Saturday, July 07, 2012

Top 10 Movies of 2012 (First Half Edition)

Once a year is over, I would make a top 10 list of the best movies of the year.  And as I’ve mentioned before, it’s difficult writing a top 10 movies list at the end of the year.  So I’m going to make this list to make it easier for me to recall the movies I’ve watched this first half of 2012 and the fondness and enjoyment derived from them.  Then, once this year ends, I’m going to make another top 10 movies list for the second half of 2012.   Afterwards, the top 10 movies of 2012 would be selected from the two sets.  Not only will it be helpful, it would also cover a lot more movies than before.

Take note that this is the “top ten 2012 movies that I’ve watched in the first half” and not the “top ten 2012 movies released in the first half.”  There are several 2012 movies I haven’t watched yet that is likely to have chance to make it here if I did.  I haven’t watched Prometheus, Ted, Magic Mike, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Sound of My Voice, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Moonrise Kingdom – movies I want to watch that are likely to be good – yet.  Nor any major animated movies like Brave, Madagascar 2, and Pirates: A Band of Misfits, which all seem great.  So if I’ve watched later on the year such movies released in the first half of 2012, they will be evaluated for the second half list. 

So, now that’s all clear, let us proceed…         


I don’t care that critics ridiculed Battleship.  This movie is definitely underrated (another underrated movie starring Taylor Kitsch will be later mentioned in this list).  I actually found it a fun, action-packed and, most importantly, entertaining film.  Maybe because of the bad reviews, I had low expectations for it, and that’s why I was able to enjoy it more than I should when I found it to be not that terrible as critics believe.  Really, give this movie a chance.

Indeed, the premise seems to be ridiculous because it was based on the game.  And prior to the film, I was really perplexed how the film would make allusions to the game and its mechanics.  But the film did make the connection.  The references were silly, but clever.  That’s the perfect description for it: silly but clever.  Whenever you catch an allusion, you would automatically smile and clap in amusement and say, “That’s silly!  But it’s so silly that it’s clever!”   

The best thing about this movie is the action.  The glory of modern naval weaponry is displayed well here, and it was awesome seeing it used against alien technology.  But, still, it was not enough.  I was expecting an entire naval fleet – to be led by badass Admiral Liam Neeson – against the aliens, but it never happened.  The battle was mostly one ship against the entire alien fleet. 


This is here mostly because of nostalgia.  For those who followed the first three American Pie films (I only consider American Pie, American Pie 2, American Wedding, and American Reunion as the only movies part of the series), they will find American Reunion a satisfying finale (I believe this is the last one.  And it should be).  Though this is far from the funniest movie in the series, the jokes and crazy misadventures are still nonetheless hilarious.   

As I’ve said, American Reunion’s charm is mainly because of nostalgia.  The central plot is how the gang is assembled once again for their high school reunion, and the movie perfectly makes us feel like we were reminiscing the awesome and crazy days of our youth with them. (Yeah, we kids who grew up in the 90’s have awesome culture!)  But like all awesome nostalgia trips, American Reunion makes you feel old.      


Marvel does dominate the big screen, but DC owns the animated movie market.  In the first half of 2012, DC released direct-to-video movies Justice League: Doom and Superman vs. the Elite.  Both are awesome movies (based on epic comic book storylines), but the latter is the best between the two.  Based on the “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?” storyline of Action Comics, Superman vs. the Elite depicts Superman’s encounter with a super-powered group who called themselves “The Elite”.  The Elite uses ruthless, violent, anti-heroic methods (i.e. readiness to kill without second thought) in their own crusade against villainy.  This made them at odds with the ever-“Mr. Do-Goody-Goody” highly moral Superman.   The impatience brought by the recurring appearance of villainy makes Superman’s way of unaggressive approach of refusing to kill villains and “letting the law pass judgment” old-fashioned to the public.  They instead dig the Elite’s aggressive style because killing evil people stops evil permanently… or does it? 

