15 Bad films from 2011

15 Bad films from 2011

Written by FilmFellaDarren

They say there is no such thing as bad publicity; which is why the end of the year polls covering the worst films are rather counter-productive. The best way to deal with a bad film would be to not mention it – as really, no publicity is bad publicity. Going to contradict myself here as I am about to rant about the worst films I saw last year,  and deep into January too. Well, ripping a bad film apart is a good form of therapy if you love movies; you get a sort of wry satisfaction out of it, I suppose a bit like the wry satisfaction experienced by an angry disgruntled man hidden in a crowd shouting aggressive insults at players, to make himself feel powerful, at some sporting event. Err, not that I am likening myself to a disgruntled troll on a terrace, um, moving on. 

Now I’m not saying that this is the definite list of the worst films of last year. To compile that list you would have to sit through all the pain-inducing clag Hollywood has to offer which is enough to drive a person to do something a bit too rash like punch a tween in the face or petrol bomb a multiplex. I’m sure there are worse films out there than this. I wasn’t unfortunate enough to see the inevitably crass New Year’s Eve and if you did, I’m sure it would make your worst list. Or the South America soap opera masquerading as gothic horror that is Twilight part 19, hence its absence You won’t see me raging against the machines either as I wanted to retain what little remains of my fond childhood memories of the robots in disguise by avoiding the Transformers sequel all together, but for my money, this is a pretty dreadful list of films.

15. Sherlock Holmes: Game of shadows. 

Allowing Guy Ritchie to reinvent the cherished Sherlock Holmes novels for blockbuster entertainment seemed about as good an idea as allowing Michael Bay to reduce the complete works of Shakespeare into a three hour effects driven blockbuster. Yet Guy Ritchie surprised everyone with the first film, delivering a fun and entertaining film that was breezy but still made room for an interesting and engaging plot. All the elements were again assembled, and to give it credit, Downey Jr. and Law were again fun as the bickering central characters. Yet the film didn’t work nearly as well as the first film, chiefly because there were big, big problems with that plot. It should be simple enough to grasp – it just  involves Holmes long term arch villain Moriarty’s plan to manipulate trade to create a world war for financial gain, but it is stretched out to accommodate far too many set-pieces and it becomes so convoluted that it is impossible to stay interested in it. Ritchie mistook confusion for mystery and the plot seemed to take a backseat to the action-set pieces. It’s hard to suspect just how weak the plot is given the director uses so many whip-pan edits and slick camera tricks to, throw off the audience and suggest it is all better thought out than it actually is. It worked the first time, it has worn thin now. Look closely and you can see how he does the trick. The off-kilter comedy in this disappointing sequel seemed to be a distraction to disguise all the problems with the story. Sherlock Holmes: the game is up.

14. Hanna. 

Controversial pick this one I know as I’m aware a lot of you in internet land really like this film. Personally, I think it is a good idea poorly executed by director Joe Wright. When we first see Hanna – Saoirse Ronan – she is believable as the cold and detached girl of the wilderness who allegedly has a reduced capacity for pity. She looks capable of anything, and her presence is interesting. The problems start when she enters civilization. It doesn’t take long before you forget about her past and see her as any other teenage girl. Then she loses her sense of threat and the aura the young actress created for her. The relationship she strikes up with another teen she meets, seems unlikely given she is supposed to not have the ability to feel anything. The teen is so irritating and socially difficult, that even a priest would want to shake her. Yes, I get there is a parallel between her and Hanna. The teen is like a modern teenager to make a point. But as a narrative the film goes flat. And Hanna seems harmless rendering her back-story unconvincing. The Chemical brothers thrilling score really was underemployed too, used as it is in a rather dull action scene. Also, there is a badly directed subplot involving Grimm fairy-tales which is so vague it makes the ending seem un-invitingly surreal rather than symbolic. And the characters, particularly the hapless fat German guy seem badly designed. Why would the CIA hire someone that useless?

13. Green Lantern 

It’s hard to take a superhero seriously who is wandering around in a hideous green Halloween costume displaying the power of his ring. Other superheroes would not exactly be green with envy would they? After Buried, Ryan Rynolds was starting to get some credibility so why he would jeopardize that by signing up to play this camp, sub-standard superhero is bewildering.  His character is aloof and apathetic, lacking the anguish that really makes an interesting superhero.  The films blend of reality and silly fantasy mixes as well as oil and water. The jarring plot leaps back and forth from the outer-reaches of the universe and then back to earth, it doesn’t work at all. The design is also garish and kitsch and the aliens are way too cartoonish.  You do get a hint that there is probably an interesting back story in the graphic novels, but you also get the impression it’s all too complicated to render in a two hour effects movie, so the film doesn’t do justice to that idea and the content is really just lost in space.  And there is too much bloody green in it.

