2012 by star rating (so far)
294 7.3 7.31. The Kid With A Bike (2011)
By turns devastating and joy-inducing, always honest and naturalistic, and never manipulative, The Kid with a Bike is an extraordinarily powerful motion picture. While I really liked L'Enfant, what the Dardennes have accomplished here is something of astounding dramatic resonance. In less than an hour and a half, the Belgian sibling directors navigate all sorts of difficult emotional waters and moral complexities- and all from the point of view of a child as the central character, which does nothing but constantly make the experience all the more heart-breaking. (And the use of the handheld camera is very effective at making us feel even more personally connected to the film's events.) I thought I knew exactly what the Dardennes were going to do during the final 10 minutes of The Kid with a Bike in order to give the film the sense of finality that it seemed to be headed towards. I was wrong, and got something that was infinitely more dramatically intense and thought-provoking. Parallelisms to Bicycle Thieves (The Bicycle Thief) are inevitable, but more important than that, I feel that The Kid with a Bike sits atop the same altar of greatness as De Sica's film. This is a movie I won't soon forget. I can't wait to treasure it in my collection.
1369 7.8 8.12. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)
If this isn't one of the best high school movies of all time, I must be missing out on a lot of great films. Then again, calling this a "high school movie" doesn't really do this film justice. The Perks of Being a Wallflower rejects the false cutesiness and gross-out humor that typically afflict this genre, and instead offers achingly realistic observations on the awkwardness and alienation of the high school experience and on the confusing feelings that a first crush/first love can cause. But aside from ALL that, and to my absolute surprise, this film also has the balls to submerge itself into deeply troubling emotional/psychological issues- this'll be too dark for those seeking a pleasant "high school movie", but I applaud it immensely. Logan Lerman and Emma Watson are total charmers, but Ezra Miller (who's shown a tremendous amount of range in every film he's done during the past 4 years) absolutely kills it, creating one of my favorite movie characters of the year. Perks is fantastic.
502 7.1 7.23. Ruby Sparks (2012)
This is exactly the movie I needed at this moment in my life.
But rather than getting into that, I'll try instead to be objective and briefly talk about why I consider this to be one of the best American independent releases in years. Here's a film that asks you to suspend your disbelief, but it asks this without an ounce of pretentiousness. This movie is about the creative process. This movie is also about relationships. The plot merges both things beautifully and manages to make startling, heart-wrenching commentary on both. The directors of Little Miss Sunshine once again achieve greatness by perfectly balancing drama and comedy: the laughs are constant, particularly during the first half, but the dark undertones pulsate throughout the entire running time. Zoe Kazan's script is a work of genius, and what she accomplishes performance-wise is worthy of the same compliment.
The film's climactic scene will be a turn-off for most, as it's practically the opposite of what happens in the climaxes of 99% of romantic dramas/comedies. This scene is actually more frightening than a lot of things we see in horror films nowadays. I found it absolutely devastating and perfect within the context of this particular story. (And I'll concede that, during this scene, the movie does break some of the "rules" it had previously established, but it's easy to forgive that, considering that the sequence is so horrifyingly great and that Dano and Kazan make the pain so palpable.)
I'd normally have much more to say about a film I rate so highly, but this is a case in which saying more would force me to say things that I shouldn't be talking about in a forum as public as this. So, I'll end by telling you that Ruby Sparks had me hypnotized from beginning to end. I walked out of the theater with a lump in my throat, because the film overwhelmed me so much, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Not since Adventureland has this type of movie had that effect on me.
790 7.2 7.44. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Harrowing, timely, profoundly engrossing, and not recommended for those with high blood pressure, Zero Dark Thirty is 2 hours and 40 minutes of non-stop, thought-provoking entertainment and cinematic greatness. As much as I liked Argo, one of the problems I noted about that film is that it limited itself to being a nail-biter and rejected the opportunity to make sociopolitical commentary (something it should've done, in light of the status of U.S.-Iran relations when it was released). But Zero Dark Thirty doesn't waste that opportunity. Aside from possibly being the most nerve-wracking movie to reach theaters this year, this film poses moral, ethical and political questions left and right to the audience. Contrary to the hyped-up exaggerations and misreadings out there, Zero Dark Thirty doesn't advocate in favor of the practice of torturing detainees to elicit information from them that may lead to capturing terrorists. The movie limits itself to posing the question of whether it's right or wrong. When a film such as this one manages to ask questions and provoke discussion among the audience members, it has achieved greatness, because it's gone beyond being mere entertainment or a simple way to pass the time, and it's become something that has a much more lasting effect. The tremendous achievement that is Zero Dark Thirty is anchored by the relentlessly fiery Jessica Chastain, who is stupendous all the way until the film's terrific final frame. The Hurt Locker was all right. This is extraordinary.
