Favourite Films of 2012 Part 1

2012 turned out to be a pretty banner year in movies. In honour of the new year I’ve compiled a list of my favourite movies of 2012. The films I’ve chosen aren’t the films I expect to sweep the Oscars,  they weren’t chosen for their artistic merit. I chose these films because they were the most fun I had at the movies in 2012. I’ve always hated year end top 10 lists. Modern critics seem to have forgotten how to enjoy movies. Now there’s definitely something to be said for technical marvels, fascinating character pieces and general Oscar bait but that exciting movie going experience is what puts butts in the seats. So these films were the ones that had me on the edge of my seat. The ones that kept my eyes glued to the screen. Had me hanging on every word or just had me in stitches. In no particular order my favourite films of 2012.

Looper
Directed by Rian Johnson
Joseph Gordon Levitt;Paul Dano

Joseph Gordon Levitt & Paul Dano

Rian Johnson finally fulfilled the promise that was his noir masterpiece, 2005’s Brick. His sophomore effort, 2008’s The Brothers Bloom was a disappointment. But Johnson’s redeemed himself with this wholly original sci-fi yarn about a trigger man forced to kill his older self in order to stay alive. Through prosthetics Joseph Gordon-Levitt was transformed into a very passable, younger Bruce Willis but it was through his swagger and subtle nuance that he really connected to the two men as sides of the same coin. Great supporting cast helped to establish Johnson’s world, but this was the JGL show. Endlessly cool, thought provoking and with a little old-fashioned action thrown in made for an incredibly engaging sci-fi thriller.

The Dark Knight Rises

By Christopher Nolan

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

For sure the most anticipated film of 2012 due to 2008’s The Dark Knight, Nolan has crafted a thrill ride that hits all the soft targets. Not as towering an achievement as his previous foray behind the cape and cowl but few expected him to surpass it. Heath Ledgers iconic portrayal as Gotham’s clown prince of crime will forever be engrained into our collective conscience so it was a smart move for Nolan to go back to his roots. Dusting off the League of Shadows, Batman seemingly faces his past while trying to figure out his future. A broken and battered Bruce Wayne(Christian Bale) comes out of a self imposed exile just as a masked mercenary named Bane(Tom Hardy) begins to systematically bring down the city of Gotham. With the help of a young beat cop, John Blake(Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and a seductive cat burglar(Anne Hathaway) Bruce dawns the mask once more. The odds have never been less in Bruce’s favour and we believe it. Nolan amps up the jeopardy here and with a thrilling third act he caps off what has to be the most influential series in modern cinema with a bang.

Django Unchained

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx star in DJango Unchained

Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx star in DJango Unchained

It’s nice to know the groundbreaking filmmaker from the 90’s has successfully continued to trail blaze. After his WWII opus, Inglourious Basterds Tarantino had the tough task of one upping himself once more. He’s certainly upped the ante with this epic spaghetti western or as Tarantino coined; a southern. Following the exploits of a freed slave and a German-ex-dentist-now-bounty-hunter as they travel across America and explore the finer points of the bounty hunting business. Through their travels and bonding Django(Jamie Foxx) expresses his desire to find and free his wife, Broomhilda(Kerry Washington). Feeling a responsibility to Django, Dr.King Schultz(Christoph Waltz) tracks Broomhilda down to a Mississippi plantation called Candyland and it’s tyrannical owner Calvin Candie(Leonardo DiCaprio). What follows is an exceptional study in tension as Tarantino has his characters engage in a series of ____ where everything’s just about to boil over. With nods to everyone from Leone to Corbucci, including an appearance from the original Django; Franco Nero Tarantino’s crafted another genre mashing masterpiece. Excellent performances across the board, a killer soundtrack and that classic Quentin wit has you smiling for nearly 3 hours straight.

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Film Focus

By Adrian Nathaniel Groves

In no particular order, 100 films I’ve enjoyed over and over again!


Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Director: Steven Soderbergh

Fresh out of prison, Danny Ocean sets up a dream robbery, roping in ten other experts to help. His object: the vaults of the three biggest Las Vegas casinos. Along with a cool $150 million, he hopes to win back ex-wife Tess, who just happens to be dating a big casino owner…

With neither a badly-pressed suit nor a redundant scene in sight, Ocean’s Eleven is as slick as they come – and that’s a compliment rather than a criticism. Joyfully entertaining and effortlessly re-watchable.

