Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: Top 10

This is always so hard to do, and it should be for almost anyone. There is no way that I could have seen every film that was released in 2012, and I didn't even come close.

That being said, I did get a chance to check out a decent amount either in the theater or when it was finally released on DVD. So, I figured I would give it a shot.

This is MY Top 10 list of 2012. These may not be the actual best films released, but out of the ones that I was able to see these are my favorite. In fact, they may not even be the best films but more films I enjoyed and have no problem watching again.

So, without further ado here is MY Top 10 films of 2012:

10) Rise of the Guardians

Really wasn't expecting to like this film as much as I did. Even though Dreamworks is still a few steps behind Pixar in terms of animated films, I guess I should start expecting good things from them. They rarely disappoint, especially of late. This film gives our beloved characters (Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy and Sandman) a little more to do than most films - they protect those children who believe in them. And with a threat rising, Jack Frost is selected to join the Guardians to help rid the world of the threat.

9) 21 Jump Street

I guess it may be time to take Channing Tatum off the just a good looking actor list and actually consider him a decent actor. I saw a handful of films with him in it this year and he really did a great job in all of them, no matter how little or what he was asked to do. Here he teams with Jonah Hill to re-create the Johnny Depp starring television show. And, we actually get a fun ride. Pretty darn funny - probably one of the funniest comedies this year. They took a lot of risks in this film, and they all pretty much paid off nicely.

8) The Amazing Spider-Man

Again, I feel Spider-Man gets a bad wrap. I thought this film was pretty good and a decent (though probably unnecessary) reboot. Unfortunately, we were saddled with another origin story to re-start this franchise - much of which was already seen in the Tobey Maguire version. Also going against it was the other two pretty large superhero films released this year around the same time. Any other year this would have probably been the best superhero film of the year - but in 2012 it was the third. Still, I see promise in this franchise and with Andrew Garfield in the title role. Looking forward to the films to come.

7) Brave

For years Pixar was the go-to studio for animated films. It dominated for years with winning Academy Awards for best animated feature. But, for me, it was actually outshined by another animated film in 2012 - by its sister studio Disney. But, as I have said many times, Pixar has really done no wrong. Even their bottom films are still entertaining. Brave is not a bottom dweller, but more a middle of the road film in the Pixar library. Very much enjoyable, funny and tons of adventure. One I will probably watch a bunch.

6) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

What isn't there to like about this film (and the rest of its upcoming series of films)? We know what we are going to get - it was already laid out for us perfectly in Lord of The Rings. All we have to do is sit back and enjoy the process. Instead of Frodo, whose journey we follow in the other films, we get Bilbo's journey in The Hobbit, which is set more than 60 years before Frodo's journey begins. It takes a little while to get going as the film is setup, but we get great action and some comedy sprinkled in as well. And the crossover with characters from Lord of the Rings allows us to realize we already know these characters and we enjoy them.

5) Wreck-It Ralph 

When I first saw this trailer I was pretty excited. I was even more excited when I saw Bowser from Super Mario Brothers in the trailer - my son loves him. So, it had me hooked right away. What I was not expecting though was just how much. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire film. It had action, comedy and a ton of heart - not to mention a lot of retro video game characters and references to really get my inner geek going. And, it had a great twist ending that I didn't see coming - which is pretty hard to pull off. Really looking forward to see it again.

4) Les Misérables

I really am not sure what to call my taste for musicals. I guess I am somewhere in the middle where I either absolutely love it or very much despise it. This was not really on my radar to go see this year, but my wife really wanted to see it. So glad that I did because it ends up fourth on my favorite films of the year. Wasn't sure I was going to like the singing of every word at the start - but before long it was hardly even noticeable. The music was outstanding, all of the actors did a superb job in that aspect - and to not only be able to sing live, but also show emotion and continue on with the story, they were all amazing in their feat. Plus, any film that can get an emotional reaction out of me has to be a good film.

3) The Hunger Games

Again, pretty much going into this film blind - which I love. I don't read books so the film wasn't spoiled for me going in. I am not sure if this is another Harry Potter but it certainly got off to an amazing start and I am definitely looking forward to finally seeing the other films in this franchise upon their release. Despite being a bright spot in last year's X-Men: First Class and 2010's Winter's Bone - Jennifer Lawrence hit A-list status with her portrayal as Katniss. But, the film strives with its other cast members as well. Most notably, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci and strangely Lenny Kravitz. 

