Sunday, January 13, 2013

Essential Film Hit List: Prelude

Very late last year, December 21st to be exact, I finally accomplish something that has been haunting myself during my entire lifetime: I finally got around to watching It's a Wonderful Life. In an old movie theater (complete with a mezzanine), a packed crowd, and even on actual film no less. Of course, this seems really stupid and scandalous for someone like myself, an avid cinephile who praises and berates so many films yet has never seen one of the greatest and most popular films of all time. Hell, I was even in film school and we didn't touched the film hardly at all; one of my classes had it on the schedule towards the end of the semester only to instead just watch a bit of the "Pottersville" sequence and call it a day. I guess we needed more time watching boring and terrible Argentinean films, such as The Hour of the Furnaces and The Holy Girl respectively, than to watch Capra work his magic.

So, instead of finally nixing something off my bucket list and ending it there, I had the bright idea to continue moving forward and make a new year's resolution of 2013: For the rest of the year, I will finally make time and watch many of the highly anticipated works of cinema I have constantly skipped over. These are the types of film that are in many serious film discussions, classes, books, and lists as well as the movies that flood airwaves, DVD racks, casual conversations and recommendations. To make it more interesting, this hit list will feature only one film from each year; it can be of any genre, any language, and any quality. The last one is important to making this project fun for myself, since I could just have a list consisting of nothing but Buñuels, Bergmans, Antonionis and Godards and lose my mind with all of the art. Sometimes a person just wants to watch things blow up real good or examine the best worst film of the year. Also, some of these films are in my video collection and I just want to finally break the seals.

Another rule/goal is the final count at the end of the year: I want to watch a minimum of 40 of the following films, including one entire decade. At different times of the year, I will write up a post of my thoughts after watching a group of them.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Gangster Squad - Review

GANGSTER SQUAD has been known for its troublesome delays when it should have instead be placed in turnaround. It's a defective crime film that swings back and forth between serious film noir and gory comedy, neither of which are ever charming to watch. It's so tacky and unprofessional that it makes the poverty row era a golden age of cinema. Hell, I shouldn't mock it as that; at least those filmmakers who cut their teeth in the business help create some stellar films, such as the now classic DETOUR.

The plot is embarrassingly quick to summarize: Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) wants to take control all of Los Angeles and it is up to an assembled group of cops to work off the books and destroy his growing empire. I should be easily telling you the cops' names and the highly respectable actors unfortunately cast in their roles but all I have are complete stereotypes. Let's start with the worst first: Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena, two of the best non-Caucasian actors in Hollywood today, are reduced to being "the black cop" and "the Latino cop" respectively. No genuine back-stories or insights into either of them except that Mackie has a somewhat talent with knives that is painfully underutilized and noticed. The irritation of these two racial blanks is more dire when discussing Pena, since he played an exceptional, well-fleshed out L.A. beat cop in last year's very underrated END OF WATCH. Here, he pops up whenever in the background, having no say or presence, simply because he is labeled as "the boy", despite looking like a sufferer of a mid-life crisis.

Next up are the old man and the nerd. Robert Patrick plays a cowboy cop literally ripped from the pulps; his entrance in the film is preceded by a character intensely staring at the mustachioed gunslinger on the cover of a "true crimes" magazine. He quacks wise and farts up behind the others unless he needs to show off his dime-store tricks with a six-shooter. As for the glasses-wearing nerd, the expected meatbag for the others to cry over later, Giovanni Ribisi is just there to speak techno babble and mope like a hurt dog at all of the brutality. Since all of the undesirables are given nil to work with, that leaves more for the mighty white duo of Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling's characters. Despite being set in 1949, these two act just like Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs, causing a bumbling or vicious ruckus and suffering from the problems of dames. If you think that their female lovers (Mireille Enos and Emma Stone) get the same level of characterization and depth as those two do, you have been watching too many Bogart and Bacall films. Though I appreciate the work Stone was able to dig up and flaunt from her shallow character, I still couldn't believe what a boring femme fatale screenwriter Will Beall came up for her.

