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Top 10 Movies of 2012 (plus 3 that just missed the cut)

December 30, 2012

I realize that I haven’t posted in quite some time, and that has been due to some computer issues and me being caught up with other things.  I apologize for the absence and I hope that my year-end countdowns make up for that absence in some small way.  So, without any further ado, I would like to present my personal top 10 movies of 2012.  Before I do, however, I should mention some of the box office/critical successes that will not be represented on this list because I have yet to see them.  Many are films that I want to see and plan on seeing, but at this point, I haven’t seen them.

The movies that aren’t included due to the fact I have yet to watch them but may have earned spots are as follows: Argo, Prometheus, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty, The Sessions, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook, Hitchcock, Flight, Hyde Park on Hudson, Bernie, Magic Mike, any major animated movie (Brave, Wreck-it Ralph, Frankenweenie, Paranorman), The Master, Men in Black 3, Sleepwalk With Me, Safety Not Guaranteed, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Seven Psychopaths, and Looper.  While any and all of those films may deserve recognition in this and other top 10 lists, I can’t rank them in mine because I haven’t seen them.

I would also like to tell you the movies that just missed the cut for me, and why they did.

Pitch-Perfect-img-05

Pitch Perfect just misses, because while it was enjoyable for most of the movie, it was also fairly predictable and had an ending with very little character resolution.  It was almost as if they watched only the series finale of The Sopranos and said “Let’s do that in a movie.”  Rebel Wilson was very funny as Fat Amy, and Anna Kendrick was good as usual, but to me, this movie is one of my three that just missed the cut.

21-jump-street-posterau

21 Jump Street was way more fun than it had any right to be, but I just couldn’t bring myself to put it in the top 10.  I’m not really sure why that is, because I did thoroughly enjoy it, but I think it may have been just a little overhyped for me by the time that I saw it, and so I couldn’t put it in my personal top 10 of 2012.

Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is probably the nearest miss of the three that I singled out here.  It had components that you will find in most of the remaining movies on the list: action, drama, and romance.  For me, though, there was something missing here because of how the book works, and how it translated on film.  The movie didn’t do as good of a job as the book when it came to personal insight into Katniss.  Of course, the book was written from her point of view, so it has a distinct advantage when it came to that, but I just thought that they could have done just a little more to get into her head.  I thought the actors all did well in their roles and that this was a well made movie, there were just enough deviations from the book that I couldn’t put it in the top 10.  And now, the actual 10.

10: The Amazing Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man

I fear I may have already lost some readers when they saw this included in the top 10, but hear me out.  This movie had moments of comic-book brilliance, even thought they sometimes went overboard.  The first time we get the Spider-Man POV shot is just an awesome experience.  However, during the climactic fight scene, it’s kind of bizarre.  The Lizard finding out Spider-Man’s identity: classic example of the villain discovering who the hero is.  Any other time someone find’s out Spider-Man’s identity, it is due to Peter Parker being far too casual with his identity.  Uncle Ben’s death is tragic, but the events leading directly to the death are no where near as impactful as they are in the first film in the original Spider-Man trilogy.  Not to be entirely negative, I found the fight in the high school to be very well done, and I thought the inclusion of Spider-Man’s trademark wit was a nice touch.  The return of the man-made web-slingers seemed an attempt to keep the story (somewhat) plausible in the era of the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight series, but I thought that was well done. I do think that this movie showed potential, despite stumbling at times.  I am expecting much more in the sequel, but I think they took a solid first step to get this story where it needs to go.

9: Ted
Ted

While the other movies on this list have funny moments, this is the only full-out comedy to make the list.  Ted had several extremely funny moments, but as is the nature with a Seth MacFarlane venture, there were times that would have been funnier if he stopped while he was ahead or if he didn’t just go for the lowest common denominator.  While there were certainly far more hits than misses in this movie, I wonder if the movie wouldn’t have been better served with some jokes being left out.  I think it is such a great original story, and the cast works very well together, but a few changes here and there could have put it in the pantheon of great raunchy comedies.

8: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The_Hobbit-_An_Unexpected_Journey_74

As a big J.R.R. Tolkien fan, I didn’t mind the fact that a third of a book translated into a film this long (although, I certainly understand that criticism, particularly if you don’t have as much tolerance for the source material as I do). To me, the problem that kept this from being as elite as the other films that have taken us to Middle Earth was the fact that it didn’t seem like it was going somewhere.  While the Lord of the Rings is a continuous story broken into three books/films, there are some pretty clear dividing points that lend themselves to act breaks.  To compare to The Fellowship of the Ring, that movie ends following the death of two of the nine members (or so we think), the capture of two others and the decision of three characters to try to save those two, and the final two continuing to Mordor to destroy the ring.  In this, it ends with the group just being a little closer to their goal and Bilbo has the ring.  While I thought this was a very well done movie, it doesn’t have the stand alone presence that the other films had.  The one outstanding moment in the movie was the riddles in the dark scene with Gollum.  If the whole movie had been that, this would have ranked top 5.  Also, Martin Freeman was a great Bilbo Baggins, and the characters who returned from the previous films (Andy Serkis’ Gollum, Ian McKellen’s Gandalf, Christopher Lee’s Saruman, Hugo Weaving’s Elrond, Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel, Elijah Wood’s Frodo) were all great as well.

