2012 in review

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Remo D
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2012 in review

Post by Remo D » Thu Jan 03, 2013 1:02 pm

And here we are again... I'm obliged to tackle the moviegoing year 2012 with full acknowledgement that I have yet to catch DJANGO UNCHAINED (though I intend to, of course), and that I deliberately skipped BREAKING DAWN PART 2 and yes, even THE HOBBIT because I don't care for the post-Potter practice of making multiple movies out of single books that don't actually call for them. I may have to make an exception when the final HUNGER GAMES installments come out as I've already started reviewing that series in print, however.

2012 was a bigger year for franchise fantasy and action than pretty much anything else... the pure "horror" entries were often debatable at best, forcing me to consider a number of marginal titles just to bolster the annual list. So, with that in mind...

THE GOOD

It's "not a horror movie," but THE GREY does, indeed, feature scary, snarling monsters out to GET you, so this Liam Neeson survival vehicle warrants consideration here--and it was very well done, so it makes the grade.

Hammer Films made a most welcome box-office comeback (after the well-reviewed flop LET ME IN) with a macabre, thoroughly atmospheric take on the British perennial THE WOMAN IN BLACK (as good an adaptation as any of the multiple variants, featuring a strong lead performance by Daniel Radcliffe).

SOUND OF MY VOICE didn't go for the "scares," but supplied plenty of effective unease and paranoia in its tale of a cult led by a supposed time traveler... this is one indie that's sure to stick with you.

Then we had the two big "event" films of the year... Joss Whedon's long-shelved THE CABIN IN THE WOODS went for broke with clever surprises and a thorough understanding of all that had gone on before in the guise of an all-too-typical "body count" movie; while Ridley Scott's controversial PROMETHEUS served up an overwhelming deep 3-D spectacle that scored enough "horror" moments to go with the science-fiction premise. The jury's still out on just how well this complements ALIEN itself, but it's a terrific ride on its own.

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET was a neat surprise that was practically snuck into theatres to take advantage of star Jennifer Lawrence's new HUNGER GAMES popularity. The premise was low key, but the acting and script were both surprisingly strong... it certainly managed to keep me guessing!

The retro anthology V/H/S managed to hit a few theatre screens, but most of you will see it on DVD... not the format for which it was named. Yes, there's shaky-cam vertigo to be had from beginning to end, but if you're used to that sort of thing, there are definitely more excellent segments than mediocre ones.

The sequel we never thought we'd see was THE COLLECTION, which revealed itself to be a full-blown Italian horror celebration from the SAW sequel team. Yeah, THIS one I quite enjoyed, but you guys aren't off the hook yet (stay tuned).

But the flat-out SCARIEST film of the year was one that came to us under the generic title SINISTER. The trailer convinced me that it was nothing more than another J-horror rehash (see the image and you're doomed), but this one went above and beyond to shock and disturb, so it more than earns its stripes as the top HORROR title of 2012.

THE MIDDLE GROUND

Yet another "found footage" extravaganza, THE DEVIL INSIDE scored a whopping opening weekend take and managed to squeeze a few good moments out of the well-worn format. Then they ran out of tape or something.

Then there were two more "house" movies... SILENT HOUSE was the wrong film on which to apply the "real time" gimmick, for reasons that become apparent as the secrets are uncovered, but there's still reasonable intensity while it lasts. As for DREAM HOUSE? Daniel Craig and some excellent art direction manage to distract you painlessly from yet another wearily predictable scenario.

The Filipino import THE ROAD tries to be the nation's representative of both the "serial killer" and "supernatural vengeance" subgenres... it starts off with a bang but loses its effectiveness the further it travels back in time.

Not one, but two vampire-themed movies highlighting the name of Tim Burton. DARK SHADOWS was decent fun and turned out to be more respectful to the original series than it appeared in the truly awful comedy trailer, but it's still closer to BEETLEJUICE in the long run. And while ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER opened well with the traditional "training" story, the potentially interesting tale got swallowed up in utterly overblown action sequences. Notice how neither film earned much of an audience?

As opposed to the phony conversion job of AL:VH, we got two franchise entries in genuine 3-D... and the 3-D was excellent in each case, even though RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION was another all-over-the-map video zombie fest (you can't go wrong with Milla Jovovich, either); and SILENT HILL: REVELATION served up mostly random gobbledygook to go with its truly creepy and effective visuals.

