Saturday, January 19, 2013

2012 In movies (Revised & updated)

2012 was not an inspiring year for movies, at least not when it came to the ones I saw at the movie theater. Below is a list of the films I went and saw with brief reviews of each one:

The Hunger Games- Genuinely awful. This is the type of film that reminds me why teenagers are still developing their taste. Bad dialogue, mopey “acting” substituting as grim resolve and dull situations made this one of the more painful exercises in futility I’ve suffered through in years.

Amazing Spider-Man- Embarrassingly bad. As far as I was concerned, there was no need to reboot a franchise that was working, but since Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire wanted an extra year to develop a quality Spidey flick, the studio stupidly chose to green light this abortion. Spidey for the “Twilight” degeneration, this film features a mopey Peter Parker with a soap opera level backstory and some of the cheapest-looking visual effects I’ve seen since the Scorpion King in “The Mummy Returns.”

The Bourne Legacy- Very good. Not as good as the Greengrass/Damon films, but the same screenwriter from those films wrote and directed this one with a mostly positive pay-off. Kudos to him for creating a separate yet equally interesting concept running concurrent with the events of the third film. It’s a bit draggy and confusing in the beginning, but once the film finds its legs, it’s one helluva ride!

Skyfall- Absolute drivel. I was never keen on the reboot to begin with, but "Casino Royale" turned out to be an astoundingly good film. Then "A Quantum of Solace" showed me what happens when idiots run the show. Now "Skyfall" comes along and reveals how little there is left to say in a Bond film. Featuring a screenplay that felt as if it was written by fifteen different teams of writers who never met or compared notes, this garbage pile lurches along from uninspired scene after scene until a pathetically awful conclusion ripped out of "Witness" with Harrison Ford. It's so poorly structured, that a scene at the end that should have held emotional relevance resulted in a shrug from me. I have now officially lost interest in Daniel Craig's Bond films. 

Lincoln- Very good. Still, it could have been better. And had Spielberg not been the director, it probably would have been. I’ve always seen Speilberg as a superficial director whose skills in creating suspense are not useful when doing character studies. His historical films have been at best uneven and, at worst, “Schindler’s List.” Daniel Day-Lewis is excellent and Sally Field does well with what she’s given. It’s the acting that makes this rather static film move.

The Avengers- Excellent. I’m not just saying that as a fanboy, either. This was a film that could have easily not lived up to the hype, but it exceeded it. The characters are well-represented, the dialogue is crisp and serves the plot rather than hampering it like the awful lines uttered in the Spider-Man reboot, and the action is phenomenal.

John Carter- Great. An underrated adaptation of a difficult novel, this film was unfairly maligned because of its budget. It’s the first thing I’ve seen in years that made me feel the way I felt when I first saw Star Wars. Even the JJ Abrams Star Trek didn’t do that.

Taken 2- Painfully awful. To be fair, repeated viewing of “Taken” the first reveal it to be a deeply flawed film with little redeeming quality beyond its star and subject matter. But compared to its sequel, the first one is a masterpiece. Taken 2 pushes the concept of kidnapping to its illogical extremes and actually has the daughter running around Turkey tossing live grenades onto rooftops so Super-Liam can direct her to where he’s being held prisoner. The fight scenes are stiff and geriatric feeling and the climax between Neeson and the main bad guy is so abrupt, I literally missed it. Terrible, terrible movie that I feel dumber for having watched.

Ghostrider: Spirit of Vengeance- Meh. I didn’t have a problem with the first one, so the idea of a revamped sequel was lost on me. Yes, Johnny Blaze is darker and crazier in this one, but the story feels rushed and all the cool setup gets lost in asides showing how crazy and evil the title character is.

Total Recall- Forgettable. Instantly forgettable. I’ve never seen a more disposable remake. I used to have a strong dislike for the Schwarzenegger original, but that one at least had feeling behind it. The remake feels cold, functional and serviceable at best.
Django Unchained- This was the one film, other than the "Avengers," I'd been waiting for. It was also the perfect way to close out the year, following the dreadfulness of Bond and the whitewashed classroom boredom of "Lincoln." The writing, the directing, the acting are all perfect, Tarrantino once more showing that he exists in a world of quality filmmaking quie separate from most of his peers. Best movie of the year.

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