Well, another year has come and passed. We've seen a lot of theatrical reviews on this site by myself, Matt and even some from Jeremy and Maria. Some hated, some loved, movies have a big place in all of our hearts and 2012 had a lot to put on the table. Now, I still haven't seen some movies that I feel might affect this list (Zero Dark Thirty mainly) and some I feel my list better without (So long and thanks for all the nothing, Twilight), but this is the list of what I have seen and what stood out as some of my favorites. Let's begin with some 2011/2012 confusion:
Now, looking at their theatrical release date in most cities, I'd say both were definitely released in 2012, albeit a wider distribution in the first week of January. But, to avoid any confusion, I'll just mention them as some of my favorites from last year:
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
It's criminal how long it's been since I've seen Let The Right One In, so it's only fitting that I honor Tomas Alfredson with his latest work, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Tinker pretty much redefined how I look at spy movies with this cold and powerful adaptation of the best selling novel.
I spoke enough praise of this beauty when it was released, so I'll stick with what I stated in my review: This is why movies exist.
Now, let's tackle the contenders:
15: Dark Knight Rises - Directed by Christopher Nolan
It actually pains me to place a Nolan movie so low on my list, but let's be honest with ourselves: This thing could have been a homerun. By no means am I bashing Dark Knight Rises, after all, it's on my list, but it's all a matter of how you view it. I've watched this Batman finale about eight times and each time, my opinion changes. But, I believe the most true opinion of something is based on first impression and my first impression of DKR was when I had the privilege of watching the entire trilogy in IMAX. Dark Knight Rises is a perfect end to an incredible trilogy by a masterful filmmaker. Do yourself a favor and watch a marathon of all three films. That is the moment that you'll realize how wonderful of an addition this was to the trilogy. If only it was edited as well as the other two...
14: Detention - Directed by Joseph Kahn
2012 is the year of batshit crazy films and a good kickstart into this mindset is Joseph Kahn's Detention. Imagine if Diablo Cody roofied The Breakfast Club and it hooked up with Scream: That's about as close to describing Detention as I can get. Detention is more fun than a handful of films released in any year and it's eccentric charisma keeps it on my blu-ray shelf. Also, time traveling bears help make any movie make my Top 15.
13: The Imposter - Directed by Bart Layton
Talk about late additions. I was able to catch this crazy beast of a documentary last night On Demand and much to my pleasure, a documentary was actually going to be able to make my list. I'm always in the mood for a great documentary and The Imposter fits the bill. Unraveling the mystery behind a missing boy and his reappearance three years later, Layton lays it all on the table but knows when to hand out the shocks. Truly a wonderful movie with some insane twists.
12: Django Unchained - Directed by Quentin Tarantino
I've heard a lot of people discussing whether or not Django is Tarantino's best film over the past week and it's easy to see where the debate started. I won't comment on it's ranking with his previous entries just yet, but Tarantino has distributed another masterpiece of violence, smart writing and brilliant performances. Christoph Waltz cleans up the screen as Dr. Schultz in a role that gives Hans Landa (Inglorious Basterds) a run for Best Tarantino character. Also, DiCaprio finally playing the villain and Samuel L. Jackson essentially playing Uncle Rukus from The Boondocks? Well done, Quentin.
11: Skyfall - Directed by Sam Mendes
Any director who can breathe life back into the series after the disappointing (yet nearly as bad as most claim) Quantum of Solace is one who might redefine the series altogether. This is exactly what Mendes did with Skyfall. Craig has never been better as Bond and he keeps the mindset of Bond being a man who can be broken without making an entire film about his vengeance. Javier Bardem channels his own adaptation of Hannibal Lecter as Skyfall's villain and becomes one of the best baddies Bond has fought. With some jaw dropping action sequences, Skyfall easily solidifies itself not only on my top 15 but as one of the best Bond films.
Matt's Review: http://www.shakefire.com/reviews/theatrical/skyfall
10: Prometheus - Directed by Ridley Scott
There's nothing better than watching a director return to their best genre and that's exactly what happened with Prometheus. Scott has taken his time directing some dramas and adventures such as Body of Lies and Robin Hood, but he decided to return to his sci-fi roots with Prometheus, a sort of prequel to the Alien franchise. Whether or not it leads into the Alien movies, Prometheus is a monster on it's own. The space jockeys have an inspired design, the sets look beautiful and the acting is for the most part dead on, especially Fassbender as the android David (The Lawrence of Arabia scene still stays with me as genius). There's a lot to love about Prometheus and I find something new with each viewing.
