Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dan's Top Ten of 2012

It was a big year for films in 2012 and even though we're a month into 2013, they haven't had there last hoorah. NO! NOT THE OSCARS! The correct answer is my picks for the top ten movies of last year. Let's begin!

10. Sleepwalk With Me

It's one of those days...

For anyone who has ever started a band, tried stand up comedy or just chased a dream, Sleepwalk With Me is about as bittersweet a story as you can find.

Matt Pandamiglio (Birbiglia) (I didn't just slap my keyboard) takes you through a story Woody Allen-style that is so weird it has to be true. The stress in his life has led him to sleepwalk, which he discovers is actually a pretty dangerous problem. Along his journey of discovery, he also struggles to start doing stand up comedy instead of sitting behind the bar everynight. Did I mention he may be getting married against his will? Hard times, Mike!

"Sleepwalk With Me" mirrors Birbiglia's one man show of the same name. It's an honest, endearing story that reminds us that when things are pretty bad, they may get a little bit worse. Then they will get better.

“The list of fun and easily fixed brain diseases is very short.” 

9. Les Miserables

"Dark, Depressing Disney"

Haters gonna hate. Sorry nerds, but Les Miserables took me in, sat me down for nearly three hours and chewed my heart up like a garbage disposal with a vengeance. 

I don't know where to start on the plot. (Takes deep breath) Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is imprisoned for stealing bread for his straving nephew, held as a slave by Inspector Javier (Russel Crowe), is released eventually but marked as a dangerous man, is given a chance at a new life which he accepts by breaking parole and changing his name. Jean Valjean lives forever in fear of the relentless Javier. Jean Valjean becomes a rich, powerful man but his shaky conscience leads to woes for others and his struggle for inner peace is set to the growing outcry before the French Revolution as he attempts to save a tragic prostitute (Anne Hathaway) and her daughter (Amanda Seyfried)


The movie is full of rich visuals and outstanding performances by Jackman and Hathaway. I'm man enough to admit that Hathaway's version of "I Dreamed A Dream" curbstomped my heart. I teared up. Deal with it.

Les Miserables is certainly not for everyone. In an age of popular 90-minute action films, this is nearly three hours of pure musical. For those who are unabashed or excited, it's worth every penny and every second to simply feel.

8. Prometheus

An alien model of Earth... this should end well!

Let the argument begin! One of the biggest, controversial headscratchers of the year HAD to make the list. "Prometheus" may have been 60% hype, but the 40% remaining is dense enough to be the year's early Thanksgiving meal.

After discovering ancient markings that all point to an alien world, an exploration team is assembled and head to the source of the markings. Upon arrival, the crew faces a hostile planet, mysterious holograms and strange creatures, all leading to a revelation that... well no one is really sure of.

The only thing larger than the scale of this galactic thriller is the pros and cons list one can make regarding it. On one hand it's full of great talent, mesmerizing visuals and (again) a story you can sink your philosophical teeth into. On the other hand, the film under-utilizes the talents of some crew members, some of the plotholes are planet sized and when you get down to it, the film is almost vague for its own sake.

Side-note: during the lead up to the film's release, the makers swore it was not an "Alien" prequel. They must not have seen the film.

"Prometheus" has its faults, but when it comes down to movies that gave you what you went for, nothing delivered that and more quite the same way that this film did.

"Whatever that probe is picking up, it's a lifeform."

7. The Dark Knight Rises

Darkest Three Stooges Remake.... EVER.

6. The Avengers
A is for AWESOME.

Alright kids, it's time for the nerd block! These two films should really be side by side; both were box office titans and both changed the way we view films. The Avengers gets the #7 nod solely because it also established a new way to franchise a movie.

The Dark Knight is the final installment in Christopher Nolan's dark, realistic Batman franchise. Ending what was one of the most groundbreaking film trilogies, the film centers around the aftermath of the second film (ie Harvey Dent's murder, the Joker's terrorism and Batman's fall). Even though The Dark Knight took some criticism for not being able to one-up it's predecessor, the message behind the film was not lost on most: where Batman Begins was about our fears of masks and The Dark Knight asked us if wearing the mask was really worth it.

The Dark Knight Rises attempts to answer the question for many characters; Bruce Wayne's mask of indifference, Bane's mask of indestructibility,  Catwoman's mask of self-reliance, even John Blake's mask of servitude. The Dark Knight Rises is a smarter, deeper superhero film that will no doubt be felt in the industry for decades.

On the other side of the coin is the powerhouse Avengers. Built and hyped for four years, beginning with the landmark Iron Man, The Avengers ties together four franchises flawlessly, capitalizing on media, culture and pure fun.

After Loki gains possession of the Tesseract, an unending supply of power, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) assembles the Avengers: snarky rich boy Iron Man, dedicated soldier Captain America, powerful god Thor, troubled scientist Bruce Banner and femme fatale Black Widow. In a quest to stop him from unleashing a galactic hell on Earth, the team must learn to embrace the bigger picture, much like movie-going audiences did.

The independent films tied together with "easter eggs" and rumors around the internet, creating possibly the largest viral marketing campaign in history.

Between the groundbreaking style of The Dark Knight Rises and the juggernaut storytelling of The Avengers, these movies easily deserve to be on every top ten of 2012.

5. Wreck It Ralph

Diabetes happens.

