Best Movies of 2012: Part 2

Turns out I’ve seen 65 movies from 2012, including one movie I saw in between starting and ending this post. None of the movies I forgot about yesterday were in my bottom third of the year, so I won’t have to edit that post outside of putting different numbers on each entry. I’ll be doing that once I finish the last post in this series (likely on Monday). So even though I left off yesterday’s list at 41, I’ll be starting today’s at 44 and going from there down to 21. Sit back and enjoy.

44. The Queen of Versailles. B.

What’s my driver’s name?

An interesting documentary about a family that was building the biggest house in the US turned into an even more interesting documentary about living in a changing world when the economic collapse of 2007 hits. It’s fascinating to see what these people see as normal and what happens when they are confronted with normal normality. These were the 1%, and the film goes to great lengths to show how they’re real human beings with real problems.

43. Wreck-It Ralph. B. *

Is it “Turbo” to want a friend? Or a medal? Or a piece of pie every once and awhile? Is it “Turbo” to want more out of life?

An enjoyable animated film about overcoming your programming or something like that. Its message is one I don’t really get behind. I think it goes too close to “accept who you are in life” which is fine when it’s a personality trait but not so fine when it’s a job. We see Ralph being a caring person even though he’s supposed to be the villain. By the end of the movie he’s still the villain. That’s not cool. It is a really well made movie, though, and fun to watch.

42. Jeff, Who Lives at Home. B.

You know what? I have a asshole for a brother and it breaks my heart.

A few great scenes here highlight the superb acting and character stuff going on. It’s a little over the top. I like that. I’m having some problems coming up with things to say about it, though, which is why it’s down here .

41. Haywire. B. *

I don’t even know how to play that. I don’t wear the dress. Make Paul wear the dress.

Fantastic punching and kicking with a hole at the center of the film. Casting an MMA fighter as the lead solves some problems (the intensity of the action is top notch) but creates others (she can’t act). Luckily there are plenty of supporting male actors that take up the acting slack. The fight with Michael Fassbender is one to watch.

40. Brave. B. *

There are those who say fate is something beyond our command. That destiny is not our own, but I know better. Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it.

Pixar’s first Disney Princess movie was pretty ok but not indicative of their super high standards. It does things these stories don’t normally do and it looks great as their films always do. I wish there was something special here. There just isn’t. It’s perfectly fine.

39. Frankenweenie. B.

You do not understand science, so you are afraid of it. Like a dog is afraid of thunder or balloons. To you, science is magic and witchcraft because you have such small minds. I cannot make your heads bigger, but your children’s heads, I can take them and crack them open. This is what I try to do, to get at their brains!

I love all of the little classic movie touches that Burton puts on this claymation remake of an early short of his. Filming it in black and white was also a great touch. It’s a little too inconsequential for me, even though the final 20 minutes or so have some great action stuff and pulls the ideas at play into overdrive.

38. Dredd 3D. B+. *

It’s all a deep end.

See, The Raid: Redemption? This is how you do a big dumb action movie. It has the same basic plot but there are at least sketches of characters to keep me interested in what’s going on. More importantly, the directors justify all the slowmo action with a plot device that makes everything look awesome. I’d gladly watch another in this world.

37. Wanderlust. B+.

This is historic. The revolution has begun – all because this courageous woman saw an unjust world and waved her boobies at it.

A pretty funny comedy with the always worth-watching Paul Rudd and a fantastic supporting cast. It’s a fish out of water story that manages to get across the problems with the fish and the new surroundings he finds himself in.

36. Argo. B+.

It’s got horses in it, it’s a Western.

It’s got a great opening scene which sets up the stakes for the rest of the film and ratchets up the tension a few notches every minute. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn’t do much with that. All too much talking going on. Affleck’s best remains Gone Baby Gone.

35. John Carter. B+. *

Ah, Zodanga, where the men are as limited as the menu and woman are as hard as the beds.

The budget, and how ticket sales couldn’t match it, seemed to be all anybody was talking about with John Carter. That’s a shame, because it’s a super fun movie full of just-right performances for the kind of movie they’re in and stellar visual touches thanks to Pixar alum Andrew Stanton. As a space opera and a movie it bests any of the Star Wars films.

34. 21 Jump Street. B+. *

We’re reviving a canceled undercover project from the ’80s and revamping it for modern times. The people behind this lack creativity and they’ve run out of ideas, so what they do now is just recycle shit from the past and hope that nobody will notice.

This movie is proof positive that movies based on nostalgia tv shows can actually be good. It’s the chemistry between the two leads and the surprising performance from Channing Tatum that makes this movie work as well as it does. Funny and even a little touching.

33. Safety Not Guaranteed. B+.

To go it alone or to go with a partner. When you choose a partner you have to have compromises and sacrifices, but it’s a price you pay. Do i want to follow my every whim and desire as I make my way through time and space, absolutely. But at the end of the day do I need someone when I’m doubting myself and I’m insecure and my heart’s failing me? Do I need someone who, when the heat gets hot, has my back?

One of those “quirky” comedy romance things that has a lot more going for it. I’ll watch Aubrey Plaza in anything, she’s always great. The romance here is believable and a bit sad. The ending is just what I wanted from a movie like this.

32. Bernie. B+.

We must always be on guard for the mischievous lip drift. Even the slightest hint of teeth can be disastrous. You cannot have grief tragically becoming a comedy.

