It happens every year. A handful of films come out that are funny, smart, entertaining… but they fail to connect with audiences for reasons we can’t understand. And we're not talking about snooty art-house fare like "Tree of Life" or "Drive"—we get that Terrence Malick and Nicholas Winding Refn aren’t for everybody.
No, we're talking about movies with a wide appeal, movies that play as well in the Red States as the Blue States, that are devoid of pretension, that speak to your basest desire to just turn down the lights and have a great time at the movies, "a burger and fries and a gallon of Coke," as Kurt Loder wrote earlier this year in reviewing the first of our picks for 3 Great Movies You Ignored in 2011 for No Good Reason:
1. "Fright Night" – Suffering from severe vampire fatigue after years of "Twilight" and "True Blood" and the rest, we weren't sure we were ready to love another vampire. And then along came the brilliant Colin Farrell as Jerry ("That is a terrible vampire name. Jerry?"), in this remake of the '80s classic. After Jerry moves in next door to Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin), and starts sniffing around—literally—his sister (the stunning Imogen Poots, who's as sexy as her name is ridiculous) and mom, the battle is on. Screenwriter Marti Noxon, a veteran of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," struck the perfect balance of funny/scary, and director Craig Gillespie made Noxon's words spring to life. This movie had everything from a great cast to laughs to suspense and action… And yet, this new version failed to make as much as the 1985 original—and that's in real dollars. When you adjust for inflation, it didn’t even make a fourth of its predecessor's haul.
2. "Winnie the Pooh" – OK, we get that Disney put all their chips on a different reboot, the admittedly magnificent "The Muppets," but that in no way excuses the way they completely abandoned the gang down at Hundred Acre Wood. With its lush hand-drawn animation, clever direction, pitch-perfect narration from John Cleese, a beautiful collection of songs featuring Zooey Deschanel, and a cast that includes Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet and Rabbit, this film should've been a hit. Instead, it failed to recoup even its modest $30 million budget. How on Earth did this film make less than a fifth of what "The Smurfs" did?
3. "Warrior" – Gavin O'Connor ("Miracle") proved yet again that he understands better than any other director working the inherent drama and rhythms of sports with this tale about two estranged brothers on a collision course in the finals of a mixed-martial arts tournament with a $5 million prize. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton were great, as was Nick Nolte as their alcoholic father (what a strecth!). Hell, even "House" alum Jennifer Morrison was fantastic as Edgerton's wife, giving a turn that should make us all wonder why exactly Hollywood got so excited about her replacement on the hit show. Despite great reviews from critics and fans, this film failed to make as much as your average MMA pay-per-view fight, taking in a measly $13 million.