This list proved harder to cut down than I initially thought. Nonetheless, here’s my top films of 2012. Likely subject to change once discussed with exception of the top three.
Within five minutes of this film starting I instantly regretted my decision to come see it. My nostalgic memories were being kicked from me as I realised that not only the Muppets themselves had aged badly,
it was clear that this film was for a younger audience and older fans need not apply. Then I laughed, slightly mind you. Then again, a bit more this time, until I found myself smiling throughout the whole film. A parody of itself, James Bobin delivered a film that showed us why Kermit and company are still relevant after over 50 years. Are you a man or are you a muppet?
The Woman In Black
Films such as Hostel and Saw dominated a new wave of horror where more was less. The found footage craze (continued by the annual instalment of Paranormal Activity) showcased the opposite. Re-enter legendary studio Hammer Films to the fold to prove that it is possible to create a balance. An old fashioned horror story about a vengeful spirit and a haunted house, the Woman in Black provides the appropriate mix of genuine suspense and cheap scares. With a budget of 15m USD and a box office of over 127m USD , a sequel has been greenlit. Here’s hoping it doesn’t stagnate the genre.
Matthew McConaughey stars as a hitman who has been hired by Emile Hersch to kill his own mother. Nothing personal, he just wants the money from her life insurance policy so he can pay off a debt. Hardly the ideal premise for a comedy, however “William Friedkin’s Film of Tracy Letts’ KILLER JOE.” (as the opening credit announces) pushes the boundaries of black humour. Every time you feel inclined to laugh something horrific happens, Whenever you feel uncomfortable you want to laugh. The performances are absurd without being ridiculous which mirrors the script brilliantly. You’ll never look at fried chicken the same way.
Cabin in the Woods
This is a very difficult film to write about without giving too much away for those that haven’t seen it. John did brilliantly in his review (which you can read here) so I’ll keep this short. Imagine every horror cliché in one film, without it being a spoof yet it’s not a serious horror either. A game changing film in which the originality is born from its clichés. Truly brilliant.
Too many cooks you say? Didn’t Spiderman 3 fail because it had too many main characters? Try telling that to Joss Whedon. In a film that could have failed more ways than it could have succeeded, The Aven…sorry Avengers Assemble was a brilliant action film that threw all of Marvel Studios’ ingredients in a blender to produce a colourful action blockbuster. Forget brooding existentialism, Avengers Assemble is about fun and spectacle, and Whedon wields this effortlessly as a group of superheroes are thrown together.
Found footage films don’t appear to be going away anytime soon so thankfully Chronicle was a breath of fresh air. For starters, it wasn’t a horror. Instead it was essentially a superhero film although it owed more to Push than it did X-men. A great script and a memorable performance by Dane Dehaan, it may stretch the boundaries of the found footage genre but it provides the best film of the found footage genre in 2012. It also hints that in the right hands, a live action Akira would be very doable.
The most anticipated sci-fi film of the year , Prometheus turned out to be a disappointment, for me at least (you can read Paul’ s review here). Towards the end of the year another sci-fi film caught the interest of audiences in the form of Rian Johnson’s time travel flick. Joespeh Gordon-Levitt is a hitman who specialises in killing people the mob send back from the future. When one of his targets turns out to be himself (Bruce Willis) things get messy. Clever without being technical, Looper was a hit at the box office and with critics. It was criticised for its paradox, however shouldn’t every time travel film have one?
In 1979 the Canadian Government and the CIA embarked on a daring and original rescue mission to save the lives of American citizens in war torn Tehran. In 2012, Ben Affleck released a film loosely based on those events. No it’s not historically accurate, but who cares? Brilliantly directed and starting Affleck himself in one of his better roles, Argo was a tense thriller with more suspense than an episode of 24. My full review can be found here.
Silver Linings Playbook
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in a romantic comedy? Hold me back. This is a film that didn’t interest me at all, however finding myself with nothing to do one Friday morning, I decided to give it a chance. The story is of two people with mental issues who strike up a friendship. Funny and touching, it also has a couple of scenes that are bit difficult to watch. Brilliant performances and an original take on the genre separates this from the usual glossy affair. Yes, it’s clichéd and a little predictable, but it is a rom-com and plays by the genre’s rules. It’s also unashamedly brilliant, and came close to being number one on this list.
The Dark Knight Rises
However, number one was rarely ever in any doubt since before the year started. After seven years and three films, Christopher Nolan says goodbye to the franchise that many viewed as transcending the genre of comic book movies. In Christian’s final outing as the Bat, he finds himself paralysed both physically and mentally as new villain Bane destroys Gotham. The performances from everyone are outstanding with Michael Caine threatening to steal the show in his limited screen time. Joseph Gordon-Levitt further shows why he’s one of the most exciting actors in Hollywood right now while Anne Hathaway excels (surprisingly) as Catwoman. For me it was about Bane though. Ever since I read Knightfall he has been my favourite villain. Thankfully Nolan treated him with respect by portraying him as the formidable foe that he is. Tom Hardy commands the screen even though we can’t see his face and some felt his voice was indistinguishable (I could hear him fine to be honest). His eyes burn with an intensity that makes you believe this guy can fuck Batman up. People complained that the plot was ridiculous and convoluted but I’d argue these people expected too much. At the end of the day it’s a comic film about a guy that dresses as a bat fighting a guy with a CV worthy of any Bond villain. And have you examined the plot of The Dark Knight? Exactly. The ending may have spread the cheese on a little thick, but come on, tell me you didn’t smile at the final scenes? For some Nolan’s trilogy was for people that didn’t like comic book movies. Seems fitting that the finale was the most comic book of all. The Bat is once again in your hands Hollywood. Don’t fuck it up.
Other films that didn’t make the final cut included;
The Expendables 2 (what the first one should have been)
The Raid (relentless action, impressive)
ParaNorman (what Tim Burton wishes he was making)
The Imposter (Extraordinary true story, but a flawed documentary)
Feel free to comment and chastise.