Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012 Movie Report, Part Two: July to December!

Just like the post before this, here is my move rankings for the months of July to December of 2012. It's been the six full months since my last post and I'm finally content with my watched amounts to put out this list of movies. I've seen twenty-four movies in the past six months (as you can see below still have/want to see nine others) and ranked them from best to worst. Meaning if I liked them or even saw them in theaters they'll probably get a better place. So again, without further adieu, here's the movies these last six months had to offer!

Still On-Deck to Watch
Cloud Atlas
The Guilt Trip
The Hobbit
The Man with the Iron Fist
The Master
Seven Psychopaths
Silver Linings Playbook
Taken 2
Zero Dark Thirty

Rest-Of July to December
24. Hit and Run
23. Pitch Perfect
22. The House at the End of the Street
21. The Bourne Legacy
20. The Collection
19. The Watch
18. Skyfall
17.Killing Them Softly
16. The Campagin
15. Life of Pi
14. Trouble with the Curve
13. This Is 40
12. Looper
11. Argo
10. The Five Year Engagement
9. End of Watch
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
7. Moonrise Kingdom

Best-Of July to December
5. Sinister

A little back story if you will. I had seen a couple of commercial spots for this movie and thought it looked, different that other horror movies coming out this month. Movies like Silent Hill Revelation and Paranormal Activity 4. Both of which I plan on seeing, at the very least PA4. On a whim earlier today I was bored as hell and went to go see this. Oh man, I was not disappointed.

Sinister opens with super 8 footage of a family with bags over their heads being hanged by a unknown force. Nine months later a true-crime novelist, Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), and his wife Tracey (Juliet Rylance) with their two children Ashley and Trevor (Clare Foley and Michael Hall D'Addario), move into the house where the hangings occurred  Only Ellison knows about the murders as he is using them for the basis of his new book. Ellison's trying to hit it big once again as ten years earlier he became "famous" for his #1 bestseller called  'Kentucky Blood'. Most of the town is not happy about the way he portrayed them in his book and gives the family a hard time. As they are moving in Ellison finds a box in the attic marked "Home Movies" which contained a projector and several super 8 reels. With names like "Family Hanging Out '11" and "BBQ '79", Ellison begins to watch the reels and discovers that they all depict a family being murdered. In all of the reels he sees a common cult-like symbol and in one of them he even sees a figure with a demonic face. Strange things begin to happen to Ellison and the rest of the family after he discovers the face on a reel. It becomes a mad search for any clues, facts or help that can be found to rid the Oswalt's of this paranormal entity now haunting them.

Let me start off by saying that I'm glad I saw this in the theaters cause the dark atmosphere with the blasting surround sound and giant screen was perfect for this type of horror film. I also love the thriller-detective aspect that was thrown in throughout the movie as well. Gave me some guess-work to what the twist of the movie would be. First off the acting, I'm not a huge Ethan Hawke fan, but he made this movie. His reactions to the reels of film and general apprehension going forward from that point in the movie was fun to watch. Wife, kids, detective, etc. Take them or leave them, Hawke was the focal point. But not for lack of trying, the character development in this is leagues beyond most horror films. The music was very limited and I note this because it only really fired up when a scare or big moment happens. Gave it that old school horror moive feel. Speaking of the scary moments, there were a lot of loud "BOO Gotcha" moments in this. It didn't detract, but sometimes a horror movie should rely on those. The kills on the other hand are shown, in full and they are cringe-worthy. Mostly because they are real, I got the "these could happen to you" feeling. Hanging, burning alive, drowning, etc, the way they were depicted on the reels and in full was a bit unsettling. The plot was pretty original as well I'd say and the way it was written was really nice. I like when something obscure in the paranormal field I haven't seen or heard of is used and it gets me entrenched into the story.

I really like this film and it's already giving The Cabin in the Woods a run for it's money for best horror flick of 2012 in my mind. There were some dragging scenes sure, but in a movie with this much character and story development, I can look past it. The acting, especially by Hawke, was great and for the most part the story and scares were too. The kills were done phenomenally and didn't hold back. This is a horror movie that will have you hooked in if you watch it. I'm glad I got hooked. 

