Tag Archives: Tolkien

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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The Supernaturalist (2004) – Eoin Colfer

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)

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the graphic novel adaptation of this book here!