At last, we come to the climax of my review of the films of 2012. To those of you who continue to keep up with me, I one again apologize for the slow updates — I saw so many movies this past year and have been doing so much this past month that it’s been hard to keep up with a regular update schedule!
I’m currently in the process of moving, with my best friend / roommate moving back to his hometown to be closer to family, so it’s been tough keeping up with the blog, hanging out with him a few more times after seven awesome years of being roommates, while also just figuring stuff out for the next period of my life living as a single person for the first time. It’s tough, but thankfully he lives where my family lives, and it’s only 100 miles away. Lucky for any fans I may have (Hello!…?), it’ll likely result in me doing more reviews, though the higher amount of rent I’ll be paying will undoubtedly impact my ability to go to the theatre as often as I have been.
On that note, before I get to the meat of this final entry, I want to thank everyone who has been reading this blog, regularly or even sporadically. I may not know you, but I appreciate you! This may be a hobby of mine, but it’s meaningful to me and keeps me sharp. I started The Viewer’s Commentary in September of 2011, after lots of personal setbacks and a good long while of feeling stupid and even being made to feel stupid for wanting to start a blog about movies, and by the time I finally decided to just go for it and not listen to the negativity, I still didn’t really know whether I was going to still be writing in even a few months’ time. So to already be in the middle of my second year and still be having a blast getting my thoughts and opinions out there about one of my favorite subjects has truly been a great experience. To those of you who have read, continue to read, and even to those of you I know personally who encouraged me and maybe don’t even share my passion and probably aren’t even reading this now but you supported me all the same, thank you again for being there! I’m definitely looking forward to what 2013 promises to bring! (STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS! FINALLY!)
Anyway, enough self-reflection! You’re here for the rundown of the best films of 2012, aren’t you? I assume so, since you are continuing to read this. I’ll let you get to that, but first, let me explain how this list is working, as I’ve changed it up a bit from last year and from most other “Best Of” lists.
Secondly, and this is related to the third alteration, there are no longer just 10 films on this list, but rather a whopping 17. Why?
Well, that’s because the third alteration I made is that I’ve decided that a lot of the best films of the year weren’t necessarily my favorites, but I wanted to recognize their greatness by putting them on this list anyway, rather than lump them in with the films that were just average. (I did something similar with the “Films I Liked” this year after realizing I didn’t necessary love nor despise a lot of films enough to put them on the worst or best of lists.)
So, while the films below are all fantastic films and deserve to be considered among the best of the year, their order has everything to do with favoritism over quality. After all, lists like these are highly subjective, and while it’s certainly possible to objectively call a film “one of the best,” ultimately by ranking such diverse works against one another, you just have to acknowledge the fact that you’re playing favorites.
So, yeah, anyway to review and summarize: These are, in my opinion, THE BEST FILMS OF 2012, but they are ORDERED ACCORDING TO FAVORITISM. Make sense? I hope so! If not, then just keep reading on, ’cause I think you’ll get it, anyway! Read more…
Produced by: Alex Garland, Andrew MacDonald, Allon Reich
Written by: Alex Garland
Cinematography by: Anthony Dod Mantle
Music by: Paul Leonard-Morgan
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, Lena Headey, Domhnall Gleeson, Warrick Grier
Based on the comic series created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra
Let me get this out of the way first: Before this movie, I had next to no familiarity with the character beyond the existence of an apparently terrible Sylvester Stallone adaptation that broke with tradition and revealed the face of its main character. And my familiarity with that film itself largely extends to a preview on some forgotten VHS tape that I used to watch a lot and the existence of a pinball table located in a bowling alley from around the same time period that I watched said tape.
That being said, I was pretty excited to see Dredd, largely because I had heard about its spectacular 3D effects and slo-mo footage, which was shot using Phantom Flex cameras at 1,000 FPS, and also because word from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con showing was largely positive. By the time I finally went and saw the film in theatres this past weekend, it had only out for 3 weeks, but was already dwindling in show times, especially for 3D films. The fact that three family films (Finding Nemo, Hotel Transylvania, Frankenweenie) are currently occupying the 3D auditoriums probably has something to do with this fact, but also likely due to the relative obscurity of the character, at least on American shores. Luckily, I was able to locate a theatre not far from where I live, and so my roommate and I were able to treat ourselves to what is possibly going to be the most under-appreciated movie of the year. Read more…
It’s funny to think that there ever was a time when superhero movies weren’t really the cash grabs that they seem to be these days. Even after the 1978 release of the first theatrical Superman film brought along with it higher production values and a certain level of seriousness to the material, superhero films continued to largely be considered high-risk material and no one was really able to capture that same level of respect and anticipation as 1989’s Batman. Despite going through another slump in the 90s, these days, it’s hard to imagine a year going by without a few studios trying to cash in on the superhero craze.
