Before we get into the Top 15 I’d like to take a moment and talk about the worst movies I saw in 2011 and what I think is a superficial theme for what unites a lot of them and thus gives them their place on this list. Also, for your reading pleasure, here’s my list from 2010. It’s a list which I’m happy to say would not change at all after a year of space from the movies on it. I can also say that, aside from Alice in Wonderland because I have a young daughter, I successfully avoided rewatching every movie on it.

I think the common theme connecting these movies is less my disappointment in them, though that’s there too, than the sheer laziness involved with making them. Usually this is on a writing level but this year had too many Clash of the Titans style big loud movies with no substance to back up all the CG mayhem and heroic pretensions.

I did manage to avoid a lot of shitty movies this year, though. It was actually hard to construct this list because there were a lot of mediocre films in 2011 that just weren’t bad, disappointing, or insidious enough to make my list. A good example would be Abduction, which is just too harmless, or Tin Tin maybe, a movie I didn’t review because I’m convinced how bored I was by it was simply a result of my state of mind watching it. I mean, I did see The Smurfs and it is a work of overwhelming evil but it sorta falls into the category of movies that were bad by design and I always see a few of those each year. I managed to avoid some other movies I think are probably some of the worst of the year. Like Beastly or that one where Adam Sandler plays his own sister or whatever. I mean, fuck those movies?

So, as usual, I kept the list contained with what I know is shit, even if many of these films have redeeming qualities that will give them a pass to some or even most people. I mean, ain’t that always the way?

But there is hope. This is a year where most of the movies in my list went unrewarded by the box office money of the undiscerning masses. They were either critical failures, outright flops, or both. This might show that audiences are starting to get hip to the exploitative nature of painting the same tired tropes and archetypes with a coat of dazzle and selling it to them in fucking 3D.

On with the fuckin’ show.

10. The Three Musketeers

My Review

I gave this movie some light little love-taps back when I reviewed it but time has passed and those fleeting redeeming qualities (one great swordfight, Orlando Bloom’s performance) have diminished over time. What’s left is a movie that doesn’t back up it’s decidedly inspired retake on the original The Three Musketeers tale with anything of substance. Rather it’s a string of bland performances from bored actors (for the most part), jokes that fall flat, that horrible comic relief character (Planchet?) who is like a low-rent Jonah Hill if Jonah Hill were British and not funny. It is also just a bunch of set-pieces strung together with what would have been a solid plot had it been better paced and executed with even a cursory amount of characterization. The high point of the movie comes early and it is only by being as bitter and cynical as the people who wrote the characters that I could coast afterward on the gleeful performances of Bloom and Freddie Fox. So basically, what works about this movie is mostly incidental or unintentional and that is bad for the movie. Still, it gets the #10 spot mostly because of all the movies on this list, it offends me least and seems the most harmless overall.

9. Cars 2

No review for this one.

That Cars was already the most ignominious notch on the glorious belt worn by Pixar is pretty clear to anyone. ‘Lo it has been supplanted by Pixar’s first non-Toy Story sequel! Cars 2 is not only an unnecessary exercise in sequel genre-bending (spy movie, not racing movie this time) isn’t even the worst part. That there’s no real heart to this movie other than some weird thread about accepting your moronic, embarrassing friends for who they are (or something) also puts it a peg below the original Cars which at least had the decency to have an acceptable arc in its narrative. When Mater, on whom the action is focused this time around, acts like a complete ass of a tow-truck, everybody gets understandably upset at him especially when his antics start fucking Lightning McQueen over when the stakes are as high as they can be for grotesque living sports vehicles. But the movie wants us to appreciate Mater for being who he is and not really level any consequences against him for being an insufferable ignoramus. The problem there is more that Mater stands in for the general stereotype of the American tourist: a boorish, ignorant, and arrogant interloper who expects people, places, and entire foreign cultures of things to bend over backward to accommodate their sense of familiarity. Through Mater, all the foreign exotica of Japan and other countries are curiosities at best and backwards foreign weirdness at worst which makes the entire movie feel xenophobic and a bit like a misguided apologia for silly old America. That is a weird fucking cocktail for a kids’ movie that stars the descendants of the murderous sentient cars that wiped out humanity and replaced them with vehicles that no one is left to drive. Yes, I do think the entire setting of Cars is psychotic but I kind of like that. What I don’t like is movies for kids that masquerade as having positive messages when they are actually regressive ones.

