10 Worst Films of 2011

December 27, 2012 in Best Of, Movie Reviews

It’s a Christmas Day miracle!

Yeah, you better believe it. I have finally finished watching and reviewing all the 2011 movies (ie, movies with a 2011 release date according to IMDB) on my list and I’m ready to deliver my worst and best lists of the (last) year. Sure it’s a little late, but better late than never, right? Take that, 2011!

Anyway, it was very interesting going through all 110 movies on the list and seeing whether I still felt the same about the movies so long after I initially rated them (well, for the older ones at least). There were indeed some differences. For example, I could have sworn I gave Transformers 3 a rating much worse than the 2.5 stars it received, and from memory I thought Something Borrowed should have been worse than 2 stars. On the other hand, having seen The Adjustment again more recently I think perhaps it deserved more than a 3.5. But to keep it to first impressions I decided not to change anything.

To make it easier for myself, I highlighted all the movies with ratings more than 4.25 and less than 2. And guess what? I ended up with exactly 10 films for each! Another Christmas Day miracle!

OK, so here goes. First up, counting down my 10 worst films of 2011! Click on the title to read the full review for each film.

10. Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown (2011)

IMG_8497.CR2

You don’t wanna mess with us, punk

You know, the sequel to MMA flick Never Back Down is not actually that bad when placed in context, which is a straight-to-DVD film with low expectations. The fight scenes are OK, but its recycled plot, laughable subplots and cringeworthy dialogue were enough to propel it into my top 10 worst of the year. Just.

9. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)

1223-Film-Review-Extremely-Loud-Incredibly-Close_full_600

Tom Hanks piggy backs annoying kid

This was supposed to be a triumphant tear jerker about post-9/11 American, but instead it came across as exploitative and pretentious, and probably the worst Best Picture Oscar nominee ever. The kid (Thomas Horn) deserves some kind of award for portraying the most irritating child character in recent years.

8. Your Highness (2011)

Natalie Portman's best performance ever

Natalie Portman’s best performance ever

I really wanted to like this fantasy comedy farce but it turned out to be one of the year’s biggest disappointments. Perfect example of where there was not enough script and too much improv for a bunch of stoned actors/comedians who needed to be reigned in and saved from themselves.

7. Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

OMG, we're in a movie that's exactly the same as the last two!

OMG, we’re in a movie that’s exactly the same as the last two!

As long as they keep making them I’m pretty sure Paranormal Activity movies will keep landing on my worst movies list every year. This one was actually one of the better ones, which really says it all about this gimmicky franchise that has as much trouble filling up the screen time as it does producing genuine scares.

6. The Art of Getting By (2011)

Let's see who can stare at the other person longer

Let’s see who can stare at the other person longer

Probably the most pointless film of the year in which a kid tries to get by with minimal effort, meets a girl, falls for her, kind of, not really, no one cares. Whatever the message was, it didn’t come out.

5. Jack and Jill (2011)

Two Adam Sandlers laugh at an Adam Sandler movie while everyone else pouts

Two Adam Sandlers laugh at an Adam Sandler movie while everyone else pouts

Adam Sandler movies used to make me so happy, but now they just make me sad — and angry. Jack and Jill is yet another example of how far he has fallen. Not only is it terribly unfunny and mean spirited, the film takes a dump all over screen legend Al Pacino by allowing him to be involved.

4. Gnomeo and Juliet (2011)

Watching real garden gnomes would have been more exciting

Watching real garden gnomes would have been more exciting

Possibly the worst animated film of the last two decades. The last cartoon I fell asleep in was Cars, and that was because I was really tired. This one had no excuse. The dearth of laughs was terrifying and there was no originality apart from the fact that they are garden gnomes. And as nearly always, the 3D was a waste of everyone’s time.

3. The Darkest Hour (2011)

Why am I screaming?!

Why am I screaming?!

The idea was good on paper and the trailers looked promising, but invisible alien enemies turned out to be oh-so-lame…until you saw the aliens and realized that was even lamer. Despite all the running and supposed danger, for whatever reason, The Darkest Hour just had no pulse. With no characters to root for and almost zero excitement, it was indeed the darkest hour — well, 89 minutes, to be exact.

2. ATM (2011)

I think people are watching us watching them watching us

Hang on, I think people are watching us watching them watching us

Ordinarily, a film released straight to video-on-demand and DVD should not be this high up on the list, but ATM does star Alice Eve, Brian Geraghty and Josh Peck, who aren’t exactly unknowns. My problem with it is that it’s just too unbelievably stupid and nonsensical, to the point where I actually started getting annoyed and wanted the protagonists to get killed for their lack of IQ. A slasher movie where everything is so predictable is never a good thing either.

1. New Year’s Eve (2011)

Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron being forced to pretend there's chemistry between them

Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron being forced to pretend there’s chemistry between them

The honour of the worst film of 2011 goes to New Year’s Eve, a new low in saccharine ensemble films where a bunch of stars are forced together on the screen because of some arbitrary common theme. How they managed to make a film with 20+ Hollywood A-listers that sucked so bad is beyond me. No one is given enough screen time to do anything meaningful and nearly all the characters/story arcs are unlikable or contrived or both. It was my only reviewed film of 2011 to be rated less than a 1 star (I actually gave it a 0.5), meaning the gap between this film and the my no. 2 film is wider than the gap between no. 2 and no. 9. The only positive thing I can say about it is that at least it wasn’t in 3D. Eek.

