Monday, December 31, 2012

Luke's Top Ten Favourite Films of 2012!

This is the big one! My Ten Favourite Films of 2012 which are sure to piss you off just a little bit. But let me make an obligatory proviso. These are my personal favourites not necessarily the best films ever made (although a couple might be). But let me tell YOU what pisses ME off...

We are a pop culture site. We talk about all sorts of silly, fun, over-the-top genre movies. What I hate is that there are so many sites out there that spend all frigging year giving you every tiny bit of news about these big, silly, blockbuster movies BUT THEN when it's time to their end of year lists, they populate them mostly with Oscar favourites, and obscure foreign films. EVEN THOUGH THE DUMB BLOCKBUSTERS HAVE BEEN GENERATING THEIR TRAFFIC ALL YEAR!

Look, either this stuff is worth talking about it or not. I like escapism. I go to the movies to have a good time. The films that stuck with me throughout my life are silly escapist films like Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Back to the Future, Labyrinth, and Batman. I make no apologies for that. And if you enjoy fantasy, sci-fi and comic books then my god has 2012 got you covered. 

See all the films I loved... after the jump.

 First a couple of mentions.

Australia didn't get The Muppets until January this year but we've decided to omit it from our lists as its not much fun for our chiefly US audience to read about old films. But I absolutely adored The Muppets and it would have been high on this list if it could have been. I saw it at a preview screening on New Year’s Day and had a very strong nostalgic response. My two favourite things as a child of the late seventies/early eighties were Star Wars and The Muppets so to see them come back in such a strong, clever and reflective way (after years of mishandling) was surprisingly moving.

And the most noticeable omission from this list is Django Unchained. Why? Because I haven't seen it yet as Australia has to wait a month for that one too. But Tarantino rarely disappoints and he will have to have royally messed it up for it not to be a contender. (And word on the street is he got it right).

I'm sure there's plenty of other important films that I haven't seen yet but let's not let the facts get in the way of this glorious vanity list. My criteria is: Did I enjoy it? Would I watch it again? In fact would I BUY it? Would I buy MERCHANDISE?

2012 was a great year for genre blockbusters. It was also a big year for some of the biggest director's making polarising movies. But we'll get to that.

Starting with number ten...

10. Looper
I like time travel. But also like it when a movie has the sense to say, "Time travel is a pain in the ass headache... let's just get on with shooting shit." I like Bruce Willis being a badass. And I like a movie that can turn Joseph Gordon Levitt (who I also like) into a raging young Bruce Willis badass. I like a film that casts Jeff Daniels as a villain. 

The premise of this film is pure genius. Writer/director Rian Johnson is a genius. The only reason that the totally tight Looper only turns up at number ten is that now that I've enjoyed all the twists and turns it has to offer I probably won't ever watch it again. But I will watch the next outing from Rian Johnson. A brilliant sci-fi/time travel adventure on a relatively small budget. 

9. The Hunger Games
Is this a girly choice? Hell no. It's no Battle Royale but it's still pretty badass as far as kids-forced-into-killing-other-kids movies go. I became all wrapped up in it despite myself. Kill everybody, Katniss! You're my second... (third?)... favourite pop culture archer. (This year).

We were never going to get a gory, R rated film adaptation of this young adult novel but I still think the film did a pretty great job of creating a sense of helplessness and dread. The cornucopia scene is all kinds of messed up because of how little it shows. And damn it, I want to know what happens next!

8. Dredd
The best movie you didn't see, this ultra violent, stylish raid movie deserves far more love than it received. Forget the Stallone crapfest - Dredd basks gloriously in its gritty comic roots as a grim-faced, permanently masked Karl Urban tears shit up through 200 levels of awesome. It features the best use of both slow motion and 3D that you'll see in a theatre, so feel guilty if you missed it. I hope it finds its audience on DVD.

