Wednesday, 2 January 2013

You MUST Know What I Think! Best of 2012

Well, it is that time of year again; The BEST of films from the year. 

Actually, it's about 2 days too late, but blame constantly exploding laptops. But for now, I am back on my trusty Dell, which never disappoints, unlike this previous year in horror (oh ye, nice segue). Last year, I promised this list would be more horror populated in 2012 since it seemed like such a promising year, and I even have a post of what was then on its way to the silver screen that was exciting me. Unfortunately, just like my promises of consistency, this list strays from the path of horror immensely. In fact, this year I will be following up with not only a WORST of 2012 post, but a SPACES IN BETWEEN, for those films that weren't bad, but overall disappointing. There are some glaring omissions here, since I haven't seen some films like The Hobbit or Paranormal Activity 4 yet, but hey, what good would I be if I was fully prepared for this post?

So, for the year the world kept turning, 2012, here is what I thought was the best on offer.

10. The Woman In Black
I wasn't a massive fan of the film, finding some inconsistencies, but I think the majority of those problems can be put down to the fact Daniel Radcliffe is a terrible, awful, wooden actor who was the worst case of stunt casting I have ever seen. I initially found the film itself middle of the road, but am in hindsight thinking it is quite fun, but the more and more I look at it, it seems that Potter drags down some immensely powerful talent around him to be a horrible putrid zit on an otherwise not too bad looking face.

9. Cosmopolis
I'm a massive fan of David Cronenberg, and hope he will return to his genre roots eventually, but until then, he seems to be pumping out films for critics to call 'high-brow' or 'unique'. Cosmopolis is definitely these things, but probably not in a good way. The trailer plays up the sex, drugs and violence of the film, which are certainly elements for Robert Patterson's despondent business tycoon in the back of a limo, but the film is all a monologue of a detached millionaire. Feeling very staged with long periods of inactivity, the film is actually pretty interesting, up until it reaches its climax, where it almost edges in to typical Hollywood, but then plays out almost 10 minutes too long. The film isn't a standout in Cronenberg's oeuvre, but is certainly an interesting piece for those looking for an inner struggle in a decaying world.

8. The Hunger Games
Battle Royale is one of my favourite films, so Hunger Games automatically loses points for basically being a candy-coated version of the Japanese classic, but the film on its own merit is enjoyable, engaging and biting from a satirical point of view. I'm not going to stand here and say it is high art or anything, but the film has a universal message of the wealth divide that it sends to the PG-13 crowd effectively (and heavy-handed). Though somewhat predictable or cliché in places, this actually benefits the film and its ability to appeal to all. THIS is a much more appropriate replacement for Harry Potter than the Twilight series.

7. Absentia
Technically a 2011 film, but only released on DVD in the UK in 2012, this is a micro-budget flick about a woman whose husband shows up years after inexplicably disappearing and being presumed dead. He appears disheveled and paranoid of a tunnel near the house, which we find is home to some otherworldly portal where demons can kidnap the living. Though it shows its low budget pedigree in many places, it is a very strong film with a consistent heavy tone. The former drug addict sister of our main character is fantastic, as is most of the cast. An idea that could have been hashed out and replicated in dozens of bargain bin flicks, this one stands out as something that has more of a heart than any of its low budget peers.

6. Dredd
I loved this film. It is simple. It is a shoot em up. It is a popcorn movie. There is nothing complex about the famous Chaos AD character, Judge Dredd, getting trapped in an apartment complex and hunted by a drug dealer's gangs, but this is the biggest plus of the film. I know some people are annoyed that none of Judge Dredd's 20+ year history is brought up in the film, but that is why this film is so good. It isn't trying to inject plot, or shoehorn a message in. Dredd is an officer who upholds the law, and executes those who break it. Plain and simple. You want deeper plot? Go watch the Sylvester Stallone version. What I was hoping for was this film to be a hit, and there to be a massive series (like 12 films) so we could go deeper into this character slowly but surely, but I guess that is never going to happen since the film didn't do impressive numbers. Stylistically, the film is probably up there with the next entry as most beautiful film of the year, and number 1 for best 3D. 

5. Moonrise Kingdom
Wes 'I can't help but make incredible films' Anderson returns with the story of a scout and a young girl who run off together on a small American island as the worst storm of years is about to hit. If you haven't seen this film, it is the one you HAVE TO see. Anderson's films always are unique, but this one feels like it was made from your grandfather's shag rug while reminiscing as Bill Murray walks in every now and again. Bruce Willis and Edward Norton will blow you away with roles that are fantastically awkward and hilarious.

