The 411 Movies Top 5 12.28.12: Week 354 - Top 5 Movies of 2012
Posted by Shawn S. Lealos on 12.28.2012
From The Avengers and Argo to Django Unchained, The Hunger Games and more, the 411 staff count down their favorite movies of 2012!
Welcome to Week 354 of the Movie Zone Top 5. My name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.
This week's Top 5 is the "Most Recommended Movies of 2012." The 411mania writers were given only one rule: "Forget about critically acclaimed movies. Forget about which movies are Oscar favorites. If you could only choose five movies from 2012 to watch again and could never watch the rest, what would those be? If you could recommend a movie for your closest friend to watch from 2012, what would it be? Basically, this isn't the best movies of the year; it is your Top 5 favorite movies of 2012."
Honorable Mentions: Safe, Act of Valor, Cabin in the Woods, The Dictator
Out of all the new movies that came out this year, Lockout is the one that I hope spawns more movies. I know it won't since it didn't make all that much at the box office, but with it now out on home video, there's a small chance that it will find a big enough audience to warrant another go around. Starring Guy Pearce as Snow, a railroaded badass CIA agent sent to an orbiting space prison to rescue the recently captured daughter of the U.S. President. Pearce is brilliant as Snow, a sort of wiseass Snake Plissken, and Maggie Grace is great as the President's daughter Emilie. And, of course, the great Lennie "Hawkins" James shows up as Harry Shaw, Snow's pal (sort of. You have to watch the movie to find out how it all works out). Some of the action scenes don't play out as well as they probably should, but even the fast cuts and the desperate need for a PG-13 rating don't dampen the movie's overall excitement. Lockout is a bunch of fun, and, like I said, I'd love to see another one. I bet it would rock.
Ted is easily the best comedy of 2012. Directed and co-written by Seth MacFarlane, the movie stars Mark Wahlberg as a grown man with a pot smoking, foul mouthed teddy bear, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane), as his best friend. The whole thing is ridiculous, of course, but it's a laugh riot from start to finish. Wahlberg is excellent as John, Mila Kunis is great as John's long suffering girlfriend Lori, and the Sam Jones shows up playing a coked up version of himself. Would it have been better if Jones had the same altered voice he had in Flash Gordon? Yes. But even that "issue" isn't bad enough to ruin the movie. Ted made oodles of money worldwide, so there's going to be a sequel eventually. I'm curious to know what the heck John and Ted are going to get into next. Will Giovanni Ribisi show up again?
Man, that guy creeped me out.
3. The Expendables 2
This bigger, more badass sequel to 2010's The Expendables features an even bigger cast of movie tough guys (Ahnold and Bruce Willis get bigger roles, the immortal Chuck Norris shows up to kick some ass, and just about everyone from the first movie shows up again) and some expert villainy in the form of Jean- Claude Van Damme as a sort of Satan worshipping gang leader hell bent on selling nuclear weapons to the highest bidder (with Scott Adkins as his main henchman). I loved every second of this action movie, and can't wait for the eventual part 3, which is set to add Jackie Chan and Nicolas Cage. Maybe with Chan in the movie Jet Li will be able to stick around for longer than five minutes and we'll get a big, gigantic, awe inspiring kung fu fight.
2. The Collection
The Collection, the sequel to the torture-slasher flick The Collector, is freaking amazing. Instead of doing a straight up slasher sequel, The Collection is more of a search and destroy action thriller chock full of nasty gore. It starts out with one of the nastiest movie opening massacre scenes of all time (an indoor wheat thresher and a room outfitted to act like a cardboard baler wipes out close to, at least, one hundred people) and never lets up. Josh Stewart returns as Arkin, the man the Collector (this time expertly played by Randall Archer) collected at the end of The Collector, and Emma Fitzpatrick does a great job as the Collector's latest victim. But the standout performance of the movie belongs to the great Lee Tergesen as Lucello, a rich man's bodyguard who desperately needs Arkin's help. Hopefully, Tergesen's performance here leads to more movie work because the guy deserves the chance. You probably didn't see The Collection when it came out. You really missed something. When it hits home video be sure to see it as soon as you can. You won't be disappointed.
1. The Avengers
The ultimate culmination of years of hard work over several different superhero movies, The Avengers is a big, honking action adventure movie with loads of great performances and special effects. It figured out how to make the Hulk a viable movie character, it showed us, just in case we weren't paying attention, just how great Robert Downey, Jr. is as Iron Man, and how, in the right hands, a comic book team-up movie can be achieved. There isn't a real lame moment through its long running time. I can't wait to see it again. And again.
