By: Garrett Collins
2012 was a memorable year in Hollywood. More than one movie cracked the billion dollar grossing mark (both of which are included here), and, more often than not, I left the theater with a grin on my face as opposed to a scoff. Below, you will find the movies that I felt were the best experiences. As a result of there being more of these satisfying experiences, the ‘Honorable Mentions’ section is much longer than usual. Like any list, it is subjective, and I did not add anything on here ‘just because.’ Every single film on this list made it for different reasons, but one thing is for certain: they were all enjoyable. Save for some guy with a mask and in desperate need of a voice box. Read on, and Happy New Year to all Amigos. May 2013 be full of just as many great films. And positive Star Wars announcements..
After the monumental success of The Dark Knight, I thought it was impossible to follow it up with something just as cerebral & involving. And, of course, when talking about all of the plot holes and misfires that come with Dark Knight Rises, I was right. However, even with all these faults, Dark Knight Rises has enough action and enough of Hathaway’s Catwoman (which, admittedly took me a couple viewings to warm up to) to make this Ten Best List. Because, as I have been saying all year, while this was the worst film of Nolan’s career, on 90% of directors’ resumes, I would classify it as their best. I just hope that, if there is a continuation of the series (why am I saying if?), they don’t let Bane either talk or write the script.
John Carter is a film that has admittedly made more worst lists than best. However, I will always stand by it as being one of my most enjoyable experiences of the year. As has been stated many times, its out of this world plots pre-dates Star Wars, as they are a century old. It also has the distinction of being the most entertaining film of the three that star Taylor Kitsch had this year. And, since it has come out on blu ray, I have watched it and been entertained at least three more times. The Avengers may have helped Disney recover from this $200 million monumental flop. But, I have found myself watching this more times than the former. Also, while performances are obviously not what this film was about, you can’t beat Willem Dafoe voicing an alien. Which I feel is the closest he has come to playing himself.
After Gone Baby Gone, I was convinced that Ben Affleck was a one shot director who had only one good film of this style in him. After all, this was the guy who won an Oscar for co-writing an Oscar-winning screenplay (Good Will Hunting) in 1997, but didn’t go on to do much the next eight years other than becoming tabloid fodder while dating Jennifer Lopez. Oh, and for playing Daredevil. Then, The Town came out and once again, with the deck stacked against him, Affleck delivered a gritty, action packed thriller, much in the same vain as 1995’s Heat. After watching Argo, I can say with confidence that Affleck has finally proven his mettle as a director to be watched. With this thriller, which tells the story of six diplomats’ rescue from Iran during the 1979 Hostage Crisis, Affleck builds the tension until your heart is at an absolute stand still. Affleck’s direction, combined with great performances by Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and Affleck himself, makes this a more than liable film. In fact, expect Affleck to get an Oscar nomination for the tremendous job he did behind the camera here.
Perks of Being a Wallflower reminds me of the kinds of movies Johnny Depp used to make before he got older and more successful. Armed with a great soundtrack, eclectic cast and more than endearing storyline, the film is an achievement in cinema that is hard to come by in today’s hard-hitting special effects laden extravaganzas. It also must be said, that while I give Summit Entertainment a hard time for allowing things like the Twilight films to fill our cinemas, if the money they bring in allows them to make things like this and next year’s ever-promising looking Warm Bodies, then more power to them. Perks of Being a Wallflower, based on the book of the same name (and armed with a screenplay penned by the author himself, Stephen Chbosky) tells the story of a 15-year-old boy who is looking to find his lot in life after suffering an insurmountable series of life changing events. Not just another love story, the film is highly recommended fare for those looking to spend a couple of hours tugging at their hearts.
Thinking back, how many times does a highly anticipated movie deliver the goods? Indiana Jones 4 and Episode 1 anyone? However, after four straight years of delivering us Marvel character after Marvel character fighting baddies and being set up to assemble, they did just that in this more than entertaining fare which more than lived up to its build up. Now, on a third viewing in a less than packed movie theater, I did have some problems with the stand-up routines given by some of the characters (the film could have easily cut at least five jokes) and the ‘baddies’ that played more like second-rate battle droids. Yet, I would be lying if I did not say that the first two times I saw it in the cinema were the two most memorable movie going experiences of the year. And, now that Whedon has signed on for the series’ second helping, one must wonder: how are subsequent films of each individual Avengers’ stories going to handle the problem of not being able to call their buddies when they get in trouble?
