No, nothing fancy, just trying to be creative with the title. Is it working? Probably not, but you get the gist of it. I, hereby, present my Top 10 theatrical releases of 2012 (most are already on Blu-ray for your viewing pleasure and some are about to hit the high definition format in the coming weeks) and a few that were edged out a bit in the running, that should also be given a look, because they are exceptional films in their own right. It’s sort of been a peculiar year in film, with tons of films flying in under my radar that I did not actually catch in theaters, but that were made available to me via Blu-ray, that did make it on this list. Peculiar or not, 2012 was a great year of film, so dig in while it’s still hot!
The following list is ordered from lowest to highest. After the main list you can scroll further down for my honorable mentions. Too bad this list can’t be called Gerard’s Top 15 films. That would be tacky as hell. Let’s call it something else. For now, I give you…..
10. The Raid - The Raid was an amazing martial arts/action film extravaganza that was shot in Indonesia that featured an all Indonesian cast and was written and directed by a Welshman, who is based out of Indonesia, for a pittance. Seriously, the film is top notch in all aspects of production, but shot on the low end, because the dollar and the pound (I’m not sure what currency was actually used) goes really far in that country. The Raid was, seriously, one of those films where every mind numbing hit or kill was felt in your gut. The violence was BRUTAL beyond belief and yet remained entertaining as all hell. I saw this film with fellow WSB writer Aaron Neuwirth and it was hysterical watching it in the theater due to the “oh’s” and “ah’s” of everyone there. The adrenaline was seriously pumping at that screening. I hear that there’s a planned trilogy and it makes sense since it’s been subtitled “Redemption,” so here’s hoping that the next two installments live up to this one.
9. The Grey – The Grey is one of those films that can be categorized as a “man’s film,” because of the predominantly male cast of characters featured. Liam Neeson plays a sniper who works for an oil company that keeps watch on oil workers who work out in the harshest of conditions and keeps them safe from wolves and other feral creatures of the wilderness. When heading off home after his “final” gig the plane he’s riding in crashes into the snowy wilderness and survives with a few other passengers. Ironically, surviving the plane crash was the easy part. They must now contend with a pack of hungry wolves who proceed to hunt them and kill them one by one. They say that the month of January is where bad films go to die, but this was not the case for The Grey. It’s an intense survival tale with an extremely bleak outlook that makes a complete 180-degree turn by the time we get to the end credits. Please stay tuned after the credits for a very pivotal scene that may enhance your overall viewing experience.
8. Prometheus - Here’s a film that was highly anticipated by lots of people that actually divided the general movies going public. You had your camp of people that loved it and then you had your camp of people that hated it. I was of the group that loved it. Why? On a technical level the film is flawless. Great effects, grand production and scale, but the story and plot is like a wedge of swiss cheese. It still didn’t prevent me from hating it. It’s also the only film this year that made me actively participate, more than I normally wood, in various forum chats of what it was about; theorizing, etc… If a film gets one to actively participate as to what it was trying to say then I think it has succeeded. Ridley Scott had even said that Prometheus was NOT a direct prequel and that it only shared DNA of the Alien films. I agree with him. The sequel to Prometheus will bridge the gap into the Alien universe. For now, take Prometheus as an experiment of sorts and see what you can get out of it.
7. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World - Seeking a Friend for the End of World is one of those films that I missed in theaters that I was fortunate enough to see on Blu-ray a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised. The theatrical marketing made it seemed like it was a depressing hipster induced piece of work. It didn’t look appealing, so I stayed away. After I watched it on Blu-ray I knew it would be on this list for the simple fact that it wears its heart on its sleeve. We know that a giant meteor will hit the planet and kill every living thing. The actual fun comes into the picture when we, as the viewer, become the third wheel in Steve Carrell and Kiera Knightley journey across the land as they settle certain things in their lives before it at all ends. What was even more surprising was how the film blended crass comedy (the beginning and the various cameos by various comedians is hysterical) and emotional drama. It may be a depressing subject, but definitely not a depressing film.
6. Safety Not Guaranteed - Here’s an extreme example of a film that should not be judged by its cover. The trailer for Safety Not Guaranteed, like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, makes it look (yet again) like a quirky hipster comedy. It also doesn’t help that Mark Duplass (Jeff, Who Still Lives at Home) was involved. I hated Jeff. In fact, that should have gone on my worst list, but I digress. What separates Safety Not Guaranteed from the generic dribble out there is that Aubrey Plaza (Scott Pilgrim) gets to shine in her role as an intern for a Seattle magazine sent off to investigate a classified ad. The writer of the ad seeks someone to go back in time with. Is it a joke, or is it for real? The real surprise is that the film is very funny and it’s actually a cleverly disguised science fiction tale that features a very likable cast (I love Aubrey Plaza) and has a gigantic heart that goes along with it. Safety Not Guaranteed came out of nowhere and secured a spot on my Top 10 list and I’m very glad to have it on here.