When you have a franchise that's hitting its 50th anniversary, you need to spice it up. The James Bond films have done that numerous times but for the long-awaited 23rd movie, it achieved a feat most thought impossible: Nostalgia for the past combined with a bold look for the future. The idea of Daniel Craig's Bond shaken after a near-death experience and forced to rebuild himself was wonderfully done but what got you was that for the first time, a Craig movie felt like a real classic Bond film. Javier Bardem was brilliant as the twisted villain with a complex plot, the introduction of the new Q was fun with nods to how ridiculous the gadgets could get in the past and the part where Bond breaks out the old Aston Martin brought cheers in my theater. With a brutal finale that brought things full circle in so many ways, Skyfall was not only the best Bond movie in years but made fans, old and new, more than eager to see 007 return and why he is still the greatest cinema spy hero of all time. And like the wines he often favors, he just gets better with age while appreciating its tone.
4. Wreck-It Ralph
It's a line repeated at various places: In 2012, Pixar made a Disney movie and Disney made a Pixar movie. While Brave was a disapointment, Ralph was a true animated gem thanks to its amazing ability to provide nostalgia for video game fans. The "bad guy" of a 1980's arcade game trying to prove his worth by invading other games? How has this concept never been touched on before? The in-jokes for game fans of the '80's were lovely, from cameos of past characters to commentary on how games have become more violent and complex over the years. The animation is glorious from the dark words of a first-person shooter to a bright racing game ruled by an Ed Gwynne like king. But you feel for the main character, a goofball trying to break free of his appearance which can speak to so many video game fans. Throw in a great cast of Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch and you have one of the best original animated films in some time, one that used its medium to the fullest and reminded gamers of all ages how a blast from the past can be a joy for the present.
A little-known story of an event most filmgoers today weren't alive for. A thrilling spy drama. A satire of Hollywood influencing world events. It's not three different movies but rather one that combines all three and somehow it works. With Argo, Ben Affleck escapes years of poor projects and emerges as one of the best filmmakers of his time. The acting is great, led by Affleck with fantastic turns by Alan Arkin, Bryan Crantson and others and his screenplay mixes a story so fantastic, it has to be true (using a fake sci-fi film to free Americans from Iran?). But Affleck's direction is amazing, going from the hustle-and-bustle of the CIA to the more open and lavish Hollywood to sequences in Iran that make you sweat in your seat watching. It's an absolute gem in so many ways, proving the worth of Affleck at long last and how Hollywood can deliever a truly unique picture to match anything the indies could muster.
2. The Hunger Games
On the making-of documentary on the film's Blu-Ray, someone makes the perfect comment as to why the adaptation of the best-selling novel worked: "It wasn't what anyone expected but it was better than they expected." Rather than be hidebound to the text, Gary Ross expanded on the themes of the story but still kept its brutal spirit alive to let you feel the horror of children forced to kill for the entertainment of others. Jennifer Lawrence was nothing short of mesmerizing as this young woman thrust into a nightmare, fighting for her life and unaware of the example she sets for others. Yes, there's action and some good set pieces in the forest. But what gets you are the bits in the Capitol, these people who honestly don't understand the death toll waged before them, it's just entertainment to them. Compare that to the obsession with reality shows this past year that make you gawk at the horrid actions of others. It's rare to have a blockbuster that makes you think as well as entertain but this did it as you understood, with a chill, how the world of this dark future really isn't that far off from our own society today...and how little of a push we need to get there.
1. The Avengers
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Anyone who claims "it would have worked no matter who made it" is full of crap. There's a hundred ways this could have gone wrong but Joss Whedon managed to link together the characters of five different super-hero movies and bring them together into one amazing package. It was the perfect weight of humor, adventure, action and drama, satisfying for both Marvel geeks and newcomers and more than deserved to be the biggest hit of the year and how comic book movies can be just as powerful as any medium in cinema.
John "D-Rock" Dotson
Movies I have yet to see: Silver Linings, Playbook, Seven Psychopaths, Django Unchained, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, and Les Miserables
Honorable Mentions: 10) The Expendables 2, 9)The Dark Knight Rises, 8) The Avengers, 7) Skyfall, 6) 21 Jump Street
5. The Cabin in the Woods
It's hard to talk about The Cabin in the Woods without actually giving away the huge surprise the film delivers. What I will say is that this film is the most fun I've had with the horror genre since the original release of Scream. If you haven't already done so, then I highly recommend that you check this one out. Did I also mention that the great and powerful Joss Whedon (The Avengers) also had a hand in the creation of this?
Ever heard the old saying "what goes around, comes around?" Most science fiction time travel movies usually deal with aspects of the past only affecting the future. Looper handles such elements very differently thanks to the strong writing and direction of Rian Jonson. What we get from him is a time travel universe that creates a never ending loop of chaos once it has begun. Johnson is proving himself to be a directing force of nature in the years to come and I cannot wait to see what clever project he pops up with next. If Looper is not on your radar, then change the station right now.
