Top Ten Films of 2012

January 21, 2013

How did 2012 treat you? For me there were really no big changes in my life, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing yet. I guess I’ll determine that a few years down the line, but as content as I am, 2012 was actually a very good year for films. It was a huge year for blockbusters with The Avengers and The Hunger Games and in addition, we saw some HUGE franchises come to an end with The Dark Knight Rises and Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2.

Also, it was a very good year for all genres across the board. While I’m not a horror fan, I have to admit that The Cabin in the Woods is probably my favorite horror since The Descent. As for comedies, while there wasn’t a film like Bridesmaids this year, there were still some good ones like Pitch Perfect, 21 Jump Street and even the darker Seven Psychopaths.

But now it’s time to get on with it. Here are my top movies of 2012:

10. Flight

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Denzel Washington gives a powerful performance as an alcoholic pilot who saves many lives by crash-landing a damaged plane. Zemeckis returns to live action with a drama about a man’s journey to admit he is an addict. The opening plane crash scene is truly terrifying to watch.

My full review here.

9. The Impossible

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Based on a true story of a family who is separated by the 2004 tsunami that hit south Asia, The Impossible packs a huge punch that will hit straight to your heart. A great family drama that gives you hope when you believe all hope is lost. Excellent performances by Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, and Thomas Holland.

My full review here.

8. Moonrise Kingdom

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A story about two kids finding friendship for the first time and mistaking it for love, and how their parents don’t know how to handle themselves when they run away. This Wes Anderson feature was his most mainstream film yet while still maintaining his quirky characters. This was a delightful, little movie.

7. Silver Linings Playbook

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Jennifer Lawrence cashes in on her big year with a stellar performance in this crowd-pleasing dramedy. Dealing with mental illness, relationships, and dysfunctional families, Silver Linings Playbook had everything you want from an adult comedy.

6. Beasts of the Southern Wild

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The most poetic film of the year, but still mainstream enough to keep the audience’s attention, this indie-gem proves that there is still room for imagination in cinema. You will fall in love with Quvenzhane Wallis and marvel at Dwight Henry’s performance, neither with any acting credits prior. What a magical film this is.

My full review here.

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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The most memorable high school film in a very long time, Stephen Chbosky (novelist, screenwriter, and director) makes his characters come to life in this film that hits upon several serious issues that high-schoolers face, such as discovering yourself, peer pressure, and personal trauma, to name a few. Complete with a trio of young, talented actors (Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller), this film will make you laugh as much as it will make you cry.

My full review here.

4. Les Misérables

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A marvelous adaptation of the beloved musical and novel, Hooper’s direction brings you up close and personal with the characters in Les Misérables. Full of tragedy, action, and love, the movie rendition of this epic is one that will last for many years to come. Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman give natural, show-stopping performances.

My full review here.

3. Argo

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A true Hollywood movie, Ben Affleck constructs another hit with the “based on a true story” thriller of how a CIA agent rescued six Americans in Iran during the hostage crisis by developing a fake sci-fi film. Argo is funny, suspenseful, and very well-made from beginning to end.

2. Zero Dark Thirty

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Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to The Hurt Locker takes on a grand project about the story of how Osama Bin Laden was finally located and killed. Lead-woman Jessica Chastain gives a controlled and confident performance as Maya, the CIA analyst who took a decade to compile enough intelligence to track down Bin Laden. The procedure plays out like a classic mystery, but the final raid from the Navy SEALs provides for arguably the most tense moments of any film this year.

My full review here.

1. Life of Pi

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Truly my favorite and the most powerful movie experience in 2012, Life of Pi was able to transcend what you expect to receive from watching a film. The ideas that the film suggests remain embedded in my mind since my trip to the theaters. Ang Lee adapted a so-called “unfilmable story” with such success that should (if not already) cement him with legendary status as a director. Life of Pi simply makes you think about your faith and your life in a way that no other film has done before.

My full review here.

Honorable Mention (alphabetical order): Django Unchained, Looper, The Master, The Sessions, and Skyfall.