1240 6.9 7.25. 21 Jump Street (2012)
Throughout the time I've spent writing about movies as a hobby, one of the things I've discovered is that comedies are the hardest films to review. It's simple - I may find something uproariously funny, whereas you may not, and viceversa. Keep that in mind as you read the following confession: it's been years since I had laughed so hard in a movie theater. 21 Jump Street is awash with dumb humor that was written by smart people and gets delivered by actors who have a perfect handle on comedic timing. Kudos to Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum for having such great on-screen buddy chemistry, to Dave Franco for transitioning from slick to cocky to wimpy and making it all seem so effortless, and to Ice Cube for chewing the scenery so magnificently. The second half of the film isn't quite as uproarious as the first half, and there's nothing too impressive about the action scenes, but the large doses of entertainment rarely stop. In addition to being utterly hilarious, the film makes some wise observations about how the social landscape of high school has shifted over the last 5 or 6 years: things are no longer as cut-and-dry as the cliques we saw in Mean Girls. If anything, it's all much more fucked up nowadays (for better or worse), but luckily, 21 Jump Street has a hell of a riot commenting on it. We all have the right to say "Sue me, I loved this movie" every once in a while, and I definitely feel compelled to exercise it here.
2144 8.1 8.56. Django Unchained (2012)
One of the aspects that has typically been a part of my experience with Quentin Tarantino films is that his characters are people with whom I wish I could hang out. Tarantino's dialogue-driven scenes have a slow-burn way of enveloping you and making you feel like you could listen to these people talking for hours. This is the only one of the typical Tarantino staples that I didn't feel was constantly present in Django Unchained, at least certainly not as constantly as in the rest of his work. This movie may not share the high altar with Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds and the Kill Bill saga, but that's only because it's not as refined (it doesn't have the engrossing complexity of Pulp Fiction's storyline, and the historical deconstruction isn't nearly as genius as what we witnessed in Inglourious Basterds). But it's still got all of the unabashed entertainment, visual flair and bloody hilarity that we've become used to expect from the director. So, while I find it difficult to imagine that many people will name this their #1 Tarantino film, it's no surprise that even a "lesser" Tarantino film is sufficiently fucking awesome to be one of the best works of cinema of the year, as is definitely the case here.
1494 7.3 7.57. Looper (2012)
It may be an early fall release, but Looper is more thrilling (and ten times more profound) than every 2012 summer blockbuster combined. This is a science fiction movie in which time travel happens not because it's "cool" or for the hell of it, but rather, as a plot device to expose deeply affecting ideas on the cycle of love-driven violence and personal sacrifice. Admittedly, the second half of the movie was more to my liking, but that's only because it's during the second half that we truly find out everything that's at stake, and as a result, everything that happened during the first hour takes on more meaning.
I'm so relieved that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has finally appeared in a mainstream release that gives him the opportunity to show everyone what a terrific actor he is. I admit I've been frustrated by the fact that his roles in Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and Premium Rush didn't afford him what he needed to exude the greatness he's capable of, but Looper should leave little doubt about that in the minds of those of you who'd probably never watch films like The Lookout and Mysterious Skin.
Looper is grade-A entertainment, particularly because it avoids that cardinal sin committed by so many action movies of having shoot-outs or fight sequences that go on forever. And yes, you might call it more cerebral than a lot of movies of this sort, but I prefer saying it's more emotionally intelligent, because instead of overwhelming us with too many technicalities on the whole time travel process, it ultimately chooses to focus on the human impact of everything that happens here. It may be science fiction, but there's nothing fictional about any of the concerns raised by this fantastic film.
