Posted January 2, 2012 / Updated January 6, 2011 / Updated February 1, 2012
People often ask me which end-of-year-film-list I like compiling more, the ten best or ten worst. Without any hesitation, I always answer that my Ten Worst lists are always the most enjoyable to create.
Why? I often have difficulty paring down which ten films I thought
were the finest reasons to go to a movie theater because there are some
that I hold so
dear and close to me that I often can't bare to exclude them.
As for the Ten Worst lists, that’s another matter altogether.
I have absolutely no problem coming up with ten valid
reasons why you should have avoided the cinemas during the last twelve
months. These are films that I
have despised so thoroughly that to not place them on a wall of shame
collection would be criminal.
I guess that’s why
I have so much giddy fun with this list every year.
It allows me to exorcize some cinematic demons that have been
haunting me for months. It
also gives me a joyous opportunity to take sarcastic and scathing jabs at
some of the 2011's films that in almost no way shape or form deserved
praise or any audience member’s two hours away from home.
These are not films to champion.
These are not films to recommend.
These are not films that are worthy of anyone’s highly valuable
time. These films that are
best left forgotten. They're just rotten to the core.
As with all of my previous Ten Worst lists, I found myself with enough putrid selections to make not one, but two lists of 2011’s most embarrassing movies. To make the cut they would have had to achieve the ultimate sin of getting a zero star (redemption-free) rating from me, which not one, but two films from the year garnered (and starring the same actor, I might add!). Beyond that, the others would have had to receive a dreaded rating between half a star and one and a half stars to see the light of day here. I also look for variety on these lists as well, and my 2011 selections are indeed varied: Included on it are two romantic comedies, two morality dramas, a home invasion thriller, a super hero satire, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film, a sci-fi action film based on teen-centric literature, a stalker thriller…and, quite predictably, a film directed by Michael Bay. Man, he’s on these lists far, far too often.
So, let the critical mud slinging begin! Here are my...
|First on the list is 2011's single worst film, followed by nine other worthy candidates (in random order):|
Wait! What's this?! A TIE!!
Since 2003 I have
placed films that Adam Sandler has either starred in or had some
behind-the-scenes involvement in on my worst of the year lists five times.
That’s five. Well,
congratulations are in order again to Mr. Sandler, because he has achieved
a CrAiGeR’s Cinema Corner first: two of his films from 2011 were so
remorselessly terrible that I thought that they both deserved placement at
the very top of my list as the worst film of the year.
Yes, we have a tie.
JUST GO WITH IT
had Sandler playing a plastic surgeon that uses his attractive assistant (Jennifer
Aniston) to impersonate his ex-wife so that he can get close
with the new “love of his life” (played by Brooklyn Decker, acting
with her cleavage and not much else). Through it all, Sandler falls for Aniston’s character,
realizing her hidden beauty, but only after having assisting her with
bringing it out (riiiggghht). JUST
GO WITH IT also managed to snag Oscar winner Nicole Kidman to appear for
reasons altogether incredible. JACK
AND JILL had Sandler playing identical twins - a brother and sister (hey, men in drag is
funny…right?) - but the sister is so toxically
dislikeable that her sibling wants to have nothing to do with her.
However, the brother desperately wants Al Pacino (yes, that one) to
star in one of his Dunkin’ Donuts commercials, and he will, but
only if he can score with his sister, which he becomes fixated with.
Oscar winner Al Pacino also appears here and, like Kidman before
him, he must have been really, really desperate for work to agree
to star in an Adam Sandler film.
Imagine, if you will, that you’re a movie executive and writer/director Mitch Glazer comes in and pitches you this idea:
Rourke plays a jazz musician that has some nasty dealings with a mob boss
– played by Bill Murray – that is about to be killed by the
mobster’s goons when he is saved by Apache ninjas in the desert.
He then stumbles on to a circus in the middle of the same desert and
becomes attracted to a freakish bird lady, played by Megan Fox.
The bird lady does indeed have wings that are real and she and the jazz musician fall in love, have sex, and
then the mobster shows up and makes life difficult for all.
There will also be a scene where the musician takes the bird lady
to a surgeon, to which he relays – after seeing her unique condition –
“Amazing as she is, her wings are not normal.”