12. Limitless 

Hey are you a hopeless nobody going nowhere? Does your life resemble the squalor of this guy’s? Want to make some changes? Hey don’t worry – you don’t have to work hard on self-improvement. Hard work is so old fashioned. No, now you can take this wonderful pill. Yes, just a few pills and you can turn yourself from a hopeless chump into Bradley Cooper. You can have limitless energy intelligence and ability JUST TAKE THE PILL! JUST TAKE THE PILL! YOU WILL TAKE THE PILL. The whole screenplay of this dubious pharmaceutical endorsement disguised as a movie, played like an internet pop-up ad.

When you’ve seen the film in it’s entirety and gone on the rollercoaster of emotions: extremes ups and – milder than expected – lows that define this character’s experience on his newly discovered ‘wonder’ drug, there is something unsettling and dubious if you pause for a second and reflect on the film. Given that we live in a society that is far too medicated – even the kids are on Ritalin – and said drugs pacify rather than stimulate the majority of users, sorry prescribers, there is something quite unsettling about a film that clearly attempts to kindle a feeling of desire in the audience for the persona changing drug on screen.

Darkness must befall the willing drug user on screen right? That would certainly have been more interesting than what actually happens. Now, the film does throw in some conflict, and a downside to the character’s incessant and irresponsible use of the ‘wonder’ drug, but you get the distinct impression the film tries to gloss over the potentially harrowing downside – that involves the mild inconvenience of death – and instead keeps things light and frothy, downplaying the consequences of long term use, the negative effects are hinted at of course but sidelined in favour of indulging in this man’s fantasy. Ultimately, Cooper’s character is considered to be an intelligent and winning guy for giving himself up entirely to the whim of the drug portrayed. In reality, regardless of his false success, he is an idiot for being so weak minded. So it’s hard to be seduced by the lure of the film and resist the director’s desire for you to switch off your brain and watch a man artificially improve his own mind. Sinister plot points, which briefly show Eddie in a morally murky light, are literally swept under the carpet and bewilderingly left dangling as loose threads which the director refuses to tie up as he doesn’t want us to see Eddie as anything other than a cool, winning guy. Everything about it was disturbing and sinister, and not in a good way.The action is engrossing enough but the tone of the film is dubious to say the least. The tagline of the film was, ”What if a pill could make you rich and powerful?” The film itself does it’s level best to get you hooked on that concept. Isn’t there something quite worrying about that?

11. Arthur 

It’s really hard to see how an alleged comedy about a drunken spoilt man-child squandering his considerable wealth on frivolous crap was ever going to tickle the funny bone in a recession. Is it a satire of moronic vacuous playboys and their empty lives of consumerism? If it is it missed its mark – we don’t want to be reminded of how the rich waste money even under the guise of comedy. It would have been bad enough if it was original but this was a remake of the much loved comedian Dudley Moore’s best film. Moore was drunk and likable. Russell Brand however was over-the-top, irritating and so unlikeable you want to repeatedly smack him in the face with the worthless shite he purchases throughout this awful film.

10. Red Riding hood

Bland and bloodless re-telling of the classic children’s fairy-tale made purely for the emo Twilight crowd. There is something dark about all the age old children’s fairy-tales and there is room for a gothic and twisted postmodern re-imagining. Sadly this wasn’t it. There are so many silly, patience testing moments but the moment the generic CGI wolf speaks has got to be one of the most ridiculous moments in a film all year. Amanda – what big eyes she has – Seyfried had potential in the role, but the director is merely content to use her as an object in a mind-numbingly dull relationship triangle between two hunks for hire. Not even a lively cameo from Gary Oldman can save the film from mediocrity. Very unconvincing, and a worrying sign that the new trend in re-imagining fairy-tales – which is about to give us Snow white and the huntsman; Jack and the beanstalk and Hansel and Gretel – might tarnish those great stories.

