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I’m counting down all the movies released in 2012.  The ones I’ve seen, at any rate.  In what is unquestionably a timely manner.

#110.  Safety Not Guaranteed

Saw this one in theaters with my family.  In completely unrelated news, I haven’t been asked to pick a family movie since then.  The film is gratingly lo-fi.  Which means the actors don’t have anywhere to hide.  Aubrey Plaza actually acquits herself quite nicely, she can definitely anchor a movie.  And Jake Johnson can curmudgeon his way across any screen of mine any time he likes.  Mark Duplass, though, I don’t know.  At this point I’ve seen him in a bunch of things, and I’m impressed with the variety of roles he takes, and that he also writes, directs, and produces many films.  But I can only take him in small doses of smarminess.  The Mindy Project has used him well, I think.  And he’s best on The League when relegated to a supporting slot being douchey.  I will say that this movie has a cameo it managed to hide very well.  Also, the guys who wrote and directed this (Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, respectively) are lined up to do Jurassic Park IV.  So, uh, be prepared for that.

109.  Kill List

This one came across my radar because I saw multiple places talking about how it was a riveting, surprising thriller which defied genre and contained some crazy twists.  I…must have seen a different cut of the movie than everyone else?  I was never on the edge of my seat, save for that one time I almost nodded off.  Weird for the sake of being weird, I suppose the film did kinda cut through genres, but not to any meaningful effect.  For me, the film just became progressively more and more bonkers.  A little unsettling, sure, but more puzzling than disquieting.  And I didn’t find the film particularly twisty.  There’s one bit at the end, but by that point the movie had veered so far off course that the twist didn’t have the impact it must have had on others.

108.  Hitchcock

I’ll always remember seeing this in theaters with John.  Not due to anything from the film, which may well have been the least essential movie of the year.  Helen Mirren was fun, naturally, but man, what a waste of her and everything else.  There was no reason this story had to be told, because there wasn’t really a story at all.  But anyway.  So I meet up with John before the movie.  We watch the movie.  We walk the six or seven blocks to California Tortilla.  We order food.  We eat the food there.  We chitchat, of course.  I remember at one point John mentioned how he had realized NBC still had the prior Olympics up online so he was watching something like archery.  So.  Including the movie, we’ve been hanging out for about four hours at this point.  We’ve finished up the tortillas and it is just about time to start heading back home.  And then John tells me, oh, by the way, he proposed last weekend.

107.  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

The movie that launched a million jokes on the Internet.  It made two big mistakes, I think.  First, I haven’t read Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel, but his screenplay is entirely too earnest.  There are plenty of vampire movies these days, most of which have, frankly, more engaging dramatic premises than our 16th president deciding to fight the bloodsuckers.  If any movie was set up to be tongue in cheek, it was this one, which took itself entirely too seriously.  Second, the story’s structure is rather awkward.  It felt like the first three-quarters of the movie was an origin story, and then as soon as Lincoln gets involved with politics, we jumped forward to the presidency, with a climactic action sequence.  A sequence which was, admittedly, pretty cool, surely thanks to director Timur Bekmambetov who would undoubtedly be my first choice to direct any sort of gothic and/or steampunk scenes my movie required, though I might ask him to step aside once filming of those had completed.  A highly interesting cast, including Dominic Cooper, Benjamin Mackie, Rufus Sewell, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead was pretty much wasted, with Jimmi Simpson the only one who I thought managed to come off OK.

106.  Holy Motors

Multiple movie blogs I follow were in love with this film.  There’s, sadly, only so much time to watch movies (even for me!), and so I have to make hard decisions about which movies to see.  And an important factor is whether the movie inspires passion in anyone.  Better if it someone whose opinion I respect, of course, but I’m always fascinated to see which movie inspire fervent emotion.  All of which is to say that while I personally found this movie kinda boring, I stand by the process by which it ended up on my Netflix queue.  The structure of the film was kinda cool, with Denis Levant taking on a number of different personas in a number of different situations, over the course of a day.  And Levant was quite good in the role (even if Tatiana Maslany has essentially ruined actors playing different characters).  I could see the different parts of the day working well as a series of one-act plays tied together by some common purpose or theme.  But to me, the different parts of the days felt like disparate middle acts of a wide variety of three act plays: experimental, musical, etc. without any reason they were mashed together.