Come to think of it, absolutely nothing is normal about PASSION PLAY. Not the egregiously wrong-headed pairing of Fox and Rourke (has there ever been two on-screen lovers on such opposite ends of the gene pool?). Not the phoned-in love story. Not the Christ-like progression of redemption for Rourke’s character. And definitely not Bill Murray’s participation here, which emerged as one of the great performance mysteries of 2011. PASSION PLAY does one thing right: it’s mercifully short at 90 minutes. Then again, the film is about 89 minutes too long for its own good.
If your were a studio boss, would you ever greenlight this project? Me neither.
It’s the third film in the TRANSFORMERS series – the previous two both made my TEN WORST lists of their respective years – and was directed yet again with soul crushing and eye-punishing banality by Michael Bay.
Dear James Cameron:
all know that you’re a near-zealot when it comes to
propagating the wonders of 3D technology and its potential impact on the
future of the film industry. You
most certainly proved that 3D event films could be a source of mass
populist escapism (see AVATAR),
but I have no idea whatsoever what motive you had for going out of your
way to lend your name to the advertising of SANCTUM, an underwater 3D
thriller that should have been chucked into a bottomless abyss to never be
heard from again.
film was indeed shot with your superlative 3D camera systems and
the footage captured is quite strong, but did you really think that there
was a worthy story
here to invest in beyond the high gimmick factor of its three-dimensional
imagery? Not really. SANCTUM
is kind of sanctimoniously shallow for thinking that it could titillate
audience members with all sorts of nautical 3D wonders without placing
much emphasis on narrative and characters.
When you have a paint-by-numbers thriller like this with
obnoxiously contrived characters, lifeless and woefully stilted dialogue,
and scenes that lazily progress from one predictable beat to the next,
then all you are left with is a film with 3D visual dynamism that
regrettable uses humans as props.
If TRESPASS was Joel Schumacher’s very first film then he would most certainly have never been allowed to direct a Hollywood feature ever again. The film stars Oscar winner Nicolas Cage (who is getting far, far too much placement on these end-of-year-lists lately) and Nicole Kidman (another Oscar winning actor that, like Cage, gives a performance of embarrassingly laughable proportions) as a rich husband and wife that have their home invaded by armed marauders that have a plan that’s so pointlessly convoluted and preposterous that you have to wonder whether the screenwriters of the film had brains, let alone pulses.
For a would-be spin tingling and feverously intense home invasion thriller, TRESPASS should have made audiences unsettlingly squirm in their seats, but I found myself feeling more fidgety out of sheer agitation and annoyance with the final product than anything else. And Cage himself is just so fascinatingly horrible here, spitting and chewing out deliriously unhinged f-bomb riddled dialogue to the point where he becomes a sad parody of himself. TRESPASS was a career-low film for all involved, but consider this: it cost $31 million to produce, was given a very sparse theatrical release last October, and then went on to gross the spectacularly low sum of just $24,000, making it one of the worst theatrical bombs ever. People avoided this film like the plague, and hopefully the rest of you out there did as well.
I was never more
depressed after watching a film than I was in the aftermath of SUPER, a
would-be gut-wrenchingly hysterical super hero satire that emerged as
wasteful, witless, self-indulgently unfunny, emotionally distancing,
frequently offensive, and puerile at its core.
Writer/director James Gunn’s film is a work of appallingly
amateurish proportions, not to mention that it bares more than a fleeting
resemblance to a monumentally better comic book satire, KICK-ASS.
Rainn Wilson (creepily unfunny here) plays a downtrodden man that
believes that he has been touched by God to become a violent costumed
vigilante to rescue his wife from a vile drug kingpin (Kevin Bacon, being
unnecessarily forced at one point to needlessly utter the N-word for a shock laugh).
What the hero doesn’t understand is that she does not really want
saving. In the meantime, Ellen Page (so wholeheartedly wasted here)
shows up as a comic book store geek that becomes Wilson's sidekick, but
she really seems to have a disturbing desire to rape her fellow caped
crusader against his will. Batman never had this problem with
It’s one thing for the film to lack amusement and a scathingly satirical bite. I can accept that. But the thing that upset me the most was SUPER’s stomach-churning sadism and graphic violence. Gunn apparently has stated that he wanted SUPER to have gratuitous gore to comment on movie bloodletting in general, but the film never once convinced me of this: the savagery on display here is just unhealthily celebrated and used as a sick punch line in the film. Instead of engaging in what could have been shrewd and razor sharp commentary on the nature of comic book conventions, SUPER was just content with using numbing bloodshed and ear-splitting vulgarity do most of the talking. Not too many other films in 2011 were as arrogantly off-putting as this one. Super it wasn’t!
