake bad films in an effort to make them better is one thing, but the original Arthur is already so well-established there was no need to see another version of it. 

Russell Brand, I'm told, is both an amazing lover and a 'comedic genius'.  His face belies the first (if I were a woman or gay I couldn't stomach having to be near him, let alone be naked with him), and Arthur belies the second.  I'm sure people thought that changing Hobson's gender from valet to nanny was a bright idea, but while it made sense for a man to have a manservant, it made no sense for a 30+ year old have a nanny "wash his winkie".  Arthur, the character, was shrill, vain, and perhaps clinically insane.  There was nothing endearing or lovable about him, and every decision of his, be it to fall in love or even go to AA, made him and his enablers around him look either stupid or insane.

Just Go With It
What can one say about a comedy where you actually cheer when a little girl falls face-first in the mud because she's a horrid little intolerable creature?  Adam Sandler now has the market on comedies that appear to lower the IQ of all who watch it, and I know he has a core fanbase (I figure of teenage boys and those who think like them), but this remake of Cactus Flower has nothing going for it. 

All the characters are amazingly stupid, the children mean to where you wanted them to suffer (hence my cheer when the female child fell into mud), and even that could have been tolerated, if not for the sudden lurches into sentimentality.  Somehow, in some time, Sandler will have to accept that he's well into middle age, and that women almost old enough to be his daughter will not be flocking to his bed.  Granted, we had the benefit of seeing both Brooklyn Decker and Jennifer Aniston show us how attractive they are, but that isn't enough to make these dim characters ones we want to spend any time with, let alone go to Hawai'i with.

Your Highness
After his disastrous turn as co-host of the Academy Awards, James Franco should have stayed away from appearing in a film that was a pun on marijuana use (even if A.) he states he was perfectly sober at the ceremony, and B.) I didn't get the pun until it was explained to me).  After her triumph at the same Academy Awards, Natalie Portman should have gone for more intelligent fare.  Yet here we are with Your Highness, where we have another "comedic genius" showing us he is neither.   That "comedic genius" would be Danny McBride.  Now, I should state I have yet to see an episode of Eastbound and Down, so I have no real way of dismissing McBride's "genius", but having seen Your Highness and 30 Minutes or Less, I figure his 'genius' consists mostly of pot jokes. 

I know what they were going for: a spoof of medieval epics.  Certainly they at least understood the conventions of the genre: damsels in distress, the noble warrior to rescue said damsel, the evil wizard.  However, by focusing so much on pot and sex jokes (I still cringe at the suggestion of someone masturbating a puppet not unlike Yoda) with a lead that we neither care for or want to be around, Your Highness was just lazy and stupid...not unlike the end results of actual pot-smoking.

Again, another film where you WANT the characters to suffer, if not actually die.  My only clear memory of this unnecessary and forgettable film is, as my dear Brother Gabe said, of Mr. Fantastic squealing like a little girl.  Every cliche in film was hit on: angry son, gruff dad, spoiled rich people, all trapped in what is suppose to be a dangerous situation.  However, we only got the sense that these people were in said dangerous situation only due to their own collective stupidity.

I thought the underwater footage was beautiful to look at, but everything else in the film was horrible to watch.  There is simply no excuse for such awful acting among a group of people paid far more than I am to perform so badly.  Sanctum was going for a Poseidon Adventure-style set of thrills, but unlike that film, Sanctum never established why we should care about who lives or who dies (even though we should know who lives and who dies long before the movie's over).  Bad story, bad acting, bad film.

Larry Crowne
If you want to know why and how a film starring two-time Academy Award winner (and Mr. Lovable All-American) Tom Hanks and fellow Oscar winner (forever Pretty Woman) Julia Robers bombed at the box office, I offer a few answers.  One, is the screenplay, co-written by Hanks and his GREEK goddess, Oscar nominee Nia Vardalos.  Somehow, a whimsical tale of downsizing during this recession doesn't resonate amongst the 99% (even if 1 Percenters Hanks and Roberts are on our side and demand to be taxed more). 

Two, the people in Larry Crowne, the film.  Larry Crowne, the character, tries to be endearing, but in the end he just comes off as idiotically chipper if not downright imbecilic.  His cohorts, from Roberts' jaded college professor to his fellow classmates, are also hampered by trying to be whimsical and cute and quirky without being realistic.  Such a sunny disposition en masse can only irritate those of us who do genuinely fear losing our jobs and don't have a mansion to go back to.  We the people, we the 99%, simply cannot relate to people who are so relentless sunny at all circumstances. 

