Thursday, December 29, 2011

There's Nothing Wrong With Me: Duncan's Worst Films of 2011

Who wants to wallow in negativity at a time when there's so much to celebrate. I've been so busy with the bustle of catching up with the year's end that I haven't had the time or attention to comment on the films I've seen. If I had, it's only been on twitter, and if you're not following me there then you're sorely missing out. But the truth is that I didn't want to write a "Worst Films of 2011" list because that brings me back to the idea of this as a generally disappointing year, which it was for the greater part of the first nine months, for me anyway. I don't expect you to agree with any of the conclusions I've made in this list, and I don't want you to. You are free to hate me for my opinions, and I'll welcome it, but here what I have to say about the films before you do so.

Summer was a dour exercise I'd rather forget. It's worth mentioning that simple films like "Captain America", "Thor", and even "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" yielded more interest from me than the likes of "Super 8". The more appropriate name for this list would be "Most Disappointing of 2011", as much of what makes some of these films bad is the potential placed on them. Let me say that these are of the films I've seen. I didn't see everything, especially towards the end of the year, when I was especially busy catching up on what I did want to see. Sorry to "Horrible Bosses". You just missed the cut. So without further delay...

10. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2"
Directed by David Yates

Why not start the list off controversially? I doubt there's a film that got me into deeper trouble with people I know than the finale of the "Harry Potter" franchise, which I was an earnest follower of up to this point. I was able to ignore the mediocrity of the first two, the fourth and the fifth, as the third, sixth (especially), and seventh managed to impress me and even touch me. Everything fell apart at eighth, when the film ignored every logical, artistic, and emotional bone in its body and blew its wad without the slightest hint of passion outside Ralph Fiennes nose. Not fulfilling as a lover of the series. Not even successful as loud but fun entertainment. This was the saddest moment of my year, to be sure.

9. "Green Lantern"
Directed by Martin Campbell

This one couldn't have possibly been a disappointment, as I knew this was going to be trash from the very first trailer that hit. Why did I even take the time to see it? This is what happens when you go the normative, mindless, and obnoxious route on the way to making a superhero film. In choose the wrong Ryan (Reynolds, not Gosling), they shot themselves in the foot with an actor of idiotic mannerisms which the film only endorsed. The visual effects are clunky, the script absolutely abysmal (and from the writer of the most abysmal "Harry Potter" film, no less), and this really kills any hopes this superhero had of getting off the ground, which is sad. This superhero in particular deserved a more imaginative cinematic iteration.

8. "Battle: Los Angeles"
Directed by Johnathan Liebesman

I must admit some compromise in making this list, as even though this film was absolutely terrible, with little no redeeming factors, I still had a hell of a time seeing it at midnight. Why? Because it's just so easy to mock for feeding in to the typical cliches of the alien invasion genre. You get the faceless and nameless members of the Seal team sent to stop the infestation, most of whom are destined to die a blissfully horrific death. You get every single cartoonish line in the military handbook. You get an incoming threat that you know isn't a meteor shower. But all the same, it's fun just to mock the film for its own idiocy. Favorite self-imposed part of the film. "We destroyed it! Nothing's controlling the drones anymore." My brother and I in the theater, "They're free!"

7. "The Green Hornet"
Directed by Michel Gondry (WHY?)

Well, I suppose they get points for some kind of originality. Seth Rogen and Michel Gondry managed to meld the idiot fratboy comedy to the superhero genre with relative ease. The thing is, there is quite a bit to like in this film. Michel Gondry throws in some inspired visual interpretations, and Christoph Waltz is clearly having fun playing such a supercilious villain. But the film is weakened by the predictable daddy issues that don't even get the satisfaction of emotional reciprocation, as well as one of the dumbest lead performances and characters I've seen Seth Rogen take on. They go out of their way to make him incompetent. And the film is so much worst for hiring Cameron Diaz as their "hot secretary". In the words of the immortal Laurie Keller, "BARF!" (See "Cougar Town" for details.)

6. "The Lincoln Lawyer"
Directed by Brad Furman

During the time of year when all I had to do was write reviews for whatever was out there, I decided not to write up on this. Why? Because I thought that it had a pretty good chance of being decent, Matthew McConaughey not withstanding. In retrospect, the film didn't have much, if any, starpower whatsoever. But maybe the presence of Bryan Cranston, Marisa Tomei, and William H. Macy simply blinded me. This is a dully constructed, absolutely predictable, and not even motivated courtroom drama. You get no sense that they want to make a movie here. You don't get the slightest bit of intensity. It just falls together sloppily without a second thought, and that's it. I'm sorry, but I ask for the least bit of effort from the people involved. I didn't get it.

