Five Favorite Films of 2012

Here we go again. Another year, another bunch of movies. Oddly enough, most of my favorite films this year all came out between now and the last batch of reviews. So I’ll just skip the regular reviews and jump straight into my year’s top favorites.

Honorable Nods: “Rise of the Guardians” (Russian Santa!), “Ted”, “21 Jump Street”, and “Boats vs. Aliens”

5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I’m still miffed about one book becoming a trilogy, but I’ll let it slide for now. Part one of “The Hobbit”, in spite of the padding, was still thoroughly entertaining and had one amazing scene after another. The dwarf choreography alone looked amazing during the comedy and action sequences. “Hey! Let’s have thirteen dwarves and a wizard dangle from a swinging platform while battling goblins and still make it look logical!” I’m impressed that they even managed to work in a couple songs from the book without turning it into a musical. And the “Riddles in the Dark” segment boasts one of Andy Serkis’ best performances as Gollum. And did I mention Martin Freeman is an awesome Bilbo? Because he is.

What throws me for a loop is all the new content. Apparently they’re combining 3-4 books together to formulate a new side-story for the trilogy, but it does wreak havoc on my knowledge of the book itself. I spent forever wondering “aren’t they supposed to be at the trolls by now?” while some weird dude with a rabbit bob-sled played nurse-maid to some sick hedgehogs. Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy those scenes, but they’re aren’t integrated seamlessly. You can see the stitches for whenever creative liberties are taken. But that criticism aside, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is still a very enjoyable film, and the beards alone are worth the price of a ticket. This should have been a Movember release.

4. Resident Evil: Retribution

When asked which celebrity I most have a crush on, my top pick is always a tie between Mila Jovovich and Anne Hathaway. Then I decide that the tie can only be broken if both ladies come my place and wrestle in Jell-O for my affections. Then I put my money on Mila because she’s already survived five zombie movies without the help of Batman. Kicking Anne Hathaway’s ass would be a cake-walk for her. So Mila wins.

Of course, when Jell-O wrestling is a thing, everyone wins.

My celebrity crushes aside, god, I love this movie. I love how over-the-top and ridiculous these “Resident Evil” movies are getting. In the first movie, it was just a zombie outbreak that they were trying to contain. Now we have infected scientists unleashing giant nail-head hammer-monsters into simulations to study the commercial aspects of a super-virus that has already destroyed the planet. The scientists even dressed up their zombies as Russian communists! Russian communist zombies! Also, Mila Jovovich surfs a car down an escalator! And Michelle Rodriguez is alive again and again! And why would scientists be trying to sell a virus when they’d make a lot more money selling Mila Jovovich clones? I’d buy one! Hell, I’d buy six! Umbrella Corporation is marketing to the wrong target audience! This movie doesn’t make sense, yet I want a sequel! Right now!

3. Wreck-It Ralph

So, fun fact: this movie does not feature Sonic the Hedgehog as a main character, nor is he in the film for more than ten seconds. Another fun fact: over half the film takes place in a candy video game, with little to no game-jumping happening. Accept that Disney’s marketing team has exaggerated the truth like crazy just to get the film this far, and you otherwise have the best video game movie since “Scott Pilgrim”.

For what it is, “Ralph” is just great to watch. The variety of characters, cameos, and set designs look amazing, and story’s just what you expect: fun, clever, and family-friendly. The cameos and in-jokes work well too, and I would’ve liked to see more. In fact, my biggest criticism is that the core cast of characters is too minimal. I see the potential here for a “Toy Story”-sized supporting cast where Zangief and Q*bert should be right there in Sugar Rush helping Ralph and his friends. But alas, cameos will have to do for now. At least we finally have a Disney movie where Pac-Man can be seen chomping down a line of martinis.

2. The Avengers’ Cabin in the Woods

The short version: it’s been a good year for Joss Whedon fans.

The longer version: I happen to like both of these movies for the same reasons. They take well-known subject matter and flip it on its side. They show us a new take on something we’ve been watching for years. “Cabin in the Woods” is basically “Evil Dead” meets “The Truman Show” as it reveals the truth behind every horror movie ever made. Then “Avengers” comes along and actually makes a comic book movie that completely lives up to comic book standards (how have other film-makers been failing this?) Best of all, both movies feature climatic battle sequences that combine so many different elements together in the most fist-pumping ways possible. “Cabin in the Woods” was basically the dark precursor to “The Avengers” as far as experiments in kick-assery go.

1. ParaNorman
I’m so glad I caught this over the holidays. Laika (aka “like Pixar, but with Stop-Motion”) has had a great streak with their films. I liked “Corpse Bride” and loved “Coraline”, but I feel this one is their best effort. A young boy who can speak to the dead has to save the town after a witch’s curse raises the dead. Sounds like a fun Halloween flick, but what sold me on the film was everything else. It’s just a damn good movie. Okay, the animation – this stuff is all stop-motion and yet it looks on-par with most CG efforts. Even the character design looks great. Just check out the enormous ass on Norman’s sister – that is an epic ass. They’ve created a Reverse-Jessica Rabbit. The performances are great. Each character is a delight to watch for their own personality and quirks. This is that expanded supporting cast I was talking about for “Wreck-It Ralph”. “ParaNorman” got it right.

And on the whole, I really love what they did with the story. They take some chances, they play with the genre, and they add some unique twists to it. Do they defeat the witch? Does Norman stand up to the bully? Does the boy get the girl? The story is good at pulling surprises. The movie can be very funny when it wants to be, but it can also be deep and sincere when it needs to. On the whole, if you were to take the best of “The Sixth Sense” and cook it up with the best of “The Goonies”, “Evil Dead”, and “Casper”, you’d probably discover a recipe for “ParaNorman”.

January 05 2013 03:51 am | Movies

2 Responses to “Five Favorite Films of 2012”

  1. Pstonie on 05 Jan 2013 at 8:34 am #

    It’s a trilogy? Damn, I was going to watch that.

  2. jolly_old_saint on 13 Jan 2013 at 3:46 am #

    My favorite was Django Unchained, but then I guess I just don’t like slavery as much as you seem to.

    Also, feel the rhythm. Feel the rhyme. C’mon dwarves, its bobsled time.

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