With 2012 seeing the successful release of two especially remarkable achievements in the realm of superhero films, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, and with original properties like Chronicle and The Incredibles already proving that superhero films don’t have to be adaptations of pre-existing comic book properties to be successful, it’s very clear that this trend isn’t going to die down any time soon. Heck, regardless of quality, even films like My Super Ex-Girlfriend illustrate that the “superhero genre” isn’t really a “genre” at all, but rather an easily malleable plot device.
All that being said, it can be hard to discern which films are worth your time. Now, I’m no expert on comic books, having primarily grown up getting to know most of these characters from films, TV shows, and video games, but I do have a love for superheroes just the same, and I do consider these mediums to be a part of the ever expanding reach of these characters beyond their comic book origins. As I write this, I also admit I’m running on a superhero high these days, as I just came off a string of reviews for The Dark Knight Trilogy. Also of note is that The Viewer’s Commentary is not only now on its 100th post, but is also coming upon its first anniversary, and I figured that I would do something grand to celebrate.
Initially, I was thinking, “Why not do an updated Top 10 Superhero Films list?” but that just came off as being not grand enough, and doubling that number still didn’t feel ambitious enough. So I set myself on a much grander mission: To make an ever-evolving list of not just the best or worst superhero films, but of ALL the superhero films I had ever seen, leading to the creation of this list you see before you.
Currently, I am limiting this list to just theatrically-released films, as that still provides me with a lot of ground to cover, though it will definitely begin to include exceptions for non-theatrical features such as Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Furthermore, I am abstaining from listing films that I have yet to see or have not seen in quite some time and, thus, do not feel comfortable passing judgment on. As such, there will be omissions, some of them obvious, some of them not so much, but that’s the beauty of the idea behind this project: It’s an evolving list.
So, as I see newer movies, re-watch forgotten ones, and also discover the ones that have somehow gone unseen by me, I will continue to add them to this list, which is also being given its own all-encompassing page here on The Viewers Commentary. Films will be neatly separated into the five easy categories – The Awful, The Bad, The Average, The Good, and The Excellent – and each film within each category ranked from least to greatest in quality (all my opinion of course). Do not consider this list or the commentary to be definitive reviews, but if I do have a review for the movie, rest assured that it will be linked to.
And so, I present to you the first part of this list for your reading pleasure, coming from the bottom of the barrel, the current inductees to The Awful and The Bad lists! Read more…
Produced by: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas
Written by: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan (screenplay), David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan (story)
Cinematography by: Wally Pfister
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman
In the wake of the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, I felt a bit odd about writing my previous review and preparing for my next, as I was writing it in the late night hours as the events were unfolding, unknown to me until the next morning. Much of what I wrote about The Dark Knight reflected a lot of what was happening there, none of it necessarily original or new information, but it was stirring, all the same.
I had no common connection to any of the victims there beyond our similar interest in seeing this new Batman film, all of us anxious in seeing how this trilogy would end, and, unfortunately, many of them never got to see this film, and many more will forever see this film and be reminded of the horrible things they saw that night. What was supposed to be night of fun and entertainment turned into a nightmare, and it affected me, and still does a great deal the more I hear about the events, much more than I thought it would — not because I thought of myself as some tough, emotionless, apathetic person but because it made me realize how even the most mundane things we take for granted can connect strangers based on a mundane commonality.
This just happened to revolve around a movie theatre, a highly anticipated film, and audiences across the world who waited, maybe not in the same proximity, but with the same spirit that united us all in excitement and, unfortunately, also in an unexpected tragedy. In that spirit, if there is anyone out there who is reading this and was affected in some way to those events, I hope you know that, even if I don’t know you, I send my prayers and condolences to you and your families.