5. "Cars 2"
Directed by John Lasseter and Brad Lewis

WHAT? A Disney/Pixar film on a "worst of the year" list? Say it ain't so! Unfortunately, yes. Pixar managed to outdo themselves yet again, except not in the way you want them to. They outdid how thoroughly uninspiring, and in fact counter-inspiring, they can make their films. Made solely as a favor to Disney's toy department sales, they didn't even manage to concoct a decent plot out of this one. They travel around the world, and Mater is a spy? Forget the fact that Mater is the borderline most offensive character the company has created. Nothing changes in the lives or minds of these characters from beginning to end, and that's a huge taboo for this studio. And the message encourages people to settle for less, and not be the best they can be! How sick and twisted is that?

4. "Bad Teacher"
Directed by Jake Kasdan

You know, I at least thought this would be worth it for a cheap laugh. I thought it'd be kind of funny, but I never expected anything but bad. I got something even worse. But then again, what else could you expect from the lady loser of 2011, Cameron Diaz. She plays an unlikeable and horrible human being, sure, but I got that done so much more motivatingly in "Young Adult". Justin Timberlake managed to make a complete ass of himself, by playing a complete ass. It was a nonsense performance of a nonsense character. Not a second of the film made me laugh, aside from one particular line of Jason Segel yelling at a kid. You know which one I mean. No context is needed. That was funny. The other 91 minutes? Not even.

3. "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"
Directed by Rob Marshall

Say what you want of the first three "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, but at least they were fun, and once he was done with them, director Gore Verbinski turned around and made the most (literally) insanely fun film this year. And then he left the franchise to Rob Marshall, who didn't even have legitimate credibility after "Chicago", and had wasted it by now. Not only was this film not good and lacking of any new ideas, but it squandered Johnny Depp by making his character just a drunk imbecile. Before he had a plan, even when he was drunk. Now, no plan at all. He's just bumbling, and so is this film, from start to finish. Also, why is Judi Dench in it, and why is she not in Penelope Cruz's role? That way it would have at least been funny!

2. "Red Riding Hood"
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke

And how could I get through a list without the scarlet letter of this year, and the one that we all so very much hate. Made as a callout to the "Twilight" fanbase, and not even succeeding in the department, this was the most infantile fantasy this year. This was the year we finally caught up to the fact that Amanda Seyfried, for all her effort, cannot act, and we're reminded here. Sure, we don't know who the wolf is, but why should we care when all the people who could be the wolf give us no reason to think otherwise. Everybody is just sneering, as if they're not under any suspicion and they can only be human. More than that, this film is just offensive. Gary Oldman's presence and goodwill is drowned by illogical and idiotic horror of what his character does to the local retard. Just horrible.

1. "X-Men: First Class"
Directed by Matthew Vaughn

"This is going to be fun," I said to myself before declaring war on a film that absolutely everyone seemed to enjoy. When you get James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, and Kevin Bacon to take part in a superhero franchise that's been dying since the third, you tend to expect integrity. We didn't get that. What we got instead was a clunky, dumb, and (sym)pathetic origin story that squandered its own opportunities. It's crude and emotionless in its dispensing of characters. It's overt, loud, and actually painfully obvious in its cinematography, visual effects, and original score. Worst of all, it's sexist as fuck, painting women as dumb and sexy tools and toys. I've never seen such an abominable crime against women that was given a pass by pretty much everybody. Is this the absolute worst of the year? Maybe not, but it's the one I hate with a more heated passion than any of the rest. Matthew Vaughn be damned for what he's done here, and will continue to do.


That's my list, and if it seems odd, just imagine this was my "Best of 2011" list. Would you be more impressed then? What does your "Worst of 2011" list look like? Comment below!


  1. Deathly Hallows 2 and First Class in my opinion aren't bad at all, same goes for The Lincoln Lawyer but its nice to see different opinions on movies.

  2. This list was a strong mix of films that were simply bad, and films that had tragic flaws that were overlooked for their glitz and flair. But like any other list, it's biased towards a specific view. You're rarely going to agree with a list down to the letter.

  3. I think that most of the movies on my list I don't consider bad (except for one or two, guess which ones), but they're just movies that that I thought were overrated and dissapointed me so much that by the time I finished the film I thought "The's it! That's what everyone is in love with ?" They are (I'll put them in order later):

    The Descendants
    The Muppets
    Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2

  4. I don't agree, but I completely understand why all of them are here, except for "Drive". To me, it's a film that yields further joy upon each revisiting.

  5. And I thought you'd get mad at the inclusion for The Muppets.

    but Drive is a movie whose love I did not get.
    it felt so soulless and I can't imagine how frequent veiwings bring upon more joy when when I first watched it it came across as awkward.

    Oh, and I forgot about The Tree of Life, loved the storyline involving the family, but I loathed the birth of the universe scenes, the sfterlife stuff, and WTF was up with the dinosaurs!

  6. I hate Fast Five, man that should have been up there! Other than that, unique list, and very enjoyable read.