Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2011 Year in Review: Worst Movies

Despite the fact that I saw fewer films this year than in the past, I still managed to see quite a few stinkers. Other than the films on my worst 10 list, you couldn’t pay me to sit through the following films a second time: Anonymous (Roland Emmerich), The Bang Bang Club (Steven Silver), Battle: Los Angeles (Jonathan Liebsman), The Beaver (Jodie Foster), The Change-Up (David Dobkin), Conan the Barbarian (Marcus Nispel), Cowboys and Aliens (Jon Favreau), The Dilemma (Ron Howard), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Troy Nixey), The Eagle (Kevin Macdonald), Final Destination 5 (Stephen Quale), Green Lantern (Martin Campbell), Hall Pass (Peter & Bobby Farrelly), The Hangover Part II (Todd Philips), Henry’s Crime (Malcolm Venville), Hesher (Spencer Susser), I Am Number Four (DJ Caruso), The Iron Lady (Phyllida Lloyd), Kill the Irishman (Jonathan Hensleigh), Miral (Julien Schnabel), One Day (Lone Scherfig), Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Rob Marshall), Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (Morgan Spurlock), Sanctum (Alister Grierson), The Smurfs (Raja Gosnell), Something Borrowed (Luke Greenfield), Sucker Punch (Zack Snyder), Super (James Gunn), Texas Killing Fields (Ami Canaan Mann), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Michael Bay), Unknown (Jaume Collet-Serra), Vanishing on 7th Street (Brad Anderson), Wrecked (Michael Greenspan), The Woman (Lucky McKee).

The Bottom Ten
Despite all sorts of awful above, these were the 10 films that were the worst of the worst.

10. Sleeping Beauty (Julia Leigh)
This film is an empty shell. There is nothing beyond its admittedly beautiful surface. The story of a college student (Emily Browning) who works multiple part time jobs – and sometimes as a prostitute – who agrees to work as a topless waitress at fancy dinner parties, and then to be drugged so that men can do whatever they want with her unconscious body (not including penetration). Browning is a blank slate – there seems to be nothing going on behind her eyes, so the movie becomes an exercise in style, with nothing else going for. Painfully slow and dull, despite all the nudity.

9. Trespass (Joel Schumacher)
Joel Schumacher has taken a lot of lumps over the years for his films, but for the most part, they were at least competent. No such luck with Trespass, a film that went from having its premiere at TIFF to DVD in less than two months. I know why Nicolas Cage is in this – he needs the money. But what the hell possessed Nicole Kidman to be in this awful home invasion “thriller”. Incompetently directed, written and acted, Trespass is a movie best left forgotten.

8. The Future (Miranda July)
Some people love Miranda July’s follow up film to her indie hit Me and You and Everyone We Know. I am clearly not one of those people. I did like her first film, but The Future is about the two most annoyingly self involved people I can recall seeing in a movie. I mean, they let their poor cat get put down for Christ’s sake! The cat narrates the movie, and is counting down the days until they come and get him, and then they just let him die. The film tries so hard to be hip and cool, but I found it insufferable.

7. The Rite (Mikael Hafstrom)
This early in the year film tried to be a more serious version of The Exorcist, and failed miserably. A young seminary student starts to lose his faith, and isn’t sure he wants to go through with becoming a priest. His mentor decides to send him to Rome for a while to give a chance to think about it. And that’s when he meets Anthony Hopkins’ crazy, exorcist priest, who of course, will end up possessed himself. Thankfully, I have forgotten much of this film in the months since I have seen it. Hopefully, the rest will leave my mind soon.

6. Season of the Witch (Dominic Sena)
Dominic Sena had such a promising start to his career with Kalifornia – and since then, it’s been one crappy action film after another. This Medieval “epic” starring Nicolas Cage is perhaps his worst film. It isn’t scary, it isn’t exciting, and Nicolas Cage is perhaps even worse in this film than he was in Trespass. Borderline unwatchable.

5. Sarah’s Key (Gilles Paquet-Brenner)
The film tells an important story about a little remembered, shameful moment in French history, when in July 1942, French police rounded up over 13,000 Jews, including women and children, left them in a stadium for days and then shipped them to Auschwitz. Unfortunately, the movie undermines the story’s inherent power by focusing on an American woman in 2011 trying to piece together what happened to the family who used to live in her apartment. The movie is far more interested in her than in the roundup itself. Even the scenes from 1942 seem forced and phony. This was a tough sit – but not in the way the filmmakers expected.

4. Your Highness (David Gordon Green)
David Gordon Green’s debut film, George Washington, is a small scale masterpiece. His follow-up films – All the Real Girls and Undertow – are both excellent. Even when he moved onto the mainstream films, he made the wonderful comedy Pineapple Express. Then he made this film – which is quite simply God awful (he also made The Sitter, which came out late in the year and got terrible reviews – I’ll catch with it on DVD). I suppose this movie is trying to be something like Monty Python – with its ridiculous Knights of the Round Table epic crossed with stoner comedy, but none of it is funny. Why James Franco and Natalie Portman got involved, I don’t know – and Zooey Deschanel didn’t do herself any favors either. Once and for all, this film should prove that Danny McBride is a supporting player – not a leading man.

3. The Sleeping Beauty (Catherine Briellent)
I have long since tired of French filmmaker Catherine Briellent’s films which mostly are provocations for provocation’s sake. Once in a while however she makes a wonderful film like The Last Mistress, which keeps me coming back to her films. Her version of the fairy tale The Sleeping Beauty is a sexually explicit, incoherent mess. Good God, I am sick of her scenes where a horrid boy talks an innocent girl out of her virginity. This could be her worst film.

2. Passion Play (Mitch Glazer)
I had the misfortune of seeing this at the 2010 TIFF, and I have never quite recovered. How could a movie starring Mickey Rourke and Bill Murray be this bad? Somehow it is. Rourke is a fading jazz musician, who discovers an “angel” – Megan Fox – who is really just a stripper with wings. Bill Murray is a gangster who wants to buy her from him. The movie is perplexingly stupid and has the most ludircious climax of any film in recent memory. The worst part is everyone takes it so damn seriously. The film was barely released in theaters, and then when straight to DVD – where is really where it belonged.

1. Hobo with a Shotgun (Jason Eisener)
I know that some love Jason Eisener’s throwback to 1970s Grindhouse films starring Rutger Hauer, but for the life of me I cannot figure out why. The film is, as you expect, exceedingly violent, but it’s never disturbing because the violence is so over the top and cartoonish that it is ridiculous. The villains are laughably awful. I must give some credit to Hauer however – he delivers precisely the performance that the movie asks him too. Eisener won a competition run by Tarantino and Rodriguez as a marketing gimmick for their epic Grindhouse. Both of those filmmakers had fun with this exceedingly dumb genre of films. But Eisener takes this way too seriously. This is nowhere near the longest film of the year – but it felt like it to me. Simply horrible.

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