This was the year of unexpected people giving standout performances and Bernie continues the run. Jack Black is perfect as a good man gone bad in this weird little movie. Based on a true story, some of the people interviewed in the pseudo-documentary parts are the real townsfolk. That’s cool. This one is worth it just for a career best show from Jack Black. Everything else is icing.

31. Amour. B+.

Things will go on, and then one day it will all be over.

The second Oscar Best Picture nominee to show up on the list. This one is in French! And surprise surprise, it’s depressing as hell. An old couple has to deal with the mental and physical deterioration of the wife, played superbly by Emmanuelle Riva. Michael Haneke can be depended upon to give his audience and emotional time, I just prefer his more “out-there” works like The White Ribbon or Funny Games.

30. The Bay. B+.

I’m going to show the world what happened here.

One of those found footage movies that seem to be all over the place. This is, like many of them, a horror film and it’s at its best early on while the chaos and footage from multiple sources ramp up the tension and keeps everybody on the edge of their seats. The movie gets more ridiculous as you find out what’s happening, though there are still some fantastically disturbing scenes (the police going into the house).

29. Killing Them Softly. B+.

They cry, they plead, they beg, they piss themselves, they cry for their mothers. It gets embarrassing. I like to kill ’em softly. From a distance.

I’ll almost always like Brad Pitt. I think he has the right tools to be a blockbuster star and an indie darling. Here he re-teams with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford director Andrew Dominik to great effect. It’s stylish as hell and has some interesting things to say about the American pursuit of whatever we’re pursuing. Check out that final scene for some greatness.

28. The Amazing Spider-Man. B+. *

You should see the other guy, who in this case is a large, giant lizard.

Much of the talk about this film had little to do with the film itself. Let’s put aside the concept of a “necessary” film (are any? aren’t all?) and judge this movie for what it is, a great reboot of a series that deserved better than it got in its previous incarnation. I never liked many of the actors in the previous versions and Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone and co. were all steps up for me. Now that we’ve got the origin covered, I’m excited to see where this series goes.

27. The Impossible. B+. *

Lucas, go help people. You’re good at it.

Holy wow that tsunami scene is incredible. The most intense thing I’ve witnessed since 127 Hours. That movie, however, built up to THE SCENE and then had a cathartic release and then credits. This movie kind of fizzles after the first 30 minutes or so. There’s still some great acting going on, including a newcomer performance (Tom Holland) that bests that other new kid on the block from Beasts. It just can’t sustain the gut punch over the entire film.

26. Jiro Dreams of Sushi. A-.

I’ve never once hated this job. I fell in love with my work and gave my life to it. Even though I’m eighty five years old, I don’t feel like retiring. That’s how I feel.

An inspiring documentary about dedication to a craft/art and what it can bring you. Jiro makes the best sushi in the world and his work ethic is second to none. Besides being an interesting look at how he runs his restaurant, it’s also a bit of a character study. Jiro isn’t some uptight jerk, he just knows what he knows and does what he does. A late trip out to the countryside to meet with some old schoolmates sheds a little extra light on this fascinating man.

25. The Grey. A-.

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.

Liam Neeson fights wolves this is not. It’s actually a carefully considered existential survival film. Who would have thought? Well photographed and intense in the right ways with a sublime ending, this one might be the surprise of the year.

24. Silver Linings Playbook. A-.

You know, for a while, I thought you were the best thing that ever happened to me. But now I’m starting to think you’re the worst.

Though I prefer David O. Russell‘s weirder films over his family dramas, I still like his last two movies quite a bit. Here it’s the better-than-usual portrayal of mental illness and solid acting from Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro looking like he actually cares about the movie he’s in that vaults this as high as it is on my list. And who doesn’t love a dance scene as the climax of a movie? Curmudgeons, that’s who.

23. Zero Dark Thirty. A-. *

You can’t run a global network of interconnected cells from a cave.

Going in I thought this had a good shot at making my top ten for the year. As you can see, it didn’t. I liked it a lot, I just didn’t love it. There’s the torture stuff that everybody is obligated to talk about (it doesn’t condone torture, nor does it say that torture was essential to the finding of Osama) but the really interesting stuff is what Jessica Chastain is doing. She builds a character slowly but surely so that by the last shot we feel as conflicted as she seems to. I wish there was more drama, but I like what we got.

22. ParaNorman. A-. *

I have cheered the un-cheerable, Norman. And I’m not letting you give up now.

My favorite animated film this year by a long shot, ParaNorman also has fun horror references and packs even more character stuff into the film than Frankenweenie does. It looks great and is even a little scary. There are some wonderful things going on a bit below the surface that make for one of the more subversive and interesting kids films in a while..

21. Chronicle. A-. *

And as human beings, we’re considered the apex predator but only because smaller animals can’t feed on us because of weapons and stuff, right? A lion does not feel guilty when it kills a gazelle, right? You do not feel guilty when you squash a fly… and I think that means something. I just think that really means something.

Yet another found footage movie. I always say that a new found footage movie should do something different with the formula. Chronicle does, introducing a bit more filmic creativity with a plot-justified floating camera. We are no longer tethered to some dude’s wrist. Chronicle also has a pretty cool story going for it, combining teen angst with superpowers in a clever and interestingly dark twist on the superhero genre.

Well, that’s all for now. Leave a comment if you think any of these movies should be higher or lower on a list. Or if you have anything else to say. Check back on Monday for the final part of the list.

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