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Movie Review: The Impossible

January 17, 2013

The Impossible (2012)
114 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
Starring: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland

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Grade: A-

In 2004, a tsunami hit the coast of Southern Asia, devastating everything in its path and killing over 230,000 people. The Impossible is movie based on a true story about a family who overcame the disaster and miraculously was able to hold each other once again. Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage), the narrative is a straight-forward and personal one, which is certainly refreshing since there have been plenty of high-budget, CGI-driven disaster films in the past few years. Bayona wisely holds back on the disaster and concentrates on the family.

Even though CGI didn’t play a major role, the special effects and visuals were devastating. Using one of the largest water tanks in the world to create the powerful waves, you can’t help but cringe and inch to the edge of your seat as Maria (Watts) and Lucas (Holland) fight to grab each others’ hand while being swept away by the current. It’s great entertainment, but one that’s difficult to watch if you think of how many people were killed by these monstrous waves.

The Impossible is a story about a family who never gives up hope under the most catastrophic circumstances. Maria and Lucas are separated from Henry (McGregor) and the two youngest sons. While Maria was fighting to stay alive in one of the many crowded, makeshift hospitals, Henry never stopped looking for the rest of his family. While the climax of the film was done in a close-call, seen-it-before way, you can’t help but to be moved by the conclusion.

Naomi Watts gives a very strong performance as the wounded mother with a big heart, clinging to her life for just one more moment to be reunited with her family. Ewan McGregor also gives a great performance and had the most emotional scene as he borrows a stranger’s phone to call a family member. But the actor I was most impressed with was Tom Holland. He arguably has more screen-time than any of the main characters and really holds his own as the oldest son. Holland is no stranger to acting (starring in Billy Elliott the Musical in London), but the movie works so well because of his performance. We see the chaos through his eyes for a big part of the film and he has the unique perspective of being as strong as he can be for his family while still being too young to understand everything that surrounds him.

This is a very good film with great performances. Even though the film doesn’t touch upon all the lives lost directly, you understand the magnitude of the situation through several scenes of panic and the remains from the tsunami. But through the worst moments, it’s nice to know that there is always hope and The Impossible proves that is true.


Early Oscar Chatter

September 18, 2012

It’s the middle of September and in the movie world that means that the chatter for awards season is slowly getting louder. From a whisper to a polite noise, word-of-mouth is beginning to make its way around the entertainment world and through the blogosphere. I’m no different. Every single day we get closer to The Oscars, I get more and more excited. While this summer contained plenty of summer hits and blockbusters, only a few indie films stood out that can really be considered Oscar-worthy. Those films include Moonrise Kingdom and Beasts of the Southern Wild. There is also The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to the darker Batman-trilogy and one that has really set the bar high for future superhero films. While many considered it a snub for The Dark Knight to be left off the list of nominees, there’s a chance for The Academy to make it up to Nolan, but will they bite?

Two films that are making a big splash in the early awards season are The Master and Silver Linings Playbook. Both films are directed by talented individuals who are no strangers to The Academy Awards, and both are on completely different sides of the movie spectrum. The Master is Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to There Will Be Blood and has been praised by critics even though a handful cannot explain exactly what the movie is about. Meanwhile, Silver Linings Playbook stars two very hot actors, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. But even though the film won the people’s choice award at Toronto, the fact it’s a dramatic comedy will hurt its chance as being a serious contender for Best Picture.

There are plenty of strong films that will end the year of 2012 and will most definitely result in an intriguing Academy Awards. Right now, everything is still up in the air. There are a handful of movies everyone expects to be in the running for Best Picture and there will certainly be some surprises. For now, here is my early overview of how I see things playing out.

Front-runners:
– Lincoln
– Argo
– The Master
– Les Miserables
– Silver Linings Playbook
– Django Unchained
– Beasts of the Southern Wild
– Anna Karenina

Second Tier:
– Amour
– Moonrise Kingdom
– Zero Dark Thirty
– Life of Pi
– Flight
– The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
– The Impossible


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