It’s taken a little longer than expected but I have made a decision, the votes are in, my votes, and they have cast a shadowy decision on the world of film in 2012. I’ve seen so many of this year’s films with my cineworld card and living a 3-minute walk to the cinema in Southampton that I’ve decided to tack a few of the ‘achievers’ in my opinion in at the end. Anyway, without further ado, here is my countdown of my favourite films of this year. Click below to see my countdown:
Ted was quite easily the funniest film this year. The only thing that stands out to me to come close to Seth Macfarlane’s clever television sit-com transported to film was The Watch and that was purely because of the strange combination of having Richard Ayoade and Jonah Hill in the same film to carry it through. Ted is comedy genius that only suffers from the classic comedy film curse of the last 15-20 minutes seeming to take itself a bit too seriously for a resolution. The feel of the film however was edgy and fresh to cinema, Macfarlane’s classic crude humour coming through and appealing to the same market all of his animated shows do. The combination of family aspect with the addition of a talking animal/baby/alien seems to work for everything else so here we have a talking bear where the majority of the humour comes from. The way the film looked was lovely, we had classic ‘couch’ scenes that wouldn’t feel out of place in any animated comedy like Family Guy where the main characters congregate for one liners and gags that wouldn’t be able to fit into a situation. On top of this Macfarlane also manages to get a few cut-away jokes in there too, real classic gold. Wahlberg and Kunis are both funny and the score just again reminded me of Family Guy with the plinky plonk brass band vibe. Very good film and well thought out, get what you pay for to be honest with this, you like his humour you’ll love this, if you’re not a fan and prefer other things like… Miranda or After You’ve Gone or Big Bang Theory you probably won’t enjoy it as much.
9) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I reviewed The Hobbit only the other day on my blog so for a full outline go there, to briefly summarise why it enters my chart of the year at number 9 however, I wanted to like this film a lot more than what I did. For me it felt like a repeat or even a remake, I get that it is from the same world as LotR and has the same director in Peter Jackson but the way it played out and some of the more pointless additions as well as the long drawn out dialogue in Rivendale made this film feel much more dull than it should have been. It wasn’t as if this dialogue led somewhere vastly important and the film could have worked without it. I feel that if he really wanted to stretch this series out to another three films they should have been a tad shorter each and featured more of the good stuff that the film does offer. As with LotR the fight sequences are good but the most memorable part from this film was the game of riddles with Gollum. Brilliant performances from both Freeman and Serkis made this enjoyable and tense to watch and made the film feel like it was going places. Don’t get me wrong, I sound harsh on this film because I do like it but really expect amazing things for next year when we finally get to see a glimpse of Cumberbatch and how well he does in a really big cinema blockbuster. The film looks glorious and doesn’t seem to get recognition in this department that maybe it deserves, overshadowed heavily by Life of Pi which I am not a fan of. The Hobbit is a fun film with a lot fo good things about it but not the epic that I was maybe hoping for.
8) Killing Them Softly
Brad Pitt stars in this blood-thirsty and dark tale of criminal activity where takes the role of Jackie, a enforcer hired to ‘take care’ and restore order to the mob after three amateur criminals rob them. The film features no score to be mentioned and instead relies heavily on sounds of heavy rain to create drama and effect to the scenes. It also features a framework of speeches given by Obama in his run up to Presidency which work to the desired effect. Pitt is fantastic in this film, he doesn’t come in until about half an hour in but as soon as he does enter the scene he changes the film and really puts all the characters in their places. James Gandolfini stars alongside Pitt and gives the performance you’d expect from the ex-Sopranos man. The film doesn’t rely heavily upon action or violence but this works because of the build of drama to the points where the action happens. It is so gritty and so hard not to watch that it lets you into the world of violence and mob crime so very easily and effectively. It could be seen as ‘hard to get into’ but for me it was a real treat even though I went into the cinema expecting a full blown action banquet like the trailers seemed to suggest instead the film is cool and you end up wishing you were Jackie Cogan.
