2012 was a vast improvement over 2011, although maybe that doesn’t mean much. The difference between the two years is that I’m actually happy with this list, as I consider all (or most) of these films to meet my standard of greatness. The only real sour note is that some of the films I rooted for underperformed at the box office, sometimes flat out flopping. “The Raven”, “Safe” and especially “Dredd” were fairly unique for their genre and were exceptional at what they did. Sadly, audiences didn’t share my enthusiasm and went to see something else instead. I guess I should just be grateful that I enjoyed them.
There were a few features that disappointed me, but I still appreciated them for the most part. “Django Unchained”, “Prometheus”, “The Hobbit” and “The Hunger Games” were all solid films, but I expected greatness. Instead I had to settle for…goodness.
The world didn’t end during 2012, but I’m pretty sure Taylor Kitsch’s career did. “John Carter” was average, but was a notable bomb. I haven’t seen “Battleship”, yet the general consensus is it’s mediocre and that bombed too. “Savages” attempted to combine arthouse with action and I felt it failed more than it succeeded, but at least it made some money. With $200,000,000 budgeted movies becoming commonplace, it appears studios want conventional entertainment. This concerns me, as I desire a little more inspiration and uniqueness with my movies. Part of the reason I embraced “Prometheus”, despite its glaring flaws, is it had an identity. I shall remember it for that reason, but will I recall anything about “Wrath of the Titans”? I think not.
But 2012 gave me hope. It was a year that provided laughs, excitement, intrigue, tears, fear and thought provoking substance. But what were some of the stinkers?
Generally, I would include a few reasons why each of these movies failed. Yet whenever I would try to fill that quota, I realized that like these films, I lacked the right inspiration. None of them are truly awful, but everything about them is going through the motions. I’ve seen “The Cold Light of Day” countless times before I actually went to see “The Cold Light of Day”. “Underworld: Awakening” had a flimsy narrative and I suspect that the filmmakers just cobbled together ideas that never could fit in its predecessors. “Paranormal Activity 4” seems to presume that fans of the franchise want to see a complete rehash of the previous films and “Total Recall” is probably the worst of them all. It boasted the largest budget, an impressive cast and the filmmakers justified its remake status by claiming it would be closer to the source material. I guess I have to presume the novel would bore me too, because I just wanted it to end by the 30 minute mark.
I respect that the movie industry is a money making venture, but these movies were were made ONLY for the money. They go through the motions, offering nothing new or exciting and the result is these were all box office disappointments. Len Wiseman should especially be ashamed, being involved in two duds this year.
While I’m a big fan of Jason Statham, his movies tend to be rather middling. They do their job, but only Statham himself stands out. “Safe” is the exception because there is more effort put in the story and the action choreography. Otherwise, 2012 was a good year for comedy. I thoroughly enjoyed “The Dictator” and “The Campaign”, which were each irreverently clever and had me laughing out loud quite often. You might as well throw in “Django Unchained” too, which embodied everything I like and dislike about Tarantino. Luckily, his strengths overshadow his weaknesses. I had difficulty sorting this list because there were so many good movies this year, but these three were the closest to actually making it.
Please keep in mind that these are my ‘favorite’ films of 2012, not necessarily the best. For many, there isn’t a difference between ‘best’ and ‘favorite’, but I always try to avoid pretending that my opinions are absolute. You don’t have to agree with me. The important thing is that you can think for yourself.
12) Skyfall– The latest James Bond movie, “Skyfall” is probably the most ambitious when it came to the exceptional cinematography and its high octane, action set pieces. Yet what elevates it is its fascinating villain, portrayed by Javier Bardem, who might be gay for Bond! While it runs out of steam by the third act, it recreates everything I love about the James Bond franchise. I’m still debating whether or not it’s superior to “Casino Royale“, but it’s at least in the same league.
11) Chronicle– I find the idea of a ‘found footage’ superhero movie rather unappealing, but “Chronicle” surprised me because it doesn’t treat the first person POV as a gimmick. Instead, it’s used as a tool to explore these intriguing characters lives. It’s very engaging, providing plenty of nifty special effects and riveting action sequences despite its modest budget. One of the few movies of its ilk to emphasize story over spectacle.
10) Argo– Ben Affleck went from being a hopeful new talent to Hollywood’s biggest joke to becoming one of the most respectable directors in the industry. Who would’ve thought that the guy from “Gigli” would direct and star in “Argo“. Many critics have placed it higher in their lists, but I am an imaginary critic, so it’s lower. Actually, I found the first half of “Argo” to be amazing. It has fun, eccentric characters played by fun, eccentric actors. It’s witty and creative, while retaining the suspense. The second half, unfortunately, focuses on the boring characters and the comedy is almost completely sacrificed for the sake of tension. It’s still good, but it felt like it belonged in a different movie. To be fair, I can’t imagine this story being done any differently. Regardless, I still found the film to be great in the long run.