4. The Amazing Spider-Man

Let me start this by saying I love the original Sam Raimi trilogy of Spider-Man. Also I just plain LOVE Spider-Man as a character. But Raimi could almost do no wrong in my eyes. Spider-Man 2 is phenomenal. Yes, even Spider-Man 3 and yes I didn't mind Tobey Macguire and Kristen Dunst. But still what the hell was Topher Grace doing as Venom? Get outta here. But this is 2012 and the reboot of that fabled trilogy is upon us. I've been excited about this. I don't mind Andrew Garfield and I think Emma Stone is just adorable. From the trailers and previews I got more excited. So yesterday it came out and bada bing, bada boom, I'm fresh in the theater a couple hours ago. Happy America day to me, haha.

We open with a young Peter Parker playing hide and seek with his father. After looking for him he goes into his office and finds that it's been ransacked. Mr. and Mrs. Parker leave immediately and take young Peter to his Uncle and Aunts house, Ben and May (Martin Sheen and Sally Fields), as they leave from the city. Fast forward and young Peter is now high school Peter (Andrew Garfield). As we should all know by now we're in New York City. Peter is a bit socially awkward, but a brilliant mind nonetheless. Peter saves a kid from a bully and gets beat up by said bully, garnering the attention of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) afterward in class. After Peter get's home his Uncle asks him to help move somethings up from the basement which has water-logged. He find his father old briefcase with a hidden compartment with a classified file in it. He does some research that leads him to a scientist at Oscorp Industries, Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans), who used to work with his father. They worked on cross-species genetics experiments. After sneaking in and realizing that Gwen works there as well he begins to snoop around. He breaks into a secure room full of genetically enhanced spiders and they proceed to fall on him. As he slinks back to the group Gwen makes him give back the stolen badge and as he does one of these spiders bites him. The rest of this web can be spun by watching the movie. But can Peter Parker and his newly found powers save New York from the creature known as, The Lizard?

The movie is a long two hours, but I can understand since this is a reboot of a previous franchise and they wanna get some of the main characters and themes introduced and set in our minds. The origin of the spider-bite, Aunt May, Peter Parker, The Lizard, Gwen Stacy and even Norman Osborne is mentioned. Still, this is my first gripe with this movie, is that there are a lot of dragging scenes as well as ones that didn't need to be in. Cut some things in post or shave down scenes, I don't care. Unless there can be a lot of character and involvement, like say in The Avengers, it doesn't need to be two hours. I don't care that Peter can skateboard in an abandoned shipyard or that he uses Bing to search for stuff online. Doesn't need to be in there. We're gonna get my other gripe outta the way right now too. The music, sure the score is decent, very reminiscent of the first trilogy, but some parts are just dumb sounding. Even at one point they turned it into three minutes of a scary movie. I mean I know The Lizard is big and scary looking, but don't try and make me jump in my seat. 

There is good in this movie though! I really liked what they gave to Andrew Garfield, which was a lot, cause he was going to be the one to carry this movie. Martin Sheen was also a bright light in this movie. I've always liked Uncle Ben's character and he played it well. Emma Stone got a few chances to show off her funny side and it worked. While Dennis Leary did what he had too as well as Rhys Ifans. The acting, by everyone was well too. The dialog was horrendous at times. Too much teenage drama. Also there is a lot of over-dramatic scenes. But then it also flips. The scenes with Ben and Peter were solid, and well and the ones involving Gwen, Conners and Peter. Also there are quite a few very good humor spots. Stan Lee is the MAN by the way. The fighting scenes were good as well. I really liked the fight in the school as well as the final fight on the top of Oscorp. The random ones with the thugs and the scene where he messed with the car thief didn't really do it for me though.

All in all I liked this movie. Even with all the bad that was in there was good too. The acting and fights were done well. Change up the music a bit and cut some scenes and this is a good superhero movie. It's too bad it's sandwiched between The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises because this is a solid little flick. I love Spider-Man. Plus Emma Stone. If you have a couple hours and wanna superhero treat, then web sling your way to see this. You might be disappointed, but if you're like me you might be pleasantly surprised.

3. The Dark Knight Rises

This is easily one of the biggest releases in quite awhile, and probably the most anticipated release that will come out of the 2012 film season. Over the past couple of days I've gone back, re-watched, and reviews both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Easily two of my favorite superhero movies and hell two of my down right favorite movies of all time. But last night was the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. Me, mom and two of my best friends were there to witness some of the first showings of the end of an era so to speak. Sorry for borrowing that WWE, you came up with a catchy tag-line. And I do not think this movie disappoints.

