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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
7 Comments | tags: 3D, 48fps, Academy Awards, andy serkis, anne hathaway, Back to the Future, bane, bilbo, bilbo baggins, book of job, bruce willis, BTTF, casino royale, cast away, christian bale, Christopher Nolan, daniel craig, daniel day-lewis, denzel washington, flight, gandalf, gandalf the grey, gary oldman, gollum, henry jackman, hfr, Howard Shore, Hunger Games, ian mckellen, Indiana Jones, indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull, j. r. r. tolkien, javier bardem, jennifer lawrence, job, joseph gordon-levitt, joss whedon, jrr tolkien, judi dench, katniss, katniss everdeen, life of pi, Lincoln, looper, Lord of the Rings, lotr, martin freeman, michael caine, morgan freeman, oscar, Panem, paperman, peter jackson, quantum of solace, Robert Zemeckis, Sally Field, skyfall, Suzanne Collins, The Avengers, the dark knight rises, the hobbit, the hobbit: an unexpected journey, The Hunger Games, time travel, Tolkien, tom hardy, tommy lee jones, top 10, top ten, top ten films, War Horse, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, wreck it ralph | posted in Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies
I avoided Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film series as a child because I saw it as competition to Harry Potter – which made complete sense to me back then. As I got older, this sense of competition left me, but I still never got around to seeing any of the films until my first year at college. With the first of these films, The Fellowship of the Ring, I was instantly swept into Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.
Perhaps the strongest part of this film is that it perfectly captures the scope of the mission at hand, through both the extravagance of the locations and the beauty of the film’s score, composed by Howard Shore. The cinematography is staggering and does a splendid job of presenting the world to us; the Fellowship travels a great distance in this film, a distance that Jackson manages to convey through the display of beautiful, vast landscapes. We travel the distance right alongside the Fellowship, and we feel the weight of Sauron’s evil along with Frodo.
In addition to all of this, the characters created are fun, lovable, and cast wonderfully. There are too many to list, but they were cast and played in a way that made me care about their fate. Three that stand out to me are Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey, Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee, and Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn; though I can’t imagine any of the characters in the film as being played by other actors, these three in particular do a fantastic job of superbly embodying Tolkien’s original characters from the books. As far as creatures in the film go, the orcs are disgusting in both appearance and action, making them perfect to hate, and the looks of the elves, hobbits, and dwarves (as per Tolkien’s own spelling of the plural of “dwarf”) are very detailed in conveying specific traits found in each culture. In fact, that’s something that could also be said about this film, as well as the two that follow it: their specificity and attention to detail is astoundingly well-done.
Really, there’s not too much else to say. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring may not be a perfect film, but it’s a fantastic fantasy film and, for that matter, a fantastic film overall. It is one of the more perfect book-to-film adaptations I’ve ever seen, and it sets up the following two films wonderfully. There really isn’t anything negative for me to say. I can’t believe I held off watching this film for nearly 10 years!
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for epic battle sequences and some scary images
Leave a comment | tags: aragorn, fellowship of the ring, gandalf, Howard Shore, ian mckellen, j. r. r. tolkien, jrr tolkien, Lord of the Rings, orc, peter jackson, samwise gamgee, sean astin, the lord of the rings: the fellowship of the ring, viggo mortensen | posted in 5, Books, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores
*Note: I purchased and will be reviewing the Special Edition of Howard Shore’s score to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which features several extended and additional tracks. It is worth the extra money!
I’m a relatively new fan to Tolkien’s world of Middle-Earth, but I’m familiar enough to know how fantastic Howard Shore’s scores to the original films are. As a result, I was quite excited to hear his score for the first of the three films based on Tolkien’s The Hobbit, called An Unexpected Journey, and I was right to be: Shore’s music holds just as much fantasy and adventure as it did all those years ago.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens with some familiar themes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The most prominent of these is the theme for the Shire/Bag End, heard in “My Dear Frodo,” “Old Friends,” and in a couple of other tracks throughout. Another is the theme that I associate with the One Ring, which doesn’t make an appearance until “Riddles in the Dark.” The genius of these familiar themes is that they are not exactly the same as they were in the original film trilogy; each theme is a slight variation from the way it was originally heard in The Lord of the Rings. In fact, the theme for the One Ring is teased throughout the first half of the score, all the way up to the moment it is finally revealed in “Riddles in the Dark.”
Aside from what is familiar, Shore has composed quite a bit of new material, which is altogether lighter in nature than that of The Lord of the Rings; after all, this is a younger Middle-Earth, a Middle-Earth that exists several years before the return of Sauron. Tracks such as “An Unexpected Party” and “The World Is Ahead” display this lightness, but that does not mean that darkness is not present in this score. Tracks such as “An Ancient Enemy” and “Warg-scouts,” among others, reflect this darkness and the building threat of the mission at hand.
Shore’s greatest strength is his use of choirs to convey emotion and to build upon the music in a way that instruments cannot do alone. Even in his use of choirs we hear variety, from the use of a heavy, deep men’s choir in tracks like “An Ancient Enemy,” a boys’ choir such as in “The Hidden Valley,” or a full chorus such as in “Out of the Frying Pan.” Also, his incorporation of Tolkien’s original text for songs (which he also did in The Lord of the Rings film series) is wonderful, heard in the Special Edition bonus track “Blunt the Knives” and in the main theme for the film, “Misty Mountains.” Speaking of this theme, “Misty Mountains” is heard at several points throughout the score and conveys the same sense of purpose and adventure as the his themes for the Fellowship or for Théoden King. One of my favorite moments in the score is in the track “Over Hill,” where he juxtaposes the “Misty Mountains” theme with the theme for the Shire.