146 6.7 6.68. The Snowtown Murders (2011)
This is as raw and uncompromising as it gets. I'm not a supporter of violence for the sake of violence or gore for the sake of gore, but when violence and gore are used not for cheap shock value, but rather, to capture evil at its most soul-shredding, it's often a recipe for hellish greatness. Some may call it too grim or hard to watch. I was glued to my seat. Snowtown is absolutely devastating.
243 6.7 6.69. Take This Waltz (2011)
Sarah Polley's two for two. She can continue to direct these nuanced and deeply emotive dramas and I'll be the first in line. Take This Waltz is a subtle, observant picture, and the slow pace doesn't result in monotony, but rather, it allows us to appreciate the extent of the internal struggle experienced by the central character. No surprise that Michelle Williams gives yet another A+ performance. Much like with Away from Her, I can understand how certain moments of Take This Waltz may ring false for some people (and I was a little miffed by Polley's decision to spell out the film's main idea halfway through, by voice of an old naked lady, no less), but I can't deny that I was still deeply enveloped in this from start to finish, probably for personal reasons more than anything else. I get the feeling that this was a much more personal film for Polley than Away from Her, and that's probably what makes it work so magnificently. And no, don't let the synopsis fool you - this isn't simply an indie film about a woman who cheats on her husband. It goes much beyond that.
180 7 6.710. Your Sister's Sister (2011)
While I admit I'm partial towards these so-called "mumblecore" movies, I'll be the first to admit that a lot of them end up being boring, in their attempt at portraying things as realistically as possible... and, considering that I've watched both The Go-Getter and The Off Hours during the last few months, I can tell you that sometimes these movies can fail miserably when making that attempt. But that's never gonna happen with a Lynn Shelton movie, as we now know for sure from her thoroughly delightful second feature. It's all dialogue-based and it's all centered around only three characters, but it's so gosh-darn funny, so perceptive and so honest that monotony's never even a possibility. Shelton is a master contriver who obviously loves playing around with unconventional triangles and with the gray lines between friendship, love and sexuality, and she does it immensely well. And it helps even more that she gets such exquisite performances out of the three cast members- if this weren't such a small film and if it hadn't been released so early in the year, Rosemarie DeWitt would be a serious contender in the best supporting actress race. There's a lull towards the end of the movie due to a montage that goes on much longer than necessary, almost as if it's there to ensure that the movie reaches the 90-minute mark (and the music during this montage started to grate me after a while), but the bad taste gets washed away during the movie's terrific final moments. I'm glad I saw this alone at home rather than in theaters, because I actually squealed loudly out of joy at one of the lines that's delivered during those last few minutes. What a treat of a movie. Touchy Feely is officially one of my most anticipated films for next year.
1300 7.6 7.811. Argo (2012)
A nerve-wracking thriller, with a good deal of humor to give us the necessary breather every once in a while, Argo's more interested in making you bite your nails than in offering profound sociopolitical commentary (which would've been highly relevant, considering where U.S.-Iran relations are at today), but that won't stop it from garnering several Oscar nominations. This isn't on par with Gone Baby Gone, but Affleck continues to impress as a director, and his restrained performance in this particular movie is nothing to scoff at either. Oh, and those Alan Arkin/John Goodman scenes are pure gold.
2858 7.8 8.212. The Avengers (2012)
A kick-ass spectacle. If it helps make things clearer, this is how I'd rank my "avengers moviegoing experience" so far:
2. Iron Man
3. The Avengers
4. Iron Man 2
5. Captain America: The First Avenger
The most recent Marvel effort blends action and comedy perfectly, while the drama/humanity remains on a more secondary plane, which means we don't quite get the terrific combination of all three elements that we got from Thor last year. But to a certain extent, that's okay, because this one expectedly has a lot more characters and plot threads to juggle - it may be bloated, but it's bloated with great visuals and non-stop action entertainment, with some hilarious one-liners to make the experience even better. A very solid start to what looks to be an insane summer as far as superheroes are concerned. And please don't cast anyone else as the Hulk - Mark Ruffalo navigates the anxiety, the anger, the confusion and the vulnerability so freaking well that I can't imagine anyone else doing it.
91 7.3 7.413. Bully (2011)
31 7.4 7.114. Clandestine Childhood (2011)
Here's a film that spoke to me ideologically and rattled me emotionally, both at the same time. The fact that, in the process of doing that, it also offers its share of admirable visual flourishes only makes it better. This should've been eligible in the best foreign language film race.