8. Season of the Witch

No review for this one.

The worst thing about Season of the Witch is actually how bad it isn’t. I was hoping, given the concept and cast, that I was in for Ghost Rider levels of insanity. Unfortunately, Season of the Witch is not genius-level bad. Like Jonah Hex last year, kinda, it is just plain old bad. There is some enjoyment to be had from Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman running around as if this is a buddy cop movie but Cage’s self-serious performance (one of his few and most bizarre) indicates that he, at least, thinks this movie’s laughable premise and story are serious business. Perlman’s usual self-aware jocularity (he is an old fucking hand at roles like this, which are truly kind of beneath him) makes Cage look even worse. Still, though, this movie was better when it was called Black Death. At least then it was about something. Season of the Witch isn’t about anything. The most interesting thing they could have done was maintain the ambiguity about whether or not the titular witch really is one but they didn’t even pull that off right. Most of my ire about this movie stems from how wasted the whole project is. If you’re going to get Cage and Perlman together in a fantasy movie about witches and Templars, at least have the decency to go balls out. Instead it’s an over-green-screened mess of bad. It’s almost like a sequel to The Mutant Chronicles.

7. I am Number Four

No review for this one.

I was pretty much ready to say fuck Alex Pettyfer in his flashlight-hands after the one-two punch of this shit and Beastly (which I never saw and am convinced I never need to, even if that one Pharmasave girl tried to convince me it was good that time). Then came In Time and I now like the guy. Too bad he was in this movie though. Trying to be a magic powers and alien infested version of Twighlight but FOR BOYS, I am Number Four feels like the pilot of a terrible 90’s teen show that many young women (and a few men, in secret) would watch whenever Roswell wasn’t on. There is the badass Australian alien girl who steals a couple of scenes, and there is a somewhat inventive action sequence at the end, but there is also Timothy fucking Olyphant relegated to the role of gruff, expendable mentor and guardian. Pettyfer’s character, the titular Number Four, is a whiny little bitch who risks all kinds of cosmic shit on wanting to be a “normal kid”. It’s a tired story idea that some people think is universal. No, sorry, but if your main character has superficial and idiotic reasons for “resisting the call”, they are a superficial idiot and you have successfully destroyed the empathy of your audience. This movie is an exercise in undermining every bit of goodwill a discerning audience could summon up for it. Good thing for them, I guess, that this was made for the least discerning segment of the population imaginable: fucking Twilight fans.

6. Priest

No review for this one.

Why, Paul Bettany, why!? Why do you keep doing this to us/yourself? Why must you slum it so very fucking badly? Do you really want to be an action hero? I think there were people out there who’d have given you the shot if you hadn’t spent 2 years in theaters on shit like this and Legion. Which, naturally, were made by the same people. Priest does go some length to establish a neat setting and world with some features and design elements that are credible. The city especially is nice. Unfortunately, the plot of the film is completely weak and no time or effort is spent to make you care about the characters. The same thin strokes and reliance on the familiarity with cliche that typify most of the other shite movies on my list this year are present by the horrible bucket in Priest. The action sequences don’t even begin to redeem this. They are unimaginative, poorly edited, and dull… just like the ones in Legion. Someone please stop giving these fuckers money and someone please tell Bettany to start making real movies again.

5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

My Review

I think even the people who like Transformers 3 are aware that it is fucking terrible. The funniest part isn’t just how terrible, but that Michael Bay and cast made such a big and obviously bologna job of talking it up as better than at least the second one. Well, I guess the people who are convinced that sequels being terrible is an inexorable fact will have a new flagship series to refer to since each installment of Transformers is like a juiced up monster version of everything that was bad about its predecessor. Transformers 2 was twice as stupid, racist, and poorly executed as the first one (which I still like) and now Transformers 3 where we have disgusting stereotypes of white ethnic groups instead of non-white ones. Because you see kids, to be not racist just means being equally racist to everybody. Still, Italian Stereotype Automobile is a cool racecar and the cockney ones are NASCAR or something. I mean, what were Skids and Mudflap… fucking ice cream trucks? Anyway, it might go without saying that Transformers 3 is not just a mess of weird ideas that are sometimes offensive, but also a mess on a filmmaking level with the poorest balancing between its two main narrative threads, the longest and least justified running time of any movie this year, and so on. So in other words, real stuff that has nothing to do with how politically correct I am or am not. Transformers 3 is a badly made movie. Period.

