Memorable Matchups of 2012 – Part 2
"Why is he splitting them up?"
"Why are they so long?"
"Why must he take something we love and ruin it?"
No these are not reviews for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. They were the assumed reaction of the tens of people who read Part 1 of my 2012 wrap up; where I dissected the year of Channing Tatum, had two Lincolns square off, and looked at one of the two live action Snow White adaptations. Part 2 will start with...
2 Films, 20 Dwarfs
Snow White and the Huntsman featured Chris Hemsworth as a hunter whose prey is apparently trees since his weapon of choice is an axe, and Kristen Stewart as a Snow White who went to the distinguished school of parted lip acting. There's a love triangle that nobody cares about - and I'm not talking about director Rupert Sanders, K. Stew, and R. Patt - and Charlize Theron acting with as much subtly as a nuclear explosion. The dwarfs were entertaining but tragically underused.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was what I expected. It's similar to The Lord of the Rings trilogy in a lot of ways but is not as good as any of them. Where we came to know and love every character in that series we only really get to know Bilbo, Gandalf, and Thorin in this. Meanwhile there are a mess of other dwarfs that are only distinguishable by variations of hair above the neck, and sometimes that doesn't even do enough to make them stand out. Did it need to be a trilogy? No. Is the book being dragged through the mud? More like dropped in a puddle before quickly being grabbed and dried off quickly. As long as fans of The Lord of the Rings series don't go into it expecting it to be world shattering they should enjoy themselves. I should mention I didn't see it in 48fps but I heard mostly negative things about it.
And the Winner Is: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - even though Peter Jackson obviously thinks "dues ex machina" is Latin for giant eagles.
In the Navy
Act of Valor was the most successful propaganda film in a long time. By using actual military personnel as the actors it coerced many non-critics into looking past how poor the acting actually was. Even I would have even found it forgivable if the rest of the movie worked at all. The action scenes become repetitive and are often filmed in a style that mimics watching a friend play Call of Duty. The ending is as manipulative as possible and every SEAL is exactly the same as any other. None have flaws or independent emotions and all bring zero life to the roles. The only good acting comes during the interrogation scene about half way through the film and it's so exciting to see one of these guys actually bring something to the table that you perk up for the 3 minutes or so that it takes place. I believe that actor was named Van D. but IMDB doesn't have pictures for any of the non-actors so I can't be sure.
Now it's time to lose any shred of credibility I had left by admitting I actually enjoyed Battleship. Before you close the browser in disgust let me defend myself. I by no means think it's a good movie. The acting was just as bad, and sometimes worse, then Act of Valor. The story was ridiculous from start to finish and it did nothing that cool to make it stand out as an action film, except e-brake a battleship. I think I had just heard so many negative things about it that I had no expectations for the film itself and managed to turn my brain off and ignore all the stupid parts of it. I never ever want to see it again and that's fine. I can just remember the few good parts and the nice time I had at the theater. I don't need to ruin that with a re-watch that will only serve to make me like it less. To its credit Battleship also used some actual military personnel as well, albeit older fellows who were retired, and they definitely had the best - and corniest - part of the movie. I bet they enjoyed taking their young grand kids to see the movie, and it was probably a thrill for them to see their grandparents in a big budget action movie.
And the Winner Is: Battleship - because while it was bad it didn't take itself seriously and at least tried to be fun. Also poor Taylor Kitsch needs all the positives he can get this year...
Taylor Kitsch, Box Office Poison of 2012
I had no idea what John Carter was about when I went to see it. The trailers were confusing and featured weird aliens and "humans" that were also technically martians. The title only told me how bad Edgar Rice Burroughs was at coming up with non-generic character names. It's weird to be over saturated with trailers and ads for a movie and still not really know what it is. All I knew was that it took place on Mars, there were species of humans and aliens, and there would be CGI. Lots and lots of CGI. After watching it I was surprised some people hated it as much as they did. It may not have brought anything new to science fiction and it was a little long but it was still a fun movie.
Savages begins and ends with some of the most heavy-handed voice over dialogue by Blake Lively. Was I surprised to find heavy-handedness in an Oliver Stone film? No, but it's not good when you are laughing at how ridiculously dumb something in a movie is in the first 5 minutes. In case you were interested, the thing that made me laugh was when Blake Lively was having sex with an angry looking Taylor Kitsch she voiced over, "I have orgasms while he has wargams." Aaron Johnson also has sex with her, but that's "making love" because he is a hippy type. What the awful beginning and end bookends is a movie that really could have been all right. Benicio Del Toro and John Travolta were solid and Salma Hayek was way better than what the trailer made her out to be. It just took too long for me to buy into the movie with the awful beginning and then it left a sour taste in my mouth with that horrible ending.
