philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)
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This is the sixth in a series of movie lists I've been making charting my favourite movies of each year.

My top films of 2007,2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 were the following:

Click here to see my top 5 for 2007 (which I have plans to expand)
Click here to see my top 10 for 2008
Click here to see my top 10 for 2009
Click here to see my top 10 for 2010
Click here to see my top 10 for 2011

Part way through 2012 I suggested that it had been a great year for movies. I was rebuked for this comment at the time. Looking at my favourites of the year (having been able to fill in many of the gaps) it is interesting to see that many of my selections had a very limited cinema release, if they made it to a cinema at all. "Dredd" was a flop, "Cabin In The Woods" had its released delayed for years, "The Revenant" had its straight-to-DVD release delayed for years, and most people in the UK have never even heard of "Detention". Of all my "very best of the year" top 10 movie lists, this one for 2012 contains by far the most obscure entries. I still think this was a pretty great year for movies, but I don't think I'd have been feeling that way if it hadn't been for wonderful online recommendations opening me up to so many hidden gems.

10. Excision (2012)
UK release: 2 November 2012

A twisted coming of age tale, with a protagonist who has a sexual fascination with blood. Both horrifying and comical at the same time, "Excision" is an incredible piece of work. Inventive dream sequences help to colour the more down-to-earth character drama. While Annalynne McCord is exceptionally brilliant in the central role, Traci Lords also gives a great performance as her mother.

My review here

Richard Bates Jr.'s next film is "Suburban Gothic" about an unemployed man who discovers he can channel the paranormal.

9. The Girl (2012 TV Movie)
UK release: 26 December 2012

In the same year where we saw Antony Hopkins donning extensive prosthetics to make himself look like the great director Alfred Hitchcock, Toby Jones is able to do an even more effective job working mainly with his own highly expressive face. This is a not even remotely flattering portrayal of the director (though it's worth noting that, for all it's cutesiness, neither was "Hitchcock" with Antony Hopkins), but it does work very well as a Hitchcockian drama, thick with menace and atmosphere.

My review here

Julian Jarrold's next film is "Girls' Night Out", a romance thriller about Princess Margaret in the immediate aftermath of WWII.

8. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
UK release: 13 April 2012

A bizarre remix of horror tropes combining sci-fi with horror, as an honest love letter to the horror genre as a whole. In order to satirise something well you are best off having some affection for the subject matter. While this film takes more than a few stabs at the state of the horror genre (and certainly "Cabin In The Woods" is more of a comedy movie than a horror movie itself) it is still strong horror fans who will be in the best position to appreciate the joke.

My review here

Drew Goddard has been announced as the writer and director of the "Sinister Six" movie (connected with the Amazing Spider-Man franchise) planned for 2016.

7. Skyfall (2012)
UK release: 26 October 2012

Paying tribute to James Bond's 50th Anniversary, it was important that "Skyfall" be special without being a huge departure for the series. To fulfil these strangely contradictory requirements the studio brought in award-winning director Sam Mendes and it proved to be one of his most enjoyable films in years. There's much more focus on James Bond as a legend than there is on the specific mission, yet we have one of the most intimidatingly personal villains (performed expertly by Javier Bardem) and a strong replacement in the role of Q (Ben Whishaw doing the best possible job imaginable in taking over from the irreplaceable Desmond Llewelyn).

The action scenes are exciting, Daniel Craig is able to bring a subtle emotional performance to the cold character of Bond, we have one of the best Bond themes in quite a while, and there's actually no shortage of humour here either. In a long and tumultuous movie series Skyfall stands apart.

My review here

Sam Mendes is working on a follow-up Bond movie.

6. Dredd (2012)
UK release: 7 September 2012

We've been a long time waiting for a better adaptation of the classic British comicbook character. So far there'd been "Robocop" (which was basically Judge Dredd, only completely and totally reimagined) and the rather misjudged action film with Sylvester Stallone (which had little to distinguish it from Stallone's rather more endearing "Demolition Man" from a few years earlier - both being satirical looks at the future which were more about the comedy than the action).