Though the script is an eye-rolling, printed press gangster movie, bordering on being a complete swipe of THE UNTOUCHABLES, it is made worst at the hands of director Ruben Fleischer and his editors. Still riding and banking on the goodwill from ZOMBIELAND, Fleischer has assembled a poorly crafted brew, where the film's slick taste is mixed in with objectionable and confusing ingredients. Scenes and plots are skipped over and never fully explained, such as when Brolin's character raids a building he previously barraged through or how exactly Cohen found out who were the cops attacking his business. Every major attack done by the squad is always bookended with a Cohen crony getting savagely murdered while Cohen himself just shakes his arm ever tighter. By far the most heinous thing, however, is the sheer hypocrisy that these cops, several of whom were WWII soldiers, would endanger and/or cause the death of civilians while embarking on their vigilante missions. This becomes a major point in a sequence set in Chinatown, a sequence that should be noted as the re-shoot for the controversial movie theater scene cut from the final cut, only to be dropped and never elaborated because the last third needs to be a wide display of bloodshed, complete with the heroes carrying army-issued weaponry.

All of this bile makes the film a horrible ride to experience. Though this is true, I still was entertained by the big-named cast despite the limitations placed on their shoulders. The only ones able to break free and generate some much needed laughs and excitement were Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling. They relish the hell out of being goofy black and white characters, adapting odd yet vibrant mannerisms. Also, some of the shootouts and action thrills were a bit delightfully B movie-ish. Still, I think I rather immerse myself in MOBSTERS, complete with that acting thespian Christian Slater, than give GANGSTER SQUAD an appeal.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Initial Reaction to the Oscar Nominees

Let's start with the big controversy: Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck completely shutout of the Best Director race. This is truly unbelievable; granted, there were a lot of big names and great direction to limit to just five picks. For instance, I knew Quentin Tarantino would be excluded. However, these were two of the biggest, most talked about directors all of last year. Spielberg was a given and Michael Haneke was a nice inclusion but I would have removed Benh Zeitlin and a toss-up between Ang Lee and David O. Russell (leaning more towards Lee) to include these two more deserving people.

The Best Picture nominees were a definite given. Of course, LES MISERABLES has the Stephen Daldry award for the worst film to be up for the highest honor. I wasn't able to see AMOUR and I still need to convince myself to buy a ticket for a 3D screening of LIFE OF PI. Also, just because Affleck is nominated as a producer, it doesn't forgive the exclusion in Director.

I didn't really expect Hugh Jackman in Best Actor for his work in LES MISERABLES, instead thinking of Richard Gere, John Hawkes or a very dark horse Jack Black. He was the second best actor of that troubled production though. However, it will be a triple threat match between Daniel Day-Lewis (the extremely expected winner), Bradley Cooper (the wunderkind and my favorite actor of last year), and Joaquin Phoenix (the underdog who could snatch the win).

I have no qualms at all for Best Actress. Four of the best were there, along with the surprising Emmanuelle Riva for AMOUR. Riva has been riding high ever since last year's Cannes Film Festival and has a chance of winning. The problem is, as noted by Emma Stone during the announcement, that Riva has the gimmick of being the oldest nominee ever, which could cancel her out along with the youngest nominee ever, Quvenzhané Wallis for BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD.

Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone said it best: the race for Best Supporting Actor is really no fun, since every single actor has already won an Oscar (four of them in this exact field!). It's like a battle royale consisting entirely of Walter Brennans. Phillip Seymour Hoffman might be the holder of the award come February, though it is more expected to be given to Tommy Lee Jones and to a lesser extent, except for myself, to Christoph Waltz.

No Matthew McConaughey anywhere. How sad. Also, given all of the love for BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (4 nominations), no Dwight Henry?

Jacki Weaver with the shocker in Best Supporting Actress. I did like her, giving her the distinction of being an underrated and underappreciated actress last year for her two very small roles in film. Anne Hathaway is of course the front-runner and likely winner, with Amy Adams sneaking in the background to possibly upset her.

If you couldn't figure it out, AMOUR will obviously win Best Foreign Language. If it doesn't, then the majority of the Academy is going through dementia.

Woo! WRECK-IT RALPH in Animated Feature! PARANORMAN would be the reasonable pick to win and I agree with it. Having BRAVE in the category stirs up very mixed feelings, just like the overall reaction to the movie itself.

