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.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.

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Stan Diego Comic-Con

Stan Against Evil returns November 1st.

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Another Comic-Con International is in the can, and multiple nerdgasms were had by all – not least of which were about the Stan Against Evil roundtable discussion. Dana, Janet and John dropped a whole lotta information on what’s to come in Season 2 and what it’s like to get covered in buckets of demon goo. Here are the highlights.

Premiere Date!

Season 2 hits the air November 1 and picks up right where things left off. Consider this your chance to seamlessly continue your Halloween binge.

Character Deets!

Most people know that Evie was written especially for Janet, but did you know that Stan is based on Dana Gould’s dad? It’s true. But that’s where the homage ends, because McGinley was taken off the leash to really build a unique character.

Happy Accidents!

Improv is apparently everything, because according to Gould the funniest material happens on the fly. We bet the writers are totally cool with it.

Exposed Roots!

If Stan fans are also into Twin Peaks and Doctor Who, that’s no accident. Both of those cult classic genre benders were front of mind when Stan was being developed.

Trailer Treasure!

Yep. A new trailer dropped. Feast your eyes.

Catch up on Stan Against Evil’s first season on the IFC app before it returns November 1st on IFC.