478 5.7 515. Cosmopolis (2012)
I'm kind of surprised at myself for liking Cosmopolis so much. An argument could be made (and apparently has been made) that this is nothing but capitalism-bashing with nothing else to show for itself... and I don't really know if I have any counterarguments for that... but the thing is, as I've said in other instances, what matters to me isn't what a movie says, but how it says it, and in the case of Cosmopolis, I found myself strangely hypnotized and captivated (in an Eyes Wide Shut kind of way). "Hypnotized" and "captivated" aren't words I find myself using very often when it comes to movies that are entirely about the dialogue and that don't have any "action" per se, as is the case here. Cosmopolis could've taken a shorter amount of time to say the things it says, and it definitely emphasizes and re-emphasizes certain points more than it needs to, but in spite of that, I can't say I ever grew weary of listening to it.
21 6.4 5.916. The Do-Deca-Pentathlon (2012)
This is the closest that the Duplass brothers have come in the last few years to replicating the greatness they accomplished with The Puffy Chair. The trailer and poster both make it look like this movie is all about two brothers competing against each other in sporting events, and that's completely deceptive. This film captures familial awkwardness and brother dynamics better than either Cyrus or Jeff, Who Lives At Home ever did. And I was very surprised by the fact that, this time, the frequent zoom-ins and zoom-outs didn't phase me in the least bit. They seemed to fit very nicely with the movie's domestic setting.
2362 7.7 817. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
An Unexpected Journey offers the kids' menu of what the monumental Lord of the Rings trilogy gave us a decade ago. It's got the fun, the action, the laughs and most of the visual grandeur, but gone are the high stakes, the intensity and the dark themes. It probably deserves a lower rating, but I can't possibly be harsh on an opportunity to visit Middle Earth. I was expecting myself to be disappointed, but I wasn't. (Two years ago, I may have been really pissed off at this movie, but I'd like to think I've done both some maturing and some loosening up since then.) After all, The Lord of the Rings aspired for majestic greatness, and that's exactly what it accomplished, while The Hobbit seems to have a less ambitious goal in mind, and it looks well on its way to achieving it, too. Oh, and yes, everything Gollum-related is a solid 10/10, with the riddles sequence as devilishly great as I anticipated.
So, I liked more than half of it half as well as I would like, and I liked less than half of it half as well as it deserves. If that makes sense to you.
2365 7.1 7.318. The Hunger Games (2012)
It may fall slightly short on the moral complexity front, but this is still a socially relevant motion picture and a very entertaining one at that, with a fantastic lead performance from Jennifer Lawrence.
61 6.7 6.319. Keep the Lights On (2012)
The fact that Keep the Lights On is about something as dark as the destructive effects of addiction on a relationship doesn't stop this movie from being beautifully engaging for the duration of its running time. Zachary Booth's performance is occasionally a little flat, but that happens frequently with movies that were made on a low budget and with inexperienced actors. One could see this film as the American response to Weekend, and it's very good at being just that.
473 7 6.720. Killer Joe (2011)
Killer Joe probably has the weirdest, most unexpected final five seconds of any film I've ever seen. Those last five seconds will make some people implode with laughter, and it'll make others complain about how anticlimactic it feels - I find myself kind of in between both reactions. Still, everything that comes before that is highly enjoyable stuff, more driven by an intelligent script than by high-octane action sequences. And you'll be shocked to hear this, but Matthew McConaughey gives us what may well be the best villain of the year. And I'll never look at a chicken leg the same way again.
200 6.4 6.821. Liberal Arts (2012)
A significant improvement on Happy Thank You More Please, Josh Radnor's Liberal Arts is one of those movies I simply eat up. I know a lot of people will find it pretentious, but I loved it, and actually feel myself wanting to give it a higher rating, despite recognizing it has its problems. I complain frequently that there are so many movies out there about the high school experience, but hardly any about the college experience- and the ones that are out there are mostly those lame frat-boy comedies that shouldn't even count. So, Liberal Arts is as delightful a surprise as it gets for me. I loved Radnor's insights on the difference between how you see an experience while it's happening to you versus the way you look back on it after it's already over, and on the difference between superficial entertainment and artistic appreciation. Radnor's performance is as natural as it gets, and Elizabeth Olsen is absolutely luminous, proving that she's got range that goes beyond playing emotionally broken characters. And, as usual, the presence of the great Richard Jenkins is always a major plus. (Oh, and yeah, Zac Efron's character is one of the movie's weaker points, but it's freaking hilarious to see him doing something so completely different from anything he's ever done before.) This will probably be mild entertainment for some people, and perhaps it'll even annoy some others, but in my case, it's the type of movie that ceaselessly holds my attention and that speaks to me in more ways than one. I smile even thinking about the next time I'll get to see it.
