Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Top 10 Movies of 2012

I wanted to do this much earlier, but I was just too busy. So without further ado, here they are in the order I saw them:

1. The Grey
Strangely the Malaysian censorship board edited at least 20 minutes out of the theatrical version I saw, so I picked up the DVD and rewatched it, and it was magnificent. The Grey stars Liam Neeson as Ottway, a sniper who protects oil rig workers in Alaska from wolves. When he and the workers are stranded in the wild after a plane crash, Ottway has to lead them to safety while being stalked by a pack of ferocious wolves. On the surface, this film may seem like a straightforward survival story, but it's more than that. There are themes of fear, death and religiousness being explored here, which makes Joe Carnahan's film that much more impactful. And Neeson is as awesome as he's ever been.

2. John Carter
Many people thought this film was a failure, and the box office receipts indicated it was too. There may have been many sci-fi adventure films before John Carter, but it was actually Edgar Rice Burroughs' work on this that inspired those films in the first place. Andrew Stanton directs this film, which follows John Carter, a former Civil War soldier who finds himself on Mars after an encounter with an alien. There, he gets caught up in Mars' own civil war, where he saves a princess and becomes a champion of another race. Taylor Kitsch does well as Carter, though he may not have the screen presence yet to be memorable. Lynn Collins however is solid as Carter's love interest, Princess Dejah Thoris.

3. The Avengers
Without a doubt, this is THE film of 2012. It's the best superhero movie since X2. Joss Whedon brings together Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye and the Hulk to save the planet from Thor's evil stepbrother Loki, who brings an army of aliens to conquer Earth. In anyone else's hands, the film would have been a mess, but Whedon keeps the pace tight and the dialogue smart, with tons of humour thrown in. With a great cast and excellent action sequences (the final sequence is just incredible), The Avengers is impossible not to like.

4. Prometheus
Ridley Scott presents a prequel to his 1979 hit Alien, by showing how mankind first sent a team to explore their origins which they believe lies among aliens from a distant planet. However when they get there, all hell breaks loose and they start dying. Scott keeps the tension taut using splendid visual effects and creative lighting, with a solid cast including Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba and Charlize Theron to lead the way. The film doesn't quite answer many questions when it's done, but the journey itself is a lot of fun.

5. The Amazing Spider-Man
Forget Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield is the new Spider-Man. Marc Webb reboots the story of Peter Parker with a new love interest and a new villain. Uncle Ben's death is still the same, but the film has improved tremendously. Garfield is a better Peter Parker, Sally Field makes a great Aunt May, Martin Sheen is awesome as Uncle Ben, and Emma Stone has great chemistry with Garfield as Gwen Stacy. The action is solid and the story is believable. After the travesty that was Spider-Man 3, this film is the much needed shot in the arm for the franchise.

6. The Dark Knight Rises
It's hard for Christopher Nolan to top The Dark Knight. But in some ways, he did. He may not have the Joker to play with this time, but The Dark Knight Rises is still awesome. This sequel takes place eight years after the last film ended, where crime has been reduced tremendously. Bane, a masked man with an agenda, lures Batman out of retirement and plans on crushing Gotham City. Bruce Wayne loses everything he holds dear, and has to find a way to come back from his lowest point to save his beloved city. As usual, the cast is excellent, from Christian Bale and Michael Caine to newcomers Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It's a lengthy three hour journey, but Nolan makes it worthwhile with a story that might even move you to tears.

7. Dredd
Like John Carter, Dredd didn't do too well at the box office. But damn if this film isn't fun. Pete Travis directs Karl Urban as the titular hero of Mega City One, who is tasked to train a rookie Judge on her first day. Their mission takes them to an apartment complex, where they square off against Ma-Ma, a ruthless gang leader who locks down the building and sends her men after them. Thus begins a journey not unlike The Raid:Redemption, where people get killed in violent fashion. Urban is excellent in the role, with Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey being equally brilliant as the rookie Judge and Ma-Ma respectively.

8. Frankenweenie
Tim Burton directs this animated film based on his short film of the same name back in the 80s when Disney wasn't interested in it. In this story, Victor is a kid who loves his dog Sparky very much. When Sparky is killed in a car accident, he uses science and lightning (like Dr Frankenstein) to bring Sparky back to life, with mixed consequences. Burton's retro approach (the black and white setting, references from classic horror films) in bringing this film to life is simply amazing, and the story has plenty of heart in it.

9. Skyfall
Sam Mendes directs a Bond film? Well, he did, and the result is superb. Daniel Craig returns as 007, who returns after being presumed dead to help save M from a former agent with a score to settle. Mendes, inspired by Christopher Nolan's Batman films, pits Bond against someone who is smart and deadly, and explores every personal aspect of Bond and his relationship with M. Craig is great, Judi Dench is excellent as M and Javier Bardem is magnetic as the villain Silva.

10. Wreck-It Ralph
Video game lovers will enjoy this a lot. This animated film centers on Ralph, a villain for the game Fix It Felix Jr, who is tired of being the bad guy and yearns to be a hero. He sets out to find a gold medal which he thinks will help him change his image, but ends up causing chaos throughout the video game universe. The world that is presented here is simply astounding, where video game characters mingle when their machine is not being used, and the different universes in their respective games is just awesome. Games like Street Fighter, Sonic The Hedgehog, Pac Man and Tapper all get a nod, which is so cool. Add to that a story with a lot of heart, and you have a winner.

Special mention goes out to The Cabin In The Woods (for taking all that's familiar with the horror genre and turning it on its head), Snow White & The Huntsman (for the imaginative take on the classic tale), Looper (for the very original sci-fi plot featuring time travel and changing one's fate), Sinister (for being a horror flick that manages to scare without the use of gore) and Life Of Pi (for being an adventure film that is also spiritual and heartrending).

My biggest disappointment is actually The Hunger Games. Don't get me wrong, Jennifer Lawrence is awesome and so is the rest of the cast. But the shaky camerawork, badly choreographed action sequences and a dull climax just ruined it for me. I don't hate it, I just didn't get the hype.

So there you have it. Looking forward to 2013. Ciao.