2) The Dark Knight Rises

This film will be in almost everyone's Top 3 for the year. It wrapped up what was possibly the greatest superhero franchise of all time in Christopher Nolan's Batman. It got off to such a huge and surprising start with Batman Begins and went to levels not known possible in Dark Knight with Heath Ledger's amazing portrayal of Joker. It wraps up with Batman lost, old and broken - but needed one last time to save the city that had learned to despise him for reasons that were not true. As I said then it won't get the credit it deserves because it followed Dark Knight and Tom Hardy's Bane won't get the credit he deserves because of Ledger's Joker - but we ended with a bang and that is all we can ask for.

1) The Avengers

Who knew that this is the masterpiece we would be getting way back when Iron Man was released in 2008? We weren't even aware what we would be getting with Iron Man to begin with, but thanks to a great film helped by the great performance by Robert Downey, Jr. The Avengers finally had a pulse. Even with the success of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America could the people involved in those films all come together and create a film that showcases so many superheroes? I definitely had my concerns - we have all seen just how wrong things can go with so many characters in one film - but those concerns were quickly dashed and I was given my top film of 2012. And, I continue to look forward to the many, many films that this franchise will produce - especially when Avengers 2 hits theaters.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tuesday's With Movies: 12/25/12


After last week's complete dump of movies in preparation for the Christmas rush - this week we have just one major release.

The Words: A journalist finally makes the big time, there's only one problem - he didn't write it. He finds the works of someone else and publishes as his own. Apparently there will be repercussions. Not sure if I want to watch this or not.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Theater Review: Rise of the Guardians

Every once in a while a new film comes out that moves into the Christmas rotation of films that must be watched each Christmas. Does this one make the cut?

After years of waiting in the shadows Pitch Black, aka the Boogie Man (Jude Law), has finally figured out a way to get past the guardians and take over the children of the world - through their dreams - in Rise of the Guardians.

The guardians are magical creatures that not only look after us - but they also bring us things every so often. The guardians - they are people we have known for ever, the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin) and the Sandman.

Years ago, the Man in the Moon created another guardian who may have been created just for this reason - to keep Pitch from taking over the children of the world. Of course, Jack Frost (Chris Pine) doesn't know this yet and for years he is left in solitude.

For the guardians, the only way to be seen and interacted with is to be believed in. The main four guardians remain strong as children in the world continue to believe in them. For Jack Frost, though, he is talked about, but mostly is not truly believed in. So, for hundreds of years before being called upon by the guardians - he is alone.

But, during this time he is also following and listening to children - which, despite being the only guardian not really believed in - he understands children even more than the others.

As Pitch begins to take over and ruin the children's belief in the guardians, Frost must grasp what he can do and figure out who he used to be and why he is chosen as a new guardian.

The film looked decent in its trailers, but I have to admit it was even better than I expected it to be. We get a new look at our beloved mythical creatures - and the voice talent is amazing. It was also nice to see the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman get just as much action as the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.

This is definitely the perfect edition of yearly Christmas viewings. Great story, with surprising action and humor, and great heart at the center.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday's With Movies: 12/18/12 Part II

Killer Joe: I have been interested in this ever since it was hit with the dreaded NC-17 rating. It perplexes me how so many films can be made nowadays that come out with an R or even a PG-13 rating, where so many disgusting images are on screen. But, some films get the odd NC-17 rating. Really looking forward to seeing what prompted it - and the film seems pretty interesting as well.

Premium Rush: One of a few Joseph Gordon-Levitt films being released here in December. We had Dark Knight Rises released a few weeks ago, and Looper will be out by the end of the year. Here Gordon-Levitt is on a fast-paced bike odyssey, which I am looking forward to see why. Gordon-Levitt has sort of hit that 'it' factor for me where I may just see him anything with how talented he has become.

Liberal Arts: That dude from How I Met Your Mother (Josh Radnor) writes/directs/stars in his second film, after 2010's HappyThankYouMorePlease, which I have still not checked out but want to. I will also look into this new one he has - but I should probably watch the first one first - even though they have nothing to do with each other (I think).

Sleepwalk With Me: Hadn't really head of this one - apparently based off a bit from a one-man comedy show by the guy starring in the film. Has something to do with sleepwalking, obviously. Not really getting sucked in though.

