Memorable Matchups of 2012 – Part 1
Last year I decided it would be in my, and by extension your, best interest to do a year-end review in the Flickchartiest way possible. The four people who read it were very vocal about how it was an adequate way of spending their break at work therefore I decided to repeat the feat this year. Luckily for you I watched an absurd amount of movies this year - too many - and to make me feel like I didn't waste much of my time and money I will be doing a series of battles throughout the next few weeks. To get us warmed up for the ensuing blood bath, the first movie will be about a bunch of teenagers killing each other...
Women Be Shootin'
The Hunger Games was the first big release box office wise of the year. While it seemed to satisfy most of the diehard fans of the franchise many people who hadn't smashed through the books in 5 total days had reservations. The biggest complaint was that it took too many ideas from Battle Royale, but it also garnered a heavy amount of questions beyond potential idea borrowing. Why did the elite have such bizarre hair styles? Why did the citizens of District 12 give their children such dumb names? What the hell was going on in those shaky-cam action scenes? Am I not supposed to be disconcerted with the idea of children killing each other? Some of these complaints will be satiated by Gary Ross being replaced by a new director for the sequels. A director who hopefully doesn't keep his camera at the end of a rope that he is swinging around in a circle above his head.
Not to be outdone in the "first" department, Brave was the first big disappointment of the year for most people. Pixar has been spoiling us for so long that when they released a movie that was simply "good" we as a society rejected it and marked it as a major let down. While it had its problems I still think it was a good movie and a nice change of pace from the normal princesses that young girls get to see in movies. It's important that they see strong females on the screen whose sole purposes in life are not finding the perfect man.
And the Winner Is: The Hunger Games. I am a fan of the books - yes I read/saw Battle Royale first and no I don't think Suzanne Collins plagiarized - and thought they captured the world well. I look forward to the sequels...even though they'll probably break the last one up into 3 movies just to milk more money out of us suckers.
Let's Just Get the Cliched Match-Up Out of the Way
Before November rolled around I was completely ready to shock the world and have Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter be the winner of this match-up. Every time the trailer came on in a theater people would always start cracking up when the title popped up at the end. That didn't mean it wasn't going to be received well, but I can't help but feel that if they wouldn't have been so earnest in telling the story people might have liked it more. Personally I liked how seriously they took the material but had Timur Bekmambetov been a little more tongue it cheek while filming people might have been able to have more fun with it.
Meanwhile, while everyone was predicting Daniel Day-Lewis would win the Oscar for Best Lead Actor after seeing one picture of him in his presidential best on the set of Lincoln, I was preparing for the worst. In the past 10 years I've disliked a larger ratio of Steven Spielberg's movies than in his early years and I absolutely hated his last effort, War Horse. I figured there was a good chance that he would pump up the mythology of Honest Abe and we would witness Day-Lewis overact in a litany of scenes featuring overly sentimental dialogues that sound more like speeches than conversations. Plus Tommy Lee Jones was sticking out like a sore thumb in the trailers.
And the Winner is: Lincoln - because I am man enough to admit every single one of my predictions about it was wrong, but in an effort to stir up a bit of controversy I'll say I preferred Benjamin Walker as Abraham Lincoln.
Both Sexes Look Slim in Black
The Woman in Black was among the fraternity of horror movies that always come out in the first few months, aka The Dumping Grounds, because they are even more terrible than the horror movies that will come out later in the year. This particular gem starred
Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe as an "adult" with a wife and kid and "facial hair" who was hanging out in a haunted house doing paperwork for the estate, lighting candles, and getting banshee screamed at by a woman who liked to kill kids because hers died a long time ago. I've heard the original is better. I haven't seen it but I don't see how it couldn't be.
Men in Black 3 took the world by storm with an amusing trailer that featured a stupendous young Tommy Lee Jones impression by Josh Brolin. It also seemed like it would be a return to form after the sequel was such a let down from the insanely fun original. Add to the equation one half of Flight of the Conchords duo, Jemaine Clement, and Will Smith being his normal wise-cracking summer movie ticket sale boosting self and this movie seemed like a surefire hit. It wasn't. Along the way they forgot that a script would be necessary to bring some enjoyment, pep, and interest to the audience.
