We’ve reached the halfway point of 2012 and so far things have been pretty damn fantastic on the film front. A lot of surprising titles seemed to have come out of nowhere, while more than a few anticipated titles ended up disappointing. I usually don’t participate in midyear posts like this, but since 2012 has been such a strong year for film I figured I’d reflect on what I’ve seen so far. It’s going to be interesting revisiting this post later this year once I’ve seen all of the Oscar contenders.
I’m almost certain that most of these titles won’t make my year end top ten, but I do think the top 3 (maybe 4) will hold on in some manner.
What’s been incredibly awesome about 2012 is how the least-anticipated (almost dread-worthy) films have managed to be some of the better ones. I know I wasn’t the only one fearing Men in Black 3, Underworld: Awakening or even Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, yet all three of those films provided for a couple hours of entertaining laughs and thrills.
There was more than enough disappointments from films like Act of Valor, Safe House and Battleship, but for every crappy film we got a smaller, more original independent like Safety Not Guaranteed or Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.
I’ve noticed that most of the studio tent-pole films like The Avengers or Prometheus have been getting the most disappointing shrugs, while the oddball films like 21 Jump Street and Magic Mike end up taking the critics and audience by surprise. I like this trend, because it keeps Hollywood unpredictable and exciting. I would have never guessed in a million years that the latest B Jason Statham action film (Safe) was going to be any good or that the Clash of the Titans sequel that nobody wanted, titled Wrath of the Titans, was going to be a watchable experience.
My top ten list of 2012 is just a so far list, which means I’ve listed my favorites and then went through all of the film’s I’ve watched and found whatever else I liked to fill in the void. Some of this stuff is good stuff, but something that ultimately doesn’t belong on a top ten list, but that’s what happens when you’re only halfway into a very promising year.
I can count at least 5 titles off the top of my head that I cannot wait for and I’m sure they’ll be a dozen more surprises in store for me.
Here’s my top ten list as it stands in July. Expect rapid change by January.
10. John Carter
Andrew Stanton‘s 250 million dollar box office flop is still one film I have no troubles revisiting again and again. John Carter is a flawed movie, with flaws in areas that could have easily avoided such error, yet I still love it warts and all. The large world that Stanton and his star Taylor Kitsch play in is fun, light and adventurous. I have no problem admitting to John Carter‘s flaws, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the film. The film has an exploring beauty about it that you can’t discredit and it’s not nearly as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I don’t care how much money it lost Disney or how long it’ll keep Stanton in the dog house; John Carter is big studio experimenting that mostly worked, despite its failed marketing campaign.
This is one of those entries that I can see getting bumped from my top ten list pretty quickly, if only because The Dark Knight Rises is right around the corner. Marc Webb‘s The Amazing Spider-Man is the best comic-book movie of the year, following the lopsided and sometimes a little too over-talked about The Avengers. I didn’t care for Joss Whedon‘s mega-movie as much as everyone else did, but I did care for Andrew Garfield‘s portrayal of the webbed crawler. The Amazing Spider-Man is proof that you can reboot a series this early in the game, despite the entire world already knowing the character and his origins. I still think a sequel might have worked a little better, but Webb, Garfield and Emma Stone keep this adaptation from milking Sam Raimi‘s trilogy.
Ridley Scott‘s return to the sci-fi genre was my most anticipated film of 2012 and it saddens me to say it isn’t my current favorite of 2012. That being said, there’s still a lot that I find engaging in Prometheus, especially the visuals. Michael Fassbender‘s David is the strongest character in the film, but that’s not to discredit everyone else. Prometheus isn’t nearly as smart as it should be, but it’s still groundbreaking in the set design, great use of 3D and ability to tell such a dark space story on a grand scale.
7. Magic Mike
Steven Soderbergh‘s reaction piece to the fall of the economy hits with a coated layer of oiled bodies and fancy furniture. Magic Mike might look like an event film for the ladies on the outside, but the inside is signature Soderbergh, with warm and colorful set pieces, innovative camerawork and grade A storytelling. Channing Tatum gives the performance of his career and Matthew McConaughey reminds us that he’s still an actor with plenty of roles left in him and not just some romantic comedy sap.
Steven Soderbergh‘s reaction piece to… wait a second! Two Soderbergh flicks in one year and they’re both on my top ten list? Yeah, I love me some Soderbergh and Haywire still remains one of the most enjoyable action films of the year. It could be considered his reaction piece to modern action movie-making, but I like to think of it as Soderbergh flexing his muscles and (again) trying something different. This time he approaches the bone-crunching action genre and by doing so he pulls the camera back, plans out the hand-to-hand fighting and delivers a satisfying experience that is reminiscent of 70s espionage films. Tatum is also in this one, but he doesn’t steal the screen from Gina Carano, the MMA fighter turned Hollywood badass.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatball directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller take old TV material and breathe new life into it. 21 Jump Street is currently the funniest film of 2012 and that’s mostly due to Lord/Miller’s wild and crazy direction, plus Channing Tatum‘s crossover into the comedy genre, which he absolutely nails. I’ve spoken about Tatum in 3 films on this list already and that’s because he’s the breakout performer of 2012. He’s been able to do comedy, action, drama and even a quick romance to please the faithful’s (The Vow). I look forward to seeing what Tatum does next.
4. The Grey
Joe Carnahan‘s survival film The Grey takes a bite out of my top ten list by locking into the number four spot. The Grey was advertised as another Liam Neeson action flick, this time pitting him up against a pack of wolves, instead of the usual humans, but the end result is much more powerful. The Grey is really a personal journey for Neeson as an actor, allowing his character to witness death first hand and find that will to survive. I hope Open Road still plans on re-releasing this film later this year to try and get Liam Neeson into the Oscar race, because his performance is one of those rare emotional investments that will keep you going from start to finish.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Raid: Redemption is an ass-kicking experience that reinvents the action genre without even breaking a sweat. There’s hand-to-hand work in this film that puts Tony Jaa and Jackie Chan to shame. It doesn’t hurt that the film’s story isn’t half bad either, with just the right amount of time spent on each character to make you care about them, but never anything too long to break the fantastic pacing. The Raid shakes up the action landscape and will probably inspire about a dozen US rip-offs, on top of its already announced US remake.
The latest Duplass Brothers film is a shining example of one of those smaller films that took me by surprise. Jeff, Who Lives at Home is one of the best films of the year because of how Mark and Jay Duplass approach the film’s comedy and drama. They blend it together effortlessly, thanks to Jason Segel and Ed Helms. The two add a fresh spin on their usual comedy, which makes for an achievement in the independent genre where films tend to either lose focus too quickly or never amount to anything. Jeff, Who Lives at Home is surprising, thoughtful and full of heart, which is why I just had to see it 3 times in theaters.
The single best horror movie of the past decade is currently the champion of 2012. The Cabin in the Woods is a genre-mashing meta masterpiece that puts horror back on the map and in a big way. Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon‘s script evolves movies as a whole, providing you with endless hours of entertainment. My initial review called it revolutionary and a blueprint for many films to come and I still stand by that statement. It’s going to be very difficult for a film to come and knock The Cabin in the Woods off of its number one spot.
2012 is shaping up to be another great year for film and I’m looking forward to seeing what the second half has to offer. My halfway point list isn’t really a finalized say or anything, but just a milestone for where I’m at right now. The summer still holds a few good looking titles and this fall is going to be one for the record books, with films from Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino coming out.
I’m dying to know what your list is looking like right now, so please drop a comment below and let the discussion begin!