Sunday, January 20, 2013

Shane's Favourite Movies of 2012

It's that time of year again. Time to look back and relive some favourite cinematic experiences of the year. Sadly, I'm still frantically trying to catch up on all the films I wanted to see from 2012.

I dropped the annual "Most Hated Movies of the Year" list a while back, but I'll quickly mention that Project X was the shittiest movie I saw in 2012. Here's your trophy, Project X, for being annoying, frustrating, and devoid of entertainment or value. Aside from that I felt it was a strong year of films and I struggled making a final decision on the top 5. Here we go...

5) Skyfall
Absolutely one of my favourite Bond films ever. Great pacing, solid action, and f'ing gorgeous cinematography. In fact, it might be the best looking film of 2012 for its beautiful shots.

Judi Dench and Javier Bardem are both really enjoyable to watch, and for people who think there was too much M in the movie ... you're crazy. Plus Bardem was a sufficiently creepy villain, who felt truly menacing. It was refreshing to see a Bond film where I actually felt tense. Daniel Craig is not the perfect Bond we've seen in the past, important characters can be in danger, and actions actually have meaningful consequences. I much prefer that over 007 outracing space lasers and whatnot.

4) The Dark Knight Rises
First of all, The Dark Knight Rises doesn't reach the same level as the films before it. How could it really? Batman Begins was like a comic book dream come to life, and The Dark Knight broke through the comic movie shell and was an astounding film in practically every way.

Anne Hathaway was wonderful as Catwoman, and it was great to see Bane living up to his imposing reputation (though I don't know if I'm sold on that voice yet, as memorable as it was). Like the previous film, TDKR felt like it was compacting two films worth of story into one, but I have to say that it didn't work as well this time around. At times the story felt disjointed and the editing made the film feel like a montage rather than a natural flow from one scene to the next. However, the chaos and destruction that Gotham suffers was exciting, and watching Batman take back the city is enough to give me goosebumps.

The biggest praise I can give TDKR is that it wraps up the trilogy in the most satisfying way possible. I may have had some problems with the film, but believe me when I say that I love it. Even the worst Nolan Batman film is leagues ahead of the previous Batman franchise. I suppose I'm just greedy, but maybe some disappointment came from knowing the ride is over.

3) Moonrise Kingdom
In a world where kids are mature, and adults are childish, a strange love story plays out in the wilderness as two troubled kids run away together. I would describe this movie as an adorable comedy. It's got everything you'd want from a Wes Anderson film; the bright vibrant design, quirky and flawed characters, an almost mathematical approach to cinematography and camera movement, and a completely charming atmosphere.

I wish the third act was as strong as the rest of the film, but aside from that it's a great movie. The kind that I can see myself watching numerous times in the future. Even if you don't consider yourself a Wes Anderson fan, I would give Moonrise Kingdom a shot. It's funny and charming enough to appeal to everyone.

2) Django Unchained
My immediate reaction to Django was, that wasn't quite what I expected, and I thought at first that I was disappointed. But the more I thought about it, the more I loved it. The characters and story are compelling, there's a wonderful mix of comedy, drama, and action. As you would expect it pays homage to spaghetti westerns, but there are some seriously amazing performances here, with DiCaprio standing out for his intense portrayal of plantation owner, Calvin Candie.

The movie is always teetering between charming Southern hospitality and vicious bloodlust. Like a lot of Tarantino's films, there are long scenes of suspense that erupt in a climax of exaggerated violence. It's simply spectacular. In this world every human is a pressurized canister of blood ready to burst at any moment. It was a lot of fun, and I can't wait to watch it again.

1) The Avengers
Easily the most fun I've had at the cinema last year. I saw all the individual superhero films that lead up to this collaboration, and when I finally got to see Avengers assemble ... it was a spectacle that filled me with genuine glee. I haven't been this delighted by superheroes fighting side by side since The Incredibles. Don't get me wrong, I love the current Batman trilogy, but Nolan's Batman is an entirely different beast from the Marvel movies. They are both wonderful for different reasons. You could compare them as "gritty comic realism" and "flashy comic fantasy".

The movie is strongly written with excellent pacing and truly hilarious moments. There's a fine balance between the comic titans, giving them all ample opportunity to enjoy the spotlight. Characters that I expected to be lesser "filler" heroes managed to win me over by the end. It was refreshing to see each character shine, work together creatively, and behave in ways that seem true to their personality. Plus, I goddamn love the Hulk in this movie. It only took three tries, but they finally nailed it.

All in all, Avengers did everything I hoped for. Many other films in 2012 left me with nagging issues, but The Avengers got right to the point and delivered a great action hero experience. The only thing that bummed me out was knowing I'll have to wait for the next team-up.