We open the final chapter with the end of  The Dark Knight and Gordon (Oldman) giving the eulogy at Harvey Dent's funeral. Fast forward eight years. Bruce Wayne (Bale) is throwing a party in honor of Dent's death. The Dent Act has effectively eradicated organized crime in Gotham City keeping criminals off the street with no chance of parole. [Now] Commissioner Gordon is slated to give a speech and was going to tell the truth about what really happened the night Dent died but decided not to. Inside Wayne Manor itself Alfred (Caine) tells one of the waitresses (Hathaway) to take a plate of food to Bruce who has secluded himself in a wing of the house. Instead of just leaving the platter and exiting, she decides to snoop around. She starts examining a bulls eye and Wanye shoots an arrow at it. Bruce is revealed to be walking with a cane now. He exclaims that the pearl necklace she is wearing looks exactly like his mothers that he kept in an uncrackable safe. The woman smiles, kicks the cane from under Bruce and with cat-like reflexes jumps out the window. Meanwhile, while all this is going down, on the other side of the world, three men are captured and put on a private plane. The kidnapper starts interrogating them one by one, until he has the misfortune of uncovering Bane (Hardy) as one of the prisoners. Bane and his crew wreak havoc on the plane and kidnap the scientist they need. Then they down the plane. Fast forward again, not too far, and Officer John Blake (Gordon-Levitt) comes to Gordon informing him that a senator has gone missing. During the search Gordon stumbles upon Bane's hideout. Bane questions him, takes the confession of what really happened to Harvey Dent and as Gordon is escaping, he gets shot. Now with motive and cunning behind him, Bane is aiming to destroy Gotham City from the inside. Batman has to restore the Wayne name, learn about his true self and save the city of Gotham from perhaps its final threat. The Batman must rise to conquer some of his biggest obstacles, both psychically and emotionally. The Dark Knight must save Gotham one last time.

Let me start off by saying, this is a movie. If you're a comic book fan going to see it you can't possibly get everything right, use everything and include every detail. That being said the end to this trilogy, without spoiling, is very good and satisfying. The story was grand and I can't think of one like this happening in a movie before. It kept me intrigued and questioning things till the end. There was suspense, heroics and twists that all worked well. The dialogue was written well, as in the other two, mixing humor, seriousness and emotion. This leads me to the acting. Superb as with the other two. Bale, Freeman, Oldman and Caine all reprise and rise to the occasion yet again. Hardy brutally plays Bane to perfection (not quite as grand as Ledger, but we'll not get into that). Gordon-Levitt, Hathaway, Cotillard, all also being the new, all played their parts well and I really liked Hathaway's portrayal of Catwoman. Not many non-Disney movies spark emotion in me, so saying that this is one of them, is a big deal for. There are a couple parts that leave you for lack of a batter term, in shock. But there are also parts that have you cheering or laughing. Nolan has found the perfect mix and has turned the superhero genre into something that can be taken seriously now with this trilogy.

There was a lot less hand to hand combat in this movie. But when it was there it was focused on one-on-one and it looked great. Batman looks smooth and strong, Catwoman parts are quick and punishing and Bane completely out muscles everything in sight. Also this is the first movie I'm not seeing anything directly relating to the Batman games or vice-versa. Maybe it's cause this came out after both games, but there wasn't anything I noticed regardless. Gadget and tech-wise, this was awesome because of The Bat, enough said. But oh man, did I love the characters in this. Even beyond Batman, Alfred and the returning crew. Catwoman is always a crowd pleaser, including myself. Bane is very underrated as a villain and this movie made him look good! There is a mention of someone that got a nice laugh out of me, a return of a couple on-screen characters, and a couple nice twist-characters. One that I'm kicking myself for not noticing before it happened in the movie. But I loved, and at times geeked out at, everything character related in this film. For the third film in a row Nolan maintained the essence of the originals returning and seamlessly added in the new as if they were around since the first movie.

That is my ticket stub from the midnight showing. I've been to quite a few now, but this is up there as one of the best. Along with The Hangover and The Avengers. The theater I went to had it showing on like seven screens. People were a buzz, hell a dude in a full on Batman suit came in and my friend got a picture with him. As the movie started people clapped and as the credits starting rolling a roar erupted in the theater. The only other movie that got a roar for me EVER was The Avengers. I love Batman and I was right there with them clapping cause I truly enjoyed this movie.

