This is a list of the 2012 movies I saw, in the order in which I liked them. I often don’t end up with enough time to write proper reviews of many of these. The ones that have reviews are linked to those reviews. The rest have a couple of brief sentences included, for lack of anything more. My brief review summary (which is used for the slide show on the main page) from the ones I have reviewed is also included here. I’m also going to not include Samsara, because it’s kind of like an apples vs oranges comparison. I loved that film, but it’d be hard to rank it accordingly. It would be right up contending for the top, for what it’s worth. My chronological list of viewings can be found here. This was one of the years where it was very tough to pick my absolute top pick. It was primarily a fight between the first three on this list. The three of them are almost interchangeable for that top slot, depending which day you ask me. I’ll consider this the official order.
- The Cabin In The Woods
Like much of Joss Whedon’s typical style of work, this wicked blending of genres is so very much fun. Part comedy, part horror film, part sci-fi and part all-sorts-of-other-stuff, this is a wild ride featuring marvelous writing, first-rate production and a great cast.
- Moonrise Kingdom
I love Wes Anderson movies. This is no exception. One of his best, and one of my favorites of the year.
- Life Of Pi
A masterpiece. Plain and simple.
- The Dark Knight Rises
An excellent close to the fantastic Dark Knight Trilogy – perhaps the greatest superhero franchise to date.
Perhaps one of the best Bond films ever. A magnificent entry to commemorate Bond’s 50th anniversary.
- The Avengers
Joss Whedon getting to write and direct a movie like this is a long overdue vindication for the nerd audience at large. The end result is a dizzying mesh of many characters and stories into a cohesive whole. And it’s a whole heck of a lot of fun.
A wildly ambitious and ponderous time travel movie with a first rate cast and excellent production. It melds a great many ideas and stories, impressively so. And impressively, it surprised me with a couple genius twists.
- Wreck-It Ralph
I was wondering how long it would take to happen – if Disney’s takeover of PIXAR would influence their films, or vice versa. What I didn’t anticipate would be that not only would it happen quicker than I would have expected, but at that moment they would both release a movie in the same year that one would surely assume was made by the other. Brave, while a decent animated film, was very different in terms of style and story than a typical PIXAR film. It felt very much like a more traditionally Disney movie. Then comes this wonderful surprise of a movie. If somebody showed me Wreck-It Ralph and asked me who I thought made it, I would have instantly guessed PIXAR. So very many of the idiosynchratic characters and plot ideas are there, with so many of the typical PIXAR story elements and attention to detail in both the humor and the world they are creating, that it’s impossible to believe this isn’t an actual PIXAR production. I suppose it has a number of the PIXAR guard involved, including John Lassetter, who’s now head of Disney animation. Put simply, I loved this movie. I consider it more than worthy of being compared to some of PIXAR’s best, even though it technically isn’t one of theirs.
An edgy, stylish sci-fi action film with a great cast and a wonderfully dry sense of humor. A huge surprise. Likely to remain one of my favorites of the year.
A spectacular blending of a great many genres into a surprisingly unique end result. This is sure to be one of my favorite films of 2012.
- Premium Rush
A wildly inventive and fantastically paced action thriller from talented writer/director David Koepp. I’ve seen the movie a couple of times and it’s just as cool on subsequent viewings. The cast is having a blast and the crew makes it all look amazing. The only less-than-great aspect is David Sardy’s sometimes bland score. I would love to hear what somebody like John Powell would have done to score this movie.
- Seven Psychopaths
A wildly fun and deviously meta comedy. It’s a very fun script with a solid production and a fantastic cast.
- The Perks Of Being A Wall Flower
A very well written and performed indie character drama. It’s a perfectly low key coming-of-age story, featuring a fantastic cast. Emma Watson positively radiates in her performance, proving her post-Potter capabilities. It also features what is probably the greatest looking sequence of the year (Emma Watson’s tunnel scene).
Ben Affleck continues to prove his directing skill with this tight, well assembled thriller. It features a wonderful cast, witty humor and one of those great “almost too outlandish to NOT be based on a true story” scenarios. The CIA is too often villified in movies (one typically has to turn to TV for a sympathetic portrayal of the agency). This is a nice exception to that rule.
- Silver Linings Playbook
A very well written character dramedy performed by a fantastic cast. Deserving of all the raves and attention it has received.
- The Impossible
An excellent character drama set against the immense, horrific 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
- Django Unchained
This is a Tarantino movie. That should essentially be a good enough description and opinion of the movie. Not my favorite of his films (which would likely be Inglorious Basterds), but definitely in the mix. One thing is for darn sure, he needs to use Christoph Waltz in ever movie he does from now on.