Let me just say this now: Christopher Nolan is destined to go down in history as, if not one of the most influential or important filmmakers in blockbuster history, at the very least one of the most revered and respected. The man hasn’t made a bad movie in… well pretty much ever! Some have varied in quality and appeal, of course, but none have been able to cross the general consensus threshold of being considered anything less than a quality film: Following. Memento. Batman Begins. The Prestige. The Dark Knight. Inception. All masterful works of not only high art, but high entertainment. No other filmmaker since maybe Spielberg has managed to pull this synthesis of style, spectacle, and skill as well as Nolan has. And now, with The Dark Knight Rises, we have been given this amazing film that not only provides plenty of thrilling action, but is also an intelligent and thought-provoking conclusion to what will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greatest film series of all time, The Dark Knight Trilogy. Read more…
Produced by: Peter MacGregor-Scott
Written by: Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Therman, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Gough, Jeep Swensen, Pat Hingle, Elle Macpherson
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
Let’s get one thing out of the way, right off the bat (so to speak): There was no way that Joel Schumacher was aiming to be anywhere near a serious tone for Batman & Robin. If you’re one of those people who constantly complains that Batman & Robin wasn’t serious enough, then, well, I’m just going to have to roll my eyes at you and unleash a really loud “Duuuuuh!” straight into your face.
With Batman Forever, Schumacher seemed to be experimenting with placing style over substance, something he did the opposite of with the absolutely mind-numbing A Time to Kill, but he achieved less than admirable results. With Batman & Robin, however, Schumacher didn’t even have a chance, as he found himself at the mercy of the studio, and he was clearly aiming to act out in his lack of say in the film’s production. Read more…
Produced by: Tim Burton, Peter MacGregor-Scott, Benjamin Melniker, Michael Uslan
Written by: Lee Batchler, Janet Scott-Batchler, Akiva Goldsman (screenplay), Lee Batchler, Janet Scott-Batchler (story)
Starring: Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
You know what? This movie gets too much of a free pass. I get that, compared to its sequel, it’s almost competently plotted out, but this in no way implies that this is a good movie. Make no mistake about this: Batman Forever is one of the worst superhero films out there, and it even lacks much of the so-bad-it’s-good qualities that its more ridiculous sequel possesses, making this almost more unbearable than that infamous stain of a film. To say that Batman Forever fails where its predecessors succeeded is to undermine the severity of the film’s existence. To put it simply, Batman Forever not only undid much of the goodwill gained by critics and audiences with the releases of Batman and Batman Returns, it very nearly laid the groundwork for the death of the genre as we know it. Read more…
Produced by: Tim Burton, Denise Di Novi, Benjamin Melniker, Michael Uslan, Peter Guber, John Peters
Written by: Daniel Waters (screenplay), Sam Hamm, Daniel Waters (story)
Starring: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Michael Murphy, Cristi Conaway
Music by: Danny Elfman
Continuing down my recent penchant for Batman media, I come to what is, in fact, the film that forms the basis of my earliest memories of going to the theatre, Batman Returns. In rewatching the film for this review, I can honestly say… I don’t know what my mom was thinking when she took me to see this when I was just six, but I’m so glad she did, as I’m thrilled that my earliest cinematic experience that I have vivid memories of is a Batman film! I remember that she had me wait and hold our seats as she went and got our snacks, coming back, and giving me an awesome color-changing Batman Returns cup that I had for quite some time — the kind of cup that was one color when warm and then revealed more colors and details when cold items were put inside it. It was like magic! And of course, as for the film itself, Batman Returns didn’t traumatize me one bit. At least, I think it didn’t. Read more…
Produced by: Peter Guber, Jon Peters, Benjamin Melniker, Michael Uslan
Written by: Sam Hamm (screenplay, story), Warren Skarren (screenplay)
Starring: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Michael Gough, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Tracey Walter, Jack Palance
Music by: Danny Elfman, Prince (songs)
Many may be aware of the fact that Batman hasn’t always been the Dark Knight we know and love today. The Adam West portrayal of the character is quite well known to even younger fans who may not have even seen an episode of the show. But what many may not know about this incarnation of the character was just how pervasive it was in the public’s eye well into the 1980s, and unless you were a fan of comic books, the general public didn’t catch on to the character’s grimmer revamps that started in the 70s thanks to the show’s continuation in TV syndication. Read more…