2012 saw me watch a total of 231 movies that were new to me. This is my list of the best of those, or rather, the ones I liked the most, and would be willing to see again some day, if I haven’t already. Some are from the 1001 List, some from my Film-Makers quest, some new, some a little older. This list does not include any of 2012’s new releases though, they were covered on this list.
Return to Horror High
Hang on, I’m going to clarify this. Return to Horror High, one of the first George Clooney ever appeared in, is a terribly made film, with poor acting, shonky sets and a frankly ridiculous final act. Fut it was also one of the most entertaining films I saw this year, because I watched it after a Friday night drinking session, for all the better to enjoy it’s ridiculousness. Maureen McCarthy as a cop bizarelly aroused at the site of a dismembered corpse, ridiculous lighting choices and the greatest behind-a-door silhouette of a decapitated head being flung up inexplicably into the air. I still stand by the 2/10 rating I gave the film, because it is terrible, but it was terrible in a really good way.
I’d heard good things about 50/50, the film based on a true story of writer Will Reiser’s own battle with cancer, during which Seth Rogen was the friend who helped get him through it. Here, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Adam, whose life is turned upside-down when he is diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer, which gives him a fifty-fifty chance of surviving. Director Jonathan Levine, whose Warm Bodies I am very much looking forward to later this year, keeps a good balance between the frat-style comedy of Adam and Kyle (Rogen), who end up using Adam’s condition as a pick-up technique, and the potentially devastating levels of depression this film could have instigated. As it is, the great supporting cast (including Anjelica Huston as Adam’s mother, Anna Kendrick as his therapist and Philip Baker Hall as a fellow patient) add the heartfelt moments where they’re needed, and the funny stuff at the right moments too.
9. The Brothers Bloom
Rian Johnson’s second directorial outing, between Brick and last year’s Looper, was generally less well received than either of those two, and I personally agree that of the three so far, this is Johnson’s worst film, but it’s still a very good, intricately plotted, twisty-turny who-dun-what-and-to-whom-and-how-and-why mind-bender. The principle cast are great, particularly Rachel Weisz, and there’s some lovely little set-pieces too (giant unicycle juggling, for one).
I hadn’t planned to watch this, the IT Crowd’s Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut, although it had piqued my interest with some good reviews, but channel-surfing one evening found this about to start on FilmFour, and I didn’t fancy doing any writing that evening, so I watched it, and it damn near blew me away. The coming-of-age story of Oliver (Craig Roberts) attempting to lose his virginity to Jordana (Yasmin Paige), whilst also preventing his Mum (Sally Hawkins) from getting together with a man from her past (Paddy Considine) doesn’t necessarily sound all that groundbreaking, but there is such a wealth of character on screen, from Oliver’s dullard Dad (Noah Taylor, who I’ve decided is amazing, purely based on this and him being the bassist in Almost Famous) to Considine’s epically mulleted self-help guru Graham. And Roberts and Paige both show a world-weariness cynicism far beyond their years. I look forward to whatever they do next, as Ayoade’s The Double (also featuring Noah Taylor), due out later this year.
7. Gnomeo and Juliet
Shakespeare, but with garden ornaments. What more could you want? Well how about an Elton John soundtrack, lawnmower drag racing, hat-based double entendres and a cast including Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Stephen Merchant, Ashley Jensen, Matt Lucas, Ozzie Osbourne (as a deer, of course), Dolly Parton, Hulk Hogan, Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters and Richard Wilson? You still want more? Well there’s an elite squad of stone rabbits, a flamboyantly romantic plastic flamingo and neighbouring houses addressed 2b and not 2b. Genius.
6. Midnight in Paris
The idea of a Woody Allen time travel movie sounded both genius and potentially catastrophic, but fortunately the former was true, as Owen Wilson’s block-stricken writer accidentally found himself in the 1920s, the decade he’s always wished he’d been born into. Whilst there, he meets many of his creative heroes and influences, including F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), but the film belongs to Corey Stoll’s bullish Ernest Hemmingway and Adrien Brody’s satisfyingly insane Salvador Dali. The film is magical, funny and at times touching too.
5. Lost in America
4. Tucker and Dale vs Evil
Just as I loved The Cabin In The Woods, Tucker and Dale Vs Evil is brilliant because of the fresh, unique and hilarious approach it takes to the most tried and tested of horror formulae. Some seemingly innocent teenagers head into the woods on a holiday, and encounter a pair of psychopathic rednecks out to massacre them (Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk). Meanwhile, two simple guys are out for a fishing trip at their cabin, but run into a group of kids who just can’t seem to stop killing themselves. I was really looking forward to this film because Alan Tudyk is in it, but it was Tyler Labine’s Dale who stole the show as the more naive of the pair, who just wants to help. Featuring the best wood chipper scene since Fargo.
3. Black Dynamite
I finally crossed off this classic from my Never Seen list early last year, and I’ve got to say it more than lived up to it’s reputation, for every reason you’ve ever heard. Bogart and Bergman are perfect in their roles, the oft-misquoted script is gold, and I’m not sure why I haven’t watched it again since I saw it, it’s just brilliant.