Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Movie Report, Part One: January to June!

I wrote these reviews (some more detailed than others) throughout the first part of the year. Before I REALLY honed in on what I wanted to do with each review I did. To open this blog I'll be posting this and then by next Tuesday (hopefully) I'll have the part two of this list July till December on all of my top movies of the second half of 2012. 

As I said in my introduction post, I will try to do at least three to four (current) movie reviews and two to four (current) DVD/Blu-Ray reviews every two weeks. Along with random video game or TV show reviews sprinkled in.

This is exactly what the title says. It's been six full months this year, January to June, so I decided to go over all the 2012 movies I've seen and give you a nice list on what I thought was the best and worst from this year so far. So without further adieu, here it is!

Haven't Seen
Men in Black 3
The Lorax

19. The Woman in Black
18. Dark Shadows
17. The Devil Inside
16. Project X
15. The Three Stooges

14. American Reunion
13. Friends with Kids
12. Jeff, Who Lives at Home
11. The Dictator
10. Ted
9. Safe House
8. The Five Year Engagement

7. (Runner-Up) Wanderlust
George and Linda are a married couple who live in New York. They decided to buy a micro-loft and it turns out to be a bad idea. Linda's HBO special is rejected and George gets laid off cause the company folded. Leaving them in a bad place and having to move to Georgia to live with George's, for lack of a better term, douche-bag brother Rick. On the way down they get tired and must stop to rest. They turn into bed and breakfast named Elysium and immediately see a naked man and subsequently flip their car. They find out that Elysium is a hippie commune and decide to take a shot at staying for the night and possibly for good.

This comedy really surprised me. I LOVE Paul Rudd and I adored Jennifer Aniston in Horrible Bosses last year.  Each played they're role of city folk struggling out of the city well. Ken Marino, while playing a terrible brother has some truly laugh out loud moments. Joe Lo Truglio as a nudist aspiring to be a author is awesome. Also Alan Alda as the old overseer that is set in his ways is hysterical. Also there are supporting roles from Katheryn Hahn, Justin Theroux and Jordan Peele. There are dragging and dull moments, but there are plenty of laugh out loud moments in movie. Another movie that I thought wouldn't like, but turned out to be good.

6. (Runner-Up) The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games follows the story of Katniss Everdeen. She lives in a post-apocalyptic North America where there is a rich capitol which "controls" twelve underlying districts. To squash the attempts of a rebellion that happened before, the capitol started 'The Hunger Games.' Where a boy and girl from each district, ages 12-18, are picked to survive on a government controlled area until only one is left alive. Earning the winner long awaited fame and fortune. Katniss offers herself in place of her younger sister to enter the event. Can Katniss and her partner endure the grandiose of The Hunger Games and survive the rugged aspect of it as well?

This movie surprised me. While I love Jennifer Lawerence (Katniss Everdeen), I did not think that this would entertain me. It's a long movie and there are parts that feel stretched out. A lot of movie books think they have to fit every detail in. And while I admire that it sometimes makes movies hard to watch. Take the Harry Potter series. The attention to detail is fantastic, but since I've never read the books, eight two and a half hour movies can feel long as hell. The same can be said for this. The music is alright, and the acting in this is great. Especially considering it's a young cast. The story is nice and the action is good to boot. All in all a solid flick.

5. The Cabin in the Woods
The Cabin in the Woods follows the story of six college kids who go to a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway. What they don't know is that a team of scientists are underground betting on them and controlling their environment. They are betting on who will die and who will survive. Some of the kids make it down to the underground only to discover a horror that you could never prepare yourself for.

This was quite the good horror flick. Not only was it filmed in the cabin they used for Evil Dead, it also had a really good Evil Dead feel to it. The characters were alright. The stoner brought the laughs while the hot girls and the dudes brought what they had to. Douchebagginess. There's scares, there's nudity, there's laughs, and there's a VERY nice twist. Easily the best horror movie of the year so far.

4. Brave

I'm not going to even try and pretend I don't like Disney movies. Hell in the past year I've already seen two fantastic ones in The Avengers and The Secret World of Arrietty. I knew I was going to see Brave opening weekend (saw it last Sunday) when at the midnight showing of The Avengers they showed a five minute clip from this very movie. Before the movie even begins there's a very nice little short called "La Luna." Telling the story of three generations of sweepers (a grandfather, father and son) who work on the surface of the moon. A nice little short if I do say so myself to get me into the Pixar spirit. 

