2012 Village Voice Film Poll

This year, for the first (and last?) time ever, I was invited to take part in the 2012 Village Voice Film Poll, a survey of 85 critics about the best movies and performances and shit of the year. Hopefully I did not bring too much shame or dishonor upon the institution. My lowbrow tastes did not seem to affect the final tally too much, but it is funny to see that me and one other critic caused John Hyams to be tied with Ang Lee, Bela Tarr & Agnes Hranitzky, Jafar Panahi, Richard Linklater, Steven Spielberg and Ben Affleck for 6th place in the Best Director category.

I struggled with alot of my answers, especially in the actress categories, since I clearly haven’t seen enough movies with good roles for women. I mean, I love Rachel Weisz, but you guys know which movie called DEEP BLUE SEA I’ve seen, and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t in it. I’m kind of embarrassed of some of those votes. I feel pretty good about honoring Jessica Biel for THE TALL MAN, though, and definitely Salma Hayek for SAVAGES. I’m not taking that one back. One category where I thought I would agree with the consensus was Daniel Day Lewis for best actor (he played Lincoln), but he ended up #3. #1 went to Joaquin (Popeye), who was my second place vote.

I apologize to mankind for including PROMETHEUS on my list, but to me its great filmatism, memorable weirdness and all-time-classic medipod sequence overcame its dumbness to make it a great (two-time) filmgoing experience for me. It just seemed right at the time I was filling it out, all right? Cut me some slack, fellas.

And if it’s not obvious, I haven’t seen DJANGO UNCHAINED or ZERO DARK THIRTY yet. I will be surprised and disappointed if they don’t end up altering my list drastically. Also, since many or most of the movies that got tons of votes are completely off my radar, I should see some of those. HOLY MOTORS, the other ones like that, etc.

I didn’t have a vote for worst film. I went through release dates, compiled a list of everything I’d seen, and honestly there was nothing I saw that I truly hated. KILLING THEM SOFTLY might’ve made me the maddest, but partly because I loved most of it. (I gave it a couple votes in the supporting actor category too.) One of the few things I turned off without finishing was THE WATCH, but that’s why it wouldn’t be fair to vote for it. Maybe it got better.

Overall, the votes went much more arty and foreign than mine, which isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that two other people had DREDD in their top ten. Two other people also had THE RAID or HAYWIRE. I was the only one with THE TALL MAN, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING or SAVAGES. And I think even including other polls I’m probly the only person to have THE RAID and then LINCOLN at the top of a list. So… good for me?

You can see my list here. Sorry, other critics.

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103 Responses to “2012 Village Voice Film Poll”

  1. Well, one of the other critics put this year’s RESIDENT EVIL in his Top 10 list, so I don’t think that you have to apologize for PROMETHEUS.

  2. Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo

    December 20th, 2012 at 5:19 am

    This is exciting stuff Vern. Your RAID review made me think you liked it but didn’t love it… have you warmed up to it more since then? It’s cool that you’re not the only critic repping for Hyams, too.

    You didn’t see END OF WATCH this year, did you? It’s top-10 material for me, I think maybe it would be for you too.

  3. The Avengers only got 5 votes? See, this is why most of us don’t give two shits for what most critics say.

  4. ‘End of Watch’ was ‘Colors’ with handheld cameras and more Mexicans.

  5. No offence, Captain Tass, but the only list I’d put AVENGERS on is List of Movies With an Eerie Resemblance to Those Crappy Albums Santana Made in the Late 1990s. I really dislike that film.

  6. Dikembe – Good question. My review of THE RAID is drunk on unparalleled-filmgoing-experience but tempered with a more analytical comparison to MERANTAU and its approach to character development. But of course I bought the blu-ray right away and watched it again and it kicked my ass again. For me it’s clearly the most pure shot of filmatistic adrenaline of the year and the one I will rewatch the most. And of course I wanted to represent for the action genre. There is definitely an argument going on in my head as to whether it’s superficial to choose a movie completely for form and not for substance, but I don’t know. I thinks sometimes you have to bow to technical greatness.

    END OF WATCH is really that good? I was not excited for a found-footage cop movie. But I guess I’ll give it a shot when it’s on video.

    Captain – I rewatched THE AVENGERS just the other day and still really enjoyed it. I also got alot of joy out of the Batman movie. I considered both for the lower spots on my list. I think for me personally when it’s a close call there’s a tendency to vote for the one people might have missed instead of the one that is literally the highest grossing non James Cameron movie ever and doesn’t need my dumb ass to get people to watch it.

    If it makes The Avengers feel better I am voting for Black Widow to be my super hero girlfriend.

  7. Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo

    December 20th, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    END OF WATCH really surprised me. Based on the trailer I thought it would be a lowest common denominator flick where Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena yell “dude” and “bro” a lot while shooting guns in the air. But it ended up being one of the fresher and more heartfelt buddy cop movies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s also pretty exciting.

  8. Congrats Vern, I’m glad you got your chance to bring a little bit of different perspective to the survey! Kudos on remembering how great Salma Hayek is in SAVAGES, how great Tom Hardy is in LAWLESS, and for the TALL MAN love. Feels like some small amount of justice that they at least get a mention now.

  9. So, the PAIN AND GAIN trailer. What does everyone think? I like the premise (seems like something the Coen brothers would do… they even got Tony Shalhoub!) and the actors involved, and it’s good to see Bay taking a break from huge blockbuster franchises. Of course, comedy has never really been Bay’s thing (mostly gay panic jokes padded with sloppy improvising) but this seems like it might be a bit more self-aware than some of his other films? Like he knows how ridiculous his dudebro characters, military fetishism and shiny, slick, orange-and-teal aesthetic has become? Maybe I’m reading too much into it, I don’t know.

  10. Blimey. Every single category appears to have at least one entry duplicated through misspelling or punctuation.

    I was wondering if you’d seen Beasts of the Southern Wild, Vern as I’d like to hear your take on it. It surprised the hell out of me. A lot about it that you could find cheesy or irritating (that I could’ve found that way if I’d seen it in a different mood) but a lot more that I found enthralling. So much so it’s the only film I’ve gone back to see in the cinema again this year. Definitely duking it out with The Raid for my favourite.

  11. Grats Vern, from here it seems like quite an honor to be included, well deserved too.

    Thanks for putting Prometheus on there, I got more reflection on that one than anything else this year. It might not be the best movie, but it was for me the most interesting movie of the year and I like interesting movies.

  12. I seem to have enjoyed PROMETHEUS more than most, in that it never pissed me off even once, but I’m flabbergasted at this whole “It really made me think” thing. It’s a totally idiotic monster movie full of retarded characters who occasionally spout off some second-draft metaphysical gibberish. It’s an entertaining bauble, nothing more. If there’s anything to think about, it’s the gaping plot holes. It’s like AMERICAN HORROR STORY: A bunch of shit happens, signifying nothing, but it was fun shit while it lasted.

  13. There were a couple of moments with the David character that verged on the philosophical. Of course, a lot of this is because Michael Fassbender turned in one hell of a performance. His actions also seemed difficult to fully understand rather than just blatantly moronic.

  14. Prometheus is only really thought provoking for casual fans of the genre, the kind of people that might see one or two sci-fi movies a year but don’t really have much interest beyond that (not that there’s anything wrong with that). There’s nothing really original about it, in fact when I heard the movie had something to do with the origins of life on earth I thought “oh so it’s gonna be like that old Star Trek TNG episode The Chase” and it turned out to be exactly that. Except less interesting.

  15. I was going to write something snarky about the philosophical musings of Fassbender’s character in PROMETHEUS being hindered by the fact that the lead character carried his severed head around in a bag while he spouted his gibberish. Then I remembered that the severed head of Lance Henriksen provided the most complex and moving moment in ALIEN 3. It just wouldn’t be fair to blame Fassbender for not being Henriksen.

  16. I finally saw “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning”. Not in 3D, but at least uncut on DVD.
    Great that you put it on your list. It really IS that good and more People should see it.
    Also thanks for “Savages”. One of my favorites too, and so underrated.

  17. Vern, what do you think about “Killer Joe” ?

  18. Pike – I haven’t seen Killer Joe yet, but looking forward to it. I’m glad McConaughey got so much love on the poll. He deserves some credit after so many crazy and funny roles.

  19. Empire Magazine has THE HEADHUNTERS as #9 on their 10 Best list, which of course is rather a big deal here in Norway at the moment.

  20. The Original... Paul

    December 21st, 2012 at 3:25 am

    Vern – I’m there with you on everything but “Haywire” (some really great scenes, but some big misses too, and the lack of any kind of big fight at the end for Gina Carrano is unforgiveable – I know Soderbergh is very much an arthouse action director, but sometimes these conventions are there because THEY WORK), “Prometheus” (ask Asimov), and the three movies on your list that I haven’t seen I obviously don’t know about. “Moonrise Kingdom”, “Dredd” and “The Raid” I would definitely agree with though. Don’t know if I’d put “The Raid” at the very top of my list (in fact I definitely wouldn’t) but much like last year’s “Drive”, I think it’s a really really good film that I had a great time with so I got no problems whatsoever with it being there.