That was depressing. Next up, my 10 favourite films of 2011!

PS: It actually wasn’t such a bad year in terms of bad movies. A lot of average and below average stuff but not many made me want to pull my hair out.

Mega Catch-up Movie Blitz (Part 5)

June 28, 2012 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (2011)

I have always been a fan of the Harold and Kumar series despite its tendency to be very hit-and-miss. And you really can’t go wrong with any film that features Neil Patrick Harris.

In this third installment, Harold (John Cho) has married his dream girl Maria (from the first film) and works on Wall Street. Kumar (Kal Penn) is still the same old stoner who failed to become a doctor after flunking a drug test. It’s Christmas, and of course, the dynamic duo team up for one more wild adventure. This time, it’s finding a Christmas tree.

To be honest, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas is perhaps the lamest of the trilogy. It doesn’t quite have the freshness of White Castle or the outrageousness of Guantanamo Bay. This is a “family” film, so to speak. But you know what? It’s still freaking funny a lot of the time.

As usual, there are some dud jokes thrown in there, but the good thing about there having been two earlier films is that you know Harold and Kumar’s personalities so well now that the laughs all come fairly easily.

Great to see Cho and Penn back in awesome form. Penn, in particular, had to resign from his post in the Obama administration to take the role, and there is a cracker of a joke about that in the movie. Needless to say, Neil Patrick Harris, who is supposed to have been fatally wounded in the second film, is back, and in peak condition. The always intimidating Danny Trejo (I last saw him in Machete…actually, in the PS3 game, The Fight) is also pretty good as Maria’s dad.

3D Christmas will probably go down as the weakest film in the series but fans of the two stoners will no doubt still be able to find plenty of amusement from it.

3.25 stars out of 5

Haywire (2011)

Okay, so Steve Soderbergh, the Oscar-winning director of Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Oceans Eleven and Contagion is a pretty big deal. No wonder he managed to get guys like Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas and Michael Fassbender to be in an action flick headed by an MMA star, Gina Carano.

Basically, Carano is a government agent who gets set up. Bad idea, because she knows how to kick some serious male ass. The story is a little convoluted for my liking but part of it has to do with Soderbergh’s distinctive style. Whenever the film gets into the fight scenes, however, the story is happy to take a back seat.

I don’t know much about Carano and I don’t care much for MMA, but I suppose the action in Haywire is pretty cool, somewhat Bourne-like in its pace, brutality and supposed realism, except with a less shaky camera and an actress that really knows what she is doing when she’s bouncing off walls, bashing heads in and choking people into submission. As a thespian though, I think Carano still has some work to do. Not horrible by any means, but could be better.

At the end of the day, Haywire is a decent action flick – but it just won’t be a very memorable one.

3 stars out of 5

Hesher (2011)

I’m a huge fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Tremendous talent and versatility. And there’s no one quite like him in Hollywood. I was recommended Hesher by a bunch of people and I had a ball with it. The big surprise is that the screenplay was co-written by Aussie David Michod, the genius behind one of the best films from last year, Animal Kingdom.

It’s a highly-random, WTF kind of movie about this dude, Hesher (played by Gordon-Levitt), who intrudes the life of a weird little boy called TJ. He’s dirty and scruffy, walks around bare-chested, has awesome tattoos, smokes a lot, and does heaps of crazy and random things. To be honest, he doesn’t do a lot, and the things he does don’t always make sense. He’s just…there.

It’s really hard to describe what this movie is about or why it is so compelling to watch. The comedy in it is jet black. It’s not for everyone but I laughed out loud frequently and ferociously. Unbelievably, it has Natalie Portman in it. And she’s funny too, in a strange kind of way.

Towards the end, the movie moves ever so slightly from its path of irreverence to toss in some unexpected poignancy. It was something I had dreaded but surprisingly, it worked, in a Hesher kind of way. It’s not the kind of movie I would put in any “best of the year” lists, but it’s one I could definitely see becoming a cult classic.

4 stars out of 5

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)

This was a film that divided critics and viewers alike. Some thought it was a heartfelt tribute to those who lost loved ones in 9/11. Others thought it was a pretentious, manipulating tear-jerker that failed to hit the mark.

I belonged to the latter.

The idea, based on a 2005 book of the same name, is not bad. A kid (Thomas Horn – who, amazingly, became an actor after competing on Jeopardy) loses his father (Tom Hanks) in 9/11. He finds a key in his father’s belongings and sets out on scavenger hunt through the five boroughs of NYC to find out what it opens, meeting a bunch of people along the way.

For starters, you need to be able to buy into the whole premise about there being something magical about this kid’s adventure. I didn’t have a problem with that. What I had a massive problem with was the kid, who comes across as someone who will grow up into one of the most annoying and obnoxious adults on the planet. I’m not entirely sure if it is the character or the performance, but it’s probably a lot of both.

For me, the whole thing just felt wrong. I didn’t find it entertaining or exciting. I found it desperately trying to elicit an emotional response, one that I could not squeeze out. I was surprised, because the director, Stephen Daldry, was previously at the helm of The Reader, which had its flaws but was on the whole pretty good.

The film was not poorly made, but personally, I hated it. It must be one of the worst Best Picture nominees at the Oscars – ever.

1.75 stars out of 5