It can't be helped. Every year, no matter how hard you try, you're bound to see at least a few pieces of crap at the cinema. You may have the best intentions and all the excitement in the world going in, only to be beaten about the head with shoddy storytelling, idiotic and unbelievable characters, cheap special effects and boredom. Oh yes. It can be a tough time going to the movies. Generally speaking, I am able to steer myself away from the craptitude of the likes of Alvin & the Chipmunks 3: Chipwrecked - one of the rare times I'm thankful I don't do this professionally and have to see this type of soulless cinema as part of my job. But it's impossible to come away unscathed.
Often these sorts of lists have more than their fair share of Hollywood blockbuster cinema-destroyers and no-one is more shocked than I that I don't have more of them on this list. But I've really tried to limit this list to those films that really got to me, in the worst way possible. And this often comes from disappointment. It comes from expecting something great or different or even, heck, fun and getting served up something utterly lacking. That's why films like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Transformers: Dark of the Moon aren't on this list; I wasn't expecting much from them in the first place. They are of typical modern day blockbuster, in that bad they may be and filled with little more than sound and fury, but I can barely remember anything from them. They were basically white noise, with the occasional moment (good and bad) jumping out.
The following films, however, left me feeling despondent and disappointed. Films that I have absolutely no regard for and would warn ye off from. Abandon all hope ye who continue reading. The titles link to my original reviews.
Aggressive stupidity on a massive scale. How stupid did I think this film was? Its on here and Transformers !!! isn't. Taking two things that are currently en vogue - alien invasions and shakey cam action - this was an ADHD mess, anchored by a solid Aaron Eckhart. He is the honest-to-gods best (and only good thing) about this film. This film that, with its shooting choices, was striving for realism in a fantastic situation was entirely let down by its unbelievably cliche characters.
The "shakey cam" effect in these types of films is quickly wearing out its welcome and Battle: LA may very well be the nadir. The effect is here overused to nauseating and headache inducing results, with the cinematographer seemingly unable to frame a shot or keep anything in focus. An utter failure on just about every level - story, character, camera and even FX - this was the big budget mess of the year.
Space Battleship Yamato
Continuing the theme of stupid sci-fi... Y'know, I was fairly excited for this adaptation of an old Japanese anime. The far flung future, with humanity fighting it out in space against aggressive alien invaders? And the spaceships all look like battleships with jet engines? That sounds like a slice of fried gold to me! I like some crazy Japanese films as much as the next guy (Karate Robo Zarbogar, Milocrorze: A Love Story) but Space Battleship Yamato is poorly paced, cheap and zero fun.
And that's the biggest problem with Space Battleship Yamato: it's no fun. I could have forgiven this film a lot if it had only been something approaching the lowest order of exciting. I'll happily wave away poor visual effects work, cheap sets and nonsensical story if I get the feeling people are having fun with it. But they weren't. So, instead Space Battleship was inert and childish.
This is, frankly, a big shock for me. I would have initially expected Another Earth to at least make it to the "also-rans" column when wrapping up the year. But, much like last years Splice, it instead falls into the Blog Post of Cinema Awfulness. I dearly love me some intelligent, small budget science-fiction filmmaking. I bang on about it often here on the blog and there have been a number of truly great examples of this type of work in recent years.
Unfortunately, Another Earth, really isn't one of them. Understand, I went into this with high hopes and an open mind. But this trite and immature dwelling on grief, with the spectre of a newly discovered parallel and identical Earth slowly growing, is obvious and maudlin. Toss in even more unnecessary "shakey-cam" and, hey presto! Welcome to the bottom of the heap Another Earth. An absolute shame to have you here.
The Devil's Business
An unfortunate entry from Fantastic Fest, I've seen films from high-school kids with more atmosphere and more to interest me than this utter bore. I had no expectations for The Devil's Business, as it was one of those many festival films I hadn't heard about.
Two English gangster cliches - the cold old hand and the over-eager new guy - hang about in the house of their intended target. Snore, bore. The majority of the film's time is taken up with these two uninteresting characters blathering away at one another. There's some attempt to build up an atmosphere and lead us toward the spooky finale but... nope. Didn't work.
The central idea may have worked as a mildly entertaining short film, but inelegantly stretched out to feature length it instead becomes a deflated slog. By the time of the (long seen) reveal, I was totally uninterested. One of those films where I couldn't wait for it the end to come, just so I could leave.
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
The most recent entry in this year's list and yet another film I initially would not have expected to have on this list. But then, that's often how they wind up here isn't it? I don't go into films expecting to be disappointed!
As I mentioned in my review, I was expecting Detective Dee... to be some sort of martial arts Sherlock Holmes adventure (and distinct from Guy Ritchie's martial arts Sherlock Holmes). Instead, it was a fair bit of a mess, never happy to settle being on thing or another; whether that be palace intrigue, supernatural mystery or kung-fu film. The great Sammo Hung choreographed the fight scenes but they're all unfortunately limp and uninteresting with director Tsui Hark over-relying on CGI.
For something that could at least have been a little bit of fun, Detective Dee instead bored me with its overly complicated plot, wildly uneven tone and weightless action.
So there you have it, my least favourite films of 2011. You can also read my break down of my least favourite films from 2010 here and I'll be posting the Runners-up for the Favourite Films of 2011 list in the next day or two.