And the Winner Is: John Carter - and it's funny more people complained about that name then Taylor Kitsch's character's name in Savages, which was Chon.
Video Game Movies
I don't usually get to see many documentaries until it's too late to review them on a year-end review. They don't get much run in the theaters, if they even show up at all in lowly old Indiana. Luckily they are often available to stream much faster than regular feature films so you can find a few gems like Indie Game: The Movie without too much effort. If you're not into video games don't let the fact that it's about independent game designers put you off. It explores the creative process as a whole and the stresses and joys of getting things made independently. I would think that anyone who has tried to do anything creative could relate to the people documented in some way.
For my money, Wreck-It Ralph was the best animated movie of the year. Like most of them nowadays, it's good for both adults and children. It's very funny, has an uplifting story, and mixes the old video game styles with the new. It could have easily fallen into a trap of being the Toy Story of video games, but it was definitely its own thing. John C. Reilly was great as Ralph and Sarah Silverman deserves credit for voicing the plucky little Vanellope von Schweetz.
And the Winner Is: Wreck-It Ralph - because it made the youth that I wasted playing video games worth it for 90 minutes.
I Wouldn't Watch These On a Plane
Flight was supposed to make drugs and alcohol look bad. Instead Denzel Washington turned into a plane flying super-hero when he was doing a bit of boozing. We heard a half dozen times that no one else could have landed that plane. The sober bible-loving co-pilot, played by Brian Geraghty, had pee streaming down his legs while Denzel kept a cool head and flipped the plane like it was any other day. Moral of the movie: Booze and drugs are awesome until the man gets in the way and guilts you into "getting help" and "sorting your life out." Whatever man, I'm going to live forever!
A different tale of coping and survival, what The Grey lacked in drugs and booze is made up for with wolves and cold. While most anything that has Liam Neeson gets my seal of approval, The Grey was both parts suspenseful and emotional. Where the trailers gave it the illusion of being Liam and his band of plane crash survivors fist fighting wolves for 100 minutes, director Joe Carnahan decided it would be best if he gave us an actual good movie and not some ridiculous action film. Man does do some battle with wolf, but it's not the focal point. Think of it as more of the style of Alien instead of Aliens, and if you wanted more action perhaps they will make a movie called The Greys in a few years.
And the Winner Is: The Grey - while both movies had the two most intense plane crash scenes I've seen in film.
The People Demanded More Wolf Fights...and Hollywood Delivered
Did you dummies think there was only just one crazy super spy like Jason Bourne? What rubes you are. As long as there is money to be had then there was never going to be just one. And so we are given The Bourne Legacy starring the actor who has been cast in every single franchise of the last 3 years, Jeremy Renner. He's better than Jason Bourne ever was and he doesn't have any of that existential "Who am I?" junk to deal with. He's just a wolf punching, roof jumping, motorcycle riding, brain deteriorating bad ass who needs the help of Rachel Weisz because she is very good-looking and a doctor who can explain to him and us the plot device that makes her necessary.
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie is a film many people who aren't fans of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, their show Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, or adult swim probably didn't know existed. That being said, fans of any of those three things will probably enjoy it. It doesn't always work, and feels long at 93 minutes - as many sketch shows do when made into full length movies - but it's still funny. They get some of the bigger names that have been on their show like Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and Zach Galifianakis to make appearances and they deliver in their roles. Even if you are unfamiliar with their work you still may like this film, but I'd start with the show first since it's shorter and you get a wider range of their humor per episode.
And the Winner Is: The Bourne Legacy. I really wanted to give it to Tim and Eric but the movie just didn't work for me as well as I hoped it would.
A Quick Trip Abroad
In Chernobyl Diaries six unlikable people do unlikable things until some radiation people kill them in the dark where we can't see anything. There really isn't much else to say. This movie came and went and the people who were tricked into thinking this might be fun wasted 90 minutes of their precious lives and everyone else got to spend those moments with the ones they loved most...or asleep...or watching garbage on TV that was still way better.
