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DID YOU READ

The best flops of 2011

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The end of the year is a cruel time for movies. Everything gets broken down into winners and losers: this film got a nomination, this one didn’t; this film is the best, this one isn’t. But movies aren’t nearly so black and white. A film can win over the hearts of every person who sees it, and still lose at the box office. Whether it’s because of marketing, piracy, word of mouth, or plain old bad timing, good movies fall through the cracks all the time. This list will celebrate a few of the best movies of the year that also happened to be some of the worst grossing movies of the year.

There are a variety of ways to define a flop. The Hollywood Reporter‘s list of the biggest flops of 2011 includes one or two movies, like “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie” and “Sucker Punch,” that outgrossed their budgets (before marketing costs). Hollywood accounting is more of an art form — or a shell game — than a science. So I went with a simple qualification for the list you’re about to read: if the movie cost more to make than its worldwide gross, it was eligible.

Here are my picks for the best flops of 2011. Winners all, at least where it counts.


“The Beaver”
Directed by Jodie Foster
Estimated Budget: $21.0 million
Worldwide Box Office: $6.3 million

A black comedy about a suicidally depressed man who finds stability (and later further insanity) in the form of a talking beaver puppet would have been a tough sell under ideal circumstances. In the wake of star Mel Gibson‘s ongoing personal problems, it was basically an impossible one. “The Beaver” was far from perfect — the subplot about Anton Yelchin as Gibson’s son went nowhere and director Jodie Foster weirdly gave her own character the short shrift — but Gibson himself was wildly impressive as a broken man in freefall. Even if he had some real life experience to drawn on. Read my full review here.


“Killer Elite”
Directed by Gary McKendry
Estimated Budget: $70.0 million
Worldwide Box Office: $52.9 million

“Killer Elite” wasn’t one of Jason Statham‘s best vehicles, but it was another rock-solid action movie from the most dependable star on the planet (his other 2011 vehicle, “The Mechanic,” was even better, but it cost less and made more money). Clive Owen made a fabulously evil (and fabulously mustached) antagonist for Statham, and the fight scene where Statham beats up two dudes at the same time while tied to a chair is the best scene of the year nobody’s talking about. The plot, about the machinations of a secret cabal of wealthy British businessmen called The Feather Men, definitely crept into so-bad-it’s-good territory — especially when The Feather Men spent an entire secret meaning explaining to each other why they’re called The Feather Men (“Because our touch…IS LIGHT!”). Plus Robert De Niro, playing an aging mercenary who’s obsessed with money, hasn’t been this believable in years. Read my full review here.


“Drive Angry 3D”
Directed by Patrick Lussier
Estimated Budget: $50.0 million
Worldwide Box Office: $28.9 million

2011 was not a great year for Nicolas Cage. The combined revenue of his three starring vehicles — “Season of the Witch,” “Drive Angry 3D,” and “Trespass” — was less than the box office totals of either of his 2010 films, “Kick Ass” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” both of which were also considered disappointments. But if audiences didn’t show up to “Drive Angry,” that was their loss: it more than delivered on its promise of exploitative thrills. Patrick Lussier’s drive-in throwback was saddled with dual misfortunes: it came at the tail end of a slew of mediocre-to-bad Cage vehicles and at the tail end of a slew of mediocre-to-bad 3D movies. But Cage was great as a man who escapes from hell on a quest for revenge and William Fichtner was even better as the man hell sends to bring him back. Highlights included a simultaneous sex scene and gun fight and Cage drinking beer out of a dead man’s skull. Now that’s entertainment. Read my full review here.


“Conan the Barbarian”
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Estimated Budget: $90.0 million
Worldwide Box Office: $48.7 million

The problem with “Conan” wasn’t so much what director Marcus Nispel made but how he made it. $90 million bucks on a schlocky barbarian flick? Even if that number is slightly inflated — IMDb puts the figure at $70.0 million — it’s still way too high. In comparison, the original “Conan” cost approximately $20 million to make back in 1982 or roughly $46 million 2011 dollars when adjusted for inflation. In other words: half as much. If they’d spent $20 million bucks on this thing, they’d have themselves a modest hit. Jason Momoa was no Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he was good with a sword and a growly retort, Ron Perlman was fun as Harry from “Harry and the Hendersons,” and Rose McGowan gave a hilariously campy performance as an evil witch woman. The deaths were almost as spectacularly gruesome as the film’s box office flameout, if you’re in to that sort of thing.


“Warrior”
Directed by Gavin O’Connor
Estimated Budget: $25.0 million
Worldwide Box Office: $23.0 million

Last but definitely not least — last but most, really. I already wrote about “Warrior” in our best genre movies of 2011 piece, where I called it “the most inexplicable flop of the year.” This movie really had everything you would want from a sports movie except maybe a bankable star, but this sort of rags-to-riches underdog story always works better with a relative unknown in the lead. Great acting, great MMA fights, great training montages; the only way I can make sense of “Warrior”‘s failure is by reassuring myself that people will find this movie on DVD and embrace it. Since the movie is about men who’ve gotten kicked around their whole lives finally making something of themselves, that outcome would be rather appropriate. Read my full review here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka3vpNlR8qI


What was your favorite flop of 2011? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.