So, 2012 is long over and as a whole it wasn’t the strongest year for movies in memory (though certainly better than 2011 was). With the 85th Oscars coming up this Sunday, we thought we’d share with you our favorite movies of the year. What follows is a list of 12 movies from last year that Scott Fraser, Chris Tansuche, and I came up with after much debate and slap fighting. These are the films we feel most deserve your viewing time. Now these aren’t the ones we expect to dominate the awards season, but rather the stuff we found to be most enjoyable. As well made as Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln were, repeat viewings in the near future aren’t likely. This is a list of the films that we deem are worth consideration of your hard-earned DVD/BluRay purchasing dollar…
12. Django Unchained
This is one of only 2 movies on our list, that is also among the Academy’s 10 Best Picture nominees. It’s the newest from Quentin Tarantino, and while it isn’t my favorite QT movie, it’s still a must watch. Leo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz were both excellent, and this was Sam Jackson’s most memorable role in years. Tarantino’s own cameo in the movie features an accent so bad you’ll cringe, but outside of that it pretty solid. This is one that I can say got better with each viewing as I’ve now seen it 3 times.
There has been plenty of controversy surrounding this one, but that’s always the case when Tarantino puts out a new super violent movie. I give a lot of credit to him for approaching a period of American history that often scares people off. – B. Kronner
11. Safety Not Guaranteed
Safety Not Guaranteed was a nice, quirky, feel good sleeper that may have missed the radar of a lot of movie goers. Filled with a cast of comedians that are on the cusp of making it big, what on paper sounded like a flat-out comedic throw away is actually a movie with a ton of depth, great characters, and a series of stories that are relatable to everyone who continues to struggle with life after high School. Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass offer some eccentric yet, moldable characters that make it easy to fall in love with, while Jake Johnson continues to impress with his earnest and believable characterization of the professional slacker.
This film rewards the viewer with clever dialogue, an interesting story, and a real world pathos that warms the heart. The sci-fi element is a tiny undercurrent to the film that keeps everything moving along, and brings just the right touch of nerdism to a film that would normally be without. I highly recommend that if you missed out on this film in 2012, make sure to avoid a lifetime of regret by watching it immediately. – S. Fraser
Chronicle was not supposed to be a terrific movie from the outset. It brought it the repetitive POV cam perspective beat to death by horror movies. It’s a somewhat odd concept movie with teenagers getting superpowers because they encountered a mysterious, probably alien, artifact deep in the ground. However, under the direction Josh Trank, this becomes a great flick that explores what these teens do if they create their own rules and become ‘gods’ in their own right. Do they maintain their idea to stay cool and never abuse the power…or do they let their emotions take over and let it feed into their ego or let it fill the void in their own lives?
I love this movie because it shows great relationships between three teenagers (Dale DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan) and how these new abilities brought them together and ultimately, destroy them. Yeah, there are superheroes in comics but if there’s no precedence on actual real power possessing the telekinetic skills, how can one really follow a rule book on what is right and wrong? We see the rise and fall of DeHaan’s character as he struggles with his family and social life and it comes to a head until his cousin and the popular class president all find themselves newly minted as “superpowered”. Again, the concept goes deeper than any superhero movie out there and the POV effect does not detract, but rather enhance the experience. It makes sense that DeHaan’s character wants you to see him struggle then rise above everyone in diary style. It’s almost as he plays it back and realizes slowly that he is above everyone because the one thing people held against him, he know has something to strike back with. His performance as he lets his ambition takeover is why he’s now Harry Osborn in the Amazing Spider-Man sequel. The visuals are great for an essentially bare bones movie. I never questioned the special effects as it was used brilliantly, especially the staging of the football throwing sky sequence. Josh Trank and writer Max Landis are great storytellers and their ability to inject new life into both the POV and superhero genres will be remembered as one of the great movies of 2012. – C. Tansuche
9. End of Watch
End of Watch may not have raked in the box office when it first premiered, but there is no mistaking its place on our top 12. The film somewhat falls into the found footage category (more Cops than Blair Witch), and follows LAPD partners Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) as they protect and serve in south central LA. Taylor and Zavala bring us a camaraderie and friendship to the everyday workings of the police procedural as they make some big busts and start ruffling the feathers of a Mexican cartel operating in the area. It’s a great buddy movie that gets turned around from the usual stereotype and really touches on some emotions and excellently crafted characters. David Ayers does it again and creates a perfect blend of characters with a realistic style that captivates the audience, while remaining unhindered by the found footage vehicle.
