Top 10 Movies of 2012

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Django Unchained 2012,  R)
Django Unchained
Well, QT... how... how is it that we're in this position yet again? I'm here reviewing your latest film, and once again I'm absolutely gobsmacked. This is how I felt after seeing 'Inglourious Basterds', after 'Kill Bill', 'Pulp Fiction', and 'Reservoir Dogs'. You never cease to amaze me. The film I speak of is 'Django Unchained', a film once again both written and directed by the marvellous Quentin Tarantino. Like his previous film, 'Inglourious Basterds', it is set during a notorious historical event. 'Basterds' was about the holocaust, 'Django' is slavery in America's south, two years prior of the civil war. The story surrounds Django (Jaime Foxx), a slave who is freed by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter who needs Django to help him track wanted men. The two form a friendship and Schultz agrees to help Django find and rescue his enslaved wife from the plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). There is so much I love about this film, and they're usually the same reasons why I love most Tarantino films. Firstly, it's not only a tribute to Spaghetti-Westerns, it IS a Spaghetti-Western, Tarantino-ised. QT has made allusions to the genre in films like 'Kill Bill' and 'Reservoir Dogs', but never has he actually set the film in the old west. Well, to be fair, this is the old south. It's not a straightforward western either, it has Tarantino's fingerprints all over it, with his typical filming techniques. The music is absolutely fantastic. It's a typical Tarantino soundtrack. Rock music in a western has been done before, but rap music? Only Tarantino could incorporate 2Pac in a Western shootout scene and make it work. Once again, Tarantino has used a great soundtrack to terrific effect. The characters? Also great. Jaime Foxx plays Django badass. He is a cross between Clint Eastwood and Shaft. A black cowboy hellbent on vengeance like Uma Thurman's bride in Kill Bill. He is terrific, but he is overshadowed by three outstanding performances. The first is Christophe Waltz as Schultz. Like his Oscar-winning performance in 'Inglourious Basterds' as Hans Landa, Waltz here gives life to a loquacious and elegant killer. He plays him so effortlessly, to a tee. I could watch him all day, the man is mesmerising. As Schultz, Waltz deserves his second Oscar. No doubt about it. Another Oscar-worthy performance is Leonardo DiCaprio as the film's villain, Calvin Candie. This is Leo like you've never seen him before. How often do you see Leo play a villain? Not only a villain, but a racist, sadistic, murderous son of a bitch? DiCaprio has always been an actor of great interest of mine. His early days showed signs of potential like 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape?', 'Romeo and Juliette' and 'Titanic', but it wasn't until he started collaborating with Martin Scorsese that he really developed into one of the great actors today, especially in 'The Departed'. But in 'Django Unchained', Leo has taken on a completely different role, and in my opinion, gives his greatest performance yet. He is a disgusting monster. But like most Tarantino villains, he's elegant and well-spoken. Think Bill in 'Kill Bill', or Col. Landa in 'Inglourious Basterds'. He is well educated, rich and down right evil. With already Waltz giving a five-star performance, it seems as though there wouldn't be room for another, but DiCaprio delivers, and all but steals the show. Now, the third outstanding performance in this film is actually quite incredible, but may be somewhat overlooked thanks to Waltz and DiCaprio, but Samuel L. Jackson, like Leo, gives one of HIS best performances. He plays Stephen, a senior slave named Stephen who is owned by Candie. He is extremely loyal to Candie and betrays his own race in doing so. He hangs off every word from Candie, laughs hysterically at his jokes, warns him of any trouble, here is a black slave longing to be white. This is perhaps the most disturbing and vile character in the film, yes even more than Candie. So yeah, the characters are well-written and performed. The style is typically Tarantino, and the violence? Well, it's very graphic. This is Tarantino we're talking about. The violence is as over the top and frequent as it was in Kill Bill, but perhaps with a tad more weight behind it due to the fact that it's set during the slave era. In reality, it was a violent time and Tarantino knows this, and shows just how bad people were back then. 'Django Unchained' isn't Tarantino's best film, 'Pulp Fiction' is. It's not his best film based on a historical event, 'Inglourious Basterds' is. But it is a brilliant film in the Tarantino canon, one that is entertaining, although very long, and demands multiple viewing.