The animation is not so good, but the story and theme makes up for it.  This is a highly philosophical movie that would make us question our own ideals.  Is Superman and what he represents still applicable in our modern period?  Or is the anti-hero approach more practical now? 

This movie displays the greatness of Superman’s non-compromising strong character; Supes shines as he upholds doing what is right rather than what’s popular.       


I wrote before that this is one of the movies I wanted to be made.  And I was happy, they did make it (next is Bad Boys 3).  MIB 3 is still the wacky, fun action sci-fi movie that I expected it to be.  The time travelling element though is awkward.  I require time travelling stories to be mindblowing, and if it isn’t so, I consider the story a failure.  But, though the time travelling aspect of this movie isn’t the high-standard I require whenever time travel is tackled in fiction, I still found MIB 3 highly entertaining. 

Yep, I’m hoping for an MIB 4.    


This movie makes an effort to fill the story with every cliché ever in horror movies.  And that’s the point of it all and what makes this movie great.  The less you know about the movie, the more you will love it once you see it.  I insist you skip reading the summary below and just go ahead and watch the movie.  But if you insist, here’s the movie in a nutshell (warning: spoilers!):
A group of college teens decided to take a vacation on some isolated cabin in the woods.  Unbeknownst to them, they were being manipulated by a scientific project every step of the way.  Annually, this scientific project aims to kill five individuals through a horror scenario.  The college friends’ personalities – by the use of chemicals released in the air or secretly introduced to them – are being molded to fit certain stereotypes (“the Whore”, “the Athlete”, “the Scholar”, “the Fool”, and “the Virgin”) of usual characters/victims in horror movies.  The “cabin in the woods” is a highly high-tech environment which technicians from the scientific project can fully control to set-up the determined horror scenario meant for the victims.  The selection of a scenario, though, is dependent on the victims’ unwitting actions.  There’s a tradition on the project where the technicians would bet on what scenario will be chosen.    In the cabin, there were several horror scenarios referenced by cameos of different plot objects of horror sub-genres.  The group triggered a redneck zombie family scenario and they were killed off one by one.  The last two survivors – the Virgin and the Fool – would find themselves getting inside the facility (by entering the graves of the zombies chasing them).  There, they would encounter plenty of different monsters and villains of horror genres, imprisoned on glass cages.  As a last resort to avoid getting killed by the facilities’ security team, they would release all these imprisoned horror monsters and villains, slaughtering everyone in the facility (this is the most awesome part of the movie).  Deeper into the facility, they would learn what’s it all about.  At the end of the movie, an “Ancient One”, from H.P. Lovecraft mythos, burst out of the ground (I kid you not!).


This is the other Taylor Kitsch movie that I’ve mentioned in number 10.  John Carter is the most underrated movie of the year.  Can’t believe such good sci-fi film can bomb terribly in the box office (some said it’s because of poor promotion).   I’ve always asked for more traditional sci-fi movies, and John Carter delivered perfectly.  The story was wacky but a lot of fun.  And the Martian mythos, setting, technology, creatures, and visuals were solid, if not spectacular. 

The movie is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ (creator of Tarzan) Barsom book series.  It tells of a former American Civil War soldier, John Carter, who found himself mysteriously transported to Mars and eventually becoming a hero there.           


Prior to watching the movie, I was never interested with the books.  Yeah, I know that the book trilogy is very popular and beloved.  But I was never moved to take a look.  But after watching the movie, I finally understood why this Hunger Games is believed to be awesome by many.  And they aren’t wrong. 

Again, I haven’t read the books yet so I can’t compare this movie to the literature.  Evaluating it as a movie, it doesn’t really carry a unique theme.  Teenagers fighting to the death (see Japan’s Battle Royal) and TV game shows of gladiatorial combat or hunting of humans (see The Running Man) are not unique concepts.  But still, in spite of this, The Hunger Games was able to perfectly make use of these elements, making them appear as if they’re original. 