    That said, on the “main” list, it’s a little depressing that “The Grey” – a film that I definitely liked but one that I felt was ruined by shakycam in all the wrong places – got three more votes than “The Raid” did. Still, I guess that more people have seen “The Grey” than “The Raid” so that’s… oh wait, nope. Still depressing.

    “Killer Joe”, “Imposter”, and “Once Upon a time in Anatolia”. Three films that I had the opportunity to see, but didn’t. Regretting that decision now. Although “Imposter” in particular was really hard as the only day it wasn’t shown was the one day when I was off work.

    I’m really really really happy to see “Holy Motors” getting as much love as it has.

    What happened to “Into the Abyss”? Wasn’t it eligible for the main category? Or was it released in the US last year?

    “Dark Knight Rises” got THIRTEEN votes? Thirteen?!!?!!

    “Headhunters”, a fairly obscure Norwegian-language film that nobody in the world seems to have seen apart from me and the one other Norwegian guy on this forum, got seven votes. I’m very very happy indeed with that. Would still love a Vern review of this one by the way.

    “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, a film that I’d classify as “not quite as good as it thinks it is” even if you discount the whole camerawork thing, has received ninety-one votes. This was the film, you may recall, that took the “arthouse shakycam” thing that I complained was overused in “The Lincoln Lawyer” and “Forgiveness of Blood”, and used it for THE ENTIRE FILM. Did any of the critics who watched this film actually see it on the big screen? And if so, did it make them feel physically nauseous, like it did me? I really like some of what this film did, and I admire it for its ambition; but guys, this kind of bullshit cannot go on.

    Vern’s written a lot about shakycam in action movies. I agree with his criticisms, but why should the “arthouse” crowd get let off for this?

    And what happened to “Young Adult”? I would’ve thought that would’ve picked up a few votes. Was that also released last year theatrically in the US?

  21. I couldn’t really make a best of list. Like every year, I didn’t see enough new movies and most of them were mostly mainstream stuff anyway. But my top 3 would be (so far. I will still catch up with some new stuff on DVD over the holidays)

    1) The Raid
    2) Dark Shadows (I know, there are only three people in the world who really like that movie)
    3) The Hobbit

    With my least favourite being PROJECT X, which made me so angry for its surprisingly unfunny glorification of dangerous douchebag behaviour in the name of earning your schoolmate’s respect, that it has a real shot at becoming my least favourite movie of the decade!

  22. No, wait, I’m sorry. I totally forgot my favourite movie of the year! And I feel really bad about it. So my top 3 is:

    1.) Detention
    2.) The Raid
    3.) Dark Shadows

  23. I also wont be able to do a Top 10 list. Some big 2012 Movies dont start in Germany before 2013.
    I really want to see Lincoln, Django Unchained !!!, Zero Dark Thirty, Jack Reacher and The Master.
    So far my top 5 are:
    1. Savages
    2. Killer Joe
    3. UniSol: DOR
    4. Killing them Softly
    5. Skyfall

  24. I haven’t seen a lot of the movies I wanted to this year, like LOOPER, DREDD, ARGO, and SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, plus there’s every chance that DJANGO UNTHEFUCKCHAINED could change the game, but here’s my tentative list, I guess:

    2. THE RAID
    4. HAYWIRE
    5. UNISOL: ETC.

    Honorable Mentions:

  25. Oh shit, and LOCKOUT.

  26. I really have to re-watch HAYWIRE. I only saw it on an airplane, while being high from travel sickness pills. Not the best way to watch a movie with a million characters and flashbacks.

  27. Paul:

    Haywire – “any kind of big fight at the end” is when she fights Ewan McGregor on the beach. You’re not the only one disappointed by the cutaway at the end, but I never got it since the main conflict is between those two characters and that was the beatdown it was leading up to. Or I guess maybe you mean she had to fight someone who could fight back. I don’t know. It still works for me on multiple viewings.

    The Grey – yeah, I had a big problem with that camerawork, but it’s also a very strong in the macho emotion department and I can understand why people would put it on their lists.

    Young Adult – Yeah, it came out last year, although I didn’t see it until it hit video. Would’ve definitely been on my list if it was this year, and that would’ve made best actress easier.

  28. 1- Batman
    2- The Raid
    3- Cabin in the woods
    4- The Avengers
    5- Unisol

    But there’s a ton I haven’t seen yet (Haywire, Lincoln, Skyfall, Hobbit…) and Django is almost certainly gonna find itself at the top of this list.

  29. I really wish I liked Russell Crowe in MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS enough to vote for him for best supporting actor. He was funny in it but not good enough to justify that.

  30. without having seen ARGO, DJANGO UNCHAINED, THE COMEDY or SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS yet (and these are all films could easily knock any of the following out of this list) –

    1. Beasts of the Southern Wild
    2. The Raid: Redemption
    3. Lore
    4. Dredd
    5. Prometheus


    Also, there were two films that were released here in Australia early this year rather than late last year that would definitely be in my top five if they were in contention, those being A SEPARATION and 50/50.


    I assumed that HEADHUNTERS was a reasonably well known title? Ebert reviewed it in early May which is when I first heard about it. It’s a neat little thriller.

    Also I thought that the visual aesthetic of BEASTS worked just fine. I guess I drawn a rather definitive distinction between “shaky-cam” and “hand-held” though. I don’t really think that the “art house” crowd are getting away with anything either, or that there is even anything for them to be getting away with. Would you care to elaborate on that statement? I’m genuinely interested because I know quite a few people who cannot stand the impressionistic visual style of films like BEASTS, MELANCHOLIA, LORE etc which is of course an absolutely valid subjective opinion but I guess I don’t really see the parallel between its use in those contexts and its applied use in post-action sequences. We have spent a long time on this sight determining the optimum way for an action scene to be captured on film but I don’t think that we have really dedicated any time to determining the optimum way for an entire narrative motion picture to be captured on the same format.

  31. I think Vern really needs to watch GOON. Fuck, what a pleasant surprise that was. As someone who enjoys characters that live by a strong code, I think he’ll really enjoy it.

    Also, I think Detention would lead to a pretty interesting talkback. It’s a disasterous train wreck of a movie, but one that I’ve watched three times already, simply so I can get to grips with it. It’s hyper self-aware, obsessed with it’s own strange choices in pop culture references and so desperate to be a cult classic that it could never possibly be one (I think). But damn, I’ve never seen a move try so hard to do what it does (or think it does). I kinda love hating it.

  32. Inspiring list, Vern. 

    I’m eager to see The Tall Man, Savages and Lincoln and had a great time this year with movies like Sleep Tight (Mientras duermes), The Raid, Safe, Skyfall, The Avengers, Argo, Killer Joe or Haywire.

    Did you choose John Hyams for politcal reasons or did he really impress you most with this work as a director in 2012? Do you think he did a better job in directing a movie than the directors of the other movies from your list? 

    I know I’m quite alone in this place with my opinion of DAY OF RECKONING, but I hope I’m a person that is able to differentiate between my feelings after watching a movie and the analysis of it’s artistic qualities. 

    I think the direction is what killed DAY OF RECKONING for me, therefore I am very interested in the thoughts that led to your choice.

  33. I forgot to add Detention to the list of movies I enjoyed this year. I’ve seen it twice but I think I have to see it again to be able to explain why I like it so much. Otherwise this already can be the reason.

  34. I had arguments for various best directors that all would’ve made sense to me. I narrowed it to Hyams and Spielberg. With Spielberg I felt like nobody else could’ve done that movie as well. He took a dense subject and made it very entertaining, got amazing acting performances and of course did all the big Hollywood stuff of controlling a massive ensemble, creating period detail and a great look and everything.

    Hyams obviously made a way smaller movie but also a very original one with a big bag of directorly tricks. I thought about the weird atmosphere, the strong acting performances from people not exactly known for their acting, the excellent fight sequences, the show-offy bits like the POV opening and the scary strobe that turns into JCVD’s face.

    I think there are a bunch of directors I could’ve voted for that would be equally valid, but at the time Hyams felt like the one that was doing something the most unusual and also the most on my wavelength.

  35. There are a number of films I want to see that were released this year I have not had the chance to check out yet (LOOPER, ARGO, THE HOBBIT, SEVEN SYCHOPATHS, MOONRISE KINGDOM, KILLER JOE) and I plan to catch DJANGO UNCHAINED & ZERO DARK THIRTY next week, but here are my favorites so far as well as other notable films I enjoyed.

    My 10 favorite films of 2012 (so far) in no particular order. (To be clear I am not saying these are the 10 best films of 2012, they are just the 10 films I enjoyed the most.)


    Other notables:

    THE FP

  36. Vern, I think Hyams is a deserving choice, but I think I would have had to go with Gareth Evans. I think THE RAID set a new standard for martial arts/action cinema, and with time will it be considered a classic in the genre. Hyams is playing with more complex ideas and storytelling in RECKONING, but I think Evans’ deserves credit for the streamlined brutal efficiency of THE RAID. Either way they are both deserving choices, and are directors that have a great deal of respect and passion for action cinema and their audience.

  37. Exceptional:


    Didn’t piss me off:


    Guys who bother with festivals will remind me that these were released in 2011 but fuck those guys:


    Biggest Internet Over-reaction: THE DEVIL INSIDE. It’s completely indistinguishable from any other crappy found footage horror.

