Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Top Ten Films of 2012

        Following on from my previous article, my Top Ten Games of 2012, here are my Top 10 Films of 2012.

        Once again, these are the best films that I have watched this year and not the best out of all films released this year (after all, I’m just one dude!). Oh, and if you want to check out last year's list, its HERE.

        Anyway, here we go:

10) Argo

        Sure, it embellishes the truth a little, but this based on a true story tale of a daring rescue via the use of a fake film crew is one of the most tense and nail-biting films I have seen.
        The period is recreated authentically and the opening raid on the embassy is terrifyingly real. Ben Affleck is proving himself as a capable director, managing to effectively balance these moments of tense drama with the more comedic ‘Hollywood’ portion of the film, with sharp zingers regularly fired out by supporting actors Alan Arkin and John Goodman.
        Criticisms have been largely aimed at the authenticity of the depicted events or the apolitical nature of a film but these are minor issues as the film never really sets out to be anything other than an engaging story of daring-do. Just go along for the ride!

Favourite moment: Scoot McNairy's character rising to the occasion and charming the soldiers with his animated narrative using the Argo storyboards.

        You can read an earlier article I wrote about Argo concerning the reality of the facts portrayed in the film, HERE.

        Charlize Theron plays a character in this film that is pretty unlikeable. And yet her turn in this is so mesmerising and the writing and direction are so sharp that like a slow motion car crash you find yourself unable to look away.
        Playing an obnoxious and self absorbed writer Mavis, who journeys back to her hometown in an ill advised quest to win back her high school sweetheart, this is quite possibly Theron's best performance to date. At times darkly funny, cringe worthy and even occasionally sad – this film was a pleasant surprise for me.
        Also features a strong turn from Patton Oswalt. Recommended.

Favourite moment: Mavis hiding her dog in her bag when checking in at a hotel.

        Lets face it, it was never going to live up to the ridiculously high level of expectation set by the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but that aside the film is still pretty good.
        Jackson knows his Tolkein inside and out and is a master at crafting the world and telling an epic story. It’s difficult to imagine anyone but Martin Freeman in the title role (he is the perfect choice for Bilbo), but Richard Armitage also impresses as the lead dwarf Thorin.
        Most of the problems that are apparent in the film seem to stem from the inferior source material of the book compared to LOTR - although at times it tries to pass itself off as a direct prequel to those films, and this is where it stumbles a bit.  The somewhat artificial stretching-out of the narrative to cover three long films means the pacing sags on occasion.
        Problems aside, it is still definitely worth catching this film on the big screen whilst you can.

Favourite moment: TheRiddles in the Dark’ segment.

        You can read a more in depth review of The Hobbit HERE and also a verdict on the HFR technology used in the film HERE.

        I’m a fan of stop motion and a fan of Aardman (the makers of Wallace and Gromit). I also like pirates. Just as well then that this film is also hilariously funny and very entertaining to watch.
        The animation is brilliant, the jokes fly thick and fast (many of them of very British sensibilities), and the film features loveable characters and a great voice cast. The scope is much bigger than Wallace and Gromit too - which makes some of the complexities of the animation mindboggling. Queen Victoria, Charles Darwin and singing about ham... great fun!
        Although Pirates! is based on a series of children’s books, due to low performance at the box office, there are unlikely to be any sequels – but I urge you to seek this one out if you can.

Favourite moment: The pirates upstaging each other with their grand entrances.

6) Dredd

        To my great relief they managed to get it right. Despite being a relatively small production and on a budget, they used this to their advantage to keep the story focussed, character driven and mostly in a single location (pretty much the exact opposite of the overblown 90s Stallone version).
        The 3D also worked very well, especially in combination with the ‘slo-mo’ sections that not only looked utterly beautiful but also made sense in the context of the story.
        It's uncertain whether or not there will be a sequel due to modest box office takings, but here’s hoping the same production team can expand upon this franchise with a bigger sequel sometime in the future.

Favourite moment: Any of the slow motion parts. Even Ma-Ma splashing about in a bath turns into a mesmerising spectacle.

        You can read an earlier article I wrote about Dredd entitled How Correctly Adapt a Comic Book Character, HERE.

        Although very similar to Dredd in terms of the initial set-up of the story, The Raid stands on its own as a simple yet utterly visceral smack to the head that the action genre is so in need of.
        It’s an adrenalin fuelled, full-on action ride – filled with the kind of hard-hitting action that is guaranteed to make you wince – not just because its brutal (and it is very brutal) but because you also feel for all the stuntmen in this film who genuinely seem to be taking the knocks. Wirework and CG is virtually nonexistent in this film and the camerawork and editing allows the viewer to marvel at the insanely intricate fight choreography that's not constantly interrupted with quick cuts and camera tricks.
        With Iko Uwais a star is born and the future looks very bright for him and Welsh director Gareth Evans - a seemingly odd partnership that just works.
        I’m definitely looking forward to the next film they make together.

