Mr. Cellophane

In a location adjacent to a place in a city of some significance, what comes out of my head is plastered on the walls of this blog.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My favorite movies of 2012.

First things first: by my count, I went to see 60 movies this year. While that's an impressive total for most people, it's pretty weak sauce for myself. Early resolution: see more movies next year.

Okay, that's enough of the speech. Now, we're getting to what they call the moment of truth.

10. Premium Rush - I don't know if I agree that this snappy thriller plays as kind of a live-action cartoon, but it is a lot of fun. The use of actual NYC locations for this film's playground add to the enjoyment.

9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - As someone who wishes that they had friends like this in high school (or friends, period), this film speaks to me as no other film this year did. It should be seen by everyone who ever felt like an outcast during those formative years.

8. Django Unchained - A spaghetti Western as only Quentin Tarantino could make it. If you can handle the brutality, you will come away from this colorfully performed and written film entertained.

7. Hitchcock - Engaging look at the making of Psycho and the toll it takes on the legendary director. Not entirely true, but then, neither was Ed Wood (with which this would make a perfect double bill).

6. Argo - This true-life story is by turns suspenseful, haunting and surprisingly funny. A splendid piece of moviemaking that is never less than compelling, especially in its breath-holding last 20 minutes.

5. The Dictator - I cannot imagine why more people don't like this movie. Call me old-fashioned, but all I ask from a comedy is that it make me laugh. Given that simple criteria, Sacha Baron Cohen's latest effort succeeded marvelously.

4. Skyfall - As a casual moviegoer and not a Bond devotee, I'm not the go-to guy to determine if this is the best Bond ever, but this was a damn good Bond, bolstered by stellar characterizations and lovely cinematography.

3. The Pirates! Band of Misfits - This underappreciated feature bursts with the charm and wit one expects from Aardman. Hopefully, this film will find the audience it deserves.

2. ParaNorman - I had wanted to see this during my trip to Los Angeles, but the scheduling couldn't work out. I caught it the day after I returned. It was well-worth the wait. A stunningly-designed stop-motion animated feature rich in humor, heart and detail.

1. The Avengers - Honestly, what else could I possibly put here? A fine comic book movie. A fine action movie. Just a fine movie. And how about that dialogue? I don't see how the inevitable sequel could top it, but I look forward to the effort.

Honorable mention:

Brave - What might be considered a home run at any other studio is merely a double for Pixar. Just wait: the opinion for this lively animated feature will change.
The Campaign - Another screamingly funny movie that fell out of favor. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are as funny as ever, abetted by a strong supporting cast and a witty script.
John Carter of Mars - Money. That's what this film's bad reputation comes down to; it cost a lot to make and didn't make enough back. Still, this is an eye-filling adventure with excitement to spare. I think the money was well-spent.
Lawless - This drama about Prohibition and what people did to survive is uncompromisingly gritty and yet, very gripping.
Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson's latest confection revolves around young love. A pleasant journey bolstered by a superb cast.
Ruby Sparks - What would happen if a lonely writer had the opportunity to bring their ideal mate to life? The film answered this question in ways that were funny and heartbreaking.
The Secret World of Arrietty - Even with the lack of narrative thrust and the distracting score, this is a beautiful effort from Studio Ghibli and the finest wide-release adaptation of "The Borrowers" yet.
Seven Psychopaths - Odd (yet entertaining) mix of violent black comedy and potent emotion is not for every taste, but a real treat for those who get into it.
21 Jump Street - What threatened to become a redux of The Other Guys ends up an uproarious revamp of the 80s series, anchored by the comic chops and chemistry of Channing Tatum (who knew?) and Jonah Hill.
Wreck-It Ralph - The world of video games comes to life with this enjoyable and surprisingly clever animated feature.

Underrated: Bachelorette and The Man with the Iron Fists

Overrated: The Cabin in the Woods (I liked it just fine, but let's get some perspective here.) and Looper (This is a serious kidney punch right here, folks. If not for the psychotically misjudged gear shift in the second half, this would've easily made the top ten. Why people are so willing to forgive this is a mystery, but hey, at least it's not as overrated as Drive was.)

Guilty pleasures: Lockout, Man on a Ledge and Safe

Liked it better than I thought I would: Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, Men in Black 3 and Ted

Didn't think this was so bad: Dark Shadows, Fun Size and Mirror Mirror

Kind of a letdown: The Lorax and Safe House

My Favorite things in movies - 2012:

The answering machine gag in Brave

Anytime Admiral-General Aladeen creates an alias in The Dictator

The cheesy zombie movie that opens ParaNorman...and everything that follows

Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

The effects of HFS in 21 Jump Street

The elevator chase in Total Recall

The end-credits sequence of Wreck-It Ralph

Ezra Miller in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The fights in The Raid: Redemption, especially the seventh-floor massacre