9. Apollo 18 

There have been lots of films that used the ‘found footage’ idea recently – this is by far the dullest use of the format. The filmmakers behind this have done the seemingly impossible: they have made a trip to the moon frightfully dull. How could a trip to the moon be this turgid and uneventful? In space no one can hear you snore. It doesn’t help that the film is shooting for realism yet it has the least convincing bunch of astronauts ever assembled.  It attempts to be an atmospheric horror movie, and admittedly there is a good idea behind it, but the underwhelming scares it does muster are tired old jump moments. After building up for quite some-time it reveals itself to be the most hackneyed of creature features. It’s a bit like someone decided to recreate Cloverfield on the moon using rubber spiders from a joke shop.

8. Skyline 

If you walked into a studio with the idea behind the screenplay for this generic alien invasion movie, the studio execs would march you back out again saying: ‘come back when you have thought of an idea more original, or indeed an idea at all. Even in this culture of endlessly recycling old movie plots this stands out as pointless and infuriatingly unimaginative. It’s a plot that could be summoned up in six words: aliens attack an L.A apartment block. That is it. It doesn’t help that the residents of this apartment block are boring spoilt L.A rich kids who are impossible to like or care about. I wanted the aliens to be even less merciless to them. Spoiler alert: In the films laughably big finale the motive behind the alien invasion seems like an ill-conceived afterthought. They were after human brains. Yes, of course, if you’re an advanced alien super race with technology far superior to human technology you are going to need a few brains belonging to vacuous half-wits in an apartment block. It would have made more sense if they had invaded a university and even then it would be ludicrous. It’s like something that would happen in a spoof of an alien movie. But there is no humour here – just a few hours of quite mind-numbingly dull and uninspiring effects – possibly the most turgid alien invasion movie of all time. Enough with the invading aliens already Hollywood. 

7.  I am number 4 

Executive producer Michael – the destroyer – Bay should have just called it I am number bore. If you sat through this insipid, tension-less formulaic Matrix rip-off you would be pleased that Bay saved us features covering what happened to numbers 1, 2 and 3. The plot was codswallop – something about some charmless dopey teen discovering he has special powers so  he has a duty to save the planet from trench-coat wearing alien goths straight out of a Marilyn Manson video. He’s a candidate for most unlikely world saver ever. He’d probably let evil prevail if he could score a night with the hot blond chick at his high-school. This was a movie firmly aimed at the teen crowd. If you are a teenager who hasn’t seen many movies you might like this, everyone else will spot just how derivative it is a mile away. In every sense this was filmmaking by numbers.

6. Hangover Part 2 

This was about as fun and funny as an Absinthe induced hangover. The Hangover 2 was content to regurgitate the same jokes from the last film as well as peddle tired old Thai stereotypes for lazy, borderline racist, offensively bad laughs. The crew, particularly Zach were so obnoxious and over-bearing it was impossible to like them. Crazy drunken and wild antics in Vegas are funny. Crazy drunken antics in another country are embarrassingly painful to endure. Every night there are a million idiots like this getting drunk and causing havoc in foreign countries. The last thing we needed was a movie suggesting this was a cool thing. The gang do such hilarious things as being loud and arrogant at a monks sanctuary, start a bar riot, oh and who could forget the moment where they caused a promising young musician to lose his fingers – ha bloody ha? No, it was badly misjudged. This was about as funny as watching a bunch of pissed up leary Western idiots, getting drunk then urinating and spewing on sacred monuments with a total disregard to the locals. Also what is with the constant portrayal of men in their thirties as clueless, hopeless, pathetic and useless man-children? Calling all men in their thirties, lets march to Hollywood and protest at the derogatory representations we are being tarnished with.  Enough already with this lazy depiction Hollywood.

 5.  Battle L.A.  (And joint fifth) Captain America: The first avenger

Battle: L.A was a blatant war cry and salute to the American army thinly disguised as an alien invasion movie. The aliens don’t really matter, hence their bad design here. They are just bland tin can men to be shot at. What matters is that the invasion is on U.S soil. Thus justifying any use of whatever hideous weaponry the effects guys can muster. Cue endless carnage and explosions and a tone horribly over-playing the heroism of the U.S troops. The pro-war message in this was deeply disturbing. It was designed to get the blood pumping in young men, enough to get them to be lured by the prospect of combat. If you are a young man who felt roused by this, then I’d be wary. You have fallen for the most sinister piece of propaganda released by Hollywood all year. If your entertainment consist of movies like this and endless hours in the realm of dingy war computer games, then be careful, or in a few months you may find yourself standing on the front-line in Afghanistan pathetically waving a stick at the hostiles as you realise you are programmed cannon fodder. America doesn’t need to bring back the draft when we have movies like this churned out by the machine. People will willingly sign up. I half expected there to be an army recruitment number just before the credits. When your country is  at war there will be at least a few films like this every-year.  By the same token, Captain America was tired old war-favouring propaganda too. It was really an unsettling exploration of  the America military’s fascination with creating the super solider, passed off as a superhero movie. It’s an action movie to provide a fantasy for pro war nut-jobs.  The super soldier was covered far more interestingly in The Hulk sequel and that seemed to condone the creation of a super solider rather than endorse like Captain America did.

