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The 10 Worst Films Of 2011: Extremely Lousy And Incredibly Crappy
by Peter Sobczynski

Yeah, I saw them and somehow survived. Who wants to touch me?

There were a lot of good movies released in 2011 but alas, there was also a lot of garbage as well--the kind of junk so indefensibly awful that it seems impossible that even the often-deluded people in Hollywood could have ever imagined that they could have possibly resulted in anything good or even vaguely tolerable. As a result, while I have officially listed 10 titles below, each entry also includes dishonorable mentions of other films of their respective ilks. However, one film stood above the rest by being so far beyond the pale that nothing could possibly compare to it. While the other 10 titles may be the worst films of the year, the first one being discussed is quite simply one of the worst things of all time, cinematic or otherwise.

Enjoy, because Lord knows I didn't. . .

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE: Of all the films that I saw throughout 2011, none filled me with as much contempt, loathing, disgust and disbelief as this adaptation of the Jonathan Safran Foer bestseller about an obnoxious and overly precocious 9-year-old brat (newcomer Thomas Horn) who roams the streets of New York City searching for the mystery surrounding a key left by his late father (Tom Hanks), who was in the World Trade Center on 9/11. I will be going into detail on the numerous reasons behind my absolute hatred of this film and everything it stands for when I formally review it in a couple of weeks but I promise you, even those who enjoy hard-sell sentiment will be appalled at the borderline-obscene lengths that director Stephen Daldry goes to here in order to pluck the heartstrings of its viewers. Put it this way--the film is so unpleasant and its wee hero is so detestable that most people will find themselves wishing that it had been Take Your Child to Work Day on that fateful day.

1.SUCKER PUNCH: As anyone who has been reading my reviews for a while can attest, I am always up for both a highly stylized bit of lunacy featuring fabulous-looking and heavily armed babes wreaking increasingly bizarre havoc and an off-the-wall and over-the-top exercise in excess made by a filmmaker who has been given carte blanche based on the strength of their past successes. And yet, even though Zack Snyder, the goof who scored huge hits with the "Dawn of the Dead" remake and "300" and whose adaptation of "Watchmen" apparently pleased someone at Warner Brothers, combined both with this surreal psychodrama/sexploitation epic about a lightly clad babe (Emily Browning) trying to escape from the confines of a mental institution with the help of her increasingly wild imagination and some fellow barely legal prisoners (including Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Abbie Cornish), the results were spectacularly idiotic that even I found myself unable to come up with a defense for its idiocies. That said, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at the WB board meeting the Monday after its disastrous opening as the executive finally realized with horror that they were once so high on Snyder's so-called gifts that they actually put the new "Superman" movie in his questionable hands. Other filmmakers who got the chance to do whatever they wanted and crapped out in the process include Roland Emmerich, whose indefensibly stupid "Anonymous" purported to prove that Shakespeare was a fraud via a film that played like the world's most expensive Sunn Classics production, Jim Cameron, who produced "Sanctum," a 3D underwater as murky and indecipherable as its photography and Catherine Hardwicke, who tried to recapture the success she had with the first "Twilight" movie with "Red Riding Hood," a laughable take on the classic fairy tale that proved to be notable only for the hilarious scenery-chewing turn by Gary Oldman as a self-proclaimed genius wolf hunter who turns out to be not quite as good as advertise. Speaking of inane versions of classic fairy tales, Emily Browning also popped up (and out) in the staggeringly pretentious sex drama "Sleeping Beauty," in which she plays a beautiful dullard who decides to pay the bills by working at a strange sex club where creepy old men pay to fiddle about with her naked body while she is drugged--yes, she is naked pretty much throughout and no, it still isn't worth it.

