Another year gone, another year of movies that I love that others probably didn’t. This year was a bit different for me as far as theatrical viewing goes. I didn’t see as many movies theatrically as I would have liked, but I made them count when I saw them theatrically. Well, for the most part anyway. A large majority of the films I saw were via Redbox, and a few I saw via Amazon On Demand. So with that said, here’s my top films list of 2012.
1. THE EXPENDABLES 2/UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING – I know, I’m barely on my first one, and already I’m cheating. You know what though? My list, my rules. These are the 2 films I saw this year that I found to be MY best. Push came to shove I’d go with Unisol: DOR, but that’s not happening, and I can have them share the top spot. What else is there to say about EX2? It’s a big push up from the last one in terms of action and getting action performers. If there’s a performance of the year, it’s Jean-Claude Van Damme as JEAN VILAIN. If you haven’t seen the movie, then you’re missing out. This is going to lead to great things for him, and he’s already been working on revamping his acting and image since around 2001. With each subsequent film, his acting has gotten better, and he can still kick ass with the best of them. EX2 was just flat out 80’s style nonstop action, and that’s just what this past summer (a shitty one for films) needed to end on.
Unisol: DOR is on the opposite end of the action spectrum. I did a lengthy review here on the CHUD on it, and a quote from that review even ended up used in the ad campaign! Am I biased towards this good will? Of course. Is it warranted? It most definitely is. What started out as a silly sci-fi/action romp, has now morphed into a horror film with action elements in it, and dare I say it? A Kubrick style of directing brought on by John Hyams. A man that has a very bright future in bringing quality films to home video. This is brilliant filmmaking at its finest.
2. JACK REACHER – I’d been anticipating this film ever since I saw the initial trailer, and it did not disappoint. Tom Cruise at the age of 50 can still bring the action, and he has several brutal fights, including one where he really takes a beating. Couple this with a great acting turn from legendary director Werner Herzog, and a car chase that rivals Bullitt/The French Connection, and you have what I like to describe as a “Procedural with knockdown drag out fights.” This is Cruise playing a brutal anti-hero, and being excellent at it.
3. DJANGO UNCHAINED – Tarantino’s latest is another great throwback to the exploitation/Spaghetti Westerns of the past. While not being as spectacular as Inglourious Basterds, it’s still full of fun performances, and an eclectic soundtrack. Christoph Waltz owns his second Tarantino film in a row, but this time he’s gotta share with Leonardo DiCaprio playing a slimy villain, and Samuel L. Jackson playing his best (and most hilarious) role in years as the secondary evil antagonist. Throw in a bunch of cameos and small roles played by a who’s who of character actors, and you have one of the best films of the year.
4. LOOPER – Despite missing out on its theatrical run, I was able to rent it as soon as it was released, and WOW. What a film. I haven’t really been a huge fan of Rian Johnson, but this film I definitely enjoyed. I dug the western theme that is prevalent throughout. Most notably in the Colt looking guns that The Gats carry. Taking place in a mostly dry an aired atmosphere also continues that. Joesph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis do a great job, and this is Bruce Willis not acting on autopilot as he’s been accused of in other films.
5. SHAME – This is technically a 2011 film, but for all intents and purposes, I’ve counted it as a 2012 film. A grueling “adult” film that is anchored by a powerful performance from Michael Fassbender. The acting he did in the film truly should have gotten him nominated for an Academy Award in the least, and that didn’t happen. Also that score. Sounds like epic Hans Zimmer music. Epic Hans Zimmer music in a movie about a sex addict. If that doesn’t get you watching this film, then I don’t know what will.
6. 21 JUMP STREET – Haywire made me be ok with Channing Tatum, but 21 Jump Street made me a fan of his for life. Plenty of action on display, and really hilarious (seriously, the hallucinatory sequence had me rewinding it about 5 times, particularly when Tatum blows air and it sounds like a boat horn.)
7. ROCK OF AGES – I usually don’t like musicals, but after hearing the good word of mouth on this one, I figured I’d give it a look, and I instantly became entranced by it. Once again, Tom Cruise delivers the standout performance in a film, and this is a film full of covers of amazing 80’s songs. If that’s not enough, you see Bryan Cranston being spanked while HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT is being played, and Tom Cruise sings I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS into Malin Ackerman’s ass while he’s trying to seduce her.
