HST…Best Movies of 2012

HSTMoviesWith our feet firmly planted in 2013, it is time for the writers here at HST to look back on the past year and reminisce about the good, the meh, and the just plain ugly of the entertainment world, starting right her with film.

AlanMovies

Film Of The Year: Seven Psychopaths – A movie about a writer trying to write a movie about psychopaths sounds like a disaster, but put THAT script in front of director Martin McDonagh and you get the best dark comedy of the year. From the repeated joke of Marty’s (played by Colin Farrell) alcoholism, to the AMAZING reveal of who the Jack of Diamonds is, Seven Psychopaths hits all of the awkwardly intense marks I come to expect from the writer/director. Sam Rockwell stole this movie, in my opinion. His bats#&$ crazy character steals all of the scenes he’s in; even if he doesn’t say a word of dialogue, his facial expressions become rather captivating and hilarious. Seriously one of the most underrated films of the year – I highly suggest you watch it when it comes out on DVD in about a months time.

Favorite Scene: From Seven Psychopaths, where Billy (played by Sam Rockwell) explains “The Final Shootout.”

Favorite Surprise: Chronicle – I only gave this shakey-cam superhero movie a B when Lauren and I reviewed it back in February. But after another viewing, I can say I really enjoyed it. Just the idea of a super hero movie with no tights or giant God complexes helped make it one of the best and SERIOUSLY underrated super hero movies of the year. Yes, the flying is a bit laughable, but the three actors do a pretty good job at being, well, teenagers with super powers. There weren’t a lot of movies this year that I found better after multiple viewings, but Chronicle just so happen to be one of them.

Biggest Disappointment: Cloud Atlas – Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Cloud Atlas was a beautiful film with a cool concept backing the visuals, but the six story structure made half of this movie dreadful to watch. When the majority of the dialogue of one of the stories is to remind the viewers that “We are all connected,” it becomes incredibly annoying to sit through. Even the best performances and stories through this movie are overshadowed by glaring pacing issues and, at points, AWFUL acting from some of the best actors of our time. Cloud Atlas had everything going for it, but just couldn’t connect with me – no matter how much it tried to get me to.

Oh yeah, and that makeup was terrible.

Worst Movie Of The Year: Trouble With The Curve – There comes a point in movies where you know what kind of movie you were in for. That point came about two minutes into this old man drama starring Clint Eastwood, where he just couldn’t go to the bathroom – no matter how much he talks to himself. To put it bluntly, this film isn’t worth a drop of piss. The story is atrocious, overwritten garbage with so many “emotional triggers” which drew eye roll after eye roll throughout the film. For example, Eastwood using his Gran Torino voice to sing “You Are My Sunshine” at a grave site drew in more laughs than it did anything else from the crowd I saw this movie with. Even the baseball portions of this movie – especially the number one prospect that Eastwood’s character was supposed to be seeing – are God awful. By all means, skip this trash.

CabinInTheWoodsGrant (1)

Film of the Year: Cabin in the Woods – This film blew me away.  This is possibly the most spot-on deconstruction of a film genre yet.  Cabin in the Woods isn’t actually scary, it is too busy kicking ass.  Not since Scott Pilgrim has a film’s offbeat comedy hit me so directly.  “He had the conch in his hands!” is my new line anytime something doesn’t quite go my way.  Also like Scott Pilgrim, the level of detail in this film is captivating and admirable.  Even the small details have depth, for example the speakerphone conversation with Mordecai is really funny, but Mordecai is also astutely warning them that Marty could be a problem.

This film had my greatest scene of the year, as the elevators open and the madness is unleashed.  But beyond the comedy and the carnage, larger themes are explored: is it a story of good people rationalizing doing something horrible, is it the working class imposing their will on youth, is it shining a light on our desire to watch people be murdered in outlandish ways, or is it just a brilliant explanation for the horror genre?  All in all, Cabin in the Woods is a fantastic film!
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Here is one sentence for a couple other films that I loved this year:
Argo – You will only like it if you enjoy well acted movies that have good drama, humor, and tension.
Dark Knight Rises – It started to make a comment on greed and the repercussions of an economic downturn, but Nolan decided to abandon these concepts to create a longer ‘hole prison’ montage.
(D)jango Unchained – It failed to reach the tension and comedic heights of Inglorious Basterds, but it is still a fun and compelling film.