4. Green Lantern

My Review

I would call Green Lantern the quintessential example of what’s wrong with big budget spectacle films if not for that there are so many other examples. As a result, it’s just one of example though maybe the most obvious and cookie-cutter of 2011. Green Lantern is a lazy movie on every level and given that it’s just one of many comic book origin stories of the year, let alone the last 5 or so (and the next fucking 5), makes this a particularly damning flaw. Lacking in imagination, attention to detail, and even a fundamental set of arcs and themes that the audience can get behind, Green Lantern is the worst superhero movie of 2011 and probably one of, if not the, worst yet made. It should be held as an example for other filmmakers trying to adapt these characters and stories and worlds as what not to fucking do at pretty much every turn.

3. Immortals

My Review

Immortals is the perfect embodiment of what I’m going for in my Worst 10 lists. It is the essential movie that could have and should have been better. It’s not that it’s “good and should have been better”. It’s that it’s fucking awful and should have been at least mediocre. That makes it a colossal disappointment, a collection of micro-disasters brought about by whatever road of choices, compromise, and cocaine is usually responsible for when someone hires an auteur to direct and visualize a movie that is really just a shameless rip off of last year’s rip off of God of War. As a movie, Immortals is a total empty suit and one of those movies that will render anyone who tries to defend it immediately suspect.

2. Conan the Barbarian

My Review

Conan the Barbarian (2011) is just offensive. It isn’t the kind of movie that only analytical types like me find fault with. The movie isn’t even trying to have a convincing narrative structure, any semblance of theme, or much of anything but gratuitous violence and the American version of sexuality (ladies showing their tits in other words). I’m not against gratuity in general, but it should always be in the service of something and here it is not. Or at least not of anything worthwhile. It’s also possible that I hate this movie so very much because it completely betrays Jason Momoa who seems to have a put a lot of heart into it and is alone in that amongst the patched together cast of the movie. Except for maybe Rose McGowan, but a more thorough discussion of this stuff is present in my review. I’m sure some people think that I am down on this movie because of my manful love for the 1982 version but really, one didn’t have to have anything to do with the other. It wasn’t me who marketed this rebootmake as something else altogether while my roster of script doctors added elements form the ’82 movie to supply the nuance they were not able to generate themselves… and still making a piss poor job out of it. At least this movie totally flopped, making it (and Green Lantern) markers of hope for a general audience that has eaten shit like this up ever since Star Wars.

1. Cowboys and Aliens

My Review

This is a movie that completely pulls the rug out from under everyone in it. It has a great cast saddled with stupidity, horrible lines, sketched relationships that pretend to be profound, and just about every other insult to audience intelligence imaginable. This movie is, to me, the standout “big dumb summer movie” that other film snobs love to hate and which I am usually a lot more forgiving of. I think Cowboys and Aliens, the first big shitty spectacle movie I saw in 2011, broke something in me and I think it may be permanent. I think I’m just tired of these movies that bank on some “high” concept and wrap a good cast and some shitty writers (cuz you can’t hire good ones when you’re paying a cast like this, I guess!) around it. The nicest thing I can say about this movie, really, is that it caused me to write the most hilarious review I’ve ever written. I know it might be bad form to call one of your own pieces of writing funny but really, my review Cowboys and Aliens actually reads like something in my brain just finally snapped (and then went into full crazy in time for Transformers 3). In case it isn’t clear yet, this is the penultimate case of laziness in a year where the worst movies were also the laziest ones. Fuck this movie.

*

And so another year goes by. I have to say that the only movie I really hated from 2010 as much as the worst 3 on this list was Let Me In. I think what’s changed is that I’ve developed a healthy (unhealthy?) anger towards a certain type of movie. I mean, Let Me In is easily better than any movie on the 2011 list and I know that, in spite of the fact that I hate it so.

Anyways, I’m tired of reflecting on all the shit. It’s almost time for my Top 15 list! Yay!

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