So when no one was expecting it (and with the misleadingly cheesy title "Dredd 3D"), "Dredd" with Karl Urban turned out to be a pretty perfect superhero movie (albeit with an anti-hero). While "The Raid" managed to reach an audience earlier, "Dredd" was the first of the two to decide on the setting of a tower block and actually makes much better use of the setting creatively. "Dredd" is more smart and stylish than anyone had any reason to expect.

My review here

5. The Revenant (2009)
UK DVD release: 2 April 2012

I'm a big fan of horror-comedy movies and while zombie-comedies have a history stretching all the way back to "Return of the Living Dead" with "Shaun of the Dead" causing a more recent rush on the genre, "The Revenant" takes a more plausible approach than most. Premised on a soldier who awakens upon the return of his body to the US, discovering that he is unexpectantly undead, he goes to his best friend for help. The protagonist is, admittedly, not exactly a zombie (hence the title), but there are still very fixed rules on his kind of undead state and the film explores it perfectly and hilariously.

A new updated list of horror-comedies is well overdue and this will definitely take pride of place amongst the newcomers.

My review here

D. Kerry Prior is in pre-production on "The Saturn Particle Rampage".

4. The Innkeepers (2011)
UK release: 8 June 2012

I initially wasn't sure how I felt about this film, but on subsequent rewatches I realised how intelligently the whole film was set-up. It's the sort of film which invites a second and a third watch, partly because of how well the ideas come together, but also because of Sara Paxton's excellent performance as Claire, the awkward college drop-out. All her emotions are open for anyone to see and she's clearly lacking in confidence, often seeming unsure how to organise her own limbs. There's a scene of her trying to throw some rubbish into the skip round the back and what should be a fairly mundane moment becomes hilarious because of the actress's expert physical performance.

I often hate ghost films but what I LOVE is horror comedy. There is plenty to laugh at here. I also think that the ghost aspects of the story are rather less clear-cut than you'd normally expect.

My review here

Ti West is currently filming "In a Valley of Violence", a western with Karen Gillan, Ethan Hawke and John Travolta.

3. Sound of My Voice (2011)
UK release: 3 August 2012

Brit Marling is a bit of a marvel. Not only is she a very impressive actress, but she is also responsible for writing some of her best films. She wrote the documentary "Boxers and Ballerninas" which I admittedly have not seen. She also wrote the movies "The East" where she infiltrates an anarchist group, "Another Earth" where she wrestles with the existence of a twin world identical to our Earth, and (of course) "Sound of my Voice" where she is actually the leader of a cult. "Sound of My Voice" is my favourite of these.

There's an unexpected sci-fi element revealed early on the films, but the way it unfolds is ambiguous and this is one of the cleverer sci-fi outings of recent years as a result. I will admit that I am not entirely sure what every scene means, but everything central to the story is explained pretty clearly.

Regardless of whether Brit Marling's character is telling the truth or not, the group she runs still has all the creepy manipulative traits you'd expect from a dangerous cult. It's interesting how the film manages to remain consistently plausible, even as the tension mounts.

My review here

Zal Batmanglij is directing two episodes of the upcoming tv series "Wayward Pines" (starring Melissa Leo and Toby Jones amongst others). Brit Marling will be performing in two upcoming films:
- "The Keeping Room" about three southern women who defend themselves while the men are away fighting during the final days of the American Civil War.
- "Posthumous" about an artist who poses as his own brother when mistaken reports of his death cause a surge of interest in his artwork. (Brit Marling plays a journalist covering the story.)