    Making a Statement: REC 3, which emphatically abandons the found footage conceit one third of the way into the film and becomes a real god-damned movie. They even linger for a moment on a shot of the smashed cam-corder. Unfortunately, this conceit doesn’t keep REC 3 from sucking.

    Most Unnecessary: RENNER BOURNE. In which two promising careers are sunk for the price of one.

    Profound Waste of a Good Premise: CHERNOBYL DIARIES. How was this not given to Herzog?

  38. 1-900-Mixalot:

    I didn’t dislike “Beasts” because of anything in the film. I think, as a film, it’s been largely overrated. I think it tried the double-sin of walloping me over the head with some “environmental” message without ever really making it clear what that message is. The term “global warming” is never used, yet every time something bad happens, they cut away to a shot of icebergs melting. This struck me as less meaningful and more random/ pretentious. What I’m saying is I don’t think this film is as clever as it thinks it is.

    Nonetheless I liked the central characters and would’ve thought it was a good – sometimes very good – film, had it not made me feel physically nauseous when watching it. (That’s not an exaggeration. This is the first and only film this year to have that effect.) There is literally not a single moment in this film where the camera is held still. It’s the most distracting, annoying, and nauseating thing ever. The cinema I saw this thing in is literally fifty feet long with eight rows of seats – you’re close to the action, there’s not space for you NOT to be close to it. And you’re sitting there and stuff is jerking about in front of you – it’s like somebody is holding a sign or something in front of your face that you have to read, but constantly moving it about.

    What I’m saying is a big part of my enjoyment of film can be attributed to it not making me feel physically sick. Well, thanks to “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, that ain’t always the case. And while “The Grey” and “Forgiveness of Blood” were bad in this respect, “Beasts” was so so much worse.

  39. Jareth – DAMN I knew I shoulda gone out of my way to see “Imposter”.

  40. Paul: I had a choice between seeing THE IMPOSTER and HEADHUNTERS and went with the former. If I had chosen more wisely I could have joined your prestige club.

    THE IMPOSTER isn’t the kind of film where the filmatism will suffer if you watch it at home. The power of the film is largely in the situation depicted.

  41. Paul –

    ” I think it tried the double-sin of walloping me over the head with some “environmental” message without ever really making it clear what that message is. The term “global warming” is never used, yet every time something bad happens, they cut away to a shot of icebergs melting.”

    But isn’t that the opposite of heavy handed?

    Beasts of Southern Wild was probably my favorite of the year. My favorite films are the kind that take you to someplace that feels new and real, and vast. This one did that. I love the way everyone talks in the movie. They memorable lines in that one.

  42. Imposter is probably my second favorite of the year.

  43. I’ve enjoyed quite a few new films this year; LOOPER, THE RAID, THE HEADHUNTERS, HAYWIRE, UNIVERSIAL SOLDIER by David Lynch, DREDD Reborn etc. But the best movie I saw in 2012 that I hadn’t seen before was A PISTOL FOR RINGO from 1965.

    By the way, can anyone explain how THE RAID could be identical to DREDD, when DREDD was written a year before?

  44. The original Paul

    December 22nd, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Rusty – I agree with you on it taking you to new places, which is kinda why I feel it deserves a lot of praise in that aspect at least. Like I said, I thought it was a good film, in parts very good. I liked a lot of the cast and would like to have seen more of several of them. I thought the central relationship worked very well. If it had stuck to being a portrayal of this normally unseen section of society then it would’ve been even better than it was – and setting aside the issue with the camerawork, I did think it was good.

    I will stick to my guns regarding the “message” though. A clear case of “blue mohawk” syndrome (read Vern’s “Domino” review). It’s basically hitting you over the head with scenes like the one where Hushpuppy and her father visit the structures on the Levee, and of course the beasts themselves and the icebergs, etc. I just felt that it came off really pretentious and random, rather than making any actual point. And no, there is nothing subtle whatsoever about the “icebergs” scene. If anything, the fact that they never use the term “global warming” means it’s LESS subtle, because by leaving that out they have to make the rest of the implications that much more heavy-handed to compensate. Just my subjective opinion of course, but people who agree with my opinions generally might agree with this one as well. That’s all I got.

    In my opinion there are definitely flaws with this film but I’d have no difficulty recommending anybody see it regardless, if it hadn’t been for the camerawork. Which made me feel ill. Literally ill. No exaggeration. I’m seeing it in a very small arthouse cinema with less than a hundred seats where the screen is half as wide as the room is long. There is no way to NOT be close to the screen. I cannot recommend a film that makes me want to vomit in the middle of it.

  45. Pegsman: A while ago someone in an AICN talkback posted a story about how the director of THE RAID at one point apparently admitted that he had read the DREDD script when it was still called PEACH TREE and they were looking for a director. Apparently one of the producers of THE RAID had also read the script and they decided to rip it off, to make a quick buck with a low budget action movie, that was rushed into theatres before DREDD and that nobody expected to be seen outside of Indonesia. Then it became a worldwide phenomenon and they had to deny that they ever saw one single page of the DREDD script.

    I don’t know how much of it is true, but I have to admit the guy in the talkback wrote it down in a pretty convincing way. Maybe it was also the other way around, with the people behind DREDD ripping off the script for something that they thought would turn out to be some obscure foreign schlock. Or maybe it was just a coincidence. Back in 2006 or so, I wrote an (still unfinished) script with a pretty similar premise too. Only that in my version the building was also on fire.

  46. The original Paul

    December 22nd, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    And for the record, here’s my 2012 cinemagoing in detail:

    Best film: “Into the Abyss”.

    Films I thought were genuinely great:
    – “Argo”, “The Raid”, Shame”, Cabin in the Woods”, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”, “Margin Call”, “Holy Motors”, “Silence”, “Headhunters”, “Detention”, “Moonrise Kingdom”, “The Pact”.

    The “Definitely flawed but still pretty great” brigade: “Sinister”, “Chained”, “Chronicle”, “The Forgiveness of Blood, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo””.

    The “Unambitious but really well executed” category: “Dredd 3D”, “Entity”.

    The “Strongly flawed but with strong points to balance it out” troupe: “The Grey”, “The Bourne Legacy”, “The Hunter”, “Juan of the Dead”.

    The “Good films that I just couldn’t get into but would still recommend if that’s what you’re into” category: “Dark Horse”, “Detachment”.

    The “Just ok for me” category: “Haywire”, “The Avengers”, “Looper”, “Skyfall”, “Safe”.

    The “Good film ruined by terrible camerawork” category: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”.


    I haven’t put my “worst of 2012” on there because that’s a subject for another day (and I mean, come on – it’s pretty damn obvious which films I’ve left off there), but here’s a few comments on the best of the best:

    “INTO THE ABYSS”. Did anybody really think my “best of 2012” would be anything else? This is Werner Herzog’s masterpiece – and given what Werner Herzog’s track record looks like, that’s one helluva recommendation right there. It’s affecting, non-judgmental, emotional, never condescending, brilliantly edited, and just perfect in every way. It ends on a note of genuine optimism that raises it above the level of films like “The Hunter” (where the happy ending was not in any way “earned”) or “Detachment” (which was just all depressing, all the time). This is a film that anybody who loves film or has any kind of interest in the death penalty debate should see.

    “ARGO”. Once again Ben Affleck proves that he’s one of the best directors working today. The filmmaking skill involved here is just incredible. Affleck made a good film in “Changing Lanes” and a great one in “The Town”. I feel as though he’s stepped it up again with “Argo”. Some people have obviously criticised it for being Oscar-bait or because it dramatized the story as much as it did. None of this bothered me in the slightest, so if your opinions match mine more than others, I’d recommend this film.

    “THE RAID”. This might take the award for “least surprising character twist of 2012”. But it’s also one heck of a thrill-ride with some awesome martial-arts action. Every drop of tension and fun is wrung out of the basic premise of this film. I loved it, what more can I say?

    “SHAME”. Does the fact that it now has competition for “most superfluous cock” with “Holy Motors” mean that it’s not as good as it was? Hell no. This is a fascinating, beautifully-filmed and scored movie and an absolute masterclass in how to make an unlikeable protagonist compelling.

    “CABIN IN THE WOODS”. This is a film that I reviewed, felt I was unfair to, went back to the cinema to see it a second time, wrote a second review, and have since watched on DVD at least five or six times more. Great characters, great performances and a great payoff mean that despite a few ropey monsters (what was UP with that damn CGI snake?!) this film is very much a horror fan’s wet dream. Where Vern and I differ is that I feel it delivers on both the comedy AND the horror aspects – because in the end, the horror isn’t about the monsters. It’s about just how far people will go when pushed, and how much their humanity is torn apart when they do.

    “MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE” – I went to see this one largely because of Mouth’s eloquent praise of it. And while Mouth and I have rarely, if ever, seen eye-to-eye, he’s dead-on with this one. A fantastic film with some great central performances.

