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Top Ten Films of 2012

2012 was a good year for movies. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see everything – films like Moonrise Kingdom, The Master, Argo, Les Misérables, Django Unchained, etc. are all films released in 2012 that I haven’t seen yet – but I DID manage to see quite a few. Here is my personal list of the best films of 2012 (click on the titles to view my full review):

 

10. Wreck-It Ralph

This was another film that I had been looking forward to for months on end. I’m not as into video games as some other people, but watching this film was still like revisiting my childhood. The heart of this movie is in the right place, with the main message being “accept who you are because you’re a wonderful person just as you are.” A talented voice cast, a sweet story, candy puns out the wazoo, and a fun score by Henry Jackman make this film everything I wanted it to be…and the animated short shown before the film, Paperman, was just as fantastic.

 

9. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I was late to the whole “Lord of the Rings/J. R. R. Tolkien” party, having only seen Peter Jackson’s film trilogy in the past two years, but I was keen to read The Hobbit and see the movie as soon as I possibly could. While I was disappointed on my first viewing, mainly due to the cartoony special effects that resulted from the higher frame rate (48fps HFR), this film was a faithful adaptation to Tolkien’s original novel, and the return of familiar faces such as Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum is refreshing. The real highlight of the film, though, aside from Howard Shore’s beautiful score, is Martin Freeman, who plays the perfect Bilbo Baggins. While some may find the run time to feel a little stretched, I found it to be justified by the attention to detail to the original novel.

 

8. The Hunger Games

I read Suzanne Collins’ acclaimed Hunger Games trilogy just a few weeks before I saw the film, and I was hooked from the get-go. The film did a wonderful job of adapting the novel, perfectly capturing the dystopian society introduced in Collins’ literary world. Jennifer Lawrence did a particularly outstanding job as Katniss, and the scenes added by the filmmakers to show the control that the Capitol has over the people of Panem and over the Hunger Games do nothing but add to the story in a great way.

 

7. Flight

Robert Zemeckis, director of Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, released his first live action film in more than a decade this year. Flight was something I had anticipated for months, and it quite lived up to what I had in mind for it. Denzel Washington gives a powerful performance as a pilot struggling with drug and alcohol addictions, and the film explores topics such as love, recovery, lies, and responsibility. Zemeckis proves that he still has what it takes to direct a top-notch film that focuses on character and story just as much as it does on visual effects.

 

6. Life of Pi

This is a film that I sort of went to see just on a whim, and I’m glad I did. With gorgeous visuals that looked fantastic in 3D (something I don’t say often), Life of Pi excels the most in its storytelling. While the ambiguity of the ending may not appeal to some people, I found the film to be a thoughtful exploration of faith and of religion in general, leading me to look at my own relationship with God. It sort of melds the biblical Book of Job with Robert Zemeckis’ 2000 film Cast Away, and it definitely sparked my interest in reading the book it was based on.

 

5. Skyfall

In anticipation of this film, I first watched Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale, which was entertaining in its more muted kind of way, and Quantum of Solace, which was pretty disappointing. I still had high hopes for Skyfall, though, and it exceeded every expectation I had set for it. The action was fun, Javier Bardem as the villain sent chills up my spine (and also brought a couple of laughs), and Daniel Craig and Judi Dench both gave outstanding performances in their respective roles. The length wasn’t an issue to me because I was too caught up in the entertainment of the film to care.

 

4. Lincoln

Does Spielberg make bad films? I’d answer that with a “no” (I have an argument in favor of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). With 2011’s War Horse and his newest film, Lincoln, he has taken a step back from the typical sci-fi/action/fantasy films he is known for and has focused more on period dramas – both of which were fantastic. If Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln doesn’t win the Academy Award for Best Actor, I won’t know what to think. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones also deliver standout performances in a film that is just as engrossing and fascinating in its exploration of politics as a good action film is in its exploration of shooting and blowing things up. Spielberg is a true master.

 

3. The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan set the bar high with 2008’s The Dark Knight, and this conclusion to the acclaimed trilogy did not disappoint. Tom Hardy as Bane was sinister and terrifying, Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were both welcome new presences, and the return of the familiar faces – i.e. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman – was satisfying and well-done. The Dark Knight Rises perfectly concluded Nolan’s trilogy.

 

2. The Avengers

There are so many ways that this film could have gone wrong. I mean, think about it – they took four characters from four separate films and brought them together into one super-film. In the hands of a less-capable director, it could have easily been one of the worst movies of the year, but with Joss Whedon at the helm, it ended up being one of the best. Smart dialogue with exciting action and a great story, The Avengers proved that an ensemble cast like this could work just as well in a film as it does on television.

 

1. Looper

Well-choreographed action sequences meet a smart script in this film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. As a time travel movie, it explores the consequences of our actions and the true cause of evil, and it spends just as much time in contemplation as it does making you sit on the edge of your seat.

 

Well, there you have it. My top ten films of 2012. What were your favorites of 2012?

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Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Wreck-It Ralph is a film that I’ve been looking forward to for months. Disney Animation has been doing things right the past couple of years, and who could resist a film that revolves around a video game character? I certainly couldn’t, so I made sure to go to the midnight premiere…I loved it!

John C. Reilly as the title character is fun and lovable despite his role as a “bad guy,” but, as a character at the support group for video game villains puts it, “just because you are a ‘bad guy’ does not make you bad…guy!” However, this isn’t convincing enough for Ralph, who longs to be treated with the same respect that is given to the hero of his game, Fix-It Felix, so he goes game-hopping in a search for a medal, which he thinks will make him a hero in his own right and afford him the respect he deserves. As expected, his plans go awry when he ends up staying true to his name and wrecking things everywhere he goes, including in a candy-based racing game called “Sugar Rush.” It is here where he meets Vanellope Von Schweetz, a kindred heart who wants nothing more than to be a racer like so many other occupants in her game, but she is excluded in true reindeer fashion, just like Ralph. It is the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope that gives the film its heart.

The world seen in the film is super creative; we see a “Game Central,” which is located in the surge protector that provides power to all of the games in the arcade. The various video game characters travel to Game Central via train through their power cords…how genius is that? The visuals are stunning and colorful, and, believe it or not, are actually enhanced by the 3D.

Filled with video game references out the wazoo and puns galore, Wreck-It Ralph was everything that I wanted it to be. John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman as the two main characters are delightful, and Jane Lynch (Glee) and Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) bring a lot to the table as well. Of course, I would be remiss to not mention the fantastic musical score by Henry Jackman, most recently known for composing the score to X-Men: First Class. Filled with fun video game music references throughout, as well as including plenty of traditional, fun movie music, Jackman’s score only adds wonder to this fantastic world created by Disney. While Wreck-It Ralph certainly caters to a younger audience, adults will find plenty to love about it as well because it also carries a great message: being yourself is something to be proud of, no matter what others may say or think.

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for some rude humor and mild action/violence

P.S. – The animated short shown before the film, Paperman, was nothing short of amazing. A good way to describe it would be to call it Wall-E with humans and less outer space. Despite the fact that there is no dialogue, we’re treated to one of the best love stories I’ve ever witnessed. It’s about following your heart and about how love is more important than all other things, and the animation is absolutely gorgeous. I would watch Paperman over and over again by itself if I could. Go see Wreck-It Ralph in theaters so that you can see this short as well, and then you can try and hide your tears of joy just like the rest of us did.