105.  The Deep Blue Sea

Rachel Weisz received some Oscar attention for her performance in this film, including garnering a Golden Globe nomination.  Unfortunately, there were three major roadblocks, none of which were her fault: the film was released early in the year, nobody saw it, and it is mind-numbingly dull.  It is a character study without really studying a character.  People mope, stuff happens off-screen, people get angry or sad or mope some more.  That’s not entirely fair, of course, I get that it is about love or wanting to be in love, and a time not so long ago when women still didn’t have a ton of options (or, at least, were constrained by society) in terms of deciding who or how to love.  Although, really, I could say it is about pretty much anything.  Not like you’ll stay awake long enough to disagree with me.  Tom Hiddleston is solid, as usual.  Rachel Weisz is good, certainly better than Quvenzhane Wallis, but I’m not sure she would have made my final list.

104.  Frankenweenie

I’m sad I didn’t like this one, because John August wrote the screenplay, and I’ve loved his blog for years.  But this half-baked riff on the story of Frankenstein’s monster was entirely forgettable.  The concept of all these horror movie standbys being in middle school was pretty clever, but that seemed to be about where the creativity stopped.  Imdb lists a biopic of Margaret Keane as Tim Burton’s next directorial effort and one wonders if the break from his gothic sensibilities might do him some good.

103.  Haywire

An action movie for people who don’t like action movies.  (And I love me some action movies.)  The film is super stripped down, which in theory is a welcome breath of fresh air compared to summer blockbuster fare.  But Soderbergh and screenwriter Lem Dobbs go too far in the other direction, as this film is spare to the point of distraction.  For me, the comparison to make is with Colombiana.  Both feature strong and deadly hitwomen, but where Colombiana is fun and gripping, this one was a chore to get through.  Soderbergh did a great job pulling down name talent, as Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewen McGregor, Michael Douglas, and Antonio Banderas all litter the cast, among others, but almost serve more as a distraction, given the limited nature of their roles.  Speaking of Colombiana, I would love to see Gina Carano in a Luc Besson film, I think that’s pretty much a perfect match.

102.  ATM

I want to stress that I think Alice Eve is a talented actress.  She’s been in a couple of my favorite movies, but even in the clunkers she’s shown an impressive magnetism.  I sincerely hope that she gets a chance to play some meatier roles in the near future.  That said, since I’m going to lose my man card with the next movie on my list, let me ask a question.  If you are going to have a movie where Alice Eve is trapped in a room and decided that harsh weather would play a factor, would you decide to place the setting somewhere cold, where she’d have to wear as many layers as possible, or, I don’t know, somewhere really hot where it is the exact opposite?!  I feel like that should have been the studio’s first note.  At any rate, I tend to be  a big fan of one-setting films, but this one missed for me.  It wasn’t terribly clever, and the ending was far from satisfying.  The end credits seemed fascinated by the bad guy’s detailed and elaborate plans, but said plans weren’t really displayed in the movie.

101.  Scents and Sensibility

I’m scared to look back and see how many years in a row I’ve told myself to stop watching terrible Marla Sokoloff films.  I’d like to say it ends now, but let’s face it, time has shown that I’m an idiot.  This one is based off of Sense and Sensibility, only Marla Sokoloff’s character has a real talent for making scented lotions, so it is Scents and Sensibility.  And that’s probably the most clever thing about the screenplay.  The film also stars Ashley Williams (aka Victoria from HIMYM).  Who, like Sokoloff, deserves better.  Most frustrating to me, I think, is that I know many people poured many hours into making this film.  I’m sure most, if not all of those people put in hard, solid work, work of which they wanted to be proud.  So I can’t understand the process which led to this film being the final product.  Surely at some point, someone asked about the vision, the creativity, the flair, the reason for existing so sorely lacking from this movie?

A half year is gone so it’s time to begin to take stock of 2013. Judging by my colleagues’ picks… yikes (he says snobbily without seeing most of their choices.)

