Tag: Tilda Swinton

The movies of 2012 so far

Instead of presenting only a top 5 like I did with music last week, I’m going to list all the movies I’ve seen this year with a little bit of commentary for each of them. This list will start with the worst and end with the best as all lists should be.

23. The Devil Inside

One of the numerous exorcism movies of late, and the worst of them. It’s mostly boring, but when it gets interesting it also gets yell-y and annoying. D.

22. Safe House

Basically the only good thing to come out of this movie is Doug Benson’s tagline “No one is safe, no one is house.” It’s kinda dull for an action movie. And can we save Denzel Washington from being in these movies? Maybe Zemeckis and his upside-down plane movie will do it. D.

21. The Raid: Redemption

It’s all action. There are a few talking scenes that are poorly acted and uninteresting. The stunts and choreography are impressive but there’s only so much punching and kicking I can take. The new Judge Dredd movie seems to follow a similar plot, hopefully that will be better. D+.

20. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Well, it’s crazier than the first one. We finally learn what it looks like when Nic Cage pees while he’s in his demon form. There’s some fun action but the story is dumb and only Idris Elba is doing anything interesting. C+.

19. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

The first film was surprisingly competent, this one lacks the surprise element. It’s ok. Just watch the “pec pop of love” scene on youtube and move on with your life. C+.

18. Friends with Kids

Almost like a Bridesmaids reunion but with less funny. Adam Scott is good as always and Jon Hamm gets to do some good dramatic stuff. Mostly, though, it’s kinda blah. C+.

17. Lockout

Should have been called SPACE PRISON! or maybe ESCAPE FROM SPACE PRISON! because it is the same story as Escape from New York. Guy Pierce does a pretty solid Snake Plisskin, so that’s worth something. C+.

16. Wrath of the Titans

Kind of the opposite of the Journey series, this sequel was surprisingly competent. Sam Worthington is still boring as hell but you get a bit of Bill Nighy to liven up your day. The action is better this time around and the CGI is spectacular. B-.

15. The Woman in Black

The first big post-Harry Potter role for Daniel Radcliffe is this nice little horror film. I’m a pretty easy scare so horror films tend to work on me. This one gets some help from Ciarán Hinds, always a welcome sight. A nice little gothic horror film. B.

14. The Hunger Games

Read my full review here. A (too?) faithful adaptation of the bestselling book had a lot of hype and was entertaining enough to back it up. I was left hoping they’d venture beyond the book a little more than they did. The best scene (a certain death and its ramifications outside the game) is at least part invention. B.

13. Chronicle

A charming little found footage movie. We’ve started to move past using this style in only horror films with this superhero-esque story getting the treatment. They do some interesting things with it as the kids develop their telekinetic powers and start floating the cameras around. The ending was surprisingly effective as well. B+.

12. Jeff, Who Lives at Home

The super-realistic style doesn’t always match the story here, but some solid performances and writing save the day. Also, this movie is kind of obsessed with the underrated Shyamalan movie Signs, which is pretty awesome. B+.

11. John Carter

Good old-fashioned sci-fi epic. This story is the grandfather of science fiction as we know it and as such is sometimes a little familiar but the execution of those story elements are great, even if the script is a bit of a mess. I’d rather watch this than any of the Star Wars movies. B+.

10. Brave

It’s not an amazing movie like a lot of other Pixar films but it is really good. I loved the look of the film and the swooping camera really gets that fantastic feel. It feels rote and new at the same time, and I can’t really get at why that is. A-.

9. Haywire

Listen up, The Raid: Redemption, this is how you do an action movie. Gina Carano isn’t an actor by trade but her MMA background shines in the action scenes. This is a Steven Soderbergh film and as such it has style for miles. And I can’t resist a Michael Fassbender. A-.

8. 21 Jump Street

Maybe the surprise of the year. How did this movie based on a crappy tv show from the eighties turn into such a funny and subversive movie? Being from the same guys that did Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs helps, as does a surprisingly great performance from Channing Tatum. This movie is very funny. A-.

7. The Amazing Spider-Man

It’s too bad this movie came out after the (bad) Raimi versions because half of the discussion has revolved around whether or not its existence is “necessary.” Well, no movie is necessary, and this film is better than all the ones that came before it. Garfield and Stone do a great job and (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb moves the story along with style and grace. A-.

6. Coriolanus

Read my full review here. Ralph Fiennes does double duty as actor and director and accomplishes both admirably. A modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, the action scenes are good enough but it really shines in the dialogue. Vanessa Redgrave is really good in a supporting role as the mother of the proud military leader. A-.

5. Prometheus

Read my full review here. This movie doesn’t get a whole lot of love on the internet and it has problems to be sure. It remains, however, a fantastic film. I’d rather a movie reached for something interesting and fail than stay comfortably within the bounds of what we’ve come to expect from films. There are plot holes and some irrational decisions, but I’d challenge you to find a sci-fi movie where a character doesn’t act irrationally at one point or another. It’s a big, smart, ambitious movie and I will applaud that any day of the week. A-.

4. The Cabin in the Woods

If only this movie was actually scary, it’d have a good shot at making my top 100 list. As is, it’s a fun, clever movie about genre conventions and the role of movie-makers and their audience. And there’s even more evidence that Chris Hemsworth can act.