Best Surprise of the Year: Avengers – I realize it is a strange movie to be my biggest surprise, but I did not expect to enjoy this.  After years of buildup, it seemed Avengers was going to be a spectacle and was becoming tiresome.  My expectations tumbled further when I found out that Loki was the antagonist.  I still believe that he and Thor bring little to the film, but luckily it is a large cast and the Hulk still had plenty of room to smash.  It turned out to be really good (groundbreaking, I know).  I guess I should stop being surprised by Joss Whedon’s successes (by the way, if you haven’t seen it yet, go watch ‘Whedon on Romney‘).
 
Most Disappointing Film of the Year: Magic Mike – Between the positive word of mouth and my faith in Steven Soderbergh, I expected a great piece of cinema that would explore interesting themes by utilizing interesting characters.  Instead, the film was clichéd and uninteresting.  Telling us there are emotional downsides to stripping is not bringing anything to the table.  Watching ‘The Kid’ as a newcomer be introduced to a new and mysterious world and seeing him get in over his head was just as boring and predictable as Channing Tatum’s relationship with Cody Horn.  By the way, Horn has a subtle frown that she depends on for nearly the entire film.  Stripping set pieces and Soderbergh’s solid technical approach is not enough to support an entire film.

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Most Under-Appreciated Film of the Year: Goon – Seann William Scott gets out of his typecast and plays a slow-tongued, iron-fisted protagonist with the heart of gold.  However, it is the film’s hilarious characters and dialogue that make the film very entertaining.
 
Most F’ed Up Thing I’ve Seen All Year: Killer Joe – I haven’t been able to eat fried chicken since…

Heather's Movies

Best Movie: The Perks of Being a Wallflower – This was one movie that I was over the top excited to go see, and it didn’t disappoint in the slightest!  All three of the main characters (played by Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller) are presented through phenomenal performances and the actors really nailed the characters they were playing.  Plus, I love a good tearjerker, and this had me tearing up about 20 minutes in through the end of the movie.  I wouldn’t consider the movie a complete downer though – there were plenty of moments that had me laughing through my tears (e.g., Lerman attempting to dance at his school’s dance – priceless).  I can’t wait to watch this again (and again) once it is released for purchase.

perks-wallflower-emma-watson-flying.jpgRunner UpLife of Pi – A lot of book to movie adaptations really nailed it this year (e.g., Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Hunger Games), and this was no different.  It was visually stunning, although some insist a handful of the scenes were too outlandish.  But what do you really expect from the mind of a boy who is trapped on a raft under the scorching sun for 227 days?  Everything to make complete sense?  My favorite part about this movie is the ending.  What really happened?  I choose to believe the better story, but it’s really up to you to decide.

Honorable Mention: The Hunger Games

Best Surprise Movie of the Year: Pitch Perfect – When Lauren asked me to go see Pitch Perfect with her, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from the previews.  I mean, it looked like nothing more than a glorified Glee episode, and I am not the biggest Glee fan.  But I love Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow, so I figured why not give it a shot?  I am so glad I went – because between Snow and Rebel Wilson (whose character calls herself “Fat Amy”), coupled with the hilarious commentary from Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins, I was laughing from start to finish.  As the a capella girls would say, this movie was a ca-fabulous.


Pitch Slapped.jpg
Runner Up: Cabin in the Woods – 
Another movie I was expecting to be horrible because it looked like the standard scary movie about a bunch of teenagers who go out to the woods and find themselves fighting for their lives.  And even though this is essentially what happens, it is so much more than that, with the best movie twist all year.  Cabin also has my favorite scene from a movie this year, when creepy gas station dude (played by Tim DeZarn) calls up Sitterson (played by Richard Jenkins).  “Am I on speakerphone?”  If you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it ASAP.

Worst Movie of the Year: Twilight Breaking Dawn, Part 2 – It pained me when people applauded at the end of this film, and when people tell me that this was the best Twilight movie yet.  And for all you people out there who tell me that they were purposefully tongue in cheek with this film (Zac), as much as I’d like to believe you, I think the Twilight cast and crew take themselves way too seriously for that.  I will give credit to this film for at least making me laugh at how bad it was, rather than making me angry.  But that’s about all the credit I can give, because the final installment of the “saga” as fans call it, was completely horrible.

Pitch_Perfect

Best Film: Cabin In The Woods – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, but I will follow Joss Whedon to the end of the world and back (if Joss Whedon say’s there is a end to it, then there is an end to it).  Technically a horror film, it definitely isn’t defined by the rules of that genre, though that shouldn’t be surprising when two people who played a large role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer are involved.  This film has Whedon and Drew Goddards’ sensibilities all over it, drenched in the form of storytelling and comedy that we’ve come to know and love from all that they’ve done up to this point.  Now that’s all I’ll say before I really do spoil something.

