These are my Top DVDs of 2012. To qualify for my list they must have been released on DVD in 2012 in Blockbusters.
Best Drama - The Hunter
William Defoe was made for this movie, the tale of an enigmatic hunter who is hired to kill the last known Tasmanian Tiger on the Australian island by a bio medical company, who want to sample the animal's rare metabolism to make future drugs, a real life animal that was hunted to extinction in Tasmania before the war, sightings today treated like the Loch Ness Monster. But he is not the only one who has been sent to the stunning wilderness to find it and that involves him with a local family who has lost their dad to the same exhausting hunt, a dingo like creature with stripes on its back.
The beauty here is Defoe's performance is as desolate and lonely as the environment he hunts in and becomes a haunting movie about mans redemption and guilt. The people hunted the animal to death yet constantly claim to see one here and there to lift their guilt of their actions. It's just a cracking atmospheric moody film and an excellent translation of the book by the same name, worthy of on Oscar or two for me.
Best Martial Arts movie - Warrior
This is the best sports movie since Rocky and a real treat, flipping boxing for the Ultimate Fighting Arena and proved a big hit with that niche sport audience that generated enough word-of-mouth to punch and kick it into the mainstream.
It tells the fictional story of two brothers who have to enter a huge tournament that may seem them fight each other, Joel Edgerton a revelation as the hunky UFC fighting school teacher and Tom Hardy as the mean and moody black sheep of the family. But it would be Nick Nolte playing the Micky role as Hardy's coach who would steel the show in what turned out to be an excellent and thrilling action movie, the surprise DVD hit of the year and a must see. It is a slow boiler and you do wander early on what all the fuss is about but once the tournament gets going its fabulous.
Best Comic Book movie - The Dark Knight Rises
What a year for super hero movies! Disney have really empowered the Marvel Comics cannon and going head-to-head with DC Comics now. Hunky Chris Hemsworth made for a fabulous Thor and Chris Evans delivered an excellent Captain America, the guys and girls all bought together by Disney for the equally excellent Avengers Ensemble movie. But it was The Dark Knight Rises that put DC Comics back on top as Christian Bales brilliant Batman continues to impress. Batman Begins is my all-time favorite superhero movie where as the Dark Knight was one of my least favorite and so great to see The Dark Knight Rises get the franchise back on track. We also saw the arrival of another new Spiderman although a bit of a swizz as we didn't start things where Toby McGuire left off and its back to being bitten by spiders.
Best Horror - Cabin in the Woods
Has to be Cabin in the Woods, a clever twisting genre piece that leaves you guessing until the final scene to what the hell the film has been all about, not an easy feat in the box ticking cliché modern movie world. It goes from The Truman Show to Land of the Dead to The Twilight Zone in the first hour alone. Rippling with clever witty dialogue and the horror clichés deliciously played with throughout, and some unexpected casting with the likes of Bradley Whitford from the West Wing, you can't help but dig this. If you don't enjoy this movie then you should rip up your Blockbuster card.
Best Film Noir - Drive
This classy crime thriller put Ryan Gosling right at the top of the cool tree with his rather obvious Paul Newman impression. His strong silent type role and blue eyes had the girls melting in their multiplex seats as he purred around Los Angeles in his equally sexy getaway cars. His love affair with Carey Mulligan slightly slows things down but once we are in the cars and on the job the film is electric. We haven't seen a film as deliberately stylish as Drive for a long time so best enjoy it folks.
Best Sports Movie - Moneyball
The biopic of the rise of the Oakland As baseball team through manager Billy Bean and his assistant manager Paul James with their clever and revolutionary player selection program was the clear winner of the years best sports drama. Although the director fails to deal with steroids in the movie, which many say played a part in the A's massive improvement to break the record for consecutive wins, it's still an interesting film to enjoy, Brad Pitts phlegmatic lead as Bean a real joy, one of two performances that would earn Pitt an Oscar nomination this year. The Americans are the best at sports movies by far and baseball ones the best of them all. It's their national sport and they don't mess up when they tackle it and massive steroid abuse in professional baseball is not about to get in the way of a good feel good story.
