Strangely, in a year that was supposed to be the end of the world, there were no disaster movies. Granted, there were movies that were disasters (did anybody actually see A Thousand Words?), but for the most part, 2012 was full of hits, big and small.
Having looked back at their favorite anime, manga and video games of 2012, CRN's writers and editors turn their all-seeing eyes toward film, along with Scott Green giving us a look at some of the best new books of 2012!
Haywire- Director Steven Soderbergh goes lowbrow with a "female assassin on the run" story complete with all-star cast with no shortage of action. The result is a glorious gourmet B-movie. (Netflix)
Karate Robo Zaborgar (2011, but no US release until 2012)- A grown up, enduringly neurotic reboot of an obscure ‘70s superhero show from Japan’s golden age era of junk that’s hilarious, demented, and a note perfect tribute to the spirit of the original. (Netflix)
Chronicle- Deconstructed superheroes done right on a low budget, minus the clichés and just about believable no matter how twisted the story gets. In short, everything The Dark Knight Rises was not.
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie- I know I have terrible taste in comedies, but nothing else this year made me laugh or squirm harder. I know I am somehow less human because of this, but I am OK with that. (Netflix)
The Raid: Redemption- The short-list of "greatest action movies ever made" has a new contender. And it might just walk home with the grand prize in the butt-kicking department. Seriously, stop whatever you are doing and just watch this already.
Moonrise Kingdom- I’m really not a raging Wes Anderson fanboy, and half of you will probably hate this flick for being too mannered or twee, but wow, were those actual tears I nearly felt swelling up in the final reel?
The Avengers- Had the Marvel zombie in me crawling on the floor, begging for more. If I was a little kid, this would probably be a formative filmic experience. The prospect of Thanos upping the game in the sequel has me frothing at the mouth. Literally.
I think Skyfall was ok and slightly overrated, but it looked totally insane in IMAX.
I haven’t seen Killer Joe or Dredd yet, but I am pretty sure I will go ape over them.
The Avengers- I was way late on seeing this—hell, I'm still catching up on the year in film to this day—but when I finally did I honestly felt like a 10-year-old boy. It was like mashing action figures together on a grand scale, and I can't imagine how they could have nailed things more perfectly. I'm lukewarm on a few of the big Marvel flicks, but Whedon and co. worked some real magic here and I can't wait to see what they do with the sequel.
The Raid: Redemption- Apparently you need a superfluous subtitle to get American butts in seats for a wild action movie. That's news to me, but The Raid delivered with or without "redemption," and only suffered from one waaaay drawn out fight. This is landmark action to watch again and again, and it'll be fondly remembered.
The Cabin in the Woods- Great example of tight and clever writing that translated perfectly to the screen. Seriously, read Goddard and Whedon's script after watching and note how little changes from page to screen. This could have easily been bungled, but the tone matches the material just right, and then it full-on delivers everything we want in the third act.
End of Watch- David Ayer's documentary-style cop flick can be hard to watch at times, and not just because of a couple brutal moments. Sure, its found footage conceit is completely unnecessary, but I challenge anyone to find on-screen adult characters more believable as best friends this year than those portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.
Looper- There are some misfires in Rian Johnson's sci-fi time traveler, but the good vastly outweighs the bad. While everyone else scratches their head at a dubious plot and the usual paradoxes involved with time, I'm marveling at Joseph Gordon-Levitt's uncanny Bruce Willis impersonation.
Django Unchained- Even with more films to watch from this past year weighing heavy on my plate, I find it hard to believe any of them will top Tarantino's latest. Once again he doesn't disappoint, displaying balls the size of bean bags with this sadistic spaghetti southern. It has buckets of blood, of course, but it also has heart, and that's what ultimately lures us into the ride along with Django. Oh, and also Samuel L. Jackson. His is a character we won't be forgetting for a long time.
Movies You Should Probably Expect Me Gushing Over Way After They're Relevant- Killer Joe, Dredd, Holy Motors, Moonrise Kingdom, Argo, The Master, etc.
The Avengers- Marvel Studios really knocked this one out of the park! I've always felt that the "core" Marvel heroes like Cap and Iron Man constantly get pushed aside in favor of the X-Men, so it was nice to finally see Marvel's real heroes come out swinging. My only complaints are some obvious Joss Whedon bullshit and Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye not being a brash, cocky jackass.
The Dark Knight Rises- Christopher Nolan and company did what they do best for a third and final time--taking a handful of the best Batman stories ever and mixing them all into one relatively cohesive film. Ever since Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, few people have tried writing an actual ending for Batman, but outside of a few questionable choices (like the whole "you should go by your first name" thing), it brought back the fun factor of Batman Begins along with the intensity of The Dark Knight. It's the Return of the Jedi to TDK's Empire Strikes Back--not as good, but definitely still good.