And the Winner Is: Men in Black 3 - because Josh Brolin's impression really was impressive as hell, and Daniel Radcliffe's 5 o'clock shadow was not.
Cops and Robber Sons
End of Watch was one of those underrated movies that people ignore at the end of every year. Most of the arguments I heard against it were people just restating over and over how annoying the handycam was, or how dumb the reason for using the handycam was, or how movies should never use handycam. Essentially what they were saying was, "I'm a whiney baby who judged this movie before I saw it because of how it was filmed. I don't care that it was the best cop movie in years and has two great performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña and even though I have no other reason for not liking it I am going to stand by the fact that I hate it for this stupid reason." Or they were saying, "I get motion sickness."
Contraband starred Mark Wahlberg as the "greatest smuggler of all time" who gets pulled back in for one more job to help out his much dumber brother-in-law. To prove he is super smuggler he tapes money to his abs and can drive all over Panama in record time because he knows every back road. There is a dumb creepy villain and a double cross of course. If this sounds contrived and stupid then you are right.
And the Winner Is: End of Watch - because handycam is the way of the future!
Of the two Snow White re-imaginings that happened in 2012 Mirror, Mirror was my favorite. Considering how much I hated Snow White and the Huntsman this isn't necessarily a good indicator of how much I liked the film. As far as I was concerned, it did two things right: director Tarsem Singh brought his pleasing visual style, and they used the dwarfs - who were by far the best part - early and often.
I saw Magic Mike by myself in a theater sold out to mostly rambunctious women and young girls on opening night. I sat next to an emotionless blonde-haired preteen who robotically ate popcorn throughout the entire film at the same pace regardless of hip thrusts or dong outlines. It was very unsettling and it felt very creepy sitting next to her. As for the movie itself, it was fine. It got much worse when they focused on Alex Pettyfer more than Channing Tatum and a few of the side plots were incredibly forgettable.
And the Winner Is: Magic Mike. Channing Tatum cannot not be denied because...
2012 Was the Year of the Tatum
"But Ryan, Haywire was a 2011 movie." Hey, shut up. It got a wide release in January of 2012. I didn't get to attend the 2011 AFI Film Festival and neither did you - probably - so I don't care what IMDB or Flickchart says, the movie is 2012. Anyway, I admire Steven Soderbergh. I don't always love his movies, but they are almost always interesting. Hopefully his 2012 use of Channing Tatum, Magic Mike and Haywire, will continue since it will probably be the best parts of his career. I loved the realism here. How they didn't use over-exaggerated sound effects or loud music during the action scenes. Gina Carano isn't necessarily a great actor but she wasn't bad either, just incredibly compelling for reasons I cannot explain (I'm not stupid... her beauty was part of it). I think she has a bright future as a female action star.
Someone I know told me that they thought 21 Jump Street was the funniest movie they had ever seen. This hyperbolic statement always gets thrown around every few years when a popular comedy gets released (see: The Hangover... or Ted a few months later by the same person). I tried to explain to this person that yes 21 Jump Street was funny, and yes, Channing Tatum had way better comedic timing than I was expecting, but to say this movie is the funniest ever? Give me a break.
And the Winner Is: Haywire. I should mention our boy Channing was in The Vow this year too but I didn't see that because I'm a grown ass man and don't have a girlfriend dragging me to movies like that.
I Thought You Were a Grown Man and Didn't Have a Girlfriend Dragging You To Movies Like These
This Means War was a terrible movie that involved Chris Pine and Tom Hardy using trickery, deception, and tax dollars to essentially stalk Reese Witherspoon while having a dick measuring contest to see which one she would pick. She learns of the deception but still picks one because the moral of the story is women are so desperate to get married that they won't wait to find a guy that respects them. Do I expect anything of depth from any movie of director McG's oeuvre? Not really.
