2012 was a great, if not always the most consistent, year for movies. We’ve seen superhero movies, award season titles, 3D movies for kids, 3D movies for teens & adults, indie surprises and mainstream timebombs. We’ve witnessed the end of a franchise and the beginning of a new one. We’ve seen raunchy comedies about talking teddy bears and imaginative dramas about post-Katrina New Orleans. However, two questions remain about this year in movies: which were the best? Which were the worst? I’m going to give you my top 5 best AND worst movies of the year. Keep in mind: this is my opinion and mine alone. These are the ones that made me stand up and say “This is amazing!” while there are the ones that left me saying, “Why did I choose to see this?”. Which ones were they? Let’s find out!
5. Dredd (Pete Travis/Lionsgate/R) – You’re probably asking yourself: why is this one of your best? I’ll tell you why. If you started going to your local library and started reading a collection of the original “Judge Dredd” masterworks published by 2000 AD Magazine, then watching the first movie adaptation of the comic (with Sylvester Stallone, in case you forgot) after years of watching it as a kid, then checking out a 3D screening of the second screen incarnation of the character (played with great conviction by Karl Urban) and totally exceed your expectations after some hesitation, then you would put it on your “best” list too. Toning down the excessive neon-splashed “Blade Runner” style of 1995’s “Judge Dredd” and going for a more realistic third-world look of the Mega Cities, this new version of “Dredd” sticks to its guns and stays absolutely faithful to the original 2000 AD stories. How faithful? Unlike Dredd ’95, the Dredd in this version does NOT, under any circumstances, removes his helmet. The two most interesting parts of the movie: when the burn-outs that live in the Mega City apartments take the designer drug “Slo-Mo”, those particular scenes are shot with the Phantom camera and it comes out so mind-blowing in 3D, plus there’s Lena Headey as the lead villain Ma-Ma. She’s colder than ice, meaner than a cobra, deadlier than a bird of prey. If there was ever a more sinister villain, she takes the taco. Too bad that the public didn’t come out enough to go see it. That doesn’t mean that it’s not fantastic. Because it is.
4. End of Watch (David Ayer/Open Road Films/R) – We’ve seen how writer/director Ayer operates when it comes to the world of cop movies (Training Day, Dark Blue, Street Kings). He has a simple & effective three-point formula: gritty, authentic, to-the-point, but what happens when he brings together his three-point cop movie formula with a first-person point of view? You’ve got a cop movie that is tense, gritty, action-packed, suspenseful, funny & downright real. Over the course of the entire film, you truly believe that Jake Gyllenhaal & Michael Pena are actual cops, they’re that good. Same goes for their co-stars America Ferrera (in a perfect out-of-the-comfort-zone performance), Cody Horn, Frank Grillo & David Harbour. As for that first-person POV style, it’s jarring but it works. However, this is not a found footage film. This is a well-made thriller about two cops who risk their lives on a daily basis while maintaining a steady sibling-like friendship. Also, I have to give props to Anna Kendrick & Natalie Martinez for their supporting performances as the respective spouses of Gyllenhaal & Pena’s characters.
3. The Hunger Games (Gary Ross/Lionsgate/PG-13) – If there was ever a YA adaptation to one-up “Twilight” in the “best” department, then the first installment in this franchise succeeded with flying colors. Some people like to think of it as this exciting & tense adventure drama of survival in the midst of a deadly competition. It’s more than that, in my opinion. It’s also a parable about what society and pop culture has come to in this future. In this future, war in society has led to the country becoming a police state of sorts, with communities broken into impoverished districts while pop culture has diminished into one prominent reality TV competition where the youth of the districts are picked at random to fight, kill & survive to be the last youngling standing in order to win fame, fortune & glory and become the hero/heroine of their district. Through a case of family protection, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, in a performance that cemented her status as Hollywood’s next great talent) has become that heroine instead of her little sister Prim (Willow Shields). Soon, Katniss becomes the talk of the districts and the more extravagant metropolis know as the Capital, dubbed by many as the “Girl on Fire”. I think we all know what happens next in case you’ve seen it. If you didn’t, then what are you waiting for?
