Ssjrem’s Least to Most Favorite Films of 2012

Jennifer Lawrence takes aim at her Oscar competition.

Well, dukemich posted his ranking of 2012’s films so I figured I should do the same. I didn’t see quite as many movies as he did, though. I still saw over 40, though, which is way above average. I believe the only films I saw that Dukemich didn’t were Paranormal Activity 4 and Les Miserables. Regarding my list, it’s roughly in order of actual quality, though entertainment value goes a long way. For instance, Battleship was easily worse than a few films ranked lower than it, but it was just too entertaining. With that said, let’s get it started!

41. The Devil Inside

I hardly think this film is worth the effort to discuss it. It wasn’t scary. The acting was horrible. The ending was ridiculous. I credit the studio for effective marketing and getting the hype machine going, but the advertising was much more impressive than the actual film. Without a doubt, the worst of 2012.

40. Lockout

Let me stress that, despite its low ranking, Lockout was very entertaining. But it was a jumbled, poorly paced mess of a film with Guy Pierce’s performance being its only saving grace. Funnily enough, I made fun of how insanely ridiculous it was the the main characters skydived from space (space-dived, I guess) and then, later in the year, Felix Baumgartner showed me what’s what.

39. Paranormal Activity 4

The Paranormal Activity franchise is emulating the Saw franchise pretty much perfectly, although it’s eroding even more quickly. Both in quality and box office numbers. Part four was just atrocious. Not scary. Nothing happens. Hardly any more of the story is revealed. Kathryn Newton was okay as the protagonist, but nothing else stood out.

Well, okay, that thing with the Kinect was pretty cool.

38. The Raven

This film was so obviously trying to emulate the recent Sherlock Holmes films, but it failed completely. A mystery unravels, clues are found and deciphered, it’s a period piece, and the protagonist is eccentric with some implied drug abuse issues. What did I just describe? Sherlock Holmes or The Raven? The main difference here is that Sherlock Holmes handled all that well, while The Raven just…didn’t. John Cusack is no Robert Downey Jr.

37. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

I don’t understand how you title a film something like this and then take it so seriously. With such an inherently silly premise, the movie has to be self-aware, almost a parody of itself, to succeed. That’s exactly what Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters did and that’s why it was actually entertaining while ALVH was just long, drab and mostly boring.

36. Safe

Going into a Jason Statham flick, you know exactly what you’re getting. Car chases and cool fights. That’s pretty much all this one was. I was entertained, but that’s all I can say.

35. Red Dawn

Red Dawn is yet another in the list of “terrible, but entertaining” films. I’ll watch anything with Chris Hemsworth in it, but he could not save this debauchery. The original worked in the 1980s because of the red scare, but politics have changed and this just became a ludicrously jingoist affair that is decades out of date.

34. Prometheus

To be honest, I’ve actually never seen a single film in the Alien franchise, but I don’t think Ridley Scott was fooling anyone when he was being coy about this film actually fitting into the franchise prior to its release. In lieu of offering my thoughts, check out this video; it sums it up better than I ever could.

33. The Woman in Black

I once thought Daniel Radcliffe was going to grow up to be a terrible actor. Probably fade into obscurity only to reemerge now and then on some drug charges or something. Like many other child stars. Now I think he’ll be just fine. The Woman in Black was a bad movie, but since I have lower standards for horror movies, it wasn’t terrible. And I liked Daniel Radcliffe. Plus, this film was actually creepy at times.

32. Total Recall

Again, who thought it was a good idea to take a movie like this so damn seriously? The original Arnold Schwarzenegger flick was gleefully self-aware, full of cheesy one-liners and a surreal vibe that let you know nobody was taking it very seriously. As for the Colin Farrell version? Not even close. It had cool special effects. That’s it. Well, and some hot women too. That’s always a plus.

31. Haywire

This film’s incredibly inexplicable 80% at Rotten Tomatoes led my friends and I to think this would be at least a solid film. Instead, it was just bad. Horrible pacing. Terrible acting from Gina Carano. And the film itself was utterly confused about what genre it wanted to be. The whole production was….haywire. See what I did there? I will admit Carano certainly looked the part and is a far more believable female action star than the likes of Angelina Jolie.