    “MARGIN CALL”. Along with “Detachment” this gets the prize for “most Hollywood talent in one film”. But holy fucking shit was it a great one. This is a film about a corporation that discovers that it may be in crisis, and the steps that it takes to deal with that situation. It would’ve been so easy to make a lot of the characters in it stereotypical evil capitalist yuppies, but “Margin Call” shows the humanity of its characters. My personal standouts would be a (near-unrecognisable) Demi Moore, and Kevin Spacey (who makes up for years of career stagnation and shows, for the first time in almost a decade, what he can really do). But there are many, many great performances, complimenting a great script and story.

    “HOLY MOTORS”. If you love the medium of film, you should see this one. It’s bizarre, deliberately ambiguous, and hard-hitting at all the right points. If nothing else we get a perfect demonstration of how NOT to murder a guy by stabbing him in the neck, which has got to be one of the most awesome single scenes of the year for me. This film is also beautifully shot and scored.

    “SILENCE”. It’s a police procedural about pedophilia. The bad guys aren’t all bad, the good guys are far from being all good, the cinematography is stunningly good throughout, and while this is definitely not a happy movie, it’s a beautifully made and emotionally affecting one.

    “HEADHUNTERS”. Just watch it unspoiled. That’s all I’m saying. It’s a crime drama about a man who works as a recruitment specialist by day, art thief by night, who ends up getting in very deep with all the wrong people. The central antagonist might be the best one I’ve seen on film this year.

    “DETENTION”. I have now watched this film about eight times on DVD. (Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to see it in the cinema.) It’s by far the most fun I’ve had with a film this year. If you were a teenager in the nineties, WATCH IT. You will laugh like a loon at lines like “We’re going to watch Freejack on laserdisk!” I will add that I haven’t laughed as hard at a single “kill” since Jason X’s happy campers. This is a film that just works, and performs something of a miracle in that just about everything it sets up gets paid off. Even things like the bear and the guy with a TV for a hand get great, hilarious payoffs.

    “MOONRISE KINGDOM”. Look, if you’d have told me that the Wes Anderson movie featuring Bruce Willis in a supporting role in a coming-of-age story would be far, far superior than the time travel sci-fi drama also starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and Emily Blunt, I would have laughed in your face. But what can you do? “Looper” left me underwhelmed – basically, think every criticism that anybody has ever applied to “Inception”, apply it to “Looper” instead, and you pretty much have my opinion of that film – whereas “Moonrise Kingdom” was affecting, funny and heart-warming throughout.

    “THE PACT”. When I saw the trailer for this movie, I dismissed it out of hand. Boy was I wrong. By far the best “straight” horror movie of the year, “The Pact” works because it’s unpredictable, the characters are lightly-portrayed but believable, and the atmosphere of mystery is maintained throughout until its (very satisfying) conclusion.


    And a few more…

    “CHRONICLE” – proof that “found footage” movies can absolutely work if the characters are strong enough.
    “SINISTER” – if “Headhunters” had the best human antagonist, “Sinister” had the best supernatural one. Seriously creepy shit right here.
    “CHAINED” – This film is released in the US in 2013. GO SEE IT. Vincent D’Onofrio puts in a spectacularly good lead performance as a serial killer who kills a boy’s mother and takes the boy in to raise him as his own.
    “THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD” – It’s an anti-action film. Despite the few complaints I had with this film, it’s still gripping from start to finish, with some really great performances. What’s most fascinating is seeing a film where almost all of the significant events take place offscreen, leaving us entirely with the point of view of the protagonist, Nik, and his sister.
    “THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO” – second-rate Fincher is still better than 95% of other films, and this film is no exception. I was gripped from start to finish.
    “DREDD 3D” – Just did exactly what it needed to to entertain the crap out of me. Perfect? No. Fun? Hell yes. It’s a crying shame that this film was marketed as badly as it was.
    “ENTITY” – Getting to meet the director of this one was a lot of fun. But the film stands up really well on its own merits also. It’s a low-budget horror movie that should be completely satisfying to anybody who likes their horror to be dark and atmospheric throughout.

    And that’s why 2012 was, in my opinion, easily the best year for films of my lifetime. I mean, just LOOK at that list. You might disagree with me on a few of those films, but the amount of talent there is simply extraordinary.

  47. The original Paul

    December 22nd, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    CJ – I think there is room in this world for both “Dredd 3D” and “The Raid”. Look, if I was really concerned about whether two similar films were “influenced” by one another, I’d never watch “Armageddon” ever again!

  48. CJ, Andreas and Paul, thank you for the DETENTION love. My best of the year publishes next week so I guess I shouldn’t spoil it.

  49. CJ, for me personally it doesn’t really matters who copied who, but I suspect that most people on this site think that THE RAIDs’s the better movie. I don’t.

    Paul, just curious, did you watch THE HEADHUNTERS dubbed or with subtitles?

  50. CJ, did you write your script after a double bill of THE TOWERING INFERNO and DIE HARD?

  51. Franchise Fred, given your name are you talking about HOME ALONE 5?

  52. I don’t understand how people can enjoy either DREDD or THE RAID and not both.

  53. Who says they can’t? If you love the JUDGE DREDD comics from the 80’s the movie’s perfect. And THE RAID’s a really cool action flic.

  54. What’s this perfect shit? Can’t a movie just be good?

  55. The original Paul

    December 22nd, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    RRA – the thing about “perfect” is that so many movies have surpassed just “good” this year, I seriously don’t know how on earth they’re going to beat it. How the heck do you top a year like this? I suspect it will always be “the” year of film for me (although I’ll be really happy if I’m wrong and somehow things get better!) Hell, even the not-so-great films all seemed to have something great about them.

    “The Bourne Legacy”, for example, has had some REALLY harsh criticism here – and certainly it has a lot of missteps (in particular the bizarre casting of Edward Norton in the equivalent of Brian Cox’s role in the previous films, the let-down final antagonist, and the final chase scene involving him). But I don’t know how you watch the scene in Rachel Weisz’s character’s house with the “psychologist” and not get a shiver. That might be one of the most effective villains of the year, and she’s only in one single scene. The opening in the mountain cabin and the mass murder that occurs early in the film, too – those are great scenes.

    And there’s “The Hunter”, which does not work as a thriller, at all. But I dare anybody to watch the resolution of that film, that great scene with Willem Dafoe in the cave, and not get goosebumps. Hell, I found myself tearing up. Sublime, perfect bit of filmmaking right there.

    And even “Haywire”, which I’ve been strongly critical of in terms of some of its story aspects, has some of the best directing Steven Soderbergh has ever done. Gina Carano is great as a lead and has two fight scenes that, while not to everybody’s tastes, were a breath of fresh air to me. And that five-minute shot of Carano leaving her hotel is brilliant filmmaking.

    Don’t get me wrong – there have been films that I’ve seen that were pretty close to iredeemable this year. (And I’m not just talking about the ones that I’ve avoided – “Jack and Jill” and “Spy vs Spy”, which everybody seems to agree are terrible, are films that I’d never go and see just for the sake of completeness.) If I do a “worst of 2013” list, I know which films would be on it. But for now I want to bask in the positives.

    Pegsman – I saw it subtitled at the same arts cinema as I saw “Beasts of the Southern Wild” in. If it had been dubbed I might have been tempted to give it a miss – I’m one of those people who find dubbed foreign films incredibly distracting. Glad I did see it though.

  56. Pegsman, my name was given to me in a talkback for which I no longer remember, but it was a discussion of Texas Chainsaw 3D. If there were a HOME ALONE 5 I’d be all over it. It should be Macauley Culkin now in his 20s still home alone, having sex parties but Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern still try to rob him so he sets booby traps. I guess it would be more like SAW now.

  57. Paul: I’ll have to beg to differ with you on BOURNE AGAIN. I think the script was slipshod, the action was limp, the direction was predictable, and Renner’s performance laughably tone-deaf. I like the BOURNE movies enough to go easy on any number of the lukewarm rehashes I’ve seen (most of them Asian), but this film brought nothing to the table; by the time it fizzled out at the end I was sure I was watching a parody. I’m not exaggerating when I say that RESIDENT EVIL: WHATEVER had more energy and inventiveness than BOURNE AGAIN, and RESIDENT EVIL was terrible.

    Sure, that sequence you describe was fine (though the setpiece sequence in PROMETHEUS was better). Maybe I had unrealistic expectations. Gilroy has the skill to write and direct a film like Johnny To’s LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE, but instead chooses to churn out this insultingly unnecessary exercise in brand extension. Boggles the mind.

    But I agree with you on MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE. That film found a way really unnerve me, even months later. WINTER’S BONE is very similar and just as good.

  58. Jareth – I actually agree with you on the first paragraph. Well except RE: WHATEVER to me was worse, but you have a point. I didn’t like THE BOURNE LETHARGY either.

    And that really has my vote for most disapointing movie of ’12. Good director, good cast, Renner is a good actor, but shit talk about a clusterfuck of irrelevance. Slow, unengaging, I never once was compelled to care what was happening and by the climax, I just gave up on the movie. (I know Vernites don’t care for the Bourne movies, but I really quite liked them.)

  59. Oh, that RESIDENT EVIL movie was terrible in nearly every respect. But I think it had more energy, inventiveness and commitment to its schlocky genre than BOURNE had, which isn’t setting the bar very high when RE’s big innovation was on par with that entire season of DALLAS that was all a dream. I mean, Jesus, those RE movies are still cribbing their fight scenes from THE MATRIX (though I admit I like the backwards cinematography at the beginning; that shit was like pulp BARAKA).

