You are currently browsing Jared’s articles.

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.

20.  The Avengers

the-avengers-poster (1)

Maybe you’ve heard of this movie?  I think I’m a little lower on it than most people, but I clearly still enjoyed it.  The reason the film isn’t higher, for me, is because the action felt a little generic.  Joss Whedon is so strong writing and directing heroic characters, but the fights themselves would be the one area in which I think he could stand some improvement.  He lucked out a little in that most of the main characters already had origin stories, but I think Iron Man is the only other Marvel movie that belongs in the same conversation.

19.  Django Unchained

Django-Unchained-Teaser-Poster

Wrote about this one plenty in my Oscar roundups.  At the risk of repeating myself, I think Tarantino needs someone to reel him in.  Tarantino is a brilliant filmmaker with so many clever ideas.  But I think at some point he starts harming the quality of his films by trying to cram everything in.  That said, there’s obviously a ton to love about this movie.  Few people have mastered the interplay of action, drama, and comedy the way Tarantino has.  The Klan bit was one of the funniest scenes in movies this year, just as the climactic shootout one of the best with gunplay.  Tarantino always rounds up stellar casts, and this was no exception.

18.  Skyfall

skyfall-poster_510x756

As a really huge Bond fan, it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for me to rate this film in the same manner as everything else on this list.  Because I have very specific expectations from a Bond movie.  I’ll save you the rant, but I haven’t agreed with the direction the franchise has taken since Daniel Craig took over.  I respect that they’ve been adding highly-regarded writers and directors, but they are screenwriters I largely dislike and directors I’m not sure I love.  Mostly, while I’m completely on board with rebooting Bond after Die Another Day, it seemed that the producers had trouble committing finding a new direction for Bond.  The Craig movies have felt to me like attempts to emulate the success of a franchise like Bourne, where I’m of the opinion Bond should be the trendsetter in spy action films.  At any rate, my brother was kind enough to accompany me to a midnight showing way out at Udvar-Hazy.  I was super excited after the opening sequence, which was almost exactly what I was looking for.  And then I was disappointed by almost everything else.  Except for a couple of points near the end, which set up the series to a point where I hoped it would be at the beginning of Casino Royale.  Also in the film’s favor: it got the franchise into the Academy’s good graces, for the first time in pretty much ever.

17.  The First Time 

first-time-poster

I realize I’m alone on this one, and I’m OK with that.  I also realize this is going to sound crazy, because the films really are nothing alike, but for me, much the praise directed toward Amour should have gone toward this one.  This movie was sweetly romantic and funny, a coming of age story about love in high school.  Very roughly in the framework of a romantic comedy, it is less screwball and more dramedy.  Awkward and goofy, sly and poignant, the film is squarely in the sweet spot of my cinematic taste.  Leads Britt Roberton and Dylan O’Brien were quite solid, but I wanted to give shoutouts to pairing Christine Taylor and Joshua Malina as a married couple, and appearances by Tinker from FNL, and Molly Quinn from Castle.  Here’s hoping writer/director Jon Kasdan has more like this up his sleeve.

16.  Cousinhood

936full-cousinhood-poster

Saw this at Filmfest DC with John, and I’ll direct you to his recap of the film, since it is pretty spot on.  It is a funny and touching story of some bros going back home to reconnect with their past and figure out who they are now.  Like John says, the film isn’t perfect, and with some polish could have been something special.  But the movie is still definitely worth a watch.

15.  The Expendables 2

expendables2-comicconposter-full

This movie is exactly what you think it will be.

14.  The Intouchables

the_intouchables

This movie made a crazy amount of money in Europe.  Here in the U.S. it did OK, suffering from a terrible title and perhaps a weak advertising strategy.  The film is amount a paralyzed millionaire and his aide who grew up on the streets.  The formula is time-tested: it is a feel-good movie about a mismatched pair with wildly different backgrounds.  The movie isn’t particularly deep, which isn’t necessarily a problem or anything.   Omar Sy is a fun actor, he’s got roles in some high-profile English-language films over the next few years, here’s hoping those work out.

13.  Lincoln

o-LINCOLN-POSTER-570

Already talked plenty about this one.  So I’ll recommend everyone read Team of Rivalson which the film was ostensibly based.  For me, though, the fascinating part of the book was how Lincoln corralled a cabinet full of people who didn’t like him and used them to great success.  Not a knock on the film, which already had too many characters, but there’s a lot more to the story.

12.  End of Watch

end_of_watch_xlg

Despite some good reviews, I was a little skeptical of this one, probably owing to my (likely misguided) distrust of shaky cam.  And because how many cop TV shows and movies does the world really need?  One more, apparently, because this film was pretty fantastic.  Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are so great together, they have an easy chemistry as partners that really makes the film sing.  The movie needs more Anna Kendrick because, as a general rule, every movie needs more Anna Kendrick, but I dare anyone to not fall in love with her after her singalong with Gyllenhaal to Cam’ron’s “Hey Ma”.  The film, impressively, manages to be funny and sad, made me want to spend more time with the characters, established a pretty clear world, and has a continuing subplot.

11.  Ted

ted-6

Sure, story has never been Seth MacFarlane’s particular forte, which is why the film falls just shy of my top 10.  But a never-ending barrage of jokes is Seth MacFarlane’s particular forte, and this film was one of the funniest of the year.  I was cracking up in the theater starting from Patrick Stewart’s narration at the beginning (“…there’s nothing more powerful than a young boy’s wish.  Except an Apache helicopter.”) and virtually throughout the rest of the ridiculous film.  Mark Wahlberg is sneakily game to act against a teddy bear and (an admittedly underutilized) Mila Kunis.

Advertisements

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

wreckitralph

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

killerjoe

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

men_in_black_iii_ver3

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

prometheus

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.

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.

#40.  Safe

safe

There’s something to be said for the consistent level of quality of Jason Statham films.  I don’t know even know what to compare this stretch of films to.  I mean, from The Transporter through Parker, I think I’d probably only rate Crank as a great movie, but pretty much all of them have been exactly what anyone would expect them to be.  And all of them are watchable.  Not sure Safe is particularly memorable or will ever be anyone’s favorite movie, but if you are in the mood for a Statham movie, you won’t be disappointed.