Gyllenhaal and Peña produce some of the best characters of their careers, especially Peña who is absolutely believable in every scene. Not to take away from Gyllenhaal’s nuanced performance and powerful depiction of a modern police officer dealing with the chaos of his city. As the work day rolls on the audience is never quite sure what to expect from each call, and the experience shocks and pulls you into the film. By the climax you have so much invested in these characters that you feel the strength, the courage, and the fear these officers face while reflecting on how human they are as they deal with the family life outside the job. A powerful and moving film that doesn’t pull any punches, End of Watch is a gritty and visceral thrill ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and may even squeeze a couple of tears out of you. – S. Fraser
What a pleasant surprise this was. The 90s Judge Dredd movie was terrible and the trailer for this one wasn’t much better, comprised almost entirely of slo-mo and no real clue to the treat that was in store for those of us that actually went out the one weekend it was playing at the theater. I haven’t seen a movie this good get pulled from theaters that quick since…well- I’ve never seen one pulled that quick.
The one can be most closely compared to the 2011 masterpiece The Raid: Redemption, a fact that is not really present in the advertising, but is undeniable once the movie gets going. Dredd has to fight his way through the most massive apartment building you’ve ever seen, and is meet with impossible odds and awesomely crafted action sequences. This is maybe the most widely ignored movie on this list as the marketing focused solely on slow motion and 3D – which most of the movie going audience is over. -B. Kronner
7. 21 Jump Street
Oh C-Tates, who knew you had it in you. While most reboots and remakes devolve into stupid references to the past and boring plots that don’t translate well into modern times, 21 Jump Street pretty much writes the new formula on how to make a reboot successful. First, don’t try to recreate every detail from the old source material. It never translates well in the long run. Use it as a backdrop to support a greater, more entertaining story, such as returning to high school to get another shot only to find the tables have turned. Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim vs The World) wrote a funny script and it delivers consistently. Second, enlist a great comedy duo. You get that with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, who also helped come up with the story. Not a lot of people saw C-Tates as a comedy guy with his brooding in dance dramas, Nicholas Sparks movies and awful G.I. Joe movies. That he can make a great joke and sell it with everything he’s got, proves he might actually be a better actor than one originally presumed. Having Jonah play opposite him just makes it all the better as they are able to go back and forth with each other and not miss a beat.
Third, get some up and coming directors such as Phil Lord and Chris Miller, veterans of cartoons such as Clone High (DEEPLY underrated) and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, to bring the manic comic nature and translate it into a live action environment. Their direction makes this a great movie with random events galore. There’s never a moment where pacing is an issue with this movie. Fourth, get a great cameo with Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise reprising their roles. Just brilliant and of course seeing Holly Robinson Peete adds to the nostalgia factor too. More or less, this is probably my favorite comedy of the year and you need to watch it. Because Korean Jesus endorses this movie too. – C. Tansuche
“Argo f*ck yourself.” That is the battle cry of awards season as the Academy Awards denied Ben Affleck a chance to score a Best Director trophy. Obviously one understands that politics plays a part into this but the reason why this movie is making a fantastic run in gathering support and awards left and right, is because it’s a fantastic movie. No other movie out there has a mix of a thriller or drama or comedic elements and makes them mesh so well together. The first part concentrates on the politics of the Iran Hostage Crisis and the “Houseguests” stuck in a Canadian Embassy to avoid capture as diplomats, or worse, spies at the hands of Iranian forces. The next part is the concoction of an outrageous plan to put together a fake movie with a makeup artist and old school producer (John Goodman and Alan Arkin, respectively and stealing the show) to legitimize this plan and then the last part of the film plays out as a white knuckle thriller in trying to get the “Houseguests” out in the most watched and secured city in the world. And it all blends and flows perfectly.
Argo combines all these genres and accomplishes the impossible: it makes the whole experience fun. Nothing overshadows each aspect of the story and you become so engrossed in these people and their stories and their ordeal that you feel like you’re right there with them. Ben Affleck does a masterful job in recreating the experience and brings the audience into the conflict, both domestic and international, brilliantly. He is one of the top premier directors right now and one of the best storytellers out there. He shouldn’t be punished because he happened to be an actor turned tabloid fodder turned director. Hopefully when people watch this movie (or Gone Baby Gone or The Town), they see what I see: the brilliant filmmaker with an eye to entertain audiences and provide perfect escapism. This, in my opinion, is the best film this year. – C. Tansuche
5. Cabin in the Woods
I want to say that this movie was a surprise hit that came out of nowhere, but that really isn’t true. It was certainly a great take on the classic horror movie themes, but it had been hyped up for a while and most people knew to expect something great upon its release. That being said, it really didn’t disappoint. Cabin in the Woods relies on the typical horror tropes to set the stage and breed some familiarity, before changing every rule in the book and presenting something new and unique. Not content with being an effects or monster drive horror film, CitW showcased a civilization content with the sacrifice of the few for the many, and developed the select few that weren’t afraid to stand up to that.