Remember 2010’s LEGION (I try daily to block it out of my mind), which stared a frustratingly monosyllabic Paul Bettany as an angel that came from heaven - packing heat, maces, and body armor - that was sent down to Earth from God to eradicate humanity? Yes, I know, why would God need an Uzi-wielding angel to do His bidding?
The director of that wretched and instantly forgettable post-apocalyptic horror flick is back – with poor Bettany in tow – for PRIEST, another post-apocalyptic horror thriller based on a Korean graphic novel that details a war brewing between the Catholic Church’s nosferatu-ass-kicking agents of death (priests) and, yup, vampires. Vampires have been interned in reservations in this MAD MAX-inspired wasteland and the remaining people of the planet have been living in a mega city that is fenced off from them. Bettany plays a man named – yup – Priest that really, really hates vampires, and crosses paths with his overseer (Christopher Plummer, in the WTF? performance of his career) to journey out of the city to save his vampire kidnapped niece. The brainlessly nonsensical premise of the film – that leaves far too many details unexplained – was bad enough, but I was also forced to endure yet another cringe-worthy and awful performance by the talented Bettany, who – as shown in LEGION beforehand – murmurs, grunts, and growls with a pseudo-Clint Eastwoodian timbre to the point where he becomes laughably inaudible throughout the film.
This film is so possessed with awfulness that it requires an exorcism.
Hey, I have a swell idea! Let’s take an ageless and classic romance story and nauseatingly re-tool it for modern adolescent viewers as BEVERLEY HILLS 90210 meets GOSSIP GIRL meets BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, which is arguably…I dunno…the single most undesirable mixture for a film in a long time.
What’s even more incredulous to ponder is that BEASTLY was based on a 2007 novel by Alex Flinn of the same name, which I have not read, but can infer from seeing this film that it's insipidly one-dimensional and laughably shallow. The film stars model-turned-actor (since when is that descriptor of a performer ever a good sign of thespian quality?) Alex Pettyfer as a disgustingly rich private high school student that is arguably the most misogynistic, rude, overbearing, obsessively vain, and ultimately unseemly teen character in a film all year. He also treats ugly girls badly, especially “hatchet faces”, "guts with butts”, and "fatty cakes” as he labels them. He makes fun of one social outcast (who happens to be a witch) that later casts a spell on him to rid him of his chiseled looks – nooooooooo! – that will leave him horribly disfigured forever (which, in this film, means that he walks around looking like a graffiti billboard) unless he can provoke a confession of undying love from Vanessa Hudgens…and all before spring. You kind of know that you’re in trouble when you have a film like this that “confidently” casts Mary Kate Olson as a Goth witch and Neil Patrick Harris as a – wait for it – visually impaired tutor to Pettyfer’s disturbingly scared beast. Harris seems to barely be able to hold back his mocking disdain for this material in his paycheck grabbing performance.
am not impressed.
And the award for 2011’s most unoriginal film would most certainly go to THE ROOMMATE, which emerged earlier this year as a kind of perverse double-threat: not only was it a putrid thriller, but it also managed to be a rip-off of other better films in its genre and never once had an innovative idea throughout its scant 90 minutes. The only reason for this film to exist is for it to proudly proclaim itself as yet another in the regrettably long list of fill-in-the-blank-from-hell films, akin to SINGLE WHITE FEMALE. How alike is THE ROOMMATE to that 1992 thriller? Both involve girlfriends, both involve one that develops an uneasy and unhealthy fixation on the other, and both involve the crazy-bitch villain copying the appearance of her prey to the minutest detail. There are no boiled rabbits here ala FATAL ATTRACTION, but THE ROOMMATE does have an unforgivable sequence of animal cruelty perpetrated towards a cute little kitten. Even worse is that the 31-year-old Minka Kelly is supposed to be credible as a 17-18-year-old college freshman and the rest of this movie campus looks implausibly made up of Cosmopolitan magazine cover girls. Very few thrillers worked on pure autopilot in 2011 as much as THE ROOMMATE.
|Ahhh...such a cathartic release! My TEN WORST compilation is done...but I'm not done yet! Here's a few more films that were not altogether terrible enough to make the TEN WORST, but were instantly forgettable all the same. Consider these:|
CrAiGeR's NEGLIGIBLE FILMS OF 2011
THE THREE MUSKETEERS : Egregiously unnecessary and money grabbing 3D was added to Dumas' classic source material for this film version; it also didn't help that the film was lackluster and uninspiring as a swashbuckling entertainment.
