MY TOP TWENTY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2012

One week to go until the Academy Awards, where we get told by a bunch of old Hollywood farts what the best movie of last year was. As usual, they are probably going to be disappointing but most of us will still watch anyway. But before then, I might as well get my opinion out of the way. Please keep in mind that I have not seen every film that came out last year, and that this is my opinion so don’t get fussy if your picks aren’t mine.

20. WRECK-IT RALPHA charming animated adventure set in the world of my other favourite pastime: video games. Full of great gags and obscure references, this is Disney’s best animated effort in a long time and also the best animated film of the year.

19. DREDD – Ignoring the unfaithful Stallone film, Dredd delivers us a film that does Judge Dredd justice (pun intended). Delivering action set pieces and dark humour reminiscent of classic 80’s bullet-fests, this movie delivers on everything it promises and more.

18. CHRONICLE – An interesting combo of superhero antics and found footage, Chronicle delivers a brilliant take on the rise of the super villain. Featuring a star-making performance by Dane DeHaan and having fun with its handycam style, Chronicle sets a new benchmark for what can be done with found footage.

17. THE MASTER – Featuring phenomenal performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master tells us a tale vaguely reminiscent of a certain religious leader. With its astonishing 65mm cinematography and all the quirks you expect from a PT Anderson flick, The Master is a long journey worth taking.

16. LOOPER – Time travel is always a fascinating subject for sci-fi movies, and it’s great when someone can dig up some fresh ideas for the concept. Rian Johnson did just that with Looper. Sure, the plot doesn’t make complete sense when you really think about it but even the movie seems aware of that fact. Don’t miss this interesting sci-fi tale.

15. KILLING THEM SOFTLY – Depicting America in a light that isn’t exactly sunshine and flowers, Killing Them Softly is a bleak and violent comment on the state of US society. Featuring stellar performances from the entire principle cast and great use of slow-mo, this is one of the most underrated films of the year.

14. JACK REACHER – Tom Cruise decides to stop grinning for once and becomes a gritty crime-solving machine in this stylish thriller. Bringing back that classic 70’s/80’s thriller feel, Jack Reacher fills this somewhat familiar story with some well done fight scenes and a good sense of humour. It’s a pity we’ll probably never see that sequel.

13. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN – Whilst I still have a fondness for the original Raimi films (yes, even the third one to an extent), this reimagining truly brings the wall-crawler to life in a fashion more suiting to our times. Andrew Garfield delivers a Spider-Man much more believable and flawed than Tobey Maguire ever could, and action sequences that rely more on practicality than CG. I can’t wait see what Marc Webb can come up with in his imminent sequel.

12. FLIGHT – Denzel Washington gives another Oscar worthy performance in this brilliant drama. A true return to form for the great Robert Zemeckis, Flight’s opening scenes are some of the best in recent memory and, while the rest of the film never matches up to it, still tells a tale of alcohol and lies worth watching.

11. THE RAID – This Indonesian action-fest is a real kick in the backside for Hollywood action movies. With some of the most inventive and bone-crunching fight choreography ever put on camera, The Raid remains some of the most fun I had in a cinema last year. With action scenes this great, who cares if the story is a bit generic?

10. THE AVENGERS – Marvel pulled off what many saw as impossible by combining several of their heroes into one giant nerdgasm. Joss Whedon was the perfect choice to pull this diverse set of characters together in a way that doesn’t feel too contrived. The film does what many Hollywood blockbusters fail to do (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay’s Transformers) by setting up their characters well enough that you give a s*** during the third act of chaos. My only worry is: how the hell are they going to top this?

9. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED – This indie gem deserves a lot more attention. With its hilarious script and fun performances from the principle cast, Safety Not Guaranteed shows how much you can do with a minimal budget and still tell a story this high concept. I can’t say much more; you just have to watch the movie.

8. DJANGO UNCHAINED – Tarantino has returned in top form with his best film since Pulp Fiction. A bloody ode to the Spaghetti Western, the all-star cast and witty script heighten this film beyond just a bunch of references to Sergio Leone films. Easily his most accessible film and also quite possibly his most fun.

7. SKYFALL – 007 has finally washed the taste of Quantum of Solace out of his mouth, and has returned in one of the best Bond movies ever. Javier Bardem’s bad guy is a true match for Bond in every facet, and gives Judi Dench the swansong she deserves for such an important role. Sam Mendes proves he can do more than just Oscar-bait dramas with this film that shows up Christopher Nolan and his decent-but-incredibly flawed The Dark Knight Rises.

