The Year That Was: Highlights of the Big Screen

Kili HobbitWell, it has been a BIG year and nowhere more so than on the big screen. We have had a big book franchise turned into the new, but somewhat more girl-powery, big movie franchise – in the form of The Hunger Games. We have had the biggest group of superheroes ever assembled on screen put to comedic and action-packed use in The Avengers. And, of course, we have had some small people making big box office footsteps in The Hobbit. So yes, a big year. And quite a bit to choose from for my Top Ten for 2012. So best I dive right in then…

1o. Dredd: This one surprised even me for making my list, but for visual effects alone, this deserves its ranking. Add to the colour-soaked 3D a brilliantly drawn villain (played by Lena Headley), a kick arse young woman (Olivia Thirlby) and our own Karl Urban’s chin, and this one is a winner. As I said in my earlier review it isn’t for everyone, on account of the at times hard-core violence, but the fantastical nature of the 3D makes it both more palatable and at times a delight to watch (even if through your fingers). Well done Mr Urban.

9. Looper: I have confessed already that I am a huge Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan, so I was predisposed to include this one on my list. That said though, it is, on cinematic merits alone, a worthy inclusion. Time travel is a tricky area, and this film didn’t try and break the matrix of time-travel by explaining it, but rather accepted it with all its inherent holes and head scratching and said ‘let’s make this a fun and interesting ride’. Which it definitely did. Emily Blunt was fabulous again here, and Bruce Willis was actually bearable for once. Or maybe it was just the fact that he was playing an older Joseph that made him ok 😉

8. The Dark Knight Rises: See above regarding Joseph Gordon-Levitt 😉 But the finale in Christopher Nolan’s bat trilogy held my attention from go to wo (how do you spell that kind of wo? I don’t know…). I saw it in jaw-dropping IMAX and it was visually incredibly impressive. Some found it over long and over boring, but I didn’t at all – and maybe the IMAX helped. It is true that Bane wasn’t nearly as good a villain as Heath Ledger’s Joker, but he still made for a formidable foe, especially when supported by the masses. And Anne Hathaway as Catwoman managed not to be a complete flop, which was a pleasant surprise. Again, I need the DVD…

7. Moneyball: something has to be said for a film that can make baseball interesting for someone who knows (and cares) very little about the sport. But at the end of the day this Brad Pitt led, Aaron Sorkin-part-penned sports drama actually has very little sport in it – and is more about the strategy of picking a team in an environment where money is king and you don’t have any. The script was simply brilliant (some Sorkin magic helped no doubt), and Jonah Hill was incredible in his first (that I have seen anyway) serious role. And, it may shock some of you that I will admit this, but I have never been a huge fan of Brad Pitt. I am more of a George Clooney/Matt Damon kind of girl. But Mr Jolie was fantastic here, and definitely seems to be getting better with age. A good innings ahead of him I am sure (get it? He he). And if you want a laugh (with him, and at him) check this out

6. The Hobbit: I will admit that it was with some trepidation that I went into a 3D 48 frames per second screening of The Hobbit last week. I had heard all the hype, and heard some of the negative reviews, and I just wasn’t sure if I was gonna like it. Also, again a shocking admission, but I found some of the LOTR films quite boring at times, and worried that spreading a shorter film across three movies was a massive mistake. But I really should learn to trust in Mr Jackson. It was a roller-coaster ride of eye-popping 3D that I thoroughly enjoyed. The 48 frames didn’t work ALL the time – I found it made real things look a bit unreal – but were well worth it when it came to action sequences (of which there were many). I could follow what was going on easily  – not just in the foreground but in the background too. And, I have a new dwarf crush in the form of Kili/Aidan Turner. So it was well worth the ticket price, and inclusion on my top 10 list.

5. Argo: I have an interest in both Iran (I have a t-shirt saying ‘I Love Iranian Christians’ – long story) and spies, so was pre-disposed to like this Ben Affleck directed drama about the rescue of five Americans during the Tehran Hostage Crisis. Affleck did a great job with a remarkable true story, and the highlights for me were the comedic turns by John Goodman and Alan Arkin, as the Hollywood hot shots trying to help Affleck’s CIA agent create a believable ‘fake’ movie, as cover for the rescue. Some fantastic one liners were delivered at Hollywood’s expense, and the performances (including from Bryan Cranston as Affleck’s CIA boss) were top notch. It is getting Oscar buzz for all the right reasons, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Affleck holding a gold statue or two come March.