3. The Raid
The Raid is one of the best action films of 2012 by far. Gareth Evans directs this tour de force with extreme precision. Each set piece is carefully orchestrated to make sure that the action progresses the story. Even the cinematography is utilized to deliver suspense and emotion in several areas of the action. The score, which was composed by Mike Shinoda and Joe Trapanese is actually quite impressive. Shinoda and Trapanese don't overdo their sound and know how to back off when the characters must be the focus. Overall, the best way to describe The Raid is that it's a war film about survival all set in the confines of a building. I know that when you think "war" you think Saving Private Ryan and such, but this is very much a war film, beginning with amazing gun fights and then slowly evolving to hand-to-hand combat battles.
2. The Grey
It's very rare that we receive such a first-class "Man versus Nature" film from franchise driven Hollywood. I can't think of many film-makers to handle such a genre than the guy who gave us Narc. The Grey at times can come across as a film conveying a message of hopelessness, but it's very much the opposite. Joe Carnahan's story is about having the strength to fight back even when all the odds are against your favor. It all comes down to the poem Liam Neeson reads at the start of the film and at the final minutes of the finale. His character in the beginning utilizes the words when he has lost faith in himself and mankind, by the end it's a whole different beast.
"Once more into the fray.
Into the last good fight I'll ever know.
Live and die on this day.
Live and die on this day."
Gives me chills every time I hear it.
Can the motion picture industry save lives? Ben Afleck's Argo argues the possibility. This is hands down my favorite film of the year by far. Even though most people know the events of what really happened, the mature film-making by Afleck made this a compelling watch from start to finish. Argo is a film in the same league as Apollo 13 because of how it keeps you guessing at every turn, while making the viewer part of the experience. If this movie doesn't make Afleck a strong contender for Best Director at the Oscars this year, I'm not sure what will.
Shawn S. Lealos
Honorable Mention: Argo, Amazing Spider-Man, Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, Wreck it Ralph, Seven Psychopaths
I have been a Rian Johnson fan since I saw Brick, a great neo-Noir starting Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Now, Johnson is back with his third movie and re-teams with JGL for a sci-fi thriller about time travel. In the movie, JGL stars as a Looper, a man who kills people sent back in time from the future, so he can eliminate all traces of their body, and no one in the future will ever know what happened to them. One day, his bosses in the future send back his future self (Bruce Willis), but he fails in the kill and the two have to figure out where to go from there. It is smart, exciting and one of the best smaller releases of 2012.
4. Django Unchained
Django Unchained is a fun, intense thrill ride. Tarantino remains one of the best, and most unique, directors working today. He has mastered the ability to balance his violence, humor and drama in a way that makes the very long film enjoyable from start to finish. There might have been a way to trim about 30 minutes from the running time, and the final portion of the movie, with Jamie Foxx as the main focus of attention, feels a big overlong, but at the end of the day this is what fans of Tarantino have come to expect. Django Unchained is another masterpiece from one of the best directors working in Hollywood.
3. Cabin in the Woods
I absolutely loved this movie. I am a decent fan of horror movies, but I am a HUGE fan of horror comedies. With Cabin in the Woods, Joss Whedon directed a smart, funny script and Drew Goddard directed a nicely paced and very funny tongue-in-cheek horror film. One complaint I have heard is that the characters are all stereotypes and you don't care about them, but that was the entire point. Cabin in the Woods was a love letter to horror movies, specifically the slasher genre, and this movie was all about using the contrivances of the genre and flipping them on their head. This movie had me smiling from start to finish and was one of my favorites of the year, hands down.
2. Zero Dark Thirty
While Argo looked like the front runner heading into Oscar season, Kathryn Bigelow raced to the front of the line with her amazing look at the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. There will be controversy surrounding the movie, and some people won't enjoy it because of political convictions. However, as a movie, this is the best film of 2012, with the best director of the year and the best performance by an actress by Jessica Chastain. You are looking at the new front runner for the Oscars.
1. The Avengers
I grew up as a fan of The Avengers. Next to Spider-Man, it was my favorite comic book so the movie this year had a lot to live up to. It succeeded on every level, and in my eyes, it is exactly what a comic movie should look like. Yeah, Dark Knight Rises was a great film in general, but The Avengers was a fun, thrill rise with exciting characters and some fantastic action. It had great comic timing, with the Hulk as a standout. I mean, come on, it made The Hulk an interesting character. Everything about this movie was great. If I went back and asked my ten-year old self what I wanted to see in a comic book movie about The Avengers, this is exactly what it would look like. Bravo Marvel for actually getting it right.