The Worst Movies of 2011

Posted on December 30, 2011 at 10:13 am

I was lucky to miss several of the films that have been showing up on worst lists for 2011, especially “Jack and Jill” with Adam Sandler (and Al Pacino!), already the clear front-runner for the Razzies.  But I was able to put together a list of miserable failures that are awful enough.  To get on my annual worst list, it is not enough for the movie just to be terrible.  It has to be downright atrocious, showing contempt for the audience or otherwise violating the bond between those who make movies and those who buy tickets to see them — the promise that they will make the best and truest movies they can.

1.  “Mars Needs Moms” One of the biggest money-losers of all time, this motion-capture film failed visually, with its human characters disturbingly unexpressive.  But it was the storyline that was the real problem, with weirdly retro gender politics and unnecessarily unsettling peril.

2. “Arthur” One of two unnecessary remakes on the list, this one gets extra badness points for terrible use of Nick Nolte and Helen Mirren.

3. “Just Go With It” Adam Sandler’s even more unnecessary remake of the delightful “Cactus Flower” is appallingly clueless about its own offensiveness, with even the good guy characters portrayed as heartless mercenaries.

4.  “Zookeeper” This talking animal movie about a lovelorn zookeeper substitutes “frickin'” for stronger language to get a PG rating but forgets to substitute wit and heart for the inane and insulting screenplay.  Extra badness points for wasting the talents of not just stars Kevin James and Rosario Dawson, Ken Jeong (a humiliatingly shrill, borderline racist caricature), Donnie Wahlberg as an animal-abusing zoo staffer, and voice talents Nick Nolte (again!), Cher, Sylvester Stallone, and Don Rickles.

5. “Red Riding Hood”  Oh, Grandma, what a big, bad movie this one is.  I had to invoke the infamous Gothika Rule to save audiences the misery of sitting through it.

6. “I Don’t Know How She Does It”  I don’t know why they made it.  One of the worst mistakes a film can make is overestimating the appeal of its characters.  This film insults working mothers and human beings everywhere.

7. “What’s Your Number?” We are supposed to root for the heroine to realize she has not thrown herself away in a series of unpleasant and demeaning sexual encounters.  But she has.

8.  “Hall Pass” Perpetually childish men are constantly chastened and terrified by scary mommies with daunting sexual demands.  Bad times!

9.  “Sucker Punch” Not so much punch, but a lot of sucker.  Hint: if the theme of the movie is female empowerment, heels and spangled miniskirts subvert the message.  And the best images were taken from artist Ashley Wood.

10. “Bad Teacher” Bad movie.

Dishonorable mention: “Crazy Stupid Love” for spoiling a clever comedy with misogyny and a pervily positive portrayal of a teenage girl giving nude photos of herself to a middle schooler, and “Anonymous” for incoherent story-telling and sheer stupidity in its portrayal of just about everyone including Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth.  The two worst movies for children: “The Smurfs” (Joan Rivers cameo?  Really?)  and “Hop” (a Hugh Hefner sexy bunny joke?  Really??)

 

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Lists

Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil

Posted on April 28, 2011 at 6:52 pm

The Weinstein Company may be nowhere near the gold standard set by Pixar in the imagination and technical ability of its animation, but it beats all ten of the champion’s justifiably lauded classics in one category. Pixar has yet to produce a single film with a female hero, while “Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil,” has two, both brave, strong, compassionate, loyal, smart, and independent.

As director Mike Disa wrote in The Huffington Post, female characters in animation – the human ones anyway – are nearly always focused on love and family.  “How many animated films have you seen where the female lead is little more than a cliché object for the hero to impress in the last reel? Face it, if you want to be a strong female character in animation you are better off as a mouse.”  He was determined to make a movie for girls and boys with female characters whose idea of happily ever after did not necessarily mean the perfect date.

The first “Hoodwinked” movie was a fresh and funny take on the tale of Red Riding Hood, with appealing characters and a clever script to make up for animation that tended to be static and pedestrian.  We entered the story at the climax, with the woodsman breaking into Granny’s house just as Red realized it was a wolf wearing Granny’s nightie.  As each of the characters explained what happened to a patient cop who happens to be a frog (elegantly voiced by David Ogden Stiers) we learned that everything we thought we knew about the story was wrong and any assumptions we had about the intentions and capabilities of the characters was entertainingly turned inside out and upside down.  The wolf (with the impeccably wry voice of Patrick Warburton, “Seinfeld’s” Puddy) was merely a reporter trying to get a story. Granny (voice of Glenn Close) had a secret – she was an X-games champion.  The burly, ax-wielding huntsman was a gentle soul who just wants to yodel.  Red did not need to be rescued by anyone.  And the real villain turned out to be the adorable little bunny named Boingo (voice of Andy Dick), who was trying to steal Granny’s recipes.

As the sequel begins, Red (voice of “Heroes’” Hayden Panettierre, replacing Anne Hathaway) has taken a leave of absence from working with the Wolf at a super high-tech law enforcement operation called HEA (for Happily Ever After). She is studying with the Sister Hood, a training camp high in the mountains with a combined program of martial arts and cooking.

Surveillance experts Bo Peep and her sheep, stationed at the control center’s bank of monitors, report that two children have been seen in the vicinity of a house made out of candy.