#39.  Fun Size

victoria-justice-fun-size-poster

I think it is just about impossible to talk about this movie without sounding like, or referring to, Brian, so I’m not going to try.  You know I typed that, and then pretty much anything I could think to type about Victoria Justice or Jane Levy sounded really really creepy.  So let’s just say that it takes all the suspension of disbelief I could muster to believe they weren’t part of the cool kids.  The movie is a pretty solid one crazy night movie, and the fact that it is geared toward the younger set doesn’t hurt it.  I think there probably was the chance to punch it up with more jokes, but I could also easily see that not being the fault of screenwriter Max Werner (or director Josh Schwartz) but instead a studio thing.  I don’t think it holds up out of context, but the Explaining Rap (remix) was one of the funnier things from a movie this year.

#38.  Take This Waltz

TakeThisWaltzfr

I can see why this film isn’t for everyone.  Seth Rogen as a dramatic (or dramedic, really) lead takes some getting used to.  The movie is about the end of a…not dysfunctional relationship, but not well-functioning one.  It isn’t overly heavy on the drama or the comedy.  But it mostly works.  A lot of credit is due to Michelle Williams, sure, because she’s great like always.  The running gag about the shower is one of my favorite things from a movie this year.

#37.  The Grey

The_Grey_Poster_Liam_Neeson_Gets_Serious_1318990418

I understand marketing this film as “Liam Neeson fights wolves.”  That’s certainly compelling, and pretty much got me to watch.  But it creates a misconception.  This movie isn’t Liam Neeson exacting revenge against all wolfkind for kidnapping his daughter.  Rather it is a deep, dark, philosophical musing on life and death.  Which was a pleasant surprise for me, but I could see some people being disappointed with the lack of wolfpunching.  This is a sneaky good movie.

#36.  Friends with Kids

Friends_with_kids_poster-338x500

Written and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt, who is best known for Kissing Jessica Stein and for being with Jon Hamm.  Westfeldt also stars along with Adam Scott.  Ordinarily I’d say it is a little weird that Hamm has a supporting role in the film, but one gets the feeling that Jon Hamm maybe isn’t threatened by too many people.  Anyway, the film had plenty of charm, and a stellar cast which also includes Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox, and Edward Burns.

#35.  John Carter

Spanish_John_Carter_Poster_Introduces_More_Martian_Creatures_1326298935

Taylor Kitsch is having the exact same luck in picking his movies that I’d expect Riggins to have.  The problems with the marketing have been well-documented, from the boring name to the massive reported budget to believing in a century-old property without any apparent built-in fanbase.  Thing is, if you can evaluate the movie on its own merits, it is pretty decent.  The major flaw is that the politics on Mars seems a little muddled, which drags down the plot.  But the movie is a lot of fun, with great visuals, solid acting (with a surprisingly deep supporting cast), and a generally interesting story.

#34.  Your Sister’s Sister

your sisters sister

A mumblecore movie I actually liked?  Having Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt as two of the leads certainly helped.  I can’t really figure out why this one clicked for me.  It basically had the plot of a romantic comedy, maybe that helped?

#33.  Goon

goon

The world needs more funny sports movies that have a lot of heart.  Seann William Scott acquits himself quite well as a super nice if slightly slow minor league hockey enforcer who isn’t so much good at the hockey part of the game, but can fight with the best of them.  The movie is chock full of funny bits with a surprisingly sweet center.  Co-writer Jay Baruchel seems to have a lot of fun with his supporting role, and Alison Pill is pretty great as the love interest.

#32.  Taken 2

taken_two_ver5

The thing about the recent spate of Luc Besson action flicks is that they are all seemingly pretty decent.  He’s spread himself across so many movies, and the audience for them is such that it would be understandable if some of the films suffered in quality.  But lo and behold, this movie is perfectly adequate.  Impressively, the writing crew manages to rehash the premise while still infusing some life into it.  The movie is self-recommending, I think.

#31.  Magic Mike

magic_mike_ver8

I feel like I’m a little lower on this one than most people, but I’m not sure if that’s true or not.  Made a ton of money, and it kinda seems to me that every year people are surprised that a movie more aimed at women than men could rake in the dough.  I’m curious as to what Hollywood’s number-crunchers say, because it sure seems like no surprise lots of women go to movies.  At any rate, I thought the story probably could have used a little bit of work.  McConaughey was stellar, though it wasn’t the best role of the for year.  Actually, same goes for Channing Tatum.  We’ll get into this later, but I have to say, I have nothing but respect for Tatum.  His range is far wider than I might have thought.  And seems to really throw himself into roles, having a ton of fun in the process, which I think shows on screen.  Her small role here just adds to how Olivia Munn has been killing it recently.  I don’t know how to say this without it sounding like an insult, but I sorta think Alex Pettyfer has been slightly miscast in the four movies I’ve seen him in, though he’s been the best here.

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.

#50.  Tonight You’re Mine

tonight you're mine movie poster

He’s a famous rock star.  She’s the lead singer of a small-time female rock group.  They get handcuffed together at a rock festival, and hilarity (and maybe love?) ensues.  The premise is incredibly rom-commy, but the film’s direction is more indie rock documentary.  In my opinion, there’s way too much time spent on the festival and not enough on the story.  But it was taken at a real festival, with real artists (including the Proclaimers), which is interesting.

#49.  Bachelorette

bachelorette_xlg

Had some very funny bits.  And was a lot darker than I was expecting.  It felt like the second of the film started to drag, and the characters weren’t developed as much as I might have liked.  If every movie had Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott, I’m not sure that would be the worst thing in the world.  While this movie may not have been made (or at least the distribution it got) without The Hangover, I would hesitate to make too much of the comparison.  Sure, they both involve bachelor/bachelorette parties, are funny, but tonally, this one isn’t nearly as light.  Or ridiculous.