8. PROMETHEUS – One of the best films of the year, and next to EX2, the only worthwhile film of the summer. Ridley Scott is back at the top of his game, and I don’t care if certain things didn’t make sense. We don’t get sci-fi films like this anymore, and I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel film.
9. GET THE GRINGO – Melvin Gibson brings a solid slice of action to the DTV market with this little movie that is very similar to Payback in that he’s effectively a villain, but he’s so likable, you can’t help but root for him. Oh yeah, he also does the shittiest Clint Eastwood impression that is alternately hilarious and cool because it’s so terrible.
10. THE RAID: REDEMPTION – One film that I was DEAD SET on seeing in the theater, because after seeing all of the amazing action clips online, I just knew that it would not be as incredible if I waited to see it on video. Once the action starts, it does not stop. Seeing it with my pregnant wife (who was the only girl in the theater too!) since she was interested in it as well, earns it a special place here, as she’s usually a tough customer when it comes to films, but when we finally get to the 2 on 1 fight, she was happy when Mad Dog was finally taken out. Looking forward to the sequel!
11. TOTAL RECALL – Color me surprised when I saw this film this past weekend on Blu-ray in its director’s cut form, and I was impressed by the constant action and marvelous set pieces. People crap on Len Wiseman, but between this and Live Free Or Die Hard, I’m a fan. As long as he’s not making Underworld movies. Oh yeah, and the original film is still one of the greatest action/sci-fi films of all time. This one just turned out to not be a steaming pile of crap that was unworthy of then title.
12. SAFE – Another action throwback, this time to 90’s action has Jason Statham trying to protect a young girl from The Malina (Russian mob) and The Triads (Chinese mob). More constant action, and hey, we get to see JAMES HONG in a large supporting role, and Chris Sarandon in an extended cameo as The Mayor. Robert John Burke also shows up as a dirty cop. Another theatrical film that is made much richer by having solid character actors in it.
13. SKYFALL – The latest James Bond film, which also happens to be the most commercially and critically successful film of this long running franchise revealed itself to be a smart throwback (yes I’m using this word again) to the early Sean Connery films in that it’s not very reliant on gadgets, and doesn’t figure in on a villain that is bent on world domination. Rather it’s a guy who is really pissed off at M. It’s not very heavy on the action set pieces, and as far as Craig films go, I prefer Casino Royale, but it’s still a great film.
14. THE BAY – The second review I did for CHUD, was an ecological horror film that was directed by someone, Barry Levinson, who is not known at all for directing horror films, let alone found footage horror, which this also is. THE BAY is one of the best horror films in recent memory, and the best found footage horror film since the first Paranormal Activity.
15. DARK SHADOWS – A film that people dismissed for the most part, was yet another surprise when I saw it in the theater. The constant fish out of water moments for Depp’s Barnabas Collins had me in stitches, and the soundtrack was great, including the track provided by “The Cooper woman.”
16. THE THREE STOOGES – After hearing that the 3 genius actors (Carrey, Penn, and Del Toro) had left the project, I was a bit ticked off, as I was at least interested in it due to them (Carrey was going to play Curly!), but when I finally saw it, I was impressed with what the Farrelly brothers pulled off, and in a PG rated film no less. Plenty of physical comedy, and hey, Craig Bierko steps on Sofia Vergara’s boobs and THEY HONK. That’s worth 10 laughs.
17. GOON – Another comedy, this time about hockey, and one of the underseen films of the year. Seann William Scott sheds Scott Stifler with his role as a nice guy who can dish out the beatings at hockey matches, and there’s plenty of gutter humor to keep this fan of that humor smiling throughout. Canadian acting sensation Jonathan Cherry and his righteous mustache show up. Must look righteous due to all the hand sanitizer he’s been drinking.
18. MAGIC MIKE – In another realm, this was a movie made in the late 70’s by Paul Schraeder. Channing Tatum continues to show off his fast growing acting skills, which also has Matthew McConnaughey as an unscrupulous male strip club owner that is sure to net him an Academy Award nomination.