Wolf tries his best, but this time huffing and puffing won’t blow the door in.  To rescue little Hansel (voice of Bill Hader) and Gretel (voice of Amy Poehler) and Red’s granny from a masked wicked witch named Verushka (voice of Joan Cusack), he needs some help.

Red has yet to learn the Sister Hood’s most carefully guarded secret, the missing ingredient in the magic truffle recipe.  She still makes the mistake of getting distracted from her task by impetuous pride and impatient insistence on doing things herself.  But those lessons will have to wait – or be learned on the job — as she races to the rescue.

Red and Wolf get the help of old friends: the frog cop (who mutters “Mammals!” when things get out of hand), Twitchy the over-caffeinated squirrel (voice of co-screenwriter Cory Edwards), a banjo-playing goat, the yodeling huntsman (voice of Martin Short), and even an old enemy – Boingo, now confined, Hannibal Lecter-style, in prison. Welcome new additions include Wayne Newton as a singing harp, Cheech and Chong as two of the three pigs, and David Alan Grier as Moss the Troll, who tries to keep Red from crossing his bridge.

The jokes come very fast, with a whirlwind of pop culture references from “Happy Days” to the Food Network, “Goodfellas,” blogging, and the Disney classic “Mickey and the Beanstalk.”  There are some nice 3D swoops and drops, but the more vertiginous entertainment of the film is in the script as once again what we think we know about fairy tale heroines, villains, mean girls, old ladies, witches, and happy endings are deliciously turned upside down and inside out.

(more…)

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3D Animation Fantasy Series/Sequel

Red Riding Hood

Posted on March 12, 2011 at 8:00 am

Oh, Grandmother, what a big, bad movie you have.

So, apparently what happened here is that for whatever reason director Catherine Hardwicke did not get to make the second and third “Twilight” movies, so she decided to make a different hot supernatural teenage romance triangle instead, even keeping one of the same actors in a similar role (Billy Burke as the girl’s father). Twilight may not be great literature but it sure feels like it next to this mess.

Hardwicke’s two great strengths are her background as a production designer and her skill in working with teenagers. Both desert her here. We’re in trouble right from the start, when we see the little village. Instead of evoking fairy tales or rustic, rough-hewn country construction, it looks over-produced and over-designed, like a Christmas ornament rejected by Thomas Kinkade.

The village has maintained an uneasy peace with a savage wolf. Each full moon, they leave out their choicest livestock for him, and the rest of the time he leaves them alone. But the fragile pact is broken when a girl in the village is killed. Valerie (doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried) is the younger sister of the girl who was killed. She is a spirited young woman who has been betrothed by her parents to Henry (Max Irons) but plans to run away with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). With her sister gone and the town at risk, she is not sure about leaving her parents and grandmother (Julie Christie).

Henry’s father is killed in an expedition to kill the wolf, but the hunters bring back a wolf head and prepare to celebrate. But the local priest (Lukas Haas of “Witness”) has brought in an expert (Gary Oldman), who tells them that the animal they killed was an ordinary wolf. The creature they must kill is a werewolf. That means he or she is human by day. And that means that the killer they are looking for is one of them, someone who lives in the village. Suspicion and betrayal become as critical a threat to the village as the wolf itself.

But neither as as big a threat to the movie as the inability of Hardwicke and screenwriter David Johnson to maintain a consistent tone, with drippy voiceovers (“he always had a way of making me want to break the rules”), anachronistic howlers like “Get me outta here,” and a sort of 18th century rave dance-off. The fake-outs intended to be archetypal and creepy are simply silly, and by the time someone yells, “What happened to the rabbit, Valerie!” any connection to the power of the original story is gone for good.

Those of you who know what the Gothika rule is know what to do!

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“Gothika Rule” Action/Adventure Based on a book Fantasy Romance

New Site for ‘Hoodwinked Too!’ — Exclusive!!

Posted on March 4, 2011 at 4:38 pm

HW2_1sht_WOLF_mech07_783px.jpgI’m really looking forward to “Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil,” opening on April 29. I loved the original Hoodwinked for its very clever four-part intersecting narrative from the point of view of the characters and for its excellent visuals and voices, including Anne Hathaway as Red Riding Hood and Glenn Close as Granny. It was irreverent without being snarky and one of the best animated films of 2005. As my friend and fellow critic Dustin Putman said:

Kids of all ages will be thrilled by the breakneck pace, the brightly developed and performed characters, and the lovely animation that mixes modern computer-generated technology with an old-fashioned style and feel that befits its fairy tale origins. This latter elements personifies the forested setting as a memorable character all its own, and makes the most of its set-pieces, including a rickety wild ride on a roller-coaster-like mountain track and a runaway cable car.

So I was thrilled to get a peek at the upcoming sequel with the new Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil website. Patrick Warburton and Glenn Close return as the Wolf and Granny and new voice talent includes “Heroes'” Hayden Panettiere as Red and “SNL’s” Bill Hader and Amy Poehler as Hansel and Gretel. The website just went live and so now you can check out Red & Granny and their friends in action, with clips from the film, the trailer, and goodies like wallpapers, icons, posters and more. And you can follow Twitchy all through the site. Coming soon — screensavers and, best of all, some of Granny’s very own recipes to try at home. And of course you can follow the movie on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check it out!

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