Favourite moment: Realising he can't run anymore, Rama has to take on a corridor full of machete wielding henchmen, the scene ending in death by broken door frame.

        You can read an earlier article I wrote about The Raid, HERE.

        This film was definitely one of the most enjoyable of the year because a) I’m a huge fan of horror movies and loved the deconstruction of the genre, not to mention the meta qualities of this film, and b) it totally took me by surprise as I went into it not knowing anything – which is actually the best way to watch it.
        The script, written by Joss Whedon, is a clever one that flips everything on its head – and even makes the sillier moments of this film forgivable as the final act pay-off is a horror fan’s dream.
        The less said about it the better but if you like your horror movies then you need to watch this film!

Favourite moment: What follows after the ‘purge’ button is pressed.

3) The Avengers (AKA Avengers Assemble)

        It's a small miracle that this film managed to even get made let alone the fact that it’s actually quite good. So many things had to come together and work in order for it to be successful - both in terms of the actual logistics of getting the film made as well as having so many huge iconic characters on screen at once without any of them getting sidelined or short-changed.
        Sure, the story isn’t the greatest but it serves its simple purpose: to bring the characters together, get them to interact and fight one another and then ultimately work together. Writer and director Joss Whedon certainly had his work cut out for him but he proves to be the right man for the job as the character interactions and dialogue frequently sparkle.
        Almost all the principal actors (and quite a few side characters) reprise their roles from their respective films, the only exception being Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. Ruffalo however steals the show with his portrayal of Bruce Banner and his raging green alter ego – giving us the best film version of The Hulk yet.
        I haven’t even mentioned the spectacle of the film’s set pieces or the action sequences yet – suffice to say that they don't fail to deliver. This is a blockbuster hit in all senses of the word and is easily the best comic book movie of recent times, if not ever.
        The only thing that could manage to top it? The next Avengers film.

Favourite moment: “That's my secret, Cap... I’m always angry…”

        You can read a more in depth review of Avengers Assemble, HERE.

2) Looper

        Looper is a film about time travel. Except it’s not really a film about time travel (we are actively told not to think too much about it), but instead it’s really about human connection and how it can save (or lack of it destroy) another human. Its that central tenet combined with the sheen of interesting sci-fi that makes this film so affecting and compelling. This film has a big heart – and that's what makes you care.
        And yet it’s anything but formulaic. There are many brave choices throughout: Joseph Gordon-Levitt wearing prosthetics, Bruce Willis murdering children, seemingly shifting genres half way through the film… but with brilliant central performances (even the kid is eerily effective and believable as a child genius) – this film has plenty of surprises up its sleeve and will have you thinking about it long after its over.

Favourite moment: The ‘30 years sequence’. For me this was one of the most beautiful and moving sequences I have seen this year – all presented without uttering a single word. Amazing.

        You can read a more in depth review of Looper, HERE.

        For a long time I wasn't sure about putting this as my number 1 film of 2012, but having watching it again recently for the third time it still affected me, confirming its place at the top of this list.
        Now I know I said that Avengers was the ‘best comic book movie’, but that's because I don't really see this as being one. Nolan’s take on Batman has always been more like a grounded epic crime drama that just happens to feature characters of comic book origins. Sure, watching Batman in action is kick-ass, but that's not what makes this film so good. For me, it's the richness in themes and their resonance throughout not only this film, but also the trilogy as a whole, and that is what makes this a masterpiece.

        Of course there are plenty of people who didn't like the film – its definitely polarising - just as much as the character of Bane is – but that's because Nolan refuses to play it safe – he reaches beyond the more clear cut characters of the comic books and adds further layers of complexity and ambiguity - and indeed humanity, that makes it all the more meaningful than just a straightforward translation of Batman from page to screen ever could.
        Anne Hathaway as Catwoman is great, the Hans Zimmer score is great, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Michael Caine are great… There is too much awesomeness here to fully mention. Although I cannot say definitively which is the better film, The Dark Knight Rises is certainly up there with The Dark Knight, but in terms of scope and ambition the former easily surpasses the latter.
         It is epic in every sense of the word and a fitting end to the Nolan Batman trilogy.

Favourite moment: The whole ending of the film is a cinematic tour de force. It’s concise, uplifting and as perfect an ending to the Batman saga as you could wish for.

        So there you have it. My Top Ten Films of 2012.

        Agree? Disagree? Got any suggestions of other films that should have been up there or that I should have watched? Let me know!

26 Dec 2012

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