30. Taken 2

Let’s be honest here. The original Taken was kind of ridiculous. But the sheer novelty of seeing Liam Neeson tear through Europe and the undying devotion to his daughter was so endearing. Plus the whole “I will find you and I will kill you” speech was pure gold. With this sequel, the novelty ran out and on top of that, the ridiculousness was ramped up to eleven. I have no interest in a Taken 3. 

29. Contraband

Most of Mark Wahlberg’s movies are pretty interchangeable. Every now and then, he turns in a really good performance, like in The Fighter. But he almost always plays a tough guy who does things of questionable legality. Contraband takes that to an extreme, and I found myself having a hard time sympathizing with the protagonist.

28. Battleship

Battleship was, objectively, probably the second or third worst film of the year. But after the first five minutes, there was hardly a dull second and I was entertained throughout the whole film. I still think Taylor Kitsch is charismatic, but he needs to pick some better projects. Or get a better agent. At least Battleship did well at the overseas box office, so it wasn’t a complete disaster financially.

27. American Reunion

The American Pie franchise seemed to run its course by the second film, but I’m almost glad they made this one, as it’s a proper send-off for what was the original, quintessential “forbidden” film of my generation. I had to steal the DVD from my older brother to watch it, as my parents clearly (and somewhat justifiably) figured it was too raunchy for a kid my age. American Reunion relies on a good bit of dated humor, and almost seems like a slight parody of the franchise as a whole, but one thing that’s always set this franchise apart from most other teen comedies of its ilk is that it actually had some genuine heart.

26. Breaking Dawn Part 2

If it weren’t for the ending, this film would probably be ranked five to ten places lower. Basically, there was no fight scene in the book. Stephanie Meyer clearly felt that would’ve been way too interesting for a Twilight book. Well, the film-makers made the smart move of putting in a battle scene anyway. And I don’t want to spoil anything, but….well, it actually made the movie worth watching. Which is saying a lot for this franchise.

25. Les Miserables

Gasp! Les Miserables at 25th?! I actually think I’m even being a bit generous ranking it this high. This was a profoundly boring film, with a solid twenty minutes worth of plot stretched out into an unbearable two and a half marathon of a musical. Plus, I understand the “need” for star power, but if it’s a musical and people are going to be singing all the time, get some actors who can actually sing.

Les Miserables was just way too preachy for me. I don’t have a problem with movies with messages. And I especially don’t mean to specifically call out religious messages. But Les Miserables beats Catholicism over your head to the point of numbness. And, honestly, I didn’t even think any of the songs were that good. Give me Battleship over this any day.

24. The Campaign

The Campaign was hit and miss, but it had enough hits to break the top 25. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis carried the film and helped cover up some weak material. It was also timely, with the upcoming presidential election, and I always enjoy when politics get a much deserved roast.

23. Flight

Much like Les Miserables, this film got way too preachy. Another similarity it shared was a ridiculously bloated length. Denzel Washington was strong in the lead role, and I enjoyed John Goodman, as well as Don Cheadle, but a few good performances couldn’t save this one from crashing and burning (see what I did there?). I mean, it didn’t even try to disguise its preachy, sanctimonious message. The “Praise Jesus!” scene literally made me cringe; it was painful.

For the record, I don’t mean to beat up on Christianity or religion. I don’t mind necessarily when movies have messages like that. It just bothers me when they’re done poorly. And both Les Miserables and Flight did them very poorly. Just to make things clear, I also hated Religulous, a “documentary” by Bill Maher which demonizes religion, especially Christianity, and advocates for atheism. So even though I’m not religious myself, I still disliked that movie because it was overly preachy and poorly done. My concern is not with people getting their message out there. It’s with getting their messages out there poorly.

22. Safe House

Safe House is one of those solid, but unremarkable movies. There was nothing necessarily bad about it, but there was nothing that stood out either. Denzel Washington was good as always and Ryan Reynolds showed, as Dukemich pointed out in his blog, that he doesn’t always have to play a self-centered cocky guy. But if you really want to see Reynolds act, watch Buried.