I had heard mixed reviews about Anna Karenina but I ended up enjoying it much more than I expected. Director Joe Wright certainly had an intriguing vision by having the movie being shot like the audience is watching a play, yet most of the scenes grow beyond the limits of the stage. It sounds more confusing than it is and it worked really well to enhance my viewing experience. The acting is mostly solid with both Keira Knightly and Jude Law bringing the goods plus a very humorous and charismatic performance by Matthew Macfadyen. The only real problem was Aaron Johnson who just doesn't work as a guy who could make a woman go so insane with love almost immediately that she will ruin her life. No offense to him, I couldn't either.
And the Winner Is: Anna Karenina - and the book seemed really long when I saw it at the store so I would save a few days of your life and watch the movie instead.
In case you couldn't tell by the absolutely awful double entendre title, Piranha 3DD was stupid. The movie it was a sequel to, Piranha 3D, was also stupid but it at least had a sense of fun. This film was trying way too hard and despite Paul Scheer, Ving Rhames, and Christopher Lloyd's best efforts they could not make this movie watchable. David Hasselhoff has the most "just give me the check" performance in film history as he just appears to be be goofing around and not putting forth any real effort.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is about as pleasant a movie as you could ask for. You have capable leads in the equally underrated Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt, a unique and interesting story that features a mostly believable romance, a nice infusion of humor, and ideas about faith that don't bludgeon you about the head. Sure it could have been a little shorter and McGregor's character being called Dr. Jones about 200 times throughout the movie reminded me of Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom every single time, but this movie still ended up being one of the nicer surprises of the year for me.
And the Winner Is: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - although I would love to see a movie called Piranha Fishing in the Yemen.
First Name Basis
Director Richard Linklater made Bernie a biopic that was as close to a documentary as you could get, as numerous people who actually lived in the town where this event took place to essentially play themselves and a few other non-actors that lived around the area. He had them talking to the camera in an interview style and having them be in actual scenes as well. The way this movie was put together is only surpassed by Jack Black's greatest performance to date. He carries the film with his most genuine performance by being funny without sacrificing the reality of the actual person and getting to do a good deal of singing. Unfortunately he probably won't get nominated for a Best Actor Oscar because there are roughly 15 great performances he is going against and has little to no buzz at this point. The fact that is was released in a limited run way back in April won't help his cause. For what it's worth I would have given him a nomination.
Ted was Seth MacFarlane's first foray into the movie business and came off as a success. He made enough money that I'm positive everyone who has ever enjoyed an episode of "Family Guy" went and saw it in the theater and most of them probably enjoyed it. Personally I didn't love it, but it kept me laughing for the vast majority and ended up being 2 hours well spent. It probably would have been better had I not seen so many trailers for it and Mark Wahlberg's run down of the redneck female names, the best part of the movie, not been shoved down my throat. Speaking of the Oscars I would not be surprised if this received an award for its effects because it literally had some of the most realistic CGI I have ever seen with Ted himself. Especially the fight scene between him and Wahlberg which was pretty incredible.
And the Winner Is: Bernie... for now. I have a feeling Ted could become a movie I return to in a few years and love simply because I will have forgotten a lot of the funny bits and not been inundated with trailers.
Did You Really Watch These, Ryan?
Of course I didn't. I do have some respect for my time. Respect that doesn't involve watching Miley Cyrus lay on her bed and text people for 97 minutes. I can only assume that's what happens considering that's what's on the poster and it's annoyingly titled LOL.
As for The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure - alternate title The Oogieloves in the Box-Office Catastrophe - I saw a trailer for it while watching some animated movie and I thought it was some kind of joke because it looked to incredibly stupid that there was no way it could be an actual film. Considering no one in the universe saw it I may be right.
And the Winner Is: The actors of Oogieloves. Obviously this was just a means to get a paycheck and not only did they get that paycheck but almost nobody saw them embarrass themselves. Kudos to them.
Tune in shortly for Part 2!