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.

#30.  Ruby Sparks

ruby sparks

Saw this on my baseball road trip last year.  A decent Twilight Zone episode.  Not sure if reading any more into it is a worthwhile exercise.  Didn’t really have the indie feeling I was expecting, given it was written by Zoe Kazan and starring her and Paul Dano.  Chris Messina was a great presence, as always.

#29.  Headhunters

headhunters

Saw this with John at last year’s Filmfest DC.  Not quite as twisty as I felt I had been promised, but still an engaging thriller.  I do take particular umbrage with one facet of the film.  5’6″ is not short, and I, for one, was unable to suspend my disbelief that anyone could think it was, or have any resulting feelings of inadequacy.

#28.  Life of Pi

life_of_pi

I’ve written about this one plenty.  Given all the talk of visuals and spirituality, I was expecting to dislike it, so I was pleasantly surprised at how strong the story actually was.  I didn’t really get falling in love with it, but it was a worthy entry into the awards race.

#27.  Wreck-It Ralph

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Boasts a very clever premise and a generally interesting story.  I found the film to be more kid-oriented than I might have liked.  Of course, it is perfectly reasonable for a movie to be targeted at children.  But one of the things that puts Pixar in a class by itself is how their films can appeal to all ages.  I’m terrible at identifying voices, but I never would have gotten that Alan Tudyk was behind King Candy, in a splendid bit of voice acting.

#26.  Killer Joe

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Matthew McConaughey should have received a Supporting Actor nomination for his role here, in my humble opinion.  In this grimy, sweaty, hot mess of a movie, his Killer Joe is a dark, twisted revelation.  The film is all kinds of bonkers, perhaps refreshingly so.  The rest of the main cast: Emile Hirsch, Gina Gershon, Thomas Haden Chuch, and Juno Temple are expertly cast to fill out this melange of nutty characters.  And the final scene really sealed the deal for me, I found it to be an instant classic.

#25.  Men in Black III

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A perfectly decent movie with unexpected heart.  One of the keys to the success of this franchise is the playful sense of humor, which this installment largely continues.  Casting Josh Brolin as a younger version of Tommy Lee Jones was rather inspired, as Brolin is note perfect.  Emma Thompson was fun addition, as was Alice Eve as her younger self.  Though the former went to Cambridge and the latter went to Oxford, and I’ve been told those shouldn’t be mixed up.  The film probably could have used more of the ladies.  I also liked Michael Stuhlbarg’s character.

#24.  Prometheus

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Full disclosure: This was the first film in the Alien franchise I watched.  I liked this one a lot, but I later watched Alien and found it to be pretty much the same thing.  So I wonder what I would have thought if I watched the films in reverse order.  At any rate the film was pretty taut.  There were maybe too many underdeveloped characters, and the ending was a little messy.  But I enjoyed the mythology, and the acting was first rate.  The people who were clamoring for a Michael Fassbender acting nomination had an interesting case, I thought.

#23.  The Amazing Spider-Man

spiderman

Another movie hard to evaluate in a vacuum.  Can we all just agree that everyone knows the Spiderman origin story at this point?  Frankly, it seems like I tend to not enjoy origin stories all that much.  I think comic book films would be vastly improved if we got away from the super long story of the character’s beginnings and went right into the interesting part of the story.  Or, just do something like the fantastic montage at the beginning of Watchmen.  (I know, I know, easy for me to say.)  In any case, the reason this movie ranks so highly is the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, so ably played by the pigdog Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.  As the next movie on my list shows, there’s a lot of good stuff that can be mined from the life of a teenage superhero.  There are now tons of movies with lavish special effects and epic fights.  What will set movies apart, I think, are the same things that always have: compelling stories and interesting characters.  This film took the time to build something with Garfield and Stone, and it paid off.  Of course, it helped having such dynamic stars.

#22.  Chronicle

Chronicle-2012-Movie-Poster

Max Landis obviously has thought a lot about superheroes, and I think he understands what makes them compelling.  This is a superhero origin story worth telling.  Because it is about things like growing up and becoming an adult and dealing with the world and friendship.  There are big fights where buildings get destroyed, sure.  But that’s not the essence of the film.  The movie instead looks how three teens deal with new-found superpowers and with each other.  It is a clever concept that’s well-executed.

#21.  The Loneliest Planet

loneliestplanet

This is a movie I should have hated.  Much of the film is devoted to lovingly and painstakingly capturing the beauty of the Caucasus Mountains.  The plot can probably be completely and accurately summarized in two or three sentences.  But somehow, it resonated with me.  It was the last film of a flurry I saw in an effort to cast a more-informed Spirit Award ballot, so that is part of it.  And the more uncouth of you might suggest the opening shot of a naked Hani Furstenberg jumping up and down perhaps unduly influenced my thinking.  Instead, and I hate to spoil/hype it up even more than descriptions elsewhere already do, but this film is about one scene, one moment, that defines who we are and what we become.  It feels almost pretentious as I’m typing it.  And yet, i believe it.  The long set up becomes worthwhile.  Gael Garcia Bernal is an extremely talented actor, and it feels like he’s wasted a little bit until the pivotal scene, when the casting becomes perfect.  Maybe I’m overselling it, and it was just a combination of a million factors leading to the perfect time for me to watch the movie, I dunno.  But I was kinda blown away by what it did.

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