21. The Bourne Legacy

I didn’t expect this to live up to the original trilogy, but I like Jeremy Renner and figure he would be a suitable replacement. He did well enough, but this film did almost nothing to expand on the Bourne universe and felt awfully forced at times. Renner was suitably badass; he and his giant forearms almost saved this one.

20. Snow White and the Huntsman

Contrary to Dukemich, I thought Kristen Stewart’s acting was pretty much as wooden as it always is. Sure, it was better than her “acting” in Twilight, but that doesn’t say much. As I said earlier, Chris Hemsworth instantly makes any movie better and this is actually one of the best films among those in the recent trend of making fairy tales and classic stories darker and grittier.

19. Jack Reacher

I came into Jack Reacher expecting a possibly brainless action flick, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was a crime mystery more than an action film. Tom Cruise, despite his height and age, still makes for a convincing action star, and I thought he did well in the lead role. He was a little too invincible, a little too perfect, for my liking, but so be it. This was a solid all around picture.

18. The Expendables 2

Well, I don’t think it was quite as good as the first one, but entertainment and self-parody are the aims here, and The Expendables 2 delivers in spades. Chuck Norris doesn’t do much, but he’s good for a few laughs. Dolph Lundgren pretty much steals the show, and I’m glad they got a better villain than Eric Roberts this time around. The final fight left a little to be desired, but there was more than enough testosterone in this one anyway.

17. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I knew it was never going to be as good as the original trilogy, but even still, I was hoping for better. Martin Freeman was very good as Bilbo Baggins and Sir Ian McKellen was perfect as Gandalf once again, but the sheer ridiculous length of this film works against it. I haven’t the foggiest how they’ll possibly get two more movies out of the available material.

The Hobbit was simply way too long. Plus, Peter Jackson went full on George Lucas and got way too CGI-happy. It’s weird that a bunch of guys with makeup as the Orcs in the original trilogy looked way better than the CGI goblins in The Hobbit, but, well, they did. Just shows old-fashioned methods really are better sometimes.

16. Cabin in the Woods

This was a film that never pretended to be anything it wasn’t. It was a gleefully over the top, affectionate parody of the entire horror movie genre. It manages to mash together several genres with great success, providing laughs, thrills and surprises all along the way. Oh, and Chris Hemsworth is in it. And when you have the great Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers) on board as a writer and a producer, you can’t go wrong.

15. Brave

Brave continues a slight rough patch for Pixar, as they may have just the bar too damn high with Toy Story 3. That’s not to say Brave is bad. Quite the contrary. It just has a lot to live up to based on the brand name. Judged by its own individual merits, Brave is nonetheless an enchanting film about family. Like a lot of Pixar movies, it’s hard not to get at least a little choked up at the end.

14. The Amazing Spider-Man

I’m sure the complaints about this being too similar to the 2002 Sam Raimi version have been voiced enough. It’s just it was too soon for a reboot. I would’ve had a world of respect for Sony if they didn’t rush this out just so they wouldn’t lose the film rights to Spider-Man. Then the web-slinger could’ve been in The Avengers. Hell, if that happened, it probably would’ve opened to $250 million.

Anyway, I quite like Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, and Emma Stone made for a good Gwen Stacy. I understand that they didn’t want to retread any villains from the Sam Raimi trilogy, but unfortunately that meant they had to go with the somewhat uninteresting Lizard. The Amazing Spider-Man was badly paced, and felt rushed at times, but it was an enjoyable ride nonetheless and I feel confident the inevitable sequel will be better.

13. Ted

I hadn’t laughed this hard at a movie theatre in quite a while. Seth McFarlane clearly enjoyed the freedom that an R-rated film brings and was able to amp up the raunchy humor compared to Family Guy. Plus, Ted does have a dash of genuine heart for good measure. Mark Wahlberg worked great in his role and he’s proven that he can easily do comedy as well as action.