After 2011’s misfire Unknown, I was starting to grow weary of the ‘Liam Neeson gets in trouble and fights his way out like a badass’ sub genre. Which is why I was not too keen on seeing The Grey when I walked in to review it on that cold night last January. Boy, was I in for a shock! Armed with a storyline that slowly unfolds as it goes along, combined with slick direction (by Smokin’ Aces helmer Joe Carnahan) and a nicely staged plane crash makes this one of the most memorable releases of the year. Even if it was released in January. Neeson’s role is not clearly defined until the end of the film, but the mark of its brilliant script is its way of telling the story without giving us a cop-out surprise ending. Yes, I am talking to you, Mr Shyamalan. Of course, who could forget the wolves? Well worth a rental on any cold, snowy evening.
Moonrise Kingdom is one of those movies that got a genuinely warm response when it first came out. But, as time has worn on, there was a sort of backlash against it. I have heard people complaining about the fact that it doesn’t deviate too much from director/co-writer Wes Anderson’s past work. To which I say, so what? Yes, Anderson has been hit and miss his entire career. But, I found myself connected with almost every character within the confines of this film. And, when even Ed Norton, an actor whom I have never been a big fan of due to his inability to take a light-hearted role, plays a goofy scout leader to a hilt and in turn makes him a certified dork, you have my attention. Every single actor, from Bill Murray to Bruce Willis, lets their guard down for the majority of this film. And, the beauty of Anderson and Roman Coppola’s script is that none of these characters are the main protagonist of the story.
Steven Spielberg has been aching to do a film about our nation’s 16th President for well over a decade. It took a lot of script drafts and the moon & stars to be aligned perfectly for Spielberg to finally commit to the project. And, once I heard that Daniel Day-Lewis was cast as the lead, I knew that every aspect of Lincoln was in good hands. Spielberg’s film is very nicely pieced together. And, while it will be argued forever whether he copped out showing the ending he did or not, I am one to say that, if nothing else, The Beard once again proved his worth when directing a historical drama. Think about it: Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Munich and even Catch Me If You Can have an aesthetic that can be attributed to the genius of Spielberg’s hand. As far as Day-Lewis’ performance goes, I have one question: Should we just hand the Best Actor statue to Day Lewis now and save all the build up? And, what about the part of his history where Lincoln kills vampires?
While 2009’s Inglorious Basterds was undoubtedly well received by critics, I felt it kind of hit a snag when it came to the general public. It was not nearly as crowd pleasing as the Weinsteins had hoped, and the pressure was on Quentin Tarantino to make a film that lived up to the standards he had set for himself in the 90s. And, while he had always wanted to make a western, it is not exactly the most crowd pleasing of genres. Well, he has lived up to those standards and more. With career defining performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L Jackson, a more than up to the task Django as portrayed by Jamie Foxx (after the role had been written for, and subsequently passed on by, Will Smith), Tarantino also shows his poker hand by turning in a tremendous job from the director’s chair. While his trademark dialogue is less present than the usual Tarantino vehicle, when it is said, you more than pay attention (get a load of the KKK scene). By far Tarantino’s best work since Pulp Fiction.
Talk about a polarizing film! I really don’t remember the last time a movie has come out and was really defined by a ‘love it or hate it’ standard. But, that is exactly what we have here. Directed by The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, Cloud Atlas told the perhaps over complicated for some audiences to process tale of what happens to six separate souls over a period of centuries. How they improve. And, how they deteriorate. I am not going to sit here and try to convince people why it is so good to me, and so bad to others. I think that is the beauty of film. I connected with Cloud Atlas. I felt for the people that the directors were telling me to feel for. And, rooting against those that they were telling me to despise. It is a film that no doubt does NOT appeal to everyone. But, in the end, after all the visuals were processed, and every single image was wiped clean by the final credits, I was ready to sit through it again. It is about more than flashing visuals in front of us to see and a pounding score to hear. It is about looking deep within ones self and thinking, where did my soul come from? That, to me, is film at its finest. And, I think that time will be very kind to Cloud Atlas. Almost as if its soul tells it to be.
Honorable Mentions: Prometheus, Para-Norman, Killing Them Softly, Killer Joe, Wreck It Ralph, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Looper, Cabin in the Woods