Finally, we had THE POSSESSION, which boasted a terrific cast of characters essentially assigned to enact a PG-13 version of THE EXORCIST with a Jewish slant. Not bad at all, but three-and-a-half stars, Roger??

Now, before I get to the stinkers, a bit of qualification is in order. If WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN is a searing drama in which Tilda Swinton tries to re-assemble her life after the hideous actions of her son, then it's a powerful and well-acted movie. But when it tries to be (or resemble) a "horror film," then it's one of the most pretentious and heavy-handed BAD SEED ripoffs imaginable (yeah, we notice the color red all over the place, and we see the targets reflected in Kevin's eyes. Puh-leeze.).

THE BAD

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE made me long for CRANK 3-D more than ever. It wasn't quite as awful as the first movie, but the miscasting of Nicolas Cage and the lack of anything resembling a tone caused this to wipe out quickly. At least one observant viewer noticed that DRIVE ANGRY was a better Ghost Rider film than either of the official entries...

I missed PIRANHA 3DD in theatres (guess I wasn't one of the lucky eleven), but this excruciating joke-fest (yes, written by the same Dunstan/Melton team from the SAW/COLLECTOR/FEAST series) made the Aja "original" look like a masterpiece.

John Cusack COULD play Edgar Allan Poe in a good movie, but THE RAVEN sure wasn't it. Yep, just another SAW ripoff in a very different setting.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 convinced me to give up on the series. I don't care about the ongoing characters, it's not scary any more, and the formula has just plain stopped working. See V/H/S instead.

And the worst horror film of the year? THE APPARITION had a potentially good cast and it came from the usually dependable Dark Castle studios, but seldom have I seen something so lazy and generic come from people who ought to know better. Nor is it the fault of yet another hoary J-horror premise. SINISTER took it seriously and knew it could still be scary. Nobody here even tried.

A pair of super-strange "arthouse" entries flirted with the genre without truly embracing it: BRANDED would have been a crackerjack corporate intrigue/advertising satire WITHOUT the confusing mystical elements, but a vegetarian dragon fighting a Ronald McDonald monster certainly ranked as the most unique image of the year. And while COSMOPOLIS even alienated most of the defenders of Cronenberg's other "impossible" book adaptations, it's still a part of the Cronenberg universe in theme and detail.

As I said earlier, the majority of screen excitement in 2012 came from dependable franchises willing to experiment with their formats. CHRONICLE was a good "found footage" supehero film that didn't actually involve any heroic activity whatsoever. Meanwhile, the traditional superheroes continued to shine in (well, of course) THE AVENGERS, the needless but super-entertaining reboot THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and the one with the heaviest "hard act to follow" curse ever, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

Criminally overlooked in this arena was the superb 3-D DREDD, which gave you everything Stallone didn't... and then some.

Stallone himself gave us the truly ho-hum EXPENDABLES 2, in which Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc. make jokes about each other's catch-phrases, Jet Li skips town early, and only Jean-Claude Van Damme makes a memorable impression. ZZZZZ.

On the other hand, the time-worn James Bond franchise stunned everybody with the outstanding 50th anniversary celebration SKYFALL.

THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS tried to give you fantastic elements to go with its traditional martial arts stylings, but the RZA did himself no favors by directing himself as the surprise lead character. It's decent fun that could and should have been a LOT more.

And as for THE HUNGER GAMES? I weary of the BATTLE ROYALE argument because it's not the same story--the movie was a faithful and exciting adaptation of a "young adult" novel that I'd take over any of the TWILIGHT books any day. And it's a futurisitic "death sport" story, so that automatically puts me in the audience. So there.

That's my 2012... how was yours?

Remo D.
Last edited by Remo D on Sun Jan 06, 2013 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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Darth Tanner
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Re: 2012 in review

Post by Darth Tanner » Thu Jan 03, 2013 3:46 pm

Thanks Remo! Now for my take on 2012 in a nutshell.

