January 1, 2013

Best and Worst of 2012

I know it's been awhile since I wrote anything here (shame on me), but I figured if anyone still reads this that isn't on my Tumblr or Twitter accounts, they might want my top and bottom 10 films of the year.

Top 10:

10. Argo -- "Ar-go fuck yourself."
9. Django Unchained -- "The D is silent."
8. Moonrise Kingdom -- "What kind of bird are you?" 
7. Chronicle -- "You don't feel guilty when you squash a fly... and I think that means something. I just think that really means something."
6. Lincoln -- "I am the president of the United States of America, clothed in immense power."
5. The Dark Knight Rises -- "The fire rises."
4. The Avengers -- "There's no throne, there is no version of this where you come out on top. Maybe your army comes and maybe it's too much for us but it's all on you. Because if we can't protect the Earth, you can be damned well sure we'll avenge it!"
3. Sleepwalk with Me -- "I zinged him, cause I'm a comedian."
2. Cabin in the Woods / Ruby Sparks -- "Ok, I'm drawing a line in the fucking sand. Do NOT read the Latin!" / "She wasn't happy. So I made her happy... and now she's like this all the time."
1. Looper -- "I don't want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we're going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws."

Bottom 10:
10. The Amazing Spider-Man -- "Thirty-eight of New York's finest, versus one guy in a unitard."
9. Frankenweenie/Dark Shadows -- "You are afraid of what you do not understand, like a dog is afraid of lightning or balloons."/"If I can't have you, my love, I'll destroy you!"
8. Premium Rush -- "Brakes are death."
7. The Hunger Games -- "Look at you! You just killed... a place mat!"
6. To Rome with Love -- "Oh God! Here comes the bullshit!"
5. The Raven -- "You are referring to one of my stories. A work of fiction!"
4. Total Recall -- "Hey robo-dick, that's mine!"
3. The Watch -- "That is the best 2300 bucks I ever spent. I got it at a place called relaxtheback.com. It's like Toys-R-Us for your ass and back."
2. Hope Springs -- "He is everything. But I'm... I'm really lonely. And to be with someone, when you're not really with him can... it's... I think I might be less lonely... alone."
1. The Dictator -- "Why are you guys so anti-dictators? Imagine if America was a dictatorship. You could let 1% of the people have all the nation's wealth. You could help your rich friends get richer by cutting their taxes. And bailing them out when they gamble and lose. You could ignore the needs of the poor for health care and education. Your media would appear free, but would secretly be controlled by one person and his family. You could wiretap phones. You could torture foreign prisoners. You could have rigged elections. You could lie about why you go to war. You could fill your prisons with one particular racial group, and no one would complain. You could use the media to scare the people into supporting policies that are against their interests."
Three honorable mentions for films that were nearly a waste, but for one or two performances:
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • The Master
  • Rock of Ages

August 11, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild - 2012

Director: Benh Zeitlin
Writers: Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
Starring: Quvenzhan√© Wallis, Dwight Henry

I wish I could have a plot description here; I really do. Unfortunately, this might be the first film I understand less about after watching it than I did before. 

Wallis and Henry both give spectacular performances; it's no wonder that British director Steve McQueen has already snapped them up for his next feature. The film's also shot beautifully, evoking a strong sense of the less fortunate side of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, the script had more problems than I can shake a stick at (or discuss without venturing too far into spoiler territory). I'm amazed this won the Camera D'Or (best first feature) at the Cannes Film Festival with all its faults. Once you've watched the trailer, you've seen enough of it.

Rating: C-

Hope Springs - 2012

Director: David Frankel
Writer: Vanessa Taylor
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell

Rating: D+

Total Recall - 2012

Director: Len Wiseman
Writers: Kurt Wimmer & Mark Bomback
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, & Jessica Biel

Rating: D

The Watch - 2012

Director: Akiva Shaffer
Writers: Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, & Evan Goldberg
Starring: Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn, & Richard Ayoade

Rating: D

July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises - 2012

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan & Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Joseph Goron-Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard

Rating: A

July 5, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man - 2012

Director: Marc Webb
Writers: James Vanderbit, Alvin Sargent, & Steve Kloves
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary

Rating: C-

June 26, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom - 2012

Writer/Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Ed Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton

Two 12-year-olds (Gilman & Hayward) decide they're madly in love after briefly meeting, so they run off from their respective scout troop and family in an attempt to get married and fulfill all the dreams a 12-year-old could fathom. The stakes rise when a storm of legendary magnitude threatens their small New England town.

If you know me, you know how much I love Wes Anderson. He's my second favorite director after Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom, and the upcoming Looper), and I identify far more with Rushmore's Max Fischer than I care to admit. Maybe that means the following needs to be taken with a grain of salt, maybe not: Moonrise proves that Anderson's first foray into a period piece is right up there with any of his other works. He's got a wonderful script (perhaps a second Oscar nomination is in store?) and works with a mostly fresh cast (all of who deliver in spades, even the young leads) this time around. There's an effect in the climax that could have been more polished, as well as an element to the young relationship that seems completely inappropriate, but once that squicky scene passes, the audience is back to being immersed in a remarkable cinematic experience. A

Brave - 2012

Directors: Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews & Steve Purcell
Writers: Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, & Irene Mecchi
Starring: Kelly MacDonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, & Julie Walters

A soon-to-be betrothed princess (MacDonald) sets out to change her fate, rather than follow the path her parents have chosen for her.

This is a spectacular film in every facet, and I'm stunned that it doesn't have a stronger critical approval. First of all, major recognition to the folks responsible for the ad campaign, the vast majority of which is pulled from the first 30 minutes of the film; I don't think I've ever been less spoiled in my entire filmgoing career. It was quite a relief to hear a bunch of authentic Scottish (or at least British) voices in a movie about Scottish characters, and the plot is very solid, save for a minute detail of the climax. I'll support any film with a strong female protagonist like Merida, especially when the idea is wholly original, and the native 3D works really well. Cars 2 really worried me, but Brave proves that Pixar still has terrific potential (and they can somehow sneak male rear nudity into a PG-rated film). A

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World - 2012

Writer/Director: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Steve Carell & Keira Knightley

Rating: B-