Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 Movies I Didn't Expect to Like

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
I never saw the first Journey movie and I didn't even see this one in 3D, but to my pleasant surprise I had a blast.  No it isn't great cinema, but this was clearly never intended to be.  As an action movie for kids it is a great adventure.  Dwayne Johnson elevates the movie with his movie star charm, Josh Hutcherson is better than almost any other actor his age and Michael Caine is having the time of his life.  This is a movie I really wish that I could have seen when I was in its target demographic, because I would have enjoyed it.

Fun Size
So the main teen part of this movie is fairly paint by the numbers, it is elevated slightly by Victoria Justice's likability.  However the most consistently "fun" part of Fun Size was was the subplot of the younger silent brother and his adventures with a gas station clerk.  Thomas Middleditch as Fuzzy the gas station attendant was one of my favorite characters in movies this year and wish he had his own spin off.  Had perfect delivery on lines such as, "see I don't hang around with lame eight-year-olds," and he built a great rapport with the kid.

Five-Year Engagement
This movie was a box-office bomb, but I enjoyed it way more than Judd Apatow's last overrated wedding movie and Jason Segel's last overrated vehicle.  Segel and Blunt have great chemistry, with Blunt being a particularly solid romantic lead.  This is one of the few romantic comedies to portray relationships fairly realistically.  The couple actually broke up when I thought they should and spent a fair amount of time apart.  Both Segel and Blunt get to be on the receiving end of joke, rare for a comedy to have bad things happen to both the male and female.  This is a little long, but it gives an accurate look at the ups and downs of relationships.  Also it is great to see David Paymer doing great work again.

End of Watch
This was looking like just a low budget September movie but I was pleasantly surprised.  Jake Gyllenhaal usually choses good work and gives one of his better performances here.  He has natural chemistry with Michael Pena who is the real star.  Pena has been a great character actor for a long time giving the best in show performances in Crash and Tower Heist.  Great to see him in a starring role and I hope he gets more.  The found footage gets a little distracting, but I got over it pretty quickly.  This movie balances some horrific realism with the stars chemistry.  The movie knows when to be heavy and when to lighten the mood.

Okay, who thought this was going to be one of the best action films ever?  Maybe I'm overselling it, but as a pure action movie it doesn't get much better than this.  After so many action movies about old men questioning their mortality and action stars wondering what they've become it is a relief to watch a morally static character like Dredd.  Dredd does not question his harsh lifestyle, there is a consistency that is unique to see in the character.  Huge props to Karl Urban for carrying this movie, because that giant helmet never comes off and he can still emote.  Olivia Thirlby plays one of the most progressive women in any action film.  The movie never attempts to make her a love interest or even highlight her gender.  She is a character with a job to do and she does it perfectly.  Judging by the box office most of you probably missed this in 3D, which is a shame because this is one of the best uses of the technology ever.  However if you want appealing, violent action this is one you need to rent.

Pitch Perfect
Infectious is the best word to use to describe this movie.  The singing, the dancing, the laughter is all infectious.  A great coming of age movie and one of the year's best escapist films.  The script is sharp and the singing is full of energy.  Anna Kendrick is an ideal movie star, her maturity and likability elevates the film.  Skylar Astin as her love interest is just as likable and his sense of humor makes the role more than just a plot device.  The breakout in this is definitely Rebel Wilson with her brash comic relief.  The audience I saw this with could not get enough of her and I hope to see her in a leading role soon.  This is a great movie musical, memorable musical numbers and a lot of fun.

The thing that surprised me the most about Chronicle is that I am used to superhero movies that try to be like a comic book.  Chronicle is a superhero movie that tries to be a movie.  Chronicle would never work as a comic, but the gradual origin of a supervillain is completely enthralling on film.  This is a very tragic story that keeps escalating.  I was not in high school too long ago and this is one of the few movies where the teenage characters actually feel like teenagers.  This is another found footage film, but I accepted that fairly quickly and was able to be enveloped in the story.  This was extremely low budget and it uses its special effects very wisely.  This is a great analysis of the supervillain character.

People Like Us
I am so upset that nobody saw this movie.  It is one of the best movies of the year.  Certainly one of the best casts.  Michelle Pfeiffer has her best role in far too long.  Chris Pine is a full-blown movie star and is electrifying in the lead role.  And it is Elizabeth Banks' best performance to date.  Banks will always give you a good performance, no matter how small or how terrible the movie.  As the lead in this good movie she never squanders a moment.  The family dynamics are so honest and lifelike in People Like Us and it has an uplifting story arc.  You probably missed it the first time, but this is one you need to seek out.

Magic Mike
Yes I am a man and I saw Magic Mike twice.  I feel like most straight men see this movie as a joke, but it is among the year's best films.  Steven Soderbergh helms a movie that feels more like a boxing movie than anything.  The stripping scenes are of course cinematic and sexy, but Mike's personal life makes it a modern masterpiece.  Channing Tatum is now comfortable as a leading man.  He picks up the slack in the romantic scenes with the dead weight Cody Horn and gives a performance that is much more personal than showy.  This movie also featured some of the more interesting uses of sound in its bar scenes and beach club scene.  It never turns male stripping into a joke, instead it found a movie that someone should have told a long time before now.

21 Jump Street
I must have seen this movie at least five or six times already.  There have been great raunchy comedies in recent years such as Horrible Bosses and The Hangover, but this one is destined to be a classic.  The movie never misses a joke and none of the jokes ever miss.  It is nonstop laughs, but the story and characterizations are present too.  Hill and Tatum have perfect chemistry and the movie uses their strengths well.  This is a well thought out script that is full of surprises and I can't wait to watch it again!

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