2012 Movies of the Year (#20-11)

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A little late, but as I like to say, better late than never. Let’s take a look at the top 20 movies of the year, starting with number 20 to 11. The top ten will be up soon.

 

20. Django Unchained

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Quentin Tarantino’s latest film comes apart somewhere near the end, but for its first two hours, it’s pretty amazing. Much like his previous film, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained isn’t historically accurate, but Tarantino doesn’t aim for that. Instead, we get another film on how things should have went.

Slavery is a very touchy and dangerous issue to tackle, and the film is full of a lot of different emotions.  You want the characters to get their redemption and you want the bad guys to get theirs. It’s a very powerful film, and one that still manages to be very funny.

 

19. Savages

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Savages works because of its amazing cast. There are a lot of things wrong with this film, but when it works, it really works. Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson bring so much likeability to their roles that no matter what they do, you can’t help but root for them. Blake Lively and the films narration might be the weakest aspect of Oliver Stone’s latest project, but if anything else, at least Lively is not too hard to look at.

Even the villains and supporting cast, which includes John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek, manage to be likeable. While some of Lively’s dialogue is sometimes cringe-worthy, it’s still not as bad as that ending. It didn’t ruin the movie for me, but it did knock it down several spots.

 

18. The Avengers

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More than anything, Marvel’s huge and epic film, The Avengers, is so much fun. Everything that Marvel has been building for the past five years, beautifully pays off here. The film never feels too cluttered with all of its different super and not so super-heroes. Director Joss Wheden has constructed a wonderful script, full of a lot of swarm that manages to remain true to each character.

The conclusion almost turns into a Transformer type movie where New York City gets destroyed, but since we like these characters more and they are not as one dimensional as the Transformers characters, we are way more invested in all of the destruction. The film is not too deep, but that’s where some of its charm lies. This is a comic-book movie in every sense of the word, and in this occasion, that happens to be a very good thing.

 

17. Prometheus

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My initial viewing of this film was amazing. I left the theater in awe as the movie blindsided me. This was coming from a person who had not yet seen Alien so I didn’t carry so much of that baggage that many other film fans had. I was able to just enjoy the film for what it was.

Yes, a lot of the questions that the film asked weren’t answered, but the questions of mankind’s origins don’t really have conclusive answers so it’s better that those answers are open-ended ones instead of trying to answer everything like most people wanted.

Another weak aspect of the movie is also how irrational some of the characters act, but for its many faults, it also manages to hit a lot of right notes. The film aims very high and misses several times, but that is always better than just playing it safe.

 

16. Safety Not Guaranteed

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This is Aubrey Plaza’s film. Jake Johnson and Mark Duplass are also great in this film, make no mistake about it, but from start to finish this is Plaza’s film. Aubrey Plaza, which usually just plays a cute but sarcastic character, here digs in deep to bring out something we have never seen before. She brings both a sweetness and sadness that elevates the film into something more than your typical indie-time travel film.

Speaking of the time travel, this is a film that is grounded in reality for the majority of the film. You wonder about the time-travel even if it seems outrageous in the context of the film so in a way the ending is kind of a cheap way out, especially since it fades to black. I think three films I saw this year, the other two being Your Sister’s Sister and Save the Date, tried the ending where the film ends on an ambiguous cliff-hanger, the trend needs to stop. It’s not clever and more than anything just frustrates. This is the best film of the three, however, Plaza just makes it work.

 

15. 21 Jump Street

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This is hands down the funniest movie of the year. Sure, some of the movies up higher on this list are also funny, but those are combinations of dramatic/romantic comedies. Here we have an action-comedy that aims to be funny, and it is hilarious.

Channing Tatum owns the film and even outshines the always funny Jonah Hill. Tatum brings a comic timing to the film that no one knew he even had. He manages to bring the dumb jock character to a new level. I’m starting to believe that there’s nothing this man can do.

When the 21 Jump Street movie was announced, I’m sure no one was expecting this. The only similarities between the film and the TV show are the undercover aspect as well as the two cameos. The title of the film and its association to the TV show bring an unnecessary baggage to a very funny and fun film. It really could have been called anything else and probably even more people would have given it a chance. Either way, it’s a non-stop blast and people who haven’t given it a chance because of its title are missing out.

 

14. Skyfall

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People are calling the latest Bond film, the greatest Bond film in its 50 year history. Well, those people are getting a bit carried away. Personally, I prefer Casino Royale for many different reasons, but we don’t always have to view things as this is the best one or that one is. What we have in Skyfall is a very welcome addition to the Bond catalog of films.

In many ways, this feels like one of the most personal Bond films. Director Sam Mendes digs in deep into the psychological aspects of the character as well as into the character’s long history. We learn about his parents and about where he grew up. Those deep psychological aspects are my favorite parts and it’s only once we get into the typical action climax that I feel like the film begins to suffer.

There is a lot to like as everyone involved brings their A-game. While I understand that many people will never fully accept Daniel Craig as James Bond, I couldn’t disagree more as I feel Craig continues to add his stamp to the iconic character. Daniel Craig is quickly becoming the best Bond ever. The next film has been set-up and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here.

 

13. Looper

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What makes this film such a great one is that it introduces time-travel for the first hour or so, and then it pushes it to the side. We then settle on the farm and take a deep look at what creates evil and the way we raise our children.

What also makes this a great film is the performances between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as young and old Joe. The two actors manage to make it such a complex character. There is no black and white, no all good or all evil. Joe is just Joe, he does heroic things as well as dastardly things and all the while, it’s great to watch that transformation.

Time-travel films are always tricky and thinking about it too much can give you severe headaches, but here director Rian Johnson keeps it rather simple. It could have been so easy to create a glossy and pretty future, but instead Johnson creates a gritty, real, lived-in world.

 

12. The Master

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Paul Thomas Anderson’s film was initially supposed to be about Scientology and starting up a new cult/religion. Well, it certainly had those elements, and never did the film shine more than when those things were explored, but the problem is that it just wasn’t explored enough.

Instead we got a film about Joaquin Phoenix’s character dealing with a post-war life. Phoenix is a fire-cracker, cagey and raw. We are reminded of the old school, Marlon Brando and James Dean type of method acting. Phillip Seymour Hoffman also brings charisma and bullshit as the founder of the new religion, or if you prefer, cult.

The performances are iconic and everyone brings their A-game, but I can’t help but feel like it could have been more. There’s so much to explore when we’re talking about religion and starting up a new religion. It’s fascinating to think about, and what we do get in the film certainly is fascinating, but I just feel like there should have been more and Anderson didn’t dig deep enough.

 

11. The Hunger Games

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I’ve said it before, but here I’ll say it again, I was expecting a Twilight type of film. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead we got something way deeper and way bigger than just a forbidden love. We are literally talking about a revolution and an oppressed people.

Jennifer Lawrence is perfect as Katniss Everdeen, that spark that will start the revolution. Lawrence as Katniss is one of the strongest female characters of all-time. The thought of the actual Hunger Games is a terrifying one as young children are forced to fight to the death until only one is remaining. I’ll say it again, it’s certainly no Twilight.

You get that sense of desperation and that enough is enough. The film, even though it’s set in a dystopian future, relates to stuff that we are currently going through. The romance towards the end seems a bit forced as I don’t believe that Katniss would suddenly give up on her sister for this guy she had just met. But besides that, I really have no other complaints, and I can’t wait for the next installment.

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