    Like you said, BOURNE just dragged itself through the motions. I thought MICHAEL CLAYTON was excellent, and that weak follow-up film with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen at least had a discernible tone to it and some strong filmatism. Maybe I’m just peeved that the intelligent little sub-genre promised by MICHAEL CLAYTON never really flourished.

    And in fairness, I didn’t bother with SPIDERMAN, which looked pretty dire to me, so maybe BOURNE would improve in comparison.

  60. Fred, I once had an idea for a new HOME ALONE, which would mostly focus on Harry & Marv, just being released from prison and eager to finally live an honest live. They buy a house, get a shitty job at a local supermarket and everything is good. But one day, they see a new family moving into the house at the end of the street and they immediately recognize the father. It’s the now grown up Kevin! He doesn’t know that the two bruglars from his childhood live just a few houses away from him, but they are so traumatized by their encounters from 20 years ago, that they think he moved there on purpose. Just to torture them again. After several bizarre fever-dreamish moments of panic, they decide that they finally have to kill him. And his family too, just to prevent his spawn from coming after them.
    Well, I still got no idea what happens then, but it ends with Harry and MArv accidently killing himself in a huge explosion, ending up in a hell, right out of a Three Stooges short, while Kevin and his family have no idea who their neighbours, who dies so tragically, really were and what they planned to do.

  61. For me, the reason The Raid is the better movie than Dredd is because, for the first time in long time, you had action scenes that told a story, rather than just had a couple of people fighting. Look at the first fight between Jaka and Mad Dog. Jaka, the bigger man, trying to dominate Mad Dog with his size, while Mad Dog works to bring Jaka to the ground to negate his height advantage. And the three way fight between Mad Dog, Rama, and Andi is simply one of the greatest scenes in martial arts history. One of my biggest pet peeves in movies is where one side in a fight has a numbers advantage but fights one on one. This time, you had Rama and Andi fighting as a team, something they’d probably done growing up together. But Mad Dog works the entire fight to separate the brothers to make the fights one on one. It’s organic and also establishes just how bad ass Mad Dog is. One on one, no one can beat him. But in the end, Rama and Andi are able to work together as a team and take him down. The Raid just feels like something you haven’t seen in a long time, if ever, in an action film before. Dredd was really well done, but even if I’d never seen The Raid Dredd wouldn’t have struck me as unique. That’s why The Raid was the best film of the year for me.

  62. Paul – I’m in no way saying “Jack and Jill” is a good movie, but I kid you not when I say Al Pacino is pretty incredible in it. What has become a tired comedy staple (the celebrity cameo-ing as an asshole version of himself, a la Neil Patrick Harris in Harold and Kumar) gets turned on its head as Pacino somehow commandeers the entire plot (there would literally be no movie without his character) and I’m pretty sure he gets the most screentime of anyone besides Sandler. It’s an aggressive yet selfless performance, winking yet somehow fully committed, if any of that makes sense. Too bad the movie around him is atrocious. A Pacino-only fan edit would have made my Top 10 list.

  63. Fred, there really is a HOME ALONE 5 coming out soon.

  64. Will HOME ALONE 5 have Macauley Culkin as the father?

  65. RRA – as much as I’d like to run a competition for “most inventive Bourne title” based on what I’ve seen here, I can’t agree that it’s anything close to the most disappointing. I have a “worst” list, comprised of three films; and at least two of the films on it are films that I expected, given the talent behind them, to be great. And they were really, really far from that.

    Look, I think you could make a case for “Bourne”, “The Avengers”, “Looper”, “Skyfall”, hell even “Safe”, to be “most disappointing” of the year. But none of those are IMO bad films. Seriously, if Bourne was the biggest disappointment you had at the cinema, it’s been a good year.

    And Neal – obviously I am in no way qualified to make any judgement on “Jack and Jill”, with or without Al Pacino. I’ll take your word for it, but I still aren’t going to see it.

  66. The original Paul

    December 23rd, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Y’know what, stuff it. Might as well get flamed here as anywhere else, so here we go. I warn you guys: you are going to HATE some of the stuff that I’m saying here. I’d add the usual disclaimer that these are my personal worst experiences in cinema this year, that they’re completely subjective, and that just because I didn’t enjoy a film doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a terrible film on any technical or objective level. (That especially applies to my #1 pick.)

    But let’s start with “Paul’s worst experiences in cinema”, #5 slot.

    At five, my choice isn’t even a film. It’s the ODEON CINEMA CHAIN. Specifically their cinema in my home town of Swansea, South Wales. A cinema that has recently lost my custom to the local Vue (which is ten minutes’ further away from my home, so not the natural choice). Let’s go through some of the recent changes at this cinema:

    1) ALL of the good seats, half of those in the cinema, are “premium”. Want to sit at the back of a nearly-empty cinema showing? Tough cheddar, you can pay a premium of £1.50 on top of the ticket charges.
    2) It’s tough to complain about the films they choose to show, because hey, they’re a multiplex, not an arthouse cinema. They’ll show what they think will sell. What I CAN complain about is their relentless “upselling” of gimmicks like only showing films like “Dredd” in 3D. For four to five pounds extra. FUCK THAT.
    3) Half a fucking hour of adverts and trailers? Are you fucking kidding me? Have we officially got to the point where they could actually squeeze in an extra showing of a film if they got rid of some of the crap at the start?
    4) And among those trailers, spoiler-filled “interviews” regarding the film YOU’RE ABOUT TO SEE. Seriously, what the fuck?

    I understand that a business has to be run to make money. I get that. I will buy their £2.70 tubs of ice-cream and £3.00 popcorn (actual value if you make it yourself and bring it with you: about forty pence) because it’s optional, I can afford it, and it adds to the experience. But the crap above will not fly. I hope their customers abandon them in droves. Just as I have done.


    Ok, at #4, my first “worst cinemagoing experience of 2012” that’s actually a film: “PROMETHEUS”.

    Now I was going to name this list as my “most disappointing” moviegoing experiences, but that wouldn’t be fair to “Prometheus”. It didn’t disappoint me because I never expected anything from it in the first place. Ridley Scott is a great visual director, no doubt about that; he is one of the greats when it comes to capturing the mood of a scene in a visually evocative and memorable way.

    The trouble with Scott is that, to really shine, he needs to be given a great script. And it’s been a long, long time since this has happened. Look, I admit, I’ve missed some of Scott’s good ones. Maybe I’ve missed a masterpiece or two in the last ten or fifteen years, I don’t know. Trouble is, I’ve also missed some stinkers. I didn’t even see the Russell Crowe “Robin Hood”, a film that seemed to be pretty much universally despised. The point I’m making is that just going on what I’ve seen from him recently, I’ve got no reason whatsoever to expect “Prometheus” to be good based on the director.

    So it really comes down to the writer; and what we have is the guy who did “Mission: Impossible 3”. A film I absolutely despise for doing absolutely nothing interesting or original in any way.

    Look, I don’t need to go into what’s wrong with “Prometheus”. Asimov, in my opinion, nailed it in his ten-thousand-word essay on the subject. I don’t think it’s quite as bad as Asimov thought it was; I don’t think it’s possible for Ridley Scott to make a film without SOME interesting imagery, and most of the acting is fine. I don’t think the lead actress either understood the character she was playing or was directed well enough, and there are huge problems with the characters and story of this movie. It’s not terrible, but it sure as heck is boring. And that might be worse.



    Boy oh boy. Didn’t expect I’d be ranking this one as WORSE than “Prometheus”. Hell, before I saw it, I went in thinking it would be right up there on my “best of” list. But this was bad. This was really, really bad. It’s one of those films where you come out of it angry and frustrated but still thinking: Hell, it had SOME good scenes. And then the more you think about it, the more pissed off you get.

    So “The Dark Knight” ends with Batman having “taken the fall” for Harvey Dent, to keep his reputation and his life’s work intact. So Batman is not just a dedicated vigilante any more, he’s wanted by the police. If ever there was a great setup for a sequel, this was it. So what do the writers do in the sequel? They have Bruce Wayne, a virtual cripple, alone in his mansion, faced essentially with the task of having to rediscover “how to be Batman”. Oh yeah, and they have him learn that life lesson TWICE. Who the fuck thought this would ever work? How did they even come up with that idea?

    “The Dark Knight” is notable because pretty much all of the characters – even the minor ones – have some kind of a point or arc. Look at Coleman Reese, the lawyer who gets about four minutes’ worth of screentime in “The Dark Knight”. He’s a better-defined character than any of those in “Rises”. Chris Nolan is great at putting together giant puzzle-box films where all the pieces gradually slot into place for a satisfying climax. So what the hell happened in “Rises”?

    I don’t know why Bruce trusts Miranda Tate. It’s never explained why he would, so the fact that she turns out NOT to be trustworthy has zero impact. Likewise, why he keeps trusting Anne Hathaway’s character even though she keeps betraying him. Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character is supposed to be a great detective, so we’re told. Why don’t we see any of this? People who criticised “Inception” for the amount of exposition and “tell don’t show” must be absolutely reeling at this film. Characters don’t fit, are blatantly inconsistent, or just not defined at all – and this includes all of the major characters. Add some really terrible action scenes, some really hokey and cliche’d dialogue, and a massive amount of stuff that’s just dumb, and you’ve got a film that has all the flaws of “Prometheus”.