Third and finally, is the story itself.  When we get efforts to be funny, they are illogical and almost mean.  If one gets fired (which I have been more often than I care to remember), some of those firing me were crying. I don't remember them ever laughing to my face and being almost dismissive, but in Larry Crowne, that appears to be the natural order of things.  It was trying too hard to be cutesy while tying in a Great Recession story, and failed all around. 

Now, we go into the Bottom Ten, two of which I have yet to officially review.

Cowboys & Aliens

As I argued after seeing Cowboys and Aliens, there was a lot of cowboys but very little aliens.  One would have thought the mixing of a Western with a science-fiction story would have opened up many opportunities, but instead this adaptation of a comic book only looked muddled and a bore.

In a series of missed opportunities, we have a movie with both James Bond and Indiana Jones, but Cowboys and Aliens appears to bring out the worst of Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford's screen personas.  For Craig (whom I loving call Daniel Craggy or Daniel Crab), it's his penchant for being perpetually morose, and for Ford his blankness with an odd and unconvincing turn as a villain.  To my mind, Cowboys and Aliens had virtually nothing to do with these aliens.  Dear Mother of Mercy: they aliens came to steal our gold!  Seriously, is that their whole motivation?  Not even some good old-fashioned anal probing?  Somehow, the aliens appeared almost incidental to the plot, and I think I would have enjoyed a straight Western than a film that allows Olivia Wilde to come back from the dead (or as we could call it, cheating).  Seriously: OUR GOLD?! 

My only clear-cut memory of Cowboys and Aliens is hearing my mother, a huge Harrison Ford fan, say sadly, "Indy's been reduced to THIS". 

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Speaking of Mommie Dearest, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the ONLY movie she ever walked out of (and this from a woman who sat through Howard the Duck).  I won't lie: I thought Transformers: Dark of the Moon was the best of the series.  Then again, when you had something as abysmal as the Satanic Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, there was really no way to make something even worse.  Then again again, it IS Michael Bay, or as I lovingly call him, The Great Satan of Cinema, so obviously I'm selling him short. 

I managed to if not exactly enjoy DOTM at least tolerate it because I decided, "if I can't beat 'em, join 'em", and do what all the other fans of the Transformers movies do: simply turn my brain off and not think.  There is a stubborn insistence of making the Transformers films into this monumental epics when they really are junk. 

I was once told that Shia LaBeouf was going to be our generation's Tom Hanks, which only caused me to laugh harder (being already in uncontrollable fits of laughter and almost falling out of my chair after being told a friend had seen The Last Airbender...twice...on opening 3-D).  Tom Hanks in Larry Crowne perhaps.  After seeing him in the Transformers movies as well as Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls I don't think LaBeouf is going to be anywhere in the same league as a Punchline/Philadelphia/Every Time We Say Goodbye-era Hanks (not even a Dragnet or Splash-era Hanks).  I figure LaBeouf is trying to be another avant-garde actor Ryan Gosling, but really Shia, you're trying too hard to be all intense.  Your not a big star or even that respected of an actor, so stop behaving as though you were.  Some of us still remember you as Even Stevens, OK?  Get over yourself. 

The Tree of Life
Sean Penn's face pretty much reflects my own feelings towards The Tree of Life.  I imagine I will get a lot of grief on making Terrence Malick's visual poem one of my Bottom Ten Worst films of 2011.  I find that every year my fellow critics masturbate to a specific film: last year, it was the excellent but overpraised The Social Network (a film touted as "the Citizen Kane of our generation" which I vehemently disagree with).  This year, it is The Tree of Life.   

My problem with The Tree of Life was first off, all that DAMN WHISPERING.  I DETEST WHISPERING DIALOGUE, IN VOICE-OVER TO BOOT!  I cannot tell you how irritating and frustrating to hear people speak in these soft tones, and I find that whenever people whisper dialogue, it is suppose to signal 'we are hearing deep thoughts'.  We are not.  We are just hearing people whisper.  Moreover, the camera work where it was going all over the place was driving me bonkers, and I really didn't understand how Penn's character came to be wandering around the desert with his family.  I'm not someone who has to have everything spelled out for him, but I also have a repulsion on deliberately opaque films.  I would find watching The Tree of Life to be torture because I found it dull, pretentious, and tedious.  I am one of the unconverted, and if by declaring The Tree of Life as one of the worse films of 2011 makes me a heretic, so be it. 