Good Doctor: I really hope that with his presence in one (or a few) of The Hobbit films that Orlando Bloom can become a bit more mainstream again. What the heck happened to him? Anyway, here is a film starring him that I have heard nothing about. But, I may give it a chance sometime down the line.

10 Years: This looks like one of those Valentine's Day/New Year's Eve movies. Not from the same people, but it has a ton of well-known actors in it and just has that feel to it. Probably will look into it at  some point.

Tuesday's With Movies: 12/18/12 Part I

A ton of films being released during the week leading up to Christmas. Pretty much a time for Hollywood to dump everything in hopes of picking up those holiday shoppers.

In fact, there are so many films coming out this week I had to split this into two parts. First time for everything.

Pitch Perfect: I wanted to take my wife out to see this in the movie theater, but we never were able to find the time to check it out. I feel she would enjoy the singing/dancing portions - I would probably like those as well, but I definitely was going to support Ms. Kendrick. Definitely checking this out when we can.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days: I may be writing the same thing as I wrote on the last Diary of a Wimpy Kid release. But, this book series is pretty popular with the younger generation, and although my son isn't to that age yet he will be soon. I am sure he will be getting into these books eventually, so we will probably be looking into the movies eventually as well.

Total Recall: I honestly don't really remember anything being said good or bad about this film. Which, for a pretty big blockbuster, probably cannot be a good thing. Anyway, I still haven't checked out Schwarzenegger's original, but I will eventually. This one still has me intrigued, though.

Trouble With the Curve: Baseball is not my favorite sport. I would probably watch almost anything besides a baseball game on television. But, baseball makes for a great movie - not sure why this doesn't really translate for a lot of other sport films. Although, I have heard not many great things about this film it does have some great actors. And, I guess I can look past Clint Eastwood and give this one a try.

Resident Evil: Retribution: Not sure how many films this franchise is on now, but I have yet to watch any of them and really have no ambition to ever watch them. So, this one will be skipped.

Arbitrage: For a movie I had never heard of before, I actually heard more about this movie than I did Total Recall. Apparently despite its pretty small budget and lackluster release it may be pretty good. Not sure if that is enough to woo me, but we shall see in the future.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Quick Shots 18

Title: Horrible Bosses.

Starring: Jason Bateman, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Lindsay Sloane, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx.

Brief Synopsis: A trio of friends, Nick (Bateman), Dale (Day) and Burt (Sudeikis), all believe that their lives would be better off without their bosses. Together they try to hire a hitman, but instead come across MF Jones (Foxx) who agrees to consult them on how to take out their bosses. They all agree to each kill each other's bosses by making it look like an accident.

Opinion: I found the film to be pretty funny. I have never watched the show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia so this was my first glimpse of Day - and with Bateman and Sudeikis, he actually fit in very nicely. Aniston looked great in her role and played it very well - Farrell was way over the top and looked nothing like himself. Finally, Spacey continues to play the insane asshole very well.


Title: Fast Five.

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang, Dwayne Johnson.

Brief Synopsis: Dominic Toretto (Diesel), Brian O'Connor (Walker) and Mia Toretto (Brewster) are blamed for the death of DEA agents and are being chased by both DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and a crime lord Hernan Reyes. They decide to steal Reyes' money in order to start a new life and bring in some former running mates that we have seen in previous movies.

Opinion: I have loved all of the Fast and the Furious films, obviously the ones with Diesel and Walker together are the best, but I have enjoyed some of the other characters that we have been introduced to in the other films. Tokyo Drift can't really hold a candle to any of the other films, but it did give us Han (Kang), who I really enjoy. This film was more Ocean's Eleven than it was Fast and the Furious though. It needed a few more car chases and races, but I still really enjoyed it..


Title: X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston Will i Am, Kevin Durand, Taylor Kitsch, Ryan Reynolds, Dominic Monaghan.

Brief Synopsis: This film follows the birth and creation of Wolverine (Jackman), whose real name turns out to be James Howlett. He was born with a mutation, bone claws coming out of his hands. He joins his brother Victor (Schrieber), who is known as Sabretooth, and a bunch of other 'special' recruits in the Team X, led by William Stryker (Huston).