Runner Up: The Avengers -Yes, it’s another Joss Whedon film at the top of my list, but this man has a power with ensemble casts that not many else possess, at least not to his level of prowess.  He is a master of making numerous characters equally important and memorable because of their individuality and what they bring to the group.  Everyone has their own standout/hero moment, and it is as hard to pick a favorite moment from the run time as it is to hold back a guffaw when Hulk can’t help but expel a little bit of anger on Thor during the final battle.  [Sidenote – Just in case you can’t do the math, Avengers is awarded best superhero film of the year over The Amazing Spider-man and “Gotham Rises”]

The Avengers - HulkHonorable Mentions: Anna Karenina, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games, Looper, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Pitch Perfect, The Raid: Redemption, Safety Not Guaranteed, Seven Psychopaths, and Skyfall

Best Surprise: Pitch Perfect – Even with Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow among the cast (and Rebel Wilson, who effortlessly steals scenes every other minute), this film had the potential to go very wrong.  Like very, very wrong, in a campy, been there done that sort of way.  But it didn’t!  This aca-awesome “musical” understands exactly what it is and works that into one of the funniest scripts of the year, with line after line of quotable material that rivals the cheertastic Bring It On, which undoubtedly inspired this in numerous ways.  Not only that, but the musical mash-ups created for this forms one of the best soundtracks of the year.

Runner Up: 21 Jump Street

Favorite Scenes / Moments – The fight between Spider-man and The Lizard in the school in The Amazing Spider-man, The opening of Anna Karenina, all hell breaks loose in Cabin in the Woods (followed by the containers, and the brutal beating in the background of the celebration), Catwoman breaks as Batman back does in The Dark Knight Rises, the Hunger Games begin in silence in The Hunger Games, the boat sinking in Life of Pi, the emergency surgery in Prometheus, hallway fight of The Raid: Redemption.

Best Cameo: Stan Lee in The Amazing Spider-man The day that Stan Lee is no longer available to cameo in Marvel films will be the saddest day ever.  But when it comes, at least we will have this gem in which he plays the librarian of Peter Parker’s school, oblivious to the fight going on behind him between Spider-man and The Lizard thanks to some noise-cancelling headphones.

Most Overrated Film: Argo – In all honestly I have no idea why this film is getting Oscar buzz.  Yes, it is an interesting story about a mission that sounds like it has no actual chance of succeeding, but in the end it boils down to a movie about a group of 6 people who are hiding from the Iranian people for fear of death, and though I wouldn’t trade places with them, they hardly seemed to ever be in that much danger in comparison to the real hostages down the street with actual guns to their heads.  They’re practically living the life over at the Canadian ambassador’s home.  I say it can “Argo f— itself.”

Runner Up: Moonrise Kingdom

Worst Film: House At The End Of The Street – The one thing that can be said for House at the End of the Street is that it tried to do something new with the motivations of the bad guy with its psychological angle.  Tried, but then unfortunately failed when it went too far, becoming more laughable than disturbing.  It’s okay Jeniffer Lawrence, a terrible horror film is pretty much a right of passage in Hollywood.

HouseAtTheEndOfTheStreetRunner Up: For A Good Time, Call…

Biggest Disappointment: The Bourne Legacy – Jeremy Renner is hardly given a chance to shine as the film constantly shies away from moving the story on past what came before in Matt Damon’s trilogy, making this a major opportunity wasted that will hopefully be rectified if the series continues.

Runner Up: This Is 40, The Raven, and Snow White and the Huntsman

Worst In Series: Underworld Awakening – With my fandom of the supernatural, it’s only natural that the Underworld series is something I love.  The first two films anyway, Rise of the Lycans was definitely a disappointment as a prequel, though it does get a excused handicap for the lack of Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman tying the war between vampires and werewolves together.  Awakening brings Beckinsale back to her role as Selene, but without Speedman the magic is gone in a forced plot that jumps forward in time from the previous stories, containing shared visions, a hybrid child, a mad scientist, and a ridiculous evolution of a species.

Runner Ups: The Bourne Legacy, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Wrath Of The Titans

Movies I still Need To See:  Bachelorette, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Butter, Cloud Atlas, Django Unchained, Dredd, End of Watch, The Grey, Killing Them Softly, Lawless, The Man With The Iron Fists, The Master, People Like Us, Ruby Sparks, Rust & Bone, Silent House, Silver Lining Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

avengers

I am borderline refusing to participate in this article. I don’t think the movie year has to be summed up till the Oscars air (look for my full write up then), which allows me to see as many movies as possible.  I am at 106, but have yet to see Zero Dark Thirty, Amour, Rust & Bone and many other films that make my list incomplete and wouldn’t rank my best of 2012 until all those are under my belt.  So look for that in February.

