The Best and Worst of 2012
By Danny Minton
1) Les Misérables. Rated PG-13. I had a tough time this year picking my number one. For me, the top three here are almost at a dead heat. I guess it all came down to the emotional connection I have with the material. Victor Hugo’s Les Mis is my favorite book and subsequently the stage production is my favorite Broadway show. There’s something about the story and the music that speaks to me and fills me with pure over-flowing happiness and joy. The movie is not perfect but its imperfections didn’t bother me in the least. Each of the performances were absolutely amazing, aside from Russell Crowe’s Javert, and I can easily see myself enjoying this masterpiece by King’s Speech director Tom Hooper for years to come. Almost everything about this movie is thrilling including the lush cinematography, wonderful singing, intense production design and most importantly the renovated musical score which drives the musical along to its sad and touching conclusion. I am awed by the sense of vision seen on screen here and am very thankful they waited until the right time to bring this to theaters. (Opens Christmas Day)
2) Lincoln. Rated PG-13. Perhaps Spielberg’s best film since 1998’s Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, brilliantly portrayed by the legendary Daniel Day Lewis, brings to vibrant life the legacy of one of America’s most important presidents. The screenplay by Angels in America’s Tony Kushner tells the story of our 14th Amendment in a way that is both historically accurate and extremely relevant to today. Sure to be the Oscar frontrunner, this spectacular film shows what the best in the industry are capable of doing when all are working at a high level. (In theaters now)
3) Life of Pi. Rated PG. Simply beautiful is my best description of this movie which mainly focuses on a boy trapped on a life boat in the middle of the ocean with a ferocious tiger. Even a year or two ago, this film would not have been possible to make, or at the very least couldn’t have looked like this. It is the pinnacle of our visual arts capabilities and you get the sense that it belongs in a museum rather than a movie theater. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must attend a 3D viewing as this is, for now, the height of 3D technology and very much worth the extra dollars. It’s a spectacular event film that will leave you exhausted and amazed. (In theaters now)
4) Django Unchained. Rated R. Everything you might expect from a Quentin Tarantino western and more is delivered in this terrific film about a slave (Jamie Fox) who is freed by a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) who later helps him find his wife, held by a vicious slave owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). It’s violent, offensive, hilarious and many other adjectives commonly used to describe Tarantino’s infamous films. But more importantly, its insanely entertaining from start to finish. While certainly not a film for everyone, if you are a fan of the eclectic filmmaker, his newest creation will put a huge smile on your face. (Opens Christmas Day)
5) Zero Dark Thirty. Rated R. While director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal hit a huge home run with their Oscar-winning Hurt Locker in 2008, the film everyone was talking about even then was this project about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. But then in 2010 Bin Laden was killed and the scope of the entire project changed. While there are many politicians trying to question the accuracy of the interrogation methods used in the film, the movie feels authentic. If you’ve ever seen Errol Morris’s Abu Ghraib documentary Standard Operating Procedure, you won’t have too tough of a time believing what you see. Jessica Chastain leads the talented cast as a young CIA agent who spends a decade of her life connecting the dots to Bin Laden and the payoff is a thrilling recreation of the compound raid that led to the terrorist’s demise. This is one folks will be talking about for years to come. (In theaters January 11, 2013)
6) Goon. Rated R. At the very top of my comedy list is this indie about a bar bouncer (Seann William Scott) who is discovered by a local hockey team and in spite of his inability to skate, is hired to fight on the ice. Normally this would be just a violent and silly comedy but Scott’s very under-appreciated performance brings a sweet side to the film that ironically gives it its edge. I laughed almost from start to finish and must enthusiastically recommend this little gem. (Now available on DVD and Blu-ray)
7) Searching for Sugar Man. Rated PG-13. If I told you there was a wannabe rock star in the early 70s who quit making music after two albums because of poor sales, but 3 decades later discovered his music is one of the most popular in South African history and partially responsible for the end of apartheid – well I’d expect you to tell me that is an interesting piece of fiction. But this is a documentary. The singer Rodriguez was a poor construction worker in the Detroit area when he discovered his legacy. It’s one of those amazing true life stories that is almost out of the realm of possibility. (On Blu-ray and DVD January 22, 2013)
8) Bernie. Rated R. Another example of too crazy for fiction is this comedy about a grizzly murder in Carthage, TX where a funeral home director (Jack Black) killed his friend and live-in employer (Shirley McClain) after she drove him over the cliff. Using many of the real citizens of Carthage, director Richard Linklater creates one of the most accurate pictures of Texas I’ve ever seen on screen. (Now available on Blu-ray and DVD)
9) Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Rated PG. If you are a foodie like me, you must check out this Japanese documentary about an eighty-five-year-old sushi master who runs a 10 seat restaurant in a Tokyo subway station, largely considered to be one of the greatest sushi restaurants in the world. How does he do it? He reinvents his craft daily, dreaming up new creations and improving constantly. It’s a truly inspirational film that will leave you salivating. (Now available on Blu-ray and DVD)
Honorable Mention: 21 Jump Street, Argo, The Campaign, Flight, Head Games, The House I Live In, Looper, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, A Royal Affair, The Sessions, West of Memphis
The Worst of 2012:
1) 2016: Obama’s America. Rated PG. Filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza’s failed attempt at losing the white house for Obama was highly successful at brainwashing a very large percentage of the American public. It’s amazing how far pure unadulterated hate surrounded by lies can still get you in this day and age.
2) Rock of Ages. Rated PG-13. A disaster from start to finish, Rock of Ages was a great Broadway show but a miserable excuse for a movie.
3) Battleship. Rated PG-13. Hasbro’s board game turned alien invasion movie proved that sometimes Hollywood has jack squat for ideas. The fact that they put over $200 million into proves that they sometimes have jack squat for brains also.
4) Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. Rated PG. I’m still shocked that this horrific excuse for a sequel made so much money. The only thing I can think of is that maybe release date is an important player and that parents were desperate for a kid’s movie.
5) What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Rated PG-13. Dear Hollywood, the Love Actually formula has only worked once and that’s in Love Actually. Please stop sending us these monumental wastes of time.