Then the movie immediately throws you into the 10th Century world of Scotland where it's Merida's birthday. She plays hide and seek with her mother (Queen Elinor) and even gets a bow and arrow from her father the king (Fergus). Despite being a girl and their first born. While in the forest chasing a stray arrow Merida encounters a will-o-wisp (said to lead people who see them to their destiny) and while she is telling her parents a giant black bear attacks the camp, end scene. Fast forward and we're still in the magical land of Scotland. Merida now has three younger twin brothers and has been forced to grow up as a Princess despite wanting to breaking the mold on what Princesses should be. Once again she encounters the fabled will-o-wisps and follows them seemingly to her destiny. In this movie filled with teenage angst, mischievous children, brewing cauldrons and slinging arrows can Merida change her fate or should she go on and do what is expected of her? 

First off, I did not see this movie in 3D. If movies are out in 3D I try to choose the 2D versions. Less strain on the eyes and you don't have to wear those uncomfortable glasses. That being said the movie looks tremendous. There's pull outs to huge landscapes that can leave you in awe at times and even the minute details like the aging of the castle walls or the way the archery targets looked impressed me. Not that it should, by this point all computer generated movies should look like this and Pixar has it down to an art. The characters look good too. The hair on Merida is something that really grows on you as the movie wears on. As well as the bear designs and the grandiose style of the other clans and various other aspects.

The music in this movie is composed very well. The intro (and score throughtout) is fantastic and really captures the olden times Scotland theme. The fight scenes as well as even dramatic parts are done with ease as well and nothing feels out of place. The non-Scottish theme song, "Touch the Sky", sung by Julie Fowlis is a mighty nice song as well lending a bit to the contemporary aspect of this film. The characters are also voiced VERY well. You're not gonna find a non-accented person but you get used to the accent itself. Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly shine as daughter, queen and king and really brings life into each character. The supporting cast also includes Craig Ferguson, Julie Walters and the ever fantastic John Ratzenberger. 

The story itself is of a teen growing up essentially, but it's done it a very watchable, relate-able and fun way. I think by now we know Disney and Pixar are going to tell a great story, get us invested in the characters, tug on our heart strings and makes us laugh. Brave does all of those things and with their first female protagonist at that. While there are some parts that felt a bit stretched out for my tastes it's hard to find anything bad to say about this movie. This is what Disney and Pixar have come to make with almost every flick. A fantastic movie that's geared for kids, but something adults with cherish. So don't be afraid to pull $10 out of your quiver and go see this amazing movie. 

3. The Secret World of Arrietty
Oh man, Studio Ghibli. I missed out on Ponyo in theaters, so I knew I was going to see this right away. They're widely considered one of the best animated movie companies in the world. And rightfully so. The aforementioned Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle are all wonderful films which should been seen by all in my opinion. And The Secret World of Arrietty is no different. It follows the story of, you guessed it, Arrietty (Mendler) and her mother and father, Homily and Pod (Pohler and Arnett). They are tiny people who live under the floorboards of a house in Tokyo, avoiding contact with humans ("Beings" as they call them). They only venture out when they need to borrow a necessity. Such as a cube of sugar or a tissue. One day a kid, Shawn (Henrie), arrives at the house because his parents want him to have a bit of rest from the city life. He sees Arrietty and the story of "The Borrowers" begins.

First off, this is Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, so I almost don't even need to say it but I do. The art in this movie is FANTASTIC. The colors are vibrant from the opening scene, the characters are drawn so well and the environment (especially for the little people scenes) are just fun to watch. The story is also very good. Obviously cause Miyazaki part-did the screenplay. Haha. But I've never read The Borrowers, but if I were a book reader I go back for this. The characters, both large and small, were easy to identify with and I felt myself drawn to Shawn's character for some reason. Like there was this thought connection we both share. The English voice acting was done well too. Bridgit Mendler and David Henrie were very good as Arrietty and Shawn. Pohler and Arnett were also solid as Arrietty's parents. Even Carol Burnett had me and the audience chuckling at some parts. But if I were to have a gripe with this film, it's that Arnett didn't seem like he was into the voice over. But as the movie wore on, he filled the dad role quite nicely. Another thing, which I have to praise Disney for, is leaving this movie alone. They didn't add or take anything away. They just facilitated the dubbing in English and produced and made available to everyone in the US this wonderful film. One last thing I like to mention, the movie never felt long. It started and I was into it the whole time, not caring about how long I'd been there or checking my phone to see what time it was. I love when a movie can captivate me, yet keep me from being aware of the time or how long its been on. All in all, at least for me, The Secret World of Arrietty was a damn near perfect movie. Great adapted story, great characters and great animation. What more could you want out of a movie experience?

