Bigfanboy.com’s BEST AND WORST OF 2012 CINEMA – A Year In Review

Bigfanboy.com’s BEST AND WORST OF 2012 CINEMA – A Year In Review

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It seems like there were a lot of movies released in 2012… a whole lot, actually. While some of them were gems, and a few of those were seriously overlooked by audiences, there were some significant weeds in the garden as well. Each year we take a look back on the films that hit theaters, and pull our favorites, and in some cases least favorites. Check out the staff picks below, and feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.  I’ll start with mine, followed by Gary Murray, then finish with Ronnie Malik’s Top 5 of the year (the poster images separate each list).

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Best and Worst of 2012 by Mark Walters

THE BEST:

10. THE GREY – Liam Neeson is phenomenal in this man vs. nature survival tale. The film serves as an interesting commentary of the human condition, and even religion, and it’s incredibly intense and moving.

9. FLIGHT – Denzel Washington gives one of the best performances of his career as a pilot branded a hero, yet dealing with personal demons through alcoholism. It’s a bleak production, but very memorable and moving.

8. SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN – Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor are delightful in this political drama disguised as a romantic comedy, which never feels like too much of either.

7. THE SESSIONS – John Hawkes leads this daring true story about a man paralyzed from the neck down, and Helen Hunt bares all as the woman who helps him achieve his dying wish. It’s surprisingly funny and endearing.

6. THE AVENGERS – Joss Whedon makes the ultimate superhero movie with all of the big screen Marvel Comics heroes. It’s easily the best Marvel movie to date, and an impressive effort considering all the pieces that have to connect (not to mention actor egos). Even folks who don’t like comics would have a hard time not liking this one.

5. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are quirky and lovable in this rather honest look at mental illness, and the families who cope with it. It’s unexpectedly cute in places, but very satisfying as a whole.

4. ARGO – Ben Affleck stars and directs this classicly-made factual thriller, proving once again he’s one of the best directors working today. It’s a terrific film, and perhaps his best work in front of or behind the camera.

3. LES MISÉRABLES – the moving musical is brought to life in a big way by director Tom Hooper, giving us tearjerking performances from Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, either (or both) of whom could easily win an Academy Award for their work.

2. ZERO DARK THIRTY – Kathryn Bigelow has put together a stunning procedural film about the mission to find Osama Bin Laden. Jessica Chastain proves herself a force to be reckoned with in the lead, and the entire exercise is technically flawless.

1. LIFE OF PI – Ang Lee’s colorful 3D masterpiece was the most incredible overall experience I had in a theater this year. Watching it unfold is like seeing a really good children’s book come to life before your eyes, and it’s all breathtaking.

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THE WORST:

10. TAKEN 2 – same cast (Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen), same scenario (essentially), same movie as the first… just completely missing the charm. We’ve already seen this, and it was much better the first time.

9. THE WOMAN IN BLACK – Daniel Radcliffe attempts to head up this retelling of the classic British ghost story, but it resorts to numerous cheap scares and falls flat.

8. SILENT HOUSE – Elizabeth Olsen tries to remake (shot for shot and line for line) the Spanish ghost story (or is it?), but certain changes cheapen the story, and the end result is unsatisfying.

7. THE DICTATOR – Sacha Baron Cohen moves more toward straight up comedy schtick and away from the reality-style Borat antics, and it doesn’t work. Most of the funny moments were in the trailers, as the rest of the film is hardly memorable.

6. THE RAVEN – John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe in a murder mystery sounded like a good idea initially, but the overly-violent production is too dark for its own good, and mostly leaves us bored.

5. THE WATCH – put Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayodade in a comedy about four guys who form a neighborhood watch and hunt down an alien threat, and you have a surprisingly unfunny (or I’ll at least say forgettably funny) comedy that never finds its focus.

4. BACHELORETTE – a female version of THE HANGOVER, but not funny. Likable actresses (Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan) playing unlikable characters in a comedy that’s not amusing.

3. THE CAMPAIGN – it starts of strong, and Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis seem like the perfect warring comedy duo, but this political satire turns nasty in the second half and never recovers. There’s funny, and then there’s just sick and mean.

2. PIRANHA 3DD – I loved the first one, as it was an unapologetic parody of horror schlock with a bigger budget and cheesy 3D effects. The second effort has none of the charm or effective wit of the first movie. Even when it tries to be self-aware with its humor, it just falls flat.

1. THAT’S MY BOY – Adam Sandler follows his last debacle (JACK AND JILL) with this mess, and it seems like audiences are finally getting tired of his schtick (it barely made back half of its budget).

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MOST-OVERLOOKED:

10. KILLER JOE – granted, if there was ever a movie that was “not for everyone”, this would be it. Those who could stomach the dark tale would have seen Matthew McConaughey’s finest performance to date, wrapped in a movie that was shocking and unpredictable… just what you’d expect from a director like William Friedkin.

9. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED – it seems to be developing a cult status after the fact, but director Colin Trevorrow’s quirky tale was a nice showcase for Aubrey Plaza and the always-great Mark Duplass, and deserved more attention than it got. Granted, the film seems designed to be an indie darling, but could have used more eyeballs.

8. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER – if you like big, dumb, popcorn movies, this was one of the most-entertaining flicks to be missed this year. The 3D was terrific, the action was fantastic, and the style of the piece (from director Timur Bekmambetov) was slick. If you don’t take any of it seriously, it’s a hell of a good time.

7. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS – the Joss Whedon-scripted horror flick got lost in the mix in April, but (despite sitting on the shelf for a while) turned out to be surprisingly good, and had a really great twist ending. It’s already developing cult status after the fact, but it deserved more attention at the box office.

6. FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL… – Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor turned in a funny and raunchy comedy that harkened back to an earlier era of cinematic humor. It also had a lot of heart to it. I sat through two different test screenings, and both were huge hits. Sadly it came and went upon release, and hardly anyone gave it a chance.

5. A LATE QUARTET – Christopher Walken leads a phenomenal cast, that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener, in a story about a classic musical quartet faced with losing their leader. Watching the personal storylines of each character is like listening to Beethoven. If you don’t love music, or attending a classical performance, most will probably be lost on you, but it’s an impressive effort regardless.

4. CLOUD ATLAS – I didn’t love it, I’m not even sure I could say I liked it all that much, but there’s no denying the impressive aspects of this production. Sure, the cast is admirable, with Tom Hanks and Halle Berry and everyone else playing something like six different roles each in stories taking place in different times through history. But as a cinematic effort, CLOUD ATLAS is one of the more extraordinary works to hit theaters in a long time, and perhaps the most ambitious film of the year, for better or worse.

3. COMPLIANCE – based on real events, almost exactly, this tale of people succumbing to the voice of authority, no matter how ridiculous the request, was controversial and too much to take for some. But it was brilliantly shot, beautifully acted, and something that truly sticks with you. Thankfully it was a hit on the film festival circuit.

2. DREDD 3D – so Hollywood finally makes a good Judge Dredd movie, which even some of the original comic book creators praises as “brilliant”, and no one goes to see it. Even the 3D was done well. Karl Urban kept the helmet on, just like in the comics, but the audiences still didn’t bother to give him a chance.

1. THE DIVIDE – Xavier Gens directed this bleak and unrelenting look at the decline of the human condition in the face of a horrible disaster. Michael Biehn turns in one of the best performances of his career, and while it’s not a film you’d feel good watching, it’s absolutely an impressive work by everyone involved.

HONORABLE MENTION:  HITCHCOCK – based on Stephen Robello’s book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho”, this biopic about Hitch’s most notable film never takes itself too seriously, and while Anthony Hopkins is impressive as the portly icon, it’s Helen Mirren that steals the show as Hitchcock’s patient wife Alma Reville. Scarlett Johansson and James D’Arcy are so perfectly cast as Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, the only real disappointment of the piece is the lack of scene re-creations from PSYCHO. I was hesitant to put this in “most-overlooked”, only because it’s still in theaters, and I have a feeling (come Oscar time) it will get more attention.

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BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT (it’s a tie):

THIS IS 40 – I wanted to like it, I really did, but Judd Apatow’s semi-autobiographical look at middle-age is just long and meandering. Most of the funniest bits were only in the trailers, and one of the best scenes filmed (which you can see elsewhere on the site) never even made it into the finished film. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann gave fine performances, and the supporting cast is comprised of strong names like John Lithgow, Albert Brooks, Chris O’Dowd, and Robert Smigel… but the material just isn’t that strong, and the end result is rather forgettable and underwhelming.

PROMETHEUS – Ridley Scott is usually brilliant, and the thought of him returning to his Sci-Fi roots with a psuedo-prequel to ALIEN was incredibly exciting. While visually this may be one of the most beautiful futuristic stories ever made, the script is incredibly hard to follow, and the characters lack any real depth or substance. The religious overtones were put in subtlely, but didn’t help the complicated plot play any better. There’s a few good frights along the way, and some of the impressive cast seems to be having fun, but the final product is lacking. The last shot felt like a cheap ploy to pander to the audience, who (after walking out scratching their heads) probably didn’t appreciate it anyway.

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PRIMER AWARD (new categroy, named after Shane Carruth’s low-budget sci-fi masterpiece):

EXTRACTED – it’s like INCEPTION meets GROUNDHOG DAY, with a dash of MEMENTO, all likely done for what was the catering budget for any one of those movies. Nir Paniry weaves a smart tale, starring Sasha Roiz (GRIMM) and Dominic Bogart, that keeps the audience guessing and makes the most of a modest budget. This is a thinking man’s Sci-Fi film, and while not as complicated as something like PRIMER, there’s enough sophistication and intricate detail here to put it in the same category of brilliant low-budget filmmaking.

 

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Best and Worst of 2012 by Gary Murray (plus actor & actress nods)
 
Best Films of 2012
1. Lincoln – not Steven Spielberg’s best film but easily the best film of the year. It is a story that is timeless and told in a timeless fashion.

2. Zero Dark Thirty – the hunt for Osama Bin Laden via Moby Dick. Jessica Chastain delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as a woman obsessed with finding a wanted man.