7) The Amazing Spider-Man
The latest francise reboot of Spider-Man comes starring Andrew Garfield as the titular role and repackaged as the story of Peter Parker ‘growing up’ and a younger take on the super-hero, which I guess is very much what Ultimate Spider-Man is in the comics. Alongside Garfield we see Emma Stone as Parker’s first love interest from the comics Gwen Stacey and the pair work well together despite the slight changes to the origin story (which I quite like) and the absence of Peter’s best friend Harry Osbourne who is always seen beside Peter in almost every adaptation of the story. The problem I thought I would encounter was that to me the combination of Maguire, Franco and Dunst were so iconic in this francise I wouldn’t be able to believe this, luckily that wasn’t true as both Garfield and probably the clever choice to include Stone as Stacey instead of Mary-Jane Watson both owned the roles and really did this film justice. The film takes a coller and younger take on the series and really makes the end feel epic when it comes. Lizard, I felt was an odd choice as the main villain for a first film but I guess again it was a chance to divert away from the original three big films as much as possible because in their own way they are iconic now (even though by the third one it had lost it’s way) and I still think that Garfield’s Spider-Man is too young to take on some of the ‘bigger’ villains like Green Goblin and Doc Ock who plays psychological games as well as being tough to beat when it comes down to the ‘battle’. For the sequel I hear Electro is in the works with Jamie Foxxx playing the role, a clever choice again diverting from the original three but I feel the film will have two villains especially judging on recent superhero movies, double teaming seems to be popular. Lastly, this film was a spectacle in 3D but just in general a really fun watch and highly enjoyable.
6) iLL Manors
Ben Drew (aka Plan B) makes his directoral debut in this intertwined character driven narrative British realist drama. Set in the same kind of world as Noel Clarke’s Kidulthood and Aduthood and sharing aspects with these and other gritty British ‘urban’ dramas Drew’s iLL Manors builds on foundations that have been set in this genre over the last 5 or 6 years. Each character narrative seems carefully written to effect each other’s stories, at first unnoticeably until the last 20 minutes and the conclusion to the film. Starring most notably Riz Ahmed (Four Lions) the acting is superb and real much like you’d expect. The themes covered in the film make for quite a broad analysis of British Culture today. At times it is hard to watch and for me the best and hardest to watch scene is the shooting by the river but because of the sheer drama in this scene it is also my favourite. The film features the tracks written and performed by Plan B on the album of the same name (also featured in my best albums list for the year) and because of this the film has a real original tone to it. To top it off, Drew also appears in the film right at the very end as the taxi driver, which, to me just makes the whole film cool.
5) 007: Skyfall
This was a hard choice for me. Skyfall could have landed anywhere on this chart and was close to not making it at all. I’ve never been a huge over the top fan of the Bond films but do enjoy them and none more so that Daniel Craig’s series of films. The trailers for Skyfall made it look like an extraordinary film, reintroducing Q to the series and starring Javier Bardem opposite Bond as a classic but also very different villain. The thing I liked about this film was that it was local and situated around Bond and M rather than the classic terrorist trying to destroy the world for no real reason other than revenge on someone or something that happened. The cinematography in this film was epic and done just right to create tension in the right places but also to create a much weaker Bond than we are used to seeing. For most of the film it didn’t even feel like true Bond because it was almost like Spider-Man 2 where he lost his powers, he couldn’t shoot properly, he was unfit and only was put back on the mission because M has a soft spot for him. I both liked and disliked this as it gave a new edge to Bond himself but maybe one that he should never have. There was no real Bond girl other than the reintroduction of Moneypenny to the series, in some respects this film was more of a reboot than another Bond film as by the end everything felt like it was ready for Dr. No where we see the new MI6 with padded doors and by the end of it Ralph Fiennes replaces M as… well… M with Moneypenny as his loyal secretary… she even has a coat rack in her office. I liked this end and leave it open beautifully for the next film. I said before that this could have landed anywhere on the chart because I feel a lot of people have over-rated this film, it sure is good, it sets a lot of stuff up but for me there was never a proper resolution or ‘end’ like a real Bond film fight. It was more dramatical rather than action-packed but the set-pieces that were done were great and deserve credit. I can see why this has become the highest grossing Bond film of all time because it is an extraordinary film that was done right with a lot of love and care put into it I just hope now we have kind of ‘rebooted’ as it were the next film has a lot more action and driving force behind it.
