That time of the year again. After a sub par 2011, I thought 2012 was filled with enjoyable, and some transcendent, movies. It was an amazingly strong year. In mid-summer, my #8 movie was ranked in my top two movies of the year, and was beat out by 6 movies that arrived later in the year. Brave is the first Pixar movie not to appear on my top 10 list. And a movie that I truly loved, The Hunger Games, is on the outside looking in.
Please note that the links take you to my reviews of the movies, where available.
Honorable Mentions: The Amazing Spider-Man, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Brave, The Cabin in the Woods, Chronicle, Django Unchained, The Grey, The Hunger Games, The Master, Jack Reacher, John Carter, Paranorman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Pitch Perfect, Wreck-It Ralph
Worst or most disappointing movies of the year: A Thousand Words (because, well, Eddie Murphy), Killing Them Softly (a waste of time), Prometheus (I liked it, but not up to billing), The Raven (boring), Red Dawn ( an insult to the cheesy classic), Savages (terrible adaptation), Taken 2 (please, take it back), This Means War (horrendous), Total Recall (why?), We Bought A Zoo (how could a movie with Scarlett Johannson and Matt Damon be so boring?)
10. Moonrise Kingdom
This is a film that I caught, in of all places, on a flight from Hyderabad to London. I don’t think I otherwise would have picked up this film. Glad I got the chance to see it. In another of Wes Anderson’s wacky storytelling genre films, a young orphaned boy and strange but pretty girl who have fallen in love plan a daring escape to be together. Following them are the girls parents (played by the brilliant Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). The boy is an escapee from a scout group led by Edward Norton, while Bruce Willis plays the town sheriff. In his own, quirky way, Anderson creates one of the most optimistic movies of the season.
There are few movies that made me really think as much as Looper did. Time travel movies area always hard to pull off without either appearing cheesy, having huge plot holes, or simply making no sense whatsoever. This movie pulled it off, with great acting jobs from both Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
When I saw this movie in mid-summer, I thought other than The Avengers it was the best movie of the year. What is utterly amazing is that the seven movies ahead of it came after that point in time…one sign of what a good year for movies it was. This movie was not up to the level of its predecessor, with along with The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather Part II are among the best sequels ever, but the dark environs of Gotham still are fascinating. Yes, there is plenty of plot holes and some questionable plot decisions…but still a great addition to the series.
7. The Hobbit
The Hobbit is far from a perfect movie. It is an hour too long, in a story that is now going to stretch two entire more movies. It has the feel of the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings, which are fascinating for Tolkien lovers, but not for casual fans. That said…it is a very enjoyable romp through Middle Earth, with a host of new characters. And the scene with Bilbo and Gollum in the cave is worth the price of entry alone.
After a glorious restart with Casino Royale, the new Bond films hit a bump with Quantum of Solace. With Skyfall, they appear to be back on track. It is basically a movie that reminisces about the past, with many references to Bond of yesteryear. It may be the most emotional and heart-felt of any of the James Bond movies ever. But more importantly, the movie sets up a new future for the Bond series that I am very excited about, for the first time in a long time.
OK, I admit it: Ben Affleck has talent. Affleck directs a fantastically laid out rescue plan after the 1979 Iran Hostage taking at the American embassy, where the CIA sets up a Hollywood company and pretend that six American fugitives who escaped the embassy were, in fact, Canadian film-makers scouting locations for a picture to be shot in Iran. What follows is the secret agent version of a heist movie, but is still engrossing and entertaining. I almost forgive Affleck for doing Daredevil…almost.
Yes, I know. It is a mainstream blockbuster summer movie. I don’t care what you think. The Avengers is a fabulous cinematic experience. Joss Whedon does what few directors could have done: bring several tent pole movie characters together, develop a repertoire that makes the ensemble realistic, and then allows them to kick ass during an alien invasion of New York.
3. Les Miserables
How does a musical sell in this day and age? Not easily. Chicago won the Academy Award a few years back (and I hated that movie). But Les Miz is maybe the most beloved musical of the modern era. To pull it off takes great skill, and many have failed before. But this time, they succeeded. Hugh Jackman stuns as Jean Valjean, and Anne Hathaway is glorious as Fantine. Both are definitely on my list for Best Actor/Actress awards. The rest of the cast is fantastic as well, and it will certainly challenge for the Best Picture as well. Maybe the best Musical movie in the modern era…and I don’t make that claim lightly.
2. Zero Dark Thirty
This movie actually opened in very limited release last week, and I was lucky enough to get in on an early review. This was a movie that, during the election campaign, took on a lot of political meaning, but in the final analysis, was not political at all. The story is focused on how for a decade, an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret across the globe, devoted themselves to a single goal: to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden. Kathryn Bigelow does a brilliant job of making this moving engaging and heart dropping, and gives those heroes that live in the shadows of our government the kudos they so well deserve. Bigelow holds no punches, showing how ‘enhanced interrogations’ and other methods, some that are detested by many, were at times critical to the discovery of Bin Laden, and at times led them astray. The movie does not defend those actions; it simply states the reality of the entire endeavor, and what it took to kill America’s number one enemy.
This is not a film for everyone. First and foremost, it is worthwhile just to see Daniel Day-Lewis in all his glory. I think this may have been his greatest acting role ever, and if not the Academy Award, a nomination is at least deserved. As for the movie itself, history buffs and the like will adore this portrayal of reality. Others maybe should take a pass. But for those that are truly interested in one of the most important moments in history, with maybe our country’s greatest President dealing with issues that would shape the nation to this very day…this is a must see. It was the most transcendent movie of the year, and the one I think is most likely to be watched 10, 20, and maybe 50 years from now.