This was a cool year for movies! The list you see is the final version of the list. To see a progression of how I came to this list, simply read the subsequent articles leading up to the Oscars in Feb 2013.
The venom and hate spewed at this film astounds me. I have read the books by Burrows, and I thought the film was ok. The action was good, actors did a fair job, and it was a decent, if flawed, adaptation of the original work. I walked out happy to have spent a couple hours in Barsoom!
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D
What a money grab this was. With all the time and effort supposedly devoted to the transfer of this film into 3D, I was hoping for a bit more. Unfortunately, it suffers the same fate as all the post-conversion 3D films- blurred action, tough to see darker scenes. Luckily I like the film, which is why it did not score lower.
This could have been a great film. “Machete” showed us that Danny Trejo is a movie star, and is capable of greatness. When I first saw a trailer for this tale of an old man who beats up a few skinhead jerks and becomes famous, I was more than intrigued. It starts off quite well, but devolves into action movie nonsense by the end. Shooting off one-liners while in a car chase between two motor-coaches sounds cool, but was ultimately without substance. A good film, but not great.
The Three Stooges
I enjoyed this return to the world of the stooges. The cast was excellent, the humor in tune with the originals. The Farrelly brothers did a great job with this. Plus it had Kate Upton in it. Lets refocus here. Kate Upton….
Sacha Baron Cohen strikes again! This time as an Anti-Semitic dictator of a fictitious African nation. Great humor, but without the edge of Borat or Bruno. I appreciate Cohen moving away from “mockumentary” style filmmaking, but he needs a little more polish.
The Amazing Spider-Man
I really like this movie, but did not love it. In many ways it was a truer representation of the comic book version of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. In other ways it was a huge diversion from the comic, particularly in the origin aspect of it all. One thing that must be acknowledged is that Andrew Garfield is a far superior Peter. Emma Stone brought a lot more to the plate than Kirsten Dunst. This film just needed to bring a little more into the story than was present. I understand what they were trying to do, and they largely succeeded, I suspect the sequel will bring it all together.
Get the Gringo
I only saw this one recently, and I was very surprised by how good it was. Mel Gibson is a pariah in Hollywood these days. He is trying to get back on top, but I don’t think it’s in the cards for him. What he delivers here is a top notch action film in the vein of his fantastic “Payback”. He is a criminal in a Mexican prison unlike any prison I am familiar with. The acting was great, the story interesting, and it was shot well. You don’t need much more than that.
A joy ride of a film. Packed with muscles, guns, and more inside jokes than you would believe is possible. We saw Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, and Chuck Norris tear the screen up with their awesomeness. A good time at the movies. Far superior to the first.
Wreck it Ralph
This was a fun movie about the “secret world” inside arcade games. The voice acting was good, and the animation up to the Disney standard. The humor was there, and morals were plentiful for the kiddies. A decent Disney film that could have used a few more “Arcade game worlds” to suit my tastes.
Comic Con IV: A Fan’s Hope
The best documentary on San Diego Comic Con. If you want an understanding of why I have travelled across the country 8 times for this convention- this movie holds the secrets.
Casa de mi padre
How the hell do I review this insanity. It is a tongue in cheek look at the Mexican Telenovellas starring Will Ferrell speaking nothing but espanol. They explain his bad Spanish accent as him being “a little slow in the head”. It was funny, but strange.
Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie
If Casa de mi padre was tough to explain, how in the holy hell do I even begin with this one?! It’s almost not even a movie! Sadly, I did enjoy seeing their schtick though- thus the honorable mention. Here is a video clip:
There were a lot of movies that would have beaten the three selections here. I fortunately did not see most of those films. What makes these the worst is that these were films that I was really anticipating. Potentially great films that went awry, and that pisses me off.
3: Red Tails
George Lucas has been making this movie for over 20 years. On paper, it is everything he has been wanting to bring to the screen since the 70’s. The Star Wars space battles were based on WW2 dog fights. This film is about WORLD WAR 2 DOG FIGHTS. What the hell happened?! The dialogue was not particularly good. The editing bizarre at times. The special effects were quite good- great even, but they don’t guarantee a good film. This film had some great actors who were utterly wasted. When the TV version of the Tuskegee Airmen is superior to the multi million dollar extravaganza, its time to hang it up. I suspect this had a lot to do with Lucas’ decision to sell Lucasfilm.
It was a chilly and stormy night in New Hampshire. The cast of “Cherry Valley”, myself included, sat around our Director’s living room to have some dinner and watch a movie or two. The Grey, starring Liam Neeson was the choice of those present. What followed was a very bizarre 2 hours. I cannot fault the actors, they were all extremely good- especially Neeson. There just reached a point where a wolf was eating a corpse, and Neeson, seeing this- dives at the wolf screaming “You Mother Fucker” and starts fist-fighting it. This was the point that co-star Anna Rizzo and I acknowledged that this movie was ridiculous. Once again, I get where they were going, but the final scenes, and especially the after credits scene, was more laughable than poignant.
