10 Honorable Mention Films from 2012

20. The Five-Year Engagement

I lost patience toward the middle when it took some really stupid decision-making to prolong the engagement to five years, but even when it stretched credibility, the movie never stopped being funny or having Jason Segel in it. It wins points for both of those things.

19. John Carter

Nowhere near the mess that lots of people claim it was; just not as spectacular as it should have been for the talent involved. It’s a fun, scifi escape with a couple of legitimately great moments; we just all hoped for so much more.

18. The Amazing Spider-Man

“Expectations” are a recurring theme on my honorable mentions list this year. I didn’t have high ones for The Amazing Spider-Man and like most people, I questioned the fundamental existence of the project. It was made for purely cynical, We Have to Do This or Lose the License reasons.

But though it contains some highly unnecessary rehashing of the Sam Raimi material, it also found some new things to do with its tone and the central relationships. It’s worthwhile for Peter and Gwen alone.

17. ParaNorman

I love the theme in ParaNorman about being your own person and not letting other people define you. Also: the animation is amazing. I wasn’t totally in love with the character designs though, and since that’s what I was looking at for most of the film, that’s what keeps it out of my Top 10.

16. The Hunger Games

I’m disappointed that this isn’t in my Top 10 for the year, either. I totally thought it would be, but during the second viewing I found myself getting bored. I kept myself entertained by focusing on Jennifer Lawrence’s wonderful performance, which communicated very well the horror of Katniss’ situation. Without her internal monologue though, it was hard to get what I wanted from her moral struggle over how to act in the arena.

Still looking forward to Catching Fire, but I’m more detachedly curious about it than wildly enthusiastic like I was for this one.

15. Underworld: Awakening

In a year that brought a disappointing entry in the Resident Evil movies, I’m thrilled that we got a worthy film in my other favorite horror/scifi adventure series starring a woman. Awakening pretty much punts and launches a Bold New Direction for Underworld, but it’s a good direction with some likable, new characters and I enjoyed it very much.

14. 21 Jump Street

I want to say that this is so much better than a movie based on an all-but-forgotten TV show has the right to be, but even though that’s true, it’s not really fair to suggest that that’s all 21 Jump Street has going for it. It’s just a very funny movie, period. That it gets a small part of that humor from pointing out and making fun of its sordid roots is just frosting for the cake. I’d probably rate it higher if not for the skeevy romance between Jonah Hill’s character and a high school student.

13. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Listen: After the horrible piece of derivative crap that Madagascar 2 was, I’m as surprised as anyone to find Madagascar 3 on this list. In fact, I didn’t want to see it at all when it was announced. It wasn’t until it got a 79% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes that I had to see what the heck was going on with this thing. To my surprise, it was hilarious and – more importantly – original. It also pretty much wrapped up the saga with a nice bow on top, so I don’t expect to be interested in a Madagascar 4, but never say never.

12. Haywire

No, Gina Carano is not a great actress. And the plot of Haywire is nothing new. But the movie makes up for both of those things with heart and authenticity. I wrote a full review of it, so I’ll point you there for more thoughts, but it really was one of my favorite movie experiences of the year.

11. Moonrise Kingdom

This was my first Wes Anderson film since Rushmore, which I never quite forgave for stealing Bill Murray away from movies like Groundhog Day and The Man Who Knew Too Little. Seeing Moonrise Kingdom makes me want to find out what I’ve been missing. It’s a small movie, but a lovely one, and makes great use of its setting and awesome cast.


10 Movies I Could Take or Leave in 2012

If you’re just now tuning in, I’m counting down the 43 movies I saw in the theater last year. The bottom of the barrel was in this post, so we pick up with Number 30 this week: the part of the list where I found things in each movie to like and dislike, in more or less equal amounts.

30. The Bourne Legacy

I was more eager for this than I should have been. I hoped it would be a decent placeholder for the series until Matt Damon found a reason to come back, but it was a tired plot with very low stakes. Nice performances from Jeremy Renner and Rachel Wiesz, but they didn’t have much to work with except for a couple of really effective action pieces.

29. Man on a Ledge

Another thriller in which the excellent cast is wasted on a generic, predictable script. Genesis Rodriguez steals the movie and brings Jamie Bell along with her though. I want another, better movie about just the two of them.

28. The Woman in Black

An effective, spooky movie with a welcome performance by Daniel Radcliffe. That ending though… It’s designed to clear the road for Woman in Black 2, but is so cynical and obvious about it that it not only kills my interest in a sequel, it also makes this one un-rewatchable for me.

27. Men in Black 3

I’m not a fan of the Men in Black movies. They’re disposable entertainment that I tend to forget about as soon as I leave the theater. This one actually stuck with me, but I haven’t made up my mind about if that was for the right reason or not. The movie’s point is unclear, but whatever it is, it makes it in a memorable way.

And Josh Brolin is super entertaining as Young Tommy Lee Jones.

26. Hotel Transylvania

I would’ve liked it a lot more if Dracula didn’t sound like Adam Sandler doing a Lugosi accent. I mean, that’s exactly what’s going on, but I wish it wasn’t so distracting. Other than that, it’s a funny movie with some amusing interpretations of classic monsters.

25. The Expendables 2

The first one was pretty miserable, but they got me back to the theater by adding Chuck Norris to the mix and promising to expand the roles of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. There were still some huge, ridiculous plot holes, but I loved the finale as everyone used their best moves (and best lines) to show each other up. What it has over the first one is “fun.”

24. Flight

Not the movie I expected. I thought it was going to be more of a legal drama, but not being that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Taken on its own terms, Flight is a powerful, effective film about addiction and the lengths people go to deny it and cover it up. I liked it a lot for that and enjoyed being surprised by it, but it’s a difficult movie to watch and I can’t imagine I’ll ever want to see it again.

23. Argo

Nice thriller with some laugh out loud moments, some harrowing ones, and a couple of great, touching ones when reluctant participants in the escape plan decide to commit to it. Unfortunately, the script goes to great lengths to ramp up the tension in unbelievable and cheesy ways that kept reminding me this couldn’t be how it actually happened.

22. Prometheus

I already wrote a long post about this one, but short version: There are some truly great and fascinating ideas in this visually stunning movie. It’s just too bad that they’re executed so very, very sloppily.

21. Brave

I just rewatched Brave the other night and liked it better than I did the first time. I don’t know if I liked it well enough to move it out of this section of my list, but maybe. I’m certainly not as disappointed this time.

The biggest thing is that I was able to spot the moment where Merida and her mom resolve their conflict. It was right where it was supposed to be, but the first time around I missed an important, but subtle line of dialogue and some equally vital body language. Turns out, the point of the movie really is about compromise and the bravery it takes to do that when you haven’t yet exhausted all the stubborn tantrum-throwing you’d planned on doing. It’s a much sneakier message than I was prepared for, but I liked it more for that. Maybe next time, I’ll like it even better.