Top Ten Movies of 2012

When it comes to movies, 2012 is the kind of year other years should aspire to be. This was a year full of life changing films, films that resonate in their excellence and astound in their innovation. I loved 2012 and would go as far as to call it my favorite year in film. Subsequently, this was a list I could not wait to make. It’s a list that celebrates my favorite year in film, how could I not be excited to write it? Well, let’s get into it.

10. Prometheus

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Prometheus tells a sort of Greek tragedy in the form of a bleak and beautiful science-fiction odyssey. This is Ridley Scott’s greatest film since Gladiator and it’s a wonder that it happens to be in a genre he helped define back in 1979 and 1982. He redefines it here with a glorious tale of searching for the answers to life’s biggest questions and the cataclysmic events that ensue when curiosity gets the better of us. To tell his tale, he also crafts a character study of a human and a robot. Michael Fassbender enthralls in his portrayal of David.

9. Lincoln

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Lincoln is without a doubt one of the best biopics I’ve seen. Everything just works. Steven Spielberg obviously knows how to make a great film and when he has the greatest living actor working hard to play the main character of his film, you’re essentially guaranteed one hell of a movie. Every supporting actor does a great job, but Tommy Lee Jones deserves a lot of recognition for his scenery chewing performance. Daniel Day-Lewis is the real star here though and his performance is breathtaking.

8. Silver Linings Playbook

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David O. Russell takes boy meets girl genre conventions and flips them on their head. Silver Linings Playbook tells a tale as touching and engrossing as it is inspirational. Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro all give knockout performances with their human characters. We follow Pat on a road to self-discovery after his stint at a mental institution. Evey living person is different and this is a superb film about people and the relationships inspired by ones own defining characteristics.

7. Looper

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This is Rian Johnson’s third film and once again he hits it out of park because I loved Brick and The Brothers Bloom, but Looper is his best film yet. Looper may very well be the greatest film involving time travel that I’ve seen and that’s because Looper isn’t about time travel, it subtly uses the idea of time travel to tell an imaginative tale of life, death and the choices that can change everything. Joseph-Gordon Levitt is brilliant in his role of the younger Joe (a hard hitting Bruce Willis) and the movie as a whole is a fascinating drama with delightful tricks up its sleeve.

6. Seven Psychopaths

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Seven Psychopaths is an oddity of a film about film, stories and the people that inspire those stories. Martin McDonagh blew me away with In Bruges and he takes it up a few notches with this masterpiece of reflexivity, nut cases and inspiration. Everyone does their part justice, but the real magic comes from Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken as Billy and Hans. Though they’ve gotten protagonist Marty involved in a dog-napping scheme, Billy and Hans want to help Marty finish his latest screenplay at whatever the cost.

5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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When all is said and done, like The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit trilogy may make for one of the greatest stories ever told. The masterpiece that is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey does after all begin the story flawlessly.  Much to Bilbo Baggins’ resistance, he is thrust into an adventure that will change his life and middle-earth forever. The film is just an amazing time from start to finish, every single moment was fun and glorious. My mouth is watering with anticipation for the rest of the story.

4. The Master

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Four years after his magnum opus Paul Thomas Anderson proves that all he knows how to make anymore is masterpieces. There is just miraculous beauty to any Paul Thomas Anderson film. Everything he puts in front of the camera is made gorgeous by perfect camera work and direction. The Master examines Freddie Quell, a drifter lost and looking for his way after WWII. He soon stumbles upon an enigmatic and powerful man, Lancaster Dodd. There is a mysterious nature in the way this tale delves in with so much substance, but does so with the examination of a single friendship. The relationship between these two men envelops an extraordinary story of obedience and control.

3. Django Unchained

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Django Unchained was the gorgeous piece of art it was meant to be. In a year this perfect, it would only make sense that Quentin Tarantino would unveil his most recent masterpiece. As his new friend and mentor, Dr. King Schultz, unchains him from his shackles, Django instantaneously falls into his role as a heroic and vengeful freed slave. He’s a total badass and together with his wise new partner they epitomize a force to be reckoned with against the harsh and brutal atrocity that is slavery. The film is relentless in its intensity and constantly a blast.

