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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.

20.  The Avengers

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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

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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

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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 

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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

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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

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This movie is exactly what you think it will be.

14.  The Intouchables

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

#50.  Tonight You’re Mine

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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