5. Seven Psychopaths - After watching In Bruges a couple of years ago and loving the shit out of it, I knew that Seven Psychopaths would be something special and was happy to see that it was. Granted, the posters and artwork promoting the film were mediocre and confusing as all hell, the film was not. Colin Farrell stars as Charlie, a screenwriter with a serious case of writer’s block who needs some inspiration. I’d rather not get into all of the actual details concerning the Psychopaths, because that would spoil the fun. I will say that Christopher Walken SHOULD get an Oscar for his role in Seven Psychopaths. He was absolutely phenomenal in the movie and I do think that the screenplay for Seven Psychopaths will be studied in film schools in the years to come. Seven Psychopaths hits Blu-ray on January 29th and I highly recommend a viewing or two.
4. Zero Dark Thirty - Here’s one of the most anticipated films of 2012 (it opens in wide release on January 11th) that only played in a handful of theaters across the country. One of those theaters was in Hollywood, which made it smooth sailing for me since it isn’t that far from where I live. I also had to floor it since I knew this article would be due and the fast I saw the film, the better my list would be. Zero Dark Thirty is Kathryn Bigelow’s (The Hurt Locker, Strange Days, Blue Steel) new film starring Jessica Chastain as a CIA operative heading the investigation on the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden. Zero Dark Thirty is an incredibly intense military procedural that takes its time laying it all on the line. We’re flies on the wall and we get to travel with these operatives and eventually we get to sit by the SEALS that would raid the Bin Laden compound and do their thing. Be forewarned, Zero Dark Thirty is not as action packed as The Hurt Locker was, so don’t go in there thinking that it will be action and bullets from start to finish. The film is almost 3 hours long and we only get the action for the last 30 minutes of the film. If you can hang with that then you’ll be in for a treat. I do believe that Jessica Chastain will get an Oscar for her role and I do believe that Kathryn Bigelow will also get a nomination for Best Director. Zero Dark Thirty IS that good.
3. The Dark Knight Rises - Christopher Nolan’s final chapter in his retelling of the Batman mythos finally came to an end in 2012 and it sure as hell went off with a loud thermonuclear BANG! It was a start studded affair featuring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and many more. The film is actually quite simple. Bane comes into Gotham and takes it hostage and Batman has to come in to free its citizens or watch them all die at the hands of an incredibly intelligent (and super strong) madman. Simple right? Wrong. Bane out thinks and out fights Batman in every possible way leading to an unimaginable showdown of epic proportions. I think The Dark Knight Rises ended the trilogy on a somber, but uplifting note. It took balls of steel to end the highly successful trilogy the way it did considering that it’s DC Comics’ most popular character and Warner Bros. most popular superhero franchise. Nolan resurrected the character and injected new life into the franchise that had been buried by the Joel Schumacher fiascoes we endured almost 15 years ago. Fan boys and film fans across the globe rejoiced. This IS the Batman that we all deserved. Whether the franchise will continue on without Nolan or Bale remains to be seen.
2. Dredd - Having seen Dredd several times with different people and having a great time at every one of those screenings, I figured that the energy would be infectious and that more people would get out and see this thing. Unfortunately, that did not happen and the film tanked. Thank goodness for Top 10 lists, right? Dredd, up until this past week, was my shoe-in for the best film of 2012. No other film kicked my ass all over the place like Dredd did. The film stars Karl Urban in the title role of the legendary 2000 AD comic book character, with Lena Heady as MaMa; the one kingpin you never want to face. Olivia Thirlby is also along for the ride as Psy-Judge Anderson. The film is ultra violent in addition to acting as a “day in the life of the Judges” procedural tale. One thing it couldn’t shake was the fact that it seemed that it was the same story as The Raid. I do know that Dredd was already in production even before The Raid was, so I don’t buy it as a valid excuse as to why it failed. Also, Judge Dredd isn’t really all that familiar of a character stateside, and folks still have Sylvester Stallone’s version ingrained in their memories. I’m sure that factored in as well. Whatever the case may be, you owe it to yourselves to check out the BEST action film of the year! The Blu-ray hits stores in about a week. BUY IT!
1. Django Unchained – And now we come to it…my favorite film of 2012 is Django Unchained, the story of Django (Jaime Foxx), a slave who just wants to get back with the woman he loves and kill those that have wronged him. It’s an epic western film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Releasing it on Christmas day was cutting it a bit close, in my opinion, but that still did not stop me from getting out there and seeing it in all its 35 mm glory. The film was hysterical in some parts, uber-violent in others, Oscar caliber performances, all the while kicking bocoup ass. Expect nominations for Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, and Samuel L. Jackson. The film has cameos galore by many actors who have been in QT films of the past along with folks that QT likes. Django Unchained completes (for now) my QT holy trilogy of film. There’s Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, and now Django Unchained.
Honorable Mentions: The following films are also pretty fantastic in their own right and would be on this list if it were a Top 15 list. Since it’s not that kind of list they just get a special mention. What you people need to do is get out there and scope these films out on Blu-ray or in theaters. In no particular order we have: Haywire, Killer Joe, Looper, Beyond the Black Rainbow, and Skyfall.
2012 was a stellar year for film and 2013 is just around the corner. Be safe and we’ll see you next year for some more rockin’ flicks!
P.S. If you’re interested in any of the films listed above all you have to do is click on their respective thumbnails and you will be whisked away to Amazon. They’re all linked to the Blu-ray version of the film. Enjoy!