Speaking of RALPH, the short before the film, PAPERMAN, is up for consideration in Best Animated Short. I think it will be the winner, most notably for its advancement of animation technology.

LINCOLN has the most nominations with 12. It will turnaround with 4 at best: Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Costume or Production Design, and including the possibility of taking Best Picture.

HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE is the top selection for Documentary, though it could go to THE INVISIBLE WAR and the very much acclaimed SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN.

Any superhero films at all nominated? Only in Best Visual Effects for THE AVENGERS.

Hey! Look! A real pop song under Best Original Song! "Skyfall" should win, especially over the crap that was "Suddenly".

Though I'm still annoyed a lot by the Best Director category, I am glad that this year's Oscars could go to anyone and any film.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Film List of 2012

These are all of the movies I have watched throughout last year and were qualified to be judged for my awards.

If I didn't watch a film at all or in its entirety, it is disqualified and ineligible. A few examples of films I wanted to see but couldn't before the mandated deadline were Amour, The Master, Bernie, Life of Pi, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

21 Jump Street
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Act of Valor
The Amazing Spider-Man
The Apparition
The Assault
Atlas Shrugged: Part II
The Avengers
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Beyond the Black Rainbow
The Bourne Legacy
The Cabin in the Woods
The Campaign
Casa de Mi Padre
A Cat in Paris
The Dark Knight Rises
Dark Shadows
Dark Tide
Darling Companion
The Devil Inside
Django Unchained
End of Watch
The Expendables 2
The Five-Year Engagement
The FP
Gerhard Richter Painting
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
The Grey
Hit & Run
Holy Motors
House at the End of the Street
The Hunger Games
The Impossible
The Innkeepers
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
John Carter
Joyful Noise
Kill List
Killer Joe
Killing Them Softly
Last Ounce of Courage
Les Miserables
The Lorax
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
Man on a Ledge
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present
Men in Black 3
Moonrise Kingdom
October Baby
The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure
People Like Us
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
The Possession
Premium Rush
Project X
The Raid: Redemption
Rise of the Guardians
Rock of Ages
Safe House
The Secret World of Arrietty
Seeking Justice
Seven Psychopaths
Silent House
Silver Linings Playbook
Snow White and the Huntsman
That’s My Boy
This Means War
A Thousand Words
The Three Stooges
Total Recall
The Woman in Black
Wrath of the Titans
Wreck-It Ralph
Zero Dark Thirty

Overall Count: 96 Films

Joke Film Awards of 2012

Most Accurate Film Title: Gerhard Richter Painting (Runner Up: Man on a Ledge)

A Movie More Confusing than Holy Motors: V/H/S' "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger"

Same Dress, Different Hairstyle: The Raid: Redemption and Dredd

Palm Dog Award: Bonny, Seven Psychopaths

Best Animal Duel: Tiger vs. Wolf, Casa de Mi Padre

Best Cinematography of Boogers: Danny Cohen, Les Misérables

Most Suspenseful Sequence Involving Film Storyboards: The Iranian airport in Argo

Most Suspenseful Sequence Involving People Sitting and Staring at Each Other: The last third of Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present

Most "Suspenseful" Sequence Involving a Vending Machine: Nic Cage ordering a hit in Seeking Justice

Worst Use of the 80's Nerd Girl Trope: Maïwenn in Polisse

Best Use of the 80's Valley Girl Trope: Anna Kendrick in ParaNorman

Dumbest Head of a Major Agency: Agent X, the 1969 xenophobic boss of MIB in Men in Black 3

Best Product Placement: "K-Fried-C" in Killer Joe

Worst Product Placement: Costco in The Apparition and The Watch

Best Use of Vaio Computers: Skyfall

Worst Use of Vaio Computers: The Amazing Spider-Man

Worst Use of a Ton of Computers: Paranormal Activity 4

Best Use of a Katy Perry Song: Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Best Use of a Rita Coolidge Song: Ted

Oddest Use of a Flight of the Concords Song: The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Most Boob-tastic Poster: Dark Tide