4. The Cabin in the Woods:  I debated a) whether to include this on the list since it didn’t get a cinematic release in NZ and b) whether it deserved to be this far up on the list – and eventually answered YES on both counts. It is a terrible shame that the film was so delayed and then denied a release here, as I think it would have done incredibly well – especially in the wake of producer Joss Whedon’s Avengers fame and star Chris Hemsworth’s meteoric rise through the ranks of Hollywood. At the end of the day this is an incredibly smart, incredibly fun horror movie, that delivers enough scares for those who enjoy them but with enough tongue-in-cheek humour to divert those who don’t want to be TOO scared. And the comedic ease with which it dissected the classic horror paradigms was a joy to behold. Oh, and it stars Bradley Whitford as a wise-cracking suit – refer previous West Wing review for my love of all things Bradley Whitford/Josh Lyman. Already in my DVD collection, and already re-watched.

3. The Hunger Games: I got a raised eye-brow (well, over the phone, but I could tell she was doing it) from my sister when I told her this one was my number three, but on further analysis I am leaving it right here. I don’t watch movies more than once at the cinema unless I REALLY enjoy them – and this one I watched THREE times at the cinema, and twice already on DVD. I bought in to all the hype as soon as I saw the trailer late last year, and on reading the book trilogy over last summer could barely contain my excitement for the cinematic adaptation. And director Gary Ross did a fantastic job – keeping the fan girls happy while also explaining a rather complex back story with ease and speed. Again though the performances were key here – right through from the deserved ‘It Girl’ Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, to Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, to the always excellent Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman. Although Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth were a little disappointing as the other points in the love triangle, it is testament to the girl power nature of the story that it didn’t really matter. Bring on Catching Fire I say.

2. The Descendants: There are not many movies that can make me cry every time I watch them, but this is one of them. George Clooney’s portrayal of a husband and father dealing with news that his coma-bound-and-probably-dying wife was cheating on him, should have won him Oscar gold but instead he was robbed by the star of over-hyped and not on my list at all The Artist (seriously? It is like The King’s Speech beating The Social Network – just plain wrong). Anyway, moving on…This small tale of family and loss, set against a backdrop of real Hawaii, was a pleasure to watch, and to re-watch. George, like Brad, seems to be getting better with age – and didn’t even seem to mind portraying somewhat of a dweeb who looked hilarious when running in boat shoes. Watch it if you haven’t already – but have some tissues handy…

1. The Avengers: For the same reason The Hunger Games reached so far up the list, so did The Avengers. Again, three watches at the cinema. And two watches on DVD so far. There was very little NOT to love about this film. All the superheroes together in one movie, having verbal (and physical) sparring matches that were both intense and hilarious – genius. And Joss Whedon – previously limited mostly to small screen endeavours – deservedly has received massive kudos for corralling them all together and creating such a brilliant script. But, as I have said before, it was the villain, in the form of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who stole the show for me here. He demonstrated all the things that made this film a great watch – amazing stunts, smart one-liners and impressive speeches. At the end of the day I go to the movies for fun – and for some escapism – and this film is both of those things to the extreme. Hence it is my top film of 2012.

Loki AvengersAs I said this wasn’t an easy exercise, with fantastic efforts like Hugo, Snow White and the Huntsman, Pitch Perfect, Magic Mike and West of Memphis missing out. But, overall I was pretty happy with what Hollywood churned out this year, and will be awaiting the next year (Gangster Squad! The Lone Ranger! Life of Pi!) with excitement. Stay tuned for more reviews in 2013. In the meantime, peace out, and happy New Year everyone!

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2 thoughts on “The Year That Was: Highlights of the Big Screen

  1. I’m with you on the Hunger Games. It was a big movie that has captured the essence of the book, yet given it extra dimensions only possible in film using a language not usually associated with “action” movies. It’s the subtleties (sp?) – the use of silence, the camera being the equivalent of 1st person viewpoint at times, and gentle orchestration that makes this a film deserving of its success.

    I’m not so sure the sequel, which had less time in development, and no Gary Ross, will be as beautiful, but I feel Jennifer Lawrence could act on an empty stage for 90 minutes and enthrall us every minute of it, so they’ll have to work hard to make it a complete failure.

    • Totally agree Jo! Am a little worried that Catching Fire will be crap, but hoping they don’t mess with the formula too much. And yes, with the star power they have it is hard to screw up (you would hope!)

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