Because of my newest addiction of streaming older stuff on Netflix I haven't been on here much to talk about anything. Even when I did see something, I didn't have much to say about it that would warrant discussion. Luckily most of what I saw this year theatrically turned out to be pretty decent. When all is said and done I saw 17 movies in the theatre this year (which is the exact same number of theatrcial viewings as 2011). To be fair, three of those viewings were reissues of earlier films but I included them anyway to give my brief thoughts on them. I also caught up to 7 more when they were released on DVD bringing the total 2012 releases I saw to 24 (or 21 if you decide to omit the three rereleases I previously mentioned). So here are my brief thoughts on my 2012 viewings and hopefully they'll make up for my lack of posting during the year :)

Theatrical viewings


PHANTOM MENACE - Being the STAR WARS fan I am, it was a given I would check out the 3-D reissue of this one. The 3-D conversion wasn't the best I've seen, but there has been worse. The podrace scene still works great though on the big screen. I'm hoping to catch the 3-D reissues of the other films and just hope the conversions are a bit better.

WRATH OF THE TITANS - I enjoyed the remake of CLASH OF THE TITANS more than the original and was really looking forward to the sequel. Unfortunately this movie really bored me to death and was my least favorite movie I saw in the theatre this year. In fact I nearly nodded off before the closing credits rolled.

TITANIC - Having seen this on a regular screen during its original release, it was really great to see this on the IMAX screen. The 3-D conversion was also the best that I have seen.

AMERICAN REUNION - I'm a big fan of AMERICAN PIE and it's theatrical sequels (the direct-to-DVD AMERICAN PIE PRESENTS series don't count as sequels in my book). I felt that AMERICAN REUNION was the best in the series since the original movie and the movie delivers some genuinely funny moments. Bringing back all of the original cast in a story that actually worked also made it the best of the sequels. I also loved the cameo by Rebecca DeMornay. Fans of the series can't go wrong with this one.

THE AVENGERS - Definitely the best movie I saw in the theatre this year (not to mention the most fun). This was hands-down the best of the Avengers-themed movies and I definitely look forward to the sequel. I just hope Disney can work the same magic with the Lucasfilm properties they recently acquire without messing them up.

DARK SHADOWS - Have never seen an episode of the TV series, so I can only comment on the movie itself. It wasn't up to Tim Burton's best work, but I still liked this better than his ALICE IN WONDERLAND redux. Johnny Depp was good as usual, but Eva Green and the cameo by Alice Cooper are what really made the movie for me.

PROMETHEUS - A lot of people were really divided on this movie. Although I didn't enjoy it as much as the first two ALIEN movies, I still thought this was a good effort from Ridley Scott. It's great to see Noomi Rapace starting to gain more exposure in Hollywood and I look forward to seeing her in Brian De Palma's upcoming film PASSION as well as DEAD MAN DOWN.

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN - Decided to take in a movie while on vacation visiting my family and was debating between this and ROCK OF AGES. Turns out I made the right choice as this movie was a lot of fun and certainly better than the TWILIGHT movies. Charlize Theron made for a terrific villain and Kristen Stewart proved she can act when she's in something other than TWILIGHT (check her out in THE RUNAWAYS). She is now in the long-awaited adaptation of ON THE ROAD which I hope to see soon. For the record, I still haven't seen ROCK OF AGES and will probably hold off on it since I have yet to hear one positive thing about it.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN - I dreaded seeing a reboot of the franchise just 10 years after Sam Raimi gave us his SPIDER-MAN movie. However this turned out to be terrfic and I'd like to consider it as an alternate telling of the legend instead of a reboot (much like Chris Nolan's Batman series). Andrew Garfield didn't do too bad of a job and Emma Stone was a much better Gwen Stacy than Bryce Dallas Howard. It was also great to see Dennis Leary as well as C. Thomas Howell in a small role. I'm already looking forward to the next chapter and hope they don't screw it up.

DARK KNIGHT RISES - A nice final chapter to Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy and IMO the best of the pack. The entire cast really shines here and Tom Hardy makes for a terrific Bane.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 - I actually enjoyed this one a bit more than the first movie (not to mention more than our resident reviewer). Those with a knack for 80's action flicks are sure to enjoy this, and I was happy to see Chuck Norris in a movie again.