9) The Dark Knight Rises– Apparently this is the conclusion to the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale, Batman saga. It’s messily ambitious, containing a few too many subplots that never especially feel relevant. Personally, I thought it worked better as a sequel than as a standalone movie. But as such, it’s spectacular. I cared for the characters based on what they went through in the predecessors, but “The Dark Knight Rises” deserves praise for going full circle. It was the perfect resolution to this story and the ending brought tears to my eyes. It’s also incredibly epic, but in a different sort of way. It’s (mostly) grounded in reality, yet it’s not limited by it.
8) Ted– “Family Guy” got old along time ago, but at least Seth Macfarlane proves with “Ted” that he’s still got it. “Ted” is a raunchy comedy that is sure to offend a few people, but I appreciated how bold and clever it is with its humor. There’s a lot of nostalgia in the content, but it’s never distracting or out of place. More importantly, it’s packaged in a way that everything about “Ted” is funny, from the message to the references.
7) The Raid: Redemption– From the makers of “Merantau” comes this shockingly impressive martial arts romp. It came out of nowhere, taking fans of its genre by force. The first half of the movie is more about gunfights and explosions, but there is a certain intelligence to the mayhem. The heroes and villains use strategies when they attack, which heightens the tension and keeps things from being boring. The second half is packed with top notch fighting. The choreography is slick, but the brutality is what will remain with me. Imagine the gracefulness of Jet Li mixed in with the grisliness of Tony Jaa. A wonderful treat for us fans! Watch “Kickass of Awesome: The Raid” too!
6) 21 Jump Street: Who would’ve thought that my favorite comedy of 2012 would star Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum? It’s a hilarious satire on action blockbusters, buddy cop movies, High school dramas and even remakes! “21 Jump Street” is filled to the brim with side splitting dialogue and crazy situations. It also avoids a flaw that comes with most comedies. It never tries to be especially deep, nor is it plagued by downtime.
5) The Grey– I loved “The Grey” for the same reasons that other people didn’t. Many criticized it for being too conventional, emphasizing action over mood. Personally, I found it to be the perfect blend of conventional and unconventional. It moves quickly, but it’s never in a rush to get itself over with. Yes, there are a lot of chase scenes with the wolves, but I thought they were intense and exciting. Yet you never forget how deadly the natural elements are too. You practically can feel the cold seep through the screen. I don’t get why critics seem to embrace slower (and in my opinion, more boring) films. I thought “The Grey” was action packed AND moody, a combination I want to see more often.
4) The Expendables 2– Granted, I wouldn’t call this a great movie. It’s just a fanboys wet dream, but I am definitely that fanboy. Many detractors feel that the action is generic, but I disagree. I thought it was the perfect throwback to the kinds of spectacle that we got during the 80’s. There are shootouts and explosions and the director doesn’t try to be fancy, allowing the action to speak for itself. But that is only 30% of its success. For me, these films work because they emphasize the interactions between all of these genre greats. Watching Stallone, Statham, Van Damme, Lundgren and especially Norris play off each-other is incredibly entertaining. I had a blast.
3) The Cabin in the Woods– This horror/comedy didn’t do so well financially, which is a shame because it was the best horror movie of 2012. Actually, I thought the horror genre’s output was rather poor this year. Everybody is trying to make “Paranormal Activity“, which has gotten so old. “The Cabin in the Woods” takes the cliches of slasher films and uses them to its advantage. The characters all subvert their “types” and the story goes places I was not expecting. As time goes on, we realize that this is not just a slasher. It’s far more ambitious than that. It’s never really scary, but there are plenty of cringe inducing moments and the characters are endearing enough that the suspense works its magic on us. But primarily, it relies on the laughs and the jokes are pretty memorable. Produced and co-written by Joss Whedon.
2) The Avengers– Wow, I’ve never been a big fan of Joss Whedon, but he strikes again! From “Iron Man” to “Captain America“, these live action adaptations consistently provided quality entertainment. “The Avengers” had to surpass those movies in scope and they succeeded in making the flashiest Marvel movie in terms of eye candy. The CGI is flawless and the action is perfect. But it also works as an ensemble piece, giving the entire cast enough to do. It also masterfully manipulates our emotions, so it’s often heart warming, tear jerking, jaw dropping and incredibly funny. Possibly my favorite superhero film of all time. It was everything I wanted it to be.
BUT MY FAVORITE FILM OF 2012 IS…………….
1) LOOPER– “Looper” works for many different reasons. It gives us characters who are either sympathetic or interesting, but we understand their plights and why they’re doing what they’re doing, even if we don’t condone it. In the end, I ended up feeling sorry for everybody, because it’s obvious that someone has got to lose by the end of the feature. It also has a captivating story that explores routes that are often overlooked in fiction, such as the consequences of time travel. It added so much weight to the characters and events. But even then, the film continued to surprise me with its twists and turns. “Looper” made me feel like a movie-virgin again. I can’t think of the last time I couldn’t guess how the plot would unfold. It’s a refreshing feeling. Thankfully, “Looper” was a financial and critical success. Even today, when Hollywood is intent on churning out big budgeted mediocrity, I can be excited about cinema once more due to movies like “Looper“. It is a riveting science fiction-thriller that delivers the entire cinematic experience. WATCH THIS MOVIE!!!!!!!
So that is my list. I hope you enjoyed it!