Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Movie Review: Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013)

I forgot to post this a few weeks ago.

I have a review of the French film Blue Is The Warmest Colour posted at:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Some brief movie thoughts

This blog is slowly fading away due my postings at but I'm not going to let it die in case I once again become inspired to write about every movie I see... I see a lot of movies that I don't mention, but sometimes I get the urge to talk about them.

Here are my reviews of The Family, Prisoners and Salinger

I have also recently seen:

The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Interesting premise and shot well, but it isn't special

Numbers Station - Perhaps the worst movie I've seen in a long time... shame on you John Cusack

Rush - Very well done film and one of my favorites of the year

Enough Said - James Gandolfini's last film and he is excellent in an off typecast role as an aging divorced man who begins dating a woman with more problems than himself

Gravity - Visually incredibly film and worth seeing on any large screen with great sound... You will need to simply suspend some of your intelligence but do not hesitate to see this one.

Machete Kills - If you liked the first one you'll like this one, though I prefer the first one a but more for the fun of it all... This one captures the feel of the original, but also must try to live up to it.  These movies are crude exploitations and I love them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sticks and Flicks

I've been asked to contribute movie reviews to a new website called Sticks and Flicks focusing on sports and movies. I've got a few posted already and more in the can, so please check out the site and feel free to make comments there and here or on Facebook. I'll continue to update when new content is posted. Thanks for taking a look:

Sticks and Flicks

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pacific Rim; The Lone Ranger; The East; The Way Way Back

Apologies for the brief thoughts, but here are 4 recent films and what I have to say:

Pacific Rim (2013) PG-13; 131M: Anyone who has followed my reviews knows that I pretty much despise mindless action Hollywood crap, with limited exceptions, so I am happy to report that this movie is everything good that Avatar wasn't. I know a lot of people liked Avatar for whatever reasons but I think it had terrible acting and a stupid plot. Pacific Rim doesn't try too hard to explain shit it can't possibly explain and it just moves the story along. It would have been better without a very typical love interest sub plot but overall this was the kind of mindless action movie I can actually enjoy. Perfect movie? No, but god damn those fight scenes between giant robots were done really well. What does it mean to earth when monsters from another dimension threaten our existence? Who cares!

The Lone Ranger (2013) PG-13; 149M: So I was in a theater with about, oh let me count, 3 other people watching Lone Ranger. Dear god this is a steaming pile of shit. The opening is terrible, trying to make jokes that are just so lame nobody would ever even smirk at. Then it moves to the meeting of the two and Armie Hammer is just such a smug douche playing the 'dear sir I respect your opinion but I must disagree' role along with the loveable loser who can't pull the trigger (think Brendan fraser in anything, but specifically Bedazzled). Oh and yeah, there's a train scene with over 700 ridiculous things happening. Who approves this shit? Swinging from chains around poles with people clinging by their necks to legs and then landing back on trains and people getting fling through windows and trains derailing and stopping within inches of killing people etc etc etc etc. oh, and why don't we just go ahead and make it a really violent film at the same time as we are trying to make light hearted jokes and a corny score with bouncy music. Eat a guys heart? Ok. I walked out after 45 minutes. This film deserves any flop list it ends up on. 

And that, boys and girls, is why I always pay to see the movie I think is worth it, and then walk into the stuff that is questionable.

The East (2013) PG-13; 116M: Brit Marling is going to be around for a while (Another Earth and Sound of My Voice) - this is in a similar theme and tone of Sound of My Voice (which I din't love, but liked), though it is fleshed out a little more here and I like the supporting cast quite a bit. The only trailer I saw about this made it look like it would be a non stop action movie about anarchist fighting corporations, but it really isn't that for more than 20% of the movie... a lot of it is character build up and a cult like following, which both works and doesn't work... There is plenty of good in this with some not so good... if you get turned off by some weird wtf plot turns and some cult like scenes, you'll probably not be a fan... but the overall feel of the movie is decent and even
though a little of it gets off track it was a solid change of pace from summer action films.

The Way Way Back (2013) PG-13; 103M: Coming of age tale of an awkward boy (Liam James) on a summer vacation with his dysfunctional family on the beach. Along the way he learns to stick up for himself and get some self confidence while meeting some key people who really affect his life for this positive. I didn't come out thinking it was a masterpiece that I'll remember forever, but I definitely enjoyed it and definitely say see it, if for nothing else than to see the MOST awkward teenage performance I've ever seen (done so well) and for Steve Carell giving a really great performance as the mom's boyfriend who just nails his role as a small time big shot wannabe who is not in this film for comic relief at all, but for an actual dramatic performance that comes off extremely well.

Monday, June 24, 2013

11 Quick Movie Updates

Hey Everyone - Thanks for continuing to follow my movie reviews.  I have been less active this year because   1) It has been a pretty lousy year for movies and 2) I have been doing some side work on a new movie review website project that, at the moment, keeps me from double posting some reviews.  Once I have more information and that site is live I will link it here. For now I am staying brief here while I work on the more in depth reviews over there.

In the mean time, here is just a very quick catch up for 2013 of 11 movies I have seen. Some formatting is being weird and I don't want to try and fix it, so posting as is.

As always, please feel free to write me at if you have any comments, suggestions or just want to ask which movie to see this weekend.