1394 7.7 7.822. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
During the first part of Moonrise Kingdom, I thought I was watching one of the best comedies of recent years. "Part two" didn't enthrall and dazzle me quite as much, but it still held a decent amount of the sprightly charm that characterizes the movie's first half. This is, by far, my favorite of Wes Anderson's live-action movies. I've found his previous work off-putting for the most part, because I've constantly felt like the awkwardness eclipses the humanity out of his characters, but fortunately, I didn't feel that way at all during Moonrise Kingdom. The script deserves Oscar attention.
64 7.4 7.323. North Sea Texas (2011)
It's not easy growing up in the particular situation that's showcased in North Sea Texas. The movie stands out because it doesn't take the usual, melodramatic, overly tragic direction that most of these films usually take, and instead, it offers a refreshingly optimistic outlook in a sea of bleakness, and that's something I appreciate when it's done well, as is the case here.
392 7 724. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
"It's that time... that place... that song. You remember what it was like when you were in that place and then you listen to that song and you know you aren't in that place anymore and it makes you feel hollow. You can't just go find that stuff again."
In this day and age in which storylines get recycled over and over again, Safety Not Guaranteed comes along as one of the most unabashedly original movies in recent memory. This made me laugh out loud more than I care to admit, and several of the script's lines resonated very strongly with me. I find that this is definitely one of those movies in which the journey is far more important than the destination: this film could've taken a number of different routes during its final frames, but none of those routes would've changed the greatness of the film's commentary on the pains of regret and missed opportunities. Mark Duplass' performance is nothing but a brilliant rendition of charming weirdness. When Aubrey Plaza shares the screen with him, the movie's an absolute delight. As far as the two secondary characters are concerned, it's a shame that the two actors either lack range or were purposely directed to act one-dimensionally: Karan Soni goes for static awkwardness the entire time and his character isn't fleshed out well enough for us to care about him during his "big moment" in the final act, while Jake Johnson maintains a permanent douchey grin and the subplot involving him and an old flame is handled too skimpily, to the point that it doesn't fit nearly as well as it could have into the film's framework. But those scenes between Duplass and Plaza are pure gold, as they make Safety Not Guaranteed a very funny and deeply moving experience that you shouldn't miss.
226 7 7.225. The Sessions (2012)
John Hawkes and Helen Hunt give two extraordinary performances in one of the most charming movies of the year. What could've been a slapstick one-note joke movie or a syrupy tearjerker ends up being neither of those two things. The main character may be someone who is handicapped, but this film will resonate very strongly with anyone who's ever struggled with letting themselves go (physically or emotionally) or with allowing themselves to be vulnerable. Hawkes and Hunt have very different jobs here, very different emotions to negotiate, but each one of them plays it to absolute perfection, and they both make The Sessions a truly special little movie.
1577 7.5 7.826. Skyfall (2012)
Six years ago, some friends invited me to go to the movies to see "the new James Bond movie." I was very tired that day and wasn't necessarily too up for watching a guns-a-blazin' action fest. Little did I know that I was about to be treated to an enormously satisfying, thoroughly classy and surprisingly profound film, with terrific performances from Daniel Craig and the lovely Eva Green. Casino Royale instantly claimed a spot as one of my favorite films of the 2000s. Craig's next foray into being James Bond, Quantum of Solace, I found to be pretty meh. Skyfall is a great improvement, despite not having the nimble elegance of Casino Royale. The latest Bond flick has some of the best cinematography I've seen this year (and a title sequence that teems with ingenuity). The action sequences are constantly entertaining, the repartee between the characters is engaging, and the film's commentary on politics/bureaucracy makes it better than your standard brainless action flick.