2. Skyfall

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If I had been told that my second favorite movie of 2012 was going to be a 007 movie, I just would not have believed it. I loved Casino Royale the first time I saw it and I continue to enjoy it this day. I am a firm believer that Casino Royale is a perfect Bond movie, while Skyfall is a perfect movie. Skyfall utilizes and pays homage to conventions from what has become a full-fledged and changing genre, Bond film. Through this icon, it also manages to tell an extraordinary story about the past and how it may shape the future it doesn’t define it.

In order to tell a magnificent story sometimes you need a magnificent villain. With Silva (Javier Bardem), Skyfall offers nothing short of the perfect Bond villain. This is a story about Bond and Silva and it’s a story about M. James Bond is country man and a reactionary hero who will stop at nothing to see the job done and in Skyfall his job is makes its grand and slithery entrance in the form of Silva, a savage and sadistic mastermind, a betrayer who too will stop at nothing to see to it he’s done what he was always meant to do. Skyfall evokes a gorgeous tale of the ways of the old and making way for the new. There’s a kinetic justice in the narrative and every moment of the film is flawless.

1. The Dark Knight Rises

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The Dark Knight Rises is a gargantuan epic and a masterpiece of the highest caliber. It’s almost magic, the way Nolan makes every image and moment of the film absolutely pivotal. Christopher Nolan is a visionary, the greatest director working today. I am blown away at every turn. This is a continuation of a great hero’s journey, the greatest. This is a man who fights for good and justice and does so because it’s the right thing to do. There’s been many friends and foes along the way and The Dark Knight Rises is filled to the brim with engrossing characters.

Christian Bale gives his best performance yet and the same can be said about every actor stepping back into their character’s shoes again as well as the newcomers, whether they be the mysterious Selina Kyle, the courageous Detective Blake, the kind-hearted Miranda Tate or the malevolent villain. In The Dark Knight Rises Batman faces off against the tactical and ruthless brute force that is Bane. Tom Hardy does wonders with a role in which he can only rely on his eyes to tell the story. And what a spectacular story it is. The Dark Knight Rises is the third installment in a series of films, yet with grace and a clear tone it delivers with fresh and glorious territory.

It’s almost 2013 and 2012 will have come and gone. This is a year that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time because this was the year that my favorite story came to an end. In 2005 Bruce Wayne took his hero’s journey and became Batman. In 2008 Batman faced off against his nemesis, The Joker. What was realized was the perfect tale of good, evil and balance. In The Dark Knight Rises Batman becomes the hope to counter the despair that faces his city. If The Dark Knight Legend (or The Dark Knight Trilogy if that tastes better going down) is about one thing, it’s about hope and when it came to The Dark Knight Rises I hoped it would be a masterpiece, but little did I know, the entirety of The Dark Knight Rises is the perfect ending to the greatest story ever told.

Django Unchained Review

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Quentin Tarantino can not be defied. He is a brilliant director and there’s just no arguing that. He has a defined and beautiful vision for his stories, his characters and his films as a whole. Django Unchained is simply another result of his blood, sweat and prowess. He knows how to make films better than most and Django Unchained was flawless. Had this not been the greatest year in film I could easily see myself calling this my favorite movie of year, it does come close because yes Quentin Tarantino has done it again.

The man even has a way of entertaining me during the opening credits just by the way the entirety of the beginning of the film plays out. From the title slides to the perfect beginning scene, in which our hero is released from his chains, I am captivated  and moment by moment I continued to be captivated until the end. The film does for slavery what Inglourious Basterds does for National Socialism, while each film is wholly unique and perfect in its own right.

From the moment his destined mentor, partner and friend, Dr. King Schultz unshackled him, Django embodied his part as a freed slave and vengeful hero. Dr. Schultz is a german bounty hunter who teaches Django a lot. They both end up learning a lot from one another though and together they stand for all that is right and just in a world with something as savage and heinous as slavery. As representation as opposition to our heroes we find the despicable plantation owner, Calvin J. Candie and his hateful house slave, Stephen.