Most Butt-tastic Poster: The Avengers' Black Widow Character Poster (Runner Up: One for the Money)

Best Raunchy Tagline: "The only thing getting blown tonight is their cover.", 21 Jump Street

Worst Raunchy Tagline: "The jizz is up", The Babymakers

Best of the Rest of 2012


Honorable Mentions: Dane DeHaan, Frank Grillo, Iko Uwais, Quvenzhané Wallis, Genesis Rodriguez, Kara Hayward, Dwight Henry

BEST ENSEMBLE: The Cast of The Avengers

Honorable Mentions: Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, End of Watch, Polisse, The Hunger Games

BEST DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon, The Avengers

Honorable Mentions: Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), Ben Affleck (Argo), Sam Mendes (Skyfall), Leos Carax (Holy Motors), Juan Antonio Bayona (The Impossible), Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods)

BEST SCREENPLAY: Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods

Honorable Mentions: Chris Butler (ParaNorman), Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty), Max Landis (Chronicle), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), Seth MacFarlane, Allen Sulkin, & Wellesley Wild (Ted), Chris Terrio (Argo), Phil Johnston & Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Roger Deakins, Skyfall

Honorable Mentions: Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty), Robert Yeoman (Moonrise Kingdom), Matt Flannery (The Raid: Redemption), Oscar Faura (The Impossible), Ben Richardson (Beasts of the Southern Wild, Rodrigo Prieto (Argo)

BEST EDITING: Jay Cassidy, Silver Linings Playbook

Honorable Mentions: William Goldenberg (Argo), Bob Ducsay (Looper), David Blackburn (Detention)

BEST SCORE: Hans Zimmer, The Dark Knight Rises

Honorable Mentions: Alexandre Desplat (Zero Dark Thirty), Henry Jackman (Wreck-It Ralph), Paul Leonard-Morgan (Dredd), Cecil Corbel (The Secret World of Arrietty), Dave Holmes (Haywire), Mike Shinoda & Joseph Trapanese (The Raid: Redemption), Thomas Newman (Skyfall)

BEST SONG: "Skyfall" by Adele, Skyfall

Honorable Mentions: "Abraham's Daughter" by Arcadia Fire (The Hunger Games), "Sugar Rush" by AKB48 (Wreck-It Ralph), "Ancora Qui" by Ennio Morricone & Elisa Toffoli (Django Unchained), "Who Did That to You?" by John Legend (Django Unchained), "Bug Hunt (Noisia Remix)" by Skrillex (Wreck-It Ralph), "Breath of Life" by Florence + The Machine (Snow White & the Huntsman), "Casa de Mi Padre" by Christina Aguilera (Django Unchained), "Undercover Love" by Diego Boneta (Rock of Ages)


Honorable Mentions: Django Unchained, Skyfall

BEST STINGER: The Avengers

Honorable Mentions: The Grey, Wreck-It Ralph, Casa de Mi Padre

BEST POSTER ART: Django Unchained

Honorable Mentions: Zero Dark Thirty, The Dark Knight Rises, V/H/S, Moonrise Kingdom, Chronicle, The Cabin in the Woods, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Wreck-It Ralph, Prometheus, ParaNorman, Savages

BEST TRAILER: Prometheus Teaser

Honorable Mentions: Zero Dark Thirty, Wreck-It Ralph


Honorable Mentions: ParaNorman, Rise of the Guardians, The Secret World of Arrietty, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, The Pirates! Band of Misfits

BEST DOCUMENTARY: Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present

Honorable Mentions: Jiro Dreams of Sushi



Films that I feel will grow on me beyond my initial expectations and opinions and become the great films that they sought to be.

Casa de Mi Padre
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Kill List
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present
Premium Rush


Actors and Actresses that gave great performances in terrible films and/or in roles with little material and screentime.