2. 21 Jump Street
I know a lot of people who said that this was gonna bomb. How making one movie based off of a TV series wouldn't work. Saw some of Ice Cube's clips and Jonah Hill is always pretty damn funny, so I wanted to see this. 21 Jump Street follows the story of two police officers, Schmidt and Jenko (Hill and Tatum) who in high school didn't go to Senior prom. Schmidt because he was a "nerd" and couldn't get a date and Jenko cause he was a bully jock and failed his classes. After graduation in the police academy they meet up. Instead of being enemies, they worked together. Schmidt helping Jenko with the studying aspect and Jenko helping Schmidt with the physical part of it. They graduate together and become partners...on park patrol. One day they catch a break but are transferred to an undercover project cause they didn't mirandize the suspect. Now the two unlikely cops must bunker down and stop a drug ring from breaking out of a high school and turning into a city-wide problem.

This is quite the nice example of an action-comedy. The scenes involving any combination of Tatum, Hill, Ice Cube, and Riggle can be side splitting. The action scenes are solid to boot, there's even two long car chases and gun fights. I've seen Channing Tatum in roles before, and I'll admit that he sucked, but in this he won me over. He can be hilarious with the right counterpart. Jonah Hill does what he does best, is a comedic actor, no complaints there. Ice Cube plays a stereo-typical angry black man (he even admits this in character), and it is hilarious. Dave Franco plays a good role as well as the  supplier to the school. While Brie Larson is just lovely. Also cameos by Johnny Depp, Nick Offerman and Jake Johnson make a very nice comedic presence throughout the movie. All in all this is WELL worth the watch. It's got the action a junkie would want sprinkled throughout a raunchy R-Rated comedy that is cleverly written. It's not based off of the original series, it takes the outline, funnies it up and reinvents it.

1. The Avengers
This has been a movie I've been waiting to come out literally since the rumors started back in 2008. That by 2012 there might be The Avenger live action flick. As Iron Man, then The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2 and Thor all released, with references, characters and little seeds planted in the after-credits, it only made me more pumped for what could be the best superhero movie made thus far. I love comic books, I love superheros, and last night The Avengers took over. As we open Nick Fury and Maria Hill arrive at SHIELD and get debriefed by Agent Coulson that the Tesseract Cube is "acting up." Not long after arriving, Loki, comes through the Tesseract and steals the cube and takes control of lead scientist Dr. Erik Selvig and Agent Clint Barton aka Hawkeye. Without approval from The Counsel, Fury reactivates The Avengers Initiative, sending Agent Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, to get Dr. Bruce Banner aka The Hulk. Agent Coulson to get Tony Stark aka Iron Man. While Fury himself goes to recruit Steve Rodgers aka Captain America. With the initiative underway can The Avengers (yes including The Mighty Thor as well) band together, work together, put aside their differences to retrieve and stop the Tesseract and to save the earth from Loki and his evil plan of war with an alien race? Avengers assemble!

First off this is NOT a short movie. The run time is 143 minutes. For a superhero movie, I thought this would be a VERY long. But this movie never felt long to me at all, thank God. Joss Whedon did a very good job of introducing everybody in a way that worked if you never saw any of the other films. And if you haven't seen any of the other films, SHAME ON YOU, haha. The action in this film, while a lot is CGI, is done perfectly. The fight scenes between the members of the group at times were AWESOME. Had me thinking, wow this film is legit action-wise. The fights with Loki and the invading aliens were awesome as well. Even past the Michael Bay-esque explosions. Hell when Thor SMACKED Hulk with his hammer the crowd in the theater (including me) audibly said "Holy shit!" The humor in this film is great as well. If you've seen the Iron Man films you know they pull it off with Downey Jr. But they also do it well with Agent Coulson, the newly awakened Steve Rodgers, Fury, and The Hulk. Yes even the big green man elicited genuine laughs out of the audience in the theater with me. The sets and shots are all beautifully made and filmed. So it was never a stress on the eyes. Also, uncharacteristically this Marvel film has VERY good character development. Beyond the humor and the action, everyone acts out their parts fantastically, and I felt myself getting more and more into the characters as the movie steamrolls on. I do want to single out Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki, as one of the BEST looking (character design wise) and acted out villains in a superhero movie EVER (I REALLY liked him in Thor as well). It did not think this movie would rival Nolan's Batman flicks, it does. Now DC finally has some competition in the well made superhero movie department.

The theater cheered when the movie started up at midnight and roared and clapped (not exaggerating at all) once the credits started rolling as well. This is the best release, in my opinion, of 2012 so far and the best Marvel superhero film so far. This begs and warrants being seen. The action, humor, characters and story are all done perfectly. Not to mention you get to see Scarlett Johansson in spandex and skimpy clothing. This film has NOT disappointed me, nor will it you.

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