4) Jack Reacher
I have only just reviewed Jack Reacher and so it is fresh in my memory (which I may look back upon and regret adding it so high up in the list). I expecting, as I have said, for this to be a real pulse racing action film with big explosions and lots of violence, however, I was happy to learn that it was more of a crime thriller than anything else. The action when it did take place was much more built up towards and grounded and the acting was superb as was the chemistry in the cast. The characters weren’t sexualised like a lot of these thriller/spy/action films nowadays and the plot was solid. I really enjoyed this film to the extent that it has been listed now in the top 4 of the year and would watch it again in the blink of an eye. I don’t think Cruise has been better in a film since Minority Report or War of the Worlds but this really showed off some prowess. I know there’s been a lot of ‘meh’ reviews about this film calling it distinctly average but I don’t know, for some reason I liked it a lot. It had cheese yes, but when it was good, it was great and has an amazing car chase scene which I think was one of the best bits of the film. I liked the editing style the film took which branched into cut aways and flashbacks but also made the action feel heavy and tense throughout.
This is it, we have entered the top 3! Rian Johnson returns to the silver screen this time with a much bigger budget action/sci fi/thriller and reuniting himself with Brick star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Levitt stars alongside action legend Bruce Willis as the same character (Joe) at different ages. The story can at first seem confusing with two characters who are the same person hating each other storming around the place but after the first 20 minutes and when everything is explained you get to grips with it. The film deals with time-travel (always controversial and hard to pull off with audiences and critics alike) but I think for stuff like this to be successful you have to stop looking for tiny holes to rip open in a plot and just go with it. Yes, there was so many different way it could have ended without him doing what he did but that was all part fo the drama. I, myself, believe that the film was good enough to be plit into two films. My reasoning behind this is simple. Bruce Willis as well as Joseph Gordon-Levitt played the character so well I could have watched two separate films showing their stories of the characters in more depth, so the first film would end the same place as it did BUT because we would be focusing on Willis we wouldn’t know why what happened did so would have to watch the second part to see what Levitt had done. Both films would see minor parts of the other when the characters intersected each other but otherwise would focus more heavily on the individual men. Maybe harder to do than said but could have been interesting! Anyway, the film looks and feels great and is one of the films that really stand out when I think back to it because of it being very individual and dealing with a subject that ‘good’ films tend to steer away from in time travel because when done badly it can ruin a film. This was done very well.
2) The Dark Knight Rises
So the battle for the top 2 was a hard one and both have strong cases to be number 1. To be honest I liked them equally as much but I had to choose a favourite. The Dark Knight comes second just because my number one really blew me away, and thats not to say this didn’t. It very much blew me away the only problem was it didn’t feel as good as The Dark Knight. Bane was brilliant with Tom Hardy in the role and his English Gent voice was terrifying as was his character design. The story was well thought out and I think people forget it is a superhero film so it will have inplausabilities and little things where you think, really? But yeah, look over them and just enjoy it because it’s not often a film this good comes around. It covers all the loose ends and stories covered from Batman Begins and ties them up lovely. After a couple of viewings you start to see the brilliants foreshadowings throughout the film hinting towards the end and the end which lets the audience decide (very Inception like… Nolaaaaaaaan!!!) is another master stroke. I personally like to believe Caine’s Alfred is once again seeing it in his mind but it’s not actually happening and The Dark Knight did give himself for the people becoming the figurehead and hero Gotham needed in the end. Performances all round were amazing and Hathaway was an amazing Catwoman, fierce, sexy and unpredictable she was a great addition to the cast and it’s stupid and unbelievable that anyone actually doubted her or Nolan’s decision in the first place. I’m glad Nolan decided to end the francise where it was because it hit an unbelievable high when we saw The Dark Knight and I don’t think any superhero film will hit that high again. However, this was in no way a bad film and the quality, as ever with Chris Nolan’s films was superb on every level from the score to the cinematography but most importantly the story.