    But unlike “The Dark Knight Rises”, “Prometheus” at least had technical excellence on its side. Nolan’s film doesn’t even have that. The sound balancing is appalling – I often couldn’t tell what the characters were saying throughout the whole movie – and the cinematography is a HUGE step down from “The Dark Knight”. This isn’t only an incoherent film, it’s an ugly one.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that “The Dark Knight Rises” was the worst film I’ve seen in the cinema this year. But it’s not the worst experience I’ve had with a single movie. That title goes to:


    #2) YOUNG ADULT.

    I’m sorry. I’m really really really really sorry. I hate it when other people rip into films that I like, and I know a great many of you love this film. I will say straight away that I don’t think that it’s a bad film on the level of characters or technical ability. Hell, it’s a very good one – on those terms. And once again, this is my own subjective experience with the film. It’s not necessarily reflective of the quality of the film.

    So let me start out with what I think worked. Mavis is a well-written character. Theron and Oswalt both do exactly what they need to do, and I think their performances are both strong – heck, Oswalt might be the best I’ve ever seen him in this film. And as a portrayal of a depressed, aimless alcoholic, Mavis is simply excellent. I agree with a LOT of what the people who loved this film have to say about it. And yet I couldn’t stand the experience of actually watching it. Why?

    Well for one thing, Mavis might be a good portrait of an alcoholic, but she’s not a fascinating one. Look, having your protagonist be utterly without redeeming features CAN work – “Shame” proved that. The difference is that Fassbender’s character in “Shame” was fascinating to watch. His character went through experiences that I didn’t expect and couldn’t predict. He took us on a journey.

    Well, “Young Adult” doesn’t do that. At all. Within the first ten minutes of the film, I knew that: 1) At the end of the film, Mavis would end up confronting her ex’s wife in an embarassing public showdown. 2) That her dress would be ruined by her spilling alcohol on it. 3) That she’d be publicly shamed. What I’m getting at is that this is one of the most predictable films I’ve ever seen. Which would be ok, if the characters were ones that I wanted to spend time with. Heck, every romantic comedy ever written has the same ending, the difference is whether or not you enjoy getting to that point.

    And the problem here is that I didn’t want to spend time with these characters. There isn’t a single likeable character in the movie; even the ones that might have been, aren’t because they’re seen through Mavis’ eyes. I guess Oswalt comes the closest, but even he suffers here.

    Some people have said that this film is a massive step forward for Diablo Cody after “Juno”. I think it’s a MASSIVE step backwards. Look, the “hipster dialogue” didn’t bother me at all in “Juno” because all of the characters were believable, likeable, but also flawed. Nobody came off either perfect or iredeemable. Cody’s great strength in that movie was writing likeable characters and a story that keeps you guessing. Why anybody thought it would be a good idea to ditch all of that and come up with a film like “Young Adult”, I have no idea. All I can say is, I hated the experience of watching it. I took nothing positive from this film. And that’s why it’s my second worst cinemagoing experience of 2012.



    Every time those loveable chipmunks started singing “Survivor” by Beyonce, I wanted to drive a pitchfork through my ears. That is all.

    So that’s my “worst of 2012” list. Hope it didn’t break anybody’s spirit. Merry Christmas all!

  67. So I caught up today by (re-)watching HAYWIRE and GOON. HAYWIRE was seriously good and I love all those little touches (like NOT killing the hero’s father, although his big scene was a perfect setup for that kind of cliche) and that it wasn’t about some kind of big government conspiracy.

    GOON was just okay. I didn’t laugh out loud once, but it was surprisingly sweet, although on the other hand pretty forgettable. If I get more than 10 movies together, it will definitely not on my Top 10 list.

  68. Funny, I loved RESIDENT EVIL: AGAIN. Didn’t make my top 10 but I watched it twice on Blu ray already.

    THE BOURNE QUADRILOGY is way worse than ANOTHER SPIDER-MAN, and you know I didn’t like SPIDER-MAN.

    CJ, great idea for a sequel. I would even have Kevin catch on and get PTSD flashbacks and end up rigging his whole house again, causing his wife to take the kids away.

    Paul, CHILWRECKED was 2011 so you have to pick another worst. It’s the rules.

  69. CJ, GOON is not a classic and it would be unfair to try and compare it to HAYWIRE, but it is a very enjoyable film with some fun characters. Here is what I wrote about the film over in the Badass Netflix & Crackle recommendations on the forum.

    “For a little change of pace I noticed Netflix recently added GOON. It stars Seann William Scott as Doug Glatt a sweet and simple man who excels at giving and receiving physical punishment (the guy is one tough SOB) that finds his place in the world as a hockey thug/enforcer despite not having any hockey skills. At first glance you would assume GOON is a film about hockey, but I would argue that it is more specifically a film about hockey fights. The hockey in the movie seems to exist only to set up Doug’s next fight and build toward an inevitable showdown between Doug and legendary hockey goon Ross Rhea (Live Schriber). Rhea is such a great character & Schreiber’s performance is so good he practically steals the film. Schreiber’s performance stands out but the entire cast is solid. Scott is really good, and it nice to see him play a charter that is outside the wise talking screen persona he has crafted for himself. Kim Coates is also good in a limited role as Doug’s coach in the pros. In addition, I was impressed with the direction & filmatism. The movie looks great, and the hockey and hockey fights are very well shot and executed, and you don’t always see that in a dramedy like this.”

  70. Regarding a theoretical HOME ALONE 5, I like the idea that Kevin’s experiences being left home alone and forced to fend off robbers as a child have traumatized him and driven him mad. Now as an adult Kevin stages a series of events and intricate traps designed to lure his childhood tormenters to their doom SAW style. They could call it HOME ALONE 5: KEVINS REVENGE, or some shit like that. The title “HOME ALONE” already sounds like it should be a horror film.

  71. Just wanted to echo the people who are championing GOON and HEADHUNTERS. Two of my favorite finds this year. I thought GOON was the best hockey movie since SLAP SHOT (which, granted, it borrows a lot from). As someone who has been playing hockey for over 30 years, I was sort of the built-in audience for it, though. HEADHUNTERS felt like a story Elmore Leonard would write if he were Scandanavian. That’s definitely meant to be a compliment.

  72. The original Paul

    December 23rd, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Fred – it definitely came out in February over here (Young Adult was January). I’m going on UK release dates.

    And that trailer was like something they’d show POWs in “special interrogation” to break them down completely.

  73. Try watching the whole thing. For work of course.

  74. “Funny, I loved RESIDENT EVIL: AGAIN. Didn’t make my top 10 but I watched it twice on Blu ray already.”

    Fred Topel – When your standards are low enough, I suppose you could love such a stupid, useless, nonsensical, incompetent, imaginatively bankrupt movie like that. ASM was decent, but it’s gold compared to that trash. I love trash, but that trash had a dead body in it.

    I did love that prologue expositional montage, as if that would actually explain this mythology. Nevermind that the people going to such movies are I’m pretty sure are fans who don’t need it.

    But that series has fans. I don’t understand why. I suppose its the same way Tea Party has fans too. I don’t know what that way is, but I know it’s there.

  75. I generally don’t like the series but this one was just so crazy and nonstop, it wasn’t weighed down by failed attempts at plot or substance. I think the score had a lot to do with that though. Tomandandy are the shit.

    Although W.S. has gotten away with a lot of palatable films despite his limited filmatism. SOLDIER is quite watchable, as is DEATH RACE REMAKE and MORTAL KOMBAT if I remember right. Not AVP or EVENT HORIZON though. Those are ass.

  76. I agree with RRA and Jareth. RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION was sweet. Some of the most clearly, competently shot action outside of HAYWIRE and THE RAID this year. Plenty of long shots so you could easily tell exactly what was happening at all times. I’m not sure if anyone else around here is into that sort of thing though. Also it was mostly women doing the fighting which was a refreshing change of pace.

    The fantastic opening credits sequence alone was worth the price of admission. Definitely my favorite credits sequence I saw all year. Though I did love the KILLING THEM SOFTLY one as well.

  77. Okay, I have to say that what I wrote here about GOON sounds WAY more negative than it was meant to be. I actually like it.I didn’t LOVE it and while I, like I said, didn’t laugh out loud once, I smiled a lot and I think that Glatt taking a beating “because he deserved it” was one of my favourite movie moments of the year. Also it has some awesome sound effects and if you ask me, they should really try to get an Oscar nod in that category.

    But as a whole movie it didn’t do THAT much for me. I think it could be improved by adding 30 minutes to its runtime, so that some character and story developments happen in a more fluid way.

  78. Consider the category of Most Unnecessary Film of 2012:


    Some people would probably add PROMETHEUS and DARK SHADOWS to that list.

    RESIDENT EVIL comes out looking pretty good in comparison to such aggressively unnecessary films. But measured by any other standard, it’s pretty terrible.