#48.  Total Recall

total_recall_ver12_xlg

The original is one of my favoritest movies ever.  So it is difficult to judge this one with referring back.  And also, if I’m being honest, it probably means I bumped this one up a few spots because I like the premise so much.  I’m not fundamentally opposed to remakes or anything, but I’m not sure this one had too much to add to the original.  I liked the expanded role of Kate Beckinsale’s character.  And setting the film on a future Earth divided into two Have and Have-Not sections was a pretty interesting take on the theme.  By the end, though, the film had devolved into pretty much every other blockbuster, with large, loud explosions for seemingly no good reason.

#47.  Sound of My Voice

sound-of-my-voice-poster1

It feels like Brit Marling watched a lot of Twilight Zone growing up, and I’m OK with that.  The vaguely mystery/sci-fi aspect of them film were fairly engrossing, and I think they did a good job sticking the ending.  I am not certain I loved the cult around Maggie as the entry point into the story.  I mean, I can see why, but I found the cult itself the least interesting aspect of the film.

#46.  Tai Chi Zero

Tai-Chi-Zero-2012-Movie-Poster

I saw a number of reviews compare this film to a martial arts movie by way of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World.  I’m not sure I agree with that, necessarily, but I would go into this one expecting a sense of humor and a more modern take on the kung fu movie.  Though not as goofy as a Stephen Chow film.  I also love that people decided both that we needed a steampunk kung fu movie and to market this one as such.  They weren’t wrong, of course, but it makes me happy.

#45.  Gimme the Loot

gimme_the_loot

One of my favorite Spirit Award nominees, the film is fun, funny, and charming.  It focuses on a pair of teenage graffiti artists, a guy and a girl, obsessed with becoming well-known and respected within the tagging community, hatching a plan to tag the apple at Citifield (at least, it was the Mets stadium, I can’t remember if they were talking about Shea or not, apologies).  That’s not really a great description, though, it is more a few days in the life of a couple of teens living in New York in the summer.  It is about graffiti, sure, but it is also about growing up and first love, and innocence.

#44.  The Cabin in the Woods

cabin_in_the_woods_ver6

A fascinating film, certainly getting points for originality and creativity.  Got a little strange toward the end, but that’s part of its charm.  The cast was a ton of fun on both sides of the ball, with Chris Hemsworth being able to lead anything, Kristin Connolly (who I just realized is in House of Cards), Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, and Amy Acker.  I have a few thoughts on things I’d do differently, but I’m certainly not as qualified as Joss Whedon, so let me go in a different direction.  Why hasn’t this been made into a TV show yet?  Each season could be a different scary story, with a different set of beautiful and handsome fresh-faced actors and actresses to be killed off, but keeping the same cast of people downstairs working on the horror set up.  I see loads of possibilities.  The origin stories for the people downstairs could be worked in, we could do some time jumping to see how things worked across time.  I dunno, maybe it is just me, but I think it sounds like a winner.

43.  Seven Psychopaths

seven-psychopaths-poster-us

Considering I had Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges near the top of my list along with his brother’s The Guard, I think this film’s placement has to be considered a huge disappointment, keeping in mind I started with crazy high expectations.  There were some funny moments, and the script could be clever at times.  But it didn’t seem nearly as clever as it thought it was, though it did get some points for originality.  And the actors are a ton of fun.  Although it is a little strange how little the women are in the movie, given their billing.

#42.  Man on a Ledge

man-on-a-ledge

Granted, I’m a little bit of a sucker for heisty/prove my innocence films, but this one wasn’t half bad, if not particularly memorable.  The setup was pretty decent, I thought.  But I’m not sure they nailed the ending.  In that they way they “proved” Ed Harris did the crime or whatever wouldn’t really stand up in a court run by twelve year olds.

#41.  Compliance

compliance

Ann Dowd’s Oscar story was quite compelling last year, I just wish her performance was a little bit better here (which probably actually means I wish her character had a little bit more screen time) to justify it all.  It has been kind of fascinating watching Dreama Walker go from The Good Wife to this to Don’t Trust the B.  Partially because she/her character were pretty awful in The Good Wife, so it seems like something in clicking in the more recent projects.  This film did make me think, so well done, film.  It is harrowing, actually.  The ending felt a little bit off, though.

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.

#60.  The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Was nominated for Best Animated Film at the Oscars.  I thought the film actually had a pretty clever sense of humor at times, but the witty dialogue was too sparsely interspersed with the underdeveloped plot.  Which included Charles Darwin mooning over Queen Victoria, so in retrospect, maybe I’m being a little bit too harsh.

#59.  The Decoy Bride

Like I wasn’t going to watch a romantic comedy starring Alice Eve, Kelly MacDonald, and David Tennant.  The story, on the very slight chance you don’t know, is that Alice Eve is a famous actress (from the film: “You know, they asked 10,000 men to name their ideal partner and 9,800 said Lara [Eve’s character]. Statistically that includes at least 800 gay men. If you’re male and Lara Tyler’s interested in you, she’s the one; it’s kind of a rule. You can’t be happy with Lara Tyler, you can’t be happy with anyone.”) who is marrying David Tennant, a well-known author.  Tennant had set his book on a tiny island in Scotland, so they decide to get married there.  With the slight problem that Tennant never actually bothered to go there to research what the island is like.  Kelly MacDonald plays a local girl, desperate to get out, who, through a totally realistic series of events ends up being a decoy bride to fool the paparazzi, but accidentally gets married.  MacDonald shines in the role, not unexpectedly.  As I think I mentioned earlier in this series, I really hope Eve can break out of playing the incredibly hot love interest, because I’m convinced she can do more.  That said, it isn’t like she’s miscast in the role, and her come hither look is out of this world.  The film felt like it had been chopped up a little too much and (spoiler alert) MacDonald and Tennant maybe fall in love a little too quickly.  And I do think there’s some fascinating ideas in here.

#58.  Bernie

bernie

I felt like this film had a very consistent sense of humor, unfortunately that sense of humor didn’t exactly overlap with mine.  Though it did with John, so consider yourself warned.  We talked about the movie some in our Spirit Awards wrap, so feel free to check that out.  Both of us chose the movie for film of the year, though for me that was more due to the weakness of the other nominees.  I liked Jack Black in the role, it was similar to his other characters, but with a little more depth.  And MacLaine and McConaughey were both pretty solid as well.

