Looking Back Upon the Movies of 2012

movie_projectorLast year, in the early days of May, I put together a short list of upcoming films that I expected to shine.  Looking back upon it now, it seems quite clear that 2012 was not a great year for films.  Not only did many of these movies fall short of my expectations, not a single film stood out as a game-changer.  There was no Tree of Life, or The Mill and the Cross like there was in 2011.  Instead, there was a steady slate of good films that were often quite entertaining, even if they ultimately fell short of being truly memorable.  So without further adieu, I give you my final grades for the films I most wanted to see in 2012.

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11164556_detThe Grey (3.5 stars) – A harrowing tale with larger then life questions asked by a man whose faith is staggering under the weight of doubt and loss.  The only downside to the film: a few sloppy special effects.  See full review here.

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movies_argo_posterArgo (3.5 stars) – An unusual film to be sure, Argo deftly walks a tightrope act between taught suspense and absurdist comedy, never missing a step along the way.  With three fantastic films now under his belt, one can’t help but wonder if Ben Affleck has elevated himself into the upper stratosphere of Hollywood directors.

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Chronicle-poster2Chronicle (3.5 stars) –  In every way an unexpected treat, Chronicle is an unusually insightful film that explores the dark psychology of a teenager suffering undeSr the punishing abuse of both his father and his peers.  See full review here.

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MV5BMTYxMzA2NTU5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjI0MDI0Nw@@._V1._SY317_Salmon Fishing in Yemen (3.5 stars) – Much like Chronicle, this was another unexpected treasure in which character and story ultimately trumped smaller budgets and bad release dates.  What’s more?  Some interesting commentary on the nature of faith.

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impossible-poster+(L)The Impossible (3.5 stars) – It was a toss up between giving this a grade of three or three-and-a-half stars.  In the end, the theme of the film was so unusual that I opted for the higher grade in the hopes that some of you might check it out.  See full review here.

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the-dark-knight-rises-posterThe Dark Knight Rises (3.5 stars) – Marketed as the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises neatly sticks the landing.  With numerous allusions to the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ sprinkled throughout the movie, this picture stands as an excellent depiction of the Christus Victor theory of atonement.

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looper-posterLooper (3.5 stars) – Trying to explain the premise of Looper is a bit like intentionally taking the air out of a balloon.  You can do it, but where is the joy in playing with it later?  Of all the films that make the top end of my 2012 list, Looper is by far the most original work, even if it is somewhat marred by an entirely unnecessary scene.

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220px-Django_Unchained_PosterDjango Unchained (3 stars) – Yet another very strong, if not entirely spectacular, effort from Quentin Tarantino.  Having said that, it seems as if it is time for him to move on from his favorite theme. For if he doesn’t, he is going to risk becoming a parody of himself.  See full review here.

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prometheus_poster_LARGEPrometheus (3 stars) – With some of the most stunning visuals we have since since the release of Avatar, Prometheus explores unusual thematic ground as it combines horror and science fiction with a moderate dose of theological reflection.

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lincoln-posterLincoln (3 stars) – As many had reasonably predicted, Daniel Day Lewis once again rose to the occasion, and gave us a performance that almost demands the Oscar.  But as for the film itself, it never quite reaches the heights of its lead actor.  A worthy addition in the Spielberg canon, but ultimately not a classic.   See full review here.

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MV5BMTQ4MjYzMzYwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODQxMDg0Nw@@._V1._SY317_We Have a Pope (3 stars) – What would happen if the Roman Catholic Congress of Cardinals elected a new Pope, only to have him suffer a nervous breakdown and a crisis of faith as the result of their decision?  With an ending that every leader should see, We Have a Pope was one of my surprising finds in 2012.

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MV5BMTc4Njk3MDM1Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODgyOTMxOA@@._V1._SY317_The Bourne Legacy (3 stars) – This is a difficult film to grade out.  On its own terms, it’s a very entertaining spy movie with tight script, solid acting and above average direction.  However, it does almost nothing to distinguish itself from the other films in the series; and thus, it is almost entirely irrelevant and disposable.

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Beasts-of-the-Southern-WildBeasts of the Southern Wild (3 stars) – An audacious film by a first-time director, Beasts of the Southern Wild offers the viewer an insider view into the thinking of some who may have stayed in New Orleans during the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina.  Never quite content to aim for either hope or despair, the film falls short of its Oscar ambitions.

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The-Hobbit-PosterThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2.5 stars) – By far the weakest entry in the series, The Hobbit was in desperate need of editing to reduce its bloated and unnecessary run time of almost 3 hours.  This does not bode well for the upcoming installments due to be released in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

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newavengersposterMarvel’s The Avengers (2.5 stars) – Over $1.5 billion in worldwide tickets suggest that I am wrong about this picture.  But what I can say?  Just six months after its initial release, the film feels very much like many other summertime blockerbusters – heavy on effects and light on able story-telling.

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Brave_poster+copyBrave (2.5 stars) – As I feared, Brave continues a downward trend for Pixar films.  And if it was better than the studio’s previous effort, Cars 2, that’s still not saying much.  Unfortunately, this now means that Monsters University have to earn its’ way, no longer able to bank on a decade of movie-goers’ good will.

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images-1Zero Dark ThirtyHailed by many as an Oscar front-runner, the film struck a discordant note in me, reinforcing my belief that Hollywood is still incapable of capturing 9/11 on film.  See full review here.

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tumblr_m3bju2gjny1qgx06do1_1280Pirates: Band of Misfits (2 stars) – Not a bad film.  Just not a particularly memorable film.  In the end, I had hoped for more from the creators of Wallace and Gromit.

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images-1The Campaign (2 stars) – A mildly funny film with a few really funny moments. But by the turn of the final reel, it pulled all of its punches and devolved into an entirely forgettable experience.

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This bring us to the final five films.  Sadly, I never found the time to see either The Master or Moonrise Kingdom, so I can’t really comment upon them at this time.  And as for Gravity, its release date was pushed back into the new year, so we’re still waiting to see it.

What about you?  Did you see anything great in 2012?  Anything that wasn’t on this list? 

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5 Responses to Looking Back Upon the Movies of 2012

  1. Doug Hutchcraft says:

    What is going on with Pixar these days? Recently their releases have felt more like DreamWorks pictures (not bad, just not as heartfelt). It may be impossible to always meet the standards they set for themselves with movies like “The Incredibles” and “Up”, but something seems to have gone awry.

    • Hard to say, friend. Since 2006, they’ve released Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 3, Cars 2 and Brave. Three of those were great, while the remainder are average to awful. Some say its the Disney influence, but who’s to say?

      Did you happen to see the recommendation for We Have a Pope. Given what you do, you really ought to check it out. Just be warned. It’s in Italian, so its subtitles the whole way through.

  2. Doug Hutchcraft says:

    Two films that surprised me with how much I ended up enjoying them were “Premium Rush” and “Hope Springs”, the latter being a surprisingly optimistic and positive view of marriage for coming out of Hollywood.

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