  79. Jareth Cutestory – “Unnecessary” has to be one of the most overused words in the critical lexicon.

    I mean let’s be honest: Do we really need another Batman or James Bond movie in our lives? But they’ll keep getting made, and God willing, they’ll keep being good whenever they can be. Do we even need movies in our lives? People lived for 100,000s+ years without them just fine. In fact complaining about what movie is unnecessary or not is pretty unnecessary.

    I don’t like those RESIDENT EVIL movies, but with their modest budgets they make a profit with a very loyal fanbase and a foreign audience who apparently is less discriminating than the American marketplace. I don’t hate Sony for making them, since it’s not like I’m being forced to watch them. (I saw #1 and 2, didn’t like them but caught #5 on a matinee trash whim which didn’t pay off.) It’s why I don’t depise 3-D as much as some folks do, as long as I get my 2-D screenings.

    “I agree with RRA and Jareth. RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION was sweet. Some of the most clearly, competently shot action outside of HAYWIRE and THE RAID this year. Plenty of long shots so you could easily tell exactly what was happening at all times. I’m not sure if anyone else around here is into that sort of thing though. Also it was mostly women doing the fighting which was a refreshing change of pace.”

    The fact that you put this in the same sentence as those two exceptional actioneers really discourages me. That movie did remind that Paul W.S. Anderson gets knocked too much for ripping off Cameron, Wachowskis, Carpenter, Woo, and yada yada. He has to rip them off, for if he didn’t and just relied on his own original ideas….there wouldn’t be a movie, much less a movie series. He’s puke of good movies. If puke of those also puked themselves, it would be Asylum.

    But RE:R I’ll give credit I guess: I did like that moment when the woman uses a graveling hook as a gun. Don’t let that compliment go to your head Paul. I’m trying to be nice and not upset your fans too much.

  80. You know I hate when I rant since it makes me lose my original train of thought.

    Oh right, of those “unnecessary” movies you listed above Jareth, I liked 21 JUMP STREET and MEN IN BLACK 3 and (as everybody already knows) AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Now MIB 3 I must say I was about as enthusiastic about seeing that as Republican primary voters were for Mitt Romney, but you know what? I liked it. I laughed, I was semi-engaged with the plot and the twist, and considering initially I was expecting not the best with the basic pitch (going to 1960s and make jokes of the 1960s), it worked out, reminded me why I enjoyed the first one. You know I could actually want to see a fourth MEN IN BLACK, but bring back Brolin (how? Fuck Sony you figure it out) and leave the very tired Tommy Lee Jones home. Not an essential movie, you don’t need this in your life. It’s more like that cheeseburger you don’t need, but you enjoy anyway because you like it. Of all people, Paul Thomas Anderson agreed with me on that one.

    For the record, I’ve not seen the new (poorly received) RED DAWN remake, or WRATH OF THE TENNESSEE TITANS or UNDERWORLD, a series I quit after seeing the very blah first one and intend to keep it that way.

  81. Yeah, I completely agree Paul W.S. Anderson gets knocked too much for ripping off Cameron, Wachowskis, Carpenter, Woo, etc. I mean, why wouldn’t you rip those guys off? They have, over the course of their careers, put on a clinic for how to film action. It seems to me any modern action filmmaker not influenced by those guys is kind of foolish. And in the end where you get your ideas from is irrelevant. All that matters is if the end product is enjoyable. And I think we are all in agreement that RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION is an entertaining film in the grand tradition of American violence.

  82. I don’t knock PWSA for ripping off, since everybody borrows but the great ones steal. But I’m reminded of John Carpenter pseudo-remaking RIO BRAVO from a western into an urban action thriller like ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. Now that’s inspired ripping from his end, along with the little creative touches from dead ice cream buying girl to how the besieged folks are isolated from the rest of the city, etc. That’s why people rip off Carpenter, nobody and I mean absolutely nobody is ripping off Paul W.S. Anderson. Big difference.

    Anderson….he can’t go that extra Carpenter leap. I’m reminded of his (lame) DEATH RACE remake where his brain thought up this reimagining as NASCAR meets reality TV or whatever, which you know isn’t a bad idea since it is the times we live in. But he stops there and does nothing interesting beyond that, or even try to apply some thought and imagination into such a concept. (Why do the cars all have to be black? Very untelegenic.) For that matter I seem to remember Anderson making a big dialogue point that one character is gay, and…what’s the point of that? I’m all for a gay co-lead male action hero character, but don’t just toss it out there like you forgot to cut it out.

    In contrast, who’s ever seen the original DEATH RACE 2000? A Corman cheapie, but I liked some of the inspired notions in it. I was very impressed with how Frankenstein was revealed, and I even dig that bit that Carradine really hates his groupies with their mindless worship of him and this barbaric game. Shit I loved that at the end after he defeats the dictatorship, he’s elected the new President. It’s ridiculous, but in our celebrity driven culture, yeah I could buy that and that he of all people would be the one to abolish that sport. In short I found it an inspired good B-movie of its time. Anderson’s DEATH RACE was neither.

    Speaking of Anderson, surprisingly I didn’t go see his THREE MUSKATEERS movie with the 3-D. How was that?

  83. I still haven’t seen THE THREE-D MUSKETEERS so I don’t know. But Tarantino apparently liked it a lot so that makes me think I’ll probably enjoy it.

  84. I noticed that I really am alone with my hate for PROJECT X, considering that I seem to be the only one who puts it on his personal shitlist, although I think that most people just forgot about it by now.

  85. Sometimes a fart is just a fart. Even if it´s Tarantinos fart. And i really like the Guy.
    But Andersons Musketeers ? No way ! I just love the Book and Richard Lester´s 73/74 Version so much.
    Oliver Reed IS Athos. I dont want to see a flying Milady DeWinter, played by Milla.

  86. RRA: When you take a reasonable, analytic approach to culture and history as you have done, the word “unnecessary” isn’t particularly helpful. Certainly I don’t recall it coming up very often in Cahiers du Cinema.

    Yet the promotion of movies has reached ridiculous levels of hyperbole and belligerence. The greatest danger that hyperbole poses is that, even when people recognize it as false, they prepare themselves to accept a weaker version of the same claim. I think that “best of” lists dovetail with these same hyperbolic strategies.

    I prefer to respond to the billions of dollars that are spent to ensure that I am made aware of these substandard products (and the effect they have on critical discource) by inverting the terms of the discussion, which I feel the word “unnecessary” achieves, at least within the confines of this very specific field of argument. It makes me feel better about my uneasy participation in cinema’s more crassly commercial end.

    But yeah, “unnecessary” isn’t particularly useful for deep analysis. Neither are “best of” lists.

  87. CJ:
    You are not alone. Project X was horrible. I even gave it a real shot, by watching it in the company of friends and beer, thinking that we’d enjoy it in the same way that we like other goofy comedies such as the Harold & Kumars. It did not turn out that way. Out of all the found-footage flicks that have been popping up, I felt that this one more than any begs to put the sub-genre back on the shelf for a few years (or longer). Project X was the most obvious cash-in on this fad. Regardless of how they filmed it though, it is an unfunny, cliche, essentially plotless movie that is even less entertaining than just watching actual video recorded by teenagers at an actual party. (I’m assuming this… I don’t think I’ve bothered watching teen party videos since I was a teen myself)

  88. Yeah, the thing is if PROJECT X would have been just unfunny, I wouldn’t mind that much, but what really pissed me off was that the protagonists were awfully annoying asshole douchebags, who in the end even get REWARDED for acting completely irresponsible by…here it comes…earning the respect of their school mates! Yeah, because making yourself a name in high school is SO important! It was just one godawful love letter to being an asshole. And the only good thing I can say about the movie, is that the director knows how to stage chaos very well.

  89. CJ: definitely agree with you. I honestly was rooting for the guy with the flame thrower.

  90. Hello, all. I’m enjoying reading your lists of favourites, so I figure I should throw a list into the mix. Of all the films I’ve seen this year, these are the ones that entertained me the most:

    Haywire. The Grey. The Innkeepers. God bless america. The Raid. Goon. Game change. This must be the place. Cabin in the woods. Looper. Prometheus (no apologies). Dark knight rises (still no apologies). Avengers. Headhunters. Killer Joe. The hunger games. Wrath of the titans (is anyone still reading?). Magic mike. How I spent my summer vacation. ill Manors. The Hunter. Wild bill.

    CJ, maybe it’s because I’m now mid-30s but I just didn’t get that Project X film at all. How can they justify having some brat tazer the neighbour guy just because he asked the little shits to keep the noise down and stop waking his kids up? He’s totally in the right to smack the little bastard right in his face! And then he’s made out to be a villain?! The only way they could have saved that film would have been to have Carrie show up and tell them what time it is.

    Anyway, Merry christmas, everyone. Keep up the good work here.

  91. Yeah, exactly, Jimbolo! Usually I don’t mind irresponsible and anti-social behaviour by the protagonists in a (teen-) comedy, but usually those guys are nice but misunderstood underdogs. Those assholes from PROJECT X deserved to be hated by their entire school and in the end they not just become a seal of approval for all the shit they pulled, no, they didn’t even learn a lesson and get pretty much away with a slap on the wrist!