Jeremy's Review: http://www.shakefire.com/reviews/theatrical/prometheus
9: Lawless - Directed by John Hillcoat
When I screened Lawless back in August, I remember mentioning that it was great to know Oscar season is upon us. It seems that I was one of the only people who believed that to be true, yet my opinion stays. Lawless is one of those pictures where everyone on screen does their best performance. Hardy as the quiet and deadly Forrest is worth the admission enough, but then we get LeBeouf's great turn as Jack, the youngest Bondurant brother learning how to run the moonshine business, Gary Oldman as a gangster and Guy Pearce as the despicable Charlies Rakes who tracks down the Bondurants. Hillcoat has wonderful direction along with fantastic performances from all, making Lawless one hell of a flick.
8: Kill List - Directed by Ben Wheatley
Floored is the best word to use on how I felt as soon as the credits rolled on Wheatley's Kill List. It was the only thing I could talk about for a month and it's one that will stay with me for even longer. There's a large debate as to what the ending truly means, but I have my own theories. None the less, Kill List is a shocking piece that haunts me to this day.
7: Rise of the Guardians - Directed by Peter Ramsey
Dreamworks has it's ups and downs with making an animated picture that exceeds the stereotype of meeting low requirements of pleasing kids and ranks with How To Train Your Dragon as a spectacular animated film for adults as much for kids. The material would seem to be just for children, but Rise is some of the most fun I've had in theaters, especially in 3D. Shoutout to the great voice work done by Jude Law, Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Isla Fisher and Hugh Jackman.
6: Sinister - Directed by Scott Derickson
Horror movies have to do a lot to make a "Top" list for me and Sinister does it all. Blending realistic horror with mythical legends, Sinister creates some scenes that, to me, become instant classics (I.E Yardwork, Pool Party). Keep a light on, because Derickson knows how to absolute terrify you.
5: V/H/S - Directed by Ti West, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Glen McQuaid, David Bruckner & Adam Wingard
Scariest film of 2012, hands down. Anyone who writes it off as found footage horror is doing just that; Writing it off. Horror movies exist to terrify and that's exactly what V/H/S does. Never have I seen a movie so raw and unforgiving as V/H/S and that's why it has made #5 on my list. Four views in and it still keeps me up at night.
4: Wreck-It Ralph - Directed Rich Moore
I'm a fan of animated movies, nostalgia and video games; Wreck-It Ralph's placement shouldn't come as a surprise to many people who know me. Voicework is great, graphics are beautiful and the references are plentiful and inspired. Wreck-It Ralph isn't just one of my favorites this year, it's the best animated movie of the year.
Matt's Review: http://www.shakefire.com/reviews/theatrical/wreck-it-ralph
3: Anna Karenina - Directed by Joe Wright
There's a lot that can go wrong with adapting one of the most well respected stories as Anna Karenina, let alone making a film on it that solely takes place in a theater. Even with all the doubts against him, Wright created something of true beauty. It is something that needs to be seen to be believed. The drama is real, the acting remarkable and the scenery taking every breath from the audience available. I didn't think Wright could top himself after the visceral Hanna. I was wrong.
2: Looper - Directed by Rian Johnson
Johnson has created a distant but very believable future where poverty has struck almost all of Kansas, minus those who are part of the Looper business. Most directors throw their story into some world that has great potential to boost the film into classic status, but most take the easy way out (Wiseman's Total Recall) by leaving it in the background. Johnson, however, took a page out his fellow directors over at Breaking Bad by keeping Kansas City as a supporting character. Willis has never been better, Gordon Levitt shows off his acting chops and Emily Blunt stays beautiful in Johnson's sci-fi noir tale that does for Johnson what Memento did for Nolan.
1: Chronicle - Directed by Josh Trank
11 months worth of other films to watch and surpass Chronicle and nothing could quite top it. Chronicle is the sign of a tremendously talented filmmaker and I can't wait to see what else Trank puts out. The character arc of Andrew Detmer is classic comic book stuff and Trank knows exactly how to put it to camera. It also helps that Chronicle boosts some of the best visual effects of the year. Too dark for most audiences, Chronicle is, to me, a perfect look at super heroes and what can happen to those affected by super powers.
Thanks for everything, 2012. 2013 has some big shoes to fill.