6. ZERO DARK THRITY – The hunt for Osama Bin Laden has quickly gotten the Hollywood treatment, and who better to tackle the tale than the team behind The Hurt Locker. Jessica Chastain gives a career-defining performance in this thriller that shows the events leading up to that fateful raid in a neutral manner that doesn’t try to spoon feed you it’s own opinion.

5. SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS – Martin McDonough’s Tarantino-esque tale of dognapping and screenplays is a terribly bleak comedy of epic proportions. Sam Rockwell’s performance is one of his best, and the witty script provides many a good jab at the quality of writing in American crime films. A bloody good time.

4. THE SESSIONS – A charming true story that will make you both laugh and cry, John Hawkes’ performance is the best I’ve seen all year and it is a true crime that he didn’t get an Oscar nomination for his efforts. Helen Hunt and William H. Macy are great in their supporting roles, and the story manages to leave you satisfied despite the situation these characters end up in.

3. ARGO – Speaking of Oscar crimes, where is Ben Affleck’s nomination for Best Director? The man has crafted here one of the most intense, engaging and entertaining dramas in recent memory. The script is quick and witty, the cast all perfectly fit their roles (except maybe Mr. Affleck himself, but he’s still great anyway), and the third act is thrilling despite the fact there is little to no action involved.

2. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS – How could this not be on my list? Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon have crafted one of the most inventive, crazy, hilarious and jaw-dropping horror/comedies ever conceived and does it all with a straight face. Every time I thought “How could this get any crazier?”, it did. A true landmark for the genre, it’s going to be hard to take the Evil Dead remake seriously after watching this.

1. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – My pick for my favourite film of the year features no guns, explosions, aliens or superheroes. It does, however, have a great script and powerful performances from all involved. Bradley Cooper shows range here I thought he never had, Jennifer Lawrence manages to trump all her other brilliant performances, Robert De Niro gives his best role in years, and even Chris Tucker comes off as good here. David O. Russell has managed to tell a story here that touches the heart and the funny bone in equal measures, and I can’t wait to watch this masterpiece again.

My Top 20 Most Anticipated Films of 2013

2013 is shaping up to be an exciting year in cinema and, while I’m not quite done yet with the films of 2012 (I’ll do a best of list for that around Oscar time), I think I should get this list done before I see any films from this year. So without further adieu, here’s my list starting from the bottom.

20. The Last Stand – Arnie’s coming back in full swing this year with The Last Stand, and while it certainly looks dumb it also looks f***ing awesome! Korean madman Kim Jee-Woon makes his Hollywood debut with this film, and his style is all over this. What it seems to lack in brains it definitely has in brawn, so I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic about this one.

19. Ender’s Game – I’ve never read any of the books, but the premise alone here has me interested. Whilst very little has been shown so far and I’m a little nervous considering what happened the last time Gavin Hood was handed a Hollywood project, this could hopefully be the start of a cool sci-fi franchise.

18. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – I think it’s quite obvious that both Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller aren’t the men they used to be, but that can’t stop me from getting excited about finally re-entering the scummy streets of Basin City. I’m mainly optimistic about this one for two reasons. One: Joseph Gordon-Levitt just joined the cast. And two: Frank Miller isn’t taking complete writing credit, so let’s hope William Monahan has managed to cut down on the crap.

17. Carrie – I’m a fan of the original Brian De Palma film, but I think that not only is it a good time to take another stab at this story, it’s also in the safe hands of talented filmmakers. Chloe Moretz is a phenomenal young actress and I’m sure she’s found a way of making her version of the tormented psychic entirely her own. Let the blood flow!

16. Evil Dead – Speaking of remakes and blood, here’s one I never thought I’d say I’m looking forward to. Remaking The Evil Dead seemed like a bad idea to me for a long time. But the footage so far has convinced me it could work. If nothing else, they at least haven’t neutered out the gore. While it still looks a little too slick and clean right now, it will hopefully still stand shoulders above all the other pointless horror remakes.

15. Oblivion – Tom Cruise seems to be on a roll right now, and so far it looks like his next adventure won’t disappoint either. The design of this post-apocalyptic world looks both fresh and beautiful, and the trailer only hints at what sounds like an interesting story. Whilst many may be wary considering this is in the hands of Tron: Legacy’s Joseph Koskinski, I’m remaining confident that this will be an interesting ride.

14. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Whilst I haven’t read the books, I enjoyed the first Hunger Games film despite its many flaws. The first film left off in a way that has me interested in what happens next and I’m hoping they can iron out the flaws despite the film being in the hands of (in my opinion anyway) a much less talented filmmaker.