Best Sci-Fi - The Hunger Games
I didn't know much about the young adult fiction series but you have to say it makes for an amazing movie. You also have to worry that mostly young women are wrapped into a series about kids killing kids, clearly not Harry Potter fans. The premise of a Big Brother style game to the death in front of massive TV audiences makes this film very adult and ironically not suited to kids. But it is an impressive looking piece and yet another emancipated female hero for our growing legions of young female readers to enjoy. Let's hope they are not going to be the future feminist producers of a real life Hunger Games twenty years from now although most of us have wanted to throw a tiger into the Big Brother house at one point.
Best Foreign Film -The Raid
This ass kicking film is probably the best movie of the year. It's a no nonsense action movie with an appealing simple narrative where a Indonesian Swat team have to take a drug infested tower block to catch the drug dealer on the top floor. Problem is they are spotted half way up and the kingpin has a varied defense system for this very day he has been expecting, including offering residents a free years rent and drugs for killing a cop, meaning the cops can neither go up or down without heavy losses. Fortunately the cops have a young martial arts expert on board and the building walls brittle enough for him to kick the machete wielding thugs through the walls. Its great adrenaline packed stuff and even if you hate subtitles you will be amazed by this movie.
Best British Crime Film - Wild Bill
Wild Bill is the tale of a shell suit wearing criminal who returns from a long stretch in prison, neither a man nor a boy in his small mind. Confronted with the responsibility of looking after his kids in the pokey East End tower block, his misses has running off to Spain and the kids more mature than dad, he is soon considering his options to get back on his feet.
The appeal here is the lead performances by actor Charlie Creed - Mills and the dynamic with young Will Poulter, Dexter Fletchers direction exceptional too. These three have made a rather excellent black comedy here and one of the films of the year here. It just looks and sounds so good for its budget and puts a lot of the British gangster genre to shame, this one the best since Gangster Number One for me.
Best Family Film - Super 8
Although JJ Abrahams directs, this one has producer Stephen Spielberg's fingerprints all over it, and like Poltergeist and Tobe Hooper, perhaps helping Abrahams a little too much behind the camera. But JJ is a huge Spielberg fan and this, his tribute to his mentor and that means its going to be lovely family film to enjoy. It's intriguing from the start as a mystery builds from a spectacular train crash in small town American in the 1970s as a strange force takes over that town, a group of young kids on their BMX bikes making a home movie witness to events. It's just like a film us older ones remember as kids and impossible not to like, very much the big Christmas Day movie of old.
Best British Horror - Kill List
Kill List is from director Ben Wheately, an exciting talent and the creator of the hilarious Down Terrace and current hit Sightseers, very much in that Shane Meadows corner. It's a multi genre film with horror, crime and comedy pushed together in an unseemly way and leaves you guessing throughout.
It's a dark and enigmatic tale of two vicious hitmen, who take on a job from some shady types to kill a list of people over four days, no questions asked, even though one of the hitmen is suffering post traumatic shock from a previous job that has kept him on the sidelines for six months, exploring the idea that hitmen may just be serial killers.
The appeal here is the way the movie moves from safe geezer crime flick to gory occult thriller...Guy Ritchie to Hammer House. It's darkly funny and genuinely creepy and one of those films that leave's you in no doubt British film is alive and well.
Best Political Film - The Ides of March
There's no doubt Ryan Gosling is the man of the moment, a big acting talent and a genuine movie star. Here he plays it serious as Stephen Myers, a brilliant young spin doctor cutting his teeth on the Ohio campaign, the mission to try and clinch the Democratic nomination for his man to run for president by beating the other favored Democrat. But right from the off the opposing candidates campaign chief (Paul Giamatti) tries to poach him mid campaign, meaning Meyers boss (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) has to use all his box of tricks to keep the campaign on track, the key to victory securing the delegate votes of Franklyn Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) and so secure the nomination. The kid is learning fast and the master spinners under pressure.
Gosling is the movie alongside the class of Giamatti and Hoffman and you can see they know it, playing a similar brooding role as he did brilliantly in Drive. Ok, he has the added advantage of being extremely good looking but he is the real deal and will win an Oscar one day, everything pretty boy Ryan Reynolds isn't. Its a smart and intelligent movie and although doesn't have the comedy of Primary Colors intriguing enough to draw you into the cynical world of American politics.