I have no complains with how the story went.  The action was perfect.  The drama was intense.  And Katniss Everdeen is a very strong character.  Hands down, she is one of the best female characters I’ve encountered in fiction.  Romance was never a priority for her, it’s all about survival.  Yah, she’s a badass gal alright.


This Indonesian movie is the most intense, action-packed movie I’ve watched in 2012 so far.  Hmmm.  Come to think of it, this is the first time I’ve seen such level of gratifying action from an action movie in a while.  Plenty of testosterone-filled and satisfying violence with no terrible, unnecessary shocking gore.  The movie features the Indonesian martial art of “Pencak Silat”, and the combat sequences were the best I’ve ever seen. 

The story and plot was not unintelligent and is actually as exciting as the action.  It’s about a SWAT team on a mission to arrest a notorious drug lord that resides atop an apartment building that he owns.  The apartment building is located at the heart of Jakarta’s slum and its residents are the most dangerous criminals, murderers, and gangsters of the city.  To reach their target, who is located at the top floor, the SWAT team had to infiltrate the building one floor at a time.  With military precision, they stealthily neutralize the residents of each floor by quietly killing them or tying them up.  But their presence was discovered on the sixth floor, and with now exposed, they became trapped inside the building infested with ruthless criminals out to kill them (the drug lord promised free rent to those who would hunt down the cops).  What started as a mission to arrest a crime lord turns into a battle for survival for the SWAT members.

Will they accomplish the mission?  Will they at least escape the building?  You have to watch the movie to find out. 


I have to admit that this could have been rated a bit higher in this list than what it actually deserves because I’m biased, with Spidey being a favorite of mine.  Nonetheless, this movie was amazing.

I’m still disappointed that the first Spider-Man movie franchise had no actual closure.  It’s an incomplete story.  Until now, I’m still disappointed that a Spider-Man 4 never happened.  Still, though wary at first of the reboot, but once I saw the teaser pics of this movie, I became excited and looked forward to it.  And though my expectations were not fully met by the movie after watching it, I still found the entire viewing process an enjoyable and exciting one.  In spite of the first Spider-Man big screen appearance is still running fresh in our minds, we would still find this reboot worth our interest. 

First of all, let me say that I consider the original Spider-Man being a better movie than The Amazing Spider-Man.  It is because I found the first movie carrying the essence of Spider-Man more accurately.  It was also more inspiring and morally rich – as a Spider-Man movie should.  Spidey’s alter ego, Peter Parker, experiences all the problem normal people have: relationship problems, school problems, financial problems, etc.  Problems are almost never absent from Peter’s life.  And as Spider-Man, he is not always an appreciated hero, and is even considered a nuisance by the people that he saves everyday.  He even gets into trouble with his personal life because of his commitment as Spider-Man.  He was dealing with these throughout his life… ever since he first became Spider-Man as a fifteen year older!  But did Spidey ever give up?  No!!!  In spite of all of these struggles, Spidey never lost his cheerful disposition and strong moral fiber.  He never ceased in doing what is right.  He never ceased in protecting and saving people, even if they are unappreciative of what he does for them.  Because he believes that with great power comes great responsibility.  And he puts into heart that God gave him his superpowers, and he sure would have to use them for good no matter what.  Yes, he gets discouraged and is tempted to give up from time to time, he’s human after all.  But he overcomes.  Such an inspiration to see Spider-Man struggling with all these things (especially when he was a teenager!) and coming through victorious above all antagonisms and discouragements that life throws at him.  And all these elements about the Spider-Man character were introduced in the original Spider-Man movie (and by extension, Spider-Man 2).   (That was a long reflection, eh?  But I always love to explain why Spider-Man is awesome.)  Yes, the Spidey in The Amazing Spider-Man also learned about moral obligations, but he never learned this as directly, as immediately, nor as emphatically as his comicbook and Spider-Man movie counterparts.