19. THE AVENGERS – A fun superhero film that brings together all of the Marvel superheros that were introduced in Marvel’s “Phase One”, and it’s one of those rare large budgeted films that seems to show every penny up on the screen.
20. PROJECT X – A found footage…comedy? Yeah, found footage has creeped into the comedy genre, and you know what? It works. What starts out as a small scale affair degenerates into a full scale riot complete with ending the way Lethal Weapon 4 began!
21. CHRONICLE – Another found footage film, this time of the sci-fi variety. One of the smartest films of this year, and a great subversion of the superhero genre, as well as pretty much ripping off AKIRA, the various devices they use to keep the found footage angle going (Andrew grabbing a bunch of cameras/phones/camcorders, and using them to film the climax) are interesting, rather than just keeping the film going with one camera. Another film that is special to me, as earlier that evening, I was told I was going to be a Father.
22. CABIN IN THE WOODS – Not the big smart game changer I’d been hearing it to be, but I still had a great time with it, and the whole climax alone earns it a spot on this list. Plus Jenkins and Whitford. Those 2 need to do another horror comedy STAT.
23. THE HUNGER GAMES – I literally just finished watching this movie a short while ago. I was really impressed at something that pretty much ripped off Battle Royale. I have to give credit to my friends in The B-Action Thread, because if it wasn’t for them giving positive notices on it, I would have completely dismissed it. Some brutal action for a PG-13 film.
24. RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION – The 5th entry in the long running franchise (and apparently the next entry will be the last…until the inevitable reboot.), I’ve been a huge fan of this franchise, and Retribution hit quite a few marks for me. Bringing in actors from the previous films playing their resurrected characters, and finally introducing more characters from the games. It had the best use of 3D I saw all year (next to Prometheus), in a year where I didn’t see many 3D movies (just this one, Prometheus, and The Avengers.)
25. REC3: GENESIS – A lot of people who saw this didn’t like it, because it turned out to be a side story parallel to the first film, rather than the prequel that it was initially set up as, it dropped off the found footage angle, and introduced comedy. All of these angles I found to be strengths. The comedy was welcomed, and this film wasn’t short on the gory set pieces. The 2 leads do a good job of projecting their need to find each other and escape even though there’s possessed people between all of them. Yet another movie that made me smile a bit, because the film deals with a wedding gone bad, and while that didn’t happen to me, I did get married this past June, and in the film the bride yells “This is my day!” which is the exact same thing my bride said too. Of course she wasn’t brandishing a chainsaw. We also saw it together, and she liked it, while having a laugh over the little things like that line.
1. THE GREY – A solid 70’s throwback with a great ending that seemed to piss of a lot of people, because of its misuse in the trailers. Liam Neeson owned this one with a remarkable performance.
2. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN – Not the horrible film that the trailers made it out to be, and the set reports either. Andrew Garfield channels the silly comedic tone when he’s dressed up as Spider-Man, and the goofy lovestruck guy when he’s Peter Parker.
3. WRATH OF THE TITANS – Solid sequel to the remake, but it didn’t have the same “Men on a mission” feel that the other one did, but I applaud the constant action, and the fact that they had the balls to just leave Hades as the last God standing. They’re supposedly working on a third film, and I REALLY want to see what they do with that one.
4. AMERICAN REUNION – 13 years after the first film, the whole gang is back again, and they’re still as funny as the first time. Jim gets into more embarrassing situations now involving his wife (Michelle) and their son. Stifler also craps in a beer cooler. Family fun all around!
5. GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE – Neveldine/Taylor’s latest film is a whole lot of fun due to Nic Cage once again going off the reservation with his performance, including getting to actually play the Ghost Rider this time around. Especially since he’s SCRAPING AT THE DOOOOORRRRR!!!!!!
6. HAYWIRE – Gina Carano doing a 90’s inspired action film directed by Stephen Soderbergh, that was also the first movie that made me turn around on Channing Tatum. Oh yeah, and that final scene and line. EXCELLENT.