Jared

1. Fast & Furious 6
2. Star Trek Into Darkness
3. Oblivion
4. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
5. Iron Man 3

Adam

1. Fast & Furious 6
2. Star Trek Into Darkness
3. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
4. Iron Man 3
5. Parker

John

1. The Attack
2. The Place Beyond the Pines
3. The Great Gatsby
4. Mud
5. Paradise: Love

Brian

1. To The Wonder
2. Movie 43
3. Grown Ups 2
4. InAPPropriate Comedy
5. Tyler Perry Presents Peeples

I’m counting down all the movies released in 2012.  The ones I’ve seen, at any rate.  In what is unquestionably a timely manner.

#120.  Beasts of the Southern Wild

Ladies and gentlemen, the worst 2012 movie I watched.  And an Oscar nominee to boot.  I often take notes on movies after I watch them, to help me remember what I want to say for this end of year write up.  The entirety of my notes on this one reads: “Just terrible.”  In my humble opinion, it was poorly written, poorly directed, and poorly acted.  Obviously, many people disagree with me on this one, though I wonder if they realize how wrong they are.  At any rate, the primary thing I look for in movies, generally speaking, is an interesting, coherent, engaging story.  Those words do not describe this movie’s plot.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the film was snubbed for the one Oscar for which the film should have been nominated, Best Score.

#119.  Les Miserables

And my two least favorite films were both Best Picture nominees.  Look at me being all contrarian.  I was a pretty big fan of Tom Hooper’s prior two films (The King’s Speech and The Damned United), but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a director so directly sink a film so badly.  His tight shots got Anne Hathaway the Oscar (along with, obviously, her incredible talent).  But they made the rest of the movie nearly unwatchable.  The story isn’t the greatest thing in the world, but it is so epic in scope, I can’t fathom the rationale behind the decision to make it so claustrophobic.  Also on Hooper’s watch, all of the actors felt like they were in different movies.  And the comic relief of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter never seemed to fit into the film at all.  Maybe the best example is that I came out of the film thinking the music was terrible.  And most of the songs probably are no great shakes.  But there are a handful in there I ended up listening to a bunch (“I Dreamed a Dream”, “On My Own”, “One Day More).  The film was such a misfire that it completely distracted from the quality parts that should have stood on their own.  A special shout out to Samantha Barks, who was a rather pleasant surprise and one of the few tolerable things about the film.

#118.  The Master

Another Oscar nominee, though fortunately not for Best Picture, thank goodness.  Paul Thomas Anderson and I clearly have very different cinematic sensibilities.  His is terrible, is the problem.  Actually, I respect the heck out of his ambition and the top notch actors he draws to his casts.  But to me, his movies feel obtuse and, well, arty, just for the sake of being obtuse and arty.  Which is a shame, because the story of a charismatic, enigmatic cultlike leader, especially portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman has tons of potential.  I like Joaquin Phoenix in his role, but didn’t really think Amy Adams was given enough to work with, certainly not enough to merit an Oscar nomination.

#117.  The Paperboy

The big story on this one was that Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron.  Which does happen, though to be fair, there’s some relatively reasonable context.  The problem is more that there’s no reason for the scene to be in the film.  Or any scene, really.  I do have to give credit to director Lee Daniels and the production design team for creating an omnipresent sense of a hot, sticky, mess.  Coupled with the bonkers events of the film, I felt like I needed to take a shower while watching the film.  And another one afterward.  But holy cow does this film miss.  It inhabits that sweet spot between camp and over the top goodness where the film is terrible without being watchable for its terribleness.

#116.  Amour

And a third Best Picture nominee finds its way into my bottom ten.  The film is an uncompromising look at an elderly couple as the wife slowly succumbs to a debilitating disease.  It is incredibly harrowing to think about suffering a stroke in general, what it must be like to have that happen near the end of one’s life, and the impact on a devoted life partner.  The film absolutely did a great job raising and portraying those questions.  But here’s the thing I don’t get.  A writer surpassing my meager talents, even in the least, could do the same in about three sentences.  For me, the film didn’t add anything beyond saying how terrible the situation must be, much less be actually interesting to watch.

