The Guilty Pleasure Films of 2011

You may snicker when looking over this list, but these are the films of 2011 that made us feel guilty for loving them so -- and love them we do.

Film: Drive Angry

Director: Patrick Lussier

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, Billy Burke, William Fitchner, David Morse


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Display Width: 200Drive Angry

Leave it to Patrick Lussier, director of 2009’s guilty pleasure gorefest My Bloody Valentine, to strike guilty pleasure gold again in 2011. Drive Angry is pure exploitation trash from start to finish. Nicolas Cage plays a man who has escaped from Hell to prevent a satanic cult from making his infant granddaughter a human sacrifice. He favors big cigars, big guns, and early ‘70s muscle cars. Ass-kicking waitress Piper (a tough-as-nails Amber Heard) just happens to own an early ‘70s muscle car and has nowhere better to be. So she teams up with Cage for a cross-country trip to track down the cult. What follows is an orgy of car chases, shootouts, and 3D used exclusively to throw crap at the audience. While Drive Angry sometimes gets too self-consciously over the top for its own good, the gung-ho cast keeps it afloat. Billy Burke is hilarious as the Elvis-aping evil cult leader, Tom Atkins has a great cameo as a sheriff, and William Fitchner steals the show as the buttoned-down emissary from Hell sent to bring Cage back. Chris Conaton

Film: Immortals

Director: Tarsem Singh

Cast: Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans, Isabel Lucas, Kellan Lutz, Freida Pinto, Mickey Rourke


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List number: 9

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Tarsem Singh can do better. He proved it when he wrote and directed the gorgeous, inventive, and moving labor of love The Fall. Immortals, his entry into the 300 knock-off club, drops all of those descriptors save "gorgeous", and even Tarsem's living-painting compositions, so vivid and arresting most of the time, can occasionally look cheap (or at least fake), or dimmed by the 3-D version many people doubtless saw. Yet, this deeply stupid warriors-versus-gods-versus-warriors with zero interesting characters is also a lot of fun, full of crazy dissolves, baroque ultraviolence, and elaborate costumes. In other words, it's a lot better than The Cell, Tarsem's last wide-release project. For that matter, it's a better movie -- less self-serious, less racist -- than 300, too. Jesse Hassenger

Film: Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star

Director: Tom Brady

Cast: Nick Swardson, Christina Ricci, Don Johnson, Stephen Dorff


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Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star

I may be the lone critic who will actually admit to having enjoyed Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star. Was the film brimming with crude, juvenile, sex-based humor? Absolutely! However, if you’re expecting a cinematic classic on par with Citizen Kane from a film in which Nick Swardson stars as a buck-toothed Midwestern yokel who discovers his parents were porn stars in the ‘70s, you’ve obviously approached Bucky Larson with the wrong frame of mind. Armed with his pornographic pedigree, Bucky tries to make it big in the San Fernando Valley. Initially laughed at for his “small” screen presence, Bucky eventually becomes a star because he makes his audience feel better about themselves by comparison. It’s a stretch to read a deeper message on train-wreck culture into Bucky Larson. That said, I still find it far more shameful to admit to having watched Kim Kardashian's wedding for “cultural value” than Bucky Larson. Lana Cooper

Film: The Rite

Director: Mikael Håfström

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue, Alice Braga, Toby Jones, Rutger Hauer


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The Rite

After a string of humdrum roles, Anthony Hopkins redeems himself as Father Lucas Trevant, a possessed priest in The Rite. As far as horror films go, The Rite is enjoyable, yet far from groundbreaking. It blatantly flips through “The William Peter Blatty Handbook” to come up with a story of a young man of the cloth confronted with a crisis of faith -- and a mentor possessed by a demon -- when he travels to Rome. The film’s plot is a little above your standard horror flick possession (thankfully, they forwent the omnipresent "shaky cam" which seems to be a fixture in this type of movie), but Hopkins sells it. He goes from likeable, slightly rebellious ex-pat priest to a deliciously scenery-chewing fiend, smacking kids and hurling insults while under the influence of a demon. The plot may be somewhat familiar, but Hopkins’ performance makes The Rite… ahem… compelling to watch. Lana Cooper

Film: Your Highness

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux


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Your Highness The ingredients for a prestige picture are all here: Oscar-certified young stars Natalie Portman and James Franco, revered character actors Charles Dance and Toby Jones, and director David Gordon Green -- onetime heir to the Malick throne. One would expect the product of their combined talents to be met with awards-season lauds. Not so with Your Highness. Written by actor Danny McBride and Ben Best and following McBride’s collaboration with Green on Pineapple Express and Eastbound and Down, Your Highness parlays the success of that comedic output into a fifty million dollar period fantasy about two princes on a Krull-like quest to rescue a maiden (Zooey Deschanel) from a maleficent wizard (Justin Theroux). Released in April, the film was met with terrible reviews and disappointing box office, resulting in what could quite literally be described as an “epic” failure. Yet for a small minority of filmgoers -- me included -- the movie’s affectionate and absurdist take on the fantasy genre is one of the funniest and guiltiest pleasures of the year. Splendidly shot by cinematographer Tim Orr, Your Highness provides a level of escapism rarely achieved by a straight take on this kind of material. Much of this is due to the brotherly chemistry of Franco and McBride and especially the vengeful comic verve of Portman as a warrior princess. Make the quest. Thomas Britt

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