Breaking Dawn: Part 1
Was sex ever so dull?  Somehow, Breaking Dawn: Part 1 (or to use its pompous title The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1) manages to make what was suppose to be this epic love story between human Bella Swann and vampire EDWARD CULLEN into a slow, boring, effort.  I have never been a Twihard (or as I call them, a Twilight Twit), but all the Twilight films have no desire to make anything related to the undead (and the girls who love them) into anything interesting. 

So what makes Breaking Dawn: Part 1 one of the Top Ten Worst Films of 2011?  You mean beside the bad acting, the lack of actual romantic interest, or the leaps of logic contained within the story itself?  How about the fact that for such a ridiculous and tedious story, we have to have another one that ties up the story once and for all (oh how I PRAY next year we'll see the last of EDWARD CULLEN and Bella Swoon...I mean Swann). 

Sucker Punch
I have all but forgotten Sucker Punch, and that is a good thing because it is such a bad movie.  It tries to put a feminist, girl-power veneer over a tale of abused women forced to perform in skimpy outfits, but the movie is so dead and hollow that we don't care about the people wrapped in this nonsense.  The visuals were all straight out of a video game, no surprise given the director is Zack Snyder (who somehow has been put in charge of the Superman reboot Man of Steel, which to my mind is a dangerous sign).  It's style of having Sucker Punch take place within the main character's mind appears to be an attempt to rip off Terry Gilliam's Brazil (sad that I have to connect a brilliant film with a piece of junk). 

It's a misogynistic feature masquerading as a female-empowerment film, an ugly video/video game trying to be a movie.  Nothing in Sucker Punch works, and everything is just ugly, pointless, and brain-killing. When I first saw Sucker Punch, I was convinced it would be one of the worst, if not the worst film of 2011.  Ultimately, it still made the Top Ten Worst, but what is truly sad is that somehow, we found films even worse than this one. 

Can we finally say out loud what the world knows: that Taylor Lautner simply cannot act?  He can't. He just cannot act.  We've seen it time and time again: the Twilight films, Valentine's Day, even The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl.  In fact, I don't think there's been any improvement between the time he played Shark Boy and when he played Jacob Black.  If it were not for the Twilight films, Abduction would have been the debut and farewell to Lautner as an actor, a disposable figure known more for his body than any body of work (and I should point out that Tyler Posey on Teen Wolf makes a better werewolf than Taylor Lautner in the Twilight films). 

This is a vehicle for Lautner to become an action star (because becoming an actor is simply a bridge too far for him, given his inability to communicate any emotion on screen...but I'm sure he's a nice kid). At one point, Lautner channeled William Shatner in line reading, making things even funnier than they already were given the nonsensical story.  Abduction makes no sense, is atrociously acted (even by actual actors like Sigorney Weaver and Alfred Molina), and the suggestion that there will be a sequel or even a hoped-for franchise is an insult to the audience. 

Oh, and one more thing: despite its title, there was no actual abduction in Abduction.  Just a thought. 

I Melt With You
This lost weekend was an absolute nightmare to endure from beginning to end.  Few films attempted so much and not only failed so spectacularly but actually made one loath everyone and everything involved in the film as I Melt With You.  Promoted as four men dealing with various mid-life crises, the film is a journey into the center of attention (to coin a phrase), a movie that is both pompous and nasty.  None of the characters we suffer through are interesting: indulging in nothing but booze, drugs and sex.  These four were so much into the drugs that I was completely amazed that they didn't die because of the massive amounts of pills and coke they ingested.

I Melt With You is trying to be some sort of generational story, but we just a group of horrible people we actually want to see die.  And die they do, in particularly artsy ways that would make Agatha Christie envious.  Once we get actual police involvement, we get Carla Gugino (from Film Number 6) as the world's dumbest cop.  This is not an exaggeration: she really is beyond stupid in how she investigates a series of disappearances.  These were terrible people, doing terrible and amazingly psychotic things for the thinnest and stupidest of reasons.  I HATED this film, and I HATED the pretensions I Melt With You is no nakedly aspiring to.  I genuinely felt sorry for the four actors, all talented, having to be in this film. 