Mud: This may be my favorite movie so far in 2013. I thought it was excellent. Has a very independent feel to it with solid acting by the two young boys and everyone else, including Matthew McConaughey... Reece Witherspoon is good too in a pretty limited role. This is one of those films about things that can only happen to 'people and places different than our own' or something like that... think smart film about some trashy people who all have more to them than they'll ever be given credit for... or something like that..."

Iron Man 3: I liked the original Iron Man but #2 was terrible and I never got into this one and left after 45 minutes.  So yeah, my opinion is invalid.

Room 237: If you like The Shining then you should see this doc about the movie from the perspective of a bunch of conspiracy theorists.  Not a great doc but it is fun to watch if you are into the movie.

Star Trek Into DarknessPretty much like the first one for me. Good enough for what it is. Actually this one may have been better because Cpt Kirk wasn't quite so smarmy. Never was into Star Trek so I have no idea how they did in terms of translating it to the big screen.

The Great GatsbyI liked it for the most part. Enjoyable in many ways. Nothing special though.

Hangover IIII hope it really is the end. I don't understand movies like this where I am supposed to be laughing but I never do.

Now You See MeDecent enough to kill some time. It never moves to anything great but it is entertaining all the way through. 

Man of Steel: This is the definition of trailer hype going in a different direction entirely and making me mad.  I thought it was going to be a good solid character and plot driven film with a darker tone and some great origins and a new take on the Superman history... based on the first two trailers that is what I expected. Instead, about 1/4 of the film is great and does what I thought it would, but the rest turns into typical CGI superhero genre crap.150 minute film containing, easily, 100 minutes of CGI battles and buildings falling down is NOT what I was expecting nor hoping for based on the early trailers, which had me actually convinced this would be a somewhat character and plot driven film. The June release should have tipped me off that it is just another money grab. Some good parts? Sure. Overall? Go ahead and see it like you probably will, but I'm sticking to "I told you so" on this one.

The Bling RingTechnically and superficially enjoyable, but lacking enough emotional and/or social commentary. I am going to love watching Emma Watson movies for the rest of my life.

This Is The EndI don't do enough drugs and I have come to accept that it has thwarted my funny bone growth over the last decade. I laughed a few times of course, but how is this a full length movie and how can people say it was awesome? Subjectively, I want every movie to be Caddyshack.

World War ZDidn't even know it was a book until a few weeks ago, so obviously no comparisons from me. Movie was pretty damn enjoyable from a sit back and relax summer blockbuster perspective. 


I'm no zombie aficionado so I'm sure it made my experience easier, but I (shockingly!) didn't enjoy most of the big zombie/helicopter cgi stuff but was much more drawn to the subdued scenes in the WHO lab. I somehow feel like the movie isn't a zombie movie, just sort of an action save-the-world movie that happens to contain zombies. 

When Pitt and the Israeli woman are the only two to survive the plane crash I pictured The Fonz jumping the shark.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Movie Review: The Iceman (2013)

The Iceman (2013)
Director - Ariel Vromen
106 Min; R
Michael Shannon  - Richard Kuklinski
Winona Ryder - Deborah
Ray Liotta - Roy DeMeo
David Schwimmer - Rosenthal

If you want to know what evil looks like you need look no further than into the face of Richard Kuklinski, also known as 'The Iceman'.  Over the course of 30 some years throughout the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, the Iceman killed at least 100 people and most likely more, all for the mob (The Gambino crime family), for money, and for the hell of it, using everything from guns to knives to strangulation and eventually, cyanide.  Known for his steely persona, Kuklinski would also often freeze his victims and later saw them up and dispose of them, so as to throw off traces of when the victims were killed.  What makes this story different than some basic serial killer or mad man, is that Kuklinski was just as much a good natured family man as an elite killer.  When he was finally arrested in a cyanide selling sting in 1986, Kuklinski's wife and 3 children had no idea that the man they loved was one of the most notorious murderers of all time.  After his arrest and until his death by suspicious activity in 2006 in Trenton State Penitentiary, Kuklinski never saw his family again.

In this film Kuklinski is played by Michael Shannon with a steely gaze and quiet intensity that is simply brilliant and chilling.  You can just imagine this man coming for you, and you having no chance, and nothing you said would matter. 

In a 1992 interview, Kuklinski recalled what he considered was his most sadistic murder.
"It was a man and he was begging, and pleading, and praying, I guess. And he was, 'Please, God, no,' all over the place. So I told him he could have a half an hour to pray to God and if God could come down and change the circumstances, He'd have that time. But God never showed up and he never changed the circumstances and that was that. It wasn't too nice. That's one thing, I shouldn't have done that one. I shouldn't have done it that way."
Michael Shannon has been around for a long time, but I didn't take much notice of him until his captivating role as a man who speaks the ugly truth to suburbanites in Revolutionary Road (2008).  In 2011 he gave one of the finest performances I have ever seen in one of my favorite movies of the last 10 years, Take Shelter, in which he portrays a man struggling with debilitating mental issues while the impending doom of some imaginary (or not) storm looms in the background.  In this film he continues his amazing ability to pull you into his character and lead you where he wants to take you.