The freeway chase in 21 Jump Street, especially the punchline

The Google Maps displays of New York streets in Premium Rush

The graveyard "ending" of Seven Psychopaths

Greig Fraser's cinematography for Killing Them Softly

Guy Pearce in Lawless and Lockout

The helicopter ride in The Dictator

The Klansmen commiseration in Django Unchained

The legal disclaimer in Casa de mi padre

Martin Short's Nick Nolte impression as Mr. Burgermeister in Frankenweenie

The orchestrational breakdown in the end credits of Moonrise Kingdom

The plundering montage of The Pirates! Band of Misfits

"Puny God." - The Avengers

Richard Jenkins' reaction to the Japan feed in The Cabin in the Woods

The road trip montage in Wanderlust

The Sandman's manifestations in Rise of the Guardians

The shot reflected in the rear-view mirror in Safe

Vanilla Ice and Will Forte in That's My Boy

Holy shit, was that...? (Yes, this is now a yearly thing.)
Powers Boothe, Ashley Johnson and Harry Dean Stanton in The Avengers
Robert Capron, Stephen Collins and Lin Shaye in The Three Stooges
Max Casella in Killing Them Softly
Bruce Dern and Tom Savini (among many others) in Django Unchained
Tate Donovan, Clea Duvall and Richard Kind in Argo
Aidan Gillen in The Dark Knight Rises
Crispin Glover and Harry Dean Stanton (again) in Seven Psychopaths
C. Thomas Howell in The Amazing Spider-Man
Michael Lerner in Mirror Mirror
Luenell in Taken 2
Edward Norton in The Dictator
Tom Savini (again) in The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Alia Shawkat in Ruby Sparks
Don Stark in John Carter

Random thoughts:

- At IMDb, message board poster tman_987 described the mirror scene in Wanderlust better than any mortal ever could: "Paul Rudd...might as well just have turned to the camera, on his knees, and begged the audience for a laugh." That is totally my go-to phrase now for when a gag dies. In fact, the 'little girl shoots Emily Blunt with a crossbow' scene in The Five Year Engagement smacked of this, as well.

- Grudge match #1: Mirror Mirror vs. Snow White and the Huntsman. Both goofy-looking takes on the story of "Snow White". For one of them, at least, the goofiness seemed intentional. The victor...Mirror Mirror.

- While I enjoyed The Cabin in the Woods, one thought lingered in my head (and I vocalized this at the invaluable site, The Editing Room): "What kind of dumbtard installs a 'release all monsters' button and why?!" I mean, this is a "Robot Chicken" sketch waiting to happen.

- Research is important: the long-on-the-shelf thriller The Cold Light of Day was released last September. I paid to see it in a theater, making me one of the few dozen. Not hours after I got home, I found out that the whole movie was on YouTube for free.

- I greatly enjoyed Brave, though it would seem that not everyone did. People complaining that it's 'Pixar's worst film' and the like. (Full disclosure: the only thing the studio should ever be ashamed of, up to this point, is the agonizing short "Partly Cloudy".) Is that what's popular on the streets these days, hating on Brave? Huey Lewis was right: it is hip to be square.

- Grudge match #2: The Raid: Redemption vs. Dredd. Both actioners where a hero must fight his way out of an apartment complex lorded over by a criminal kingpin and stacked with deviants who want to kill him (such an engaging plot that I practically ripped it off - with far less grace - for a fanfiction). The victor...The Raid (by a slim margin).

- It's a good thing that Obama was re-elected. Otherwise, the money in Total Recall and the tapestry in Fun Size bearing his face would've looked really ridiculous.

- Thanks to RedBox, I managed to catch Piranha 3DD. Thank God for the dollar price. Not a terrible movie, but very lazy. Sure, there's the requisite carnage and T and A, but there was kind of a mechanical feel to it. A good example of the film's laziness: David Koechner's demise. One would think that he'd be devoured by the killer fish, but no. Instead, he tries to flee the massacre, only to get brutally clotheslined by a low-hanging banner. Seemed pretty arbitrary to me. If you must see the film, I can think of a reason: David Hasselhoff. Every moment he's on screen is gold and provides the energy that the rest of the film lacks.

- Kate Beckinsale in Total Recall marks, by my count, the third time a British actor used an American accent for when they're good and their natural one for when they're bad (following Damian Lewis in Dreamcatcher and Paul Bettany in Firewall). Two things: a) I wonder if they got offended by this and b) does anyone know of other examples, past or future?

- Grudge match #3: Hotel Transylvania vs. Frankenweenie. Animated features trading on knowledge and appreciation of classic horror. I double-featured them one October day. The victor...Frankenweenie (again, by a slim margin, but, really, ParaNorman smokes them both).

- "I count six shots." - "I count two guns." This exchange from Django Unchained got me to thinking: in that shootout at Candieland with poor Dennis Christopher getting shot to shit, how many freaking bullets did those guns have? Maybe, this was a staple of spaghetti Westerns, but guns in those days (to the best of my understanding) held six shots, and I honestly don't remember anyone reloading. It's like they were brandishing mini-gatling guns...which, save for the recoil likely shredding your hand apart like holding a grenade too long, would be so cool.


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