Worst of the year
1: Wrath of the Titans
Holy Hell. I was one of the 7 people that enjoyed the first movie in this series. I eagerly anticipated a return to the world of Greek Mythology, especially for an original tale! What followed was horror. Hades became a good guy, ALL the gods died. Poseidon, played by the great Danny Huston, dies right off the bat like a chump- giving this actor nothing to do…again. It was all a jumbled terrific mess of a movie. I have rarely been so let down.
Lets interject here with an examination of one actor- Liam Neeson. What happened man?! Titans and Grey made this list, but he released two other films that probably would have been on it- Taken 2 and Battleship. Why hast thou forsaken us!?
Now, the good stuff::
13: Beasts of the Southern Wild
This is a film that grew on me. I am not entirely sure if that kid needed an oscar nomination, but it was a beautifully made film.
This is one that is popping up on SO MANY “worst” lists. My suspicion is this: people went in expecting ALIEN 5,6, or whatever the hell number they were on. What they got was a smart, well written, better acted, hard Science Fiction film. This is not about Aliens eating people and causing terror. Alien did that perfectly well. This is something else entirely. It is a meditation on the origins of human life, whether human life is successful and should flourish, or whether we are a failed experiment that should be destroyed. It was so good, that I am shocked that any reasonable person could not “get it”. I highly anticipate the sequel.
Now THIS is more like it. THIS is Judge Dredd. True to the comic, through and through. We never, NOT ONCE, see Judge Dredd without his helmet. Judge Anderson is present, without a Rob Schneider in sight. The abomination that is the Stallone Dredd is forever wiped away. This film, besides being watchable and well written, was also one of the best shot films of the year. It definitely featured the best use of 3D I have seen since the realD explosion.
10: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I loved my return to Middle Earth. ‘nuff said.
9: Hunger Games
I covered this pretty thoroughly In a previous post. In short- It is the anti-Twilight. A film about a STRONG young woman, who finds the strength within herself to survive…despite any odds. This was a really great movie.
8: Zero Dark Thirty
A terrific film making exercise. Well written, well acted.
7: The Dark Knight Rises
Equal to The Dark Knight in every way save the performance of Heath Ledger. It was a good “Final Story” for Batman. I watched this at its premiere in one of the theaters that was screening the trilogy. Seeing them all, in a row, really drives home the link these films share. They work together thematically. It is a complete story by one of the better Director working today.
6: Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson being Wes Anderson. Terrifically cast, and well directed.
Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal. Deserved the Oscar.
4: Les Miserables
Fantastic adaptation of the musical. Memorable as all hell.
3: The Avengers
There are no words that can express the joy of seeing an unapologetic COMIC BOOK MOVIE on the big screen. This IS the Avengers. It hit all the right notes. It was what comic book fans have been dreaming for decades. One review stated that it was as if Joss Whedon travelled back in time and filmed my imagination when I was 9. A real achievement.
2: Django Unchained
I just wrote up a glowing review of this one, just scroll down the page! Seriously, it is one of Tarantino’s best. He is a master at the height of his powers.
This is it baby. This is possibly the best Bond Film ever made.
It featured a unique story for the series, which i thought really gave the actors a chance to shine, as well as create some gripping adventure. I feel this completes a trilogy of sorts with the previous 2. It finishes the origin story of James Bond which began in Casino Royale. At the start of the film, Bond is finally over the death of Vesper and is finding himself. This is the final construction of “Casino-Bond” into 007, as we knew him.
Craig has hit his stride. Like Connery and Moore before him, his 3rd entry was his best Bond yet. I am so happy they signed him for 2 more. Craig is knocking on Sean Connery’s door as the best actor to play 007.
Javier Bardem, one of my favorite actors, plays a memorable villain. My wife Tatum was creeped out by him, which was a sign that he nailed a perfect performance. Ralph Fiennes, one of her favorite actors has a great part as a government oversight guy. She and I are split on the new Q, I liked him, she thought he was a dick (which is probably why I liked him). Bond Girl Eve was underutilized until the finale of the film, and Judi Dench gives her best performance as M.
The Opening credits were fantastic, and take on greater significance once we know the story. This was, in many ways, a return to classic bond. The Bond theme song is front and center in several scenes, as opposed to being an after-credits thing.
Roger Deakins proves why he is one of the best Cinematographers alive with his stunning visuals.
If you love Bond, see this movie. It is easily the best acted of any of them, top 3 for the series, and my favorite film of 2012.