Monday, 31 December 2012

Films of 2012

It's been a great year, if only for the fact that I got the chance to see not one, but two Joss Whedon films in the cinema! Obviously, The Avengers is the best superhero film I've ever seen. But the issue is - as a huge horror fan, do I prefer The Cabin in the Woods? I reviewed both and one came up on top by half a star. But the more I watch its opponent, the more I love it. So I've been going back and forth over the last three months about what my favourite 2012 movie is. I've made a decision. I think. For now, at least......

Alas, I haven't been able to catch every movie this year, so maybe a mid-2013 post will be needed to reassess. I was eager to see Men in Black III, which got mixed reviews, but my sister assures me it's "good". Snow White and the Huntsman looked interesting, as did the Total Recall remake, which may actually have been a better movie than the original, despite the absence of Arnie. I was wanting to see Lawless, if only for having Nick Cave in the writing credits. Similarly, Rise of the Guardians looked hilarious and cool at the same time. Cloud Atlas and Life of Pi both look either epically awesome or gut-wrenching terrible. I'm hoping for the former. And, of course, The Hobbit is a must-see.

Honourable mentions:

The Raid was all out, painfully brutal action from start to finish, even if the story was ridiculously thin. But sometimes less is more - the film did what it did and it did it well. I accept that The Woman in Black scared me every time it wanted to, but in hindsight it was mainly just Daniel Radcliffe walking around a dark house for two hours. And the problem with Radcliffe is that, while I think he put in a very strong performance, he just wasn't right for that role.

Looper was a bit of a letdown after receiving 5-star reviews from the big name critics. But at the end of the day, even though it was better than most sci-fi of the last decade, the logic and characters just didn't hold together. And a mid-movie "twist" took us out of a smart time travel story and threw us into a sub-par Stephen King novel. Reviewed here.  

Skyfall got similar praise but ended up disappointing. I enjoyed what it was doing and it had a killer first half. But then everything became a little too run-of-the-mill for my tastes. Still worth a look though. Brave was a slight disappointment but then I'm not quite sure what I expected. I liked it, but it wasn't anything to write home about.

The Dark Knight Rises - a film half the internet insists is the most amazing thing ever! - was a big flop for me. While a few scenes were incredible, the plot and the endless amounts of useless characters brought it all down to what seemed like a parody of the second Nolan-Batman movie. Reviewed here. The Amazing Spider-Man was, in my opinion, a marked improvement on Raimi's trilogy and Andrew Garfield was note-perfect as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, so it was a worthy reboot. Reviewed here.

Chronicle was pretty incredible, easily worthy of a 4/5 rating if only for giving a new take on the superhero genre. It was easily to get on board with the three heroes and actually seemed like a realistic portrayal of what a band of teenagers would do with superpowers. Combine that with clever found-footage-style camerawork and you've got a solid movie. Also pretty dark!

So, without further ado, my my top 5 films of 2012 are.......

5. Prometheus

There are more theories and opinions about this movie than pretty much anything from the last 10 years. I went in expecting a sub-par Alien, but ended up getting something thought-provoking and powerful. Ok, so maybe the whole thing is a little confusing and could do with more answers, but I have a serious weak spot for films that are batshit puzzling and strangely alluring. Stylistically beautiful with spot-on acting, the more I think about Prometheus, the more I like it. It's no Alien, but it's still a cracking sci-fi movie! Had some cool viral vids too!

4. The Hunger Games

I've heard it all - a bad ripoff of Battle Royale, completely boring for the first half, unrealistic, the new Twilight etc etc. But this movie did it for me! Granted, I've read the book so I expected a slow-burn first act and an explosive second. But for all intents and purposes, a great film! Mature for its target audience, strong, assured and not afraid to deal with some big issues. With perhaps the best first half hour of any movie this year, it's Jennifer Lawrence that commands every scene she's in - a huge talent that goes a long way to making this film great! Reviewed here.

3. The Grey

Remove Joss Whedon from the listings and The Grey is easily my top movie. It's intense, powerful, and really fucking emotional! The whole thing hangs on Liam Neeson's performance and he shows some of his best work here, all the while beating the hell out of a pack of wolves. Reviewed here.

2. The Avengers

I was always going to adore this movie - Joss Whedon does superheroes. His work on the X-Men comics is easily my favourite portrayal of the mutants and his skill at controlling ensemble casts is second-to-none (just look at Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Toy Story et al). But where the film shines is in its portrayal of Bruce Banner/The Hulk and Black Widow - two characters mostly sidelined/watered down in previous Marvel projects. Joss made them believable but somehow ridiculously cool. Going in, I knew someone was going to die - this is Mr Whedon afterall. But I couldn't work out who. My money was Pepper Potts. Especially after the first half hour spent establishing a blissful Tony/Pepper relationship. But how wrong I was. A curveball I never saw coming. Damn you, Joss!!! The best scene? This (almost-cut-for-being-too-expensive) hero shot that gives me goosebumps every time I see it! Love it! Reviewed here.

1. The Cabin in the Woods

It's a personal preference - for me, the only thing better than "Joss does superheroes" is "Joss does horror". Combine that with Drew Goddard's direction and we have a winner! Pretty much picking apart the entire American horror genre was good enough - we've all been infuriated by those ridiculously fucking stupid horror teenagers that we actually want to die! But there's a lot more to Cabin. It goes beyond a commentary on films and becomes a critique of life itself - "Society needs to crumble. We're all just too chickenshit to let it." Not to mention it's funny as hell and has a third act better than any other this year (or the last 10 I'd dare say?!) In short - it's a movie that feels like it was meant entirely for me. Shiny! Reviewed here.

So overall, not a bad fucking year! In a time full of bottom-of-the-barrel ideas and piss-poor remakes, there seems to be some light. There may be a hundred Twilights, but there's one Hunger Games. Endless amounts of unoriginal horror tripe may be coming out the yingyang, but The Cabin in the Woods sits proudly out of the crowd. So yes, there's a saturation of horribly terrible movies these days. But there are also some absolute game-changers. Huzzah for them! 2013 won't be able to hold up, but I'm really, really looking forward to it!

Happy New Year, everyone - happy movie-ing!