There was also laughs, gore, monsters, and scary stuff. Because movies are allowed to be fun and insightful, while spilling blood and cracking jokes. Drew Goddard filmed a genuinely enjoyable horror film, with a solid script from Goddard and Joss Whedon that captivates and entertains. – S. Fraser
4. The Avengers
Hands down, one of my favorite movies of the year. Yes, I may be slightly biased. I have been reading the Avengers since I was old enough to read, and seeing them in action on the big screen was almost too good to be true. Not only was my lifelong obsession now a big budget epic action flick, it was also the culmination of a plan that started in 2008 with the release of Iron Man and the following Marvel Studios picture. With all that hype and buildup chances are I was going to be on board anyway, but then they went and threw Joss Whedon into the mix, effectively selling tickets to the majority of the geeks on the planet.
Effectively combining the stellar cast from all previous Marvel Studios films and making it believable that these characters could exist together was no easy feat, but Whedon pulled it off. Where other superhero films choose to remain grounded in reality, The Avengers took the mythology of the comics and ran with it, enforced it, and manipulated it to produce a truly enjoyable film that is extremely re-watchable. While in no way perfect it is certainly fun, and really has some great performances. Chris Evans delivers a better Captain America in Avengers then he did in his own flick, and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner is one of the best interpretations of the character I have ever seen. While the inner comic guy rejoiced in seeing these characters brought to life, the inner film goer was entertained by the smooth story, the great action scenes, and the casual humor that flows throughout. This movie made my 2012. – S. Fraser
3. The Dark Knight Rises
This is a movie that, admittedly, I was disappointed in the first time I saw it. I know that will come as a shock to some people being that I’m a Bat-Fanatic. However, this is one of those rare movies that seems to get better every time you watch it, and I can’t say that I don’t love it now. Some people complained that there wasn’t enough Batman in this newest Batman movie, but I really enjoyed the Det. Blake character (JGL) and as always, Oldman’s Gordon is perfect. Plus Anne Hathaway is sexy as Hell.
Anyhow, as a comic fan I can appreciate what they did drawing inspiration from such classic Bat-stories as No Man’s Land, Knightfall, and The Dark Knight Returns. And as a film fan I can appreciate an epic score and Anne Hathaway in that skin-tight suit. Oh my. Also, the much talked about ‘Bane voice’ is awesome. Totally made the movie. “He saved my boooyyyyy“. – B. Kronner
Looper is one of the most inventive movies that has come out in recent years. What could be a throwaway movie based off of the convoluted plot, ends up being a masterpiece skillfully navigated by writer/director Rian Johnson. His direction and use of camera is brilliant and terrific in giving the audience the action and sci-fi drama they desire. The way the camera moves and the action is lit, it comes off as Fincher-esque with his panning and shots. The story is the major player here and while I won’t attempt to explain it, just know it involves time travel and hitmen. That enough should suffice in wanting to watch this movie.
The cast brings it together as Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis play the younger and older version of Joe respectively as they fight for their survival and selfishness, even if it means to rob the other of their “true” future. Emily Blunt and Pierce Gagnon play a mother and son that run into JGL’s Joe and they provide great characters as Joe’s future is about to collide with theirs. This movie proves you don’t need a big budget to do an effective sci-fi movie. You just need to have a great director and writer at the helm that can hit every detail and provide emotion and depth in every shot on the screen. Rian Johnson is the next big thing, mark that down. Definitely looking forward to see what he has up his sleeve. – C. Tansuche
Who would’ve thought a Bond movie would’ve been arguably one the best films of the year? After Quantum of Solace, everyone was pretty disappointed considering that Casino Royale rebooted the franchise with Daniel Craig and delivered on almost all counts. After six years and an MGM bankruptcy, the Bond team got things rolling and the made the best move possible by hiring Sam Mendes to take the helm. Some people thought bringing the art house mentality that Mendes tends to gravitate towards was a mistake for a big budget action flick but he was more than up for the challenge. He brought Bond back by making it more like the old style Bond movies and novels and reintroducing such classic characters like Moneypenny and Q. Of course, bringing back one of the most beautiful cars on the planet to assist in taking out baddies helps the nostalgia factor too.
Visually, it is also one the most striking films of the year. The exotic locals, ranging from the Shanghai skyline, London being pushed to the forefront, and the desolate Scottish landscape, just add to the world appeal of a James Bond movie. It also carries a classic Bond villain in Silva, played to perfection and maximum creepiness by Javier Bardem. Silva and Bond have a great back and forth after a terrific introductory monologue by Silva and it shows that this Bond means business. Let’s not forget the Bond girl of the movie; not Naomie Harris or Bérénice Marlohe (although both are great), but Judi Dench as M. The relationship she shares with Bond is ripe with tension and a professional admiration for each other that plays great on the screen as M is tested throughout the movie. The way she delivers in each scene makes you admire her for the last 17 years that she’s been involved with the franchise. All in all, the movie comes off as a brilliant spy thriller that keeps you at the edge of your seat without risk of being hokey or wholly unbelievable. Top that off with a perfect Bond song by Adele and you have a flick that hits all its marks from beginning to end. Even after 50 years of Bond, there’s no question that 007 is back and he sets the standard for how to make the best action film of the year. – C. Tansuche