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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.

#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.

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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.

#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?

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.

January is over so it’s time for another edition of our top fives!

John

1. Bernie
2. Looper
3. Django Unchained
4. Headhunters
5. Hope Springs

Jared

1. The Dark Knight Rises
2. 21 Jump Street
3. Wanderlust
4. Argo
5. Flight

Adam

1. Django Unchained
2. Marvel’s The Avengers
3. Lockout
4. The Dark Knight Rises
5. Silver Linings Playbook

As a year draws to a close, it’s time for top ten lists! But even though we get literally dozens of hits per week, the studios for some reason don’t invite us to early screenings and we’re stuck buying tickets and renting DVDs like mere mortals. So we need more time to get through all the films and we’ll stick to our usual top five format for a few more months.

Not a ton of movement this month compared to November even though we’ve seen a lot of Oscar films.

John

1. Bernie
2. Looper
3. Headhunters
4. Hope Springs
5. The Queen of Versailles

Jared

1. The Dark Knight Rises
2. 21 Jump Street
3. Wanderlust
4. Argo
5. Flight

Brian

1. Lincoln
2. Argo
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild
4. Django Unchained
5. 21 Jump Street

We haven’t done one of these for a while. I’m not entirely sure what that means. On my part, I found it really tough to narrow my list down to 5 because there are 10-15 that are clustered at the top, but nothing has truly grabbed me.

John

1. Looper
2. Headhunters
3. Hope Springs
4. The Queen of Versailles
5. Flight

Adam

1. Marvel’s The Avengers
2. The Dark Knight Rises
3. Lockout
4. 21 Jump Street
5. Total Recall

Brian

1. Lincoln
2. Argo
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild
4. 21 Jump Street
5. Marvel’s The Avengers

Jared

1. The Dark Knight Rises
2. 21 Jump Street
3. Wanderlust
4. Argo
5. Flight

The summer blockbuster season has drawn to a close so let’s look back on the best films of the first 2/3 of the year. The one film we all share may surprise you.

John

1. Headhunters
2. Hope Springs
3. The Hunger Games
4. 21 Jump Street
5. Brave

Adam

1. Marvel’s The Avengers
2. The Dark Knight Rises
3. Lockout
4. 21 Jump Street
5. Total Recall

Brian

1. Beasts of the Southern Wild
2. Marvel’s The Avengers
3. 21 Jump Street
4. The Dark Knight Rises
5. John Carter

Jared

1. The Dark Knight Rises
2. 21 Jump Street
3. Wanderlust
4. The Raid: Redemption
5. Lockout

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