Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Top 10 Movies of 2012 (Second Half Edition)

As I’ve already mentioned in the first half edition (if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend that you should first), the movies featured in this second half edition are not necessarily those released during the second half of 2012, but, rather, movies I was able to watch during the second half of the year.  So I’ve already listed the top ten movies I’ve seen during the first half of 2012 in the first half edition (if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend that you should first), and after the second half edition’s listing below, my top 10 overall picks of 2012 are derived from the two editions’ top tens.  Django Unchained (especially this!), Life of Pi (and this!), Lawless, The Silver Lining Playbook, Les Misérables, and Jack Reacher are the 2012 movies that I wanted to watch most but were not able to do so during 2012, but would have been likely contenders and eventual inclusions to this list if I had been able to watch them last year.    


The tenth spot was a struggle between Ted, Cloud Atlas, and The Perks of Being a WallflowerTed was the most hilarious movie of the year, and Cloud Atlas, despite being less than what I expected, still featured brilliant visuals and makeup and costume design; solid acting; a fresh narrative style; and an exciting concept of having six interacting and thought-stimulating stories.  But, after further evaluating them, I decided that The Perks of Being a Wallflower was the superior of the three contenders for the last spot.        

I was unfamiliar with the source material (the book) so I expected it to be another generic “coming of age” teen drama.  Thus, I was pleasantly surprised how good this movie was.  Great, actually.  It had captivating storytelling and emphatic themes.  And the actors (or, at least, the three leads) were great in making the characters they played entertaining – especially Ezra Miller as Patrick.     


This movie is the best – as well as the most underrated – of all animated movies this year.  This stop-motion movie was no The Nightmare Before Christmas nor Coraline, but, along with Frankenweenie, ParaNorman seem to prove the notion that “if it’s stop-motion animation, then it has a good story.”

The movie tells of a boy named Norman who has the talent to see ghosts.  Because of this, Norman becomes a pariah of a skeptical town.  However, this talent of his comes to play when Norman has to save the town from an ancient evil. 

This movie not only delivers a good and enjoyable story, but it also tackles deep, important, and thought-provoking themes which include making a stand for what is right despite the overwhelming opposition; the terrifying harm brought by mob mentality; and the fear of the unknown and what is different lead to making irrational, bigoted, and hateful decisions.     


In a “small island community” setting, twelve year-old “Khaki Scout” (kind of like a Boy Scout) Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop, daughter of attorney parents, fell in love and decided to elope.  They hiked and camped in the wilderness of the island while the Khaki Scouts and their scoutmaster, Susan’s parents, and the island’s police captain (and, presumably, only policeman) were in pursuit, searching for them.  Of course, since Sam and Suzy are merely children and they were only confined in a small island, hilarity ensues.       

Moonrise Kingdom featured several big name stars, and, thus, assuring us of high-quality and entertaining acting performances.  The humor produced by the movie doesn’t inspire belly-aching laughter, but the charming, witty amusement it does offer is still perfect comic quality.  The premise and delivery of the story gives a feeling of warm and pleasant entertainment, which was present from start to finish.        


Unless you consider The Raid: Redemption a cop movie, then End of Watch is arguably the best cop movie of the year.  This may even be the best cop movie in years!  Most cop movies feature plainclothes detectives-type protagonists, who are gloriously decorated and revered by pop culture; End of Watch’s protagonists, however, are uniformed police officers – the ones who deal with the “dirty” and modest day-to-day police work, and are oftentimes the first ones on the scene of the trouble.  The action in this movie is intense, and the idea of having hand-held cameras an integral part of the narrative made the viewing experience more personal – as if you are also part of the action.  It is very informative and thought-provoking, providing a closer look to the life of a policeman – from cop SOPs and daily routines, to personal struggles and camaraderie – which allows you to have a deeper appreciation and respect for the police. 


Many say that Skyfall is the best Bond film ever.  And though I am still not convinced that it is, I can’t blame them for thinking this.  Personally, I still believe that Casino Royale is still the best Bond film that stars Craig.  Nonetheless, Skyfall was sheer 007 awesomeness. 

I’ve become familiar with James Bond with the films first, thus, I grew up identifying Bond films with the wacky and gadget-packed movies of Connery, Moore, and – most importantly – Brosnan.  Later on, I would read the books and discover that, though the stories are still over-the-top, they were grittier and more down-to-earth than the movie interpretation of 007.  Skyfall carries perfectly the tone of the original Ian Fleming books (which is the main charm of this current Bond series).    

