Wow. What a year for movies. It was a huge improvement over last year, anyway. If you look back, this year had a little bit of everything and a lot of it was great. Sure, there was a lot of bad movies. When Hollywood churns them out the way they do now, there is bound to be more bad than good, but you have to appreciate the years when they actually connect across a variety of genres. From animated movies to costume dramas to sci-fi and action as well as the super heroes, there were plenty of good movies to go around.
Here are the top -- at least in my humble opinion -- movies from 2012. A lot of these are no-brainers and are popping up on everyone's lists so I tried to have a few on here that maybe you forgot about or haven't gotten a chance to see yet. I'm not even going to try and rank them so let's go alphabetical order on this one. You can read my review of each film by clicking on the title.
"Argo" -- Ben Affleck is a stud. Sure, as an actor he stumbled his way through a few solid blockbusters and even more barely watchable movies but the moment that dude turned his back to the evils of Hollywood and decided to direct his own movies, he instantly became one of the best directors today. Argo is based on true events of the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, allowing Affleck to get political. But he never gets preachy, instead delivering a tight and suspense filled thriller that should get him an Oscar nomination.
"Marvel's the Avengers" -- THE comic book movie of the year...sorry Nolan fans and to a certain extent, Batman fans. Marvel Films, now under the management of the Walt Disney Company has it figured out, at least for now. They've built an integrated film universe comprised of individual heroes (Cap, Iron Man, etc.) that lead up to one of the greatest comic book movies ever. Having Joss Whedon at the helm here helped give the movie a balance of action, drama and humor. Now Whedon, Marvel and company are entering Phase Two which includes a "S.H.I.E.L.D." TV series and of course, the sequel.
"Django Unchained" -- Tarantino once again proves he is the master of mayhem. You have to credit a filmmaker who makes his movies his way and doesn't care what anyone thinks. QT's homage to the spaghetti-western featuring a slave out for vengeance is sure to shock and offend but it's also a high-energy flick with that is as funny as it is shockingly delightful.
"Les Misérables" -- Big. Epic. Tom Hooper's envisioning of the stage play (based on a novel) is led by amazing and passionate performances by Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway -- dude, Wolverine and Catwoman have pipes. The tale of a man who is out to redeem his soul in the eyes of God running from another man who believes that a guilty man's soul can not be cleansed. Plus, I'm a sucker for musicals. Don't tell anyone.
"Looper" -- We got more than our needed exposure to Joseph Gordon-Levitt this year but this one is easily one of the coolest movies of the year and JGL is a huge reason. Playing a younger version of a character played by Bruce Willis, Gordon-Levitt matches Bruce's facial ticks and mannerisms. The plot and action are so cool it will almost make you think it's the first time travel movie ever made without huge gaping plot holes. Written and directed by Rian Johnson ("Brick"). Remember his name.
"Life of Pi" -- I don't normally defend the 3D gimmick. It has its uses and can be fun in certain movies but it is rare when 3D actually makes a movie better. This is that movie. A spellbinding tale of a boy lost at sea with a tiger, "Life of Pi" is a journey of self-discovery that is visually one of the most amazing films in recent years. If you have the chance to see it in 3D, you have to do it. But it's not like the movie loses the emotional impact without it.
"Moonrise Kingdom" -- I'm not always a fan of Wes Anderson. Sometimes his movies feel like he's trying too hard to make a stuck up independent movie and the characters end up just weird for the sake of being weird. This might be one of my favorites, though. Great performances from Bill Murray and especially Bruce Wills, reminding the world that he can, in fact, act.
"Seven Psychopaths" -- I'm reaching a little here but stay with me on this one. Ever since Tarantino started introducing crazy, flawed psychos spewing pop culture reference laced dialogue, there have been so many copy cats it almost hurts to recall some of them. This one, featuring Colin Farrell as a struggling screenwriter who gets involved in a dog napping scandal with a dangerous criminal psychopath is intense, funny and just plain out of control. Plus, it features one of the best characters played by Christopher Walken in years.
"Skyfall" -- Best. Bond. Ever. I grew up watching Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton before I saw Sean Connery as 007. It may be blasphemy to say this but as much as I used to dig the classic Bond, Mike Meyers and the "Austin Powers" series has absolutely ruined those movies for me. Daniel Craig brings a much more interesting and relatable Bond and "Skyfall" director Sam Mendes blends action, espionage and plot perfectly for a spy thriller.
"Safety Not Guaranteed" -- This little independent movie flew in under the radar and went relatively unnoticed in the middle of the summer movie season. Starring Mark Duplass, that dude from "The League", who also wrote this movie; and Aubrey Plaza ("Parks and Rec"), it funny, enlightening and maybe one of the best time travel movies ever made. Seriously.
There were so many great movies to choose from this year so it was difficult to not mention some. If this was the BCS rankings, these movies would be the "others receiving votes": Steven Spielberg's epic "Lincoln"; Christopher Nolan's finale "The Dark Knight Rises"; the Joe Wright directed costume drama "Anna Karenina"; P.T. Anderson's brilliantly acted "The Master"; the hilarious debut from Seth McFarlane, "Ted"; Ridley Scott's ambitious return to sci-fi, "Prometheus"; and Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's outrageous horror romp, "Cabin in the Woods".
Happy 2013 and may the Force be with you.
Disclaimer: I have yet to see "Zero Dark Thirty", that's why it's not here.
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