Great supporting roles are all over this film, including Winona Ryder as the meek but loving and tender wife who never knew what evils her husband was up to.  Ray Liotta is, as always, perfectly equipped to play Kuklinski's over seeing mob man Roy DeMeo and he isn't just phoning anything in, he put some real effort into this role.  Perhaps a surprise turn by David Schwimmer as mob associate Rosenthal is the most interesting side story in the film.  Schwimmer is absolutely perfect as a just tough enough but certainly not going to make it all the way through the film kind of mobster.  I loved his character.

The filmmakers do an excellent job of placing us in the time periods as the years go on.  Scenery, costumes and wardrobes, and perfectly placed automobiles transport you from the 50s to the 80s and everywhere in between so that you never feel lost in time.  The look of the film has a nice graininess to it to complement the topic perfectly.

Michael Shannon has created an amazing portrayal of what this killer was like, but nothing compares to the iciness of the The Iceman as seen in his own words and gestures. The entire 2 hour special of interviews with the real Iceman, Kuklinski, is available on youtube and I strongly suggest you watch this before, or after, seeing this film:

4.5/5 if you tell me I have to give it a rating

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Company You Keep (2013) and Upstream Color (2013)

The Company You Keep (2013)

-I lifted my self imposed ban of all Shia LaFu*k films because he just didn't appear to be such a douche in this one, and I was right... he was decent enough. His character is ok, I guess, but far from believable in the way he gets so much information the FBI apparently could never get over 30 years.

-It was pretty good and worth seeing, but it falls short of being anything special, probably because the overall theme of the movie is a little too left wing nutjob radical or whatever you want to say about it, and it is a tad distracting in parts, but also because it just simply lacks the 'it' factor that can take a decent movie and put it over the top.

-The over abundance of well known actors is rarely a good thing in serious movies... It is simply weird to always have a new character introduced and you sit there thinking of who they are and what else you've seen them in and what awards they have won etc etc etc... Some nice supporting roles throughout, no doubt, but it is overkill - 3 top actors, maybe 4, is ok usually, but throwing about 10 well knowns together... not for me.

-Compared to a lot of the early year movies, this one stands out as probably one of the better ones, but that's really just a comparison to the hand we've been dealt so far. I enjoyed watching it and I think I liked it more than I'm getting across with these complaints - I just thought (and wanted) to enjoy it much more.

Upstream Color (2013)

This movie sums up exactly why I don't like giving a movie a rating on a scale of whatever to whatever.  Films are very subjective, though I do feel you can spend a few seconds of thought to determine if one is 'good' or not.  This film is neither good nor bad, it simply is.  I could probably write something about it that would sound ok, but it was really strange and I think if you are the type of person who would enjoy this one you will find it on your own.  Shane Carruth made Primer (2004) 9 years ago, a film that challenged us to work out so much without quite enough details to actually do so, and here he does it again, though I'm not sure we're given enough at all (I'm digging around the internet for answers).  The film is beautiful, haunting, creepy and, ultimately, satisfying, though it surely falls into the category of art-house with little dialogue and if you aren't into that, stay away.

Monday, April 22, 2013

4 Quick reviews: 42; Oblivion; To The Wonder; The Gatekeepers

42 (2013): Schmaltzy telling of the Jackie Robinson story but still entertaining. You can skip it for sure, but you could also see it.  Harrison Ford turns in one of his better performances in a long time as Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey, the man most responsible for breaking the MLB color barrier.

Oblivion (2013): A Tom Cruise Sci-Fi film that was much better than I expected. Very derivative of other sci fi films but not in a way that distracted me much. A few of the action scenes just a tad over the top but actually the overall film was well done.  Suggest you see it in IMAX - thankfully no 3D exists of this one.


To The Wonder (2013): A new Terrence Malick film - Always beautifully shot. Did you see The Tree of Life? Did you enjoy that experience? If your answer is yes, then you will probably like this one too.  I assume most people will not enjoy this artsy piece of work that is basically a realistic love story of 3 people told through a hazy, dream like state with little important dialogue.  Just as The Tree of Life told the history of everything in one incredible scene, this film seeks to tell the history of a few people's love over the course of a lifetime, in just about 2 hours.

The Gatekeepers (2013): Solid doc interviewing 6 former heads of the Israeli security force known as Shin Bet. For the first time ever they talked on camera about major events over decades of their work. Mostly real footage is used to portray bombings, assassinations and other terrors. Subtitled in English and a must see for people who love historical documentaries.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

3 brief movie reviews: Spring Breakers; The Place Beyond the Pines; Trance

Spring Breakers (2013): I mean, I don't know. Lots of great T&A but does that make it good? Yes, it does. But it doesn't make it a good movie. I'm not sure if was supposed to be real or some sort of fable. I don't care either. A whole lot of skin, drugs and violence. Hearing Franco's "Spraaaang breeeeak y'all" over and over and over was just too much when coupled with the ridiculous last 20 minutes.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013): I only knew one main thing about this movie before I saw it: people were giving it anywhere from 1.5-4 stars and everywhere in between. Also, it was being called a bit long. So I really tried to go in with a blank slate of opinion. I think I liked this one waaay more than most people I know who have seen it (4) and the only thing I could think of when I was walking out was that it combined elements of Crash (which I don't like) and LA Confidential (which I love) with a little Drive (which I liked a lot)... You have 3 major story lines that each take up about 1/3 of the film and each are connected, and though the last 1/3 does feel a little bit drawn out I actually enjoyed it because it brought everything together so well.