The Dark Knight Rises 2012,  PG-13)
The Dark Knight Rises
And it all comes down to this. Christopher Nolan's epic "Dark Knight' trilogy ends in spectacular fashion, unlike any comic-book movie has before it. I have been a massive fan of this franchise since the beginning, I've been a Batman fan in general since I was a kid, but I have a huge love for this trilogy in particular, which started with 'Batman Begins' in 2005, and continued with 'The Dark Knight' in 2008. It's been a long period for just three movies, but it's finally reached its end, and now that the final piece of Nolan's puzzle is in place, I can stand back and admire his masterpiece as three part cinematic beauty. This final film is not as good as the previous two instalments. 'Batman Begins' is the best structured of the three. The story was so elegantly handled and told, showing Bruce Wayne's development from young child of murdered parents, to trained ninja, to Gotham's dark knight, Batman. Everything was done perfectly. 'The Dark Knight' had a few more flaws in its plot, but it was the superior film. The action was better, with some brilliant set-pieces, the full scope of the film was far more grandiose, it was far more intense, the characters took to the next level, and it had Heath Ledger as The Joker. This final film, titled 'The Dark Knight Rises' has more flaws than the first two movies combined. Most of which lie within its plot. Without giving too much away, there are a lot of things that happen in the story that don't make sense, or don't add up. I suppose the biggest flaw would be the villain's evil plot. Remember how in 'Batman Begins' the League of Shadows set out to destroy Gotham City because it had become so corrupt that it seemed to them that it was beyond saving? Well the league returns in this movie, now led by the intimidating Bane (Tim Hardy), who resumes Ra's Al Ghul's role. They set out to finish off what Ra's Al Ghul started, that is to destroy Gotham. What doesn't make sense is that they set out to do this even though Gotham has been crime-free from the last eight years since Harvey Dent's death. If Gotham is crime-free, then why do the league continue to want to destroy it? And how do they destroy it, you may ask? Well in 'Batman Begins' the plan was to cover the city in a fear inducing toxin that would spread panic among the citizens, which would lead to them tearing themselves apart. Here Bane's plan is to take control of the city, enslave the citizens and free the prisoners locked up at Arkham Asylum. Why does he free the prisoners? Aren't these the people that he's trying to destroy? Not only that, Bane has a bomb ticking down that will eventually blow up the entire city. So, if he's looking to take down the establishment, creating a city governed by the people (although it's not, it's governed by the criminals he freed), why does he then choose to blow it up? I don't get it. What I did like about this plan, even though it's farfetched, is that Bane pretty much succeeds in bring Gotham to its knees. There are countless superhero movies, or action movies in general, where the villain attempts to take over the world, or at least the city.Even in 'Batman Begins' and 'The Dark Knight' the villans try to destroy the city, but fail. Here Bane, for the most part, actually achieves it. He turns Gotham into an absolute hell. Ra's Al Ghul and The Joker both did things that were similar but they didn't quite take complete control of the city. Not like this anyway. Bane and his minions turn Gotham on its head, and that works really well in a final film. Bane is a menacing, intimidating villain. He is big, strong and intelligent. The Joker remains the series best villain, but I daresay that Bane is the scariest. He just absolutely freaks me out, especially in the opening scene where we are introduced to him. I had some trouble understanding him because he speaks through a mask, but his voice is chilling and haunting. He was a great character. Another new character is cat burglar, Selina Kyle, who is played by Anne Hathaway. Batman fans should know that Selina Kyle is better known as Catwoman, but she is not referred as such in this movie. When she wears her leather outfit she echoes Julie Newmar's Catwoman from the 1960s 'Batman' series. She is manipulative, funny and confident, just as Catwoman should be. Nolan does a good job adapting the character to suit his movies, and she is well developed as an ally to Batman. Although at times you don't know where her true loyalties lie, just as Catwoman should be like. Joseph Gordan-Levitt plays a young cop named Blake. He serves as a loyal ally to Commissioner Gordon and Batman. Seeing as eight years has passed, both Batman and Gordon have lost some of their edge in crime fighting, so Blake serves as some sort of hope for future justice. I liked that. All the returning characters are as good as always, especially Michael Caine as Alfred. He really adds an emotional level to his character, and the movie with his performance. But for me, Batman/Bruce is the star. That may seem obvious but I think he may have relinquished his post to The Joker in the previous film. But here, the focus is back on him, even though there are times when he is absent from the movie for long periods. He is an older, weaker Bruce Wayne. I love how they did that. He is reclusive, and he has not become his Batman alter ego since Dent's death. This adds yet another layer to the Bruce Wayne character. In the previous movies he was strong and menacing, but here he is at his weakest, and that is a sad thing to witness. The film has its flaws, and not everyone will be entirely happy with the ending. I was. I felt that the ending truly reflected what Bruce Wayne, or Batman, is all about, and gives him a sort of redemption after all the torture he has gone through since his parents' death in 'Batman Begins'. The film's success isn't in it plot, but in its emotion. The film runs on pure emotion. It's an emotional roller coaster, and by the end of it I felt out of breath. It was quite an experience.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 2012,  PG-13)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