7: The Cabin in the Woods
cabin-in-the-woods-poster-hi-res

As someone who generally stays away from the horror genre, this may seem like a surprising choice, but my general respect for Joss Whedon’s stories led me to watch this movie and I was not disappointed.  While I may not watch many horror movies, I do know the general formula and archetypes, which led me to have so much fun watching this movie.  They toy with your expectations and beliefs, sometimes letting you think one thing is going to happen while something else happens, and sometimes they just follow the formula.  That whole “keep-you-guessing” mindset led to a very fun and very different (in this day and age) horror film.  The whole final third was just so well done that you can’t help but enjoy the movie.

6: The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight Rises

I know that many people were disappointed with this movie, but in my opinion, that stems more from unrealistic expectations than the actual film.  Anne Hathaway delivers a great performance as Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman), Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman did their thing, and Joseph Gordon Levitt was very good as Robin. (Um, I should have said spoiler, I guess. If you don’t know he was Robin by now, what the hell are you doing reading a top 10 movies of 2012 list?) I think that e olem most people had was that Tom Hardy’s Bane (when you could understand him) was not the powerhouse that Heath Ledger’s Joker was.  While I won’t disagree that the Joker is an outstanding villain, I found Bane to generally be very good in this movie.  I also thought that the way Christopher Nolan handled the “breaking the Bat” drama to be outstanding.  As a long-time Bat-fan, I was terrified that Nolan would kill Batman, and the way all of that was handled was just great.  While this movie may never reach the peaks of its predecessor, it was still a particularly well done film.

5: Skyfall
Skyfall

Arguably the best Bond film of all-time, Skyfall delivers some outstanding moments.  Judi Dench is more prominent in this installment than she has been during her time as M, and she does a great job in this film.  Craig continues to prove he is a worthy 007, and possibly as good as the greatest Bond, Mr. Connery.  However, Javier Bardem steals the show and plants himself as one of the best Bond villains of all time.  This movie had everything a Bond fan would desire: the girls, the glam, and the gadgets.  The callbacks to other films in the series were a particularly nice touch, and I am already awaiting to see where Bond will go next.

4: The Avengers
The-Avengers_large_jpeg_verge_medium_landscape

This movie had everything that any comic book fan could want: action, comedy, and a whole bunch of super heroes.  The big 4 of the group (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Incredible Hulk) are of course the big draw to the film, but there was a lot more to it than that.  You just watched this movie feeling like this is how comic book movies need to be done.  Joss Whedon was a perfect fit to write and direct, and it showed.  Iron Man had great quips throughout and the Hulk was finally well represented in film.  Not only was this a great comic book movie, it was just a great movie.  I have high hopes for Marvel’s phase two based on what this film gave us.  (If you want to read more what I had to say about this movie, check out my Like It, Love It, Gotta Have It about the Avengers.)

 

This is the point where the “Best Picture contenders” appear.  I went back and forth quite a bit on these three, and I think a case could be made for all of them, but I had to rank them somehow.

3: Django Unchained
Django_Unchained_22

This film is a great microcosm of Quentin Tarantino as a filmmaker. Violent, stylish, and way funnier than a film about slavery has any right to be.  In my opinion, this is Tarantino’s funniest film to date, which is amazing, because at times it was also his most unsettling.  He strikes an amazing balance in this movie, and he is helped tremendously by the great performances from all involved.  Jamie Foxx is the best he’s been since Ray; Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson demonstrate again why Tarantino enjoys collaborating with them; Walton Goggins delivers a small but memorable performance, and Don Johnson and Jonah Hill deliver very funny performances, despite very little screen time.  However, the star of the show is Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie, a plantation owner who specializes in buying slaves for Mandingo fights.  I believe this was his first truly villainous role, and he excelled in it.  Fans of Tarantino will not be disappointed with this film.

2: Les Miserables
Les Miserables

Full disclosure, this is my all-time favorite musical show, so I was already pre-disposed to enjoy this film quite a bit.  That said, I was still surprised by how great it was.  Hugh Jackman was outstanding as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe was perfectly menacing as Javert, Eddie Redmayne was a terrific Marius opposite both Amanda Seyfried’s Cosette & Samantha Barks’ Eponine (who was also tremendous), and the combination of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardiers were just great.  The best performance was given by Anne Hathaway as Fantine.  When she sings “I Dreamed a Dream,” she absolutely crushes it.  There is no way to describe it besides utterly brilliant. The whole story is just so moving and well written that you can’t help but love it even if you aren’t as big a musical fan as I am.

1: Lincoln
Lincoln

What can I say about Lincoln that hasn’t already been said?  Just an outstanding achievement in film-making.  Despite being focused on a very brief period of Lincoln’s presidency, there is a great sense of urgency and purpose found in this film.  Spielberg shows once again why he is one of the all-time great directors with this near-perfectly cast film.  James Spader, John Hawkes, Walton Goggins, Jared Harris, Tim Blake Nelson, Adam Driver, Bruce McGill, Jackie Earl Haley, and David Costabile all have their moments to shine without leaving the film filling overstuffed.  Of course, that isn’t including the great performances in the larger roles that are delivered by Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and David Straithairn.  However, the acting job of the year is Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln.  After a few minutes, I honestly forgot that I was watching an actor and felt as if I was watching the actual 16th President of the United States.  Just a tremendous performance in what I believe to be the best picture of the year.

 

So, there you have it, my personal top 10 of 2012. I will have some television related posts tomorrow.

 

Hope you liked this post, and I hope you like what else I have to say.

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