12. Wreck-it Ralph

I didn’t expect Wreck-It Ralph to be superior to Brave, but they were both good films. As a bit of a gamer myself, I loved that this film paid homage to gaming culture and finally gave the public a good video game movie, even if it was based on original characters. All the references and nods to gaming culture were fantastic. When King Candy used the Konami Code, I smiled ear to ear. And that’s just one example

John C. Reilly was great in the lead role. His acting is definitely underrated. And I’d never thought I’d said this, since I hate her comedy, but I really enjoyed Sarah Silverman as Vanellope von Schweetz. Wreck-it Ralph is a treat for gamers and non-gamers alike.

11. The Grey

The Grey is a brutal, unflinching, and at times surprisingly philosophical look at man vs. nature. The advertising basically built the film up as “Liam Neeson punches wolves in the face!” But that’s not what this film is about at all. Neeson plays a gruff, often unsociable man hired to protect oil drilling crews from the wildlife. He absolutely nails this role, showing the sternness of a man hit hard by tragedy, but also shows that he still maintains a soft spot.

January, a long, cold and dark month, was a perfect time to release this movie. It feels long at times, but I think that was intentional. The audience feels stretched, worn out even, like the characters in the film. At first glance, The Grey is a profoundly depressing film but there’s more to it than that. It depicts man vs. nature in realistically brutal fashion, and the poem from the film sums up the whole message perfectly.

“Once more into the fray

Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.

Live and die on this day…

Live and die on this day…”

10. Chronicle

I’m always up for any movie featuring superpowers, and Chronicle takes that concept, uses the fake documentary style to great effect and adds a dose of realism hardly seen in the genre before. All three of the main characters were played by virtual unknowns, but they performed admirably, particularly Dane DeHaan as the tortured, unstable Andrew. The story is a cautionary tale of what happens when power goes to one’s head.

The first half relies more on comedy, as the protagonists are teens so it’s understandable they would use the powers for pranks. But it later delves into much darker territory, showing just what this kind of power could do to someone already heavily unstable. There were a few things in the film that felt a bit forced or contrived, but overall I was so drawn in by the performances, the story and the drama that I have to call Chronicle a top ten film for 2012.

9. Lincoln

I’ll admit that I had some trouble staying awake during Lincoln. If you’re not totally invested in the story and/or a history buff, it’s a bit hard to keep your eyes open. That said, it’s an extraordinarily well done film. The acting, score, directing, cinematography, costumes, script, everything. It’s all great. But the end result was just boring to me. I do not fault the film for that, though; my short attention span is more to blame there. Nonetheless, I would highly recommend Lincoln and I would have no issue with it winning Best Picture.

8. The Hunger Games

I came into this film having not read the book, so I didn’t particularly know what to expect. However, I was instantly drawn into the world of Panem, which was brought to life in incredible fashion by the film-makers. From the poor, miserable conditions of the districts to the shining utopia of the Capitol, with its absurd fashions, the world came to life and drew you in.

The Hunger Games is especially carried by a number of strong performances, especially Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence, with the latter particularly impressing. The film is brutal for a PG-13 flick and really makes you feel Katniss’s pain. I read the book after the fact and I actually enjoyed the film more because it expands on universe in which the story takes place much more and the added visual dimension brings that universe to life.

7. Silver Linings Playbook

Well, here’s our second Jennifer Lawrence film in a row. She was slowly climbing the ranks of my Celebrity Crush List, but this year catapulted her all the way up to number one. And by a long-shot too. She’s just a remarkably talented actress. Just 22 years old and already two Best Actress nominations. Plus, she’s part of two huge franchises in The Hunger Games and X-Men: First Class.

More than Lawrence, however, this film was all around great. Simultaneously funny and touching, it is buoyed by strong performances all around. Bradley Cooper proves he really can act, and Robert De Niro is great in a supporting role. Sliver Linings Playbook is a “romantic comedy,” but it doesn’t play out like one. It’s much smarter, with better acting, plot and dialogue. Ultimately, it’s one of the best films of 2012.

6. Skyfall

Casino Royale took the James Bond formula, stripped it bare and made it gritter and more realistic. The result reinvigorated the whole franchise. After Quantum of Solace disappointed audiences and critics alike, Skyfall came along as the the definitive 007 film. It has absolutely everything you would want from a Bond movie, all of which is anchored by another strong performance from Daniel Craig in the lead role.