2. LIKE CRAZY: On the other hand, there are few films that drive me up the wall more than cloying and obnoxious hipster-douchebag romances featuring inarticulate and unlikable twerps stumbling along the path of true love while espousing the kind of wisdom ordinarily found in recalled fortune cookies to the beat of overly insistent soundtracks forced to make up for the failings in the acting, screenwriting and directing departments. There were several such films on display this year but none enraged me more than this inexplicably celebrated monstrosity about an American mope (Anton Yelchin) and a borderline-psycho Brit (Felicity Jones) whose dreams of perfect love are thrown into jeopardy when she stupidly and unnecessarily overstays her visa and cannot return to America. Both characters are utterly devoid of charm or personality and after only a few minutes in their company, I found myself praying that the film would quickly morph into another "Saw" sequel and give these jerks exactly what they deserved. Almost as bad were "One Day," which chronicled the oh-so-precious relationship between morons Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess by looking at their lives over the course of twenty seemingly endless years and "Restless," Gus Van Sant's amazingly vapid look at the oh-so-precious relationship between death-obsessed dweeb Henry Hopper and terminally ill pixie Mia Wiaskowska. At this point, I would also like to cite the already infamous "The Human Centipede II" because while it is hardly anyone's idea of a hipster-douchebag romance, it does have one thing in common with the other films mentioned here in the unavoidable fact that they all feature characters who are, for the most part, completely full of shit.

3. JUST GO WITH IT: Under normal circumstances, I tend to ignore most Adam Sandler vehicles when putting together my Worst FIlms lists because they are so blatantly stupid that to point out their inanities strikes me as a waste of time, space and energy. However, this revision of "Cactus Flower," in which he plays a doctor who, through circumstances too contrived to get into here, implores his assistant (Jennifer Aniston) to pose as his non-existent ex-wife in order to convince the girl of his dreams (swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker, whose beachwear is nowhere near as flimsy as the script), was so dated, so unfunny and so completely unnecessary that it boggled the mind. Alas, Sandler had more up his sleeve and also (dis)graced theaters with "Jack and Jill," the instant punchline in which he played a normal guy and his obnoxious twin sister, Katie Holmes played the presumably long-suffering wife and Al Pacino--yes, Al Pacino--played himself in an act that veered between weirdo self-parody and a desperate cry for help,"Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star," an absolutely insipid attempt to launch second banana Nick Swarsdon as a movie star by having him play a creepy dork who discovers that his parents were porn stars and tries to follow in their footsteps despite being woefully unqualified for the job in every imaginable way and "Zookeeper," a dumb-as-dirt family comedy with Sandler voicing one of numerous zoo animals who start talking to zookeeper Kevin James so that they can advise him on how to score with women.

4. BATTLE: LOS ANGELES: 2011 had no shortage of aggressively idiotic action epics to choose from but the dumbest of the bunch had to be this woefully thin cement mixer masquerading as a movie in which a rag-tag group of personality-free Marines do battle with barely-defined alien invaders amidst the ruins of a recently wrecked L.A. in the manner of an unholy cross between "Call of Duty" and "Cloverfield." Other all-out attacks on the senses by the senseless include "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," another wearying swashbuckler that found Johnny Depp looking as bored as the audience, "Priest," a post-apocalyptic vampire mishmash that was muddled for reasons other than its crappy, post-conversion 3D, "Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon," a mind-numbing and teeth-rattling spectacle that almost made the previous titles in the franchise look competent by comparison (although the introductory shot of Rosie Huntington-Whitely as the babe who shockingly turns out NOT to be a robot is admittedly one for the books), "The Green Lantern," a stupid, unlikable and utterly forgettable superhero epic that suggest what "Iron Man" might have been like if anyone other than Robert Downey Jr. had played the title role and "Abduction," a misguided attempt to launch logy teen heartthrob Taylor Lautner as an action hero with a vehicle a flimsy as the shirts he tears through at will in the "Twilight" films.

