2012 was quite an interesting year at the cinema. While such films as Magic Mike and Pitch Perfect took audiences by surprise, there were many that did not fulfill our expectations, like The Dark Knight Rises. A lot of hits and misses this year too, but as I sifted through the weaker entries I managed to pull out 10 shining stars that that I could claim as my favorites of the 2012. Check out the full list after the break.
Honorable mentions: Goon, Chronicle, The Loved Ones, Argo, Safety Not Guaranteed, 21 Jump Street, V/H/S, Skyfall, Magic Mike, Robot and Frank, End of Watch, Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Seven Psychopaths, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Cloud Atlas.
10: Ted (Seth MacFarlane)
There’s something about Ted that grabs a hold of my heartstrings while it simultaneously insults and amuses. Despite Family Guy taking a dive in quality, Seth MacFarlane exceeded my expectations. I figure he must have put more time and effort to create this hilariously raunchy and heartfelt picture than he did with his baby. Mark Wahlberg and Ted work so well together that you’re always going to root for them to pull through no matter the complexity of the argument. This is a true buddy comedy to its core; throw in Mila Kunis and you might as well call it a night.
9: Looper (Rian Johnson)
Every year there is at least one original flick that sticks in your mind, and that my friends is Looper. I am no where close to being a Rian Johnson fan, but his ability to build a world build and tell a story knocked it out of the park. Bringing Joseph Gordon-Levitt up from the minor leagues and into a leading role was a terrific choice. Emily Blunt, Bruce Willis, and Jeff Daniels solidify the cast of unique and layered characters. Even the minor characters played by Paul Dano and Noah Segan were interesting enough to make Looper a real gem. One of the few movies this year that kept you thinking after it was all said and done.
8: The Raid: Redemption (Gareth Evans)
Never have I ever felt such a punishing, close-combat, action film than with The Raid: Redemption. This flick is pure testosterone through and through. Just when you think the intensity drops, it picks back up harder and faster than the last set piece. The Raid: Redemption isn’t exactly the most plot-driven movie in the bunch, but for what it offers it does not try to pull one over on you. We get enough of the character work to understand the conflict, there’s tension even in the quietest moments, and it has action unlike anything we’ve seen before. The Raid will keep your heart racing from beginning to end.
7: Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson, also not my favorite director, but brought something really special with Moonrise Kingdom. The raw innocence that the two young leads portray is so honest and completely delightful to watch. Mix that in with Anderson’s gorgeous cinematic style and playful script and you’ve got yourself caught in one of the most lighthearted experiences of the year. And while there is an adult element to Moonrise Kingdom, it only adds to the richness of this small world full of so much charisma. Bruce Willis was able to dish out another decent performance, while Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Francis McDormand, Jason Schwartzman, and Tilda Swinson add their flair to bring everything together very nicely.
6: Pitch Perfect (Jason Moore)
There is only one feeling that comes to mind when Pitch Perfect is brought to my attention, bafflement. The trailers and marketing completely turned me off, but I decided to humor myself by catching a screening of this Glee meets Stomp the Yard. My expectations got their ass kicked. I was completely blown away with how sharp this movie turned out to be. There wasn’t a single moment wasted on screen that wasn’t enjoyable to watch. The chemistry among the cast was just what Pitch Perfect needed to be in order to bring about one of the most underrated and underseen films of the year.
5: Wreck-it Ralph (Rich Moore)
Walt Disney Animation Studios is on fire with their computer animated films lately. Bolt was a cute/fun adventure in 2008, Tangled was a huge success in 2010, and now Wreck-It Ralph has upped the ante this year. Although some may have brushed this flick off due to the concept, Wreck-It Ralph had enough heart and detail to make even non-gamers fall in love with the world of Litwak’s Arcade. But for gamers looking to tickle their nostalgia bone, Disney did a swell job on their homework. The variety of characters, the colors, and the world building all fell into place incredibly well. And the voice acting fit perfectly. You could say Disney out Pixar’d Pixar this year with how much love was put into this picture.
4: Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)
When David O. Russell brought Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper together for Silver Linings Playbook magic happened. We knew J-Law had some acting chops since she first appeared on screen with Winter’s Bone and gained an Oscar nom right off the bat, but who knew Bradley Cooper had so much depth behind those baby blues. The range at which these actors perform goes beyond anything a movie of this genre could only dream of. There is so much raw, inherent talent exuded from these two actors that they command your attention at all times. Along with its fantastic leads, the writing is tight and charming while keeping you on the edge of your seat through this refreshing emotional rollercoaster.
3: The Avengers (Joss Whedon)
Despite the uninteresting and underdeveloped Loki story arc with the alien Chitauri, The Avengers is absolutely the most entertaining and accomplished movies of the year. Since 2008 with the first Iron Man, nobody could have predicted how well this Avengers initiative would take off for Marvel Studios. And the fact that they were able to pull it off and exceed all expectations is an achievement. From the clever writing of Joss Whedon to the spectacular chemistry among the enormous cast, The Avengers makes for one of the best superhero films ever.
2: Life of Pi (Ang Lee)
Adaptations can be hit or miss, but when utilizing Ang Lee’s (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain) visual storytelling talent Life of Pi could not have been in better hands. Many movie goers have shunned the idea of 3D due to its lack of integrity these days, but the medium actually enhances the story in this case, taking you right into the boat Pi inhabits with his tiger, Richard Parker. Gorgeously shot, not a single frame is put to waste. And you cannot give enough credit to Suraj Sharma for his first on screen appearance. He put so much intensity and emotion into this role. If you cut down on some of the silly bookend material, Life of Pi is an extraordinary storytelling feat by Ang Lee.
1: The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard)
As a horror junkie, there’s a bit of a bias placing The Cabin in the Woods as my first place choice, but I can’t help that it was the best damn time in the theaters I had all year. In all honesty, Life of Pi is the best movie of 2012, but Cabin in the Woods is my all time favorite. Another Joss Whedon writing project along, along with director Drew Goddard, Cabin is the sharpest knife in the drawer. It’s adrenaline pumping, horrifying, hilarious, and incredibly smart. Not only does this turn the horror genre on its head, it challenges filmmakers to step up their game. And not only that, it has to have the best climax of any film of 2012. Cabin in the Woods is a ton of fun for any movie lover, not just horror fans. Surprisingly, this movie aged very well for sitting on a shelf for two years waiting distribution. And The Cabin in the Woods will continue to work its magic and charm for years to come.