I saw 52 movies on the big screen this year.
that's exactly one movie per week. but Ryan and I didn't start to go to the cinema more often until well into the spring of this year. beginning in May, we committed to seeing one movie per week at the cinema. it is clear that we exceeded that goal.
as it's the end of the year (and i don't think we're going out to see any more movies this week) I am going to reveal some of my favorites of the year, and also a few of my very least favorite.
beginning with a few exceptional stand outs...
okay, yeah, I know you saw it 10 years ago, but I only saw it about a month ago when Fathom Events filled a few select screens with this classic for a one-night-only event. why is it so surprising to me that i liked it? everyone else who's seen it liked it. it was a massive cult hit. people still quote it to death. but no one told me about the cute little French girl that bruce willis was keeping hid away in a mangy hotel room while he beat ass all over town. and no one told me about the ridiculously adorable relationship quintin's on-screen persona shares with "the Wolf". it was splendidly colorful and a visual spectacle also, which i wasn't expecting. everyone's eyes were so clearly shot, and so bright. it was a pleasure.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
we saw the Hobbit in HFR (high frame rate (48 frames per second instead of 24) and 3D (of course), which made the viewing experience significantly different to all other viewing experiences. the higher frame rate took a little bit of getting used to at first. a few initial scenes appeared jerky (like stop motion) because my brain was adjusting to the wealth of visual information being projected at it. then, aside from a few darkly lit mosh-scenes (wherein dwarves and trolls collide in great numbers), the film flowed with realistic, stunning, majestic, visual mastery.
now, to the meat of this post. these are my top ten picks for 2012...
Cabin in the Woods
yay for a good horror film with likable everything! the kids would all have survived if given a fighting chance. the controllers were adorable and fun. the monsters were bad ass. it is also a film that i have since re-watched at home and enjoyed more and more with each viewing. it's fun, funny, and messy. i also appreciate the passion that went into making the film. this is a directorial debut for the otherwise busy screen writer and producer, Drew Goddard, and it shows. he put everything he had into this project, including that last bag of guts that falls down and splats into an already viciously bloody lobby.
we got to see this film the same week we saw Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller in Danny Boyle's stage adaptation of Frankenstein. we also got to see it in mega Jordon's Furniture vision (IMAX 3D). the visual impact of the film was what you'd expect from Ridley Scott. it was cohesive, dramatic, dark, pretty, and real (with the poor exception of guy's piss-poor old-man make-up). the look of the film was fantastic, the acting was believable, and the story was compelling. juxtaposed with the story of Frankenstein the idea of man as god was prevalent and led me and Ryan into some deep and thought provoking conversations. it was entertaining and thought provoking, how much more do we expect from cinema?
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
sorry Daniel Day Louise, but you ain't got nothing on my boy Benji Walker. it seemed to me that lots and lots of people complained about the incorrect historical details of this film. to which i have one question for you, are vampires real? shut up. this is not a discovery channel special. it is a moooovie. with vaaaampires. and Abraham Lincoln just happens to play the bad ass vampire slayer. where does it say in the bible that only Wesley Snipes can kill vampires? i liked comparing this film to the Asian high-flying wire-works films such as Hidden Tiger Crouching Dragon, wherein a legendary historical figure is used to tell a dramatic tale with fantastical elements. the charity in this film for kids who grew up in American history classes at school is that you know some of the characters already, which provides the story being told with more depth than were this some made up president on a moon colony or a mayor in Transylvania.
Karl Urban is awesome. and lots of credit to screenwriter Alex Garland for his understanding and smooth translation of Judge Dredd as he is seen and less-heard in the comic book series. the story was solid. it was a perfect day-in-the-life of a badass upholder of justice in mega block city whatever-number-he-was-in. i also love the fact that dredd, even when physically compromised, is always true to his code, his law, and his honor. he never steps over the line. yet, he is able to adapt and grow. not to mention, the film was pretty. very pretty.
despite much (and extremely vocal) disapproval over the fact that they messed up JGL's pretty face to make him look more like a young bruce willis, looper was actually a fantastic film with great sci-fi and time travel elements. every detail of the near-future portrayed was believable and subtle. no piece of clever tech was waved around in the audiences faces, but it was there for the eagle-eyed. also, in it is one of the most frightening prospects offered to all time travelers. i won't give too much away here, in case you haven't seen it yet, but DAMN! that is no way to go.
do i need to say anything? no, but one thing i will say is that Ryan and I have been watching all of the bond films beginning with Dr. No and working our way through the decades. going into Skyfall having just watched all of Sean's films added a level of acute recognition to the new addition to the franchise. when the new quartermaster, played by ben whishaw, tells bond to "please return all the equipment in one piece" he was channeling the great Desmond Llewelyn. the old theme, the return of some beloved characters, the car, the physically deformed and fantastically annoyed baddie all added to the vintage bond feel of Skyfall.
