Friday, 21 December 2012

BEST OF 2012


Cosmopolis & A Dangerous Method – Two great Cronenberg films in one year. Cosmopolis is a wonderful, twisted tale of a man slowly drifting away from his life, conversing with people who he slowly loses interest in as they talk. It has an obsessiveness that’s fascinating, of a man who can no longer to connect with life, has quirks and complexities to suggest there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. A Dangerous Method is about Jung and his development of his own form of psychotherapy theories of treatment, of the confusion, self-torment and difficulty of such a life. Two films where the protagonists seem ready to crawl out their own skins.

Damsels In Distress & Killer Joe – Two tales of romance, with different outcomes. One is a kind-hearted story of people over-coming their private traps, pretensions and insanities, for a earned heart-warming (and old-movie style) conclusion. The other has masses of nudity within dialogue, family members murdering each other in the most primal way imaginable, a teen marrying a murderous cop, and a sour outlook on life. Everyday life is somewhere in the middle but these were terrific films.

The Adventures Of Tintin & Moonrise Kingdom – Two child-like tales with different styles. Tintin was Spielberg’s best film in years, a tale of a young man going on adventures around the world, having a sense of excitement about the world, it’s odd characters, and the fantastical possibilities that is infectious. Moonrise Kingdom was about the damage of isolated worlds, having the actions of rebellious, unconventional children making life slightly more bearable.

The Cabin In The Woods & Chronicle – Kids. What can you do with them? In these two films the answer is obvious. Kill ‘em all. The Cabin In The Woods is a self-knowing parody of the genre that works as its good on character and cheekily doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s based in the 1980’s horror, its set-up Sam Raimi, its ending pure 80’s John Carpenter. Chronicle is based on the idea of kids getting superpowers and then acting like kids rather than noble icons, which leads to murderous intent and the world hating them. These were genre films done properly.

The Muppets & The Pirates – Two films that are simply fun, which is an ignored area of pretentious and highly dubious lists such as these. The Muppets was a simple get the muppets together again for a silly movie. It was charming, had decent musical numbers and lots of Fozzie Bear. What more can you ask. The Pirates was a wicked and ridiculous take on pirates, monarchy, clichés of sea-bound tales, with gag after gag that landed. That’s more difficult than it looks.

The Dark Knight Rises & The Avengers – Two excellent, flawed comic book movies that succeed due to their strengths of scope over minor debatable decisions. The Dark Knight Rises had some plot flaws yet its ambition, to cover the fall and rise of an entire city, and the evolution of a modern myth gave it weight. The Avengers may not have had the most complex plot or action but worked like a 1930’s comedy once the characters began to interact and smart-arse lines and swift character beats were brought up, developed and solved with a satisfying swiftness.


The Hobbit – This film lacks passion, wit, purpose, and intelligence. Is there any more damning comments that can be made of it.


Battleship – Outside of Suckerpunch, the worst film of the decade so far. Stupidly militaristic, unimaginative design, dull action, terrible acting by all, and a plot that took about 10 minutes to write and three seconds to read. Everyone involved should be ashamed.

Piranha DD- Completely stupid but not in a fun way. Goes on forever with dull/stupid set-up scene after set-up scene, then ends suddenly with a few deaths. Just a rip-off of audience goodwill, without the decency to put in any real effort. Lasts just over an hour.

Conan The Barbarian- Stupid remake of a John Milius film. The action has no sense of staging, pacing, geography, wit, style, or shot to shot progression. The lighting is lots of lights or nothing. The framing is always awful. The actors are left behind by the director and writers so can’t really be blamed for anything.


Jack Reacher – A twisted knowing genre movie that gets round potential clichés by clever human touches and dark humour. While the plot is fantastical, everything is based upon bad decisions made by weak, greedy people. Has a good lead character, a great car chase, brutal fights and a great set of villains.

Haywire – A revenge tale that engaged quickly and efficiently. It had kick, never wasted time, was brutal in its action, as it wound its way around a serious of victims. A top-tier b-movie.