2. Detention (2011)
UK DVD release: 27 August 2012

Hyperactive non-stop craziness in this film about time travel, aliens, movie-related serial killers, fly-related mutations and grizzly bears. Josh Hutcherson might be making it big in the "Hunger Games" series right now, but to me he will always be Clapton Davis. As the main protagonist here, it's surprising that Shanley Caswell's career is struggling so badly elsewhere. Her most high profile role is a fairly insignificant part as one of the daughters in "The Conjuring", yet in "Detention" she is charismatic, funny and makes for a dynamic central character.

The jokes come at a mile a minute and honestly? Most of them are hilarious. On a second watch I also discovered that we sometimes have two entire conversations being pursued simultaneously. On every single watch there is something new to pick up and that's part of why I'm now rating this film so highly. I have found myself rewatching this film again and again and it has been an absolute joy every single time.

My review here

The only thing Joseph Kahn has directed since "Detention" is a music video for Britney Spears' song 'Perfume'. (The video is okay. The song is terrible.)

1. A Royal Affair (2012)
UK release: 15 June 2012

Mads Mikkelsen is so awesome. Though he now has wider appeal than ever for his performance as Hannibal Lecter in the recent tv series, I knew him first of all for his roles in Nicolas Winding Refn movies. Here he plays a doctor whose Englightenment values led to a huge shift in the political sphere in Denmark. It's a remarkable story which I had no knowledge of before this film.

"A Royal Affair" is well-acted, dramatic, gorgeously-shot and actually has far more CGI work involved than you might suspect on first watch. I'm not normally one to fall in love with costume dramas, but this film is simply exceptional.

My review here

The director Nikolaj Arcel has not done any more directing work since "A Royal Affair", but he has written a number of films including "The Keeper of Lost Causes" and the upcoming "Fasandræberne" for director Mikkel Norgaard, as well as providing story ideas for an adaptation of a children's superhero story called "Antboy".

Honourable mentions:

The Grey (2011)
UK release: 27 January 2012

The honourable mentions are in no particular order, though "The Grey" was one of the selections on my initial 'top ten' list at the end of the year. A story that is truly 'existential' since it considers the various reactions to the inevitability of death. Liam Neeson begins the film suicidal and then finds himself face-to-face with death in the form of ravenous wolves when he is one of the survivors of a crashed plane in a barren frozen wasteland. While the trailers made it look like one of the many typical cheesy Liam Neeson action movies, it is actually not quite as active as the promotional material suggested and at least ten times more intelligent. It's not about Liam Neeson being a badass, it's not about outdoors survival and it's not even really about wolves. It's, more than anything else, about death. But wow, more people should be checking this out.

My review here

Life of Pi (2012)
UK release: 20 December 2012

I must admit I was sceptical. The early teaser was a rather unpolished reveal of the CGI tiger and I wasn't convinced that Ang Lee's name was going to be enough to guarantee the film's quality. While I quite enjoyed the book way back when I read it, I'd always felt like the prologue and epilogue could have been happily left out. So imagine my surprise when the film was not only absolutely gorgeous with fantastic special effects which well deserved their awards, but the ending managed to speak to me in a way that it had entirely failed to do in the original book! Much discussion could be made on interpretations of the ending and I think that is a strength. I have as yet to hear anyone suggest that the ending ruins the movie or that it would have been better with the ending left out. Meanwhile the performances through the film are fantastic and the emotions run high throughout. Only one change from the book annoys me and that's the decision not to show the various religious leaders getting upset with one another when they discover that Pi has been following all of their religions at once.

My review here

Margin Call (2011)
UK release: 13 January 2012

This only becomes more remarkable on each watch. I think the symbolism of the final scene is a bit much, but apart from that there is not a minute wasted in this drama concerning the beginnings of the global recession of 2008. Paul Bettany gets to do some of his best work here, Kevin Spacey also provides a pretty great performance and there's a great refreshingly grounded performance from Zachary Quinto in between his performances as vulcans and super-villains. This is pretty dramatic stuff, even though most of the runtime is people sitting around talking.