7. Prometheus
A controversial choice as this film became a huge target for Internet ire, and yes, it has its holes, particularly in terms of character motivations. But I don't care because I still had a blast! Why? Because it’s a beautifully made, visceral film by an interesting auteur, and featuring a strong cast, that carried me along for the ride DESPITE the fact that, script-wise, it’s a bit of a mess. Want to know another beautifully made, visceral film by an interesting auteur, featuring a strong cast that was also a mess? The Dark Knight Rises. But the Internet gave a pass to that one. (Ducks).

(I also think that there's a contingent of vocal commenters that dismissed this film because it challenges their notion of God). (Ducks again). Look, let's not argue Prometheus anymore. You hated it. I loved it. We're still cool though, right?

6. The Dark Knight Rises
Ha, speaking of Batman...

You know this one is lucky to be on this list, especially at number 6, because the more I think about it the more it was a mess, but I loved all the parts if not the whole. Nolan makes a compelling film even when it's not a particularly coherent film, and I know I will continue to watch this again and again as I do all the Batman films, and no doubt will appreciate it more over time. Stellar cast though, each giving it their all. And for that I give it a pass as well.

But it would have been even better if Batman was in it.

5. Moonrise Kingdom
Can Wes Anderson do anything wrong? I'm not sure he can? This film is such a stylish, sweet, twisted coming of age for misfits story that it's impossible for me not to love. Story-wise it doesn't ultimately amount to much but every moment is genuine and precious.

Plus how big are the balls on Wes Anderson for putting together Bill Murray, Ed Norton and Bruce Willis - three hardass and potentially difficult actors - and getting amazing performances out of them. Balls of steel, Wes. And it goes to show how much actors must enjoy working with him.

4. The Hobbit
Uh oh. Now this one is really polarising audiences. Some love it, many hate it, but it's very similar to both Prometheus and Dark Knight Rises for me: great director tackling a large-scale continuation of a popular franchise and stumbling along the way. 

Let's digress for a moment (as I haven't reviewed this properly). Your enjoyment of this film (or the other two mentioned) depends greatly on the type of baggage you bring in to it. Are you a hardcore Tolkien fan? Are you a Lord of the Rings film fan who has never read the books? Are you a casual fantasy fan? Are you a first-timer? Can you not sit still during a three hour film? It's impossible for Jackson to please all of these people and they all have a very loud opinion. Established franchises have fans, and fans are great (and necessary) but what makes them fans is they often feel like they OWN the work, and they often feel like they KNOW the work better than the filmmakers. Sometimes that's true but, regardless, it puts a director like Jackson in an unwinnable position.

Throw is all this debate about 48 frames per second and it's all a mess. But it does come down to perception. There are people that think it's the worst thing to ever happen to movies, and other that think is an engrossing, realistic revelation. I enjoyed it myself. I like the hyper-reality - like watching a live theatre show almost. It's not always successful but I made the choice to see it that way (no one is forced to) and I'd rather see an attempt at advancement than no advancement at all. But I do think that many of us see different things. I've heard people say ridiculous things like, "Tron Legacy barely had any 3D in it". The whole film was 3D, you frigging numbnut! I guess what I'm getting at is that our perception is different and just because something doesn't work for you, it doesn't mean that it wasn't effective for someone else.

But the film itself? We're back in Middle Earth, baby! I love all those crazy elf, dwarf and hobbit guys! Based on a children's story this is "out of the frying pan into the fire" unrelenting episodic adventure, churning through a much wider variety of creatures and set pieces. I had three hours of fun and that was exactly what I was there for. Don't cheat yourself out of a good time because of all that other stuff. Jackson still has it for my money. 

Phew! I could go on for pages about all this but I won't. Not now.

3. Skyfall
I’ve always loved the idea of Bond, and there are plenty of Bond films with individual moments that I love, but this is the first one I love as a whole. It’s a satisfying mix of old and new that completely cements Daniel Craig as James Bond and paves his way for a bigger and brighter future. This movie really stuck with me - I'd see it again just to watch the title animation. It's all so good. 