On a basic level the story was great, the music never detracted, the acting was superb, the action was good, and while two and a half hours long the movie never dragged or was boring to me. On a deeper level this is the end of a Batman film era. There was emotion in the movie, there was a sense of urgency I'd never felt from a story before, and it had me reeled me in until the final reel. While I don't think this was on The Dark Knight's level this was a damn great flick. More comparable to Batman Begins for me. Like being compared to that is a bad thing. This is a great movie, this is a great end to the Nolan trilogy, and The Dark Knight truly rises to glory in this film.

2. Django Unchained

This was a bit of a toss up for me. On the one hand, I knew I wanted to see this. Quentin Tarantino is one of my favorite directors and with it starring Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx, Leo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson
 I knew this movie would be relevant to my interests. So last night, one of my last few nights in Texas (I'm moving, but that's a story for another time), me and my two friends decided to go see a showing of it. Needless to say, this was a great one to see on the big screen.

Django Unchained is set in 1858, somewhere in Texas and opens with two brothers, the Specks, transporting a group of slaves across the country. A man approaches them by the name of Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). He is a dentist that is looking for a certain slave, Django (Jamie Foxx). Django is freed as Schultz kills one of the Speck brothers and leaves the fate of the others to the rest of the slaves in the convoy. Django is informed by Schultz that he freed him cause he needs his help to identify the Brittle brothers as Schultz is a bounty hunter. He hasn't been a dentist in five years and tells Django that the profession is is purely opportunistic and that he despises slavery. Schultz also finds out that Django's wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), was unjustly beaten and then sold by Django and her former owners (said Brittle brothers). The two strike up a deal where Django will help Schultz bounty hunt over the winter and in return he will help him find Broomhilda and get her back from Candyland plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) when the winter is over. The hunt begins as this most unlikely duo of bounty hunters sets off on a quest of vengeance and rescue in this, sharp-tonged, violence filled Tarantino film.

At times this movie can be as funny as any comedy and at the turn of a hat there are scenes that can make you really uncomfortable. I think that is exactly what one of the ingredients that makes this a great movie. Tarantino has always been able to do this flawlessly and Django Unchained is no different. The plot is fairly simple as it's a rescue mission scenario of sorts with a western twist. The dialogue is another point where this movie shines. Despite the sometimes overbearing vocabulary, which is often unrefined and crude (as evidenced by the time period and thought processes), really captures the period. Plus when Samuel L. Jackson finally comes in  there's a pretty fresh air of great one-liners and quotes to take the edge off of some of the more serious things going on. The action is western style gun fighting with a Tarantino blood and gore twist. Six shooters going off constantly as well as shotguns and rifles tearing through bodies and gratuitous amounts of blood shortly followed.

The cinematography is pretty damn beautiful. Rustic old west themed towns, the plantations, despite what they're used for, are beautiful to look at. As well as traveling in front of snow-capped mountains or long rolling fields. This is a beautiful movie to look at, both the landscapes and the costumes and clothes. The music is great as well. Django has his own theme as the movie opens as well as modern songs by the likes of John Legend and Rick Ross to name a few. The score throughout the movie is done very well also. Finally we come to the acting and actors. Jamie Foxx, didn't give the best performance of his career as Django, but he did a damn good job with the role. The unfavored (so to speak) black man learning to adapt to being a free bounty hunter trying to free his wife is a great watch. Leonardo DeCaprio (paired with Samuel L. Jackson) and plantation owner Calvin Candie and his head slave Stephen are phenomenal in their roles. Leo is great as a charismatic slave owner who is propitiating "mandingo fights" while Samuel is his right-hand man who's been around the block and is NOT afraid to say anything on his mind. Finally we come to the bright star of this movie in Christpoh Waltz, as dentist turned bounty hunter, King Schultz. Paired with Foxx these two really carry the movie and get you into the plot. The mannerisms, style and the way he carries himself when speaking are phenomenal and really brings Tarantino's writing to life.