Josh Brolin (Men in Black 3)
Michael Caine (The Dark Knight Rises)
Jessica Chastain (Lawless)
Lynn Collins (John Carter)
Eva Green (Dark Shadows)
Tom Hardy (Lawless)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin in the Woods, Killing Them Softly, Darling Companion)
Karen Maruyama (The Campaign)
Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House)
Guy Pierce (Lawless)
Rihanna (Battleship)
Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games)
Mark Strong (Zero Dark Thirty)
Vanilla Ice (That's My Boy)
Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook, The Five-Year Engagement)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Best Performances of 2012

Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

Honorable Mentions:

Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe

Denis Lavant, Holy Motors

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Dane DeHaan, Chronicle

Jason Clarke, Zero Dark Thirty

Ewan McGregor, The Impossible

Jaime Foxx, Django Unchained

Karl Urban, Dredd

Jake Gyllenhaal, End of Watch

Liam Neeson, The Grey

John C. Reilly, Wreck-It Ralph

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook, The Hunger Games

Honorable Mentions:

Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Smashed

Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Hannah Fierman, V/H/S

Judi Dench, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Olivia Thirbly, Dredd

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Honorable Mentions:

Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Javier Bardem, Skyfall

Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers

Tom Holland, The Impossible

Michael Shannon, Premium Rush

Mark Ruffalo, The Avengers

Michael Peña, End of Watch

Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained

Samuel L. Jackson, Django Unchained

Alan Tudyk, Wreck-It Ralph

James Spader, Lincoln

Jude Law, Rise of the Guardians

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

Chris Pratt, The Five-Year Engagement

Bryan Cranston, Argo

Best Supporting Actress: Charlize Theron, Snow White and the Huntsman

Honorable Mentions:

Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables, The Dark Knight Rises

Jodelle Ferland, ParaNorman

Jane Lynch, Wreck-It Ralph

Samantha Barks, Les Misérables

Penelope Wilton, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Alison Brie, The Five-Year Engagement

Next Up: Best of the Rest of 2012

Worst Performances of 2012

Worst Actor: Diego Boneta, Rock of Ages

Dishonorable Mentions:

Marshall Teague, Last Ounce of Courage

Eddie Murphy, A Thousand Words

Sebastian Stan, The Apparition

Jason Trost, The FP

Johnny Depp, Dark Shadows

Adam Sandler, That's My Boy

Max Thieriot, House at the End of the Street

Worst Actress: January Jones, Seeking Justice

Dishonorable Mentions:

Brooklyn Decker, Battleship

Diane Keaton, Darling Companion

Jennifer O'Neill, Last Ounce of Courage

Jessica Biel, Total Recall

Ashley Greene, The Apparition

Bella Heathcote, Dark Shadows

Rachel Hendrix, October Baby

Worst Supporting Actor: Oliver Cooper, Project X

Dishonorable Mentions:

Austin Johnson, October Baby

Cary Elwes, The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure

Larry David, The Three Stooges

Daniel Kaufman, V/H/S

Lee Valmassy, The FP

Michael Hall D'Addario, People Like Us

Chris Sligh, October Baby

Nick Swardson, That's My Boy

Martin Short, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Clark Duke, A Thousand Words

Chazz Palminteri, The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure

Worst Supporting Actress: Dolly Parton, Joyful Noise

Dishonorable Mentions:

Toni Braxton, The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure

Chelsea Handler, This Means War

Ayelet Zurer, Darling Companion

Next Up: Best Performances of 2012

Monday, January 7, 2013

Best Films of 2012

2012 was the year of the bow. Seemingly every hero, both male and female, had a mastery of slinging arrows into their targets. However, the prevailing theme among the best of the movies was the exploration of meta. They either attacked, lampooned, or celebrated the tropes of film or of the place in the "world" of their characters. On the other hand, other films wanted harsh realism, featuring people who need to fight and survive through nature's elements, world politics, or even the life of a city. There was also the major case against bullying, highlighted greatly through American news stories and a hyped-up documentary, but was also addressed in a few spectacular films, often displayed as a vicious cycle of humanity that needs to be expunged from the genetic code.

Superheroes saved the day, audiences became enamored by the history surrounding of the American Civil War, children had to persevere often by themselves, and a popular spy got to stay current again. Humor came from a foulmouthed teddy bear, a posse with bad head-wear, and a couple stricken with mental disorders. An American sweetheart got to be spicy and sour, a reigning sexy man ruled in all of the biggest roles of his career, a fan-friendly nerd icon got to step up into the big leagues, and the nation found comfort in the multiple critically and/or commercially acclaimed films of Channing Tatum.