Opinion: I have heard that people don't enjoy this film, but I really am not sure why. I am not a comic book reader, so there could be a ton of plot holes and things from the comics, but as a movie watcher alone I thought it was pretty fun to watch. I am also really hoping they continue with the Deadpool (Reynolds) movie - that could be fun.


Title: Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Starring: Andy Serkis, James Franco, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Tyler Labine, Jamie Harris.

Brief Synopsis: Will Rodman (Franco) works at a laboratory trying to create a drug that will help with Alzheimer's. Rodman and Robert Franklin (Labine) are using chimpanzees as lab rats, and may have hit pay dirt. Caesar (Serkis) was born in the cages from one of the chimpanzees that has been dosed - and he becomes extraordinarily smart. He lives with Rodman and his father Charles (Lithgow), who has advanced Alzheimer's. One afternoon as Charles attempts to drive, he gets into a confrontation with a neighbor, and Caesar tries to protect him. Caesar is then sent to a sanctuary, where he is mistreated, and eventually becomes the leader of the apes.

Opinion: The only Planet of the Apes film I have seen before is the remake with Mark Wahlberg. This film was apparently a prequel to the original films - and it was amazing to see, especially after seeing how it was all made. Serkis has really taken this craft to a whole new level.


Title: 21 Jump Street.

Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, Ice Cube, Ellie Kemper, Nick Offerman, Jake Johnson, Chris Parnell.

Brief Synopsis: Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are total opposites and have been ever since high school. Jenko was a popular jock who struggled with his grades, while Schmidt was the nerd that got good grades and had no friends. Both happen to join the police academy - Schmidt helps Jenko with his studying, while Jenko helps Schmidt with the athletics - and become best friends. Once they're police they are assigned to Jump Street an put undercover in a high school to track down the dealers and the supplier of a new drug. Once there, they confuse their names and Schmidt is put in the easy courses while Jenko is put in AP classes. The two end up switching places from where they were in high school and they see how the other half lived.

Opinion: I either like or hate Jonah Hill, I don't think there is a middle ground. Here I liked him, and Tatum was downright hilarious. Ice Cube played their captain in a great way as well. The movie also poked fun at itself throughout, which made it even funnier. Would have liked some more Nick Offerman, but he had a nice little cameo.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

50x3: Legend (A-2)

Let me say if I were to grade the first portion of this movie, it may have been a lot worse. I was so confused.

So, for the second film on Aimee's list I watched Legend. From what I can tell the only thing keeping the light in the world is the magical unicorn. Over time there are now only two unicorns remaining and Darkness (Tim Curry) has sent out his goblins to destroy it.

Princess Lili (Mia Sara) heads out into the woods to meet her jungle friend Jack (Tom Cruise), who is teaching her the languages of the animals. Jack takes her and shows her the unicorns, but Lili does something forbidden - she touches the unicorn.

The goblins use this time to shoot a poisoned dart that kills the unicorn, leaving the planet with just one unicorn to keep the light and keep out the darkness.

Lili and the final unicorn are captured and taken to the underworld with Darkness. He intends to make Lili his queen and kill the final unicorn together - then take over the world.

Jack, meanwhile, cannot find Lili and stumbles across Gump (David Bennett), an elf, two dwarves Screwball (Cork Hubbert) and Brown Tom (Billy Barty) and the fairy Oona (Annabelle Lanyon) who all decide to help him conquer Darkness.

Pretty quick synopsis, but the film itself is only 90 minutes and with as much that is going on really has a pretty simple plot.

As I said before, the beginning of the film could have frightened me off. It hits you right in the face with its oddity and is rather confusing. If I had stumbled upon this one night and hadn't had it on my 50 list to watch I may have decided to skip the rest of the film. But, I am glad I watched the rest because it got a lot better.

The dwarves were pretty funny and Gump was definitely interesting. He looked child like and sounded like an older person (found out that he was voiced by someone else).

The weirdest part though may have been seeing the very young Cruise. Apparently he was younger in Risky Business but he looks so much younger here.

By the way, what the heck ever happened to Sara? With this and Ferris Bueller's Day Off under her belt shouldn't she have been a little bigger? Instead pretty much all of her co-stars had much bigger careers than she did.