#57.  The Hunger Games

hunger games

I’m sure other people have mentioned this, but Jennifer Lawrence is an incredibly beautiful woman, so why the need to turn her into plastic on the posters?  I haven’t read any of the books in the series for whatever that is worth.  And I have seen Battle Royale.  Multiple times.  Actually, I think as an Orientation aide one year at college, I may have forced some first-years (or “freshmen”) to watch the movie.  The comparisons are obvious, of course, and while Battle Royale is the better movie, I think it is also important to keep in mind that the two have some significant differences.  Anyway, again, not having read the books, it felt like the movie bit off more than it could chew.  It introduced a number of different story points which all sounded pretty interesting, but the film just couldn’t adequately explain all of them.  I mean, I love me some The Running Man, so I’m all for movies about dystopian game shows where people have to kill each other.  Having kids kill each other on screen is naturally going to be very difficult to pull off, so while I definitely don’t want to call the film a cop out, I am not certain I loved how Katniss performed in the games.

#56.  Trouble with the Curve

Trouble-with-the-Curve-Poster

I think I spent three innings at a Potomac Nationals game going over this movie with a friend in quite explicit detail, so sorry, any people sitting around me who hadn’t yet seen the movie and who will never read this blog.  It is too simple to call this film a response to Moneyball, but it wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate.  I won’t go into every single problem I had with the movie, as someone who knows a little bit about this stuff, but let me bring up three points.  First, there is no serious person high up in any major league team who would advocate for taking the #2 overall pick in the draft solely based on what his computer tells him.  Second, any team with the #2 overall pick would have extensively scouted prime candidates for the pick prior to two months before the draft.  And third, the odds of someone being considered that high in the draft having  trouble with the curve but no other scout picking up on it AND that player not being exposed to top quality pitching talents at various high school tournaments is extremely small.  That said, I’ll watch the heck out of any baseball movie, and if the movie is about Clint Eastwood being a curmudgeonly scout, with Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake flirting and spouting Orioles trivia, well, it can’t be all bad.  The subplots surrounding Amy Adams (her strained relationship with her dad and her burgeoning relationship with Timberlake) weren’t terribly well-developed, which really is what is holding this movie back more than any issues I had with the depiction of baseball.

#55.  Paranorman

paranorman

My notes on this Best Animated Film nominee read: “Got deep at times, except for story.”  Hm.  I think what I was trying to say is that the plot isn’t really anything to write home about.  Which isn’t necessarily a mortal sin for a film targeted at a wide audience.  But I found the subject matter rather thought-provoking.  The film takes a nuanced look at what it means to be an outcast.  And not just the superficial “oh he wears glasses and likes sci-fi” kind of “nerd” outcast.  I was pretty surprised.  If the story was more interesting, this really could have been a knockout of a movie.

#54.  This Is 40

thisis40

I mean, sure, I’ll keep watching anything Judd Apatow makes.  But it sure seems like there’s been a steady decline in the quality of his films.  I’ve got a few theories why his past two movies haven’t been as good as his earlier output, but I’m not really satisfied with them, and it is a small sample size anyway.  But this one is probably only memorable for Megan Fox being in it (and not being half bad).  I don’t want to say that Apatow has lost his sense of humor, but it seems like maybe in an attempt to make us sympathize with his main characters, he’s lost sight a little bit of what made his TV and films so good.

#53.  The Man with the Iron Fists

ironfists-poster

The first five actors billed in this one are: RZA, Rick Yune, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, and Dave Bautista.  Which is probably all you need to know.  I want to make sure to give credit to RZA for his direction.  Many of the fight scenes were strikingly bold and showy without being distracting, a fine line to hold when making a martial arts film like this one.  The screenplay from RZA and Eli Roth was…well…it got us to the fight sequences, so it had that.  The problem, of course, is figuring out how to develop a sensical screenplay while devoting so much time to the fights and to setting up the fights.

#52.  The Impossible

Impossible-Digital-Poster-1080x1584

I was really dreading seeing this movie.  Bad on you, publicity department.  But I ended up seeing the film and liking it more than I expected.  Good on you, publicity department.  I think the subject matter is just tough to watch.  I have no idea, for example, to whom I would recommend the film.  It is kind of depressing and vaguely uplifting.  Naomi Watts was good, but it was clearly a supporting actress performance, in my humble opinion.

#51.  Gayby

gayby

A Spirit Award nominee.  Maybe gets lost a little bit among all the unorthodox ways people are raising kids movies.  But it was actually pretty funny at times.  The character, in particular, were amusing, and I enjoyed spending time with them.  I almost want to argue this set up would have been better as a TV show.  I mean, the characters were better-developed and the writing sharper than the vast majority of first-season sitcoms.  I think it would be pretty doable as a TV show.  Just not sure anyone would watch.

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.

#70.  A Royal Affair

I actually read The Royal Physician’s Visit (the book on which this film is based) a few years ago, so when this movie started generating buzz on its way to an Oscar nomination for Foreign Film, it took me a little to realize why it sounded so familiar.  It is a pretty good book, and I think the adaptation is faithful.  I think the story deceptively works better as a book than a film, though.  Because while a doctor coming to court and essentially seizing power and romancing the queen may sound cinematic, they are small moments amid the meat of the story, which is palace intrigue and less exciting on screen.  The role is absolutely perfect for Mads Mikkelsen, and Alicia Vikander seems on her way to a bright career.

#69.  Safe House

This was the first 2012 movie I saw, I believe.  Watched it in theaters with Adam about a year and a half ago.  So I’m not exactly prepared to give it the most trenchant analysis.  Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson were underused, which is a shame.  My biggest problem with the film, I think, is that they didn’t really nail down the relationship between the two leads.  Which would have been the key to success in this relatively generic-feeling film.

#68.  Celeste and Jesse Forever

I expected this one to be a little funnier and not quite so moody, I think.  Rashida Jones and Will McCormack’s take on a romantic comedy did feel relatively fresh, but also a little undercooked.  In particular, I have in mind the relationship with Emma Roberts’s character, which seemed like it had potential, but was instead used more as a prop.  But the relationship between Celeste and Jesse was definitely worth exploring.