After the huge success of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's classic trilogy 'The Lord of the Rings', a decade later the kiwi director returns to Middle Earth in this prequel to 'Rings'. Tolkien's novel, 'The Hobbit' was written and set before the events of 'TLOTR', so it's a wonder why New Line Cinema made 'TLOTR' first and 'The Hobbit' second. Anyway, as a fan of Jackson's TLOTR movies and Tolkien's original source material, you could imagine how much I anticipated seeing this movie. However, when it was announced that 'The Hobbit' would be split up into three volumes, much like 'TLOTR' as a trilogy, I started to have my fears and concerns, and as it turns out, I was right. 'The Hobbit' is the shortest of Tolkien's Middle Earth books, yet it gets the most screen time. The three 'TLOTR' books got one movie each, whereas the 300 page 'The Hobbit' gets three, two and a half hour long films. This is clearly a money grab by the studios, and as a result the movie suffered. A few years ago, 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' started this dismal trend where book adaptations get split up into separate movies. Same thing happened to 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn'. Sell one movie for the price of two, or in the case of 'The Hobbit', the price of three. Perhaps that is the reason, or perhaps Jackson truly wanted a trilogy so he can emulate his 'TLOTR' trilogy. I'm not entirely sure what the reasoning is, all I can say is that the movie suffers because of it. This isn't 'TLOTR', this is one book. There is no need for it to be as long as 'TLOTR'. This first movie, titled 'An Unexpected Journey' is only the first six chapters. Therefore, sequences are dragged out, go for too long, and some unnecessary scenes are added. Other added scenes were inspired, however, like the prologue. The movie is still very good. Jackson does set a similar tone to the first 'TLOTR' film 'The Fellowship of the Ring', with a similar arc. The action scenes are terrific and exciting, and the performances are great. Ian McKellen reprises his most famous role as Gandalf the Grey, while Martin Freeman brings his own unique take on a young Bilbo Baggins. The uncle of Frodo, Bilbo is a genuine reluctant hero who has a thirst for adventure he didn't know he had. Freeman is perfect in the role, and the character is a tribute to what Frodo will later become. The performances from the dwarfs are also great, especially from Richard Armitage as the wise yet surly Thorin. There is a terrific scene where Bilbo meets Gollum, which is definitely the film's highlight. Jackson has a way of bringing intense epic mood to the smallest subtleties. Perhaps the best thing about 'An Unexpected Journey' is it promises to reach greater heights over the next two films.
Skyfall 2012,  PG-13)
Argo 2012,  R)
21 Jump Street 2012,  R)
21 Jump Street
Think 'Get Him to the Greek' and 'The Green Hornet' and you just begin to scratch the surface of what kind of comedy to expect from '21 Jump Street'.
Zero Dark Thirty 2013,  R)
Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow is a hard-edged director interested in important issues facing America in the 21st Century, this is evident in her previous film, 'The Hurt Locker', and her latest film, 'Zero Dark Thirty'.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower 2012,  PG-13)
Marvel's The Avengers 2012,  PG-13)
Marvel's The Avengers
You came for the epic battle involving Marvel's heroes defending Earth from an Alien army from outer space, and when that part finally arrives, it's awesome. The Long build up towards the final battle definitely could have been cut down by about an hour, as it does drag on, but the battle makes up for the long wait. And of course the movie wouldn't work if the characters didn't work. Robert Downey Jr. is definitely the star with his hilarious dialogue and charm, whilst Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth continue their charismatic personas from Captain America and Thor respectively. Scarlett Johansson is at her absolute hottest here as Black Widow, while Mark Ruffalo makes the Hulk character his own after succeeding Edward Norton and Eric Bana in the role. Jeremy Renner is badass as Hawkeye, shooting targets from any angle, and Tom Hiddleston's Loki is a brilliant villain. Fun Marvel madness!
Silver Linings Playbook 2012,  R)
Silver Linings Playbook
'Silver Linings Playbook' certainly has its charm. A love story, or a friendship story, about two people who have gone through emotional experiences which has traumatised them mentally, find each other and form a strange bond. I liked the flick, I thought whilst at its core it is a love story, it was an interesting bond between these two people. While the forming of the friendship is the film's strength, perhaps it somewhat falls apart towards the end where the plot submits to typical romance movie conventions. As such, I think the film is a tad overrated. The performances were very good, Bradley Cooper proves he can do drama as well as comedy, Jennifer Lawrence was also good showing that when the focus shifts to her character she can take hold of the film and steal the scene. Robert De Niro returns to the dramatic we haven't seen from him for quite a while. But here is one example where I feel the film is overrated. All these performances were nominated for Oscars, fair enough, but so was Jacki Weaver as Pat's mother. I seriously don't think that performance warranted an Oscar nomination. Now, I like Jacki Weaver, and as an Australian I'm happy to see my fellow countrymen succeed in Hollywood, but I don't let my bias affect how I rate a movie, or performance, and while I did think she was good and competent, there is nothing there in her performance which stands out. I'll even go on to say she hasn't mastered the American accent yet. I think she's a very good actress, but she's seriously overrated. As is this movie. It captured my interest with the scenes where the leads meet and start to form their bond, but after that the film becomes just another rom-com, and I don't need that. For the most part it's a very good film, but it never fulfils its potential. A Best Picture Oscar nomination is ludicrous.

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