Trance (2013): A Danny Boyle film. Who knows what you'll get? Well, you get some hot ass Rosario Dawson so that made it...better? I have no concept of what other people think of James McAvoy, but he annoys me. I don't particularly like his delivery or his voice or his look, so it's hard for me to get past that, but I did enjoy the first half of the movie enough. A little too much voice over for me, but that's the way it is. It jumps over some plot points way way too quickly way way too early so that I was shaking my head (I mean, Rosario's character joining their group soooo soon with almost no explanation?) - the film turns into a deeply contorted mess where the only way out for the director is to turn it into a final act that has to blatantly explain everything to you, because face it, no way you're gonna know what the fuck is happening in all the rapid fire, color coded quick shots which serve only the purpose of disorienting you with the hope that you'll forget that the movie isn't all that good.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Movie Review: Amour (2012)

French with subtitles
Director - Micheal Haneke
Pg-13; 127 Min

Michael Haneke's film Amour is two hours of octogenarians moving slowly within their apartment as they deal with the inevitable difficulties and sadness of death. And it's in French. If that opening doesn't make you want to run to your nearest independent theater and fork over $25 for a ticket, popcorn and diabetic-inducing sized soda, well, maybe I'm just not up to par with what gets the general movie going population into the seats.

You see, I simply want to weed out all the readers who will have dismissed any idea of viewing this film precisely because it is about old people getting sick and dying. In French.  Warning ahead Will Robinson! An amateur film critic is about to praise a movie that has and will win awards and will generally be unseen or disliked by the weekend warrior crowds.  No, we can't all just get along when it comes to movies, as many studies have shown there is a distinct Venn diagram that neatly intersects, in the tiniest of portions, a place where very few people can enjoy the Friday opening of yet another Tyler Perry travesty / Adam Sandler abomination whilst wolfing down buckets full of butter saturated popcorn and guffawing in sounds that make baby whales wish for death AND also enjoy the silence of the Artist, the character building of the wedding scene in the Godfather or the Deer Hunter, or the cut to black ending of an almost perfect No Country For Old Men.

What the hell am I getting at? I don't know. It's late and I want to write about a great film.  

Director Michael Haneke has made some truly remarkable films in his career that test the audience, the actors, and the characters the actors are portraying.  Check out his resume and do yourself a favor by watching a few such as Cache (2005) or The White Ribbon (2009).  I personally need to delve deeper into his many works, since in my opinion he is 3 for 3 at least. With this film, Haneke gives a splice of life, very particular lives, and simply asks us to take a peek.  From some opening shots where we are all but voyeurs to several later scenes with extended camera holds on somewhat excruciating details of everyday life, we are called upon to witness portions of life to which we may not be so eager to examine.  People getting old and dying is not really subject matter to get you hyped up.

And yet this movie conveys something far beyond the superficial auto-responses of repulsion, pity or even self-examination.  What it does so successfully is to take a complex issue which we all must deal with in one way or another and presents it to us in unflinching realism with no sugar coated easy outs coming our way every 15 minutes in the form of warm memory flashbacks or comedic relief.  This is a long time married couple who woke up one day like usual and almost instantly find themselves forever changed and on a path they both know will lead not to fulfillment but ultimately to sorrow.

George (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are expertly portrayed by master actors and there is no other way to praise them for what they each bring to this film.  Riva has received a Best Actress Oscar nomination and there is no reason Trintignant could not have joined her, but putting aside awards and recognition from critics, these two draw us into a world we can all envision yet nobody wants to acknowledge and they present it in heartbreaking tones while using no gimmicks to tear at our emotions.  We are watching a progression within each character and we are drawn to the way each comes to terms with the reality presented to them.

There is very little in the way of spoilers that could ruin the film for you, since most of what you see are these two elderly people in their apartment dealing with the stroke of one and the fortitude of the other to do what has to be done, but there are a few plot points which I will not divulge nor should you seek out beforehand, as each leaves a lasting, important impression on you as the credits role.

I am reminded of the feelings I had when I first saw The Secret In Their Eyes / El Secreto De Sus Ojos (2009), a beautiful film in the Spanish language that deals with adult themes, albeit in a non comparable way to this film, that overlaps in a sense the types of emotions I went through while viewing adults go through adult problems.  In Amour, the statements being made by the end are ultimately up to you to internalize, but if you feel nothing, I can do nothing for you.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February version of some very brief movie recaps

I've been lazy and uninspired to write lately so I'm just going to throw this here...

Movies watched since my last posted reviews:

Life of Pi (2012) - Great in many ways but it never really entered my mind that it was a top 5 of the year. Must see? I don't think so, but yeah you should see it if you get the chance

John Dies at the End (2013) - Pleasantly surprised with this one as I knew absolutely nothing about it going in... some pretty crazy takes on a mix of genres including horror/comedy/time travel/different dimensions. Just a wacky story with some fun moments.

Side Effects (2013) First two thirds create a pretty reasonably well done thriller, but the final act falls apart completely. Liked Jude Law more than usual and Mara was decent enough for the first half... didn't care for the Zeta Jones character but not because of her acting, just the role.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) Re-watch - Watched for a second time and my feelings are exactly the same that it was a top 10 movie but not a top 5, though that distinction is just too subjective to matter. It was solid in many ways but I don't think it fully pays off.

Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) Re-watch - My favorite movie of 2012 and it got better the second time. Will watch again.

Brick (2005) - Joseph Gordon Levitt in an early role directed by Rian Johnson. I don't think I was in the right frame of mind, a little distracted to pay full attention, but I liked what I saw in general. It's a high school thriller that plays on a mob like setting with drugs and detective work, but it is done in a pretty cool way that doesn't pull any punches.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Very brief thoughts on some recent films

January is usually a time for me to catch up on films from the previous year with the very rare exception of going to a theater to see a new release.  99% of movies released in January don't appeal to me and of the big name ones, chances are good I've seen them already through early releases of some form.  So, with that said, here are the 9 movies I've watch in 2013, none of which are 2013 releases, and none of which I saw in a theater.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

A truly great film experience. Sometimes words do no justice to the feeling that a movie can give us.  A strangely beautiful story and one which may surprise you.

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

I re-watched this movie for the 3rd time and it is simply one of my favorites of 2012.  Quirky but not unrealistic, this movie has a lot of heart felt emotion when you least expect it.

Killing Them Softly (2012)

I had heard it wasn't very good and it really wasn't, but I don't think it was terrible.  Basically, a good cast was left to fend for themselves in a movie with a lot of potential to tell a compelling story that ultimately doesn't do a good job of telling it.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

The hunt to find Osama Bin Laden after 9/11 was a 10 year odyssey and for some it was all consuming.  This movie tells the fictionalized story based on true events of such a person who did nothing but think about how to find him.  One of the best movies of 2012 - I will say it was a tab bit long, but not so much in a negative way because it all builds up to a very well shot conclusion.

Searching For Sugar Man (2012)

40 years ago Sixto Rodriguez was budding musician in Detroit with a few songs under his belt, but his career in the business was short lived and not to be.  After spending much of his life living and working in the Detroit area he was made aware that in South Africa his music was actually considered to be as big as the Beatles were in the rest of the world.  An amazing documentary that tells the story of this man and the documentarian who just wanted to tell his story.

On The Road (2012)

An iconic novel written by Jack Kerouac that will always be associated with a certain time and place in America, On The Road is a pretty tough sell as a movie.  I actually liked the overall feel and was impressed by the entire cast, yes, even Kristen Stewart.  Ultimately it is just a tough book to adapt to a 2 hour film, and I think it fails at keeping us interested in new things... basically, it is a lot of scenes with the same themes of love lost and growing up with different back drops, but moving images will never really have the impact on us that great written words do.

The Paperboy (2012)

If you like super strange, noir movies, then boy do I have one for you! I wish I could tell you to see it, but no way, no how, not me.  Just too out there even for a redneck swamp people kind of movie.  Nicole Kidman is great in her role, for what it is, but man this one is too messed up for me to pass along to you with a straight face. 

Hick (2012)

I saw this at Redbox and would have never given it a second thought, but I remembered hearing that Chloe Grace Moretz was in it, and I'm not even sure if it was released in theaters, but I've liked her in other roles and wanted to give it a shot.  Moretz is a good actress and she will only get better, and she did a good job in this movie.  But this was pure trash for a film.  I mean, do not see this.  That is as clear as I can get.

Young Adult (2011)

My third time seeing this surprisingly wonderful film.  It gets better each time if you ask me.  The entire cast and direction is amazing and each time I view it I find more and more nuances that add to the darkly themed story.  There are some sort of funny moments, but this is no comedy, and Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt do a spectacular job of portraying what happens to people with major issues as they get older, at least in age.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Film Year In Review

EDIT: Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was a 2011 film... I posted a longer review in 2012 and forgot to take that out...

***For those who won't read my intro, this is every movie I have seen this year with a summary at the end with my thoughts on the best of the year

I began writing movie reviews and general comments on film in 2008 and have since completed over 200 such pieces of varying length, credibility, and believability. I can say without doubt that 2012 was easily the best year for movies over that time span.

I managed to view 37 new releases in 2012, a slight decline from previous years in numbers, but a distinct rise in quality of choices as witnessed by my personal rating system, in which I awarded 20 of those films with a 4 or higher our of 5. 

I have become a lot more selective over the years with the movies I choose to see for many reasons, including the cost and time involved with going to a theater (which to me is really the best way to watch any movie) as well as just moving towards a much more intolerant view of poor quality films.  So yes, I do pick and choose what I will see based on what I think I will probably enjoy - this is a distinct benefit of not trying to write for profit in that I don't have to sit through 10 horrible movies and then write about them just so I can find one really good one. 

From time to time I will rent from Red Box or catch an older release on TV or the occassional download to my computer, but nothing holds the magic of sitting in a dark theater and watching the lights come up, the sound pulsing, and the anticipation of what is to come.  The movie theater itself represents a special sanctum to me, a place I can go and turn off all the ADD items in my life and just sit back and let the work of the actors, director, screen writers and all the unseen people who make a movie come to life wash over me until the final credits roll.  There really is something special about finding that one film that speaks to you and stays with you on some level for the rest of your life.

