Friday, December 30, 2011

Game Over, Man: The Worst Films of 2011

Your Master of Ceremonies
It’s that time of the year again! With the end of 2011 approaching, I’m happy to say that I'm ready to commemorate the worst Hollywood had to offer us these past twelve months. Whether a title has been sunk by bad direction, a horrible screenplay, horrid acting or plot holes the size of blue whales, these films represent the worst habits that mainstream cinema can unleash. Many have paid for their transgressions with box office failure, but many were unexplainable successes, and you can bet Hollywood will make those same mistakes, as nobody ever calls them out on insulting their audience’s intelligence.

First, a couple of rules:

1) The list of the year's worst movies is generated by those films I’ve actually seen. I admit that as bad as these are, there’s a good chance the stuff I actually refused to see is worse. However, I’m not going to sass a film I didn’t go out of my way to watch, and despite what I’m sure will be assurances that films like The Smurfs, Jack and Jill, The Roommate, Dream House, Breaking Dawn Pt 1 and Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star should be here on the list, I can’t responsibly condemn them. I CAN condemn them as being thoroughly uninteresting to me and unworthy of my time, but that doesn’t get them attention here.

2) It’s easy to come down hard on indie films with limited budgets and no real chance at connecting with a wider audience. Therefore I’m only putting titles on this list which were given wide release, whether they be action, romance or drama. These were the people who should have known better.

So without further ado, here are Mr. Anderson’s Worst Films of 2011:

10) Drive Angry 3D

I really wanted to like this throwback to seventies exploitation films featuring fast cars and loose women. Instead Nicholas Cage puts in one of his driest, most lifeless performances to date, and even the substantial talents of co-stars William Fichtner and Amber Heard cannot overcome the mediocre special effects, stupid story, and insipid dialogue. Oh, and of course the inimitable Cage himself. Proud owner of the worst opening ever for a wide-released 3D film. You’re welcome, America.

9) Priest

Sure, it’s not as bad as director Scott Stewart’s 2010 entry Legion, but that’s like saying that SARS isn't quite as bad as the Ebola Virus. Based on an obscure Korean comic series and spending far more money on special effects than in making sure the script is of some quality, this is another film that grossly misuses its talent, especially stars Paul Bettany and the perennially under-appreciated Karl Urban. Stewart is probably the least talented director in Hollywood right now, and I can only hope someone comes to their senses and stops giving him paying jobs.

8) Something Borrowed

How about a film that encourages you to cheat with your best friend’s fiance? Oh, it’s okay because you’re MEANT to be together. Proof that so-called “Chick Lit” is another method of keeping women down in the dirt, this adaptation is the worst kind of stupid popcorn film: one that tries to convince you that screwing people over is okay if you don't do it too often. Ignore the disaster that is Kate Hudson; it truly hurts to see The Office’s John Krasinski slumming it as the best part of this awful film.

7) The Green Hornet

Somewhat less obscure than Priest’s source material, The Green Hornet COULD have been an interesting movie, one based on a fictional crimefighter who in pop culture history has actually been around longer than Batman. Instead, Seth Rogen stole the show and what could have been a decent action flick is instead permanently scarred by “The Seth Rogen Experience”, featuring all that is loathsome about the actor's public persona. Rogen tried to make up for this mess with amazing turns in Paul and 50/50, but there was no excuse for this particular piece of refuse. After you figure an over-reaching Cameron Diaz and lousy 3D special effects into the mix, it’s a wonder this title didn’t reach farther down the list.

6) The Eagle

What’s worse: that Channing Tatum has no business trying to be in more “serious” cinematic fare, or that the far superior Centurion came out less than a year prior to fewer theaters, less attention and minuscule domestic gross? Jamie Bell tries to drag Tatum, director Kevin Macdonald and the rest of this film to respectability, but a violence-laden R rating would have given this film the cachet it needed to be a legitimate Roman epic. Instead you've got a PG-13 film that doesn't appeal to teens OR adults, and just gets sillier the further along it goes. Easy to avoid, difficult to forget.

