An American Film Geek's Bottom 10 for 2011

Featured Critic; St. Louis, MO
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An American Film Geek's Bottom 10 for 2011
I'm grateful that of the over 100 newly released films I saw in 2011, only maybe fifteen qualify as truly lousy. To top this list, a movie must not be more than bad; it must be downright anger inducing. No single type of film fared worse than comedy in 2011, although you will see plenty of other types of offenders on the list below. (At least one that many other critics have included on their Best Ten lists.) I love comedy, therefore it is all the more important to single out the horrifically bad ones, so that perhaps in future years, perhaps, just maybe, we could be spared the same gross, insulting missteps. (For good comedy of 2011, check out "Crazy, Stupid Love", "Bridesmaids", and "Win Win".) Here I present my annual list of the all-around duds I sat through so hopefully you won't have to. The italicized segments are sampled from my own previously published reviews:

1. The Hangover Part II  - This is supposed to be a lot of fun. It's not fun. It's nothing but a tedious and pointless rehash that was better left alone. "The Hangover Part II" is the kind of sequel that, upon seeing it, ultimately makes you work to maintain the same level of love for the original that you once had. It diminishes its perfectly good predecessor for a pointless, glossy cash-grab. The film is long and dull, predictable and familiar.

2. The Change-Up - Since this was playing immediately following the "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" screening which I was there for, I thought "what the heck", and opted to give this raunchy body-swapping comedy a try. At the end of the night, I had seen one excellent movie about monkeys, and then a horrible one that was apparently made by monkeys.

3. Atlas Shrugged Part I - Atlas wasn't the only one shrugging through this one, the first entry of a proposed trilogy (which I presume is derailed off it's blue tracks). When it comes to casting and production value, "Atlas Shrugged Part I" has been rightfully compared to a sub-par made-for-TV mini-series from the late 1980s. The typically non-cinefile American Tea Party demographic the producers so shamelessly courted to the theaters should feel insulted all around.

4. Cedar Rapids - Any discerning viewer looking for the next witty comedy should know the two faces of "Cedar Rapids": It is a shamelessly cliché-driven gag-fest when it wants to be funny, but it waves the flag of its conflicted and irresolvable grown-up character situations when it wants indie cred. It is somehow trying to be both lowbrow and highbrow, but ends up just browbeating and pandering.

5. Women on the 6th Floor - Shot like a second-rate modern episode of "Masterpiece Theater", and taking place in 1962 for no apparent reason other than to perhaps stir the nostalgia of the target audience, "The Women on the 6th Floor" is a lame duck of film, making tired and shallow proclamations about class in relation to inherent happiness and satisfaction of life.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for SoulSurfer.jpg6. Soul Surfer - Don't let the bewildering array of positive reviews and box office success fool you - the true-life tale "Soul Surfer", ostensibly an "inspirational" film, is a soggy tween-centric "Triumph of the human spirit" movie gussied up with just enough Christian-ese to muster the approval of youth pastors everywhere.

CaveForgottenDreams.jpg7. Cave of Forgotten Dreams - There's no way around it - "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" is boring. Terminally, draggingly, boring. The subject could be an interesting one, but I suspect that once Herzog's creative visions fell victim to the heavy restrictions of the cave managers, his entire inspiration for the project became weighed down. Even his trademark bluntly Zen narration sounds more like self-parody than the transcendent directory it's intended as.

RumDiary.jpg8. The Rum Diary That bleary-eyed sensation you may be overcome with while watching "The Rum Diary" is not the contact high of classic Hunter S. Thompson vigor and delirium coming through. No, it's just plain old sleepiness.

green-lantern-movie-poster-350.jpg9. Green Lantern - Clearly hoping to cop Marvel's winning "Iron Man" formula (casting a magnetically likeable actor as a second tier hero), the fact that poor Ryan Reynolds' personality cannot fill this cosmic comic book CGI super-suit is just one of this big budget bomb's many fails. What should be a fun space romp proves dull and muddled.

the-art-of-getting-by-movie-poster-350.jpg10. The Art of Getting By - Despite the authentic New York locations and the wealth of name talent in the cast, "The Art of Getting By" can't transcend its low budget roots. The visual direction is uninspired and flat, and the writing is faux-clever pandering.

Others to avoid: Immortals; Cars 2; Drive Angry

My Top 10 Films of 2011

- Jim Tudor

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More about 2011 Best Of Lists

MichaelDecember 29, 2011 8:15 PM

"At the end of the night, I had seen one excellent movie about monkeys.."

It's called Planet of the Apes, not Planet of the Monkeys. Apes are not monkeys. Why is this difference so difficult to understand.

VyceVictusDecember 30, 2011 4:42 AM

Because no one cares.
Or rather, no one will care untill we bend to the will of our new ape overlords.

VyceVictusDecember 30, 2011 4:52 AM

I'm curious about your inclusion of soul surfer; you're the first I've seen to have it on your worst list. Are you holding the fact that its a tween movie against it? From other reviews I've read, Monte Carlo would appear to be a substantially worse movie.

I guess the christian stuff may rub people the wrong way, but I imagine a movie that's at least legitimately trying to do the positive message for young girls thing certainly would be considered a better endeavor than a throwaway Disney vehicle for one of its cash cows.

Jim TudorDecember 30, 2011 11:48 AM

Hey VyceVictus. Regarding "Soul Surfer", I simply found it shockingly inept, and as a Christian myself, awfully embarrassing. You're probably correct that something like "Monte Carlo" would be worse, but I didn't see that one. 2011 has been noteworthy for films featuring Christian characters and themes in a non-judgmental way. By my count, there were four, each one extremely different from the next in terms of perspective, depth, and overall artistic success. ("Tree of Life", "Soul Surfer", "Machine Gun Preacher", and "Higher Ground"). Two of these films were great ("Tree of Life", "Higher Ground"), the other two were misfires of varying degrees. But of those, "Soul Surfer" is the truly mortifying one, presenting itself as a Christian film, when in reality it fails to challenge it's audience in any way (and it had the potential to do so), settling to a feelgood "triumph of the human spirit". All hymns, sermonizing and faux-introspection in the film is merely badly steered ham fisted dress-up, meant to pander to a particular demographic. There's nothing wrong with a decent feelgood tween film (I've worked as a crew member on a few!), but this wasn't it. Not for me, anyhow.

Tom StoneJanuary 28, 2012 8:51 AM

I saw less than 15 that were truly great. I couldn't make a top 10 as I only had seven films -- I don't add padding. Hurm.