3.  Don’t be afraid of the dark

This is a silly horror movie with the kind of daft plot that seems ripped from a particularly bad episode of a children’s television show like Goosebumps or Are you afraid of the dark? Even the childish title suggests the inspiration came from those children’s television show. It’s so lazy and arbitrary they might as well have called it Jitterbugs or Boo! Now the house itself is the star of the film. It creates a foreboding atmosphere and it really deserves a better standard of supernatural threat. But you know a film is in trouble when the best performance is delivered by a house.

The problems for the film start when the creatures, which look menacing in the shadows, come forward and look horribly comical in full view. They are one foot mischievous imps; if a randy elf raped a rodent, then their ugly offspring would probably look like these ankle biting critters. They are talking rats! Talking rats!

Films which feature one-foot monsters – or talking rats – usually have the good sense to not take themselves too seriously and instead play for laughs as well as scares. After all, if you can kill a creature by stepping on it, then how threatening can it really be? Gremlins and Critters were both franchises that adopted a tongue-in-cheek tone and therefore they were both funny and occasionally frightening. The director of Don’t be afraid of the dark makes the big mistake of taking the screenplay deadly serious. It doesn’t have a chance of scaring anyone over ten years old. Don’t be afraid of the dark was about as much fun as waking up in the middle of the night to find a rat sitting on your face crouching in the crapping position.

2. Season of the witch

For the first hour you are watching an-abuse-of power-by -the-catholic church-in the middle-ages- movie – in the vein of such classic seventies movies as The Witchfinder General and Ken Russell’s The Devils.  It’s all pretty dumb, humdrum and forgettable, but at least it has the good sense to make the clergymen look sinister megalomaniacs abusing their power to suggest the witch hunts were really about misogyny.

In an inexplicably stupid twist, the film starts to switch the context, casting the murderous clergyman in the role as heroes, as the film starts to suggest the Catholic church were right to mercilessly hunt down women who seemed a tad suspicious, as you know, they might have been witches and hey, it’s better safe than sorry as those dirty witches could have caused the black death. It actually seems to suggest the witch hunts were a good thing. To justify this, suddenly, the most shoddy and cringe worthy hocus-pocus supernatural nonsense starts kicking off in every corner, it would be laughable if it wasn’t so damn infuriating. And quite where Nic Cage got his peroxide blond hair in the middle ages has baffled me for months. Offensively bad – A film that seems to endorse the murder of women, sorry I mean witches in the middle ages.

1. Sucker Punch

‘If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything’ Scott Glenn says to the bevy of one dimensional, scantily clad FHM models, unconvincingly posing as ass kicking action heroines. Was it a dig at any sucker who had been lured in to this effects show real masquerading as a movie? I.E all of us? It felt like it. Sucker Punch was a total con: a cynical exercise in crass commercialism that may be a worrying sign of things to come. Hollywood shamelessly tried to chase the lucrative audience of young teens and brazenly disregarded a story characters or even a believable set-up even more recklessly than they usually do. It was mind-bogglingly hollow, silly and insultingly vacuous; anyone who was unfortunate enough to have watched it felt like they had been trapped in the jumbled dreams of a disturbed teenage boy who had spent all day Googling girls, actions and explosions. It was less a movie and more like something some fanboy might throw together to ensnare unsuspecting youtube viewers. Disturbingly toxic.

Don’t agree? Fair enough. Seen a worse movie than these all year? If so I pity you – you’ve suffered greatly you poor thing. Throw the name of it down and I’ll avoid it in the future. Name and shame your worst films and you could save other unsuspecting film fans from cinematic torture.  Go on, get mad as hell… don’t take it anymore. Rant, rant… RANT!

List compiled by @filmfelladarren

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About Filmfella Darren
Film critic, writer and long-time cinema appreciator. I write about cinema matters, because cinema matters. Like your clothes and your laptops, my articles were made in Taiwan.

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