Robert Zemeckis’ long-overdue return to live-action directing is an excellent return to form. Featuring an award-worthy performance from Denzel Washington and Zemeckis’ typical top quality production, it’s a compelling character drama. Definitely one of the best movies about addiction I’ve seen in quite some time. It might not be at quite the level of Requiem For A Dream, but it’s definitely one of the best of the subgenre.
Ridley Scott’s quasi-prequel to the Alien franchise welcomes his return to the sci-fi genre after 20 years of absence. And it’s a great return. It may have a few flaws, but they are very minor. Biggest disappointment by a long shot is the mostly bland music score. Otherwise, a great film.
- Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World
Certainly one of the most amusing and charming end of the world movies you’ll see. Witty writing and a fantastic cast solidify its excellence.
- Zero Dark Thirty
A very well made representation of the hunt for Bin Laden, from hugely talented director Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, a screenwriter who continues to show all indications of having a bright future in the industry. Perhaps not as good as The Hurt Locker, but still very well done. Many will argue its veracity, but it certainly seemed believable to me.
- 21 Jump Street
A movie based on a TV series that manages to take the basic premise and completely make it its own, with great success.
- Cloud Atlas
I’m gonna have a heck of a time trying to decide where to place this movie on this list with only one viewing. It’s a hard movie to completely take in and absorb, asthetically and intellectually. So, take my 9/10 and ranking on this list with a grain of salt. I may adjust it after a second viewing. I do feel confident in at least praising the cast and production for some excellent work.
- The Words
A fantastically written and acted character drama. It features some wonderful writing structure, leveraging multiple stories within stories. And the cast really hits all the marks. I hadn’t even heard of this movie until I saw it in the listings on opening day. Given the cast, I went and saw it without even reading the synopsis. I love it when I see a movie that way and it turns out to be great. It’s such a rarity these days to know basically nothing about a movie before seeing it. It hasn’t gotten the greatest of reviews from others, but I don’t care. I thought it was great.
- Safety Not Guaranteed
A fantastic cast brings this low-key and quirky indie character drama to life with subtle perfection. Aubrey Plaza’s nearly dead-panned style continues to be strangely engaging.
- Big Miracle
A highly enjoyable family film. I very much liked this one.
A charming and delightfully odd character dramedy. It features what I believe to easily be Jack Black’s greatest performance to date. And the apparent accuracy to the true story is, frankly, kind of astounding.
A solid film from a talented cast & crew. Though it perhaps should have been titled “Amendment 13″ rather than “Lincoln”.
- The Amazing Spider-Man
A nice surprise. A fun, slick and savvy relaunch of the Spider-Man franchise.
- Hit & Run
A fun and hilarious indie comedy, full of odd characters portrayed by a fantastic cast. I’m a big fan of Kristen Bell, which certainly helped.
- Robot & Frank
An excellent sci-fi character dramedy that makes the most of a presumably low budget, featuring a first-rate cast and a nice script. I had the advantage of not knowing anything about this movie, other than a few of the cast members, before seeing the movie.
- Silent House
An effective thriller structured around a wildly ambitious single take, featuring a career launching performance from Elizabeth Olsen.
This could have been one of the best horror movies in recent years. It’s still quite good, but there are some things I would have changed were I the one making it. First, I would have eliminated about 90% of the supernatural aspects of the film. This one only needed a tiny bit of it (one thing in particular which I won’t mention here because it’s entirely spoilery). Still, the added stuff doesn’t destroy the movie, it just would have been cooler and more subtle with less of it. This movie does get some bonus points for style. From cinematography to music/score, it’s all first rate.
- Celeste & Jesse Forever
A messy character dramedy that actually has a realistic feel and plays out in fairly unexpected ways. The cast does a great job making characters that are occasionally hard to sympathize with still empathetic.
- The Grey
A solid action adventure thriller with excellent production and a great cast.
- The Hunger Games
A fun sci-fi action adventure film featuring a nice cast and some nice production quality – except for the sucky shaky-cam cinematography.
While this may not quite be up to the unique perfection of PIXAR’s standards, it’s still quite good. It functions more as a traditional Disney animated film, but not in a bad way.
- Sleepwalk With Me
A charming and engaging dramedy. Written and directed by one of my favorite stand-up comics, Mike Birbiglia, it features a fun sense of narrative and a nice supporting cast.
