The Films of 2012: My choices.


Well, the year draws to an inevitable close, prompting everyone and their grandma to post a list of their cultural highlights of the previous twelve months.

Rather than drag things out in a series of posts, I’m just going to keep things brief this year and link to each of my choices on Letterboxd wherein you can find my initial reactions to viewing, and any further peripheral information that you may require.

There are 2 points I’d like to make before we go any further –

1. These are all films that were released to the general public during 2012, irrespective of their imdb release date.

2. Obviously I haven’t seen every film known to man, and this list is not exhaustive, it is merely a reflection of films I’ve hugely enjoyed. I could (and probably will) write a top ten list of movies from 2012 that I still wish to see but haven’t . . . Last year I didn’t see DRIVE until Boxing day, which is a shame as it would have glided easily into my top 5 from last year.

Right then, let us commence:

10:  Sound of Noise (click for review.. ditto the subsequent 9!)

A sharp & kinetic oddball film about drummers who’ll stage “terrorist attacks” by turning random vignettes into musical events.

Speaking as someone who is constantly tapping whatever’s to hand to make rhythms, this spoke to me on a primal level. In fact I made a short film about 12 years ago that had people doing the same in a pub, so there you go.

9:  The Revenant

It’s not a zombie movie, it’s not a vampire movie, it’s something else. Initial dark mood gives way to hilarious & tragic undead buddy adventures which somehow reminded me of the best bits of Shaun of the Dead.

8:  Goon

Essentially a modern version of Slap Shot, Goon is a Canadian Ice Hockey comedy about an amiable, stupid guy who is hired to play after demonstrating his ability to take many many punches.  Goon has a genuine heart and is also very funny, not to mention eminently re-watchable. Funny comedy movies seem to be in short supply but this is my pick of the year, pipping TED and 21 Jump Street at the final hurdle

7:  The Bay

“Found footage” utilizing extensive CCTV so that the facade is never compromised or dropped (take note, End of Watch!)

Unsettling body / eco horror that is all the more worse from it’s creeping feasability.

6:  The Pirates: an Adventure With Scientists!

Inexplicably dismissed by the majority of the audience who ought to have loved this, a lovingly hand-crafted Aardman claymation movie packed to the gills with Python-esque surrealism and stalwart voice acting talent.  The best fun with Ham you’ll have in the cinema, and Hugh Grant’s best performance in aeons.

2nd choice for animation of the year would be ParaNorman. As for Brave, Pixar needs to get its groove back right now I think.

5:  The Grey

Somewhat erroneously marketed as “the guy from Taken fist-fighting wolves,” The Grey  had a lot of disposable or sub-par elements that were all blasted out of the frame by one utterly barnstorming and heartbreaking performance from Liam Neeson.  It’d be great if he is rewarded not forgotten by Awards Season.

4: Beyond The Black Rainbow

Mesmeric & hypnotic ’80s-flavoured “midnight movie” that plays like Stanley Kubrick had an Instagram app and was addicted to the music of Boards of Canada.  A glacial pace out slow-burns Drive, and the analog synth soundtrack hits all the right notes. Definitely not for everyone, but very much for me.

3:  Detention

A frenetic pace that makes Scott Pilgrim feel like Beyond the Black Rainbow in comparison.  Older viewers will need to concentrate as every teen / high school movie trope is furiously mashed up, ingested, regurgitated, commented upon, and stripped for parts. Probably the 1st film to push the idea of 1990’s aesthetics as retro or niche, which as a teenager of the 90’s I found profoundly satisfying.

*Edit: there’s a cracking blog about Detention to be found HERE *

2:  Cabin in the Woods

Whilst I generally try and avoid the more obvious choices in a list such as this, (let’s be honest – everybody has already formed their opinions on Batman 3 or Alien -1 or Bond 23) Cabin is an “obvious” choice that merits inclusion. Languishing on a shelf for far too long, the Whedon-scripted 4th wall smashing, post-post modern adventure speaks directly to every fan of the horror genre, and rewards them for their passion. The 2nd half of this film in particular is one for the ages.


Bearing in mind that opinions are subjective, I’m not saying that Dredd is THE best crafted, best acted, or best directed film of the year, I’m saying that DREDD is a film that I instantly fell in love with, enjoyed the hell out of, and could happily watch with the frequency of my all-time favourite action movies, such as Robocop, Predator, Aliens, and so on.