Brave- It was a real toss-up between this and Wreck-it Ralph, but Pixar's Scottish fable hits the mark dead-on. Tomboy archeress Merida is a badass addition to the Disney Princess lineup, and the movie even calls out the age-old tradition of a girl having to wait for her Prince Charming--if she really wants to, she'll go out and find him on her own--if she even needs one in the first place. Plus, bear fight!
The Expendables 2- The original Expendables showed me that you can never really go home again, but reunions are still fun. '80s action is sadly dead and gone, but The Expendables 2 improved on the original in every conceivable way, with insane fight sequences (Jason Statham vs. Scott Adkins! Sylvester Stallone vs. Jean-Claude Van Damme! Chuck Norris vs. a tank--off-screen, but who cares!) and something that was sorely missing from the original: one-liners. "I now pronounce you man and knife," indeed.
Skyfall- I've been a Bond fan all my life, and while Daniel Craig is great as 007, I've been somewhat let down by Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace for basically being Jason Bourne movies that just happened to star a British guy named James Bond. In a great change of pace, Skyfall actually feels like a Bond movie, with exotic locales, the return of series mainstays like Q and Moneypenny (c'mon, you didn't expect that to be her?), a rare look back at Bond's origins, and Javier Bardem stealing every single scene he's in as one of the franchise's most memorable villains. The scene where Bond jumps off a train car getting ripped in half, lands, and then adjusts his cuffs upon standing shows that we've finally come full-circle, and Daniel Craig has fully, truly taken over as Bond. It's the little things that really count.
Argo- On the complete flipside, Argo is a spy movie with no insane gadgets and no action whatsoever--just nail-biting tension and sharp dialogue. Ben Affleck has quickly turned from "that dumbass who starred in Jersey Girl and Gigli" to "that f**king genius who made Gone Baby Gone and The Town." The suspense slowly ratchets up tension all the way to the endgame, where--like the entire movie--creativity and intelligence trump brute force and fear.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey- While rewatching The Lord of the Rings in preparation for this, a friend asked me why there weren't many dwarves. The answer was simple--they were all in The Hobbit, and maybe that's why I loved the film so much, and why I'm breathlessly anticipating the next two. Peter Jackson is without a doubt the best person to make Tolkien films, judiciously clipping unnecessary story elements (for the millionth time, we did not need Tom Bombadil's house of horrors) while happily flipping the bird to the most unimaginative parts of Tolkien fandom (Bilbo was not confused by the storm, they were stone giants fighting atop a mountain). Also, Richard Armitage has once again turned me into a massive fanboy of Thorin Oakenshield, one of the out-and-out coolest characters in fantasy literature.
The Grey- It's more manly to admit that you're afraid than to hide behind a tough, posturing facade. Originally advertised as "Liam Neeson vs. a pack of wolves," The Grey is so much more--it's a very heavy film that makes you realize just how far down the food chain we are without modern comforts and technology. It's a movie about men, and the bonds they form in crisis, and how the guy who talks the most and puts on the biggest show is usually the one who buckles when he's needed the most. Plus, the poem Liam Neeson recites at several points in the movie is one of the best battlecries I've ever heard.
The Cabin in the Woods- Horror movies are a morality play that follow a formula--we've known this for decades. By taking a well-worn premise (zombie redneck torture family!) and completely deconstructing a genre we know inside and out, The Cabin in the Woods is a great parody of horror movies that happens to be a great horror movie in itself, chock-full of nods to all the horror greats, past and present. Keep your eyes peeled for Left 4 Dead's Special Infected!
The Raid: Redemption- Martial arts movies come in two varieties: the crazy fantasy adventures like Iron Monkey, and the raw, brutal ass-kicking of Fist of Legend. The Raid: Redemption clearly falls into the latter camp, featuring Iko Uwais brutalizing an entire apartment complex worth of bad guys with the not-very-famous Indonesian fighting style Silat. Fast and vicious choreography and an oppressive, almost horror-movie atmosphere are the highlights in a movie where the action just does not stop--this is, without a doubt, the single best action film of the year.
Honorable Mention: Lockout- This came pretty close, though. Lockout is Guy Pearce channelling the long-lost spirit of Kurt Russell's Snake Plissken, and features Maggie Grace giving as good as she gets with rapid-fire banter as they sneak, brawl, and blast their way through an orbiting prison satellite populated with the worst of the worst.
And that wraps up 2012's CRN Favorites! What were your favorite movies of 2012? What are you most looking forward to in 2013 for anime, video games, or movies? Sound off in the comments!