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK - I mentioned on here awhile back that nobody probably cared to hear my thoughts on the IMAX rerelease of this classic, but since it was part of my theatrical viewings I'll keep it short and sweet. The remastered picture and sound were both amazing and it gave me the opportunity to see this movie on the big screen for the first time in my life. Otherwise, it is the exact same film I can always revisit on DVD and Blu-Ray.

HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET - Wouldn't have seen this had it not been for a glowing review from our resident reviewer. This one turned out to be a pleasant surprise despite sitting on the shelf for nearly two years, but I''m afraid it will wind up being quickly forgotten. Jennifer Lawrence has quickly proven herself to be a capable actress during the past two years and I look forward to seeing whatever she does next.

SKYFALL - I think that this is the best of the Bond films that Daniel Craig has done so far and it definitely left me looking forward to the next installment. This movie certainly deserved to make $1 billion (and counting). It's nice to see that the 007 formula is still going strong after 50 years. I seriously doubt anybody will be talking about the Twilight series 50 years from now.

LINCOLN - A great and well-acted historical drama from Steven Spielberg, although I didn't find it to be on the same level as SCHINDLER'S LIST. Daniel Day-Lewis certainly deserves the Oscar for his performance in this movie.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY - I thought this was every bit as good as Peter Jackson's LORD OF THE RINGS series. Although the 3-D wasn't necessary for me to enjoy the movie I still thought it was outstanding. I'm definitely looking forward to the next two installments.

DJANGO UNCHAINED - This one was a lot of fun and certainly one of Tarantino's better movies (I liked this one a lot more than INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio were all terrific and the cameo by Franco Nero was an awesome touch. A great way to end the year at the cinema.



Video viewings



HAYWIRE - Rented this while on vacation and found it to be a decent time-waster and nothing more. Despite the presence of talented actors and a few good action scenes, there really wasn't anything very memorable about this movie. Not one of Steven Soderbergh's better films.

LOCKOUT - A more apt title would be WASHOUT. Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace star in this film from the producers of TAKEN. The "original" idea and screenplay from Luc Besson is nothing more than a rehash of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK set in an outer-space prison. I guess you could do worse but I honestly expected a lot more from Besson.

PIRANHA 3DD - The PIRANHA remake was one of best movie-going experiences of 2010 for me and I really looked forward to this sequel. Unfortuantely there is a good reason why this one pretty much went direct to video. Even the presence of the lovely Danielle Panabaker couldn't salvage this one for me. I'll go back and revisit the first movie anytime.

21 JUMP STREET - This seemed to be on everyone's list of favorite movies for the year, but I disagree. Despite some funny moments, I found this movie to be somewhat flat and nothing like the TV show I liked as a kid. The only good part of the movie for me were the cameos by Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise and Holly Robinson. I'll cherish the memory of the original TV series instead of revisiting this movie.

MOTHER'S DAY - It pains me to say that I still haven't seen the original, but I still thought this remake was a huge disappointment. Rebecca DeMornay was horribly miscast and I found myself wondering how she wound up in this mess. As far as this year goes, I'd rather remember her for the cameo in AMERICAN REUNION.

THE HUNGER GAMES - Missed this in the theatre but decided to catch up with it via Redbox. I haven't read any of the books in the series, but I thought the movie itself wasn't too bad. I wouldn't hold it in a high regard as most other people, but I'll take it anyday over any of the TWILIGHT movies.

TOTAL RECALL - Another one I caught up to through Redbox. I really had no interest in seeing a remake of the Schwarzenegger classic after being burned by last year's CONAN remake. But this one turned out to be surprising decent for a remake even if it wasn't anything special.


Here's hoping 2013 turns out to be just as good. I'll just have to remember to post more often ;)

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Remo D
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Re: 2012 in review

Post by Remo D » Sun Jan 06, 2013 1:42 pm

Yes... thanks for reminding me of some titles I missed on the list... WRATH OF THE TITANS was a letdown (and I'm one of the few who enjoyed the original... er... original REMAKE). And then there were those two Luc Besson productions. Time was once when Besson's name on a project virtually guaranteed that I'd enjoy it, but the highly-successful TAKEN 2 was merely more of the improbable same and didn't leave much of an impression on me... while LOCKOUT (viewed by me only on Blu-Ray) was really and truly THAT bad in virtually EVERY department.


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