I could go on and on forever talking about this score and how fantastic it is, but I’ll leave that to you to discover. Howard Shore may not have quite the track record of John Williams or Hans Zimmer, but his work on The Lord of the Rings and now on The Hobbit is unparalleled – a masterpiece in every sense of the word. While the scope of The Hobbit is not as great as the story that follows it, the score is worthy of occupying the same world, living up to every expectation Shore set for himself. Also, as I mentioned before, the Special Edition is worth the extra money, so go for it!
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
1. “My Dear Frodo” 8:03
2. “Old Friends” (Extended Version) 5:00
3. “An Unexpected Party” 4:08
4. “Blunt the Knives” (performed by The Dwarf Cast, Exclusive Bonus Track) 1:01
5. “Axe or Sword?” 5:59
6. “Misty Mountains” (performed by Richard Armitage and The Dwarf Cast) 1:42
7. “The Adventure Begins” 2:04
8. “The World is Ahead” 2:19
9. “An Ancient Enemy” 4:56
10. “Radagast the Brown” (Extended Version) 6:37
11. “The Trollshaws” (Exclusive Bonus Track) 2:08
12. “Roast Mutton” (Extended Version) 4:56
13. “A Troll-hoard” 3:38
14. “The Hill of Sorcery” 3:50
15. “Warg-scouts” 3:02
1. “The Hidden Valley” 2:49
2. “Moon Runes” (Extended Version) 3:39
3. “The Defiler” 1:14
4. “The White Council” (Extended Version) 9:40
5. “Over Hill” 3:42
6. “A Thunder Battle” 3:54
7. “Under Hill” 1:54
8. “Riddles in the Dark” 5:21
9. “Brass Buttons” 7:37
10. “Out of the Frying-Pan” 5:55
11. “A Good Omen” 5:45
12. “Song of the Lonely Mountain” (performed by Neil Finn, Extended Version) 6:00
13. “Dreaming of Bag End” 1:56
14. “A Very Respectable Hobbit” (Exclusive Bonus Track) 1:20
15. “Erebor” (Exclusive Bonus Track) 1:19
16. “The Dwarf Lords” (Exclusive Bonus Track) 2:01
17. “The Edge of the Wild” (Exclusive Bonus Track) 3:34
Total Length: app. 128 min.
iTunes Album Link (Special Edition)
P.S. – Read my review of the film here!
3 Comments | tags: an unexpected journey, baggins, bilbo, bilbo baggins, fellowship of the ring, frodo, frodo baggins, gandalf, Howard Shore, j. r. r. tolkien, jrr tolkien, Lord of the Rings, lotr, middle-earth, one ring, return of the king, sauron, the hobbit, the hobbit: an unexpected journey, two towers | posted in 5, Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews
Written by the author of the acclaimed Artemis Fowl series, The Supernaturalist takes place a thousand years from now in a place called Satellite City, where much of the city is controlled by a satellite that rests high in the atmosphere, above the thick layer of smog and the thinning ozone layer…so yes, Eoin Colfer’s usual themes of environmentalism are just as present here as in Artemis Fowl. The main character is an orphan named Cosmo Hill, and he lives at the Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys, where he and the other boys are used as lab rats for testing dangerous hygiene products and various chemicals. Eventually, he is introduced to a team of people that calls themselves The Supernaturalists. They spend their time hunting and destroying creatures called Parasites that feed on the life force of dying people.
The Supernaturalist features the same wit, humor, and creativity found in Eoin Colfer’s other books, and, like Artemis Fowl, the technology is advanced; we see windows that automatically tint to match the outside light, mechanical bridges that are used to travel across rooftops with ease, and rods that shoot projectiles containing electricity, goo, or cellophane. Colfer expertly sets up this world where everything is controlled by a corporation, where lawyers act as the law enforcers, and where these Parasite creatures are growing in number, making The Supernaturalists’ jobs even more difficult. These characters have dark, emotional pasts that we see develop throughout the book; Cosmo, who has never known his parents, wishes for a family that eventually comes to him by way of The Supernaturalists. Stefan, the group’s leader, lost his mother to the Parasites, making his fight against the Parasites a personal one, though he discovers that what he thinks to be truth is all a lie.
While the plot is fantastic and filled with twists and turns that will always keep you guessing, I took issue with the amount of information Colfer was expecting us to take in. Unlike in the Artemis Fowl series, where there are often moments for things to slow down and be better explained, The Supernaturalist comes across something new, gives a brief, hardly adequate explanation and then speeds on to the next moment. I often had difficulty in picturing objects or events in my head because I felt like I didn’t have a detailed enough explanation. Now, I’m not saying that I would have liked Colfer to go all Tolkien on us and spend five pages describing a tree (exaggeration; note: I really like Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings), but slowing down just enough to properly introduce new objects, ideas, or situations would have been helpful.
Aside from this small issue, The Supernaturalist is a thrill ride that manages to entertain and to teach on high levels. Satellite City almost parallels the world’s current state: concern for environmental welfare, a growing nuclear threat, and the implications of an ever-evolving technological society are all issues addressed at some point in the book. These lessons – or warnings, as they very well may be (they do feel rather Bradbury-esque at times) – don’t overshadow the story, though, which is begging for a sequel…a sequel that Colfer has reportedly already outlined. If you enjoy Colfer’s other works, The Supernaturalist will certainly be a treat for you; if this is your first Colfer book, then prepare for quite an enjoyable read.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
P.S. – Read my review of the graphic novel adaptation of this book here!
1 Comment | tags: Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer, Lord of the Rings, parasites, The Supernaturalist, Tolkien | posted in 4, Book Reviews, Books, Entertainment