- Pitch Perfect
There’s no doubt this movie borrows heavily from those who have preceded it – primarily Bring It On (heck, they even brought in Christophe Beck for the music score). While it’s not as good as Bring It On, it’s still plenty of fun. Most of the cast is quite good. Anna Kendrick is always good. The music numbers, while not as grating as much of what’s found in Glee, also lands somewhere in the middle of what that program can achieve, both good and bad. Likewise with the cinematography and camera work (camera work is one thing for which it didn’t stand much of a chance in living up to Bring It On, but it’s a good attempt).
- Taken 2
OK, so it’s not as great as the original, but that’s not hugely surprising. Still, it’s great fun. It repeats some of what the first movie was like, but finds new ways to give it a different feel. One of those ways, surprisingly enough, is a PG-13 rating.
- Safe House
A descent espionage thriller with a great cast and an OK production (minus the tedious handheld camera work).
- The Woman In Black
An old school horror film that hits all the marks nicely.
- Men In Black 3
A surprisingly good sequel which helps make up for the so-so second film of the franchise. It may have a few cheesy moments, but it’s fun and clever.
- Jack Reacher
I was really enjoying this movie a lot up until the final reel. Not only does it become a little too self aware and silly during the end, but it plays into almost every genre stereotype in the book. The worst offense is that it uses what is probably my least favorite cliche, the “let’s put down our weapons and fight it out like REAL MEN” idiocy.
- The Bourne Legacy
The Bourne franchise makes a lateral move with this fourth entry. It drops the great Jeremy Renner into the lead quite nicely, and he certainly carries it well. But there’s something off with the pacing, and there have now been way too many layers and programs added into the whole CIA side of things.
- Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
Another fun addition to the Madagascar franchise. It may not be the greatest of animated film franchises, but it’s certainly better than average. The second half of this movie works particularly well. And, I must admit, this movie has some of the best 3D work I’ve seen – particularly the circus routines.
- Snow White & The Huntsman
An interesting take on the Snow White tale. It’s sharply produced and decently written. And the cast ain’t no slouch, either.
- Chernobyl Diaries
Perhaps a bit predictable, but an overall enjoyable low-budget thriller. Simple but effective.
A charming and nicely made animated horror comedy. The script is fun and inventive, the animation is stylistic and amusing and the the voice cast has plenty of fun.
- The Dictator
Sacha Baron Cohen continue his less-than-subtle filmography with this more accessible entry (making up for the abysmal Bruno). His performance as the titular dictator is quite fun. And Anna Faris is a delight, as always.
- Paranormal Activity 4
What can I say, I have a soft spot for this franchise. I like movies that are conceptually creative on a minimal budget. One of my little pet peeves are people who see something like these and criticize it with, “but I could have made that.” Of course, the response to that is, “but alas, you didn’t and let them rake in hundreds of millions of dollars instead.” I’ve enjoyed the ways they’ve mined the sequels, tying things together in somewhat unexpected ways, coming at it a bit sideways. I particularly liked the way they handled the prequel with the third film. This one swings back to a bit more straight foward sequel territory. The second film, while being a sequel, had more fun with how things tied together with first film. This one is a bit more traditional in its horror franchise approach, but I thought it worked well enough.
- American Reunion
This amusing sequel manages to regain control of the franchise after Universal had driven it completely off the rails trying to make a quick buck on lame direct-to-video sequels. With the majority of the cast back, we get to have a fun, reminiscent return back to the origins.
- John Carter
A well produced, throwback action adventure movie. Better than I was expecting.
- The Guilt Trip
A charming and amusing movie that is essentially what one expects going in, which is fine. A nice cast makes it all work well.
- Resident Evil: Retribution
Yeah, I’m a sucker for this franchise. I know it’s hardly a franchise full of masterpieces of film making. But, the cast & crew always seem to be having such fun making them, and the production does like to have fun being slick looking and sounding. After the fourth film, which I consider to easily be the weakest of the franchise, this fifth film brings back many elements from earlier films and recovers nicely after that weak fourth entry.
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Like the Lord Of The Rings films, I consider this movie entertaining enough, but not great. It’s just not my favorite genre.
Disney Nature continues to poach materials from the peerless BBC Nature teams, which I suppose isn’t a particularly bad thing. This movie does a nice job tracking a group of chimps and telling the ongoing story of their lives.
A fun goofball romantic comedy film, of sorts. Not the funniest movie of the year, but entertaining.