5. THE HELP: Among the cinematic events of the year that I am still at a loss to understand, the biggest one by far has to be the inexplicable acceptance of this cloying and condescending adaptation of the best-seller about a young white woman from the South in the Sixties who risks it all to tell the stories of the African-American maids who practically raised her and her friends. Full of shit in more ways than one, this wasted the talents of such actresses as Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard on a story that took such a one-dimensional approach to a potentially interesting subject that it came across at times like "Mississippi Burning" with slightly better catering. Other books that crapped out on their journey to the big screen in 2011 included "Atlas Shrugged--Part 1," a hilariously cut-rate take on the first third of Ayn Rand's infamous novel celebrating the joys of self-interest, "Sarah's Key," a confused and cloying tale that ineptly intertwined the Holocaust with the search for a good apartment in Paris, "I Don't Know How She Does It," a pseudo-"Sex in the City" vehicle for Sarah Jessica Parker that gave chick flicks a worse name than usual and "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn--Part I," the penultimate entry in the romantic saga featuring a vampire, a werewolf and a mope that was even more awkward and unwieldy than its title.

6. YOUR HIGHNESS: There were plenty of obnoxious gross-out comedies on display in 2011 but the most shocking of the bunch had to be this demented spoof of 80's-era sword-and-sorcery epics like "The Beastmaster" and "Krull" that was co-written and directed by, of all people, David Gordon Green, the once-promising director of such powerful dramas as "George Washington" and "Snow Angels" who took the industry goodwill he built up after directing the hilarious hit "Pineapple Express" and squandered it on an expensive waste that offered viewers puerile jokes, a screenplay that went absolutely nowhere and the sight of Natalie Portman humiliating herself only a few weeks after taking home the Oscar for her work in "Black Swan." Other entries in the past year's parade of laughless losers was "Hall Pass," a feeble sex comedy that highlighted the continued decline of the Farrelly Brothers, "The Hangover Part II," which was virtually a carbon copy of the original, only with fewer laughs (if such a thing was possible), "The Change-Up," a shockingly dirty minded body-switch comedy that even fans of slob comedy found to be a disgrace, "Swinging with the Finkels," a barely-seen sex comedy that offered up a scene involving Mandy Moore, a cucumber and Jerry Stiller that will haunt me until the day I die, "What's Your Number?," an utter waste of the talents of Anna Faris that was even more embarrassing due to the fact that Faris herself produced it and "The Sitter," an annoyingly raunchy riff on "Adventures in Babysitting" that was also directed by David Gordon Green, a double-shot of dreadful that help send any number of hard-core auteurists into a massive funk.

7. THE IRON LADY: For this look at the life of Margaret Thatcher, England's first female Prime Minister, Meryl Streep reunited with "Mama Mia" director Phyllida Lloyd and the end result is exactly the kind of political biopic that one might expect from the auteur of "Mama Mia"--a seriously confused mess that, in the words of another dramatic work about another politically powerful woman, doesn't say much but it says it loud. Even the much-hyped Streep performance fails to help matters much--it is nothing more than an okay impression that offers no real insight into what made Thatcher tick and pales in comparison to such comparatively complex portrayals of real-life people as Michelle Williams' work as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn" or even Streep's turn as Julia Child in "Julie & Julia." Other real-life stories transformed into really dreadful dramas in 2001 include "The Devil's Double," in which the story of madman Uday Hussein and the lookalike duped roped into being his body double was transformed in a loathsome and low-rent "Scarface" knockoff, "J.Edgar," in which Clint Eastwood took the potentially intriguing tale of how J. Edgar Hoover developed the FBI and became a power-hungry megalomaniac in the process and transformed it into a muddle that had no coherent idea about what it wanted to say about the man or his work and "W.E.," Madonna's stylish-but-empty look at the Wallis Simpson scandal (albeit intertwined clumsily with a modern-day story that paralleled its events) about which the best things that could be said about it are that it looked good and that it was better than "The Iron Lady."

