2012 was an outstanding year for movies – still putting it lightly. Won’t be able to see movies from 2013 until late February, so for around another month, reviews from 2012 will be written. So, without further a due, my best of the year list.
When the credits started up, I had to sit through them. It didn’t have anything to do with the fact that I wanted to see them, or loved the song. As soon as it ended, it was mulling over in my head. By the end of the credits, my only thought was, “wow.” The Perks of Being a Wallflower is just one powerhouse of a movie. It has everything, it’s entertaining, funny, dark, sad, deep, and insightful, hits you emotionally, and really resonates with you. Movies dealing with high school have never been one of my favorite subjects to watch. Most haven’t been all that great, and are almost all the same. It is rare, but a few have come out that have actually surprised me. This is taken to another level with The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
2. Zero Dark Thirty
Controversy aside, Zero Dark Thirty was one excellent, well crafted movie. It kind of reminded me of Zodiac. It is a dialog driven, and spans over a long period of time. The story has countless elements to it, I was engaged, and highly interested all the way through. Jessica Chastain has been in many movie over the past couple of years. Although, here, she has a quiet performance, she had to do a lot. Subtly is poured into the role. She makes a character out of nothing – no personal background is given to the character. Kathryn Bigelow followed up The Hurt Locker with something on it’s level. That was surprising; looking forward to what she does next.
I have stated before that crime is one of my favorite genres. Every year, plenty of crime movies come out, but most of them are just okay. After The Departed and Gone Baby Gone, I’ve failed to see a crime movie that made me instantly love it. What separates this from other movies in its genre – among other things – is the realism. You end up forgetting you’re even watching a movie. Most-cop movies now a day have been about crooked cops and how they abuse power; at times, I had to remind myself that there are good cops in the world. It’s nice to have cops portrayed as the heroes some truly are. The acting was phenomenal. One of the biggest accomplishments in the whole movie is the excellent chemistry Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena have. Whenever both of them are together you get that feeling they’ve been doing their job together for years. To quote one of Ayer’s other movies,” King Kong, ain’t got s**t on this!” Seriously, this is far better than any of the King Kong movies.
Ben Affleck has gotten a lot of hate; mostly, throughout the beginning of his career. Some people thought he was undeserving of that screenplay Oscar he shared with Matt Damon. While not all the hate was justified, a great deal was. Everything changed for good though back in 2007. Affleck’s directional debut – Gone Baby Gone – was simply outstanding (it’s in my top fifty). Then he comes out in the Company Men and State of Play. He was picking his roles better and actually delivering solid acting. The Town was his second movie as a director. While it didn’t measure up to his previous one, it was still a fine structured engaging crime thriller. Still, people could say he only directs well when the movie takes place in Boston. Affleck changes even that now with Argo. He’s three for three and someone to keep an eye on when you hear his name is attacked to anything. Argo is a sure-fire Oscar contender; what makes this different from others is that everyone can like this.
The story is used to phenomenal effect. Let me just get something out of the way first and foremost. There is not a twist at the end where the world really doesn’t come to an end; make no mistake, it ends. Also, the main story of the movie revolves around both dodge and Penny nearing the end of all days. We see how they observe the world, observe other people around them and deal with the inevitable. What I love about the movie is the journey you get taken on. When the news is initially brought to the attention to the people, after it’s settled in, and everything in between was handled in a real kind of way. How would you deal with a situation like that? What would you do? What would you feel? I love how these questions play out.
The Grey is a very philosophical movie. Everything in this movie is masterfully done. The dialog is exceptional. All of the characters are developed well. You “feel” for every person – even the characters that originally came across as less than good before they were thrown into the hellish nightmare of the film’s predicament. The script explores its character’s struggle to come to terms with the fact that they each may die. Whether anybody does die or not isn’t the point. They each believe that they may die at any moment, and the point is how each of them deals with that omnipresent threat or fear. Each character is a metaphor for something. Joe Carnahan, who also directs the film, and Ian MacKenzie Jeffers deserve major credit for writing a taut psychological drama/thriller/part action film that works. Liam Neeson does wonders with the role as well.
What I like about Django Unchained is it works on an entertaining level while also going beyond that. Was going in with expectations skyrocketing through the roof, and while not a masterpiece, some true greatness is there. Also, almost all the performances are Oscar worthy. Some potential was left chained, but still extremely well done and one heck of a good time.
Wes Anderson has such a – I know this is overused, but it’s accurate – wonderfully quirky style. It’s impossible not to watch one of his movies and not know your watching his movie. His style is unique and when done right is extremely well done. While his style is always there, he does different small things in each one of his projects. With Moonrise Kingdom, it’s a mix of everything he’s ever done. At times, it wouldn’t feel right (very rare), but the styles mesh organically as a whole. Anderson’s idiosyncratic film making sensibilities have served him well here; a sense of innocence is wrapped inside a frequently humorous adventure you don’t really want to end. Some scenes are very good while others are pure gold. Moonrise Kingdom is right up there with Rushmore (barely not up to that level), but doesn’t quite reach the greatness of The Royal Tenenbaums.