A lean, brutal, and extremely violent film, Dredd doles out buckets of respect for the fans of the 30-year-old ultraviolent comic book character in a way that makes recent “comic book” or superhero movies seem anodyne or self-censoring by comparison.

Financially, the film flopped: hindered no doubt by lingering memories of Stallone & Danny Cannon’s 1990s travesty. This of course means that thoughts of a sequel are to be dashed on the rocks – if you are a fan of any film where there hero fires a gun and drops a snarky one-liner, you owe it to yourself to spend 90 minutes in Mega City with a genuine icon.

The Next Ten:

Not every film can make it into a list of ten, so here is a sampling of the near-misses, in no particular order.

Chronicle / Avengers: 2 very strong superhero movies with distinctly different aesthetics. Both air-punching crowd pleasers of the highest calibre.

Skyfall: deconstructing the Bond mythos and then rebuilding in it’s own image. A bold & beautiful entry for 007’s 50th birthday

Prometheus: stunning cinematography fuzzled by incoherent plotting and frustrating, unsatisfactory character dynamics. Hope the sequel fixes this.

The Dark Knight Rises: my most anticipated film of the Summer ended up being an overlong damp squib with an incoherent nemesis. Gotta applaud the scale & effort though. In retrospect I think i rate Nolan’s Bat-trilogy in the order they were released, making this a brilliant film but the weakest of the 3.

Lockout: B-movie trash curated by Luc Besson. The best 90’s action movie you never saw, with brilliantly hammy leads from Guy Pearce channeling Snake Plissken, and Joe Gilgun as a terrifying weegie psychopath.

Argo: a rabble rousing pro-America adventure involving Hostages & Hollywood. seems a shoo-in for awards recognition, some of which will be warranted.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: a post apocalyptic sci-fi that looks like the wake of hurricane Katrina. Lachrymose finale and a stunning debut performance from the young lead.

Red Lights: channeling early-era Shyamalan (when that was a good thing), a handsomely shot & crafted paranormal creep-fest with De Niro laying on the ham.

The Muppets: yes, we didn’t get this until February, remember? Truly a joy and a loveable re-energising of a formerly moribund childhood favourite.

Other notable mentions: Moonrise Kingdom, Looper, Klown, Rec 3, The Raid, Safety not Guaranteed, Bernie, Killer Joe, Intouchables, End of Watch, Queen of Versailles, Ruby Sparks, Headhunters, God Bless America, Get the Gringo, Casa de mi Padre, John Carter, Sound of My Voice.

The Bottom of the Barrel:

I try not to dwell on negativity, lord knows there’s enough of that online, but some films just need to receive a slap..

Project X: one of the most wilfully offensive & crass films I’ve ever seen. If this appeals to a teenaged audience then Xenu help us all.

A Few Best Men: odious attempt to pastiche The Hangover with the guy from the BT ads and Kevin ‘bloody’ Bishop cast as groomsmen causing havoc at an idyllic Australian wedding.  Having been integral in an idyllic Aussie wedding myself, these so-called hi jinks just grated horribly.

Savages: a film that did everything in its power to make me turn it off. After 45 minutes, I succumbed. The voice over alone deserves a Razzie.

V/H/S: film festival hype does not always translate into a coherent, enjoyable, clever or interesting 90 minutes.

Cosmopolis: This David Cronenberg fan was horribly bored.

The Lorax: an infuriating and self-contradictory cautionary tale from the makers of the equally horrible Despicable Me.

Battleship: there’s an argument that a film like this could only be a self-aware satire on cheesy, cgi-laden blockbuster movies. Personally I’m not buying it. Still better than BayFormers 3, mind.

Men in Black 3: an expensive exercise in wheel-spinning. Enjoyable enough, but hugely unmemorable other than for Josh Brolin’s TL-J impersonation.

American Reunion: like flicking through somebody else’s facebook photos of when they were 16. Crushingly unfunny & unneccesary.

The Sweeney: don’t, just don’t, alright?

Should you so desire, you can browse my movie viewing diary and knee-jerk reactions HERE on Letterboxd.

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013!


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