29 5.6 5.827. 28 Hotel Rooms (2012)
1814 6.9 7.128. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Not quite the action spectacle that we've become used to expect in this post-Avengers world of summer blockbusters, but Andrew Garfield's excellent rendition of Peter Parker gives this some much needed potency that makes it worth seeing.
696 7.1 6.629. Anna Karenina (2012)
Despite being about the affairs of the heart, Anna Karenina suffers from a lack of profundity. The finished product makes one get much more involved in the visual flashes than in the characters and their emotions. Keira Knightley gives it her all to get us to feel for the title character, but Aaron Johnson's stiff performance as the forbidden love interest makes Anna's plight a hard one to sympathize with. Still, if I had to make any bets today with regard to the upcoming Academy Awards, I'd bet in favor of this winning the art direction and costume design categories, and I'd say both awards would be very well-deserved.
182 6.4 6.630. Arbitrage (2012)
265 6.6 6.831. Bernie (2011)
This is occasionally very funny, and it's very much its "own" movie, as they say. The initial scenes in which we're introduced to Bernie are handled remarkably well, and the same can be said for the film's climactic moments. It's the middle act that's a little slow and sluggish: the relationship between Bernie and Mrs. Nugent is definitely not handled as well as it should've been, and the cartoonish nature of some of her outbursts takes away from the film's otherwise natural feel. Still, this is passable entertainment. And now it's time to bring Celine and Jesse back.
337 7 7.332. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
Pleasant and life-affirming, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is definitely in love with the country in which it takes place, which the script happily describes as an "assault on the senses", and you'd be hard-pressed not to believe that, after witnessing the almost magical power that India has over the characters in this movie. As things usually go in ensemble pieces with multiple plots, some of the characters and storylines are more interesting than others, and the film is definitely about half an hour too long. But credit goes to the wonderful cast for being so endearing, particularly Judi Dench, one of those actresses who can manage to keep us enthralled even while telling a story about dipping a biscuit into a glass of tea.
1429 7.2 7.233. Brave (2012)
1337 7.1 734. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
If you're a fan of horror movies, I don't think this film will scare you, but it just might make you feel like you're on an amusement park ride. For my taste, the self-aware humor here often results more in awkwardness than in laughs, but I give the movie credit for poking fun at horror conventions and doing a mostly efficient job at it.
383 5.7 6.235. The Campaign (2012)
All the satirical commentary made by The Campaign is generic and the type of stuff you've heard elsewhere, but the movie's wise enough to keep its running time short, and thanks to that, it manages to pass the time without ever wearing out its welcome. Now, I would've been okay with making the film run a little longer if it had meant we'd get to see more of that hilarious maid.
200 6.6 6.636. Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012)
This movie is receiving its share of compliments for rejecting romcom cliches, but to be fair, it's not so much that it rejects cliches, but rather, it's that it chooses to show you a phase of relationships that most romcoms won't show you: life after the break-up. As a natural consequence of this, the two title characters aren't together in most scenes- this isn't automatically a bad thing, but the problem is that the movie doesn't balance things well enough, and chooses to show much more of Celeste's plight than that of Jesse, to the point that he starts feeling like a supporting character, which takes away from our ability to be as invested in him as we are in her. (500) Days of Summer also paid more attention to one of its two central characters, but that movie did such a masterful job at comparing the blissful early stages of a relationship with the heartbreak that comes once they end, that it was easy to overlook that. Indeed, (500) Days of Summer has set the bar really high for movies that attempt to do what Celeste and Jesse Forever tries to do. There's a lot of tenderness and hilarity in the scenes shared between the two leads during the first 20 minutes, but after that, it feels like the "Celeste melancholy fest" more than anything else, though it has its share of funny and heart-tugging moments that make it a worthwhile 90 minutes.
927 6.8 7.137. Chronicle (2012)
The found footage gimmick ends up feeling mostly unnecessary and, as usual in these films, there are times at which it's impossible to believe that a camera would be turned on at a particular moment. But Chronicle features surprisingly interesting and well-developed characters, and it's got an affecting plot. I can forgive those cheesy scenes that take place up in the sky, when the film exhibits such welcome restraint during other key scenes.
