Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Another year, another 12 months of me being more in tune – than the majority of critics - with what most people will enjoy.  The first 9 months started off fairly soft with only a handful of movies to recommend…and even fewer dazzlers.  Such is the nature of the beast.  But the beast in question reared its beautifully entertaining box office head October through December and delivered a bevy of noteworthy must-sees!

All-in-all it’s been a solid year for cinematic entertainment (except my Worst Ten of 2012)!  Thank much for taking the time to read my stuff in 2012 – I hope this list will produce a few flicks that you either agree with or will produce mass quantities of entertainment for you when you decide to finally see ‘em one day.

If you ever need more recommendations, you can also check out my Top Twenty Movies of 2012 that DIDN’T make my Top Ten list.
Enough about what I have to say, let’s see what I have to say:
A gritty, multicultural, behind-the-curtain ride along with Los Angeles’ finest that’s equal parts action, drama, humor and heart.  It’s a familiar concept given fresh life by first-person, shaky-cam filming, sharp dialogue, pulse-pounding action, nerve-racking suspense and the winning chemistry between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peńa.

Director Wes Anderson (RUSHMORE, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, THE LIFE AQUATIC) delivers one of his most precious works to date with this whimsical, whacked-out and wonderfully acted account of young summer camp love blossoming during 1965.  It’s a squirrelly, non-pretentious, vividly splendid and truly heartfelt ride that’ll make you smile.

This spy game tale of revenge and redemption is unequivocally one of the best Bond movies ever made!  In addition to snazzy cars, exotic locales and hot babes, this one actually contains a whole lot of depth.  They finally get to the core of our long-in-tooth protagonist’s dogged determination and love of country while at the same time humanizing the soul behind all those scars.  It’s cool, calm, collected, vicious, suave, epic, classy, humorous, stylistic and raw – plus Javier Bardem as the jaded (aren’t they all) villain ups the ante to dizzying demented heights.

Praise-heavy, know-it-all, we’re-smarter-than-you, critics fell all over themselves for this one when it started screening in earlier December (it’ll be available to mass audiences in January) – and for once they were right…but not that right…not best picture of the year right.  Kathryn Bigelow’s account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden is a pretty remarkable, geopolitical thriller that never falters, never preaches and never takes sides.  And it’s extremely deliberate, resonant, articulate and procedural in its thought-provoking approach to its grand finale – the Seal Team Six assault on bin Laden’s ‘safe house’…  If you can stand a little CIA somberness and these-are-the-facts directives, you should enjoy or at least appreciate the watch.  It’s the re-watching part you’ll have a problem with…

Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a young Bruce Willis in the near future who is hired to hunt down and kill a current-aged Bruce Willis in the distant future (got that?!) in this street-smart, non-showy, labyrinthine time travel epic.  Assuming you can stomach sci-fi mindbenders - you’ll be treated to a confidently cool, uniquely intelligent, brain-teasingly creative crowd pleaser!  No lasers, no space ships, no crazy costumes – it’s seriously one of the best sci-fi flicks I’ve seen in years!

Quentin Tarantino’s latest is a violent, self indulgent, epic, smart, shocking and hilarious piece of slave revenge cinema that will offend, enliven and entertain any and all fans of the western genre – or anyone who’s up for his kind of frenzied horse play in general.  It’s QT’s version of a ‘Spaghetti Western’ and as is his usual way – he dazzles at every single turn.  Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cristoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson all have a distinct way with the Tarantino’s written words and work overtime to deliver a shockingly brutal and brutally funny flick that makes for a bloody good watch.

Oscar nominations all around for this one I say!  I’d never read the Victor Hugo novel, never saw the Broadway show and never even heard one of the songs before taking in one of the most glorious films of 2012.  This powerful examination of suffering, sacrifice, romance, redemption and the overall power of the human spirit is a dynamic, lyrical and visceral delight!  I was enthralled with its story, enraptured with its visuals, enlivened with its music and entertained with all the above…  Can you sit through a musical?!  Get over it…and do it – you’ll be glad you did!
I’m just gonna go ahead and type it out – THE DARK KNIGHT was a really good movie but THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is better.  Take a breath.  Now keep reading…  Intelligent, intense and intricate – this action-packed, heart-pounding crime caper is an anarchically epic delight!   This efficiently acted, expertly crafted and ambitiously unhinged flick is sure to please both fans of really good movies and those looking for the ever elusive blockbuster with brains. The tightly woven script and A-game, multi-motivated turns from Hathaway, Hardy, Gordon-Levitt, Bale and Caine work effortlessly to ensure you’re served up a riveting, pulse-pounding, cinematic steak dinner with ample sides of summertime spectacle and big budget mayhem.  It’ll make your heart race and palms sweat as you literally wear thin the edge of your seat… A satisfyingly triumphant, multi-layered masterpiece, this Dark Knight does indeed rise and - in the process - puts the final stamp on what is essentially one of the greatest motion picture trilogies of all time!
A romantic comedy that far exceeds the grasp of any Kate Hudson or Katherine Heigl led piece of tripe.  With its phenomenal acting, intriguing story, tight script and mass appeal to both men and women (seriously, this is the perfect flick for a date night – assuming you wish both parties to walk away satisfied) – I’d say this is one of those rare times where a movie of this nature is a lock for an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture plus a handful more for writing, directing and acting (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro are all at the top of their games here).  With its mental illness angle firmly yet delicately in place, were given an intriguing, hopeful, funny, touching, redemptive, unique and completely offbeat story of finding love in the hearts of those you’d least expect.  Neurotic and poetic, this is great way to score at the movies!

1. ARGO*
You might not like musicals.  You might tire quickly of violence.  Perhaps superheroes aren’t your thing…  Whenever I’m putting together a list like this I take in to account a number of factors – one of the main ones happens to be whether or not I can actually recommend a particular movie to anyone (what good is a top ten list of movies you’ve never heard of…?!; If you’ve never heard of ‘em, chances are real good you’ll never take the time to see ‘em…or even take the time to finish reading the list).  If I ran in to 100 people looking to see a flick, ARGO is the only movie released this year that I can guarantee you 95 of those people would really enjoy…if not more.  I’m making these numbers up – but in my head they’re fact – ARGO is the best Oscar-worthy crowd pleaser released in 2012.  Director Ben Affleck’s third and most adept film to date is a confident, on-target and (again) crowd-pleasing account of the insanely covert and ridiculously creative plot to rescue six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979. It’s so good, in fact, that if Academy Awards were being handed out today – it would definitely get my Best Picture vote! It’s an intense, intelligent, edge-of-your-seat political pot boiling thriller with equal parts action, suspense, intrigue and comedy. The ARGO deck was so stacked it felt like a summer blockbuster released in October.  I go, you go, we should all go see ARGO!

*currently in theaters
** available on DVD/Bluray

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