- Total Recall
A hit-or-miss remake which generally works. It’s not as good as Verhoven’s take, but it does figure out how to make the story its own. It features too many needless action scenes (particularly the elevator fight, which goes on way too long, and features a remarkably bland music score). However, it does feature one great conceptual component – “The Fall” – which is a high speed transport that goes through the Earth’s core from the UK to Australia. For as wildly impossible as the existence of it would be, it does manage to get an interesting number of the details right, and is remarkably well produced.
- The Expendables 2
A definite improvement over the OK first film. The opening sequence is one of the most intense action sequences I’ve seen (and heard). As expected, the vast array of action movie stars is lots of fun. And Brian Tyler swings for the fences with a large and powerful music score. The biggest weakness is the final act, with the not-so-great airport action scene and the abysmal man vs man final showdown. I cannot stand the whole “let’s put down our weapons and fight like real men” moments in movies. Absolutely hate those scenes. And this one has a particularly stupid one.
- To Rome With Love
Traditional Woody Allen stuff, with a bit of the conceptually surreal thrown in for fun. Not his best, but good.
- Underworld Awakening
An entertaining enough entry to the Underworld franchise. Not great, but good enough.
- The Campaign
Perhaps not the greatest of Will Ferrell’s comedies, but still plenty of fun. The cast is having a field day with the material and manages to make a somewhat uneven script work. The political subject matter is easy material to make fun of, and the movie does find some fun ways to lampoon political insanity.
- Dark Shadows
Not Tim Burton’s best movie, but still plenty fun. I’m no expert on the long-running series that it’s based on, but know the basics. Overall, an enjoyable film that is tough to drop into a genre category.
- Jeff, Who Lives At Home
One of those indie character dramedies the works pretty well. The biggest strength of the film is the excellent cast.
Charming, cute, amusing, nostalgic – the list of adjectives goes on and on. Perhaps it’s a bit TOO much of the things on that list. I generally enjoyed the movie, but won’t likely ever bother with a second viewing or go out of my way to recommend it to folks.
A halfway decent grimy character drama. A strong cast helps make the so-so script and somewhat annoying production work well enough.
- The Five-Year Engagement
Generally speaking, a decent movie. But, it’s a bit difficult to watch. It’s not the happiest of films, and it can be a bit painful at times.
- The Watch
A very uneven comedy, but it’s certain not without plenty of big laughs and fun action sequences. The cast is definitely a big plus.
- Ice Age: Continental Drift
Yeah, the franchise may be running out of steam, but this fourth entry was at least still generally entertaining. As long as they’ve got Scrat, it’s at least always gonna be pretty good.
Very much a mixed bag. With visual effects that range from fairly impressive to stuff that would be downright embarrassing for a video game cut scene, it was hard to decide exactly what I made of the movie. The biggest highlight, by far, is Guy Pearce’s wise cracking, reluctant anti-hero. The rest of the cast is quite good as well.
- Project X
This one ranges from lots of fun to uneven and overly obvious. Cast and characters are just as much of a mixed verdict. It could have certainly been worse.
- Silent Hill: Revelation
Yes, I was one of the few who very much liked the first Silent Hill movie. This one, however, falls flat. The script is one contrived convenience to another. The production is so-so. It’s not bad, but it’s not nearly as cool or as inventive as the first film – in fact, the only cool stuff is material that is carried over from the first. And the cast is a mixed bag.
- Red Tails
A movie full of fantastic special effects and excellent production. If that is all you are looking for, then this is the movie for you. It falls short in most other ways.
- Hotel Transylvania
One of those animated films that relies way too much on manic humor. Yeah, it has some clever moments and cute ideas and jokes, but they are drowned in monotonous chaos. Every once in a while it slows down during scenes involving the daughter, which are a welcome change of pace, but ultimately this movie simply wears out its welcome. Not a terrible, or even particularly bad movie. Just not one I particularly liked or enjoyed.
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Setting aside the silly plot that sounds like a really bad SNL sketch, and the surprisingly sub-par production, my biggest problem with this one is that I didn’t care what happened.
- The Pirates! Band Of Misfits
How in the world could Aardman Animation make a movie this bland and this unfunny? The trailers didn’t do much for me, but I though surely it was just a case of poor trailers. Sadly, it wasn’t. This is the first Aardman production I’ve disliked, which is a sad thing.
I have to admit that I liked certain scenes and elements of this movie, but there’s too much in it that just plain sucks. It’s better than sister films Transformers 3 and one of the worst movies ever made, Transformers 2.
- Les Miserables
This may be an opinion I end up unpopular for, but I was bored out of my frakkin’ mind by this movie.