Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order)
The Best Films of 2012
8. Chronicle: Somebody has to say it, so I will. In a year fraught with superhero movies, this low-budget film managed to be the best of them all. This film was the real deal, and even though I could have done without the found footage conceit, they found an innovative way to use it effectively. The most grounded & realistic movie about people with super powers that you're likely to see.
7. Killing Them Softly: Everything that 2007's The Assassination of Jesse James was, this film was the opposite of in the best way possible. That they were directed by and star the same man is even more impressive. This was the best crime movie of the year, and one that will age well, with more and more people coming to appreciate it in the years to come.
6. Seven Psychopaths: Far and away the funniest film of 2012, Seven Psychopaths proves that when given good material, Colin Farrell can actually be good and Sam Rockwell & Christopher Walken can shine. A fantastic ensemble & one of the best meta-screenplay concepts of all time combined to make this film one that I can't wait to revisit again and again.
5. ParaNorman: Without a doubt, this was the best animated film of the year, and a lovely companion piece to 2009's Coraline. ParaNorman is a fantastically realized and wholly original film, with wonderful messages of acceptance, tolerance & love. In a year packed with animated, 3-D fare, this one stands head and shoulders above the rest.
4. Silver Linings Playbook: You could make a pretty solid case that this is a romantic comedy for people who hate romantic comedies. The reason this film is so successful where the others fail is that it creates characters worth caring about and rooting for. Every performance is fantastic, particularly Bradley Cooper & Robert DeNiro.
3. The Master: Hard to watch, hard to classify, but ultimately, even harder to forget, P.T. Anderson's latest film is a phenomenally unforgettable character study of two soul mates flirting with disaster. Two remarkable performances by the male leads Joaquin Phoenix & Philip Seymour Hoffman, make this a film that both demands and rewards patience & multiple viewings.
2. The Cabin in the Woods: The most original movie of the year was also the most fun and rewarding film of the year. Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon gleefully set up every horror movie trope in the book, and then have an absolute blast knocking them all down. This film is a blast to watch, and holds up so much better on multiple viewings than it has any right to. An instant classic.
1. Cloud Atlas: Years from now, when people look back on 2012, I think there will be a certain embarrassment that will accompany the indifference with which this film was greeted in its theatrical release. The most daring, audacious and awe-inspiring film I've seen in several years, Cloud Atlas is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. An immersive viewing experience that is so masterfully put together, it will blow your mind every time you revisit it. The Wachowskis & Tom Tykwer have made the ultimate book adaptation & set the bar so high for multi-layered ensemble films, that someone will have to reinvent the genre as dramatically as they did to even hold a candle to this film.
The Worst Films of 2012
10. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: A complete and total misfire, this film bungles every possible opportunity its given to be innovative or even campy fun. Had the people that made this film been willing to have any fun at all with the ridiculous premise that our 16th President was a badass vampire killer, this could have been a decent movie.
9. Moonrise Kingdom: As an ardent fan & admirer of Wes Anderson, I'm baffled by the praise and adulation that greeted this film, his weakest effort by a mile. The characters all feel thoroughly inauthentic and he has substituted quirks for character traits. Unfortunately it's packed to the gills with wacky characters & scenarios, but is almost completely and totally devoid of a heart.
8. Dark Shadows: When he's not reigned in and confined to a limiting set of parameters, Tim Burton has shown himself to be one of the worst directors working. As his budgets have increased, his imagination has decreased, and his films are now hollow shells with none of the personal touches that made his earliest work so wonderful.
7. The Lorax: Another muddled mess of a movie, The Lorax is an exercise in excess. The colors are oppressively bright, the songs are bombastically annoying, and all of the heart and soul of Dr. Seuss' book is buried in a mess of chaos. Economy is the name of the game when adapting a book, and while this is not the worst offender this year, it certainly packed in a ton of unnecessary bloat.
6. Hitchcock: Another film that has no idea what it wanted to be, Hitchcock tried to distill the essence of a thoroughly complicated man into a ninety minute piece of shlock that he himself would have dismissed as nonsense. Add in a garish makeup job, completely forgettable supporting characters and a plot that verges on preposterous and you have a recipe for disaster, which this film most assuredly was.
5. Prometheus: And while we're on the subject of preposterousness, let's talk about Prometheus. What a nightmare of a film this was. The old working backward strategy for doing a prequel reaches its apex of stupidity here. I only wish they had the balls to make a straight up science fiction film that had nothing to do with Alien, because as it is, it's an insultingly stupid addition to a canon that's full of enough stupidity already.
4. The Expendables 2: How much more of this shit are we going to be made to suffer through? Openly referencing other, better movies is not clever, it just reminds people that these over the hill men used to be in much better movies back before they all looked like aging lesbians. There's no substitute for genuinely clever script writing, and this film has no idea what clever looks like.
3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: There's a litany of reasons that I disliked this film so intensely, but the main reason is that it is just thoroughly inessential. Inflating a slim volume to epic proportions only serves to illustrate how little material of substance is there to begin with. This is everything that's wrong with book-to-film adaptations, and frankly, the movie-going public deserves better.
2. Hotel Transylvania: This film is the antithesis of ParaNorman. This film is everything that is wrong with animated films: it's lazy, it's uninspired and the animation is dull & flat. Adam Sandler has half-assed his way through every live action scenario imaginable, so now he brings his unique brand of mindless entertainment to animation. This film's success at the box office only further dampens my hope for humanity.
1. Alex Cross: Movies truly do not get worse than Alex Cross. It's sloppily written, ineptly directed and every acting choice made by every person on screen is mind-numbingly stupid. There's not a single redeeming thing that can be said for this film. Tyler Perry is somehow even worse when he's not mugging for the camera every five seconds and Matthew Fox makes some of the most stultifying choices I've ever seen an actor make. Add to that a plot that borders on cretinous, and you've got one of the worst films ever made.
So there you have it... Argue away!