3. Skyfall – James Bond has always been my favorite character and Skyfall is a brilliant re-boot of the franchise. Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem are perfect foils in a world-wide cat and mouse game.

4. The Avengers – The best comic book movie, ever. There was not a better time at the movies than this film. It deserved the billions it made.

5. Life of Pi – a visual feast. Director Ang Lee has made a film that must be seen in a theater to be believed. He captured the essence of spirituality without being overly religious.

6. Searching for Sugarman – The best documentary of the year. The story of ‘the death’ of Rodriguez plays more as a hopeful mystery. Did not know one thing about this film before it screened and it captured the power of music on the masses.

7. The Pirates! A Band of Misfits – Best animated film of 2012 in a year of fierce competition. This is the one I had to think about more than any other film but in the end it was only animated work I’ll own from 2012.

8. Argo – Ben Affleck shows that he can craft the kind of film that appeals to both the film snobs and the masses. It is almost a thriller wrapped up in the insanity that is Hollywood.

9. Les Miserables – This is epic filmmaking that may not appeal to everyone but I found it captivating. It is a movie that must be experienced in a theater. Some have complained about all the singing, but that is what a musical is all about.

10. Salmon Fishing in Yemen – one of the few proofs that the romantic comedy is not truly dead. The film is quirky and funny while still being charming. One of the forgotten gems of 2012.

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5 Best movie moments from 2012

1. The Hulk taking on Loki in The Avengers. I have never heard an audience react with such glee to a single moment in a movie.

2. The introduction of Silva in Skyfall. This simple shot was so creepy and effective that it changed the pace for the entire film.

3. When Emma Watson was riding through the tunnel in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Been on that road, ridden in the back of a pick-up truck and know that feeling of coming out into the city. This is a perfect moment in a not-so-perfect film that simply sums up youth.

4. The glowing whale in Life of Pi. In a magical film this was a high-point moment that blended reality and fantasy.

5. The left turn in The Cabin in the Woods. It was a moment in the third act when the explanation of the why happens. It is a macabre joy that makes one want to go to the movies.

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Worst films of 2012

1. Cosmopolis – can be used as a torture mechanism. Absolutely the worst use of cast and production in 2012

2. The Vow – single-handedly killed the romance film. When two characters bond over the passing of gas, you know you have gone off the edge.

3. This is 40 – shows that slings of profane dialogue with meaningful moments don’t add up to a modern “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Just a god-awful experience.

4. Dark Shadows – was the biggest waste of talent and proof that Tim Burton is bereft of ideas. The film didn’t know if it was a comedy or a parody or a parody of a comedy.

5. Savages – a great performance by Salma Hayek in the dumbest and most overwrought exercise in cinematic masturbation of 2012. A waste of a lot of money on a story that did not need to be told.

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Best Actor
Daniel Day Lewis – Lincoln (Hands down best performance of the year and total lock for an award)
Jack Black – Bernie (Jack Black proves that he can act!)
Matthew McConaughey – Killer Joe
John Hawkes – The Sessions
Bill Murray – Hyde Park on the Hudson

Best Actress
Helen Mirren – Hitchcock (she played the glue that held Alfred together, and Helen was the glue of the film)
Emily Blunt – Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
Quvenzhane Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild (never have worked without this very young little actress)
Emma Watson – The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Best Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
Salma Hayek – Savages
Kara Hayward – Moonrise Kingdom
Sally Field – Lincoln
Whitney Houston – Sparkle

Best Supporting Actor
Ezra Miller – The Perks of being a Wallflower
Alan Arkin – Argo
Javier Bardem – Skyfall
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook

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Top 5 Best of 2012 by Ronnie Malik

1. Life of Pi – telling a story about a shipwrecked boy, Ang Lee takes 3D to new heights in his film the “Life of Pi”. Unlike other films that have been noted for being technological wonders, “Life of Pi” does not rely solely on special effects to make audiences fall in love with this movie. This is a heartfelt and well told story about hope, love, faith, and an inner strength that one can tap into even when facing death.

2. Lincoln – Daniel Day Lewis’s performance steels the show in this film about the last few months of President Lincoln’s life. Lewis’s portrayal of the meditative, deep thinking and often humorous president gives insight to what went through the mind of America’s 16th president.

3. Argo – Ben Affleck’s thriller set around the time of the Iranian hostage crisis that took place around 1980. This wildly entertaining film is not only full of suspense but also gives us a review of the political climate that existed nearly 30 years ago that has led us to the world we live in today.

4. Silver Linings Playbook – a quirky, odd, and eccentric film. The off-the-beaten-track feel of this movie is the charm of this lovely romantic comedy. This surprisingly entertaining love story is an adorable film that is extremely delightful.

5. Django Unchained – This brilliantly stylized adventure that takes place in the south two years before the Civil War is a hilarious and bloody (the extremely ketchup splattering kind of bloody) film with rather colorful dialog that is a blast to watch. Even the faint at heart won’t be put off by all the gun slinging violence because they will be too busy having fun listening to the insanely wild conversations taking place through Tarantino’s latest attempt to bring outrageous to the big screen.

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started Bigfanboy.com, which has become one of the Dallas film community’s leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and Bigfanboy.com regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.