If we're lucky, there's at least one family movie a year that's genuinely for everyone. Wreck It Ralph hits the mark and hits it ridiculously hard. 

Ralph is the villain of Fix It Felix, a retro game in an arcade. After years of humble living and servitude to the gamer, Ralph is tired of being portrayed as a mean ogre and decides the time has come to mix it up. This decision leads to a venerable escapade of "bull-in-china-shop" antics, leading to Ralph meeting up with Vanellope, a driving ace with attitude in the game Candy Dash. Seeing his chance to finally be a hero, Ralph attempts to help his new friend. In the process, he learns that sometimes, you can be the hero by being there for those who need you the most.

Wreck It Ralph is heartwarming, entertaining and hip for a generation of kids who may or may not see the importance of being yourself instead of what seems cool at the time.

"Where's the Wreck-It guy?"

4. Looper

Time travel has never been more relative...

We could sit here and discuss the time travel laws and how it works until we all have doctorates in physics. Instead, how about you watch this movie and just take it all in?

In 2074, a mob owns time travel and uses it to create the most efficient execution method imaginable. With a little help from Loopers, a fancy name for executioners in 2044, certain people would ostensibly disappear from time altogether. This alone constitutes this film as one of the smartest of the year.

But then add in that these Loopers eventually have to "complete their loop" by executing their future selves. A little messy, right? Then contemplate the implications if your "loop" escaped. What do they know about you? What do you know about them? But most importantly... What are they running for?

Looper establishes rules, and does what so many writers have trouble doing: not screwing with the rules. You're not along for a ride in a time travel thriller. You're watching the most dangerous manhunt imaginable, made even heavier by time travel.

And a special thank you to whoever made the trailer and left out a certain ability that exists in the future... very clever...

"He's gonna take everything YOU got, and everything I got!" 

3. Skyfall

A man who fixes your tie before he kills you CAN'T be evil!

If this wasn't a 007 film, it may have been even bigger. By that I mean that the only reason I've heard any bad reviews of Skyfall is because someone said "I don't like Bond movies."

But that guy is a jerk. So there.

After a rather murky outing in Quantum of Solace, Bond is back in rare fashion. Skyfall is loosely celebrated as the 50th anniversary film of the historic British spy, and this film is made in a way to sum up why the films survive: a suave hero, gorgeous heroines, odd and creepy villains, gadgets and most of all... BAD-ASSERY!

When a mysterious terrorist surfaces and seems to be after MI6, James Bond must rise to the occasion to stop the unnerving villain. Director Sam Mendes and a team of writers bring us a super-tight, engaging film that unravels the Bond franchise at the seems as Silva slowly shows his hand in a collection of emtional scars handed down by beloved MI6 leader M.

With signature beauty and action, Skyfall is a glorious installment in Bond history that will easily be in the running for on of the best 007 outings.

"She sent you after me, knowing you're not ready, knowing you would likely die. Mommy was very bad. "

2. Cabin In The Woods

Bless This Bloody Mess!

An argument can be made as to whether this is a movie from 2012; it was finished in 2011, is credited on as 2011, but wasn't released to the general public until 2012. We solve that argument with one confident stance: if you were to watch Cabin In The Woods today, it may be on your list of the best of 2013 as well.

'Nuff said. But let's continue.

Cabin In The Woods is special. Not just to me, but to a very large fanbase. In a year when us film nerds were looking for TDKR and The Avengers, we were all blindsided by an intelligent, well-crafted and most importantly HILARIOUS horror movie. It's the appetizer the chef brought to the table for free. And that appetizer hit the #@#$ing spot!

As the poster says, you think you know the story... Five kids go to the woods for a weekend of fun, but things go south when they fall into an intricate trap that unfolds to a scale that blows the mind.

I'd go into more detail, but no one deserves to have this gem ruined. If you haven't seen it, pop it in a video player of some kind and enjoy. Enjoy the horror, enjoy the comedy, enjoy the feeling of having a movie that says "you're not a number! You're a smart person that deserves a good time!"


1. 21 Jump Street

Drugs. Violence. Comedy.

I should probably mention that some of this order is based off of sheer entertainment value. 21 Jump Street is not that case; I submit it as the best movie OF THE YEAR.

Schmidt (Jonah Hill) is an antisocial nerd. Jenko (Channing Tatum) is your typical dumb jock. They both become cops. By this point, roughly ten minutes into the movie, it's impossible to not be sold on this film. Hill and Tatum are unnaturally likable and have more chemistry than the underground lab on Breaking Bad.

Having proven how incompetent they are on the beat, Jenko and Schmidt are sent to 21 Jump Street, an undercover narcotics unit watchdogging high schools. The headquarters houses Captain Dickson (Ice Cube in one of his best performances in years), the hard-nosed and comically cruel leader of the unit. The captain sends the duo to a local school, where they immediately let their presence be felt.

The cast of 21 Jump Street is amazingly balanced and the jokes are equally executed with irony and charisma by everyone involved: Eric (Dave Franco) is a pseudo hipster with a hand in the drug game, Zack (Dax Flame) is a painfully awkward nerd and Coach Walters (Rob Riggle) is icing on the comedy cake.

But it's not just the jokes that wins 21 Jump Street the top spot. It's the message behind the strange ordeal: who you are and who you think you are can be two very different things.


Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment on what I hit and missed!

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