Now, I am not going to be a total curmudgeon and am going to put a couple of fun awards in here so I have at least a couple of cents thrown into this discussion.
First a couple stats: 3 movies from my top 5 were mentioned above and not all of them in a positive light. Both Lauren and Grant list a movie in their best of’s that I will share a tie for most overrated film of the year.  Heather has two picks I would argue are completely backwards.
And on to some awards.

Detention

The Best Movies No One Saw:
Girl Walk // All Day – This one just only came on my radar a few weeks ago so this isn’t really your fault, but since I have reviewed it (here) the blame is solely on you as I link to watch it for free right there in that review. The movie is pure joy and spectacular to look at and it deserves the largest audience possible. So what are you doing?  Go watch it already, right here.
Sleepwalk With Me – Mike Birbiglia brings his long running story, it’s both a book and a one man show, about his ordeals with a rare sleeping disorder to the last medium left available and the results are very good.  Funny, heartfelt, and entirely honest, Birbiglia tells a hilarious coming of age story of sorts that anyone should be able to relate too; no matter your sleeping habits. Oh, and you can watch it right now on Netflix.
Holy Motors – A French import from director Leos Carax is the most original film of the year and probably the strangest.  Featuring quite possibly the years best performance, the film takes you on a journey across France that is a celebration of film history, acting and the power of movies.  Don’t miss out on this one any longer than you have to. (My review)
Detention – Joseph Kahn’s ADHD, genre bending take on the high school film is kinetic and relentless in its pace, so if anything doesn’t quite rub you the right way the film will most likely move along shortly.  The film is full of solid performances from a lot of unknown kids and features one of my favorite scenes of the year surrounding the film’s title location. You are likely to possibly reject this film on style alone, but there is a lot of good content stuffed in here in one of the more imaginative and original films of the year.
Dredd – Now, more people saw this then all four of these other films combined, but for a major release like this it was woefully ignored by the public. Funny, gory, action packed, inventive and probably the best use of 3D this year, Dredd is the best action film of the year.  It feels new and old school all at once, and both Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby are great in their respective roles. Everything works in this movie and I hope that the film finds a big enough following so that it gets the sequel it deserves.

Worst Film of the Year:
The Lorax – Unwatchable. I couldn’t get through 45 minutes of this before I had to just turn it off, which makes Illumination Entertainment 0 for 2 after the almost just as unwatchable Despicable Me (that’s right, I said it, the movie sucked).  I couldn’t even begin to tell you what made this piece of garbage so bad, but I will not be seeking out anymore of this studio’s films for the foreseeable future.  (Disclaimer: I am sure there are worse movies than these listed, these just happened to be the ones I was unfortunate enough to see.)
Dishonorable Mentions: Joyful Noise, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Dark Shadows, Seeking a Friend at the End of the World, Wrath of the Titans

darkshadows

Only Movie To Actually Put Me Asleep In The Theater:
Dark Shadows – Tim Burton released one of the best and worst movies of the year, and his worst was so incredibly dull and boring I actually dozed off for more than a few minutes I think.  I didn’t know what was going on before I fell asleep and certainly didn’t know what was going on afterwards, but I take solace in knowing that I don’t think the film did either.  Chloë Grace Moretz randomly being a werewolf, anyone?  Hey, at least Eva Green was hot and fun; right?

Biggest Disappointments:
Wreck-It Ralph – The premise is brilliant, the execution for 1/2 of it was not, and even though the film comes wonderfully together for the big finale I found myself way too bored.  Not enough references, not enough characters from existing properties, but I am still rather excited for the potential of a sequel.  I imagine studios would be far more likely to share their characters and worlds in a sequel and I feel like they could create a potentially great sequel from this ok start.
Argo – I love Gone Baby Gone and am a big fan of The Town as well, so color me severely disappointed at how mediocre Argo was from director Ben Affleck. Devoid of tension, not nearly as funny as it thinks it is, and focused way too much on the Hollywood aspects of the film, Argo doesn’t get its priorities right.  We don’t get to know any of the faces we are trying to save over in Iran, and the film’s stereotyping of the villains is borderline offensive.  It is a well crafted film, but completely ineffective; it’s a shame.

Best Performance Not Getting Enough Notice:
Fran Kranz in The Cabin in the Woods – As the “fool” of the film, he actually serves as the audiences proxy and is hilarious every step of the way.  I was rooting for, and connected to, him more than just about any other character in a movie this year and he would easily be in the running for one of my favorite characters of 2012.  You could attribute that to the writing, but Kranz breathes so much stoned energy into Marty that you can’t help but love the guy.  Lets give him some more props.