#67.  God Bless America

Was actually just talking about this one with my brother.  In his words, the opening was one of those scenes where you can’t think they’ll actually go there, but then they do.  The premise of the movie: a normalish guy snaps a little and starts killing douchebags is one that seems like it would resonate with Adam.  I have to give credit to writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait, though.  This film easily could have been preachy, bogged down in its message.  Or it could have devolved into a cheap Tarantino ripoff.  But it stays true to its voice.  I’m just not certain if that voice had a point.  And if it did, what the point was, exactly.

#66.  This Means War

One of the most disappointing movies of the year.  The casting was perfect.  Chris Pine is a classic male lead, handsome, dreamy-eyed, capable of being a cocky action star with a quick quip.  And those of us who’ve seen Bottle Shock and Blind Dating know he can do romantic comedy.  Tom Hardy might be the most visceral actor working today.  More than just a big lug, in movies like Warrior and Bronson, he shows how he can expressively use his brawn in mesmerizingly impactful performances.  And although Reese Witherspoon has found herself in a series of bad movies since, geez, Walk the Line, there are few actresses who can carry a comedy the way she can.  Toss in a charming premise of Pine and Hardy being best friends, CIA spies, and fighting over Witherspoon without her knowing?  Should have been gold.  Somewhere along the way, the film lost its sense of fun.  And the decision to tack on a serious subplot with a bad guy seems like a poor choice, feeling shoehorned in and a poor attempt at, I dunno, 80s screwball?

#65.  A Girl Walks Into A Bar

So long as Sebatian Gutierrez keeps putting together these great ensembles, I’m going to keep watching.  Although I think he’s maybe fallen a little too much in love with the disparate stories and should consider either tightening up, or going to Showtime with a pitch for a TV show.  I will say, though, that the naked ping pong club was a thing of sheer brilliance.  One of the best reveals of the year.

#64.  Robot & Frank

It’d be a spoiler if anyone saw the movie, but Lovely, Still did this better.  Of course, this one has a robot and catburglary, so the movie does have a few points in its favor.  The robot was done very well, I thought.  It was a neat take on the concept of a helper robot in the near future.  Frank Langella’s performance was strong, and Susan Sarandon seemed to be having some fun.  The film, like others before it, does have some valid points to make about the elderly, but the plot is ultimately too lightweight to make a major impact.

#63.  The Five-Year Engagement

Was also recently talking about this one with my brothers.  We disagreed on its merits.  I thought the film started off strong, but then petered out.  Seemed to lose focus as it went on, as the beginning was funny, but then things went long and sprawling.  The film did have a mature, serious point, I suppose.  And the cast, which included Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Alison Brie, Chris Pratt, Jacki Weaver, and Dakota Johnson, was pretty fun.

#62.  Red Dawn

The original is, of course, an American treasure.  Which I’ve seen many, many times.  I wasn’t immediately opposed to the remake, though, because I think the story is even more resonant today.  The thought of an foreign nation parachuting into the country and knocking out all electronics is a frightening thought.  So I was disappointed to see this version emulate so much of the original.  I didn’t really see the point.  Especially with this cast, I mean, Chris Hemsworth can clearly carry a movie heavy on action, and Adrianne Palicki is also wonderful at the more physical roles.

#61. Superclasico

Saw this one at DC Filmfest with John.  It has some funny moments.  And there’s a good story in there not too far below the surface.  But the movie could stand some tightening up, it gets a little lost among the myriad subplots.  The one about wine, for example, doesn’t really go anywhere and chews up a significant chunk of time.

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.

#80.  The Lady

A surprisingly shallow movie from Luc Besson, who is one of my favorites.  Honestly, I’m not sure Besson and screenwriter Rebecca Frayn did well by Aung San Suu Kyi, in the sense that I’m not certain they capture the magnitude of her importance to Burma.  Or maybe I just didn’t love the choice to focus so much on her relationship with her husband, as I found it less interesting.  Michelle Yeoh was good, but it wasn’t a role written to be awards bait.

#79.  Sleepless Night

The action in this French film wasn’t as good as I was led to believe.  And the story of a dark, almost antihero who needs to kill the bad guys in order to save his son doesn’t really add much to the genre.  But I do want to spend some time talking about the film’s setting.  The bulk of the movie takes place in a giant nightclub like thing.  I don’t really know how to describe it, but it is this huge building where every room has a different vibe.  The technical folk involved with the film really made it work, the building never felt cartoonish, and the action always felt like it continuously flowed through the building.

78.  Butter

I was looking forward to this one, since it is director Jim Field Smith’s followup project to She’s Out of My League.  Plus, you know, the field of competitive butter carving seems like it might be ripe for the picking.  Screenwriter Jason A. Micallef appeared to make the decision to play the butter carving straight and derived the humor from the various characters, which is maybe the only decision to make in a post-Christopher Guest world.  The problem, I think, is that the jokes just don’t seem to always be there.  Olivia Wilde’s character, for example, was kinda fascinating, maybe not the most unique take on the the stripper character in the world, but still rather engaging.  But her motivation seemed all over the place.  I was talking with someone who is a big fan of Jennifer Garner, and while I was initially skeptical, thinking over her work here and in other stuff, she’s actually a sneaky solid actress.  Hugh Jackman shows up for a few scenes in a cowboy hat, which is amusing.  And Olivia Wilde makes out with Ashley Greene, for reasons totally relevant and necessary to the movie.

77.  Save the Date

Isn’t like I’m not going to watch a movie starring Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie.  The film was too lo-fi (for lack of a better turn of phrase) for my liking.  Not that everything has to be super melodramatic or bombastic, but my experience with this trend of indie-feeling movies is that they de-emphasize actors and actresses, at least in terms of them having an opportunity to leap off the screen.  Additionally, I might argue that their screenplays are more difficult to write, at least the good ones, because the more “naturalistic” the film, the less the dialogue can hide behind events, action sequences, or broad humor.

