Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Movie Year-End Wrap-Up

Happy New Year’s Eve!

11 films vie for my top ten of 2012 (not a lot of suspense!), which I’ll announce tomorrow. I didn't think it was a particularly good movie year, especially disappointing were the year-enders. I had just 24 films on my must see/ recommended lists.

As always, I’ve viewed 60 films this year (plus two 3-D re-releases); below are my one-line commentaries on each:

Must see [11]

1. Dark Knight Rises, The. The "Lawrence of Arabia" of comic book movies.

2. Django Unchained. Although it has serious themes, just a lark really, but its tapping of a generally avoided period of American history and Tarantino's knack for crowd-pleasing brings it to the winner's circle level.

3. Frankenweenie. Its self-consciousness actually works in its favor.

4. Moonrise Kingdom. Irresistibly cute, with nice summer outdoorsy flavor.

5. Prometheus. Yes, it's B-movieish plotwise, but it's an exciting ride (cool in 3-D), with strong performances by its leading ladies: Charlize Theron and especially Noomi Rapace.

6. Raid: Redemption, The. Worthy.

7. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Quietly original.

8. Sessions, The. Romantic, moving.

9. Silver Linings Playbook. Unusual, contemporary, a lot of screaming, great ensemble acting.

10. Twilight Saga, The: Breaking Dawn, Part 2. Surprisingly effective finale on several levels (including its own self-awareness/ potential camp nature) that leaves you with a high school graduation feeling.

11. Zero Dark Thirty. Solid docudrama with fine ensemble.

Recommended [13]

1. 2 Days in New York. An above-average quota of laughs puts this little bon-bon over the top.

2. Amour. Not enough coeur.

3. Argo. Good story and period detail.

4. Avengers, The. Iron Man/Stark and Hulk/Banner have the best moments in a movie that admittedly doesn't go beyond popcorn.

5. Flight. Well-executed morality piece, hampered by a sugary aftertaste.

6. Grey, The. An unsatisfying downer, but somewhere in there had something to say that stays with you.

7. Haywire. Great January genre piece with each member of the cast contributing.

8. Hitchcock. Smart, intimate.

9. Hunger Games, The. Close-up heavy and action light, still a worthy adaptation: a B+ movie of an A- book.

10. Lincoln. Well-produced history lesson with solid work by Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field.

11. Looper. Well-imagined time travel piece has a good message.

12. Skyfall. Literate Bond adventure is a truer series reboot, as well as delivering one of the more dramatic entries to the canon.

13. Snow White and the Huntsman. Creates a complete world but has an episodic narrative that holds it back.

Skippable [35]

1. 21 Jump Street. Third act was an absolute calamity.

2. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Simplistic.

3. Amazing Spider-Man, The. Garfield surprisingly effective, but this is a slow-moving, cornily-scored movie we've already seen.

4. American Reunion. R-rated "Return to Mayberry."

5. Battleship. Corny, but alright.

6. Beasts of the Southern Wild. The narrative is just far too obscure.

7. Bernie Took until the last third before you knew what it was all about; this needs documentary treatment.

8. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The. Lovely, pleasant.

9. Brave. Unusual story is handled well but has an also-ran quality alongside Pixar's greats.

10. Cabin in the Woods, The. Unfortunately another glorified "Twilight Zone" episode dragged out to feature length.

11. Campaign, The. Repetitious but amusing enough for fans of the stars.

12. Chronicle. Makes-no-sense silliness, with a big, splashy ending nonetheless.

13. Dark Shadows. Doesn't pull it off.

14. Dictator, The. Half-baked.

15. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. Only gets going after its (heavy handed) message becomes clear; many corny songs.

16. End of Watch. Dramatically sound, but doesn't offer much "take-away."

17. Hope Springs. You saw the trailer, right?

18. Impossible, The. Straightforward but well-done.

19. Jeff Who Lives at Home. Pleasant enough, but a little too small, and has a muddled message.

20. Les Miserables. Technically fine musical epic translates emotion through close-ups and pronouncements that may turn off a viewer not imminently attuned to them.

21. Life of Pi. Ambitious, but light on dramatic highlights.

22. Master, The. Gets tiresome; Joaquin Phoenix is uncannily Montgomery Clift-like.

23. Men in Black III. Not bad.

24. ParaNorman. Great animation, but has a weak story and a drawn-out conclusion.

25. Perks of Being a Wallflower, The. Seemed forced.

26. Safety Not Guaranteed. Sweet little indie that has a goofy ending.

27. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Hallmark-y, but trio of stars— Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, and Kristin Scott Thomas— shine brightly.

28. Seven Psychopaths. Nice L.A. atmosphere, but screenwritery.

29. Star Wars: Epsiode I 3-D: I really wanted to like it, but it was deja vu all over again.

30. Ted. A guilty-pleasure at best.

31. Three Stooges, The. Leads good, but the only real inspiration was Larry David as a nun.

32. Titanic 3-D. The 3-D adds nothing; the movie, however has aged well.

33. Total Recall. Passable Hollywood entertainment.

34. Wreck-It Ralph. Although above par, it has that contemporary animated movie sameness.

35. Your Sister's Sister. More appropriate for the stage, but good, particularly nice work by Mark Duplass.

Avoid [3]

1. Holy Motors. The emperor has no clothes.

2. Take This Waltz. Like living it, but who wants to?

3. To Rome with Love. None of the melange of stories can sustain its length.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Spook" in Film Registry: "You really want to mess with Whitey? I can show you how."

The newly listed film in the National Film Registry, The Spook Who Sat By the Door, can be watched in full on YouTube.  Given just * 1/2 stars by the Leonard Maltin Guide, this film has gradually gained a reputation so as to be considered one of the best of the blaxploitation genre.  Its quite interesting, particularly as a time capsule, and easily worth your time. The kind of film that needed the passage of 40 years' time to become a classic. The film is posted twice (in full), here's one of the links.

National Film Registry Announced 2012

The list is out (earlier than usual) and like last year, it's pretty good, but not particularly good. And, unlike last year, they didn't pick any Oscar Best Picture winners, which puts them behind again.  For bad or for worse, every American film that has won Best Picture needs to be on there. I mean, what's the holdup on, you know, TITANIC?

There were, however, several quite deserving "biggies" that made it: BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, DIRTY HARRY, and THE MATRIX among them.

Just one of my picks made it-- A CHRISTMAS STORY.  My #1 pick several years running, BLUE VELVET, has not made it again!

Link to Los Angeles Times article.

Link to Hollywood Reporter article.