Films of the Year – 2012

If there was one word to best sum up 2012 in film, chances are it would be “disappointing”.

Everything seemed to disappoint this year, whether it was Ridley Scott’s muddled Prometheus, Christopher Nolan’s nonsensical The Dark Knight Rises or Peter Jackson’s endless The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Of course, when anything is as hyped as these tent-pole releases tend to be, they are unlikely to ever meet audience’s towering expectations, let alone surpass them. They are only films after all.

But when you look back over the cinematic landscape of 2012, it is surprising just how many movies came close, or bypassed hype altogether. Here, then, are my films of the year.

10. Ill Manors

10. ill ManorsConsidering that I dislike gangster movies, hate rap and have only the basest understanding of who Ben Drew actually is, I think it’s safe to say that I was not expecting to like Ill Manors. In actual fact, the movie is one of the most powerful and affecting of any I have seen this year, with an array of incredible performances and unforgettable characters weaving the various plot threads into one heart-stopping whole.

9. Rise Of The Guardians

9. Rise Of The GuardiansWhile Pixar continue to fall from grace at a pretty staggering pace, DreamWorks Animation have been steadily rising from the ashes ever since they laid Shrek to rest. While Madagascar 3 entertained and impressed, it was November’s Rise Of The Guardians that showed the full extent of the studios abilities. Like 2010’s triumphant How To Train Your Dragon, Guardians combines the talents of a master filmmaker, a celebrated cinematographer and an accomplished composer to truly dazzling effect.

8. The Imposter

8. The ImposterHaving unfortunately missed The Imposter at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, I eventually caught up with it later in the year — and I’m incredibly glad that I did. Treating the true story at its centre like a bona fide thriller, director Bart Layton ramps up the tension to near-unbearable levels as the unfolding events continue to get stranger and stranger. It is not only the story itself, but the expert combination of archive footage, talking heads and dramatisation that set this apart of any other documentary released this year.

7. A Dangerous Method

7. A Dangerous MethodFor many, 2012 has been something of a lackluster year for David Cronenberg. Removed from the body horror from which he has made his name, A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis were far more cerebral affairs that many found turgid and uninvolving. I found A Dangerous Method to be anything but, as a triad of amazing performances from Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender bring to life one of the most interesting and important relationships in all of science.

6. Skyfall

6. SkyfallAfter twenty-two months and twenty-two Bonds, I was all but ready to put Ian Fleming’s secret agent behind me. After the forced fierceness of Casino Royale and its infamous footnote Quantum Of Solace, the franchise had apparently run out of steam just in time for its fiftieth anniversary. Not so, as it happens. Instead, Sam Mendes has produced the definitive Bond movie, one that does away with the threads left dangling at the end of the previous film, re-embraces the various series tropes and sets the scene for what looks to be a bright and brilliant future.

5. The Paperboy

5. The PaperboyI realise that Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy is not slated for UK release until March of next year, but I couldn’t help include it as one of my own cinematic highlights of 2012. A scuzzy and slightly surreal crime drama that puts the case of a potentially innocent prisoner in the hands of the Jensen brothers (as played by Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron), The Paperboy is a film that really must be seen to be believed. Not only will it change forever the way that you look at its leading men, but it coaxes a career-best performance from Nicole Kidman and a turn from John Cusack that suggests that he might even be able to act.

4. ParaNorman

4. ParaNormanFrom Laika, the studio that brought us 2009’s Coraline, ParaNorman is one of three stop-motion animations (and, incidentally, three Halloween-themed children’s movies) released this year. It is also the fourth best film of 2012. Combining a great voice cast, a witty script and some surprisingly adult subtext, ParaNorman goes far beyond simply being a great animated children’s movie. It’s just a shame that more people didn’t see it.

3. Marvel’s Avengers Assemble

3. The AvengersWhile the surprisingly staid opening twenty minutes might rob Marvel’s Avengers Assemble of first and second place, the remaining two-and-a-bit hours are so utterly wonderful that it ceases to be a problem. Uniting four separate film series into one mega-franchise, Marvel have potentially revolutionised the way blockbusters are made. The most fun that you are likely to have in the cinema this year, Joss Whedon’s film (the third highest-grossing OF ALL TIME) showcases the superhero genre at its very best.

2. Life  Of Pi

2. Life Of PiAng Lee — never one to back away from a challenge — this year filmed the unfilmable to bring cinema audience Life Of Pi, the astonishing story of a young Indian boy stranded at sea with a Bengal tiger. Although it has (rightfully) made headlines for its luscious visuals and unparalleled use of  3D, it is the films core narrative — along with its meditations on life, faith and nature — that make it such a resounding success. Oscars take note, newcomer Suraj Sharma delivers the year’s best performance as Piscine Molitor Patel: Christian, Hindu, Muslim, survivor.

