Tag Archives: Robert Zemeckis

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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Back to the Future (1985)

Note: This film was the main topic of discussion on Episode 0 of my podcast, The Cinescope Podcast. Give it a listen for a more in-depth discussion!

Back to the Future is my all-time favorite movie. From the plot, to the actors, to the special effects – I love everything about this film, ever since I first saw it when I was ten years old. Time travel has always fascinated me, which might be why this film appealed to me in the first place. It by no means handled the concept of time travel perfectly, but it deals with the idea of travelling through time and the consequences of it in a way that is fun and full of life lessons.

There are so many positive things that can be said about this film because it works on so many levels: it’s a comedy, it’s a romance, it’s an action-thriller, and it’s a science fiction film. The cast meshes together incredibly well, with the highlights being Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox. Fox has a natural comedic timing that works really well in this film…which comes in handy because he manages to make something very awkward (his mother falling in love with him) something extremely funny. Christopher Lloyd is perfect as the eccentric inventor Doc Brown, bringing laughs with his wild exclamations and goofy behavior. The detail paid to the period and to the changes made between times (i.e. “Twin Pines Mall” to “Lone Pine Mall”) is terrific; one of my favorite aspects of this movie is the attention given to setups and payoffs, i.e. a plot choice made early in the film being explained by the plot later. Every choice made in the making of a movie has a purpose (or, at least, it should), and director Robert Zemeckis does a splendid job of making sure there’s a reason for everything he does.

I mentioned earlier that there are plenty of life lessons found in this film, the most prominent of these being a quote said multiple times: “If you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” It’s about standing up for yourself and for others, about taking control of your own future, and about the strength of friendship. It’s about believing in your abilities and about doing anything for the people you love…and it teaches all of this without preaching or losing any entertainment value.

I’ve spent hours on this review…I’d never have dreamed that it’d be so difficult for me to put my opinion on this movie into words. I once read a film review by Adam Smith over at EmpireOnline.com that said, “To put it bluntly: if you don’t like Back To The Future, it’s difficult to believe that you like films at all.” I agree completely – it wouldn’t be far off to say that Back to the Future is the film that kicked off my interest in cinema in the first place. It’s timeless in the way that it still attracts audiences even today, more than 25 years later, and it never fails to bring smiles and constant laughter every time I watch. I can’t recommend this movie quite enough, and, if you happen to know me personally, you should strive to watch it with me…I give quite the commentary.

-Chad

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG


Life of Pi (2012)

Life of Pi is one of those movies that caught me off-guard; I had never read the book, and, while I had seen a trailer or two before other films I’ve seen this year, the buzz on it seemed pretty minimal. As a result, when it was released to critical acclaim nearly across the board, it sparked my interest. I debated whether or not I should read the original book by Yann Martel first, but I ended up going to see the film anyway, and…wow.

I absolutely loved the way that the story was told in the context of the film: an author visits the home of an adult Piscine Molitor Patel, Pi for short, who begins to tell him a story from his teenage years, a tale that he claims “will make you believe in God.” The first half of this film is presented as a flashback, with the story returning to the perspective of the older Pi every now and again, but the flashback eventually becomes continuous to the end of the film. To me, it almost felt like someone was reading me a book that I was simultaneously watching unfold in front of me, much like the 1987 film The Princess Bride, which was also based on a book. This method of storytelling was compelling and had me wanting more; I enjoyed both the flashbacks and the present-day scenes, but I was constantly thirsting for more information.

The story itself is a sort of combination between Robert Zemeckis’ 2000 film Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks, and the Book of Job from the Hebrew Bible. Much like Job, Pi has everything taken away from him as a test of faith, and, like Tom Hanks’ character in Cast Away, he is stranded without any human companion and must learn to survive in less-than-ideal conditions. Throughout the film, Pi talks about his faith in God despite all that has happened to him, and he remains thankful no matter what. It is a testament to his faith that Pi doesn’t become atheist due to all of his struggles, and it made me look inward at my own faith in God…would I remain this loyal to Him in that kind of hardship?

Life of Pi, in addition to having strong roots in religion, is also a visual treat. This is the best use of 3D I have seen since James Cameron’s Avatar was released back in 2009; in fact, this is one of the few films that I would actually recommend seeing in the 3D format. This is a rare instance of 3D absorbing the viewer into the world of the film, allowing us to experience what Pi is experiencing, without becoming a gimmick like so many 3D films fall victim to. With a wonderful performance from first-time film actor Suraj Sharma to go along with the fantastic script and beautiful landscapes presented in the film, Life of Pi is another film worth seeing on the big screen.