i adore how ugly and depressing the 70's look in recent film. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy made the 70's appear so vogue, yet yellowed and clouded in cigarette smoke and constant betrayal. Argo brought us back to that tumultuous decade and showed us even more yellow tinted glasses, tweed, added some facial hair, and a bit more international political drama. the best part of this movie for me was, that even though you know the ending, there are a handful of moments in the film where you do genuinely feel scared and nervous for the characters in the film. the casting was excellent also.
i am really looking forward to sitting down with the book that this film is based on. that being said, the film itself was a collage of spectacular love stories. i think Ryan and i agreed that any one of the six or seven little filmettes within the full length motion picture would have made a lovely film-length story in and of itself. but each story was well woven into the others with subtle and sweet little visuals, sounds, and characters. it was also interesting to watch characters change from lifetime to lifetime. to see young lives taking advantage of others, to then be generous and sweet in much later lifetimes. it may be one of the best contemporary fantasy concepts. and the film did it great justice. and this too, was a passion project. lots of heart, care, and attention to details.
wreck it ralph
there were quite a few fun animated films this year. brave was wonderful and ParaNorman was so freaking cool (they used 3d printers to make the character models!! so awesome). but among all the animated movies this year, wreck it ralph had the best story, the most nostalgic qualities, and the best cameos. not to mention, skrillex did the music. i really liked vanillope and Ralph's relationship, and the hardship ralph had to go through in order to recognize his value. it had a sweet message about self importance and determination. and it made you want to play video games.
Life of Pi
i absolutely love the book. it was well written, sentimental, and heartbreaking. i had high expectations for the film's telling of the same story. fortunately, it was in great hands: ang lee. i got the sense that ang lee also loved the book in the same way i did. it reached him. not to say it reached me in a religious way--it in no way made me belive in a god--but it did turn on a few bright lights around the beauty of religious fantasy and the innocents of belief. so the story was cared for by the director and, therefore, the crew and creators of the figures in the film. Richard parker was beautifully rendered. he was believable, scary and beautiful. i also find it hugely amusing that the tiger is called Richard parker because that's the name of my brother in law also. visually, this film was a dream. it was vivid and real. i cannot wait to watch it on our 3d tv at home. i will probably watch it many times.
Can you say "charming"? because that's what this film was for me. chock-a-block with charm. wes Anderson has a great ability to make normal people seem like super heroes and make regular emotions magnificent and brave. i also love the fact that the little girl in the movie got to keep the kitten she acted along side in the movie. overall the story, with all it's good chemistry and quirky bravado left me with a sweet taste of domestic adventure.
one more honorable mention here... I have to give credit to the best cameo of the year. this particular category has a lot of competition if you consider we saw Expendables 2 (loaded with cameos), two marvel universe movies both featuring creator Stan lee, and a couple of Pixar movies. my favorite cameo by far, however, was in Here Comes the Boom. I was not expecting Chael Sonnen, and i was not expecting him to make such brilliant fun of himself in such a brief moment of screen time.
alas, going to the movies so often, you do occasionally encounter some utter tripe. there are three particularly bad movies that come to mind right now...
Men in Black 3D
Simply the poorest example of how 3D is being used in film today. Current film makers are realizing the dramatic and dynamic qualities of 3D filming and projection. use of the third dimension allows directors to show their story in all of it's scope and depth: to draw the viewers' attentions to the most important elements in the film at the appropriate moments, and to give viewers a better sense of space and place within the movie. Men in Black had laser beams. I say that with the most contempt possible.
Resident Evil: Retribution
boooooring! I can sit at home and watch Ryan play video games and have more fun and experience more drama than this film cared to divulge. My pleasures while watching this film were few and far between, and almost all of my pleasure was at the expense of Michelle Rodrigues.
Snow White and the Huntsman
Dear Chris Hemsworth, please do not reprise this role. the film was utter garbage. bad casting, careless direction, over-the-top (but not at all funny) acting, disjointed, unloved, unlovable, and completely unredeemable.
Here's a complete list of every movie I watched at the cinema this year:
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
This Means War
21 Jump Street
The Hunger Games
The Cabin in the Woods
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
The Avengers (in 3d)
The Avengers (in 2d)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Men in Black 3
Snow White and the Huntsman
Prometheus (in IMAX 3D)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
The Amazing Spider-Man
The Dark Knight Rises
Fire Walk With Me (at the Northbend Theater)
The Bourne Legacy
The Expendables 2
ParaNorman in 3D
Premium Rush (aka Joseph Gordon Levitt rides a bike in NYC)
Resident Evil: Retribution
Here Comes the Boom
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D
The Man with the Iron Fists
Life of Pi
Rise of the Guardians
The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey
Monsters, Inc. 3D
sorry they couldn't all make it in the top ten. there was a lot of good to great cinema this year.