Before I started writing this, I read back over my 2011 list – incidentally, the last blog post on here due to extreme laziness and no longer living alone with a lot of time to kill and wine to drink – to remind myself how much I wrote, in what “style” etc. in case this would inspire me.
It didn’t. It frightened me a little. Damn, I wrote quite a lot, and tried to make it funny! …but hey, you don’t come here for consistency. You come here because either a) You’re bored b) I harass you into it on Twitter c) You love me a little bit.
Hopefully there will be something here to cater for you, however many of the above categories you belong in, but if not then don’t worry, it won’t take long and will be generally painless.
As the actress said to the bishop.
So, here goes – my films of 2012, in no particular order, and probably with numerous revisions between now (Dec 24th) and whenever the hell I get around to publishing it. If I can remember the password to my blog.
A Horrible Way To Die
Darling, I’m home! …oh, you’ve killed everyone.
Probably the “smallest” film on the list, this one really worked for me. There’s a great atmosphere throughout, one of those films where you just feel that something nasty is coming, but are not 100% sure what or to who. There are great performances across the board, but AJ Bowen is a stand out for me. The direction is also notable, Adam Wingard clearly has (or at least employs here) a style with which he is comfortable, giving it a less polished sheen than many would have done with such a film, which adds to the feeling of authenticity.
This is probably one of those “is it a horror?” films, akin to Red, White and Blue on last year’s list, but that’s a debate for which I don’t have time here, suffice to say that The Daily Mail probably wouldn’t like it and that’s generally a good yard stick…
If you haven’t seen this I highly recommend it. It’s not really a feel good have a few beers with friends film, but it’s one to which I have returned and will no doubt do so again.
The Aggression Scale
Leland and Jason discuss their plans
Another film that I have seen twice this year, and one to which I’m glad I returned recently. I saw this in the early part of the year and noted it as “list worthy” at the time, but as the list grew some of those I had seen many months ago started to fade – from memory as much as anything else. Thankfully I re-watched this in November, and remembered why it’s on here.
Fairly low budget, cast sprinkled with Twin Peaks alumni, simple home invasion / revenge setup. Sounds a bit “meh?” Well yes. Yes it does. But it isn’t. Hooray! It’s actually a fun, violent, fast moving watch, and one that really gets the blood pumping. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
As part of my research into this article i.e. going on imdb while writing it, I discovered that this is directed by the guy who did Automaton Transfusion all those (5 or 6) years ago. Whilst from memory that was quite a fun film, this is an altogether different beast i.e. there are no zombies or scenes of limb lopping. That said, there are squirmy violent moments which will make you go “Ow” or “Ooh”, depending on your proclivity. …and it did make me want to watch Twin Peaks again.
I’m in the woods, where’s the cabin?
On to a slightly larger, more aggressively marketed film that I imagine you are aware of. I tend to see most of the “tentpole” Summer releases (Oo-er, sounds a bit rude) at what passes for a cinema here, and I think this was the first biggie of 2012.
And it was fucking great.
I’m not a superhero fanboy or ubernerd with these things, but I’d watched and enjoyed all of the Marvel films building up to this one and was, like most people, curious as to whether or not it would work. The happy news is that it most certainly does, and was one of the funniest films I saw in the cinema this year. I think this is what raised it up into this list for me, as we’ve all seen enormous “smashy smashy look at the shiny things and money on the screen” hundreds of times, but funny, well-written, and well acted? Luxuries!
I’m sure some people were (and still are) all “it’s for kids, super heroes fighting each other is hardly worthy of such an esteemed and highly regarded list as this”. But frankly, they can piss off.
The Dark Knight Rises
I want to SIIIIING!!!
Sticking with massive budget superhero films, here’s Batman! And this time, he’s cranky.
To be fair, he’s pretty cranky in the two preceding films, but now he’s taken it to a new level – walking with a cane, hiding away like Howard Hughes (though we don’t see any actual bottles of piss) and not saving the world. Until Bane comes along! Bane, who, like many others, I’d never heard of before this film. Apparently he has a role in one of the Schumacher films, but they’re very much “watch once then forget”, and I’ve done that.
Anyway, unfamiliar non-classic villains aside (Scarecrow, non Batman nerds…?) I had high hopes for this film, and wasn’t disappointed. We actually took a boat to another island which has a proper cinema in order to see this on a decent sized screen with the sound as it should be, and it was worth it. Having said that, I expect to enjoy the inevitable re-watch at home on a 40” TV as well, as I have done the other two in the series.
There are some films where a running time of over 90 minutes makes me groan before, during and after, and others where 155 minutes actually seems about right. This is one of those rare films, where I didn’t find it dragging at all and wasn’t constantly checking my watch. Admittedly this is at least in part because I don’t own a watch, but you get my point.
A fitting end to a fine trilogy, but you probably already either know this, or are not interested. So onto a slightly smaller film!
John Dies At The End
Nice to MEAT you (© Arnold Schwarzenegger)
I was lucky enough to see this at the Abertoir festival in November, and went in with minimal knowledge of the source material. I knew it was based on a book, one that (well read and intelligent) people I know had read and liked, and that the follow up to this book was called “This Book is Full of Spiders”.