Best English Foreign Language Film - Animal Kingdom
Anyone who has seen Brit crime flick Down Terrace has the chance to see it all again in Animal Kingdom, although this one far more sadistic and serious, Wolf Creek meets Lantana.
Based on the true story of a corrupt Melbourne police units shoot to kill hardcore villains policy in the 1990s its another story of notorious crime families creeping paranoia as they are confined to their houses as the cops close in, here a gang of bank robbers who end up killing two cops in revenge for losing one of there's to earn the full ire of the Melbourne cops. It's dark and edgy and has that special ingredient Aussie film seems to have that will have you hooked early on. The scene where he kills a young girl is truly harrowing.
Best Oscar Chasing Film - Hugo
Just 90 people sit on the panel of the Golden Globe Film Awards to decide the winners and about the same number of the 5000 or so who vote at The Oscars who actually bother to watch the films sent to them to decide the Oscars, most of the Academy voters being extremely lazy and voting for the winners of the Globes instead. This is why the winners of the big awards are mostly nonsense. If the Hurt Locker is worth 8 Oscars then I'm Brad Pitt.
There are two types of Oscar movies. Hugo is type one in that it has the big budget and all the right people involved in its promotion and the final stamp of approval with a blue chip director behind the camera, Martin Scorcese. Type two is the lower budget one that's released in January so know one actually gets to see it other than the often pretentious broadsheet movie press and so wins that way. Good films in the summer are too far away from nomination time and so just lose momentum and forgotten about. Fortunately Hugo is pretty good and up to Scorcese standard and expresses the directors love of cinema for us all to enjoy, an iridescent treat with some lovely cinematography. The story of a young boy's love of mechanics is ideal for modern filmmaking techniques and if ever a film was made for Blue Ray then it's this one.
Best Issue Film - Margin Call
Margin Call, with its superb ensemble cast, dissects the banking crisis as best it can through the collapse of a fictional major Wall Street bank (believed to be Lehman's) over a 24 hour period and cleverly doesn't proportion the blame. All the top actors get equal screen time to flash their acting chops and the best business movie since the brilliant Glengarry Glen Ross, very much that David Mamet style. It's also the first film on the subject to suggest the publics demand for cheap credit and mortgages was one of the main reasons behind the crash, as taboo as saying some Liverpool fans contributed to Hillsborough. But like football hooliganism, we didn't act early enough to reign in the problem with the banks while they were making so much money and so the results inevitable.
Best Comedy - Attack the Block
A comedy that seems to say all South London black boys are knife wielding, drug dealing muggers is brave indeed. But that is the general consensus, alas, and by sending it up there is serious comic potential there to be enjoyed by all, especially when the 'block' is invaded by likewise black skinned, white teethed aliens, resulting in a hilarious tear up. You won't have seen a comedy like this and fair play to the director for being as brave as he has, a film that has genuine belly laughs and risky humor throughout. Taboo is always the funniest of comedy to be had.
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Really bad films of 2012
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I will finish my review of the year by emptying Santa's sack over these stinkers, John Carter the biggest flop as the big studios try to squeeze every cent out of the comic book genre, whilst Cloud Atlas was just too complex to bring to film. Best not mention the Hobbit just yet. Another bloody Twilight movie was churned out in two parts to maximize returns with that skinny waif Kristen Stewart sulking through interviews with pretend boyfriend K-Patz to boost those grosses. When I have a dump and look down to see if it's flushed I only see Kristen Stewarts face.
Battleships tried to launch Rhianas film career but simply torpedoed the movie whilst the Ghost Rider returned for some Godforsaken reason to add to Nick Cage's growing cannon of flops. The Watch had Vince Vaughn in it so say no more and Eddie Murphy continues to be Hollywood's effluent treatment manager with yet more turds on his watch, Adam Sandler his best customer with permanent diarrhea and supplying most of the Hollywood Hills sewage these days. How could the stars of the brilliant Beverly Hills Cop and Happy Gilmore fall so far? And why could Abraham Lincoln ever be a vampire killer? The Hollywood remake of Red Dawn with Chinese money was just plain creepy as the Chinese invaders were turned into North Korean troops when the film was showed to the Chinese.