2 (tie).Marvel’s The Avengers (Joss Whedon/Marvel Studios/PG-13) & The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan/Warner Bros./PG-13) – I decided to make these two superhero blockbusters the number two best movies of 2012 because they both provide us with different stories of what it takes to be a hero. One is grounded in the world of the fantastic, the other is grounded in reality, our reality. Both deliver entertaining stories of adventure and drama with well-rounded characters and lots of action. Not to mention, a good sense of humor (with “The Avengers” having a helping heap of it). While “The Avengers” is the epic that completes the connection in Marvel’s Phase One timeline that began with 2008’s “Iron Man”. The team of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) & Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) unite to take down an alien army led by Thor’s adoptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) but first, they must put aside their differences to work together as a team. While the greatest threat to Earth’s mightiest heroes were an army bent on world destruction & domination, the greatest threat to Batman (Christian Bale) was a formidable foe known as Bane (a menacing Tom Hardy). Bane’s purpose was to liberate Gotham City by causing chaos & destruction leading to the city’s annihilation but first, in order to do so, he must break the Bat. Both are genius at providing spectacle and a great story at the same time.
1. Argo (Ben Affleck/Warner Bros./R) – If there was ever a movie that was the pinnacle of thinking person’s entertainment, then Ben Affleck’s third directorial effort is that movie. Based on the 1979 Iran hostage crisis that made headlines, the rescue mission and how it came to fruition dominates most of the film and it dominates so brilliantly. CIA analyst Tony Mendez (Affleck) did the impossible: create a fake science fiction movie and use that to exflitrate six American members of the Embassy out of the country by masquerading them as the film crew. It was risky, treacherous and it saved their lives. However, for the sake of secrecy, the CIA deemed the mission classified for decades. Since the invention of film, it’s been known that your movie is only as good as your performances and the film has a lot of great performances with Affleck leading the way. From John Goodman & Alan Arkin to Bryan Cranston & Kyle Chandler, plus familiar character actors like Clea DuVall, Bob Gunton, Philip Baker Hall, Kerry Bishe, Rory Cochrane & Victor Garber, just to name a few. Their performances pretty much anchor the film, along with brilliant moments of satirical comedy and geniune suspense. Most importantly, Ben Affleck’s direction keeps the movie going in tip-top shape without any problems stopping it, which is why I choose as THE best film of 2012, in my opinion.
What About The Rest? Other Great Films in 2012
- Brave (Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman/Disney-Pixar/PG)
- Pitch Perfect (Jason Moore/Universal Studios/PG-13)
- Premium Rush (David Koepp/Columbia Pictures/PG-13)
- Savages (Oliver Stone/Universal Studios/R)
- Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow/Columbia Pictures/R)
- Django Unchained (Quentin Tarentino/The Weinstein Company/R)
- Red Tails (Anthony Hemingway/20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm Ltd./PG-13)
- Haywire (Steven Soderbergh/Relativity Media/R)
- Chronicle (Josh Trank/20th Century Fox/PG-13)
- Act of Valor (“Mouse” McCoy & Scott Waugh/Relativity Media/R)
5. The Devil Inside (William Brent Bell/Paramount Insurge/R) – Paramount had a good thing going for a while with their foot in the supernatural found footage market, thanks in no small part to the “Paranormal Activity” franchise. However, that franchise and the found footage sub-genre was nearly tarnished by this slippery mess that claimed to be “real”, which we all know that it wasn’t. That’s not the worst of it though. The film was written and directed by the team of William Brent Bell & Matthew Peterman, the same guys who did that video game horror flick “Stay Alive” (just in case you didn’t remember) and that’s not a good thing. The performances, the story, the scares was not up to par at all. All I can say is Paramount should’ve hired an exorcist to get the demon out of this movie. Plain & simple.