Brick (2005)
Director: Rian Johnson

After receiving a panic-stricken phone call from his terrified ex-girlfriend Emily (de Ravin), high-school loner Brendan (Gordon-Levitt) sets out to infiltrate the illicit cliques she left him for, aided by sidekick Brain (O’Leary) and the mysterious Laura

With a superb lead turn by rising star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rian Johnson’s debut is a smart, original neo-noir that works as an ingenious mindgame as well as a slick Hollywood calling card.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Director: James Foley

A ruthless boss sets his sales office a challenge with no rules and strange rewards

A searing indictment of all sorts of American dreams, Glengarry Glen Ross is a welcome if foul-mouthed reminder of just what it takes for a lot of folk to make it through the working day.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Director: Sidney Lumet

On a hot day in New York, three men set out to rob a bank. It’s supposed to take ten minutes, but things start going wrong from the beginning when one of them bails at the last minute. Four hours later, the bank is surrounded by police, a media circus, and crowds of well wishers.

Pacino simmers in this daring and brilliantly constructed treatise on the many facets of a crime.

The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Director: Andrew Dominik

As his gang and legend begin to fragment, train-robber and outlaw Jesse James (Pitt) is a haunted man. He can feel his death approaching, but can he foresee that fringe gang-member Robert Ford (Affleck) will be the man to pull the trigger?

An extraordinary and visionary study of a legendary murderer’s famous fate, within touching distance of Oscars.

Caché (2005)
Director: Michael Haneke

A TV book show host (Auteuil) seems to have the perfect marriage. But cracks appear when he decides to act alone after he and his publisher wife (Binoche) begin receiving videotapes from a stalker who seems to know a great deal about their lives…

Whether viewed as a political allegory or a domestic drama, this is the most accessible film yet from one of Europe’s very finest filmmakers.

Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Noir-ish urban Western which sees Jean-Pierre Melville bond three desperate men in crime.

A classic cornerstone of the heist genre from a master of the nouvelle vague.

Crimes And Misdemeanors(1989)
Director: Woody Allen

In two seperate stories of adultery; a New York doctor resorts to desperate measures to cover up his long-term adulterous affair. An unhappily married documentary filmmaker fights an adulterous temptation while making his latest movie on a TV producer.

The little man again proves to be an absolute master at the craft of injecting sufficient wit, intelligence and compassion to make the end product a marvellously entertaining and provocative piece of work.

Dazed And Confused (1993)
Director: Richard Linklater

t’s the last day of the school year in 1976, and everyone’s ready for a party. First, however, the incoming freshmen students must go through bizarre initiation rituals organised by the soon-to-be-seniors, while everyone does their best to get stoned or get laid.

Despite some gags which use the benefit of hindsight too much for their own good, this is a smart piece of filmmaking which suggests Linklater is already one of the more formidable talents of the 90s.

Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
Director: Edgar Wright

Shaun, a North London loser, is a disappointment to his girlfriend, family, friends and flatmate. Only his mate Ed, an even bigger loser, looks up to him. Then flesh-eating zombies overrun the city and Shaun is forced to take responsibility for the survival of his corner of humanity…

A surprisingly good TV transfer for the Spaced crew. It may not exactly be Ealing, but it’s funny for long stretches. Even when in danger of self-destructing, it cadges laughs with smart lines, silly observations or blokish inside jokes about zombie movies, video games and pub nibbles.

Ain’t What It Used To Be

By Adrian Nathaniel Groves

I’ll never understand the compulsion to pay for a barrel of movie popcorn that does nothing for you nutritionally, less for you financially and socially… well if you’re sitting next to me chewing your cud, rest assured I want to pop you one.

A Little Background

Cinema’s holy trinity has and forever will be; the movie, the popcorn and the obscenely sized fountain drink. But it hasn’t always been this way, in fact at first theater owners hated popcorn. It made a mess and distracted audiences from the movie. Originally sold by street vendors, pushing their popcorn carts around and selling to people walking down the sidewalks. Movie theaters were attractive places for these street vendors because they could count on crowds of people at regular intervals. Proprietors saw these street vendors as a nuisance until they began to realize the profit in popcorn. In 1925 Charles Manley went about selling the first popcorn machine to theatres who sold the buttery treat for a nickel a bag. Just like box office sales in the Great Depression, popcorn profits exploded at one time becoming more profitable than the movies themselves. With the proliferation of home video and microwave ovens popcorn found its way into our homes as well. Now there could never be one without the other.