Most of the films on this list (and lists like it) trade on power fantasy and hero identification, but it's rarely done as well as it is here with James Bond. Everybody wants to be him and the filmmaker's continually strive to push all those buttons, successfully transforming the odd-looking Craig into the biggest badass ever. This movie also exposed my hypocrisy when it comes to Jingoism. When I see American's looking heroic in front of an American flag I usually giggle, but when James Bond got up there in front of the Union Jack I was thrilled for England. And I'm Australian. I rarely give a shit about anything.

2. The Cabin in the Woods
This is the film that nobody can talk about for fear of spoiling it, so if you haven’t seen it, see it, and if you have seen it then you know why I adore it.

This was such a fresh, witty and unique genre-bending experiment that had our audience cheering through the constantly ramping climax. It’s the least formulaic movie of this bunch and every time I thought it couldn’t get any better it managed to up the ante. A small movie full of big ideas. Like nothing you've ever seen before and yet totally familiar.

1. The Avengers
Perhaps an odd film for me to pick as number one, especially considering that my initial review was mixed, but after much time to deliberate it rises to the top for one reason alone. Unlike anything else on this list, it is infinitely rewatchable.

As I eluded to in my intro, there are certain comfort films that, despite any flaws, I can watch again and again and never really tire of them. The Star Wars films certainly fit that description for me, as do things like Batman, Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones. Joss Whedon has created a film that ultimately is so entertaining and has so many vibrant characters that I’m now at that point where I’ll forgive it for just about anything. With many new films my enthusiasm decreases with future viewings but The Avengers gets better every single time, and is easily the film of the year that will sit alongside favourites from the past. As a comic/fantasy/sci-fi fan it's a miracle that this film even exists.

Plus I loved getting swept up in the hype for this one. And I like hype. My Hot Toys Avengers figures are among the favourite things in my collection and my burgeoning Scarjo/Black Widow shrine is a thing of wonder/concern. A super fun film that gets me very excited about Marvel's future.

Any honorable mentions? You know, I thought The Amazing Spider-Man was on the right track. The Peter Parker origin half is pretty good and then the nonsensical Lizard part kind of spoils the rest. But I like the new Spider-Man and look forward to its progression. And John Carter was nowhere near as bad as everyone assumes. I quite enjoyed it while watching it although it didn't stick with me.

And my worst movie of the year? It should be Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance which is an embarrassing mess that is barely a fim, but I'm going to give it to the Total Recall remake which should have known better. It had a decent budget and cast in place but was nothing but a limp, pared back shadow of the brilliantly exploitative original. There are plenty of shitty films each year, but Total Recall was shitty, lazy, and didn't need to exist.

OKAY! So those are my picks. Now it's your turn. HAVE AT THEE!


  1. Awesome list! I, too, loved Looper, The Hunger Games, The Dark Knight Rises, The Cabin In The Woods and The Avengers. Wasn't so keen on Prometheus since it raised more questions than it answered (was visually appealing though). Can't wait to see The Hobbit and Moonrise Kingdom! :)

  2. Is there controversy about the Hobbit? I saw it in the whole 3D 48 frame thing (quite by accident as I didn't even know about this before-hand) and thought it looked really great! I usually hate 3D but the Hobbit did it better than anyone I've seen yet. Possibly because of the extra frames? I don't know...

    Story wise it was fine, too. I mean, it's the much can you do with a silly kids book about raucous dwarves? Apparently 3 movies worth of stuff...

    Oh man I finally rewatched Dark Knight Rises on BR and it IS a mess, plot-wise. Still love it though :D

  3. We had more crossover than I would have thought.

    I found Cabin the Woods to be a bit of a let down - Would like to watch it again with lowered expectations and without an awful audience, but I didn't dislike it.

    One of your films is the worst movie I saw this year though.

  4. Nice post! The hobbit is one of my favorite movie last year because of the great effects, backgrounds and lines of the movie. I want to watch now the looper. Anyway, thank you for sharing.

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