I have always been accutely aware that all people have different tastes and expectations when they watch a movie.  That knowledge is the driving force behind my style when it comes to writing and speaking about films.  I don't have to like Transformers as a movie and I'm going to try my best to explain exactly WHY I don't like it and WHY I don't think it is a good movie, but I'm going to do it with an understanding that a lot of people DO like that kind of movie.  My hope is that throughout the years, if you've cared to read some of what I've written, that you've come to understand my point of view and whether you agree with it or not, at least understand that I am trying my best to interpret what I watch for you to have a better understanding of the movie and to decide for yourself if it is worth your time.

So, with all that said, let's get to the films! I've decided to recap the entire year, month by month when I saw a movie, with a summary at the end.

As is so common in the first month of a given year, not much worth seeing was released, or, if it was, I put it off in lieu of trying to catch up with the previous year and all the award season type films that really don't get wide release until January.

I didn't see a single 2012 release in January, but I did see some of the very best films of 2011, and I want you to know that if you missed these you should see them as soon as possible:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Gary Oldman is simply awesome as an aging MI6 agent forced out of his position only to be called back, unofficially a year later to help dig up info about a potential mole at the top of The Circus working for the Russians. A bit difficult to follow at times but beautifully shot and one not to be missed.  Upon second viewing I upped this one to a 5/5 and have since seen it a few more times with each viewing offering more and more.

Take Shelter (2011)
Michael Shannon is amazing. He really is one of the best actors of our generation and I love that he takes on so many smaller projects. Take Shelter is the story of a man slipping into madness, but trying to keep it together and keep his family together. In small town mid-America the impending doom of storms haunts this man, whether real or imagined, and in building out a storm shelter in the back yard he pushes his career and his family to the brink of insanity. A truly remarkable performance in a very realistic setting, this is one of the very best films of the year.


I saw three films in February and I was very pleased with each of them.  Perhaps the most surprising was The Grey - a film that wanted to be a 2011 release but was ultimately a 2012 and when it started to receive a lot of critical praise it was talked about being re-released late in 2012 to make a push for the award season.  Ultimately all the buzz has died, but this was a terrific film with a very solemn yet ultimately uplifting premise.

In terms of action it was Safe House that did it for me. Ryan Reynolds took a turn at a more serious role and pulled it off just fine opposite a decent performance by Denzel Washington in a slightly more subdued role than he usually puts on.

Daniel Radcliff made his move away from Harry Potter going for a period piece about a strange haunted house in The Woman In Black and though it wasn't anything special it made for a decent enough viewing with some intriguing storylines mixed in with a bit too much cliche of the genre.

I saw two big blockbusters in March, each aiming at a very different audience, and each succeeding in the end.

Jennifer Lawrence made her big debut to the general public as Katniss in the worldwide sensation The Hunger Games, and while I appreciated the overall film it never came around for me and I said reluctantly to see it, but I also understand the general younger audience who loved the books it was based on were going to love the film no matter what, so in that regard it obviously worked. If you aren't aware yet, Jennifer Lawrence has a hug career ahead of her, and it can all be seen in her gritty and strong performance in the spectacular 2009 Winter's Bone.

David Fincher gave the US his version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara taking up the main characters of a film released a few years earlier in Swedish and one, for my tastes, that was far superior to this version.  With that said, this was a great movie and worth your time - I just can't write about it and not mention that I find the original subtitled film to be a better representation of the story.

  April was sparse and I saw a pretty crappy movie called The Raven in which John Cusack runs around all Edgar Allan Poe like and tries to copy things from the movie Seven.  It was pretty terrible all around.

I saw two non main stream films in May, including the fascinating Bernie with a very different turn for actor Jack Black, normally known for his quirky comedy roles, here he takes on a mockumentary based on real life strange events and he nails it in every way.  I hope he gets a Oscar nomination for this one.

The strangest film of the year, for me, was the Indian piece Department, one that I will never ever reccommend but at the same time I will say to give it a chance if you want to try something different.  This is not a typical Bollywood style film but it has many of the same characteristics, mkaing it that much more strange.  The crazy camera angles keep you guessing as to what will happen next and strange pacing and hysterical over-acting make this one a fun time, if nothing more.

My June was spent catching up on a lot of older Red Box movies... recapped briefly here:

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) - Excellent - must see
Rampart (2011) - Bordered on being really good but overall ended up decent enough
Coriolanus (2011) - I don't know - it had moments, but ultimately just a blood bath
A Dangerous Method (2011) Promising in many areas but it never really passed the threshhold for me and I won't think much about it anymore.
Hall Pass (2011) Did I laugh a few times? Sure.  Was it a good movie I want to see again? No.
Footloose (2011) A terrible remake of a pretty bad 'iconic' film equals disaster.

July actually offered up a decent mix of blockbuster action and indie type drama which, though not perfect, did offer up some good times.

The best of the bunch was Prometheus, the sort of follow up prequel/sequel or whatever to the Alien movies.  This was a film I originally liked, but was not blown away by, and I really did try to think about it and understand what worked for me and what didn't.  Ultimately it took a second viewing for me to change my opinion and I now think this is one of the best of the year.  What intrigues me the most is that this could be a movie told from multiple perspectives.  Who is this movie about? Think about all the characters in this film and almost everyone of them can lay claim to being the central figure.  The ultimate search for our beginnings is a fantastic film.

