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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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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