Wednesday, February 13, 2013

2012 Recap - Motion Pictures

2012 films reviewed, from best to worst. Sorry it's a little late, but I wanted to wait until I saw Zero Dark Thirty before I ranked my list. Good thing I did, cuz:

Zero Dark Thirty*

This was very affecting. You have probably read about the scenes depicting detainee torture, or the use of real 9/11 recordings -- these did not impact me as much as less controversial scenes, ones where the historical truths were likely enhanced by a great screenwriter. I don't know how to explain it. Maybe it inspired feelings of true respect and admiration for the people who devote their lives to their (very difficult) jobs. The issues with Argo I discuss below (fact vs fiction regarding movies based on real life, knowing how it ends) do not exist with Zero Dark Thirty.

The Cabin in the Woods*

Original, smart, and the most fun movie watching experience of the year. I’m not very familiar with Joss Whedon type stuff, and his association with it was not a selling point for me; also, I am not very into scary movies. This was a really pleasant surprise. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend watching it without reading any reviews, watching any trailers, or even reading the Netflix summary.

21 Jump Street

I originally had this ranked lower, but is there anything not to like about this movie? I guess you could say the plot is stupid and it’s a cash-grab reboot, but I would counter with: it is very funny when Ice Cube yells at people.

Django Unchained*

It falls a hair short of greatness because of a less than amazing ending, but it’s still excellent and exactly what I want from a Tarantino movie. Well, Inglorious Basterds is technically EXACTLY what I want, but this was good. Really good. DiCaprio plays his role with such gusto that I wish he would choose more absurd roles -- he’d nail Anchorman 2 or Step Brothers 2.

The Dark Knight Rises*
The Avengers*

I am lumping these together, since they all featured people held captive in places they weren't supposed to be able to escape. And if you count The Dark Knight Rises as a continuation of The Dark Knight, you've got three movies with villains who got caught on purpose. Here’s hoping Hollywood cools it with that plot. I place Skyfall at the top because it looked the nicest, courtesy of the Coen brothers’ cinematographer. Hey, so did he bone Moneypenny in that hotel? Is that left to our imaginations? Seems like he would’ve, but Moneypenny lore tells us that they only flirt. Talking in the Bane voice will be the gift that keeps on giving for years to come, as will jokes about Hawkeye’s uselessness. Congrats on being the new Aquaman, Jeremy Renner! Finally, I am more than a little concerned that the awfulness of Iron Man 2 has hardened my heart too much to love him ever again.


Rian Johnson is very good at making movies, and he has become a Wes Anderson, see-whatever-he-makes guy. I could have done without the Rainmaker part of the plot, but the premise and execution were great, especially for a difficult-to-pull-off time travel movie. I look forward to re-watching this every time it’s on TNT. Kudos to me for being super observant and learning that Emily Blunt was the chick in this during the closing credits.

Moonrise Kingdom*

Everything was good except for the McDormand/Willis affair subplot, and the part where the kid got hit by lightning. The latter was the first time I was ever confused by a Wes Anderson scene, unless you count the intentional confusion he sparked when explaining the rules of Whack Ball in The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Oh, also I agree with Gabe at Videogum: "I found the scenes where they were painting and dancing on the beach in their underwear made some people, hard to say which people, a little uncomfortable. Did you know the actress was only 12 at the time of filming? Eek!"

Silver Linings Playbook*

I think David O Russell is great. I loved The Fighter even though I’m never excited to watch boxing, and I Heart Huckabees was much enjoyed. This movie was interestingly directed, even though it was really just a rom com. The camera really moved around and did interesting things. Bradley Cooper impressed me. Still, I wonder if the message of the film was a little too “medicine can’t cure your mental illness, but dancing and the love of a good woman can!”


This is a well-assembled film about a historical event. When you know the history, the suspense it removed. Even if you don’t know, you can still be sure that there’s a happy ending. Everybody knows Hollywood wouldn't say, “Hey, remember when we tried to rescue those hostages in Iran, and they got all the way to the airport, but then their cover was blown and they were gruesomely executed? Let’s put it on the silver screen!” I was too conscious of these things to love the movie. Too much, “They had to add this in the script - it’s too silly to have really happened,” and “Whoa it must have cost a fortune to get the license to that Zeppelin song.” So why is there so much awards buzz for Argo but not Zero Dark Thirty? Because Hollywood likes to jerk itself off by congratulating themselves for their not-all-that-spectacular association with the hostage rescue? Way to go, guys! Way to not refuse to do a few small things to help free hostages!


Watching this in the theater with my Stella-loving friends = A+. Watching this on video with less invested people = B-.

The Bourne Legacy*

Nick and I saw this because he had promised to see Premium Rush with somebody else. I was not excited to see the new Bourne, but it was good enough to win me over. Rachel Weisz looked shockingly young to me, hubba hubba. The action scenes were fine, but I’m pretty sure this Bourne killed more civilians than the previous one. Security guards and cops are NOT BAD GUYS, Bourne! Or whatever your name is, Bourne Legacy guy!


We psyched ourselves up to see this last winter, when it was the first new movie to be released in weeks that looked bearable. And it was bearable! Punch, kick, Michael Douglas, karate chop, Michael Fassbender, car chase, Dublin rooftops, Antonio Banderas! The only bad thing about seeing Haywire was trying to find someone else who had also seen it.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Oh Jeff, will you ever stop living at home? This movie is essentially the bar for a decent rental experience. Above Jeff is good, below Jeff is bad, and equal to Jeff is Jeff. Meh.

The Hunger Games*

I already wrote about my Hunger Games experience in detail. Between the lack of exposition and emotional depth, the CGI was very poor, like a movie the SyFy channel would make.

The Queen of Versailles

Maybe it was an effect of watching it while preparing for a colonoscopy, but I didn’t care for the documentary subjects’ trash reality TV vibe.

*Denotes theater viewing, and the expectations that accompany such ventures

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