3. The Avengers

Funny that this and The Cabin in the Woods would end up next to each other with the elements they share (Joss Whedon and Chris Hemsworth). This is the culmination of all the Marvel movies that came before it and it’s better than all of them. The chemistry between all of the characters is fantastic and it moves quite well for a 2 and a half hour film. The big setpiece at the end of the movie is spectacular carnage. A.

2. We Need to Talk About Kevin

A movie about a mother and her son. Is the son evil, or is the mother coloring her memories with the crayons of regret and hindsight? Tilda Swinton gives such a phenomenal performance as the film cuts back and forth between the child’s development and the repercussions of a heinous act. It’s a mood movie, skillfully directed by Lynne Ramsay. A.

1. Moonrise Kingdom

Read my review here. I just posted it yesterday, so there’s not much to say about it. I’ll take this time to point you towards a fun little video encouraging you to see the film. It stars Jason Schwartzman and gives a little more of his hilarious character from the film proper. A.

What movies have I missed? What movies am I wrong about? Let me know your favorite movies of the year in the comment section.

Movie Review: Moonrise Kingdom

“It’s been proven by history: all mankind makes mistakes.”

Wes Anderson‘s Moonrise Kingdom is a movie of variations. It’s no secret; he announces it as such in the opening scene which introduces us to the main characters while a children’s record explains how a composer uses variations of a theme to build a piece of music. Each section of the orchestra has its own version of the them and when they are played together they transform into a majestic and intricate song. That is, essentially, what Anderson does with his characters in the film. They’re all playing slightly different versions of a theme and they mix and match with each other until they come together at the end to become a cohesive whole. Of course, this cohesive whole is about being uncohesive and lonely and finding a way to make that work or come to terms with it. It’s a beautiful film made with Anderson’s typical attention to mood and detail with touches of humor and sadness and, most impressively, both at once.

I wasn’t always a Wes Anderson fan. I saw The Royal Tenenbaums at too young an age to get what was happening in it and I only got five or so minutes into Bottle Rocket before I couldn’t take the quirk any longer and had to turn it off. In the past four or so years I have caught up with every Anderson movie except for The Life Aquatic and, though I only loved one, I became more and more interested in what he was trying to do and say. The trailer for Moonrise Kingdom was fantastic and convinced me to make it my first Anderson in a theater. I’m glad it did. Moonrise Kingdom is, perhaps even more than Fantastic Mr. Fox, the perfect distillation of Anderson’s qualities as a writer and director. The opening shots are those horizontal tracking shots he likes to do so much. Here they make it seem like the characters are living in a young adult fiction book from 1956, the year in which the story is set. This tone carries throughout, as two “troubled” kids run away from their lives and trek across a scenic New England island to find a place all their own. On their trek they fall in love, because what else are treks good for? Meanwhile, the adults on the small island mount a search for them and must come to terms with their own failings as humans. Adultery, inadequacy, and loneliness pervade the adult characters, so it’s no wonder the kids are so screwed up.

Or are they? We keep getting clues that these kids maybe aren’t as screwed up as the adults believe them to be. One, the boy, is an orphan sent off to sleepaway camp for the summer and “not invited to return” to his foster family. This seems more like a failing of the adults to adequately deal with a delicate case than it does a truly “troubled” child. The other, the girl, barely registers as doing anything too far out of the ordinary for a tween. And her home situation, a marriage that is pretty clearly not working, can’t help either. A large part of the film is the kids figuring out that they can be happy with each other, something the adults in their lives haven’t demonstrated at all. That’s not to say that the adults are the bad guys in the film. They are more pitiable figures than despicable ones. The script handles six fully realized characters and does so with remarkable swiftness and care.

Finally, a word on the actors. I am not a fan of Ed Norton. In my estimation he’s been good only twice before (American History X and his uncredited role in Kingdom of Heaven). There is something about Anderson’s dialogue, however, that really lets Norton shine. He plays the sad sack camp counselor of sorts. He doesn’t really have a lot going on, so he throws himself into the position with all of his muster, running the camp like a mini-military base. The tracking shot which introduces us to Norton and his charges is classic Wes Anderson and maybe the first funny thing Norton has ever done. He plays the character with a certain earnestness which is undercut by his loneliness that really works. Bruce Willis is an odd choice for an Anderson movie, but it mostly works. He plays his sheriff role like an older, more settled version of his John McClane character. He, too, is sad and lonely and carrying on an affair with the always wonderful Frances McDormand, the mother of the runaway girl. Which brings us to the kids. They’re the most important element of the film and they do their jobs quite well. I’ve never seen a Wes Anderson kid that acts like an actual kid and that holds true for this film. Newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman (Suzy and Sam) perform admirably, developing a fun chemistry and displaying the characteristic awkwardness of new love. They say things that few kids would ever say, but they say them well and it works for the film. Other actors of note include Bill Murray as Suzy’s father (always good) and Jason Schwartzman in a hilarious bit role. Tilda Swinton is good but doesn’t get enough to do, unfortunately.

Moonrise Kingdom is a sad and funny movie of loneliness and human misunderstandings. It’s a beauty of a film, with all of Wes Anderson’s typical technical touches (the slow-mo group walking shot is perfect) intact and a slew of great characters played greatly by great actors. It’s the best movie of the year so far and a virtual lock for my upcoming top 100 list revision.