Every character in the film is given potent justice. Django is a badass, that’s all there is to it. He is not the kind of man you mess with and he’s the kind of hero you want on your side. Jamie Foxx sells it perfectly. Having now seen the film, there is no one I would’ve rather seen in this role. Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio are equally brilliant in their roles. Candie is a sadistic bastard and DiCaprio doesn’t hold back. Christoph Waltz really astounds in his role as King Schultz, a kind and wise old man whose weary of this harsh world he’s living in and keen to help Django in his plight. Samuel L. Jackson even portrays his unique part masterfully.

Watching Django Unchained is a blast all around. It’s fun and yet touches on some real emotion. The tension rises as a spaghetti western would and explosive bloodshed is usually the result. With the help of other artists, Tarantino has created a Southern. This  is just another film he poured his heart and soul into. He had a blast making it and subsequently it’s impossible for me not to have a blast watching it. Django Unchained is a beautiful piece of art, it’s Quentin Tarantino’s Southern and it’s a masterpiece.

Grade: A+

Safety Not Guaranteed Review

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Safety Not Guaranteed was a rather splendid movie that I was happy to have watched. Newcomer, Colin Trevorrow, boldly plays around with a lot in his first feature films and offers a lot of unique pay offs. It tells a clever little tale with some real emotion. The characters are really explored not uselessly as some characters in movies are. This is the work of a confident filmmaker who clearly had a tight vision for his movie.

It tells the tale of three Journalists (two of them are interns) who investigate a Want-Ad of man seeking a partner to time travel with. As the female intern becomes very involved and intrigued by her “mark”, if he could be called that, it becomes a apparent that at its heart, Safety Not Guaranteed is a fun film about finding the people who are weird just like you. This was a very different film and as a result I was interested to learn more about these well thought out characters.

Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza really shine in their well written roles. The played so well off of each other that I pleasantly happy anytime they shared the screen together, which seemed to be most of the movie. Everyone else did pretty great as well. A lot just seemed to fall into place as if everyone was just having a good time making a good movie. It was funny and it was serious and it told a good story. What more could I ask for?

If I could think of a complaint it might be that it was almost too short and some of it was a bit predictable. I was entertained and I wanted it to keep going, I felt as though the story could’ve explored more between starting at A and ending at B. As far as parts being slightly predictable other parts made up for that so I wouldn’t call it much of a complaint at all. Overall, it was just a pretty great film I’d happily enjoy watching in the future.

Grade: A-

Silver Linings Playbook Review

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David O. Russell follows up his inferior The Fighter with a remarkably touching film of love and self-discovery. I say inferior, but I really enjoyed The Fighter for its realism and the human direction he took the story. There was definitely a prowess to way The Fighter was directed and Russell brings that same flair to his latest and superior outing, a film that was not only more entertaining, but also meant more to me.

First off, it was great to see Robert De Niro in this role. He is one of the greatest actors to have ever performed. Russell has written a fabulous script with genuine characters who change and react to the events around them. There’s certainly a realism to the story and like Robert De Niro, everyone is on their game. Jacki Weaver is great, this is the best I’ve ever seen Bradley Cooper act and as always Jennifer Lawrence is phenomenal.

Silver Linings Playbook was very unconventional and in all the best ways. The film almost had a subtle reflexivity to it in the way everything plays out. By the end, everything is wrapped in a beautiful little bow and at the same time it’s hard not to enjoy the entire ride. Where other movies fail with similar subject matter, Silver Linings Playbook succeeds because it touches on so much more than just covering the family or love story.

Silver Linings Playbook makes you laugh, it makes you tear up, it gets you interested and it keeps you interested with a marvelous story about relationships and the unique personalities that form those relationships whether it be a connection with a father, a friend, a brother or a lover. We’re all a little crazy. Who defines what’s normal? You look at people and no two are the same. Silver Linings Playbook is about people and relishes in their differences.

Silver Linings Playbook follows a simple enough story about a man picking himself back up after a trip to the “looney bin”. Your family can only do so much and the same could be said about friends new and old, but at the end of the day what pulls you through is the strength and ability to change. David O. Russell blew me away with this one and I can’t wait for his next feature because it definitely seems as though he’s coming into his own as a filmmaker. Silver Linings Playbook was extraordinary.