13. Monsters University – Pixar really needs a critical hit on their hands to get out of their recent slump, and I’m really hoping this one can re-establish the bar even though it doesn’t seem the most ideal way of doing it. Pixar has produced both amazing and terrible sequels, so let’s see what they can do with a prequel. But I’m still waiting for my Incredibles sequel!

12. Oz: The Great and Powerful – I am a humungous Sam Raimi fan and will watch anything of his without question and, whilst so far this one doesn’t seem all there, I’m looking forward to it anyway. The film so far looks a little too Burton’s Wonderland, but here’s hoping they’ve made a good tale that both honours the 1939 classic and does something new with the material.

11. Thor: The Dark World – The first Thor film managed to get past the flaws of its premise and create a strong new fantasy/superhero world to explore. And while it’s disappointing that Kenneth Branagh has moved on from the franchise, I’m confident that it will live up to the quality of its predecessor.

10. The Wolverine – Let’s get this out of the way: X-Men Origins Wolverine was a steaming pile of s***. But after the success of First Class and the new hands they’ve put the project in, I’m sincerely hoping that we can finally get the Wolverine movie the fans deserve. Just don’t fail me now or I’ll really need to get one of those amnesia bullets from the first movie.

9. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – The first Hobbit movie was enjoyable despite it’s problems, and here’s hoping Jackson has listened to the feedback and will accordingly adjust his second instalment. Considering I know the story already, I’m mainly curious how they’re going to end this one and how much of the book they’ll leave for the final film. Plus, we’d better see Smaug. His name’s in the bloody title, so if we don’t then that’s just false advertising.

8. Kick-Ass 2 – I’m a big fan of the first film and the graphic novel it’s based on. I’ve yet to read the sequel comic, but I’m excited for the film regardless. It’s sad that Vaughn has stepped down from directing duties, but if it’s even close to being good I’ll be satisfied.

7. Pacific Rim – Giant robots versus giant monsters. What more could you ask for from a summer blockbuster? Guillermo Del Toro is a visually charged director, and so far this is looking to be nothing but good old-fashioned fun. Let’s just hope I avoid singing the Power Rangers theme the whole time.

6. Gangster Squad – After the delay caused by the tragic events in Aurora this past July, Ruben Fleischer’s crime caper is ready to hit the screen. The cast alone is enough to get me excited, but Fleischer’s participation pushes this from interesting to must-see.

5. Man of Steel – Superman is due a true modern update, and right now it looks like it’s taking the right steps. Nolan’s influence is clear here, and hopefully he’s reigned in on Snyder’s more distracting visual trademarks. Henry Cavill so far looks perfect as The Last Son of Krypton, but we’ve yet to see him pull off the bumbling Clark Kent and that still has me worried. Come June, we should know if the world really needs a Superman.

4. Iron Man 3 – Jon Faverau’s departure from the director’s chair is sad, but in his place is the brilliant Shane Black who I’m sure will both follow the footsteps made by Faverau whilst bringing his own trademarks to the franchise. Shellhead is finally facing his arch-nemesis in this third instalment, and here’s hoping we’ll actually get a decent final battle in an Iron Man movie.

3. Star Trek Into Darkness – JJ Abrams’ first Trek film converted me from novice to casual fan, and the sequel so far looks to be topping it immensely. Everything looks scaled up and improved, and Cumberbatch definitely fits the shoes of the villain, whoever the hell he’s supposed to be.

2. The World’s End – Edgar Wright has so far yet to do any wrong in my opinion, and whilst his finale to the Cornetto Trilogy has so far remained quite secret it sounds great. That, and once he’s finished this, Wright finally moves onto the Ant-Man movie. Yay!

1. Elysium – District 9 was an absolute revelation and one of the most interesting sci-fi films in recent memory. Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up remains on the top of my list despite the lack of information about it. But with big names like Matt Damon and Jodie Foster attached, and a considerably bigger budget, I’m reasonably confident that we’ll be seeing another sci-fi classic come this September.

Films of 2012 so far

Sorry, no movie review this week. The box office was kind of starved this weekend; guess everyone’s afraid to release anything in the wake of Batman. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to quickly go over all of this year’s films I’ve seen so far. Hope this gives you an idea of my taste in film.