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril


Flight (2012)

With films like Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump under his belt, as well as my favorite Christmas movie, The Polar Express, Robert Zemeckis has long been my favorite director. However, his exploits in the field of motion capture animation over the past decade, while memorable and still of great quality, left a little more to be desired. When I saw that he would be directing Flight, his first live action venture in over a decade, I knew it would be on my list of must-see films. Now that I’ve seen it twice, trust me: it should be on your must-see list as well.

Flight has very little to do with actual flight, though it does feature a rather fantastic (and sobering) crash sequence. Focused around an airline pilot who successfully crash-lands a doomed plane, saving 96 of the 102 people on board, the film focuses more on the pilot’s substance addiction and personal growth than on anything else. Denzel Washington stars in his best role (my opinion) as Whip Whitaker, who, after landing the plane, is thrown into the middle of an investigation to see whether it was his actions that caused the plane to fall out of the sky in the first place or whether it was simply an equipment malfunction within the plane itself.

The stress of the investigation worsens Whitaker’s already bad reliance on alcohol, and we watch his world fall apart as a result. He is divorced from his wife and estranged from his son, and even his new friendship with a recovering heroin addict, Nicole, becomes strained when his over-drinking becomes a threat to both himself and to those around him. In the end, Whitaker is given an opportunity to make a decision…his choice will surprise you and is highly reflective of the change inside of him.

Flight is about love, recovery, lies, and responsibility. Denzel’s all-star performance, as well as excellent performances from Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, and a particularly fun one from John Goodman, make this film more of a character study than anything else.  It is yet another high-quality film at the hands of Robert Zemeckis, who appears to step right back into the swing of live-action as if he never left it. It is thoughtful (and the ending is very Forrest Gump-esque, if I may say so) and makes you want to question your own character: do I do anything like this that alienates me from the people I love? The ending is one of my favorite endings of any film I’ve seen in quite a while; Denzel’s final monologue is one of the best I’ve ever heard.

It’s so good, everyone. Go see it!

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity and an intense action sequence


Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) – Alan Silvestri

Who Framed Roger Rabbit, directed by Robert Zemeckis (my favorite film director), has been one of my favorite movies since I first saw it as a child several years ago. A technical breakthrough as well as a critical success, the score by regular Zemeckis collaborator Alan Silvestri also ranks among my favorites.

Since the film takes place in the year 1947, Silvestri was faced with the challenge of composing music that fit well with the period. He succeeds beautifully, delivering laid-back tracks such as “Valiant & Valiant” and “Eddie’s Theme”. He also manages to capture the sort of fun and wackiness found in the classic cartoons of the period, such as the Tom & Jerry cartoons of the early ’40s. This wackiness can be heard in the tracks “Maroon Cartoon”, and “Toontown”, as well as in a few other spots throughout the score.

Perhaps the most appealing part of Silvestri’s score is the smooth jazziness of it, which, for me, feels typical of the classic film noir genre, a category that the movie (roughly) falls into.

However, the score for Who Framed Roger Rabbit is not without its faults. My main complaint is that there are chunks here and there that are hugely reminiscent of Silvestri’s earlier score to Back to the Future, another Zemeckis film (and my personal favorite). The similarities between these two film scores are particularly evident in the more suspenseful moments. The themes, obviously, are completely different, but it is in these moments when Silvestri is illustrating the unfortunate predicaments of the characters onscreen that it becomes harder to distinguish the two.

Despite its faults, Alan Silvestri’s score to Who Framed Roger Rabbit is hugely fun, whimsical, and relaxing at times, with one of the best “End Credits” tracks out there. Silvestri is a wonderful composer who succeeds in drawing his audience further into the world of the movie.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Maroon Logo” 0:192. “Maroon Cartoon” 3:25

3. “Valiant & Valiant” 4:22

4. “The Weasels” 2:08

5. “Hungarian Rhapsody (Dueling Pianos)” Tony Anselmo, Mel Blanc 1:53

6. “Judge Doom” 3:47

7. “Why Don’t You Do Right?” Amy Irving, Charles Fleischer 3:07

8. “No Justice for Toons” 2:45

9. “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (Roger’s Song)” Fleischer 0:47

10. “Jessica’s Theme” 2:03

11. “Toontown” 1:57

12. “Eddie’s Theme” 5:22

13. “The Gag Factory” 3:48

14. “The Will” 1:10

15. “Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!/That’s All Folks” Toon Chorus 1:17

16. “End Title (Who Framed Roger Rabbit)” 4:56

Total Length: app. 47 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad