I have said it before and I will say it again – 2011 has been one of the best years for movies since at least 2007. However, even with all its greatness it was not free from a few stinkers. Since I am not a paid film critic, I am not forced to see movies that are clearly terrible like Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked or New Year’s Eve, so most movies I saw this year I had some sort of expectations going in. It might be more appropriate to call this a list of most disappointing films rather than worst films, but regardless these are the five movies this year that I will never revisit again.
Worst Films of 2011
It was confusing when Black Snake Moan/Hustle & Flow director Craig Brewer signed on to remake this definitively ’80s musical film. About 20 minutes into the film it became clear that the film was a paycheck project as it seemed much more interested in paying tribute to the original than contributing anything new at all. Making Dennis Quaid seem out of his element is not an easy feat, but it was pulled off in Footloose. [Full Review]
4) Cars 2
There was a collected moan of disbelief among film fanatics this year when the beloved Pixar animation studios released a film that was a rare and extreme miss. Apart from the beautiful animation, there was nothing much to like about the dismally unfunny Cars 2. The fatal flaw was relying on the annoying and ugly Tow-Mater voiced by Larry the Cable Guy to drive the narrative and the comedy. [Podcast Review]
3) Everything Must Go
We have seen in movies like Stranger Than Fiction that Will Ferrell is capable of serio-comic performances, but in Everything Must Go, flawed direction makes him more buffoonish than believable. This film is unnecessarily bleak and Will Ferrell apparently felt that the way to demonstrate alcoholism was simply to be drinking beer in every shot. [Podcast Review]
2) The Conspirator
The most forgettable Civil War movie comes from director Robert Redford who attempts to paint a sympathetic portrait of Mary Surratt who was convicted as a conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Even with James McAvoy and Robin Wright trying their best they couldn’t make their relationship feel any more alive than Robert E. Lee today. [Podcast Review]
1) The Hangover: Part II
This was an easy one for me as I was also one of the few who disliked the original Hangover. The second film is basically a carbon copy of the original with Vegas edited out and Bangkok digitally inserted. This gave them the opportunity to add racially insensitive jokes to their arsenal of sexism and misogyny. The worst news is that a Hangover: Part III has already been greenlit. [Podcast Review]
Most Overrated Film of 2011
After subjecting myself to this grating romantic drama twice at this year’s Twin Cities Film Festival, I could not wrap my head around how it managed to earn the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival and go on to score a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes. The two central characters are so annoying and narcissistic that it made this film a painful slog. The narrative carelessly asks us to laugh at the well-meaning but underdeveloped supporting characters and the only intelligent characters (the girls’ parents) disappear when they start making too much sense. This is one of the most dishonest romantic films I have ever seen. Thankfully the film has not been present on many end of the year top ten lists. [Full Review]
Most Underrated Film of 2011
It was obvious that The Beaver was going to get some backlash this year because, let’s face it, Mel Gibson is a terribly person. However, I think many unfairly dismissed Gibson’s performance and the film in general because of the controversy surrounding the fallen star. The Beaver is an impressive and honest study of mental illness with a remarkable central performance from Gibson. It also features Anton Yelchin’s best performance of the year and solid pacing and direction from Jodie Foster. Don’t let any anti-Gibson bias prevent you from seeing this surprisingly smart and sometimes moving film. [Full Review]
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop
Not the most well-made documentary, but a fun portrait of my favorite late night comedian of all-time. I have always enjoyed Conan’s weird and sometimes cruel humor and this behind the scenes concert film shows him at perhaps his cruelest. However, I laughed heartily throughout as I enjoyed some justice for Conan who was unfairly tossed aside by NBC. [Podcast Review]
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Who would have thought that the umpteenth Planet of the Apes sequel by a mostly unknown director released in the wasteland of August would be any good? Somehow Rise of the Planet of the Apes managed to be not only visually enthralling, but also containing a decent story. It was not without its flaws, but it certainly surpassed my low expectations. [Podcast Review]
Best Year for an Actor/Actress
Jessica Chastain – The Tree of Life, The Help, The Debt, Take Shelter, Coriolanus
There were a lot of actors and actresses this year who were in a lot of films (Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling) and several who gave career-best performances (Fassbender, Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Brad Pitt, Joseph Gordon-Levitt). However, this award has to go to Jessica Chastain mainly because she was this year’s best discover. Last year few people knew who she was besides the girl who was cast in the next Terence Malick movie. Now she is the new A-list it girl with offers coming in from all over. Not only was she in a lot, but she was great in a lot. She was memorable in The Tree of Life, she was the best part of The Help, she stood out in The Debt, she gave my favorite performance of hers in Take Shelter. Chastain is here to stay and we are all better off because of it.
Worst Year for an Actor/Actress
Bradley Cooper – Limitless, The Hangover: Part II
This award is certainly not to be confused for a Worst Actor award. On the contrary, Bradley Cooper is actually pretty good, but was given terrible material to work with this year. From the silly Limitless to the deplorable Hangover: Part II, Cooper needs to get himself a better agent. To make things worse he was also greeted with a slew of protests for being named People Magazines Sexiest Man Alive over Ryan Gosling.
What are your least favorite films of 2011 and who do you think deserves the special awards listed above?