Grade: A

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been a long time coming and the wait was worth it. First it was going to be one movie, then two and now the story  of The Hobbit is going to be its own movie trilogy. While the story was going through these changes, we also saw a change of a director from Guillermo Del Toro to the man who was born to direct movies in middle-earth, Peter Jackson. The Lord of the Rings is one of the greatest stories ever told and I could not be more happy that Peter Jackson is at the helm of another journey through middle-earth because The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was perfect.

Part of the reason that made this first film in a brand new middle-earth quest so breathtaking was it never once had that been there done that feel to it. I felt privileged to be able to go on another epic adventure with new and old characters from this world that was first established in The Lord of the Rings. On top of that though, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit just feel very different. The stakes were higher in The Lord of the Rings making it much more tense and dramatic, it was extremely emotional and almost had a realism to it where as The Hobbit felt much more like a fantasy movie and a rollicking good time, a bedtime story if you will. Both were simply perfect in their own ways.

Ian McKellan, as always, is just brilliant as my favorite character from middle-earth. We’ve met Bilbo Baggins before, but not like this and Martin Freeman captures the character and his traits to perfection, I can’t wait to enjoy the rest of this adventure with him. My favorite newcomer (not counting the young Bilbo) is Richard Armitage as the dwarf and leader of the company, Thorin Oakenshield. It was a treat to watch this relationship build between this heroic warrior and this Hobbit who seems to be out of place.

Every character was unique and added to the greatness that is this story being told. This is a story about stories and the experiences that shape who you are and the stories you pass on. Bilbo could’ve just been sitting on his bench smoking a pipe or reading a good book, but now he’s off seeing the world with a wizard and a bunch of dwarves. This is a magnificent story worthy of an epic telling and Peter Jackson, thus far, has been doing just that.

I was always against Peter Jackson turning this shorter book into its own trilogy, but now I have nothing but complete faith in his talents. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the beginning of something beautiful and new. Because it is a trilogy, Peter Jackson is able to take his time and fully realize exactly what he wants to do with this brand new adventure that has already began to brilliantly prelude another journey. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a masterpiece, I savored every second and I wait eagerly for the rest of this tale.

Grade: A+

Killing Them Softly Review

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Killing Them Softly is a movie I’ve been craving to see for a long time and maybe it’s because 2012 has had such an amazing track record, but there wasn’t much doubt in my mind that I was going to enjoy Killing Them Softly. This is one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen in a long time. I’m not saying it’s one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a while, I’m saying it’s one of the most disappointing. I was expecting one thing, what I got was unfortunately not a good movie.

This is the second feature film by Andrew Dominik and just like his first feature, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, KIlling Them Softly stars Brad Pitt and a role he does wonders with. Unlike his first feature, Killing Them Softly was a bad movie. I loved The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, it was an incredibly well made film and the acting was amazing. This was another reason I was excited to see Killing Them Softly, it seemed to have that great combination of director and actors. The actors did what they could with the flat characters they were given and lightning just wasn’t able to strike twice when it came to Andrew Dominik’s career.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was just under three hours, while Killing Them Softly is just a little over an hour and a half. Killing Them Softly manages to feel longer than Dominik’s first feature. Now how did he manage to do that? It had something to do with meaningless scenes of dialogue that went absolutely nowhere, characters that could’ve easily been cut from the movie because their arcs or lack their of offer nothing to the film other than more wasted time, but worst of all it offers up for our appreciation a simplistic and predictable story with an obvious theme that could’ve been established in 5-minute short film.

I’ve read comments of people who enjoyed the film expressing that the reason there are people who don’t like it is because they don’t understand the underlying themes. My main compliant with the movie is that there was no way I couldn’t understand the point of the movie. There was no subtlety in the movie whatsoever, there was one purpose the film was attempting to get across and it was shoved farther and farther down my throat. Throughout the entire movie it is made completely obvious what the film maker’s agenda in making this film was and then the theme is punctuated by its last moments which is when I realized how much of a waste of time the movie really was.

If there was a bit of light that could be found in this dark and dull film, it would be some brilliant camera work and some good acting. The film was shot beautifully and when it comes to the performances I just can’t complain, it’s just sad these actors were given such lackluster characters and unimaginative dialogue. Killing Them Softly was a disappointment through and through and I can’t wait to just forget about it because the more I think about it, the more I just get frustrated.

Grade: C-