After seeing Prometheus I walked in Snow White and the Huntsman and promptly walked out after 30 minutes.  I didn't get it.  I didn't like it.  I didn't give it a chance I suppose so I can't comment more.

My guilty pleasure of the year no doubt belongs to Oliver Stone's Savages, a film I really can't say if it was a masterpiece or a tabloid piece, but I don't care, since I had a lot of fun and have since seen it again and think it holds up well.  Lots of sex, action and blood - not always a good thing - but here it is perfect.

My biggest dissapointment of the year without a doubt was Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom.  The movie was ok, certainly not bad and definitely not in the category of bad movies, but I love Anderson films and had high expectations for this one which were not delivered.  I enjoyed the first two thirds just fine but was left without any air in my tires by the ending and just had to shake my head in sadness.

I saw 3 films in August, including the blockbuster end to the Nolan trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.  I'm no fanboy of comic book movies, but clearly Nolan took his trilogy to a new level of film making and story telling, and since a numbered rating means nothing I won't say whether it was a great film or not, but I thought it was pretty good.

The Bourne Legacy succeeded in putting together a plausible scenario for why we don't have Jason Bourne to watch anymore and instead get Jeremy Renner running over mountains and popping pills, but it failed on too many levels for me to have liked it.  I hope they try again and I hope they do better.

Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis are pretty funny in The Campaign and I say see it, but just be aware that it doesn't hold up for a full length movie and I wish they had stayed away from the eventual obligatory potty humor and stuck more to the smart script that made the first half so much better than the second half.

September brought 3 of the best movies of the year and a 4th film that I thought was excellent in its own way, and that is where I'll start, with Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master.  This film has been called all kinds of things ranging from worst film of the year to best and it is usually a polarizing film such as this that can lead to the best discussion.  I really enjoyed this one, though I will stop short of calling it one of the best of the year, as it had just enough idiosyncrosies to keep me from loving it. 


A movie with heart and action in equal parts, End of Watch reminded me of what a good cop/buddy movie is all about.  Leave aside some of the implausibilities of their day to day routine, and this is one of the best films of the year.

I'm not someone who watches time travel themed movies looking for every single little thing to nitpick about how this could or could not work, etc, so I have no idea if the way things operate in Looper make perfect sense or not, and I don't care, because I loved this movie and enjoyed the fast paced build up leading to a longer, drawn out stand off and eventual climactic ending.  This had it all for me and I'm not going to ruin it by wondering if the universe allows such things.

I'm not sure I had even heard of The Perks of Being a Wallflower before I decided to see it in the theater.  The credits rolled and I walked out thinking that I had just seen my favorite movie of the year.  I don't know if it was the 'best' movie of 2012, but I still think it is my favorite.  It got everything right in this adaptation of a book I never read about high school days with some pretty heavy subjects, and Emma Watson easily transitioned from her Harry Potter role into that of a young, beautiful and intelligent woman who can clearly act.

I saw 3 movies in October which were as mixed a bag as you can find: One great, one terrible and one 'what in the hell?' - let's start there with the ambitious if anything Cloud Atlas, a film that intertwines the lives of similar characters throu different peiods of time all with an underlying and overarching theme that all things are connected and always have been and always will be.  It would be easy to dismiss it as too difficult to want to follow, but I really did enjoy the way it worked out.  Unfortunately for me I simply didn't care for a few of the sub plots while I loved some of the others, making it a terribly difficult film for me to review or dissect.  I say see it sometime but don't blame me if you don't like it.

Probably the one movie of the year where my opinion is going to be way way way off from some people, I thought Seven Psychopaths was one of the most dull, monotonous, boring pieces of garbage I have seen in quite a while.  Nothing about this movie worked for me including all the times I was supposed to be laughing and just found myself looking at the time.  I don't know what I was supposed to see in this movie, but all I saw was a waste of time. I'll compare this to my dissapointment with Moonrise Kingdom, because the director here, Martin McDonagh, directed one of my favorite movies, In Bruges, and I had hopes this would be great as well, but unlike the Anderson film which was at least decent and watchable, this one lacked anything of value.

Just as Perks of Being a Wallflower made me think I had just watched my favorite film of the year, Ben Affleck's Argo made me think I had just watched the best movie of the year.  There is a distinction to me, but I don't know exactly how to describe it, just that both movies are great in different ways. 15 years later Affleck may very well be holding another Oscar.


November and December always brings about the heavy films, the ones making a push for various awards.  It can be difficult to see everything and to figure out which ones are worth seeing, but I try to get to as many as humanly possible (while also catching up on ones I missed throughout the year!)  I also took a pretty major trip during this time period and that cut into me seeing a few extra films, but luckily I was able to watch several on my plane rides.  I'll probably be over 15 for these two months alone.

I've heard some arguments as to why Spielberg's Lincoln doesn't live up to the praise it may be getting, but I don't care much for that because I absolutely loved this film dealing with the end days of the civil war and the push to end slavery as the law of the land.  Daniel Day Lewis does his usual fine work and the full cast around him keep things moving at a perfect pace with just the right amount of tension for a story in which we know most of the outcomes.

I wanted to really love Silver Linings Playbook, a story about two seriously dysfunctional people trying to figure out a way to make it in this world, but something just wasn't there.  Yes, I liked it a lot and I think it is a pretty great movie, but some of it felt a little too far out there from reality for me to put stock in.  Definitely see it, just don't automatically fall for the hype of it being the best film of the year.