8. ARTHUR: How does one go about coming up with the year's most useless and unnecessary remake/reimagining? Take one perfectly good movie--in this case, the charming 1981 screwball comedy about a cheerfully drunken millionaire torn between keeping his money or risking disinheritance to be with the lower-income woman of his dreams--and then mess things up by making the material too politically correct for its own good (Arthur in AA?), replace the irrepressible Dudley Moore with the charmless and borderline loathsome Russell Brand, wildly miscast the roles of the two women vying for his attention (the utterly likable Jennifer Garner is stuck playing the hateful bitch while giving the love interest role to the dreadfully dull Greta Gerwig), squander the one inspired piece of casting (Helen Mirren in the sarcastic butler role previously played to perfection by John Gielgud) by neglecting to give Mirren much of anything to do. The result was not only an insult to the original "Arthur," it was an insult to "Arthur 2: On the Rocks." Other pathetic attempts to improve on things that were perfectly decent in the first place included "Straw Dogs," "Conan the Barbarian" and "The Thing." By comparison, the remake of "Footloose" at least had the dignity to be just as crummy as the original.

9. CARNAGE: Under normal circumstances, the combination of one award-winning play (Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage"), four exceptional actors (Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly) and one of the world's greatest filmmakers (Roman Polanski) would theoretically result in a can't-miss masterpiece but if there is one thing that this utter disaster, in which the parents of two children involved in a playground scuffle meet to discuss the matter and devolve into sub--"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" hysterics, does, it is miss in virtually every way possible. The screenplay is so woefully thin that most viewers will wonder why the original play was so highly valued in the first place, the quartet of actors, lacking any genuine characters to play, quickly lapse into one-dimensional hysterics and even the normally sure-footed Polanski is uncharacteristically off his game here--he kicks the proceedings off on exactly the wrong note and continues to stumble throughout and the result is one of the very worst films to date from one of our very best directors. Other scandalous wastes of talent to emerge this year include "New Year's Eve," a star-studded mishmash that lacked the quiet dignity and coherence of "The Cannonball Run II," "Hesher," an obnoxious indie botch that trapped Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and others in what could only be described as an unholy blend of "Garden State" and "Fight Club," "Fireflies in the Garden," a drab domestic drama that, despite a cast featuring Julia Roberts, Willem Dafoe, Ryan Reynolds, Emily Watson and others, sat on the shelf for years with what turned out to be good reason, "War Horse," in which the celebrated children's story and stage play was transformed by Steven Spielberg into a mawkish muddle that practically throttled viewers into submission and "Trespass," a ridiculous home invasion thriller with Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman that was so insanely goofy that it inadvertently became one of the year's funniest films by default.

10. THE SMURFS: Although there were plenty of good-to-great family-oriented films released in 2011, the vast majority of them were dwarfed at the box-office by this loathsome live-action/CGI hybrid that brought the relentlessly cheerful and relentlessly idiotic blue-skinned cretins to the big screen and surrounded them with vocal contributions from slumming celebrities (ranging from Jonathan Winters to George Lopez to Katy Perry), dated pop-culture references (with the low point possibly being when Perry's Smurfette inevitably remarks that yes, she kissed a Smurf and she liked it), weird celebrity cameos (including Sofia Vergara, Joan Rivers and Michael Musto) and an obnoxiously self-reflexive approach to the material that feels like nothing so much as a desperate attempt to attract the kind of viewers who wouldn't go to a Smurf movie at Smurfpoint. Other kiddie-oriented craptaculars of note included "Cars 2," the disappointingly unambitious sequel to the not-exactly-great original that played more like a commercial for its lucrative toy line than the kind of nuanced work normally associated with Pixar, "Judy Moody and the Not-Bummer Summer," chronicling the astonishingly unappealing misadventures of a shockingly obnoxious pre-teen brat that could have only ended happily if it had concluded with the title character being lowered head-first into a stump grinder, "Mr. Popper's Penguins," which saw Jim Carrey stepping into Eddie Murphy territory (among other things) as an overworked businessman who learns to sit back and smell the roses (among other things) when he takes possession of a group of penguins and "The Adventures of Tintin," an overstuffed, undernourished attempt by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson to bring the internationally popular comic book hero to the big screen in a noisy, ugly-looking monstrosity that resembled an exceptionally uninteresting video game.

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originally posted: 01/03/12 09:50:52
last updated: 01/03/12 12:54:36
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