Safe – Jason Statham’s best film, where he defends a little girl that various underworld types want for her knowledge, all of whom have police ties. It has the usual Statham action but also a plot jumping back and forth in time, that takes time to reveal its character motivations. Far superior to what people would expect.

Skyfall – Works very well as a classic Bond film, as well as developing the character, and is a lot of fun with it going into the classic Bond characters.  Not as good as Casino Royale, with some dubious plotting, but it doesn’t matter ultimately, once the film kicks into gear. The last few minutes are terrific.

The Raid – A SWAT team goes into a building and have to fight their way out. That’s the simple premise, and it doesn’t deviate from that base yet the action is terrifically brutal, and there’s some good but simple plot and character mechanics, as well as a cynical view of the police politics that drive the plot.

Undisputed 3 – Direct to DVD film of the year, with Scott Adkins as Boyka, mad Russian prisoner, who has to go into an international prison fight tournament, as he goes round after round, against an array of eccentric madmen, as he pummels his way to get a chance at freedom. This works as it embraces the melodrama and inherent absurdities. A great little b-movie.


Red Tails – Old-fashioned in character, plotting and dialogue, terrific in the sky. Yet it works as a throwback as it doesn’t try to be hip, and is very under-rated.

The Ward – Another throw-back, this time from John Carpenter. A horror film set in a mental asylum that puts Shutter Island to shame. It’s old-school characterisation and detail that carry this one as an enjoyable b-movie.

Prometheus – This film can be very stupid, hackneyed, irritating, but it also has a sense of wonder about the universe, and sci-fi in general, that it’s difficult to put it down too much. It needed more script work, and a better ending.

Coriolanus – A Shakespeare adaptation that’s a mess for the first 20 minutes before settling down and becoming interesting in its unlikable monstrous central character who can’t win, no matter which side he takes. It has terrific moments and confused beats but it’s always interesting to watch.


The Thick Of It Series 4 –A great conclusion to a wonderful, cynical, sharp, sad, exasperated show, that makes most other political dramas look naive and rather dumb.

Community Season 3 – The end of the Dan Harmon era on the show had ken Burns parodies, a dreamatorium, kidnapping, madness, an episode inside a video game and a musical. That and continually well-written and acted, unique characters.

30 Rock Seasons 5 & 6 – Continual insanity and brilliance on this show, especially Baldwin’s couches and his speech on American workers and Frank’s romance.

Sherlock Series 2 –Had a great opening that it, a good middle and solid closing, it was another terrific year. Not quite as clever as series 1 but with better characterisations. It’s still a wonderful series.

Dr Who Series 7.1 – Not quite as solid as series 5 & 6, it had great Dalek and Weeping Angels stories, and the other stories were enjoyable. Is only halfway through but its peaks have been terrific.

Chuck Season 5 – A good ending to a terrific escapist series. The shortness of the season meant a few plot developments moved too fast but it still delivered a terrific, ambiguous ending and great moments for all its characters.

Futurama Season 5 –Not quite yet back to series 3 form, the series has terrific moments and character beats that most comedies wouldn’t dare attempt.


Artistic - Films made with obvious pretensions to something greater.

The Structure Of Crystal, Vengeance Is Mine, The Illusionist, Melancholia, Schizopolis, Head, The Long Goodbye, The Rum Diary, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Client 9: The Rise And Fall Of Elliot Spintzer, A Cock And Bull Story, Primer, Vahalla Rising

Pulp – Films made with a solid genre base.

Extract, Ishtar, Repo Chick, Contagion, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: The First Avenger, X-Men: First Class, Dragonslayer, A Christmas Carol, Drive, Johnny Handsome, Warrior, Behind The Mask- The Rise Of Leslie Vernon.

TV seen from previous year

Justified Series 2, Mad Men Season 4 Game Of Thrones Series 1, Breaking Bad Season 3, Sons of Anarchy Seasons 2 & 3, The Shield (all), Chappelle’s Show (all), The Blue Planet, Ken Burn’s The War.

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