Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Top Ten Films of 2012

Like most before it, this year has given us something to gossip over. Between the closing of two very affluent franchises to the opening of another, to long-awaited supposed prequels that received an odd topsy-turvy kind-of-reception. To a half dozen book-to-screen adaptations to Channing Tatum demanding audiences' attention monthly -- really, how many has there been -- it's undoubtable that the silver screen has given us more than one excuse to relinquish that hard-earned cash.

10) Magic Mike - Steven Soderbergh

Channing Tatum writhes uncontrollably in baggy sweat pants as Alex Pettyfer's The Kid dishes the handsome, whereas White Collar's Matt Bomer dons a sailor's outfit and Matthew McConaughey is as one with his leather get-up. It's a woman and gay man's absolute wet dream, the only thing that would be an easy gripe would be the non-3D tag. 

In all seriousness, Soderbergh manages to balance adult humour in the form of male stripping (paralleling that of Tatum's past life pre-acting gig) and the negatives that come with the occasionally seedy lifestyle. Drugs, casual sex, cock pumps and a ton of male swagger, it's one that can be easily watched on a night in with the girls with a never-ending supply of Galaxy and rosé.

9) ParaNorman - Chris Butler, Sam Fell

Laika's follow-up to their anti-fairytale Coraline has an almost-identical feel, ably encapsulating childish humour whilst wrapping it ever-so-delicately in an adult premise, touring frequently into the dark side, much like Coraline

Wonderfully voiced, with titular star Norman played by The Road and Let Me In's Kodi Smit-McPhee accompanying that of Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann and John Goodman, while the animation (stop motion) is a breathe of fresh air from the usual. Disney's other similar Halloween project Frankenweenie almost took ParaNorman's place, but Tim Burton's usual flare is beginning to grate.

8) Ted - Seth MacFarlane

The cloyingly cute Ted comes to life one Christmas Day to befriend loner John, but once John grows older and becomes increasingly wrapped in girlfriend Mila Kunis, Ted's inner-stoner and all-round abominably crude-self becomes more of a hazard for John's daily routine. Cue anything and everything we love about Family Guy and times it by a thousand, including outrageous laughs, a very specific, typically MacFarlane crudeness, the odd random escapade or two (the entire film bellows a love for Flash Gordon) and an unusual warmth that comes with a determined and curiously fantastic relationship between Mark Wahlberg and Ted himself. 

7) Skyfall - Sam Mendes

Named just today as the biggest Bond ever, Skyfall, the billionaire success at the Box Office, roared onto our screens with phenomenal anticipation. It delivered, that's for sure. 

Between Daniel Craig's intense suaveness and determination as James Bond -- undoubtedly the best Bond going -- we've got Javier Bardem's villainous Silva, Bond girls Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe, Ralph Fiennes and, of course, Judi Dench's M. 

In Bond's true test of loyalty to M, we've got a dozen insane, heart-thumping set pieces as well as sharp dialogue and assured direction from Mendes himself. We're taken all over the globe as 007 attempts to uncover M's dirty past. 

6) The Cabin in the Woods - Drew Goddard

A horror fan; a Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fan; a Chris Hemsworth fan. Oh boy, was this a treat.

Months and months (and months) seemed to slowly, every so slowly pass by before The Cabin the Woods hit our cinemas, and while we patiently waited for Drew Goddard's directorial baby and Joss Whedon's latest effort, we sat patiently, and read, as geeky as we possibly could, every little titbit about the film as we could, attempting to dissect that impenetrable trailer. And while it's not the horror film outsiders would be expecting, it was so, so much more.

The cavernous, mysterious mind of that fantastic twosome brought us a deliriously clichéd horror on the surface of something far more enjoyable, one that i can't particularly mention because it truly would ruin the greatness of it all. It's utterly hilarious, frightening and never-ending with its surprises. What would have been even better was if, on home release, multiple versions of the particular outcome could be altered. You'll know what i mean if you've seen it. 

5) The Dark Knight Rises - Christopher Nolan

It's the explosive blockbuster we all hoped for and expected, rounding off Christopher Nolan's consistently jaw-dropping franchise with gusto, a Bane-like fierceness and awe. 