7. V/H/S – Most of the segments in this found footage horror film are pretty cool, but there’s one segment that just shits the bed. Thankfully the rest of the film keeps it afloat, and that last segment is just brilliantly put together.
8. ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS. ZOMBIES – The lead performance is award worthy. I SHIT YOU NOT. That’s really the only reason worth seeing this film.
9. 6 BULLETS – The third Jean-Claude Van Damme film on this list showcases him as a fairly dour individual involved in a “Taken-esque” situation. His real life son Kristopher Van Varenburg shows up in a large supporting role, and he’s actually quite good.
10. CASA DE MI PADRE – A silly take on the Telenovelas that populate Spanish television (and that my wife loves watching), you get to see Will Ferrell talking Spanish, and the film has some surprisingly bloody violence in it. Plenty of “low budget” intentional mistakes keeps the film hilarious.
11. TAKEN 2 – Not a completely worth follow up to the original, but it does feature more hand to hand, and a final fight that was pretty awesome. There was just too much frenetic shaky cam. Made my head hurt.
12. THE DIVIDE – A down and dirty post-apocalyptic film that stars Michael Biehn amongst others, and shows just how people can degenerate into scum when there’s no rules.
13. THE VICTIM – Michael Biehn’s proper directorial debut is a tribute to grindhouse films and has great performances from him, his wife Jennifer Blanc-biehn, and Danielle Harris. Plus it has the line “It’s a full moon, I could read a book out here!”
RENE’S “EH” LIST
1. LOCKOUT – Great opening sequence, and Guy Pearce was on fire, but the resulting film wasn’t as great as the “Escape From Prison In Space” plot suggested it would be.
2. (Judge) Dredd 3D – This film really belongs on my SHIT LIST, but there are a few redeeming qualities in it, like Karl Urban’s performance, and the late introduction of “Dirty Judges” that just BARELY keeps it out of there. What a lot of people saw in it, I certainly did not. A weak villain, and not enough uses of the different kinds of rounds that the Lawgiver has, earns it a place her, but I may revisit it in the near future. Still, there is no way it will be as incredible as the Stallone version.
3. JOHN CARTER – BORING. I was falling asleep most of the run time when I saw it on disc this summer. I was really hoping it was going to be interesting…and it never happened.
4. MEN IN BLACK 3 – Another one that should be on my SHIT LIST. Seriously? 10 years later, and this is what we get? Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, and that Roy Rogers song aside, I just couldn’t get into this latest entry. I did appreciate that we got some more insight into J’s backstory, and his realization scene really is heartbreaking, but the villain just didn’t do it for me, and Frank The Pug was missed. So was Rip Torn as Zed, but I’m assuming it’s his booze problem that kept him out of the film. The party aliens too. Their quick cameo shouldn’t have been that.
1. DETENTION – I caught a lot of flack for not loving this film. I stand by my words. All year I’m hearing this film is amazing and making all these lists and then….I see it. Movie didn’t know whether it wanted to be scary and funny, silly, or a parody. It just kept jumping all over the place, and the constant revelations (tv hand, human fly, then time travel) just further pissed me off for not making a lick of sense at all. Speaking of making sense…..
2. COSMOPOLIS – Cronenberg. I love his films. I saw A Dangerous Method during the summer and really liked it a lot. The trailer for this one had me anticipating it. I rented it last night. The cool interior design of the limo aside, nothing in the film made sense at all. Now, this may seem like I’m ragging on it, and don’t get me wrong. There are some films I enjoy for not explaining things and having bizarre endings/situations, but they usually have dialogue that goes from point A to point B. This one has dialogue that had me confused and just tuning out while the film practically became background noise. At least I saw Looper after it, and that washed this film out of my brain.
3. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – This one ALMOST got to the “eh” list. Sadly the opening sequence aside, Gotham turning into No Man’s Land, and Tom Hardy’s performance as Bane, this was a huge misstep. The 3rd act revelation of Talia Ahl Ghul and the fact that Bane, for all his speeches, and his purported being a mastermind, was nothing more than a lovesick lapdog for her tore the film completely apart. Wasn’t all that crazy about Anne Hathaway’s performance either, and I generally like her films. As far as Nolan Batfilms goes, I go with BATMAN BEGINS.