There's not much more I can say about this. Definitely one of the better movies I seen all year. The dialogue and action are awesome. Combine it with great acting, directing, music and a healthy dose of gun-play and killing and you've got a grandiose story. A story of a slave turned free man who needs to take vengeance for and rescue his still enslaved wife. Quentin Tarantino, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz are an ensemble to be reckoned with and this movie was a great way to close out 2012.

1. Wreck-It Ralph 

I'm a big time fan of video games, as most of you probably know. Growing up we had NES, SEGA Genesis, SNES, N64, etc. I grew up playing Zelda, Super Mario Bros, Sonic the Hedgehog, Donkey Kong, Pokemon and everything else I could get my grubby little hands on. So when I first saw the trailer for Wreck-It Ralph, I had a fangasm like no other. This is the first movie since The Dark Knight, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers that I was really looking forward to this year. At the risk of sounding fanboy-ish, this movie could be the best film of the year.

Wreck-It Ralph follows the story of a video game villain named after the movie's title, but we'll shorten it to Ralph (John C. Riley). In his game "Fix It Felix Jr.", which is located inside of Litwak's Arcade, Felix (Jack McBrayer) gets all the glory for being the hero while Ralph gets left out of everything. At a weekly video game villain support group in Game Central Station [a place where all the characters in the arcade's games congregate], Ralph tells everyone how today was the 30th anniversary of his game, but confesses [to the dismay of people like Bowser, Eggman and Zangief] that he's sick of being the bad guy and just wants a little recognition. On his way back home from the meeting we learn, from Sonic the Hedgehog,  if you go outside of your own game and die that you won't respawn. When he pulls back into his own game Ralph sees that the people in the game are throwing a 30th anniversary party in Felix's penthouse, of which Ralph was not invited. He crashes the party and essentially ruins everything. Ralph leaves after being told that if he won a medal, like Felix, maybe everyone would like him more. This gives Ralph and idea that takes him out of his own game to "Hero's Duty" where he meets the overbearing Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch). After being scared out of his mind by the gun-play, violence and aliens in the game he is yelled at by Calhoun. Ralph decides to forego the game play to get the medal, and does, but accidentally jets out of the game an escape pod, with alien young on his face, into the racing game "Sugar Rush." This is where he meets a young racer named Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) who steals his medal to be able to enter a qualifying race. Ralph must get the medal back and get back to his game before the arcade shuts it down, but makes an acquaintance, in Vannellope, that will have him choosing whether to get the recognition he wants by saving a video game, going back to being a "bad guy" or being deleted forever.

There is not enough good I can say about this movie I don't think, but we'll start somewhere. The presentation (a lot of 8-bit style that I loved) looks amazing and all the characters, games, scenery, and colors are right on point. It was never a strain to see what was going on. The music was awesome too. From real life songs, to modern game soundtrack scores, to retro music as well, the music all around pleased me. I'm pretty sure there's not a plot or story like this one out there and hell there's even a twist in this that gave me quite the little surprise. In short, I loved the story and really got into it. I love video games and this story reminded me of something you could feasibly see in one. Now I'm not a huge fan of Sarah Silverman so I thought she'd be the "weak-link" of the voice actors, but everyone did well (Lynch, Riley and McBrayer included). No one felt out of place and it really seemed like they all knew what they were doing, especially John C. Riley who voiced Ralph. There were video game jokes throughout too, like seeing a Mushroom from Super Mario Brothers or once the arcade closes Ken and Ryu wanting to go to the bar, that made me smile. Speaking of smiling, there are a ton of laugh-out-loud moments and one-liners in this. From video game comedy to puns and word play, I was laughing pretty damn hard at parts of this flick. The dialogue was done perfectly. The video game cameos, I mentioned a few above, were AWESOME to see on the big screen as well. Pac-Man, Clyde, Dr. Eggman, Zangief, Bowser, Sonic the Hedgehog, Q-Bert and his gang, M. Bison, Ryu, Ken Masters, and I could go on and on and on with this awesome list. But there's some that you have to notice and get excited for in the movie yourself.

This is a movie I wholeheartedly recommend for everyone to go see. Whether you're a video game fan or not. There was an older couple at our showing, people that are my age and families who brought their kids. It's truly a movie for all ages. As I said above everything from the cameos to the design to the story is all perfect and I already wanna see this movie again. Wreck-It Ralph makes the movie lover in me jump for joy and the video game lover in me want to button mash. I would not hesitate to "Press Start" on this movie.

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