Movie Room Reviews' Craig Younkin's Best and Worst Movies of 2012
Movie Room Reviews' very own movie expert Craig Younkin gives us his take on the year in movies of 2012.
2012… you were a year that was very kind to me. I got to do more of what I love the most (saw over a hundred movies this year, I’m that hardcore) and many of them were pretty entertaining. Sure there were terrible movies and ones that were disappointing. The super hero movies weren’t as great as some of their predecessors, the year had its share of overrated lightweights (Sorry Mr. Affleck, but your acting hasn’t gotten better and “Argo” is a good thriller in search of a better character-driven drama), and I had to sit through another Twilight movie. But on the plus side, there were a lot of really creative, character-driven efforts (“Silver Linings”,“Looper”, “Cabin in the Woods”, “Prometheus”, “Magic Mike” didn’t make my top 10, but were very enjoyable), a lot of A-list directors doing some of their best work (Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Sam Mendes), a lot of performances that I thought were just great, and above all, no more Twilight movies. So sit back and let me wind down the years 10 worst and best for you and then let’s get into 2013. I’m starving for a movie.
10. The Raid: Redemption- First floor: shoot that guy, shoot that guy. Second floor: pound that, guy pound that guy, Third Floor: Shoot…,Fourth Floor: Pound…, Fifth: Shoot…, Sixth: Pound…., Seventh. Shoot…., Eighth: You get the idea. This thing got praised over its video-game style violence and fight choreography but even video-games come up with more plot, dialogue, and decent characters than this.
9. Hyde Park on Hudson- This plays like a slack-jawed hillbilly cousin to “The King’s Speech”. It tries to add in a bit of fun with everyone’s favorite stuttering king and his queen but mostly all they get is some long-running gag about their trepidation in having to eat a hot dog. Laura Linney’s constant voice-over narration, telling you how important everything is, is as pretentious as is gets. Meanwhile, it chooses to get very dirty with claims of FDR’s sexual (and incestuous) exploits, something I didn’t care to know and the movie does an awful job of handling with care.
8. This is 40- I expected to see torture in “Zero Dark Thirty” but is it really this bad at the Judd Apatow house? The parents are constantly at each other’s throats, the kids seem ready for a nervous breakdown, and the in-laws are deadbeats. This plays like a shrill and joke-less sitcom, and it has no plot structure other than to let the characters float around for an absurdly long 2 hours and 20 minutes.
7. Total Recall- Director Len Wiseman gives us a humorless and terribly dull film that proves two things. These remakes do not work and Colin Farrell is definitely no Arnold.
6. People Like Us- An idiot plot about a man who finds out he has a half-sister (who has a son),decides to get to know her but never tells her who he actually is, making her believe he’s romantically interested. Not only that, but PLU is such a familiar and conventional tear-jerker that it feels like you’ve seen the whole thing before the opening credits roll.
5. Taken 2- So let me get this straight. The same Albanian dipshits decide to kidnap the same guy’s family again, not come up with any better plan to ensure success this time around, have a lead villain who basically sits in a chair the whole movie while his henchmen might as well have names like “Guy who gets his "butt" kicked # 2”, “3”, “4”, “5”, etc. Liam Neeson phones it in and this gets boring fast.
4. Rock of Ages- It may be a musical that claims to love the 80’s bands but this feels like stepping into the Twilight Zone. Stars like Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, and worst of all, Catherine Zeta Jones, preen, pose, wear the hair and make-up and clothes, and lip-sync their way through songs with increasing awkwardness and mockery, while Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta offer nothing as the film’s two bland leads.
3. The Paperboy- I like when people push the envelope but only when it achieves a purpose. Lee Daniel’s follow-up to “Precious” doesn’t seem to have a single thing to actually say but he has a whole lot of disgusting and perverted sexual stuff, race issues, homosexual issues, rape, and sadistic violence to exploit. One need only watch Nicole Kidman jerk herself off in front of Zac Effron, Mathew McConaughey, and John Cusack, and later piss on Effron to subdue a jelly fish burn to see how sleazy and ridiculous this all is. You almost wish she’d just piss on Daniels to subdue him.
2. Casa De Mi Padre- Proof that Will Ferrell can get anything made. Also proof that when something that barely warrants a 5-minute sketch on SNL (a send-up of Spanish telenovelas with cheap production values) becomes a full 1 hour and 20 minute film, the result usually feels longer, more tedious, and outright dull than you can ever imagine.
1. Battleship- I hate this movie. I hate that it seems like a bunch of 10-year-old boys came up with the idea. I hate how someone decided to throw over 200 million dollars at it to get it made. I hate that they decided to take one thing and load it with a bunch of transformers in order to pass it off as another mega million dollar franchise. I hate that the plot and characters make no sense. I hate that fantastic looking special effects were used in a movie that’s so soulless, empty, and lacking any and all imagination. I hate that the dialogue sucks. I hate that Rihanna was allowed to act in it. I hate how this dumb, dumb, dumb movie makes Michael Bay’s “Transformers” series look like “Lord of the Rings.” And I loved that in the end, barely anyone saw it.