Bale's as tremendous as ever, but like The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger's Joker stood firm as the must-see performance of the year, and here, it's Tom Hardy. Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the usuals Morgan Freeman and Michael Cane add tenderness and a homely, climactic poignance. 

4) Prometheus - Ridley Scott

It's the film which split millions. As Scott for months demanded Prometheus had nothing to do with his original horror masterpiece Alien, we fans knew otherwise. Who was he kidding when the trailer flashed images of the infamous Space Jockey, and behind-the-scenes pics dished the truths which we weren't meant to know. We didn't, however, get the jist of these Engineers, and we still don't 100% know.

It's large in magnitude and answers a handful of questions we've wondered all these years, but where Prometheus falls is in the questions it asks. It often loses its way, and by this many deemed the film as a complete failure. I see it as a stepping stone to another, and a hopeful trilogy which will answer said questions with a definite thoroughness. 

Michael Fassbender steals the show as android David, while Noomi Rapace's 21st century Ellen Ripley deals with horrendous C-sections, a curious, acid-like black liquid, frightening snake-like creatures and pissed elders. Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce wander aimlessly -- one looks good doing it, the other could do with a little work. 

3) The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

My favourite of 2012 until this month, Stephen Chbosky, writer and director of both novel and feature film, has a firm grasp on his characters. Reading his definitive teen novel beforehand had myself at one with his layered characters, loving it more so after his adaptation, and more so after a second watch. 

Definitively high school, wrapped in teenage angst, first loves, past truths and Rocky Horror, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those films you have to watch in high school. To ably appreciate the times you have with friends is one of the lessons is consistently teaches. Well, that and to simply adore the musical Rocky Horror. 

A beautifully deep, emotional and unparalleled performance by Logan Lerman, supported by Potter's Emma Watson, an unnerving and swift change by Ezra Miller from We Need to Talk About Kevin and a dozen others, all of which unfold in a high school drama that aspires to be something much like a John Hughes classic, though very much weaves a handful of real, 21st century problems. Unexpectedly brilliant. 

2) The Impossible - J.A. Bayonna

The account of one family's impossible feat of survival during the December 26th, 2004 tsunami is a harrowing and deeply emotional experience. It's both intensely raw and impossibly real, which hurtles  an audience into the true chaos of that day as we are submerged, much like this family, into an upside down world where terror becomes the forefront of a seemingly idyllic day. 

Physically and emotionally draining, Bayona's feature kills as much as it uplifts with the remaining hope of this one family, with Naomi Watts and newcomer Tom Holland on their absolute top form as a mother and a son whose determination for the others survival is something that breaks the heart as much  as repairs it. It's an eye-opener, with a dominant underlying message of cherishing what truly matters while it lasts. An outstanding feat like no other.

1) Life of Pi - Ang Lee

Owner of Yann Martel's novel of the same name for a number of years now has led me a fool after watching Ang Lee's visual masterpiece. 

Very much a visual stimulation as much as it entices the mind, Life of Pi is very much a story about hope and survival as one boy attempts it on a raft in the middle of the ocean, accompanied by a Bengal tiger. It'll be the strangest thing you've heard all year, i'm sure. 

Spirituality and religion is on the forefront of Pi's mind as much as it is Ang Lee's, but without cramming religious allegory down your throat it attempts to hand it to you on a platter, wrapped in a visual treat or two, and demands an audience to decide for themselves. And for that, it aids the film exponentially. It's downright original as much as it is explosive, heartfelt, bizarre and consistently awe-inducing. A true masterpiece, and one that dons some of the best 3D i've seen. 

Honourable Mentions:
-The Amazing Spider-Man - Marc Webb
-Looper - Rian Johnson
-Silver Linings Playbook - David O'Russell
-Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson
-Killer Joe - William Friedkin
-Anna Karenina - Joe Wright
-Rust and Bone - Jacques Audiard
-Ruby Sparks - Jonathan Dayton
-The Raid - Gareth Evans
-The Woman in Black - James Watkins
-The Divide - Xavier Gens
-The Avengers - Joss Whedon

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