4. The Cabin in the Woods
Many people have gone to town about this one and how good it is, and I agree. It is the best 'horror' I have seen this year, though I use the term horror loosely. In it, we see the stereotypical college kids go to the titular Cabin, where they are attacked by supernatural beings, but the twist being there are being watched and manipulated by a government-like organisation. I hated the trailer for this one, but was so pleasantly surprised when I saw it. The film is witty and amusing, and is a loving elbow to the ribs for horror fans (incidentally, if you liked this, check out Tucker and Dale VS Evil. A lot more silly, but brilliant). It is self-referential, as the Scream series was, but in a totally different way. Whereas those films were played straight with realistic characters who knew the horror rules, Cabin in the Woods are more the movie horror characters who find out why they do stupid things like run upstairs when chased, or call out 'who's there?'. I bring this up because there are 2 definite camps with this film; those who love it as a tongue-in-cheek nod to typical and worn horror troupes; and those who think it is a failure as a horror film and full of itself. I agree it isn't a good horror film (I would almost prefer to stay with the mundane organisation behind the whole operation than the action with the kids), but for me, it is a ridiculously fun film, keeping in line with Joss Whedon's sardonic humour of Buffy, Firefly or even The Avengers.

3. The Avengers
Speaking of Joss Whedon. You all know what The Avengers is about; some of Marvel comics most well know characters (well, if you exclude Spidey or the X-Men), plus some ones you mightened know, trying to save the world from a Demigod who is hell bent on ruling the earth. The film is big budget and explosive, and the wet dream of comic fans everywhere. This isn't a heavy experience, it's about sitting in your seat and letting the action hit, with it being punctuated by fantastic wit and gags. The first act of the film is poor, and every now and again, I did find myself going 'these people are in stupid costumes', but once Robert Downey Jr shows up on his mission to steal every scene, the film never lets up. Steve Rogers, one of the weakest of the 'pre' Avengers films, Captain America, shines bright in the ensemble, playing well as the clean cut, modest patriot to RDJ's cocky and egomaniacal Iron Man. This is a highlight in a genre of comic book films hit by diminishing returns, and a sign that the golden age of the comic book movie may have life in it yet.

2. Prometheus
Here's one a lot of people hate. Not me. There's a lot of points people make of the film that are easy to argue (certain things people think are plot holes which aren't, thinking of it as a horror when it clearly isn't nor ever was supposed to be), and some that are not so easy to. Most people were let down, since they were expecting a great prequel to Alien. Even though director Ridley Scott had always said it had started as a prequel but no longer was, everyone knew he was just trying to give us a show. But it is a very different kettle of fish than his face-hugging original. This film obviously happens in the same universe, but has little to do with the rest of the series. In fact, it has far more to do with Blade Runner. The film's faults are some of the clichés that come through in the characters and plot, though some of these feel more like they were there but truncated in the edit. As far as action films go, it lets the side down, but this is the thing, Prometheus isn't a typical action film. In fact, the film is all very symbolical, hidden underneath the veneer of a typical multiplex mainstay, and annoyingly, too well hidden for a lot of people. It is a pondering on what it means to be human, and what if it actually means nothing. I can see why people don't like it, but for my money, this is a film that gets better and better every watch, and one that will be essay worthy for many academics, you just wait and see. 

Scott has stated there is also going to be a sequel to Blade Runner 2, and there will be a sequel to Prometheus. Through some small lines in the BluRay extras, it has been established that Blade Runner and Prometheus actually exist in the same universe, and I am theorising that these 2 upcoming sequels may in fact be one and the same. Now THERE would be a twist.

1. The Dark Knight Rises
A lot of hate for this one from a lot of people, but I'm sorry, it is enjoyable and the best film of the year for me. People were let down because, really, it isn't as good a film as The Dark Knight, but whereas The Dark Knight is an amazing crime thriller about a criminal mastermind and the balance between good and evil, The Dark Knight Rises is what happens when that balance fails and order is thrown into chaos. Like Prometheus, TDKR suffers from a lot of information passing too briefly, making it seem a bit poorly thought out, and I imagine there exists a cut that adds in half an hour of footage to the first hour of the film. So much happens in this film, it could only benefit by a Lord of the Rings-style extended edition. Not to add in scenes, but to play what is there out slower. Beyond that, it is brilliant. There are some moments here and there that are questionable, but people have been making a bigger deal out of them because they were expecting so much from this film. As a whole, Batman's villain, Bane, is as identifiable as The Joker (ok, the voice is a bit funny, but in a perfectly recognisable way), and puts the caped crusader through both personal and public trials. The Dark Knight stripped away Batman's loved ones, The Dark Knight Rises is about breaking the Bat himself. 

Great film. Number one.

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