Nonetheless, The Amazing Spider-Man delivers a more modern and grittier approach to the Spider-Man origin.  It gave fresh life for Spidey in the big screen.  It was an entertaining watch.  It had boring parts, though, and was slow paced at the start (I think it would take one hour into the movie before we see Peter in the Spider-Man costume).  Some parts of the origin also brought some boredom because we already saw these elements in Spider-Man.  But the action sequences though were the best we’ve ever seen from all the Spider-Man films to date.  The visuals and character designs – I love the redesigned Spider-Man costume and the Lizard’s appearance – were stunning (watch in IMAX).        

Andrew Garfield is perfect for the role.  Tobey Maguire had been great and was ideal during his run.  Maguire had the great geekiness factor that Peter Parker is supposed to have – at least, initially.  But once we see Garfield in the costume, we will easily conclude that he is the perfect movie interpretation for Peter Parker/Spider-Man.  Garfield’s physique, demeanor and appearance were perfect fits for Spider-Man than Maguire’s.  He also appeared more youthful than Maguire.  Though he is 28 already, we have no trouble picturing him as a teenager.  On the downside, his version’s a bit jerk-ish though.         

It’s actually great that we have a new Spider-Man movie franchise to enjoy.  And I can’t wait for Spidey to appear in the next Avengers (hopefully).


I’m almost sure that this will also end up as my pick for the best movie of 2012 at year end.  I can’t see any upcoming 2012 film that can beat The Avengers.  Even The Dark Knight Rises might probably end up as runner-up to this epic superhero movie.    

It was breathtaking and exciting from start to finish!  Plenty of clever humor and nergasmic sequences!  The action was terrific, especially the final battle!!!  This was a perfect movie!  One of the best films ever made!  The greatest superhero movie ever!  They deserve all the money this movie generated!  Kudos to Marvel Studios!  Joss Whedon is a genius!  Captain America is awesome!  Iron Man is awesome!  Thor is awesome!  The Hulk is awesome!  Black Widow is awesome!  Hawkeye is awesome!  You probably can derive how much excitement this movie gave me with all these exclamation points!  Saying this movie is epic or awesome or great or terrific is an understatement!

If there were any flaws in this movie, I was blinded by the sheer overpowering awesomeness.  Marvel Studios pulling this off is some sort of miracle.  So unbelievable how Marvel Studios successfully established and assembled these beloved heroes in one Avengers movie.  The last battle alone is worth the price of admission, as the Avengers take on Loki and his army of Chitauris (different in depiction from their Ultimate Marvel origins). 

Before watching the movie, my main question was how such small line-up of Avengers can take on such large scale crisis as an alien invasion.  The answer – how victory was attained – was satisfying.  Captain America called the shots, displaying his tactical genius.  Utilizing Hawkeye’s excellent vantage point vision, he assigned him as “watchtower”, to warn the Avengers of the enemies’ movement behaviors.  He then instructed Iron Man that “anything that gets more than three blocks out, you turn it back or you turn it to ash”, thus, containing the invading aliens in one area.  He then asks Thor to slow down the arriving Chitauris from the portal with his vast lightning powers.  Then, Cap asks Black Widow to accompany him in keeping the battle on the ground.  Lastly, he instructs Hulk to freelance (“Hulk. Smash.”), creating unpredictable mayhem in the battlefield to the advantage of the Avengers.  The sequences that followed gradually increased in level of awesomeness.

Every one of them was given a chance to shine.  Second-tier Avengers Black Widow and Hawkeye held their own with the Big Four (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk).  All of the Avengers displayed greatness.  But the Hulk steals every scene he’s in.    

I’ve watched this movie about four times already, but I’m sure I’m going to watch it over and over again in the future (waiting for a director’s cut edition).  And the enjoyment will be the same with each viewing.  Will never get tired of it… until a new Avengers movie finally comes out (giving me something to compare with). 

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