#76.  Lay the Favorite

A sports betting movie starring Bruce Willis and Rebecca Hall should have been a slam dunk.  Especially from the guys who respectively wrote and directed High Fidelity.   I haven’t read the memoir on which this film is based, but the end results seems to read much better as a logline: Attractive women who knows nothing about sports betting becomes a bookie than an actual movie.  Because the characters were underdeveloped and various plot points overemphasized to add some oomph to the long periods of the movies which dragged.  Hall and Willis were good, but this was a movie and a pair of actors who demanded some fast-paced witty banter, instead of whatever it was we ended up with.  Vince Vaughn was a lot of fun in his role.

#75.  Silver Linings Playbook

You’d think I’d be all over a Best Picture-nominated romantic comedy, right?  Unfortunately, David O. Russell is kind of terrible.  He rode a ridiculously talented cast into awards season, but you can’t fool me.  I did like some aspects of the film, but let’s go through the problems since I’m worked up.  The conceit of silver linings is dropped midway through the film.  Chris Tucker’s character is pointless.  Bradley Cooper’s shrink becoming his friend is odd.  The concept that mental illness can be cured by finding someone else who has mental problems is icky at best.  I’m fine accepting poetic license there, but the film was lauded for its depiction of mental illness, which I know is a classic Weinstein tactic, but still.  The direction was constantly getting in the way, from the unsteady camera work to the awkward depiction of the dancing scenes.  The story flops all over the places, only firming up into place in the last third, when it becomes a more traditional romantic comedy, but by that point, the beats lose resonance because they have less emotional weight.  The film succeeds almost exclusively on the shoulders of its two leads.  Bradley Cooper is very very good.  Which wasn’t a surprise to those who have followed his career from the start.  Certainly deserving of the Oscar nomination for a textured, riveting performance.  And then there’s Jennifer Lawrence.  Oh, Jennifer Lawrence.  She’s basically won the internet.  Physically speaking, she’s essentially perfection itself.  For a lot of actresses, that would have been enough, I think.  Look pretty while dancing, yell some, and there’s no shame in that.  But Lawrence put on a masterclass here.  She rose above the mediocre script to shine, constantly, while on screen.  She makes it impossible to look away because she’s so fascinating while on screen.  The best evidence, maybe, is looking at her scenes with Robert De Niro.  De Niro is just absolutely blown away, essentially shrinking off the screen to let Lawrence dominate the scene like a fierce tornado.  She isn’t chewing scenery, either.  At any rate, it was a little silly that De Niro and Weaver also picked up noms.  De Niro was mediocre but I guess not as terrible as he’s been for the past decade, and Weaver’s character was underwritten.

#74.  Smashed

I think maybe Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance in this one was too hyped up by the time I got to it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and she is very very good in the film.  My expectations were not managed correctly, I guess.  The film is a no holds barred look at alcoholism, recovery, and the stress of a relationship where one person is a functioning alcoholic and the other doesn’t want to be any more.  Which, no question, is a worthy exploration, if not terribly riveting.  Nick Offerman is pretty great, because of course he is, but there’s a scene in there which probably won’t let me look at him the same way.

73.  Anna Karenina

I believe I saw this one in theaters, alone, because I am awesome.  The film, as you no doubt remember, won an Oscar (Costume Design) and was nominated for three others (Cinematography, Score, and Production Design).  No arguments here.  The staging of the film was, by far, its strongest feature.  With transitions that read like changing sets on a stage in a theater and vividly distinct depictions of the various rooms of the film, the production design was endlessly fascinating.  The script, though, didn’t live up to Joe Wright’s direction.  Keira Knightley is very good, of course, but I can’t help thinking she needs to find the right role to break out of her mold and take things to the next level.  I didn’t entirely get Jude Law or Aaron Taylor-Johnson, I guess they helped make the film a little tiresome.  Matthew MacFayden and Alicia Vikander were the standouts of a surprisingly deep and underutilized cast.

#72.  Dredd 3D

Saw this in theaters with Adam, and I get the feeling he won’t be too thrilled with where I placed it.  The film’s biggest flaw, probably, was me seeing it so soon after seeing The Raid, which probably wasn’t the most avoidable thing in the world.  Both utilize a similar conceit of an undermanned team forced to take a big building of bad guys, floor by floor.  The film is a remake, of course, but I’m told this one hews a lot closer to the original comic books, and, regardless, is original enough that it is the kind of remake that makes sense.  The film had some interesting ideas, I thought.  The Slo-Mo drug, Olivia Thirlby’s psychic powers, forcing Karl Urban to stay in his helmet the whole time, and the building conceit, for example.  But it never really coalesced into something memorable.

#71.  Sleepwalk With Me

There are some funny bits in here, but the film felt kinda lightweight.  To the point where I don’t really remember much of it.  So let’s take my opinion even less seriously than possible, if that were possible.  I thought the stand up parts were funny, but most of the supporting stuff (life on the road, his relationship) wasn’t, really.  I’m sure Lauren Ambrose was good, because she always is.

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.

#90.  For a Good Time, Call…

Well, I certainly had higher expectations for this one.  The story was undercooked and the jokes not frequent or funny enough to compensate.  I probably lean on this comparison too much, but it felt like a TV pilot.  For a good show, I mean, Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor running a phone sex line with Justin Long as the flaming best friend and Mark Webber as a boyfriend is something that would get a Season Pass on my brand new Genie.  On its own, though, the film isn’t terribly satisfying.

#89.  Return

I know this wasn’t supposed to be my takeaway, but you know how Michael Shannon is pretty much the creepiest actor ever?  Perhaps the most unsettling role I’ve seen him play is here, where he’s just an ordinary, loving, dad.  Like, I kept waiting for some twist where he went crazy or started killing people or something.  But it just never came.  Anyway, Linda Cardellini nabbed a Spirit Award nom for her role here.  Which is cool, because Linda Cardellini is great.  Not just for Freaks and Geeks, because don’t forget about her arc on Boy Meets World.  Her performance here is a lot more understated than I would have expected for a nominated role about a war veteran returning home and dealing with getting her life back to normal.  Which doesn’t make it any less unnerving, there just weren’t really many Oscar (TM) scenes.  Unfortunately, the story itself isn’t terribly gripping.