These are the films I have deemed the best of 2012. Though I put them in list format, I was equally entertained and moved by these films.

Now comes the usual disclaimer that sadly everyone forgets to remember: This list is of my own opinion, not the general public nor the Internet consensus. If I didn't see the film at all or in its entirety, than it isn't counted.


1. Wreck-It Ralph

The best films are the ones where you want to enter and live in their worlds, exploring all of the nooks and crannies. This film was that for myself, where all of the video game characters of a still thriving arcade meet up after hours at the strongest circuit protector ever made. A rich and well served cast, strong themes about social placement, and some of the best damn puns ever pulled off. Having a little Toy Story element in it also didn't hurt.

2. The Avengers

This was film history in the making. The long-term strategy of making a series of comic book films, all leading up to one where the creative staff got to run wild, the actors each get their moment to shine, all before a breathtaking climatic finale. Genius.

3. The Cabin in the Woods

Joss Whedon got to celebrate early before his work in The Avengers. This long-delayed film opened up to rapturous applause, breaking down in a humorous though dark light why horror films are crafted and why innocent blood must be spilled. The ending "purge" never lets up for the viewer.

4. Django Unchained

Three hours never went up so fast. Each act had a fun beginning, middle, and end soaked in copious bloody gore and hilarious gags. Revenge never tasted so sweet recently. Another Tarantino masterpiece.

5. ParaNorman

A stop-motion animated version of The Crucible and 80's splatters, this movie haunts the viewer with the scary sights of school bullying and crowd mentality. If not those, the last confrontation with give you permanent goosebumps for awhile.

6. Argo

Another notch higher in the directing career of Ben Affleck. This was simply put a well crafted Hollywood thriller. It may look and feel basic but the film expertly recreates the 70's milieu, deliver strong punches to the Hollywood business, and features some of the best nail-biting sequences.

7. The Impossible

Probably the most unbearable film of the year, especially for anyone with a child. Based on a true story, this epic film recounts the struggles and despair suffered by a vacating family, as they try to reconnect with each other after a deadly tsunami in 2004. Bring the tissues because this somber film is sure to keep everyone in tears.

8. Zero Dark Thirty

Kathryn Bigelow re-teams with screenwriter Mark Boal to bring another story about American modern warfare, this time focusing on the long search for Osama Bin Laden. Well acted and featuring many unnerving and suspense-filled scenes, the film ends with a magnificent third act, as the Navy Seals Team Six are sent off to the Bin Laden's compound.

9. Holy Motors

This confounding but stellar feature from the French radical director Leos Carax absurdly spins a story from a series of "assignments" for the actor Denis Lavant. Lavant, as a peculiar individual named Oscar, travels around Paris in a limo, stopping at set locations to become a female begger, a destructive leprechaun who eats the hair of Eva Mendes, a motion-capture actor, a hitman, and much more. A metaphor for the transition of real film to digital, this odd duckling is brilliantly insane.

10. The Hunger Games

A perfect case of a film adaptation being far better than its original book. Certainly my most controversial pick, I feel the film moves past its shaky camera problems to tell both a disturbingly quiet sci-fi tale and a satire on reality television and young adult audience expectations.


11. Beasts of the Southern Wild

This was a story of a little girl who lived with her father in a place called "The Bathtub". A fantasy analogy of a Katrina-stricken Louisiana, this crowd-pleasing eccentric Sundance indie was sold thanks to its imaginative Malick-like cinematography and blissful performances from untrained actors.

12. Chronicle

The best film to incorporate the found footage style, not to mention advance it through the use of "telekinesis", this tale of teenagers who gain, use and abuse their new super-abilities often showcases the tragic modern lifestyle of universal technology and the joyous camaraderie between an adventurous few.

13. Silver Linings Playbook

Manic and unnervingly good, this offbeat dramedy is graced by the fantastic performances of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as two people who seek to overcome their romantic and life problems and find a new beginning.

14. Rise of the Guardians

Outfitted with an amazing plethora of production design and a nice message about the power of belief, this animated film of mythical characters teaming up to tackle the children's fear of the Boogeyman is a joyous delight.