JOHN CARTER

Most Unfairly Maligned Film of the Year:
John Carter – Andrew Stanton’s first foray into live action might not have been quite as good as fellow Pixar alum Brad Bird’s MI: Ghost Protocol, but it wasn’t that far behind either.  The story on this film was, “it was so expensive,” “who wants to see this?” and “Andrew Stanton doesn’t know what he is doing,” and all of this was basically before anyone had seen the film.  The narrative was written well before anyone got to see it and way too many people decided to just take that narrative and run with it in their reviews.  John Carter is an epic, gorgeous and fun film that captures adventure and the heroes journey about as well as one could hope for.  The action beats were solid to great, Woola is one of the best things in a movie this year and Taylor Kitsch & Lynn Collins are great in the film’s leads. If you skipped it because of all the bad press, do yourself a favor and check it out now. It’s a lot of fun and may surprise you how good it is.

 

Final Thoughts

Since we’re all given our own sections, all we can do is stand and watch as our fellow writers choose films that we happily agree with and/or silently stew in aggrivation about.  Good thing there’s a comment section!  Hope to see you down there.

And be sure to come back tomorrow for our Best of 2012 Music!

8 thoughts on “HST…Best Movies of 2012

  1. Where to begin:
    While I wouldn’t call The Hunger Games the worst film of the year it is certainly still terrible and I shake my head at its runner up placement on Lauren and Heather’s list.
    Argo isn’t a terrible movie either, but Lauren hits it rightin the head and I am glad she fell into my camp on that one. Come on Grant.
    Glad to see Pitch Perfect get some more love and bummed Bourne Legacy ended up on Lauren’s dissapointments.
    Also, Heather, I am going to stick my neck out a little farther on Breaking Dawn Part II. The final battle is legitimately GREAT. It might be the best fight of the year actually. And I will stand pat on that the film’s tounge is firmly in cheek. The movie had as many legitimate laughs as unintentional ones and the core three have never been better. Stewart in particular does here best work in the series, and Lee Pace! Need I say more?

  2. BREAKING DAWN IS POOPY! No tongue in cheek!
    I was actually thinking about sticking up for John Carter like you did Zac, and maybe throwing Battleship into the mix as well. I just had so much fun watching those movies…
    And as much as I love Cabin in the Woods a lot of Kranz stuff was my least favorite because pot smokers for jokes in movies are pretty high on my irritates Lauren list. His character obviously evolved though.
    And biggest disappointment doesn’t mean worst for Bourne, I was just expecting something to at least live up to the other films somewhat, instead of just a film that wished to be the other films.
    As for Alan’s pick with Chronicle, I don’t think I can bring myself to rewatch that movie to see if it would have the same effect on me. I just hated the lead character so much… So angry… So annoying…

  3. I was expecting to be the only one talking about Cabin in the Woods, but instead Alan was the only one that didn’t talk about it!

    I have added a Django Unchained sentence to my list of films I loved.

    A couple of responses on Argo, the Iranians knew that the international media would magnify anyone they killed at the U.S. embassy. But for the six hiding in the Canadian ambassador’s home, probably would have been executed without hesitation.

    As for arguments that the Iranian perspective was not represented. The storyboard opener was a great way of establishing that the Iranians were not just radical lunatics. One thing to remember is that this is not the story of the Iran hostage crisis. It is the story of getting six people out of Iran. Affleck is not trying to tell both sides. But he is able to build the tension by putting us in the shoes of the six, fearing large crowds of people, and not knowing which ones are actually threats.

    1. There will be a lot more to say about Cabin from me later!

      I agree with your assessment on Argo in that he isnt trying to tell both stories, Affleck still didn’t make me care about them. Spent too much time with Arkin and Goodman, the former who of which is getting way too much awards praise for a pretty generic role with zero depth. The most effective scenes in the film are at the embassy which makes me wonder if he shouldn’t have incorporated more of that stuff.

    2. Also, per Django, I agree 100% with your statement, but I think it just might be his worst movie; easily. Mulling a potential article on it.

  4. That storyboard opener to Argo was comical and just furthered the idea that the Iranian people appeared like overreacting monsters that hated America in the beginning. You have faces of real people being really, really angry at the US citizens as a reaction to a cartoon. Didn’t work for me at all.

  5. Zac: I enjoyed the Hollywood sequences, but I can see your point that Affleck should have spent more time introducing us to the six hostages. The only great scene that I can recall, which establishes the six hostages, is the scene where the husband feels guilty for convincing his wife to stay in Iran. Maybe Affleck ran out of screen time.

    Lauren: You crazy.

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