As years go, 2012 was a good one for movies. Besides The Avengers, 2012 also saw the release of Skyfall, one of the best Bond movies, and also Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, and Django Unchained. One of my personal favorites from that year is The Master, a film loosely based on L. Ron Hubbard's early years and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix.
Some Good Ones
1. A Royal Affair
Danish film about a German doctor who develops a dangerous relationship with the Danish royal family. Alicia Vikander is at her most breathtakingly beautiful, and Mads Mikkelsen is excellent as Dr. Struensee.
2. Act of Valor
A team of Navy SEALS haphazardly violate the sovereignty of other countries. This movie is so manly it has an enormous erection, pointed directly at your face. The action bits are good, but unfortunately the (real) Navy SEALS involved are terrible actors. Thankfully their dialogue is minimal, and it's never too long before the action starts up again.
3. Safe House
Kinda like Assault on Precinct 13, but with spies and set in South Africa. Ryan Reynolds plays the same character he played in Smokin' Aces, and Denzel Washington characteristically chews the scenery. It's not great by any stretch of the imagination, but definitely watchable.
4. Trouble with the Curve
Clint Eastwood stars as an ageing baseball scout, with Amy Adams as his estranged daughter. Whoever wrote the script did an excellent job, even if the fact that NONE of the other scouts notice the baseball hopeful's trouble with curveballs seems a bit implausible.
5. This is 40
I liked this movie a lot more than I thought I would. I suppose the fact that I'm now 43, with daughters of similar ages helped. The wife character is hard to relate to, but Paul Rudd is consistently funny.
If this had been a Quentin Tarantino movie, he would have worked that dinner table scene at the end TO DEATH. Thankfully this isn't a Tarantino movie, and is instead a well put together film about two robbers trying to escape to Canada. Eric Bana shows the kind of acting chops he evidenced in films like Munich, and Olivia Wilde is also good as his sister.
7. Katy Perry: Part of Me
A tour in the life of Katy Perry. In 2012 she was at the peak of her career, and my daughters were counted among her biggest fans. This tour diary details her quest to capture the hearts of 14 year olds everywhere, and also her battle against cellulite. Oh - and her marriage to Russel Brand also disintegrates. It's a fairly interesting look at pop music in 2012, and affirms the fact that yes, behind every Katy Perry is a freaking ARMY of gay men.
Dustin Hoffman directed this movie about several musicians in a retirement home. It loses momentum about 3/4 of the way through, but Billy Connelly delivers one of his best performances.
9. The House at the End of the Street
A mother (Elizabeth Shue) and daughter (Jennifer Lawrence) find out they might have a killer living next door. It's a decent horror movie with some good twists, and one, state park-sized plot hole.
Some Bad Ones
1. Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
Not even Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly could save this one. Two guys decide to manage a mall after losing a billion dollars. There are a couple of funny bits in it, but the majority of jokes fail to land.
Fun Fact: This movie opened in only 24 theaters worldwide. It made a little over $200,000 in the U.S. during its theatrical run.
2. The Devil Inside
Found footage movie about exorcisms. It's super boring, and the ending is a real cop-out. What's more, I can't think of a single good thing to say about it.
3. Man on a Ledge
Sam Worthington! Remember him? In 2012 he was still riding high off the success of both Clash of the Titans and Avatar, though six years later his name is less familiar. Maybe that Avatar sequel - whenever it does actually come out - will put him on the map once again.
In Man on a Ledge he plays an ex-con trying to prove his innocence through an elaborate scheme involving a suicide attempt. The only problem is the scheme is TOO elaborate, and by the end of the movie the whole thing's so implausible that one has trouble paying attention to the various plot twists. And why, in this type of movie, are dirty cops always trying to execute people on the roofs of buildings? Aren't they worried about all the windows, and how visible they probably are?
This said, Man on a Ledge received a higher RT score than the above-listed Act of Valor - which just goes to show that most people prefer giant plot holes to formulaic action.
Fun Fact #1: Before he was cast in Avatar, Worthington was so down on his luck that he was living in his car.
Fun Fact #2: Worthington auditioned for the role of James Bond in the early 2000s, but lost out to Daniel Craig.
4. Project X
Three high school students throw a party that quickly spins out of control. It's another one those found footage thingamajigs, and it's shockingly unfunny. During the whole 2 hour runtime I laughed maybe once. Just go see Superbad again. It's way better.
5. Red Tails
Executive produced by George Lucas, this story of negro pilots during WWII is full of his signature bad/over-expository dialogue - and worse acting. About twenty minutes in you start to feel sorry for Michael B. Jordan, who had much better movies waiting in his future.
Also can't help but think the insubordinate nature of the pilots' conversations is somewhat disrespectful to the memory of the Tuskegee airmen. How would they have been able to function without some kind of military discipline? And who would have trusted them if they didn't?
6. The Words
This movie's well acted and it tries very hard to be deep, but it's SLOW. Several writers cross paths, both in reality and in their imaginations. The cast is great and I wanted to like it, but I fell asleep - twice - after the halfway mark.
7. The Guilt Trip
Barbara Streisand stars as the overbearing mother, with Seth Rogen as her henpecked son. And of course they travel cross-country by car. And of course zany things happen. And of course by the end they've reaffirmed their love for another. Most damning of all, this movie just isn't funny.
8. Cheerful Weather for the Wedding
A bride has second thoughts on the eve of her wedding. It's well acted but terribly boring. I made it halfway through before sleep overcame me.
Two So Bad They're Kind of Good
1. Red Dawn
Once again a group of young Americans practice insurgency in the face of an ill-defined invasion. Chris Hemsworth does his best with a terrible script, and the North Koreans display an almost complete lack of military know-how. If the original was the movie the NRA really wanted you to see, the remake is more like something the Trump Administration hopes you identify with. (God damn North Koreans! Coming over here and stealing our jobs! Time to build another wall!)
Fun Fact #1: the villains were originally supposed to be Chinese. The studio, however, was worried about alienating both Chinese investors and Chinese moviegoers, so at the last minute they changed the villains' nationality. They even went so far as to digitally change signs from Chinese to Korean.
Fun Fact #2: The movie is set in Spokane, Washington, with a few exterior shots in Seattle, but most of it was actually shot in Michigan.
2. The Man with the Iron Fists
The Rizza and the Asian Dolph Lundgren use kung fu to mutilate bad guys. This movie is so bad it's positively endearing. And full of hot women, too!
But wait! Isn't this movie, like, cultural appropriation? And isn't cultural appropriation BAD? Or is it ok when other (American) minorities appropriate Chinese culture? Should I take to the Interwebs over this one, championing the cause of social justice? Or should I applaud the fact that everyone in this movie (aside from Russell Crowe) could be counted among the oppressed? I'm so confused! Someone tell me what to do!
Fun Fact #1: to confuse matters further, this film was shot in Shanghai, and did pretty well in China.
Fun Fact #2: there were plans to crossover this film with Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, but scheduled conflicts prevented RZA from appearing in Tarantino's film.
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