1. Chronicle

1. ChronicleWhile Joss Whedon’s The Avengers combines smarts, spectacle and spirit in what must surely be the ultimate superhero movie, Chronicle‘s Josh Trank takes a different track with his own super-powered teens. A low-budget, found-footage genre piece, Chronicle instead focuses on the relationship between two contrasting cousins following their inexplicable acquisition of telekinetic abilities. Darker even than Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, Trank’s film — written with verve by Max Landis — is also moving, funny, inspiring, entertaining, honest, insightful, brave, disturbing and utterly, utterly compelling.

11. The Hunger Games 12. The Cabin In The Woods 13. Grabbers 14. Cloud Atlas 15. The Amazing Spider-man 16. Margaret 17. Dredd 18. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower 19. Premium Rush 20. Liberal Arts

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June 2012 – A lady does not place her weapon on the table

I know, I know: I’m late. Two days late, to be precise – but my laptop broke and I didn’t have internet and please let me explain.

It’s been a busy month, and not just in terms of film releases. In addition to the tens of hours I have spent in my local Cineworld, I have also endeavoured to start a new blog (the still work-in-progress Finding A Neish), write for a new website (Caroline O’Donoughue’s excellent Work In Prowess), go on holiday (to Corfu, thanks for asking – it was incredible) and see as many films as possible at the 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival despite having nowhere permanent to stay, no money whatsoever to spend, and having inadvertently brought Satan’s own shoes.

I haven’t even had a chance to review every movie I’ve seen. Catching mainstream releases whenever and wherever I could, I have reviewed the fraught but ambitious Prometheus, the cheesy but entertaining Red Tails, the engaging but unsatisfying The Innkeepers, the brilliant but over-long iLL Manors and Stephen Frears’ utterly indefensible Lay The Favourite. I have also seen Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D, Cosmopolis and Lawless (the EIFF’s Surprise Movie), which I will review once everything is back to normal.

In between films, I also produced a number of features. For HeyUGuys I wrote about ten sequels that I’m beginning to worry will never get made, for BestforFilm I noted the best and the worst of the fairytale reimagining trend, and for my own interests I posted a retrospective of my favourite superhero movie to have been released so far – Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

At the film festival itself, which I appear to be alone in thinking was inferior to the year before’s (in terms of content, at least), I was able to see 15 films in the week I was there: Tokyo Drifter, King of Pigs, MNL 143, Unfair World, Tabu, Eddie – The Sleepwalking Cannibal, Sexual Chronicles of a French Family, California Solo, Small Creatures, The Lifeguard, Guinea Pigs, Unconditional, Grabbers and Disney-Pixar’s Brave. Attending on behalf of HeyUGuys, I was able to meet a number of fellow critics from around the country, raid the Traverse Bar for every free drink they were willing to give me and chat with the director and producer of Brave, in addition to Robbie Coltrane and Kevin McKidd.

So, with the cyber ink slowly drying on this last month’s edition of BlogalongaBond, Tomorrow Never Dies, that’s it for the month of June. It’s been a busy one, but a hugely rewarding one at the same time.

As for July? I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing The Amazing Spider-man tomorrow night and I can’t bloody wait.

Film of the month: iLL Manors.

ill Manors (2012)

Having misplaced his friend’s phone during a visit to his “employer”, Aaron (Riz Ahmed) retraces his steps with an increasingly impatient Ed (Ed Skrein) in tow. When Ed starts forcing a disreputable prostitute he believes to be guilty of its theft to earn back the money he owes through a series of low-value transactions, they find themselves indirectly crossing paths with other members of Forest Gate’s criminal underbelly, namely aspiring kingpin Chris (Lee Allen), small-time gangster Marcel (Nick Sagar) and Russian pimp Vladimir (Mem Ferda). Read more of this post

FILM NEWS: Summer of Cinema tease the months and movies to come

While the marked improvement in weather and later nights might indeed be some indication, nothing heralds the onset of summer with quite as much occasion as Summer of Cinema’s annual trailer for coming attractions.

True, there are a number of highlights (and, unfortunately, lowlights) that have already been and gone, the likes of The Lucky One, Dark Shadows and Marvel Avengers Assemble still making waves (and humping pies) in cinemas around the country, but for the most part the assorted footage sets out the road ahead for some of the most anticipated movies of the season. And, I suppose, The Dark Knight Rises, too.

With teasers for 51 films condensed into just one super-trailer, Summer of Cinema have effectively planned the next few month’s viewing with glimpses at Men in Black 3, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Amazing Spider-man, Brave, The Bourne Legacy and film to beat Prometheus, to name but a few. As for the trailer itself:

So what are you most looking forward to? As long as it’s not Top Cat – The Movie, feel free to leave your picks in the comments section below.