Why I Hate It.

It’s all in the smell. That thick, suffocating, stale smell. The sounds. The shuffling of hands being driven into the bowl. The pitter patter of kernels hitting the floor as you raise that greasy, nutritional nightmare into your mouths and the crunch. That godawful crunch that reverberates all the way to the back of the building. I’m a purist, yes. A total snob when it comes to movies. I’m a card carrying cinema elitist. I don’t talk, I don’t even get up to go to the bathroom. I came to watch a movie, to have a story told to me and out of respect to the story tellers I sit, watch and listen. But it’s impossible nowadays. There’s some complete douche who can’t not kick your chair. There’s at least one person every fives minutes checking their cell phones. And everywhere you turn there’s someone eating popcorn like a hillbilly. But that’s everywhere isn’t it. Manners and decency have taken a tremendous hit. The little things we used to call social conventions are non existent. Just like most of the movies we’re given today the popcorn is subterfuge, empty calories masquerading as food, as anything worthwhile.

In A Perfect World.

I’d love a blanket ban on crunchy treats. I’m not saying no food, I’m saying appropriate food. You can’t munch popcorn at the opera or even at legit theatre so why have cinemas become a gluttony food court? I’ve sat through festivals and there’s nothing wrong with a little snack after marathoning through a triple feature. In a perfect world we could all just sit quietly without fidgeting, or stuffing garbage down our throats just to have something to do. We could all enjoy the experience as a group, the way it was meant to.

Moonrise Kingdom Review

By Adrian Nathaniel Groves – July 4 2012

Sam – Jared Gilman
Suzy – Kara Hayward
Capt. Sharp – Bruce Willis
Ward – Edward Norton
Mr. Bishop – Bill Murray
Mrs. Bishop – Frances McDormand
Social Services – Tilda Swinton
Cousin Ben – Jason Schwartzman
The Narrator – Bob Balaban
Pierce – Harvey Keitel

 

Focus Features presents a film directed by Wes Anderson. Written by Roman Coppola and Anderson.

There’s a storm coming in Wes Anderson’s latest where a preteen couple try to escape from their miserable lives of adolescent restriction in a beautiful story of young love and the incoming hurricane they call adulthood. Sam and Suzie are pen pals meeting the previous summer and devising a plan to run away for a week. They are sought after by Sam’s fellow scouts led by Edward Norton as the scout captain as well as Suzie’s parents, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand respectively. Their adventure is, as they seem to realize, the final defiant act of their childhood. Looking back I’ve realized the films greatest strength is in making the audience remember our own youth. A lovingly detailed look at the world through the eyes of two twelve year olds who have discovered what they believe to be true love, while probably more akin to real friendship.

The perfs from the two unknown leads are the rock, they become their characters and the palpable chemistry anchors the film. The other star studded half of the cast come across as typical cynical Wes Anderson characters, oftentimes acting childish. Anderson’s contribution to the success of the film is in toning down some of his usual eccentricities, creating a vastly more accessible film with characters we find easier to identify. His penchant for being “too clever” toned down helped to create a genuine love for our protagonists, a quality I found missing in his previous efforts. What Anderson does that always works is he always plays it straight not for laughs. There are laughs to be had, several understated, quiet details that went over big with the audience.

 

 

Prometheus Review

By Adrian Nathaniel Groves – July 2 2012

Elizabeth – Noomi Rapace
David – Michael Fassbender
Charlie – Logan Marshall-Green
Meredith –  Charlize Theron
Janek – Idris Elba

20th Century-Fox presents a film directed by Ridley Scott.Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof.

Questions of creation are at the centre of Ridley Scotts return to science fiction. His latest epic, Prometheus tells the old chestnut of a crack team of scientists aboard a vessel headed toward uncharted waters. Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green play a pair of scientists who discover an intricate pattern in various cave paintings spanning the globe, believe the paintings are an invitation by a yet unknown form of life across the universe. This sets the crew of the Prometheus on a mysterious mission to a dark moon with an unbreathable atmosphere. Needless to say the journey onto the moon and beyond raise more questions than they answer but such is the task of good science fiction.