Green Lantern
Ryan Reynolds is a very pretty man.  He is also a genuinely good actor (example: Buried).  However, Green Lantern only played to his worst instincts: the perpetually dim frat boy who gets by with his easy smile and smooth abs.  I watched Green Lantern in stunned disbelief at just how dreadful, nonsensical, stupid, and just hideous the film was. 

There was simply no story in Green Lantern: a jumbled and confused effort where all the characters were suppose to relate to each other but never actually stopped to give them any sense of purpose.  Add to that a weak villain who provided no real sense of menace, a secondary villain that was more laughable than dangerous, a lead who appeared almost dead in the adventure going on around him, and blank performances for all, and most damning of all, a blatant announcement of a sequel all conspire to make Green Lantern a sorry, sordid spectacle.  I figure that because I like the character, it was an even bigger disappointment to see a great potential to introduce this character disintegrate into a chaotic, rambling mess. 

The Green Hornet
In an oft-told tale, I asked Brother Gabe what he thought of The Green Hornet after we had finished watching the film.  He told me it had too much comedy for it to be an action film.  He asked me what I thought of it.  I said, and I quote,
"This is the biggest pile of shit I have ever sat through". 

In his retelling, Brother Gabe keeps adding the word "most" to my statement, making it, "This is the MOST biggest pile of shit I have ever sat through", thus making it grammatically incorrect.  He's getting better at remembering not to add "most", but such is the license of youth.  Yet, I digress.

It doesn't take away from the fact that The Green Hornet is really a gigantic pile of shit.  Gabe is correct in his assertion that there is simply too much comedy in The Green Hornet.  Seth Rogen missed a great opportunity to show he was something other than the stupid pot-fueled slacker by going for the tried-and-true in his persona rather than try to establish a genuine character.  Add to that Christoph Waltz's decision to be camp and Jay Chou's almost unintelligible English and you already have a sinking ship.  The film decided it was going for laughs without actually making a spoof: somehow The Green Hornet wanted to make a comedy while making a serious action film at the same time.  The main character was quite clearly insane and narcissistic (a dangerous mix), and clueless to boot.  Too much time was spent trying to have things played for laughs, so when you have a killing spree of people for wearing green (which would make Brother Gabe, a GIGANTIC Packer fan, a major target since he wears almost nothing but Green Bay clothes), we really can't laugh. 

The Green Hornet was a bungled fiasco, and yes, the biggest pile of shit I've ever sat through.  Even though it came out in January, I was certain that it would be the Worst Film of 2011, and for the longest time it held out its position, that is, until...

The Hangover Part II

...I sat through an even BIGGER pile of shit.  The Hangover Part II is unique in that it is the only film to be both a sequel AND a remake at the same time.  Perhaps there was a hope that we would get to relive the fun of the original The Hangover, but instead we find that we truly can't recapture the magic the second time around. 

The Hangover Part II is a mean, nasty film, one that is racist, sexist, and homophobic (sometimes in the same scene).  It's as if the makers and performers took out what made The Hangover so good (primarily its heart) and decided that what made it funny was the gross-out aspects.  Bad move for a bad movie.  I was stunned that people could find all the hijinks funny, given they were built on violence and torture, on treating people so badly.  It also had no real sense of suspense because the situations that led up to this latest hangover weren't as well-structured as last time.  It's one thing to have a sequel, but another to basically make the same movie, take out the good things, emphasize the bad things, change the setting, and think we will see a good movie. 

There was nothing funny because they were doing things that were damaging to others, not to themselves as they did in the first Hangover.  Here is the biggest flaw in The Hangover Part II: while our Wolf Pack really did damage to themselves (and rather innocuous damage such as pulling out their own teeth), here, one attempts to murder a minor, and the group doesnt' seem disturbed by the fact that said minor had his finger cut off (thus rendering his career as a cellist and surgeon moot).  The Hangover Part II is a nasty piece of work, and I will not go see The Hangover Part III.  I don't make enough money to waste it so casually.  If The Hangover Part III is a big hit (and I mean beyond opening weekend), it is another Sign of the End of Western Civilization. 

Well, these are my Sixteen Worst Films of 2011.  Mercifully, we will also have the Sixteen Best Films of 2011.  Thank heavens for that.

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