#88.  Snow White and the Huntsmen

#87.  Mirror Mirror

I did have these two movies next to each other on my list, but I’m sure that was at least subconsciously on purpose.  i do think it is fascinating to compare them, though.  Snow White and the Huntsman falls squarely in the Hollywood trend of making everything gritty.  Which sure seems like it is played out.  But economics aside, I think it was a poor choice here, because the Snow White story held the film back, restricting the creative choices allowed by needing to remain at least somewhat faithful to the fable.  For example, the odd decision to cast people like Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, and Toby Jones as dwarves.  I think the movie would have been significantly better if it weren’t a Snow White story.  Mirror Mirror, on the other hand, fell into the Tarsem trap of a lush-looking film without much of a script to prop it up.  Sometimes it feels like he prefers weak scripts so he has more room to do his thing.  The lead actresses also offer an interesting duality.  Kristen Stewart is an underrated actress, I think.  in particular, she’s quite adept at the action scenes.  Lily Collins, on the other hand, is a lovely princess.  But she does the action scenes like a lovely princess.  The male love interests were pretty well-cast.  Chris Hemsworth basically is the bastion of masculinity that is the huntsman and Armie Hammer has the more goofily refined nature to play a prince.  Charlize Theron and Julia Roberts were both interesting choices for evil stepmothers, I sorta wish the characters could have been even more than what they were.

86.  The Raven

I dunno, Edgar AllIan Poe fighting crime actually sounds interesting to me.  Or, at least, as a big fan of Poe’s writing, I was intrigued by a story which captured his cleverly plotted murders.  This one wanders too much, with an unsatisfying reveal. plus it wastes Brendan Gleeson.  John Cusack as Poe worked for me, I thought he was a good fit for the character and that filmmakers made the character halfway compelling.  As mentioned elsewhere, I love me some Alice Eve and hope she finds her way into some better roles, because I’m fairly certain in an earlier draft of the screenplay, her character’s name was Heaving Bosom.

#85.  Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

If I’m being honest, Google Docs won’t let me unhide row number 86 (which has my #85 movie).  When trying to get the spreadsheet to work, I noticed elsewhere on it that I had listed this movie, which I’m 95% sure I saw, but forgot to add it to my list.  So let’s make life easy and put it here.  I mean, it probably deserves a little better rating, but it has been over a year since I saw it in theaters, so maybe not.  Like most movies, it needed more Connie Britton.  Actually, there are a bunch of fun cameos: Gillian Jacobs, Jim O’Heir, Amy Schumer, T.J. Miller, William Peterson, and more.  Which is how a good road trip movie should be.  The pairing of Steve Carell and Keira Knightley is actually kind of brilliant, and works a lot better than I thought it would.  The film has some problems establishing a tone, but I respect the ending.  (Though I sense the two are related.)

#84.  Cloud Atlas

A noble failure.  I respect the heck out of the ambition of the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, but this one just didn’t quite work.  The individual segments were all fine.  None of them were boring, but not really sure I needed to see any more of any of them.  It was neat seeing the actors take on a bunch of wildly different role, but I’ll confess I didn’t really see the point.  Which may have been my problem overall with the film.  It seemed like it was maybe trying to make a point or have a message, with the various storylines and actors in multiple roles and vaguely philosophical underpinnings.  But I didn’t see one.

#83.  Damsels in Distress

My first Whit Stillman film, and I was not impressed.  To me, it felt like Greta Gerwig’s character was out of a Wes Anderson film, and that’s not a compliment.  Most of the other characters were somewhat less twee, but still pretty unbearable to watch.  That said, I do kinda wish there was someone around who would appreciate if it I started calling things a “playboy” or “operator” move.  Partially because she’s great and partially because hers was the only character I could recognize, but the standout to me was Analeigh Tipton.  Curious to hear John’s thoughts on the Sambola! and if it deserves to be an international dance craze.  Also, it was odd to see Aubrey Plaza in a world where her shtick feels like normalcy.

#82.  The Sessions

Talked about this one in various awards wrap ups.  The main acting performances were top notch.  Helen Hunt certainly deserved her Oscar nomination.  And John Hawkes probably was robbed of his.  Hawkes’s performance, I’d argue, is kinda sneaky good.  For an awards baity movie about a guy with a serious medical condition, there are a surprisingly few number of baity-type scenes.  Instead, Hawkes somehow imbues his character with such depth while only moving his head.  It is really impressive.  The story was a little weak, though.  In particular, the relationship between the characters never felt justified.  Hunt and Hawkes only meet for a few times and while I realize spending a lot of time together is not a prerequisite to feeling a deep connection, I think it is on the film to show how and why their relationship is so strong.

#81.  Brave

There were some funny bits.  The triplets. for example, were quite amusing.  And the clans fighting was a great scene.  Actually, you know, the clans fighting probably should have been the movie’s focus.  Because Merida’s story was second-rate.  Just felt uninspired.  And I don’t think that’s me holding Pixar to a higher standard, I think that’s me holding it to the same standard I would any other movie.

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.

#100.  Farewell, My Queen

Nominated for a ton of Cesar awards, it mostly lost out to Amour and Rust and Bone in the major categories, only managing wins for Cinematography, Costume Design, and Production Design.  Seeing as how those two movies already showed up on my list, I’d say it wasn’t a terribly good year for French film, at least in my humble opinion.  The film did have an interesting concept, I thought, with Lea Seydoux playing a reader for Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger), who would do anything for her queen.  The final, oh, ten minutes or so are actually fairly gripping, as Seydoux’s character has to come to terms with what her devotion actually means.  The rest of the film, though, is all over the place, with subplots going all over the place and not doing much to support what I thought was the main crux of the movie.  In some sense, that may have been intentional, as the film depicts the uncertainty of the court following the storming of the Bastille.  But the chaos of the film doesn’t translate to an interesting viewing experience.  Don’t let the trailer fool you, the Sapphic nature of the relationship between the three gorgeous ladies is a very minor part of the plot.  And the cast is always kinda wasted, though maybe I’m just saying that because I’m not sure any actresses do cruel better than Seydoux and Kruger can.  Someone needs to write them a withering look-off, stat.