4. A Thousand Words (Brian Robbins/DreamWorks Pictures/Paramount Pictures/PG-13) – I enjoy an Eddie Murphy movie as much as the next person but I gotta be honest, I couldn’t enjoy this because it suffered greatly from a genre shift. I thought for a moment that I was enjoying what seemed like a decently funny Eddie Murphy movie with an OK plot. The rest of the film just seemed to lose track of exactly what kind of film it was as it shifted into this by-the-numbers drama that wanted to showcase Murphy’s skills as an dramatic actor that he picked up in “Dreamgirls”. The problem with that is by the time it was over, we don’t know what film we were watching. It’s the kind of movie I hope not to see Eddie do again: a confusing comedic conumdrum.
3. Meeting Evil (Chris Fisher/Stage 6 Films/Magnet Releasing/R) – The problem with this film was not the performances, per se. It wasn’t the lack of focus or suspense because they were both there. The major problem was its twist in the third act. I enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Richie, the main antagonist of the film. He was sinister and had a quality about his character that was pure Sam Jackson. But it’s the twist towards the climax that made me believe that Richie had just ended up that just another cliche baddie. There was also nothing wrong about Luke Wilson & Leslie Bibb’s characters but it was Peyton List (who is a good TV actress) that is just there to be the throwaway character. It’s flaws like that practically killed the movie for me.
2. Battleship (Peter Berg/Universal Studios/PG-13) – Note to Universal Studios: when the American moviegoing public and the general public at large tells you that making a movie based on a board game that has no story to it whatsoever is a bad idea, you listen to that public. They’re the ones helping you make money and keep the cogs of the movie industry running. They took a popular Hasbro game like “Battleship” and added a “saving the world from an alien invasion” subplot to make a movie. Next thing you know, we’re watching a lost installment the “Transformers” movies. This is also Taylor Kitsch’s second time that his up-and-coming box office status took a hit (the first time was “John Carter” which was a great movie, by the way), not to mention that this is music superstar Rhianna’s first big movie (her cameo in “Bring It On 3” does not count) and she was there just to say cool action movie one-liners. Most of all, Liam Neeson really didn’t do this movie. I know it’s a paycheck movie but for some reason, he keeps the movie watchable. Universal is reportedly still making another movie out of a Hasbro property: Ouija, in spite of this movie’s box office performance. Hopefully, “Battleship” will serve as a lesson to get an “Ouija” movie right. By the way, nobody says “You sunk my battleship!” the whole time during the movie. Nobody.
1. Prometheus (Ridley Scott/20th Century Fox/R) – Don’t hate me for choosing this as the worst movie of 2012. Please. There is a reason why it has been chosen to receive this dishonor. Allow me to explain. First and foremost, I loved the promotion for the film. They even had the eerie muffled scream that was featured in the trailers & TV spots for the original “Alien”. That was brilliant on Ridley Scott’s behalf. Then, I saw the final product and man, did I leave with the worst headache ever. Apparently, this is an “uncredited” prequel to “Alien” up until the credits say in CAPS, “BASED ON ELEMENTS BY RONALD SUSHETT & DAN O’BANNON”. Plus, there was the Space Jockey from the original “Alien” as well as takes on the Xenomorph creature from the entire “Alien” franchise. If those said elements don’t scream “prequel”, then I don’t know what will. If that’s not enough, the third act led to straight-up, gobsmacked unresolved confusion. There were no questions answered, there were no loose ends tied up. None of that happened. Luckily, the “Alien” mythology did not suffer greatly from the unresolution that plagued “Prometheus”. I’ll give Ridley Scott a pass on this. After all, he made 5 of my personal favorites: “Alien”, “Blade Runner”, “Gladiator”, “Black Hawk Down” & “American Gangster”. The movie, however, gets no pass from me. It’s the #1 worst movie of 2012.
I know there are worst films out there but I think I’ll stick with the 5 on this list. Aidos to 2012! Hopefully, we’ll more of what we loved about movies in 2013, for better or worst!