Chronicle

A fun new take on the found footage genre and a great way of showing the origin of a supervillain. The creators of this film are great young new talent and I can’t wait to see what they’ll cook up next. 8.5/10

The Woman in Black

Haven’t seen the stage play so I can’t compare, but it works as film on its own. It is genuinly creepy at times and is good start for the return of Hammer. I can’t help but feel that Daniel Radcliffe was miscast, but he does fine with the material. 7/10

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Oh, Neveldine and Taylor. You suckered me in once again and crush my hopes in your hands and then spat on them. No amount of brilliant and creative camera work or decent special effects can save this unoriginal, plodding, neutered mess of a movie. Not even Nicolas Cage’s overacting could push this past anything more than mediocrity. 5.5/10

21 Jump Street

Biggest surprise of the year so far. What could have easily been another teen raunchfest is instead a clever, self-referential mash-up of cop and high school movies. It also shows that Channing Tatum has a bright future in comedy if he actively pursues it. 8.5/10

John Carter

While I don’t think it’s the train wreck most make it out to be, it’s far from perfect. The pacing is erratic, it takes far too long to get exciting, and Taylor Kitsch is an uninteresting leading man. However, the visual design and the action scenes push it over the line to make an enjoyable ride if you lower your expectations. 6/10

The Hunger Games

An interesting and enjoyable, if somewhat unoriginal, experience. Jennifer Lawrence continues to prove herself to be an effective leading lady, and the film really creates some large stakes for our main characters to overcome which leads to some genuinely emotional scenes. Now only if they could keep the f***ing camera still! 8/10

The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists

While certainly not Aardman’s best work, it is a hilarious movie for both kids and adults. It’s great to see claymation still in use, and who better to do it that the masters of the art. 8/10

Battleship

Where to begin on this one? How about the end? F*** this movie and all its peers. I hope this method of filmmaking dies out before we are subjected to Connect 4: The Movie. 3/10

The Cabin in the Woods

HOLY S***! This movie is awesome! After many delays, this movie finally came out and blew all of my expectations. I can’t say anything without spoiling the experience, but if you love horror-comedies and you haven’t seen this yet, what is wrong with your brain? 10/10

The Avengers

After five years of teasing, the ultimate movie team-up has finally come and it does not disappoint. The film delivers on both the action and the characters, and shows that explosions and massive property destruction doesn’t always mean dumb and obnoxious. Joss Whedon can officially crown himself King of the Nerds for accomplishing what I think no other writer/director could, and I’m anticipating how the guys at Marvel are going to top this. 9.5/10

The Dictator

Sacha Baron Cohen finally moves out of the mockumentary format (or should I say “shockumentary”?) and tries a more traditional approach in this zany comedy. While it lacks the charm of Borat, it still made me laugh consistently and that’s all I was asking for. 8/10

The Raid

Now this is how you do action. One of the most brutal, fast-paced and energetic films I have ever seen. Who cares if the plot here is generic? It’s simply there to set up some of the most interesting and violent hand-to-hand fight scenes ever caught on film. Die Hard, eat your heart out! 9/10

Prometheus

Ridley Scott, you now how to raise our hopes and then make us respond with a confused “ummm…”. Whilst a visual masterpiece and full of interesting ideas and performances (particularly from The Fassbender), the film quickly becomes a somewhat predictable sci-fi horror that seems more interested in raising more questions that answering the ones it initially asked. 8/10

Snow White & The Huntsman

A beautiful visual design and impressive technical display on all fronts is tarnishing by poor pacing and ho-hum performances from the entire cast. It’s very clear Rupert Sanders has no experience in feature films and I think he should stick to what he knows rather than stick his nose in an already crowded business. Could have been so much better in more skilled hands. 7/10

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Get past the silly premise and you’ll find a film that knows exactly what it is but doesn’t shove it in your face. Benjamin Walker shows serious acting promise in a film that doesn’t exactly call for it, but if you throw out all your sense of logic and physics out the window, you just might enjoy yourself. And seriously, if “horse-throwing” doesn’t become a meme up there with “fridge-nuking”, I will shove it down the Internet’s throat until it does. 7.5/10

The Amazing Spider-Man

Was it too soon to reboot Spider-Man? Maybe. Was this movie made more because Sony wanted to keep the rights rather than because of creative integrity? Possibly. But should that stop the movie from being good. Hell no! This movie captures the Spider-Man I know in a much more mature way that any of Raimi’s movies did (and I still like those). Andrew Garfield is the perfect Peter Parker for our time and his chemistry with Emma Stone is through the roof. Marc Webb proves he can handle the weight of a big budget blockbuster and comes out with a film that will thoroughly entertain despite its problems. 9/10

That’s it for now! Have a good weekend.

Next week: TED