#99. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I like the idea of this movie more than the movie itself, I think.  It was a story of redemption for director John Madden, who had seemingly spiraled into directing increasingly obscure and, well, not good movies after helming Shakespeare in Love fifteen years ago.  It was a story of Hollywood economics, where everyone seemed stunned that a film starring a bunch of elderly British actors cavorting around India could be crazy profitable.  The only thing without a compelling story, as it turns out, was the film itself.  The premise was solid.  And the cast is fantastic.  I mean, any film with Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson is going to be watchable on some level.  But the characters all had only the minutest of progressions.  As a pilot for a TV show, it got the job done.  As a complete movie, it seemed like the film got lost in all the characters and didn’t have enough time to give them all engaging arcs.

#98.  Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

I can still remember when last year’s Golden Globe nominations came out and the sheer befuddlement upon realizing this film, which had rather quietly come and gone from theaters, and had received pretty much zero awards love anywhere else, managed to pull down not one, not two, but three Golden globe nominations.  Never change, Globes.  Never change.  Not having read the novel, I can’t say for sure if it is the source material or the script (written by Simon Beaufoy, who won an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire along with nominations for The Full Monty and 127 Hours), but the film has a terrible case of ADD.  Subplots are picked up and put down seemingly at random, only to be picked up again several scenes later, when they’ve completely lost their resonance.  Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt are fine, if not terribly stretched.  Kristin Scott Thomas definitely made the most of her turn, and with a stronger script, probably could have received some awards attention.

#97.  Savages

We’ll talk more about Taylor Kitsch as the countdown goes on, I’m sure, but sure seems like Riggins’s luck has carried over from FNL.  Because I don’t see any way you can blame his string of flops on him.  Correlation does not equal causation!  Take this film.  Doesn’t matter who you put in his role, the film isn’t going to make any more sense.  For me, the film was one of those that wasn’t anywhere close to being as sexy, innovative, and envelope-pushing as it seemed to think it was.  Instead, everything felt unnecessarily over the top and campy without having a sense of humor at all.  So, boring, really.  Which is the worst crime of all to commit.  Especially because it wasted such a bizarre and fascinating cast.

#96.  Arbitrage

I honestly couldn’t tell you the difference between this film and a made-for-TV movie Hallmark mystery, other than this one had a better cast and the Hallmark movie would likely have more interesting twists.  Richard Gere generated some awards buzz, including a Globe nom, but I think that was more due to Richard Gere playing a douche than anything specific to the performance.  Not to take anything from Gere, the character just didn’t lend itself to anything career-defining.  The machinations related to various business deals aren’t anywhere near as interesting as it seems like they should be, and there’s a poorly-done subplot involving license plates that’s been done better by probably dozens of mystery shows.

#95.  Keep the Lights On

John and I discussed this film some in our Spirit Awards post, as the film received four nominations: lead actor, screenplay, director, and picture.  I thought Thure Lindhardt was pretty great, but the film didn’t do a whole lot for me.  I guess I sorta felt like I did about The Kids Are All Right, if the film was about a heterosexual couple, would it have received as much notice?  Obviously, in some sense that’s not fair at all.  Gay and heterosexual couples certainly had different experiences in the mid-90s, and I don’t mean to give that short shrift.  My point is more than I personally felt the hardships a gay man faced in the time were used, not necessarily as a crutch, but as a way to give more import to the characters than they may have otherwise deserved.

#94.  Think Like A Man

This movie raked in $90 million dollars, for the record.  Which says something.  The film heavily employs one of my least-favorite trappings of romantic comedies: boiling relationships down to a small set of rules which magically grant you all the power over the person you are chasing.  That said, the film is based on a relationship book by Steve Harvey, and I, for one, am not going to disagree with anything Steve Harvey has to say.  So the movie is basically the girls read the book, take the power in the relationships, and then the guys find out about the book and then they get the power.  Hilarity ensues somewhere along the way, I guess?  The biggest shame is how badly the cast is wasted.  Taraji P. Henson is all kinds of amazing and really should be getting better roles.  I’m hoping Almost Human works out for Michael Ealy, because he deserves a good vehicle (and not just because he’s from Silver Spring).  At this point in her career, Gabrielle Union should finding her way into more awards bait, instead of being an on-screen couple with Turtle (?!).  Etc.  Etc.  Pretty much the whole cast is coming back for a sequel, though, so look for it in theaters in June 2014.

#93.  Looper

The time travel/sci-fi movie for people who don’t like time travel/sci-fi movies.  Maybe my expectations were just too high for a time travel film directed by Rian Johnson and starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and involving hitmen, Emily Blunt, and Jeff Daniels, but this movie just didn’t do anything for me.  All of the genre stuff was undercooked, the rest of the film wasn’t terribly interesting, and aside from maybe two or three scenes, Johnson’s signature flashy style was nowhere to be seen.  Where Brick was a fantastically creative take on noir, this one felt flat and uninspired.

#92.  Hope Springs

I made sure to watch this film for two main reasons.  First, I know John loved it.  Second, to more fully appreciate this subplot of a Bunheads episode.  Oh, Bunheads, you were gone too soon.  Anyway, turns out Tommy Lee Jones being uncomfortable with his sexuality is not enough to get me to like a movie.  Who knew?  I look forward to John calling me out in the comments, but as far as I can tell, that’s pretty much the whole premise of the movie, along with Meryl Streep, playing his wife, learning to stand up for herself a little more.  I mean, yeah, I guess it is charming at times, but the film has no real shape and isn’t particularly funny.

#91.  The FP

The Vegas line on where this film would end up on my list had to be around, like #10, right?  Basically a modern take on an 80s post-apocalyptic movie where gangs battle via a Dance Dance Revolution clone.  I mean, that sounds like a pure genius.  But I’m not sure I quite got the joke they were going for, or that they played the tone right.  1980s camp is a surprisingly difficult thing to emulate, I think.  And they played this one pretty straight, which I’m not certain was the right call for a story that never really made any sense at all.  I really wanted to like this one, but it just wouldn’t let me.

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?

June 2019
S M T W T F S
« Jan    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  
Advertisements