5) Sucker Punch

It’s obvious now that Zack Snyder is no feminist. At the very least, the Dawn of the Dead and Watchmen director prescribes to the idea that great special effects, celebrity spots, a wicked soundtrack and tons of barely-legal cleavage will make up for a complete lack of story, banal over-the-top acting, and daring to say you’re making a film that empowers women while doing no such thing. Snyder could have a real career making music videos, but its obvious now that he has leaped from his career peak without a parachute, and those eagerly awaiting his Man of Steel Superman film can consider themselves officially warned.

4) Abduction

Yeah, Twilight’s Taylor Lautner is not ready yet. A stupid, by-the-book action film that wants Lautner to be a teenage Jason Bourne, but comes to the table with some of the worst, most cliched dialogue and plot this side of the Mason-Dixon line. Add in veteran actors Sigourney Weaver, Alfred Molina, Jason Isaacs and Michael Nyqvist making total mockeries of themselves, and the systematic destruction of the souls of the audience is complete. Lautner himself was laughable, with all his dialogue delivered in the most asinine, unbelievably dull tone by a professional actor in a big budget movie. It's clear he doesn't have the marketability by himself that has already been achieved by Twilight co-stars Robert Pattinson and to a lesser extent, Kristen Stewart. Soon he'll have to stop trying to be the lead that nobody but his agent wants him to be. Until then, we wait.

3) Your Highness

Even James Franco's career didn't deserve this. I'm all for stoner flicks, but this one set in a medieval fantasy universe forgot to include humor in the script, making total misuse of actresses Natalie Portman and Zoey Deschanel, and even the usually-entertaining Danny McBride can do little to make this pus-ridden wound worth scratching. Okay, that was a little TOO evocative. Suffice it to say, this was a film that did NOT need to be made, and seriously makes me wonder as to the future of stoner films. Whatever the verdict, this particular attempt was a step in the wrong direction, complete with booby-traps.

2) Red Riding Hood

I want to propose something now: Catherine Hardwicke should be banned from making any more films featuring either teens or supernatural elements, or preferably both. Her Twilight-esque attempt to retell the classic story of Little Red Riding Hood is an orgy of awful, with only lead Amanda Seyfried allowed anywhere above the cringe-worthy level. If you're going to make a werewolf film (and so many people try), it wouldn't hurt to TRY and take a different approach than the well-trodden vampire flicks that we're already intimately familiar with. When you just copy/paste your plots, everybody sees just how poor a filmmaker you really are.

1) Bad Teacher

I thought long and hard about what the absolute worst film I'd seen this past year was. In 2010, Legion was so bad a film that despite having a list of ten films present, nine of them were nowhere near as awful as Scott Stewart's first full-length feature. This year was different, as honestly at least half of this list was fighting for this #1 spot. Ever since I saw it back in March, I've had Red Riding Hood steadfastly in that place of honor in my film rankings chart, but as I more closely studied my options, I realized that there was indeed one that beat it. The worst kind of film I can imagine is one that has no redeeming characters or failing that, a terrible message. Bad Teacher has both, with lead Cameron Diaz playing a gold-digging no-morals public servant who all but ignores her students until doing so benefits her directly. Toss in abhorred acting from her and co-star Justin Timberlake, a surprisingly complete lack of any and all funny, and wasted potential by casting genuinely talented performers as Jason Segel, Eric Stonestreet and Thomas Lennon, and you have yourself a disservice to educators everywhere. That's what truly makes it the worst film of 2011.

Anything I missed? I'm sure I missed some baddies, so why not tell me and everyone else what you think were the worst films of this past twelve months? Next week and next year I'll be back with new reviews, as we prepare for the Hello Mr Anderson Awards to be posted on January 27'th. I'll be catching up with the requisite nominated films until then, so from all of me at Hello Mr. Anderson, I wish you a happy New Year!

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