15. 21 Jump Street

Uproariously funny, this movie is a very refreshing take on how to remake a television show. It is gleamingly frisky when fiddling with the traditional and modern settings of both high school life and the cliches of action films.

16. End of Watch

David Ayer finally moves beyond the limitations of forever being the writer of Training Day. Playing with the conventions of found footage and thankfully featuring LAPD officers that are not corrupt for once, the film is held greatly together by the fine chemistry of Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.

17. The Secret World of Arrietty

Balanced well between melancholy and wonderment, this Studio Ghibli movie finds marvel in the simplest things for its small characters.

18. Detention

This is an assault on 90's nostalgia. Featuring a girl who's so-called life is avoiding a serial killer, a jock who mutates into a different spider-man, and a time-traveling, body swapping airhead, this movie is one of a strange kind.

19. The Grey

This harsh action flick, featuring a too close for comfort Liam Neeson as a grieving widow, is fueled by gruesome violence, jolting surprises, and its purgatory-like tone of a pack of manly crash survivors battling against wolves and frostbite.

20. V/H/S

An interesting and accomplished fusion between found footage films and horror anthologies. Though a couple of the segments are flawed, the others are very inventive and a delight, particularly David Bruckner's "Amateur Night" and Radio Silence's "10/31/98".

Next Up: The Worst Performances of 2012

Worst Films of 2012

2012 was certainly a shocking year of changes and surprises. Several of the big male heavyweights of cinema (Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Adam Sandler) all suffered from major failures at the box office. Taylor Kitsch, a talented actor primed to be a new big thing in movies, had to sit and watch his three films, two of which cost a giant chunk of change, be stricken with disastrous decisions and bomb hard, giving him the unfortunate stigma of box office poison. A Republican-friendly documentary actually did well, despite negative critical notices, fooling the public view into thinking there will be a major shift come election day and in later films, only for those films to sink back down into the abyss they came from.

There were some unfortunate ones, though: Despite an exciting year of animation, most of the offerings performed way below expectations. The horror and romantic comedy genres were in a general state of malaise and tepid response, except for a few bright examples. However, all of the previous things couldn't compare to the universal derision and/or ongoing debate about the merits of two major works from the top auteurs of the field, Ridley Scott and Christopher Nolan. From all of this tumultuous time comes a group of the most despicable and heinous.

These are the films I have deemed the worst of 2012.

Now comes the usual disclaimer that sadly everyone forgets to remember: This list is of my own opinion, not the general public nor the Internet consensus. If I didn't see the film at all or in its entirety, than it isn't counted.


1. Last Ounce of Courage

One of the two awful right-wing propaganda films that won't convert viewers but just reassure the target audience that they correct in their beliefs and being white is truly "right". This film was far, far worse, however; Set in an unreal America, a white privileged grandpa encounters his "falling down" phase and tries to fight back on the so-called "War on Christmas" in his town. Woefully acted and directed, the film targets both the ACLU and black people, who are all shown to be absolutely evil or servants to others. What makes it the top pick is its distasteful ending, where a holiday school play celebrating aliens(?) is transformed into a nativity story before becoming a public screening of a snuff film, which is then given a slow clap. What an ungodly disgrace.

2. October Baby

You know what was missing from the Britney Spears-starring Crossroads? Abortions. A college girl stubbornly spends her spring break searching for her birth mother, who abandoned her after a failed abortion attempt. This purely Christian, anti-abortion movie is a slow, painful crawl, spending more time on its beautiful imagery than its pathetic performances or its excrement-soaked script. In case you didn't get its message bashed into your brains, or overhearing the pathetic folk songs that declare the "Life is beautiful!", the closing credits has interviews with the creators embedded in. Even if you are pro-life, you will turn this off quickly.