A sleeper for me is the Richard Gere film Arbitrage centering on a wall street man on the edge of personal and financial ruin in a similar realm of a Bernie Madoff character.  Superbly acted and a really good script keep this one from becoming a cliche and ultimately I found it to be a great movie that was not preachy and left a lot of questions for us in terms of how different people live different lives with different motives.  Brit Marling does a fine job in a very limited role as Gere's daughter and a top executive caught int he middle of his schemes. Look for Gere to get an Oscar nomination for his nuanced performance.

The latest installment of the James Bond Franchise is Skyfall, and it is clearly one of the better Bond films in the ouevre.  I liked it a lot and am satisfied with the darker, brooding Bond we get from Daniel Craig, but I thought there were enough holes in the film's plot and in the Bardem bad guy character to keep this one from blowing me away.

Sound of My Voice is Brit marling's follow up to her wonderufl film Another Earth, and here she once again deals with an underlying theme of the supernatural while using the perspective of realism int he modern day world.  As a guru of sorts supposedly from the future she uses her charisma to lead a group of cultish figures, but to what?

Ted feels like that one comedy that makes you laugh more than you should simply because it is surrounded by so much garbage int he comedy world of film these days.  Yes, it is a funny premise and it gives some good laughs trhoughout and yes you should see it, why not? but this is nothing special and definitely didn't have enough material to work with for a full length film.

I don't know if The Amazing Spiderman with Andrew Garfield is any better or worse than Spiderman with Toby Maguire because I don't really care about these movies that much, but it clearly does take on a different tone.  Is that good? I don't know.  It was ok I guess but I don't really remember much about it to be honest.  Why did they reboot this so soon? Oh yeah... Money.  Duh.

Your Sister's Sister just doesn't feel like it would ever happen the way it does in real life.  Yes, the scenarios that happen are possible and in some cases even likely, but the way it unfolds gets a little ridiculous, and this is a movie I liked throughout, just overall I did not, and that is difficult to do.

Django Unchained is Tarantino's newest film, and in the true spirit of his work, there is lots and lots of blood.  There is also some great dialogue, his signature, but I'm not sure I really understand the entire film in terms of it being good or not good.  Does it need to be?  I don't think so.  It has moments of pure genius, such as those between Waltz and Foxx and some witty banter, or DiCaprio and his encounters with each man.  But it also has some serious WTF? moments and that is just too bad, because the film seems to become a parody of itself at some point.  Yeah, Samuel Jackson is 'funny' in his role, but is he supposed to be?  Is this just a black person's revenge film, much like people said Inglorious Basterds was a revenge film for Jewish people?  I don't know, but I do know that at times it all just felt like too much, even though I enjoyed the overall experience.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is either a very good film that a lot of people love or it the film I saw, which was boring and long and not at all exciting.  I am sure it is somewhere in the middle and I was just having an off day at the theater with my mind elswhere or something like that, but I maintain it simply doesn't hold up.  I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy but have never been a Tolkein reader, so I don't know how that affects my viewing of this film.  My opinion is invalid on this one.

Les Miserables is exactly what I thought it would be, having read it in french 15 years ago and knowing the general score, in that it had some great parts and it had some boring parts, and yes Hathaway and Jackman are great, but Crowe singing seems very forced and it is definitely....too.....long.

Sometimes a dark noir film comes along that I love for many reasons, and sometimes a film like Killer Joe comes along and has me scratching my head not knowing what to make of it.  That's all I can really say about this one.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World takes the polar extremes of a happy young woman and a brooding aging man and throws them together in a light hearted apocolyptic film.  It doesn't always work, but it isn't all that bad either. 

I really am happy that I found Safety Not Guaranteed since I think it will be a favorite of mine for life.  So much about this film works on so many levels.  The character's really get to know each other honestly and just when we think we may understand what is going to happen, things, well, they change.

Denzel Washington outdoes himself with a briliiant performance as a severely drug addicted pilot simultaneously taking the accolades and the fall for his brilliant crash landing of a plane with over 100 passengers in the movie Flight.  One of the best films of the year in every regard and one of Washington's finest acting jobs.

And so that brings me to my final thoughts on 2012.

Here are the movies I wanted to see (in no particular order), but have not, and since I want to get this list out before the end of the year, these will have to wait.  I'll be updating in January if I get to these.

Holy Motors
Rust and Bone
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Zero dark thirty
Searching for sugar man
Central Park 5
The Turin Horse
On the Road

FOR THE RECORD - I hate making a 1-10 ranking list because it becomes arbitrary.  I really liked all of these movies in their own way, so trying to say one is better than the other is just silly.  But for the sake of argument and discussion, here is how I would personally rank them, if I had to, which I don't:
My personal Best Of 2012 list:

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
2. Flight
3. Argo
4. Looper
5. Safety Not Guaranteed
6. End of Watch
7. Prometheus
8. Lincoln
9. Silver Linings Playbook
10. Bernie

11-20 in alphabetical order

EDIT: Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was a 2011 film... I posted a longer review in 2012 and forgot to take that out - so I took it out of here

Cloud Atlas
The Dark Knight Rises
Django Unchained
The Grey
The Master
Safe House