My review here

Another 8 good movies from 2012

Brave (2012)
UK release: 13 August 2012

Often seen as a low point for Pixar and I suppose I can at least accept that it was a step down from the heady heights of "Wall-E" and "Up". However, this still had the magic for me and I think this was in part due to so many little reminders of my favourite classic Disney movie "Sword In The Stone". The clear highlights for me were Kelly Macdonald as Princess Merida and Julie Walters as the witch with a one-track mind.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
UK release: 3 July 2012
While I didn't really follow the Harry Potter movie series, I feel I need to give these writers (with backgrounds in the Harry Potter series) full credit for restarting this franchise with the emotional depth it deserves.

Avengers Assemble (2012)
UK release: 26 April 2012
I'm not as enamoured with this as most people, but I still think it is definitely one of the better Marvel Studios movies. It gets a bit carried away in the third act with it's ridiculously long drawn out battle scene and the 'macguffin that will destroy the world' stuff is rather tired. It also has a rather flat opening scene. But Joss Whedon clearly had a lot of fun shoving this set of superheroes into a room together and having them play off one another and those are the really good parts of the movie.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
UK release: 13 December 2012
This used to be in my top ten, but it's always awkward judging movies which are part of longer series. Unless the third part in the series blows me away, I think I'll have trouble recommending this quite as strongly as I did before I saw the second part of the trilogy. I still think this is the best of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films, but then I was never much of a fan of the Lord of the Rings movie series anyway. I prefer the first Hobbit movie for two simple reasons. Firstly it's fun, which is a quality I found distinctly lacking from previous entries. Secondly, it features Sylvester McCoy (the seventh Doctor) and gives him a sled pulled along by supersonic bunnies. Seriously, how can you argue with that?

Juan de los Muertos (2011)
UK release: 4 May 2012
Arguably funnier than the Edgar Wright directorial debut movie which inspired it's title. Though a little unpolished in places, this film is an absolute joy and a great addition to the horror-comedy genre. If you are a zombie fan, it's a must see.

ParaNorman (2012)
UK release: 14 September 2012
The director of Coraline produces the kind of exciting animation we've come to expect. The film is also hilarious. I don't know how many of the horror movie references the average child is going to pick up on, but I'm not too worried about that. Personally I thought this was brilliant. Yet another must-see for zombie fans...

Prometheus (2012)
UK release: 1 June 2012
While absolutely beautiful with awesome performances from Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron, this will be somewhat sullied if they never release any sequels. It's an interesting premise still with plenty of scope for further exploration. While I was initially unimpressed by what I thought was essentially an Intelligent Design Theory movie only with aliens instead of God. But the concept of religious devotion held by the creator-aliens and it's barbaric nature by comparison to our modern ways reminded me of Lovecraftian cosmic-horror themes. There are many fans of Spielberg's wise and awe-inspiring magical aliens, but I've always been more interested in the alien force-of-nature for whom the only sensible reaction is fear. What's impressive about the way Prometheus approaches this concept is that the aliens are not only scary and characterised by a brutal culture far removed from our own, but I could actually empathise with the aliens anyway. The first event in the film is one of these powerful creator-aliens performing a ritual self-sacrifice, so is it any surprise that when their flawed creation comes to them pleading for a longer lifespan, they are disgusted? Prometheus has some very poor characterisation and some rather unimpressive dialogue, but I find the rest of it so fascinating that I find much of that easy to overlook.

Young Adult (2011)
UK release: 3 February 2012
Charlize Theron gives another stellar performance. I'm always keen on black comedy when done well and here with the young adult novelist who writes well for children because she refuses to grow up, I had an awesome time. Sometimes a film really benefits from having an absolutely pathetic lead character, particularly when they are completely brazen about their flaws. The only other film I've enjoyed from director Jason Reitman was "Thank You For Smoking" and both are similar in the way the director only narrowly avoids over-doing the sentimentality at the end.
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