Casino Royale might be the first Bond film that has Daniel Craig in the lead role, but Skyfall was as much as a Bond “intro” film as Casino Royale.  And this is the best thing about Skyfall: it makes you excited for the future of the franchise.  I sure miss the wackiness of the Bond movies I grew up with, but with Skyfall, I am also thrilled of this interpretation of Bond – being more closely similar to the feel of the book – and looking forward on where all of this will go.    
5.) ARGO

Prior to watching Argo, I was already familiar with the episode in history it was based on (read something about it when I was still in my teens).  But in spite of knowing about how everything will turn out, it was still a thrilling and suspenseful movie experience.  What do I mean?  Let me pick the scene where they were in the airport, under false identities, about to escape from Iran.  I already know that that escape mission was a success, basing on history, but that sequence in the airport was so intensely and dramatically well done that it still gave me the feeling of apprehensively wondering, “Will they successfully deceive the guards and escape?”  Kudos to Ben Afleck for bringing this about.  Definitely a strong candidate for an Academy Award for Best Director this year (will be surprised if not at least nominated).    


Dear Hollywood:  Making an awesome live-action adaptation of anime is possible.  Learn from this.


There are some who were disappointed with how this movie turned out.  I am not one of them.  I think the problem with those who found this movie lacking is benchmarking it with Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring (or to the whole LOTR trilogy altogether).  Which is unfair.  Few movies can ever measure up with that first LOTR movie, so why take it against An Unexpected Journey for failing to do so?  Consider also that even with the source material, the LOTR books easily dwarfs (no pun intended) “The Hobbit”.      

As it is, An Unexpected Journey was epic.  It was a very solid start for this new trilogy; it even somehow convinced me that stretching The Hobbit into a trilogy – despite having only one book and some of Tolkien's notes as base material – was a good idea.


Abraham Lincoln is my most favorite and beloved president (of any country) ever.  That’s why I was so excited by the time I learned that Steven Spielberg is making a Lincoln biopic with Daniel Day-Lewis – who is notorious a legend in obsessively and meticulously playing his character as much authenticity as he can – in the lead role.  I greatly looked forward for this film… and it delivered!  Lincoln, Spielberg, and Day-Lewis are my hands down bets for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor respectively for the Oscars this year. 

I was expecting, however, that it would portray the entirety or most of Lincoln’s life.  It did not, which is a minor disappointment.  It only covered the final four months of Lincoln’s life, and the showcase of his political genius as he maneuvers and pushes to have the 13th Amendment passed in Congress.   And, in the end, I was satisfied with that.  It was still an awesome movie depiction of a great man. 

There were not much portrayal of Civil War battles here – though the scenes portraying action in the House of Representatives was as much thrilling as if they were Civil War battle scenes – so don’t expect epic battle scenes.  But remember, this is no Civil War movie.  It’s about Lincoln.  This movie is to celebrate that great man.  Daniel Day-Lewis does the best performance of his career, as he effectively brings his character to life, lighting up every scene he’s in.  Such a joy to watch. 

I concluded in the first half edition of my top 2012 movies list that it is improbable for The Dark Knight Rises to beat The Avengers for my number one spot this year.  However, it was able to do just that.  By a hair, The Dark Knight Rises is better than The Avengers.   “By a hair” because The Avengers is still a close second. 

“By a hair” because, as excellent and intelligent the movie is, it still had several plot holes that is easily noticed.  I usually give slack to a story with plot holes as long as they’re minor and the story is so brilliant that you can overlook them.   In the case of The Avengers, the sheer awesomeness of it as a comic book movie was really overwhelming that it made me blinded of the flaws – if any (since I didn’t notice,  or if did notice, I had unconsciously ignored).   

However, in the case of Nolan’s Batman depiction, it was never the usual comic book movie take.  These Nolan-made Batman movies can only be considered as “comic book movies” because of the characters, setting, and some elements taken from the comic book.  But away from that, it was not a comic book movie.  The movies’ mythos is definitely different from the comic books’.  This Batman Trilogy is too much insightful, profound, deep, artful, intelligent, and reflective to be a mere comic book movie.   It was more than that.  Nolan’s Batman Trilogy is what to comic book movies as what Alan Moore’s Watchmen is to comic books.   Christopher Nolan spoiled us for creating several thought-provoking films (The Dark Knight, the film’s predecessor, being one of them) that we were expecting The Dark Knight Rises to be perfect.  His films are so intelligent that when there are plot holes, they easily stand out and can bother the audience.  There are several of them in The Dark Knight Rises, but I am willing to consciously forgive them.

So maybe the high expectations were this movie’s disadvantage.  But, hey, even with this disadvantage, it still took the number one spot!  That’s how awesome this movie is.  If there were no noticeable plot holes, this movie could have been the overwhelming choice for my number one movie this year. 

Nonetheless, The Dark Knight Rises was well-written, immensely entertaining, and a satisfying and epic conclusion to Nolan’s Batman Trilogy.

* * *


10.) John Carter (The majority might hate it, but this is definitely underrated!  This movie is pure old school sci-fi epicness!) 
9.) Argo
8.) Rurouni Kenshin
7.) The Hunger Games
6.) The Raid: Redemption
5.) The Amazing Spider-Man
4.) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
3.) Lincoln
2.) The Avengers
1.) The Dark Knight Rises 

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