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE: > Inexplicably nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, this drama used the horror and memory of 9/11 as a shameless plot device. > added February 1, 2012
THE DARKEST HOUR: Glowing aliens beam down to Moscow and invade; talented actors are wasted, insipid dialogue is uttered, scares are wholeheartedly lacking, and narrative stupidity are the norms here.
TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT: An instantly unmemorable teen comedy set in the 1980's. It was, like, totally heinous when it should have been totally radical!
THE BEAVER: Yes, this is the film that starred an insane Mel Gibson as an insane man that spoke through a beaver hand puppet as a form of self-therapy. Some found this film riotously and darkly funny; I found it preposterously unsettling.
: A motion capture animated comedy that cost as much as $150 million could have benefited not only from a better title, but also an underlining story that had a modicum of magic to it: an absorbingly expensive bomb if there ever was one.
: Dear makers of this puerile comedy: the 1980's called and they want their lame and overused body-switch comedy formula back.
: Another pointless, much ado about nothing documentary from Morgan Spurlock that took great pains to relate the painfully obvious: the movies are filled with product placement from greedy corporations that don't give a damn about art. Gee, thanks a pantload
: Did we really need a live action re-telling of this fairy tale, done with a beyond-obvious similarity to the TWILIGHT films? Didn't think so.
HESHER : A dramady about a vile and reprehensible heavy metal head-banger (with the obligatory heart of gold) that heals a family in mourning and crisis; never once credible during any waking second.
REAL STEEL: It's like OVER THE TOP, but set in the near future where human boxers have been outlawed and giant remote controlled robots duke it out in the squared circle instead; yeah, it was as deeply silly as it sounds, but the actors take it as serious as a heart attack.
THE CONSPIRATOR: The usually assured and confident Robert Redford could not inject much interest in his period court drama about bringing the conspirators of Abraham Lincoln's assassination to justice; considering the directorial and performance talent on board, this film was real tedious bore.
SOUL SURFER: A well intentioned, but monumentally sanitized true-life drama about how a young surfer girl used the power of Christ to see her through the hellish ordeal of surviving a shark attack in order to get back on the waves; I was not a believer in this film.
COWBOYS & ALIENS: One of the most anticipated summer films of the year shockingly became its most disappointing; it was all nifty setup without any substantial payoff.
YOUR HIGHNESS: Yes, this was a fantasy comedy that had a scene in which a horny minotaur with a raging erection attacked the heroes; not even Zooey Deschanel's ample cleavage and the sight of Natalie Portman in a thong could save this unfunny PRINCESS BRIDE-wanna-be.
PAUL: Yet another largely uninspired comedy from 2011 that was made all the more disappointing because it came from the writers of HOT FUZZ and SHAUN OF THE DEAD and was directed by the maker of ADVENTURELAND and SUPERBAD. Way too much talent on board for such a...meh comedy.
THE EAGLE: Channing Tatum as an ancient Roman commander? Yeah, I didn't buy it either.
dilemmas, how could an Oscar winning director like Ron Howard make such an
inanely moronic TV sitcom-worthy comedy like this? Best to
strike this off your resume, Ronny.
THE DILEMMA: Speaking of dilemmas, how could an Oscar winning director like Ron Howard make such an inanely moronic TV sitcom-worthy comedy like this? Best to strike this off your resume, Ronny.
SEASON OF THE WITCH: Its got Nicolas Cage playing a Knight of the Christian Crusades in a horrible wig and performing with a bad accent; now that's even more chilling than the possessed witches featured in the film!
WE BOUGHT A ZOO: I didn't totally buy into this movie.