While Casino Royale essentially deconstructed Bond, Syfall reconstructs the franchise while simultaneously examining itself the nature of the spy genre as a whole. As Judi Dench’s M explains in the film the continued importance of espionage, we are reminded that Bond himself still has an integral place in the film world. Skyfall is a remarkable film that, even as it re-establishes the old status quo (Q, a male M, cheesy one liners), feels incredibly fresh. James Bond ain’t going nowhere.

5. Django Unchained

I shudder to think of a day when Quentin Tarantino no longer makes movies. No one else can practically parody genres and at the same time take them completely seriously. Case in point: Django (the D is silent) often seems like it’s making fun of westerns, but it is just so damn good that it can also stand as a serious western. About the only complaint I can level against Django is that it’s about twenty minutes too long.

All the performances, especially Leonardo Dicaprio and Christopher Waltz, are just fantastic. Not to mention Jamie Foxx is great in the lead role. And, as he often does, Samuel L. Jackson almost ended up stealing the show. Django is brutal, violet, has material that might offend many viewers, but it all comes together in another well-made Tarantino epic.

4. The Avengers

Fun. That is the one word that comes to mind more than any other watching The Avengers. Honestly, it’s light on plot and doesn’t make sense some times if you pay close attention, but it is simply too much fun. The special effects are tremendous and seeing all these heroes finally brought together completely overshadows any plot holes or weak storytelling.

Ultimately, it’s the smart script, witty dialogue and great interactions among the characters that really carry the film. As mentioned above, Joss Whedon wrote the script, and I’m glad the general public was receptive to his style since most of his works have been cult hits. There was definitely some Buffy-esque lines in The Avengers. All the actors are solid, and I really like Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. I can’t even imagine how much money The Avengers 2 will rake in.

3. Argo

Argo is simply an incredibly well-made film. It is tightly paced, well acted and very suspenseful, even though the outcome is already known in advance. There are strong performances all around, with John Goodman and Alan Arkin providing the comic relief. Ben Affleck is solid, though not spectacular, in the lead role. The supporting cast playing the hostages is mostly made up of little-known actors, but that lends to the realism, and all of them perform well. I agree with Dukemich, however, that Gone Baby Gone is still Affleck’s best film.

2. Zero Dark Thirty

I did not think I was going to like Zero Dark Thirty. I didn’t get what all the fuss was about with The Hurt Locker, but Kathryn Bigelow really impressed me with this one. It’s far more entertaining than The Hurt Locker, yet it sacrifices no depth. It’s just better paced, better made, and better acted. Jessica Chastain was phenomenal as the main protagonist in a performance that absolutely deserves a Best Actress Oscar.

Zero Dark Thirty isn’t holding well at the box office, which puzzles me. There’s a lot of controversy over its depictions of torture scenes, but from the opening scenes, which depicted torture in brutal, unflinching realism, I realized this was not going to be some jingoistic, overly patriotic film. The film doesn’t have an agenda. It doesn’t take sides. It simply tells the story. The torture happened. So it shows the torture. Its final scenes, and notably the big moment, are done very tastefully. Zero Dark Thirty gets my vote for best picture.

1. The Dark Knight Rises

In the end, it could be only one. While I will admit, in terms of pure entertainment value, The Avengers beats the finale of this Batman saga, the sheer quality and finality of Nolan’s send off to an incredible franchise gives it the top spot. Yes, it does have a few plot holes. Yes, it’s not perfect. But this is a triumphant film, one that takes to Batman to the nadir of despair and the audience can then enjoy witnessing rise. Hence, the title.

Christian Bale turns in perhaps his best performance of the franchise and he is again bolstered by a tremendous supporting cast. Tom Hardy was great and intimidating as Bane and I rarely had any trouble hearing what he was saying. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a great addition and Anne Hathaway impressed me as Catwoman. The Dark Knight Rises sends the series off into the sunset in sensational fashion with a fantastic, conclusive finale.

So, there you have it. My list is similar to Dukemich’s, though with a few notable differences, but hey, diversity of opinion is often a good thing, right? Anyway, peace out everyone. I’ll be back on Sunday with the Weekend Wrap Up.

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