130 6.3 5.838. Damsels in Distress (2011)
This movie exhausts most of its wit during the first 40 minutes, but by that point, the titular damsels have us sufficiently hooked to make it worthwhile to stay with them until the end. The romantic entanglements were handled better in The Last Days of Disco (not to mention that I liked that film's final dance sequence significantly more than the one we get here, which feels cartoonish and out of place), but I welcome Damsels in Distress, because they hardly make films like this anymore- it's got a style and a sense of humor that we really don't ever encounter in movie theaters nowadays, and apparently it was necessary for Whit Stillman to come out of a 14-year hiatus in order for us to get it.
93 6.5 5.939. Dark Horse (2011)
2900 7.8 8.540. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
You'd think that a movie that lasts almost three hours would have more than enough time to cover a lot of thematic ground, and to do so profoundly, but man, The Dark Knight Rises feels incredibly rushed, at times even haphazard. The word "boring" could never possibly enter my mind as I figure out what to say about this movie, but "overkill", "muddled" and "why so many goddamn flashbacks" all certainly do.
Catwoman (the comic book character) is renowned for being fickle- it's hard to know whether she's siding with the good guys or the bad guys. For that reason, my expectation was that Christopher Nolan (who did so well at fashioning the moral/ethical trilemma between Batman, the Joker and Harvey Dent in the previous film) would use Selina Kyle as the perfect moral pendulum in his newest entry. No such luck. In The Dark Knight Rises, her fickleness works exclusively as a plot machination: when the plot requires her to be against Batman, she is, and when it requires her to change her mind, she does. No background or complexity whatsoever- just purely random changes of heart (and the kiss in the final act is beyond laughable and ill-timed). And that's a shame not just as far as this character is concerned, but also because it makes this third entry fall short of the thematic profundity that characterized both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Not to mention the fact that neither of those two films featured a villain whose words all sounded like ADR.
Still, it's hard not to recommend the film due to how gripping it is and to the technical prowess on display. The climactic action sequences are monumental, and had me on the edge of my seat for the most part. (The only exception, as far as the effectiveness of the climax is concerned, would be the two-second moment in which Talia dies, which is as bullshit and soap-operatic a death as I've ever seen, and I'm astounded that that's the take Nolan chose.) It's the weakest installment in Nolan's Batman trilogy, but it's all due to storytelling issues rather than to lack of compliance with what audiences expect from summer blockbusters, so I guess that's all fine and well.
47 7.3 741. Death of a Superhero (2011)
18 6.3 6.142. The Diary of Preston Plummer (2012)
147 6.1 6.343. Farewell, My Queen (2012)
654 6.8 7.344. Flight (2012)
271 6.6 6.845. Goon (2011)
Cute at all the right places, gross at all the right places, and funny at almost all the right places. With this type of film, I don't often find myself wanting the main character's buddy/sidekick to actually show up in more scenes, but that's how good Jay Baruchel is at being funny without ever drifting into annoying territory. The humor here made me smile often, and it made me laugh out loud about three times, all of which is more mileage than we generally get from comedies nowadays. And I liked the unorthodox nature of the romantic subplot. (Oh, and be forewarned that the movie's probably more suited for fans of pugilistic sports than for fans of hockey.)
777 6.7 6.846. The Grey (2011)
It's eerie and suspenseful, and it has its share of profound ideas, but the backstories of the supporting characters feel tacked-on: every scene (and there are many of these) in which a character tells a story about his life back home, it feels like inserted dialogue, rather than organic. Still, much credit goes to the film for effectively creating such a harsh and often terrifying environment for these characters.
563 6.6 6.947. Hitchcock (2012)
271 6.1 6.348. Hope Springs (2012)
There's something very one-note about the supposed discord between the film's leading couple during the first half of the film, and one can't help feeling that the discord gets resolved a little too easily. But charm and good performances can go a long way. Also, how often do we see a frank attitude towards sex in movies about older couples?
613 7.6 7.649. The Impossible (2012)
This is one of those movies that relies very, very heavily on the score to get emotional reactions out of audiences, instead of trusting that the plot turns themselves and the actors' performances will be powerful enough to elicit them. Still, it's very well-made: the mayhem is perfectly staged and the always magnificent Naomi Watts adds another perfect performance to her resume.
1111 8.1 8.650. The Intouchables (2011)
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