10. The Grey- If you take a bunch of guys and strand them out in the wilderness, you’ll find a compelling array of philosophical and religious beliefs, feelings, and discussions about mortality apparently. Sure there are wolves hunting the plane crash survivors and director Joe Carnahan does a fantastic job of turning that into several thrilling moments but when Liam Neeson recites the poem (“Into the fray, into the last good fight I’ll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day”) for the last time, you just know that this movie was so much more than just an actioner about fighting wolves.
9. The Master- Sure it was messy and the pre-release buzz that this movie was going to be some indictment of scientology messed it up further (I’m sure a second viewing would help clear it up but I’ve yet to do that) but overall I liked the character study of two men grappling with their own beliefs. Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives a towering performance as Lancaster Dodd, a man grounded in his convictions and prone to fury when those convictions are put under any scrutiny and Joaquin Phoenix is mesmerizingly good as the damaged PTSD soldier Freddie Quell. The cinematography is excellent here as well. This isn’t Paul Thomas Anderson’s best work but it works better than most people gave it credit for.
8. Ted- The talking teddy bear movie that I’m not even going to bother defending by calling it a guilty pleasure. Seth MacFarlane can, at times, produce a belly-laugh that’s so clever and offensive at the same time and “Ted” basically was many of those moments strung together. Mark Wahlberg gives a fantastic performance, acting opposite a computer effect, but this is MacFarlane’s show and I think it’s a very strong indication that he’s going to be one hell of a comedy filmmaker.
7. Skyfall- It was the best James Bond in quite some time, hands down. Daniel Craig is one of the most "B-A" Bonds ever and Javier Bardem proves again that no one could play a dead-eyed villain quite like him. The movie looks great and the action sequences are as inventive as they are skillfully put together.
6. Zero Dark Thirty- It sets out to inspire questions and questions are pretty much the main thing you get out of it. Did we use torture? Was this really all the work of one woman? Are we better off now? Kathryn Bigelow’s film is driven more by plot than by characters but it’s a strong plot, seemingly researched very well and told with a realistic feel that shrugs off glamorizing and hero-making. The last third of the film, where the Pakistani house is debated about and then raided, is as gripping as it gets.
5. Central Park 5- Ken Burn’s fascinating documentary about five black teenagers whose lives were forever changed when they were charged with a rape they never committed. Burns does a fantastic job of capturing the racial unrest of New York in 80’s and the cracks he finds in the criminal justice system are eye-opening and above all, scary and shocking.
4. The Hobbit- Critics weren’t satisfied with this trip back to Middle Earth and I’m still wondering what they were looking for. For such an “Unexpected Journey”, it was exactly what I was hoping for from Peter Jackson. The characters are a fun group with Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, and Ian McKellan leading the way with fantastic performances. And a special mention to Andy Serkis. The man deserved an Oscar for “Apes” last year and I can’t imagine he’s going to go much longer without one. The battles, CGI effects, and set design all give this movie a sense of grandeur and don’t give up on 48 frames per second just yet. Does it have some problems? Sure. Does it kill the movie? Absolutely not.
3. Bernie- It stands to reason that we’re all tested by at least one person at a point in our lives and the first half of Richard Linklater’s film tells that story oh so well. I love that this is based on a true story. It happened in Carthage, Texas where possibly one of the world’s sweetest men tried to befriend one of the world’s most insufferable old women. It’s not giving too much away to say that this relationship did not end well but “Bernie” isn’t about the crime so much as how we perceive good and bad. Linklater’s film is thought-provoking, funny, engaging, and even tragic, and interspersing commentary from real-life residents of the town proves to be a great move as well. And Jack Black is at his best here. Funny and heart-breaking, Black takes a guy who could have been played as a caricature and turns him into a genuine person.
2. Django Unchained- This is Tarantino in his revenge-thriller mode but while it’s not really new territory for the director, i’ll be damned if I wasn’t riveted and waiting for justice to be handed out. Tarantino has fashioned something that’s part satire and part ugly journey through the heart of slavery. This is a bloody, violent film but it’s also so well written the characters and exchanges between characters being just as great as the action sequences. It’s no surprise that we get five compelling performances here from Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and I thought Samuel L. Jackson’s work here was masterfully detestable in every way.
1. Beasts of the Southern Wild- I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that reveals its passion for a place better than Benh Zeitlin’s film centered on “The Bathtub”, what they call the place on the other side of the water line in the Bayou. This was a glorious little film that centered on the celebration, spirit, and pride of a community, the resiliency of people, and the coming-of-age of a young girl who must soon face the tough world on her own. Zeitlin does a phenomenal job of telling this story in the most moving and natural way possible and the best thing he does is cast an unbelievable six-year old (not an actress but a resident of this community herself as many of the other actors here are) named Quvenzhane Wallis. If Jennifer Lawrence or Jessica Chastain win awards this year, they should come with an asterix saying that Wallis was disqualified because of a technicality (Argo come on SAG) and the fact that she wasn’t as big a star (Argo come on Golden Globes). This little kid was a force to be reckoned with, giving one of the fiercest, intense, and powerful performances I can remember seeing anyone give. This was a movie that was as rare as it was wonderful.