#115.  Rust and Bone

I already wrote this up a little (in horribly awkward fashion).  The film is frustratingly ADD, potentially interesting threads are picked up and put down without any thought for cohesion.  To the film’s credit, though, if I told you there was an Oscar nominated movie about a women who lost her legs in an accident and I asked you how the accident happened, it would probably take you quite a few guesses to get to “training killer whales”.  Marion Cotillard is quite good, though she wouldn’t have made my Oscar shortlist.  And Mattihas Schoenarts is interesting enough.  But there’s no good reason to watch this movie.

#114.  Rock of Ages

One of the last 2012 movies I watched, I was actually looking forward to the film.  I haven’t seen the musical on the stage, but I grew up on classic rock and found the cast pretty intriguing.  Maybe this mess works on Broadway, but watching the movie, I felt insulted.  It is so relentlessly stupid.  So much emphasis was placed on cramming as many songs into the thing as possible that it seemed like no one stopped to think about whether the movie was actually fun to watch.  The film randomly shuttles between subplots.  Well, let’s go with “subplots”.  Because while the movie does a decent job establishing the outlines of the characters, nothing really happens except maybe occasionally in the broadest of strokes.  Which, granted, is supposed to happen in a musical.  Except in a musical, the music generally, you know, is related to the story.  Tom Cruise was a lot of fun as a rock god, Paul Giamatti is always worth watching, and I’ll probably never have anything bad to say about Malin Akerman, even though her subplot was exceedingly dumb.  Everyone else, though, yeesh.  Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand were just painful, campy in all the wrong ways.  Bryan Cranston must have needed the paycheck, I guess?  Catherine Zeta-Jones couldn’t manage to rise above the script, and I’m still not entirely certain why Mary J. Blige’s character exists.  And I felt pretty badly for the ostensible leads, Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough, who were mistakenly asked to carry this trainwreck.  Boneta sure felt like a pretty boy cipher who I’d expect to see on Nashville next season.  I do believe Hough is talented, but to leap off the screen in this movie required a raw magnetism which probably can’t be taught and is possessed by only a very few actresses.  So instead she’s left to miserably flop around, and it ain’t pretty.  I think I share director Adam Shankman’s sensibilities, and he does a lot of things well, particularly capturing the kinetic energy of crowds, but I think he let the material down here.

#113.  Moonrise Kingdom

Also wrote up this one.  Wes Anderson, in my humble opinion, is insufferable.  He’s maybe got something interesting things to say about the relationship between kids and adults, and growing up, though I’m not sure if there’s anything he hasn’t already said.  But good lord.  Watching a Wes Anderson movie  is like having Wes Anderson sitting next to you, staring at you the whole time and poking you every minute, saying “I made this.  I made this.  I made this.”  Only because he’s not actually there, you can’t turn around and punch him.

#112.  The Three Stooges

I think I watched this one on a plane…maybe to/from Vegas?  Anyway, the first fifteen minutes actually weren’t too bad.  The rest of the film?  Good lord.  Just nonsense.  I mean, I get that the Stooges are hard to do in a modern setting.  But it would have been nice if it felt like the filmmakers actually put some effort into the story and script.  I’ve been thinking about how to do the Stooges, and I keep coming back to Dumb and Dumber.  The problem, of course, is that film was lucky enough to have Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.

#111.  Premium Rush

Saw this one in LA while on a baseball road trip.  We partook of the wonder that is the Cinerama Dome.  Which is just a fantastic place to see a film.  And not just because it is a dome.  The assigned seating was a feature new to me at the time, though probably not necessary for the dozen or so people who saw the film with us.  The movie, unfortunately, was pretty dreadful.  I had mild hopes because Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon are awesome and I couldn’t fathom how they ended up in a bike messenger movie.  It turns out watching bike messenging is exactly as boring as it sounds like it would be.  Who could have guessed?  The plot is paper thin and involves some sort of Asian mafia and gambling.  So, basically it has the plot of every third action movie made in the 80s.  The difference being, of course, that where action movies have, you know, action, this movie has people riding around on bikes.  I guess you could put a little blame on David Koepp, director, but I think it is more on David Koepp, screenwriter.

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