    This is the first time since WANTED that the ideology of a movie made me downright angry, but at least WANTED was bizarre and over the top enough to not make me take it too seriously. Remember how everybody was after ATTACK THE BLOCK for having some criminal asshole thug douchebags as heroes? Well, that movie made after all the (successful) try to humanize and make us root for them, while absolutely nothing like that happened in PROJECT X. It’s just an awful movie and I totally get why it was so successful with all these teenie assholes, who only go to the movies to play games on their iPhones. Because it was the justification for their questionable lifestyle that they needed!
    (Damn, I sound like a grumpy old man…)

  92. To be fair, we all know it’s bullshit when AMERICAN REUNION or THE WEDDING CRASHERS or THE HANGOVER or whatever pretends to be telling us that the true path to happiness is maturity and commitment, so PROJECT X could at least get points for honesty if nothing else.

    Note I’m not saying that maturity and commitment *isn’t* the true path to happiness, I am saying that these films never come off as genuine when they try and tell us it is

  93. The original Paul

    December 25th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    RRA – I have a lot of love for “Death Race 2000” (the original). It’s pure corny satire and wish fulfilment. The scene where the doctors put out all their wheelchair-bound elderly patients, and Carradine ignores them all and mows down the doctors themselves instead… the bullfight… the batshit ending… and that rebel leader who had the whole middle-aged German dominatrix (sorry, Germans on the forum) going on… it’s just a ridiculously fun movie.

  94. The original Paul

    December 25th, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    And no, I didn’t see the remake. I think I’ve made my position clear on this bullshit by now. If I don’t pay for this stuff, hopefully other people won’t. And if other people don’t pay for this stuff, maybe they’ll finally stop making remakes of films that I have loved from my childhood onwards. (Hello, “Total Recall”.)

  95. The original Paul

    December 25th, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Jimbolo – what were your thoughts on “The Hunter”? I’ve been wanting to debate that one ever since I saw it, but nobody else was up for the job.

    Personally I thought the “main” plot worked superbly well but all the extraneous thriller stuff did not.

  96. I liked it. My favourite parts were Dafoe just getting on with doing his job, hunting the tiger, though I didn’t think there was anything that stood out as not working at the time (saying that, I’d be lying if I said I remembered all of the details to the thriller plot). I did appreciate the film taking it’s time in the hunting sequences. There are just too many films speeding through their entire runtimes (particularly Abraham Lincoln, the vampire hunter where the whole film was BAM! This happens, then BAM! This happens, then BAM! This happens, and so on, like they had to squeeze in every kine of dialogue and action bit from the book), so it’s refreshing to get to watch a character that shuts the fuck up occasionally.

  97. The original Paul

    December 26th, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Jimbolo – agree on all of that. I kinda hated the last scene (if ever an ending is “unearned”, it’s there – especially as the climax before that was incredibly good, possibly the most affecting scene of the year for me) and I didn’t think the thriller plot worked. I also hated how the whole movie built up to what I presumed to be an epic climax between Dafoe and his stalker, but then Dafoe is caught completely off-guard (despite the fact that he knows exactly how dangerous this character may be) and the stalker is subsequently defeated by accidentally stepping into a trap that he already knows is there.

    But I did love the scenes between Dafoe and the family he stays with, and the “hunting” itself. I just wish it had nailed the “thriller” parts – or just left much of them out. What was the point of the cliche’d antagonistic local yokels again? A good film but a frustrating one.

  98. The original Paul

    December 26th, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    To make this clear – I can understand the locals being IN the film, as their personal struggle highlights the background of the community that Dafoe arrives in. I just don’t understand why they’re turned into the token “harbingers” like, say, the kids in “Hostel”. I think it turns potentially good background characters into one-note cliches.

  99. Paul: If you loved Verhoeven’s TOTAL RECALL, you’re probably right to not bother with the remake. But I kind of hate the original, so I thought the remake was fascinating, at least in terms of watching a big, dumb, pulpy tentpole movie try to both trade on the familiarity and goodwill of the original yet extricate itself from that film’s obvious shortcomings and court respectability. The result is strangely inert, but I think Wiseman is the closest of his generation to recreating James Cameron’s rock-solid pacing and sense of grandeur.

    At the very least, it’s probably Len Wiseman’s best movie. Whatever that is worth.

  100. Well, I did try to reply on this thread, but it seems the drawbridge has been raised.

  101. Sorry Jimbolo we have a new service that has greatly reduced our spam but I’m so used to clicking Empty Spam since there used to be thousands I couldn’t stop it before your spam marked posts went away permanently. I will be more diligent in the future, you had three posts in a row but they went away before I could check to see any reason they might have been marked.

  102. My last movie of the year was MIB 3, which was surprisingly high concept in its use of time travel and alternative timelines. Once they introduced that “five dimensional alien”, the story turned during several moments into some serious DOCTOR WHO shit.

    Anyway, happy new year, folks! Less than two hours till 2013 starts over here!

  103. Congratulations to Vern on hooking up with Village Voice and spouting some opinions that make sense in this crazy world. That’s awesome.

    I guess I’ll try to do the 2012 list thing now.
    Haven’t yet seen everything I really want to see
    (newest Abel Ferrara, new Cronenberg, END OF WATCH, new Les Mis, new “this is how it really happened” bullshit from Bigelow/Boals, new nerd shit shot on home video 3D IMAX, new Tom Cruise judo chopping people, etc..),
    so I apologize that you probly won’t yet know all the 2012 movies that have my official blessing,
    but for now here are Mouth’s 1st tier Favorites & Bests from 2012 or 2012ish —-

    (HBO documentary series executive produced by David Frankham & the great Michael Mann)

    (directors: Jim Swaffield and R. Kelly’s psychosis; and probably R. Kelly’s probationary therapist)
    This is a music video saga that I’m glad exists.

    SOMETHING FROM NOTHING: THE ART OF RAP (d: Ice-T, Eminem Superfan with Attitude)

    THE AVENGERS (co-writer & d: God of Internerdiacs)

    UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (co-writer & d: my close personal friend John, Prince of Steadicam)

    THE TALL MAN (writer & d: Pascal Laugier, horror master who refuses to do a stupid horror movie)

    MARGARET (3+ hour version) (w & d: Kenneth Lonergan, in masterpiece mode)

    THE RAID: REDEMPTION (w & d: Gareth Evans, Welshman with cool friends)

    THE THREE STOOGES (co-writers & d: Farrelly bros., doing homage & action-comedy right)

    ACT OF VALOR (d: Scott Waugh & Mike McCoy, finding new ways to make the SEALs make us all look like pussies)

    DETENTION (co-writer & d: Joseph Kahn, underappreciated wild man)

    TO ROME WITH LOVE (w & d: Woody Allen, doing his annual movie thing that’s funnier &/or better than at least 98% of movies out there)

    WOODY ALLEN: A DOCUMENTARY (w & d: Robert Weide, cutting together a celebratory doc that’s never a fluff piece)

    For a 2nd tier of favorites, I could easily rattle off 30 or 50 more 2012 movies worth seeing, and a lot of them would be 1st tier favorites if you asked me to do another list 18 hours from now.

    WAR OF THE ARROWS (Han-min Kim)
    WU XIA (aka DRAGON) (Peter Chan)
    THE AMBASSADOR (Mads Brügger, guy with the biggest balls this side of Stephen Colbert)
    LAWLESS (John Hillcoat) (has a few of my favorite scenes of 2012: gorgeous sound editing/design, singing hymns at the church, liquid courageous Bondurant LaBeouf stupidly joins the congregation, gets his crush’s attention, starts the foot-cleansing ceremony, starts to puke and just misses his crush with his vomit, then loses his shoe in panic)
    KILLER JOE (William Friedkin, via Tracy Letts again)
    WRECK-IT RALPH (Rich Moore)
    THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (Drew Goddard)
    SAMSARA (Ron Fricke)
    HOLY MOTORS (Leos Carax)
    MISS BALA (Gerardo Naranjo)
    DJANGO UNCHAINED (some Australian guy)
    HAYWIRE (Steven Soderbergh, King of Tripods)
    JOHN CARTER (Andrew Stanton)

    And tons (tonnes) of 3rd tier works & honorable (honourable) mentions of varying quality & impact depending on what type of entertainment or catharsis you seek:

    SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN (John Stockwell directing the Weinsteins’ badass version of a campaign ad with a surprisingly great script);
    EXCISION (Richard Bates, Jr.’s weird arthouse indie horror is gross & headachey until a great ending. As a GINGER SNAPS fan, Vern would probably like it.);

    And finally, of course, the obligatory note on Batman in 2012:

    The new THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: PART 1 cartoon is a less flawed film than the THE DARK KNIGHT RISES: YOUR IMAX MUST BE MORE SEVERE experience, but the latter is a more essential, more rewarding film. Christopher Nolan & his writers fucked up, but I still have lots of love for the trilogy and had fun experiencing the 1st & 3rd of the dark-n-gritty Batmen on their opening days in theatres, as I do for every Nolan joint when I’m in the US upon its release. Nolan & Goyer’s TDK will continue to get a spin in my player once every coupla years, at least the Joker parts, and I suspect I’ll also want to repeatedly check out the Selina Kyle scenes of TDKR for years to come.


    Musical palate cleanser when you’re sick of talkin’ movies:
    My favorite recent song of 2012 that’s gonna stay hot for weeks:

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