As for the movie, I believe had I watched it in the 80s I would like it much more, but for what it is now I did enjoy it. Curry was almost unrecognizable as Darkness - the only characteristic that you can truly make out was his voice.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday's With Movies: 12/11/12

Ted: I have sort of fallen out of watching Family Guy for a few years now. I used to watch, but just sort of got tired of it. I know this isn't a cartoon, which I am hoping is for the best. I have heard some good things and I will definitely be looking into this film.

Ice Age: Continental Drift: I know that some of the most watched cartoon franchises somehow continue to get the same voice actors to return, some even for four films like Shrek. I am still confused on how this franchise continues to do that - granted this franchise isn't horrible, it certainly started out well. I have seen them all so I don't see why I won't see this one as well.

Bourne Legacy: The first three films starring Matt Damon are incredible. Jeremy Renner is an extremely talented actor so I am hoping he is able to continue what Damon started. I don't see any reason why he shouldn't be able to.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday's With Movies: 12/4/12

The Dark Knight Rises: One of the most successful and amazing franchises came to an end this summer, and it didn't disappoint. I am actually looking forward to checking it out again since I was only able to check it out once in the theater. And, I am sure it won't be more than once.

Hope Springs: I know that Meryl Streep is apparently an amazing actress - but I honestly never got her. I have only really enjoyed her once - in Devil Wears Prada and sort of enjoyed her in River Wild. But, that is it - and I really have no reason to run out and see this either.

Odd Life of Timothy Gale: This didn't really jump out at me to begin with, and then seeing all of the children bawling their eyes out after seeing it just pushed it over the edge that I don't think I will see this one either. The only real reason I would have see it is for my son, but I really don't want to put him through that.

Beasts of the Southern Bell: This is usually the film I wouldn't think of watching, but I have been branching out more of late. Though I probably will not be watching right away this may be something I will check out later.

Thunderstruck: When I first saw this trailer I thought it was a complete joke - I thought it was something out of Saturday Night Live, but to my complete surprise it was an actual film. I enjoy a good sports movie, but this one does not impress me.

Monday, December 3, 2012

HOT: The Terminal

I don't think this film gets the credit that it deserves. And I definitely don't think that Tom Hanks gets credit for his performance in this film. In fact, I completely blank on this performance whenever I think of his best.

Anyway, Hanks stars as Viktor Navorski in The Terminal. Navorski is from Krakozhia who is traveling to New York City to fulfill a promise he made to his dying father.

When Navorski lands, however, it is found that while he was in the air his country became part of a civil war. Due to this happening, Navorski's travel visa becomes null-and-void, therefore he cannot enter the country legally. Also, Krakozhia would no longer be accepting planes, so he cannot go home either.

So, he is basically stuck.

At the same time Navorski lands at John F. Kennedy Airport, Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) is nearing a big promotion in the TSA, and would be overseeing the entire airport. And, somehow Navorski throws a wrench into Dixon's plans - he becomes a thorn in his side without really doing anything. Just for really being there.

When Navorski first lands he does not understand what is going on because his English is very limited, and here is where Hanks is just perfect in the role. Navorski begins to learn the language and begins to understand more and more of his surroundings - and before we know it he is speaking and understanding English with ease.

He befriends three airport personnel during his time stuck in the airport, Mulroy (Chi McBride), Gupta (Kumar Pallana) and Enrique (Diego Luna). They sort of begin to help him during his time at the airport, including getting fed. Enrique promises that Navorski will never go hungry again as long as he helps him get to know Dolores (Zoe Saldana).

And if that is not enough, Navorski also develops a bit of a crush on a flight attendant named Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Amelia is a bit of a wreck and is currently seeing a married man in hopes that he will leave his wife. But, she does develop some feelings for Navorski in their time together. The three pals even help Navorski develop an airport date with Amelia when she lands at JFK.

I have to admit, I didn't realized I liked this movie as much as I did. I got a bit choked up towards the end of the film. I don't think that was the case before - perhaps it was my mood or maybe who I am now eight years after its release. Either way, I really enjoyed watching this movie - even more than before.

Hanks, of course, was fantastic in this role. I was also happy with his three buddies in the airport - McBride is the only one I truly know, but all three were great. Tucci provided yet another outstanding performance. He is truly an underrated actor - I think he can do pretty much anything. Here, he was fantastic in the role of what can only be described as the villain.

One final note: Loved that Saldana was a Trekkie in this film. Little did we know at this time that she would be the new Uhura. I definitely laughed out loud.