Woody Allen's annual effort this year was the forgettable To Rome With Love. It had four separate stories, none of which intersected beyond being set in Rome, and only two of them were worth the time. One featured Roberto Benigni as a normal boring guy who gets famous for no reason, comes to despise the fame, and then hates when he loses it. The best one had Woody himself make a show around his daughter's fiance's father who could sing amazingly in a shower and nowhere else. Another featured Alec Baldwin as a spiritual guide of sorts for Jesse Eisenberg who annoyingly over-romanticizes everything and falls in love with his girlfriend's best friend Ellen Page. Finally we had a wacky misadventure featuring Penélope Cruz as a prostitute who goes into the wrong room, but due to some poor timing is misjudged as some hapless fellow's wife. This was truly an ensemble film and I only listed/linked about half of the names that were in this film.
And the Winner Is: To Rome With Love - even though it's less from anything it did well than Chernobyl Diaries being just so bad. Even if I didn't love it the great thing about being a Woody Allen fan is that I can always say, "There's always next year."
Let's Go Crazy
Silver Linings Playbook, the movie directed by David O. Russell that pretended to be something deep despite being as formulaic, especially in regards to the ending, as any other romantic comedy. Apparently when characters aren't kooky but have real, albeit vague, mental health issues then it is considered an Oscar contender. It must not matter that these so-called mental health issues are seemingly cured once Bradley Cooper finally figures everything out in regards to the women in his life. Or that the ultra attractive Jennifer Lawrence would even fall for a guy who is an ass to her the first 3 times they talk. That's not even bringing up the age issue between a woman who played a teenage girl killing a bunch of other teens earlier in the year and a guy who has played a 30-year-old for nearly his entire career. I'm not saying it's a terrible movie, but I'm not understanding how much awards buzz this movie is generating.
Meanwhile Seven Psychopaths was a smart and funny ensemble film by Martin McDonagh that no one saw despite it being one of the better dark comedies of the year. It starred Colin Farrell who is at his best under McDonagh's direction and co-starred favorites of people who know what they are talking about in regards to film: Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, and Tom Waits. With dog-napping, gangsters, meta commentary on action movies, and a philosophical take on violence while showing a lot of violence how could you not want to go see this today? This movie has it all.
And the Winner Is: Seven Psychopaths... please don't yell at me Mr. O. Russell, I heart I Heart Huckabees.
Guy Pearce? More like Sci-Fi Pearce...
Lockout was a terrible action/sci-fi movie that involved a one liner spouting Guy Pearce being the best at what he does. What he does is vague action-y things that come in handy when the president's daughter, Maggie Grace, happens to get taken hostage in space jail. Think of it as a mix between Escape From Alcatraz, The Rock, the episode of Prison Break that had the riot scene, and a wet bag of terribleness.
Ridley Scott's Prometheus wasn't nearly as bad as the majority of people said it was. That's not to say it didn't have a plethora of problems. It's hard to excuse the horror movie logic of nearly every character or the vagaries of nearly all their motivations. The old man make-up that they put on our boy Pearce was as bad as it usually is. Idris Elba was wasted as he usually is, and it would have been great if the explanation of how the xenomorph came to be actually made sense. All right screw it I'm sick of defending this movie. I enjoyed myself when watching it but there's really not much too it besides a great performance by Michael Fassbender, a good performance by Noomi Rapace, and one incredibly intense scene.
And the Winner Is: Prometheus - and before you ask, yes, I gave it a gimme match-up so it would get the win. So sue me.
Much Like This Post...The Sequels No One Wanted
Neveldine and Taylor, the minds behind the lunacy of the Crank series, were brought in for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and combined with my record of being the biggest Nicolas Cage apologist in the known universe I, like an idiot, thought this movie had a chance to be good. I was wrong. Maybe if they had the chance to make a Rated-R version it would have been better, but as the movie actually stands we got one or two cool visuals or set pieces for every 45 minutes of boring celluloid. Also, Idris Elba wasted.... again.
Wrath of the Titans felt like a legitimate step up from the first film, but Clash of the Titans was terrible so that's not saying much. Even if the story wasn't very compelling and it made absolutely no sense that the majority of the God's weren't even around even though the Titans being risen would be a huge concern to all of them it was fun to see Sam Worthington fight a minotaur and a chimera.
And the Winner Is: It's the age-old battle between the slaying of mythological creatures and a flaming-skull-headed man urinating fire...Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance wins. I can't quit on good old Nic.
I apologize for ending with two horrible movies. I'll be sure to talk about quality cinema next time.