3. Darling Companion

If you told me years ago that writer-director Lawrence Kasdan's return to film, with a large, talented ensemble cast (Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Elizabeth Moss, Richard Jenkins, Dianne Wiest), would be in my worst films list, let alone the top three, I would've certified you insane and threw you in the paddy wagon. This extremely boring tale follows an extended family searching for a lost mutt in the woods, often following the visions of their gypsy housekeeper. This has Gerry-level pacing and tone, as the characters walk and walk some more, when not suffering from minor white people problems. The movie even has shockingly bad cinematography, most notably a long sequence in pitch-black night. Don't pick this dog up, just put it down and move on.

4. A Thousand Words

Locked up in distribution purgatory for several years, this Eddie Murphy family film fails like the rest of his work. Removing his most major talent (his voice), this unbearable sit wastes or ruins many fine actors, including the thankfully rarely appearing Allison Janney. Even more odd is the fact that it is PG-13; were the swear words and furry mentions really necessary?

5. That's My Boy

Pedophilia and incest sure are funny, especially in the hands of Adam Sandler. An expected top contender, the film notched lower due to its frank nature of being a liberation of Sandler's gross-out and explicit content. Thankfully, the public took notice of the smell and left it alone to die. It was never really funny outside of Vanilla Ice, who stole the show.

6. The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure

A history-making catastrophe, this fiasco scared away the kids either from its pitiful, lip-unsynched titled creatures or the idea of being interactive. The songs were horrendous and the cameos were absolutely random. Remember, if a wobbly cowboy comes up to you and screams out "DO YOU LIKE BUBBLES?!", run like hell.

7. Project X

It may have accomplished its task of being a dirty found footage film about a humongous party but it was never fun nor entertaining. Plagued heavily by an atrocious supporting character, sickening hatred of women, and a loathsome final message. I wished the riot police came sooner or the flame-throwing vet burned it all down.

8. The FP

I love video games and its humor but that doesn't give your terrible film a free pass from being railroaded. This comedy short turned feature film has obnoxious below Troma-level actors revel in their misogyny and bad taste before competing in unexciting DDR-ing. Certainly not worth pressing start.

9. ATM

A simple horror tale that becomes a pipe-bomb to the senses. Three yuppies are trapped in an ATM kiosk by a winter-coated killer. Why they parked 50 feet away from it is one of the many unexplained questions. The story becomes incredibly unstable, even before a headache-inducing ending that can only be accomplished and viewed as a sound plan through planets aligned-like coincidences with a little sheer luck on the side.

10. Dark Shadows

Poor Eva Green. Stuck in a gangrenous Tim Burton production. Featuring a truly unlikable lead character, a story filled with plot trips and pointless diversions, and a long running time of non-laughs, this remained dead and buried.


11. The Apparition

Spoiler poster! A ghostly demon escapes from another dimension in order to ruin a development house, pretty white people, and the local Costco. Not the Costco!

12. People Like Us

Rain Man with more whiny losers. I wished that the kid was in juvenile prison, I wished that Chris Pine was in jail, and I wish that Elizabeth Banks would finally fire her agent.

13. House at the End of the Street

This rip-off of Psycho, or its more likely copycat Homicidal, was the biggest blemish of the otherwise stellar year for Jennifer Lawrence.

14. Atlas Shrugged: Part II

What a surprise! The sequel to a terrible film last year also made it this year. The remodeled cast and added timely elements (Oh hai, Occupy movement!) were completely for naught.

15. The Devil Inside

A hen-picked favorite since its controversial ending and audience reaction videos made it online last January, this stupid found footage horror film at least can coast by from its many unintentional laughs.

16. Silent House

Elizabeth Olsen puts too much effort into this displeasing horror film, that utterly betrays the camera's viewpoint and relishes its exploitation.

17. Rock of Ages

Loud, dumb, and wasted, this musical adaptation removed much of the bite of the original Broadway show in order to show off the dull dancing skills of its actors and the eye-rolling covers of overplayed songs. Also, Diego Boneta.

18. Total Recall

A director's cut can't help this giant borefest. I cared more about the production design and the robot soldiers than I did for any of the characters and their dilemmas.

19. This Means War

Making a action-romantic-comedy out of CIA agents that abuse the Patriot Act and their work privileges was more creepy than funny.

20. The Campaign

Sliding in low at the polls, this Jay Roach film drew no laughs and was the laziest display of satire this year.

Next Up: The Best Films of 2012