THE IRON LADY: Meryl Streep gave an incredibly persuasive performance as former British PM Margaret Thatcher, but the rest of the film around her provided little commentary about the politician's life and times.
|And finally, here's a dishonorable mention list of films that I felt were more disappointing than painful to endure. Consider these:|
CrAiGeR's MISSED OPPORTUNITIES of 2011
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS: Robert Downey Jr. was just as agreeable as he was in the first HOLMES adventure, but this sequel has a storyline that took forever to germinate into something meaningful.
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: SECRETS OF THE UNICORN: Spielberg's first foray into computer animation and 3D emerged as one of the finest and most exquisitely rendered animated films ever, but his trademark directorial magic was nearly no where to be found here.
WAR HORSE: Another Spielberg disappointment from 2011; his command of the visual elements of the film are as good as ever, but his focus on the emotional and dramatic elements of the narrative felt too telegraphed and artificial. <added January 6, 2012>
ANONYMOUS: A revisionist period drama that postulates that Shakespeare did not write any of his legendary works and was essentially a village idiot; you'd have to be a village idiot to take this Roland Emmerich film as seriously as he did.
RED STATE A nice and welcoming change of pace for writer/director Kevin Smith, but his most proficiently made film thus far had a screenplay that couldn't really decide on a consistent tone.
OUR IDIOT BROTHER: A comedy starring Paul Rudd as an imbecilic brother to a series of troubled sisters (played by the likes of Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer, and Zooey Deschanel) that was way, way too low key for its own good.
APOLLO 18: Another in a long, long line of found-footage horror thrillers, this one concentrating on a mysterious, withheld-from-the-public moon mission in early 1970's; consummately shot, but lacking genuine thrills and scares.
COLUMBIANA: More tasty junky food action cinema from writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen; moderately enjoyable, but it was a lame and uninspired rip-off of Besson's own LE FEMME NIKITA.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN: A surprisingly un-sucky reboot of the adored Arnold Schwarzenegger 1982 original that had some really fine 3D upconversion; nonetheless, it became more deadening on the senses as it went on.
THE HANGOVER: PART II: A pale mirror image or its vastly superior and more consistently hilarious predecessor.
TOO BIG TO FAIL: HBO drama chronicling the epic financial collapse of 2008 was too talky and too expository-heavy to be taken in with.
LAST NIGHT: A well acted and directed drama that was ultimately too banal and befuddling to be considered worthy of a recommendation.
LARRY CROWNE: This Tom Hanks directed middle-age/coming-of-age dramedy proved that Hanks is a far better actor than he is a filmmaker.
BRIDESMAIDS: I'm sure to get ample hate mail about this selection, but this estrogen-heavy version of THE HANGOVER just rehashes the crudeness and scatological shenanigans of that film and just substituted women in for the men; it's hardly a watershed comedy.
SUPER 8: Writer/director J.J. Abrams proved here that he could perfectly emulate Spielberg films of the 1970's, but now its time for him to find his own unique directorial voice instead of riffing on his idols.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES: Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow remains a true cinematic original as a creation, but this fourth film in the PIRATES franchise felt too much like a direct-to-video- sequel than a big screen worthy installment.
SCREAM 4: What has two thumbs as is dead tired of the SCREAM franchise, which should have ended long ago with the third film? (Pointing both thumbs at myself): This guy!
AFRICAN CATS: Bravura naturalistic footage of wild African felines could not help overwrite the fact that this Disneynature film lacked scope and variety.
CINEMA VERITE: Another average HBO drama from the network that has made so many masterful ones, this time maintaining only a scattershot focus on the birth of reality TV on PBS in the 70's.
SUCKER PUNCH: Zack Snyder's opulent visuals and high octane action proved to be a joyous punch to the senses here, but the undisciplined screenplay was filled with too many ideas that failed to germinate well together.
LIMITLESS: Premise: take a pill and become remarkably intelligent, but with horrible side effects; the side effect of seeing this thriller was mercilessly picking apart its screenplay's lack of intelligence.
BATTLE: LOS ANGELES: The umpteenth alien invasion sc-fi film of the last few years had a novel aesthetic, but beyond that it was a decided paint-by-numbers affair.
DRIVE ANGRY 3D: Another 2011 Nicolas Cage film where he dons a preposterous rug, but this time the usually ape-shit manic actor was a bit too subdued considering the lunacy of the film's demonic premise.
NO STRINGS ATTACHED: Ashton Kutcher spent most of this romcom conflicted about having Natalie Portman as his fuck-buddy; could he have played an even bigger moron here?