Here it is! Number 1, mt favourite film of the year is Ridley Scott’s return to his Alien francise with a prequel/origin story set in the same universe. The problem most people seem to have with this film is that they can’t get to grips with it not being an Alien film. I don’t know if people went into it thinking they were going to get another survival sci-fi still starring Sigourney Weaver or what but in essence all this is is a story set in the same universe as the Alien films. Not an Alien film. This film is my favourite for so many reasons, it has action, gore, mystery and wonder. Some of the scenes are spectacles like David finding the secrets of the ‘Creators’ and the creatures hidden in the room with all the cases that Rafe Spall explores after getting left behind. People are quick to point out flaws but not many stop to think there is obviously going to a sequel to which answers will be given. Sometimes there is more fun in the wonder and the mystery of what is happening and the reasonings behind it. I like not knowing things for sure and the questions of Theron’s Meredith being an android excite me and make me wonder. Lots of things in this film are set up to make you draw conclusions and sure there may be stupid things like Elizabeth running in a straight line from the rolling spaceship instead of sideways and away but I don’t see why people would be harsh on this and not on things like it from other films. It adds excitement to a scene, like in The Hobbit I have asked why they cross a narrow ridge in the rain because it seems stupid but then come on, no one wants to watch a straight forward easy journey. It’s like watching Titanic without it sinking at the end. Film is about danger and excitement and Prometheus offers so much of it in the runtime it has and leaves more besides. Fassbender is brilliant as David and was a real treat to watch, the film looks glossy and cool and the origin story of Alien inside the story and adventure of Prometheus does the series justice.
As well as these films I feel there are others that did well for this year. It may be a surprise that The Avengers didn’t feature of The Hunger Games but both I think were made such a big deal over for no apparent reason other than being tools of merchandising they didn’t deserve a place in the top ten. The Avengers especially has been hailed as a ‘Star Wars of this generation’ but surely Star Wars is this generation’s Star Wars? It was a popcorn film at best which was distinctly average in all respects. These films however I think are worthy of notes even though they aren’t in my top ten.
ParaNorman was one of the best animations this year, where Frankenweenie was good I felt Paranorman was just ‘better’ and fresher in comparison. The Sweeney at the risk of sounding like a Ben Drew fanboy I liked this for the sheer pulsating British action and drama on all levels, it felt like a TV Special yes… but a bloody good one! Dredd was the biggest surprise of the year, I went into it not expecting much but was blown away by the visual and story, simple, but more than effective and just cool. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had the best supernatural and most originality of many films this year. The story was strong and again felt exciting to watch, it feels like it should be a guilty pleasure… but I’m not guilty. Rock of Ages is a very guilty pleasure, it’s so cringey you can’t help but love it, just for the moment Brand and Baldwin make their feelings felt is magical. Chronicle makes the best attempt at reinventing the ‘found footage’ genre with a shocking and quick escalating story featuring three boys who find themselves with superpowers and one of them takes a dark path leading to a huge ending, one of the more surprising of the year. Finally Lockout starred Guy Pearce but it was Joseph Gilgun that stole the scenes with his jaunty psychopathic villain character, the film was quick and easy to watch and offered many cheap thrills, not necessarily anything that hasn’t been done before but very entertaining viewing for a sci-fi/action nerd.