The comparisons to the bloated “Alien” saga should be checked at the door. Prometheus is a completely different animal. Containing beautiful sequences including a sort of sand storm and the spelunking of an ancient dome untouched for God knows how long, I was rapt with anticipation from scene to scene. For me particularly the performance of Michael Fassbender made the movie. His incredibly believable performance as an elegant android with a fascination with “Lawrence of Arabia”  and a mysterious motive had me glued to the screen. Providing some of the more sinister moments as well as some of its funniest, he ironically becomes the most layered and provocative character in the film. Charlize Theron as the icy woman in charge and Noomi Rapace as the scientist searching for her creator aren’t given the time to really establish themselves, though Rapace does an admirable job as the Ripley surrogate. The rest of the crew are the usual rag tag group of wise crackers without much to offer, save for Idris Elba who makes the most of his few spotlights.

The second half goes into over drive throwing the explorers into a horrific chain of events including the worst example of “do-it-yourself” ever caught on tape. Broad in its appeal as a summer blockbuster there’s an inquiry at the centre of this opus, though not exactly Kubrickian with its use of shock and awe. I went in with high expectations and walked out surprisingly satisfied. Ridley Scott’s return to his science fiction roots delivers the epic action adventure romp I was hoping for.

The Amazing Spider-Man Review

By Adrian Nathaniel Groves – July 2 2012

Spider-Man/Peter – Andrew Garfield
Gwen Stacy – Emma Stone
Lizard/Dr. Connors – Rhys Ifans
Capt. George Stacy – Denis Leary
Uncle Ben – Martin Sheen
Aunt May – Sally Field

Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Marc Webb. Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves, based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

I’ll honestly say I went into last nights screening of  The Amazing Spiderman with mixed feelings. Having grown up a huge fan of everything to do with the teenaged hero I like to think of the original 2002 Spider-Man as the pinnacle of my childhood. The realization of every comic book and cartoon come to life, admirably I might add.  The sequel only bolstered the saga by adding a few layers to the already wounded hero. What I believed to be the greatest comic book adaption at the time was swiftly followed by a shallow and widely discredited sequel. Looking to recapitalize on the potential cash cow, Sony put together a new crew and went to work on a reboot only ten years after the original. Most look at the film as superfluous, unnecessary. At it’s heart, The Amazing Spider-Man is a retread of the origins of Spider-Man but with a very drastic change in tone.

Andrew Garfield is without a shadow of doubt, the superior Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He effectively injects the troubled Peter with a nerdy charm and humour  that trumps Tobey Maguire’s often whiney take on the character. Combined with Emma Stone’s effortless likeability as Gwen Stacy, their sparkling chemistry steals the show almost out from under some of the flashier set pieces. There’s a lot to like about this cast, Dennis Leary in particular maximizes his minutes as Gwen’s hard as nails father, police captain George Stacy producing some of the funniest moments in the film as well as putting Peter into an interesting predicament when he puts out a warrant for Spider-Man’s arrest. Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben comes off here as a fully realized character, a good man who desperately tries to teach Peter about the responsibility those with great gifts are obligated to abide. His passing here comes as a more crushing blow than it had in the original and acts as the catalyst for Peter’s eventual foray into vigilantism. Rhys Ifans is the obligatory scientist turned super villain, but with the added twist of being monster to Peter’s Dr.Frankstein, he’s got a lot to offer.

With a film like this there’s a certain expectation for the action set pieces to deliver on the grand scale. The Amazing Spider-Man, delivers. The action is seamless and easy to follow, especially Spider-Man himself whose fluidity and acrobatics don’t jumble into a mess of blue and red. There also seems to be a real focus on giving the audience as real a depiction as possible of what it’s like for a man to swing from building to building above a sweeping metropolis like New York, including a short but effective POV sequence. I’d have to say the real draw here are the characters, Peter spends a lot of time without his mask in this incarnation. The original set about establishing the Spider-Man persona as fast as possible, while this version is more focused on Peter’s journey to that decision. The losses Peter sustains as well as his own sense of guilt help craft the man who dons a mask to protect the innocent from the hands of criminals.