Among other things, Prometheus is a throwback to classic science fiction. Of course, it had to be Ridley Scott to do this. I can’t elaborate on any of my nitpicks because they would all enter spoiler territory. Plenty of science fiction movies have come out year after year. Some are good, but for the most part, they are forgettable. I haven’t seen all the science fiction movies that have come out, but the only one I loved and can remember of the top of my head is District 9. I now have another one to recall. There is a lot going on here; this is definitely a movie that you have to see twice to understand it completely. Sometimes endings can hit you over the head with the fact that there’s going to be a sequel. Here though I can say I’m anxious for the next installment. My problems bothered me to a point, but there is plenty to love here.
10. Review – Lincoln
Lincoln was something I was looking forward to seeing for a good long while. Really, though, how can it not get your attention? It’s a biopic on Abraham Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis, and directed by Steven Spielberg. It screamed one of the best movies of the year, and a major Oscar contender (all of those things came true as expected). Daniel Day-Lewis becomes Abraham Lincoln. This was too expected, but, still, it is so phenomenal. It’s hard to say this is his best because none of his performances are ever bad. You can also say, he’s never been anything expect great. Another extent on that, everything he does is best of the year, and Oscar quality. He’s so fascinating to watch. The character of Lincoln has never been played better; you start to believe that is Lincoln you’re watching.
11. Review – Looper
Time travel concept in movies have been done to death. It’s gotten to the point where I’m not excited when a time-travel movie is announced. What most movies of that nature lack is ambition. Since there are an abundance of stories to deal with the subject, originality is lacking. Most seem to just go through the motions. I’m glad this finally changed with Looper. You can tell a lot of thought went into this. The story isn’t spoon fed to you; I really liked the way the narrative was structured (I wouldn’t get up and go to the bathroom if you see it in theaters). With this being sci-fi, some nitpicking can’t be stopped. It never reaches to the point where you’re not engaged; it does, however, cause this movie not to be just as phenomenal as Inception was.
12. Review – Skyfall
Casino Royale is in my top five Bond movies. It was a drastic turn in a different direction for the franchise – nothing you would have expected from a Bond movie prior. Mostly, everyone loved what it did, and it was really great. The one thing it excluded, was throwing Bond fans (not a big fan myself) a bone. Skyfall appeals to both major fans and casual watchers. The sequel, Quantum of Solace, was an alright B-movie type action flick, I guess. Man, was it disappointing though. Now with Skyfall, I like to pretend Quantum of S… (forgot the rest) never even existed. While flaws are present, I still enjoyed this immensely and is currently in a heavy-weight battle with Casino Royale for my favorite Bond movie with Daniel Craig. The biggest positive thing to be said, is the amazing attention to detail; all elements.
I’ve had high hopes for many animated movies of 2012, all have disappointed. Brave, and Ice Age: Continental Drift were two that I had been looking forward to fr a while. While not all that bad, completely average; nothing special in the least. The Rise of the Guardians, and Madagascar: Europe’s Most Wanted caught me off guard, but still, weren’t anything great. Mainly, just something enjoyable to watch with a little sibling. Wrek-It Ralph had been getting lots of praise, but nothing ever got me excited about it. When I finally get around to seeing it, I wondered why it took me so long to do so. It’s funny, looks great, voice acting is top-notch, and is smart. Most of all, it puts a big smile on your face. Wrek-It Ralph is a far better animated movie than Pixar has released in the past year or two – they better step it up.
14. Review – Flight
Flight was never on my radar, but over these past weeks I found myself dying to see it because of everything I was hearing. Most movies similar to this fall into the trap of having a drawn out and uninspired story of an anti-hero – or something of that nature – that is really only anchored by a strong lead performance. While a few things could have been tweaked, for the most part, the story is constructed nicely. Yes, the lead performance is great; what sets this apart is how you are kept engaged (for the most part) and the depth given to the character. So, the performance itself isn’t the sole thing keeping the character afloat; it’s surrounded by other elements. Flight flies into the already very crowded airport called: Best Movies of 2012.
Jeff Who Lives at Home is a little gem of a movie. If you hadn’t heard about it from a friend, or read about it on someone’s blog, you would miss it. It’s one of those movies that all-too-often fall through the cracks and get little notice. I stumbled across it purely by accident; it was a recommended view on a film site for people who liked Cyrus. I wasn’t interested in seeing it at first. First of all, I’m not the biggest fan of Jason Segel, the lead actor in the film. Second, the trailer did nothing to draw me in; it was too long and revealed a bit too much of the story. In the end, I was just curious enough to give it a try, for a few minutes, anyway… to see if anything interesting would lure me into watching it beyond the opening scenes. I’m glad I gave it a shot. The story and lead performance hooked me right away.
Rest of the Year