That was enough to pique my interest, but add “Directed by Don Coscarelli of Bubba Ho-Tep and Phantasm fame” and I’m in. I did however have fears that it would be achingly cool (spit) or difficult to get for the uninitiated. Happily, this was in no way the case. It was in fact a massively entertaining, funny, well written and pleasantly splattery film. Yes it’s non-linear, and yes not everything necessarily makes 100% sense, but name me a film where it does?
It’s a tale of aliens, weird drugs, time travel, and all sorts of other fun stuff. That’s more than I knew going into it, and so is all you need to know about the actual film at this stage.
Everyone on screen looked as if they wanted to be there, and fair play to Paul Giamatti (of whom I’m not generally a great fan after the frankly awful Sideways that everyone else seemed to fawn over even though it was incredibly dull and up its own arse) for appearing in and adding his name to this, as it could help bring in a wider audience. Having said that, I think this film has “cult” written all over it i.e. a relatively small number of people will see it out of choice and love it, but the majority will remain blissfully unaware. For some people this is a good thing, as they are dicks and like to keep “their” little films to a small band of people and don’t like it when they become popular. Dicks.
But I digress. As and when you get the chance to see this (according to the ever reliable Wikipedia, it just came out on VOD in the US and opens in some cinemas in January) I highly recommend that you do just that. Then tell loads of people about it so that they go and see it as well and annoy all the dicks.
The Hunger Games
Gary Oldman’s Dracula had let himself go a little
“…but it’s based on a book written for children, and you’re a grown adult!” …say numerous arseholes who then go on about how good the Lord of the Rings film trilogy is without a hint of irony.
I was sceptical about this one before seeing it, but there were hints in what I read that it could actually be quite fun / violent. I waited, read reviews, spoke to people who had seen it and whose opinion I respect, and got the impression that it was actually really good. So, logically, like a grown adult, I watched it.
And lo, it was indeed really good. I saw the “uncut” version i.e. the UK blu-ray which has a (little) bit more blood in it apparently (the film version, not the actual disc. That would be unpleasant) and was pleasantly surprised at how harsh and violent it was, particularly in the opening scenes of the actual games themselves. There was quite a long build up to this, but it was handled well – developing the main characters enough to make you care, without over indulging them.
Anyone who has seen Winter’s Bone knows that Jennifer Lawrence is a fine actress, and so it comes as no surprise that she carries this off with no problems, and is more than ably supported by both the young and old(er) characters. Visually the film is top class as well, full of colour and splendour, as well as menace.
If you haven’t already done so, remove the spectacles of cynicism and sit back for a couple of hours of entertaining, fairly violent, and even occasionally moving cinema. I’ll be surprised if you walk away disappointed.
Is she small…or far away?
And so onto the spooky ghosts section of the list. …or are they? And what is a ghost, anyway? The answers to these, and many other questions, can be found in The Bible.
It seems that after a flood of violent and mean horror / torture films over the last 10 years or so, ghosts have made a bit of a comeback. So much so in fact, that we now have a flood of spooky haunted house / school / child / penguin films. Many of these are crap. Some of them are very good. In 2012 we have been blessed with a few that veer much closer to the “very good” section, and for me The Awakening was one such film.
It’s not particularly original (name me one film that is…) but it’s very well done. It’s the old “sceptic gets invited to investigate / debunk a ghost in a large old building, finds there is more to it, has a (fairly random) shag with someone who works there, then… etc. etc.” story, but it doesn’t pack itself with jump scares and blood as so many do. This isn’t to say that there aren’t jumpy moments – of course there are – but this film stands on the performances and, probably even more than those, the look of it all. It does a great job of transporting the audience back to the post-wartime (or, with hindsight, between-wars time) setting and is one of those films which, particularly if watched alone with the lights out, can make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
The ending / twist seems to have divided the critics / audience, and I can understand this, and it’s definitely not a film for hardened one dimensional gorehounds, but if you want something well made, beautiful looking, and creepy – in a good way, not in a strange uncle way – then The Awakening deserves 90 minutes of your time.
Pornography as it was before the internet
Another of this year’s ghost / demon / entity themed horrors, but you’re more likely to be aware of and / or have seen this one, as it was fairly aggressively marketed and with the usual “This is the scariest film in the world ever and you will undoubtedly shit yourself and scream like a big softy” blurb. In reality, your pants and trousers are likely to remain unsoiled, but it is a very creepy and affecting film.
Again I expected the usual “cats in the fridge / faces in the mirror” jumps and shocks, and again whilst these aren’t entirely absent, they aren’t what give this film the edge for me over the rest of the pack. It’s not a “found footage” film, but it deals with some footage which our “hero” finds in the attic of his new house. Which just happens to be a murder house.
So far, so bog standard sounding right? But no, there is some seriously creepy (and realistic) stuff on the film reels that he, and we as the audience, watch one by one as the film progresses. Add to this one of the freakiest scores / soundtracks I’ve heard for a while, some above average acting performances, and a weird presence that looks distinctly like a member of Slipknot, and you have what is for me one of the most unsettling films of the year.
It’s not necessarily scary in a traditional sense, but it is unnerving and will get under your skin, and that for me is a rare win from Hollywood these days.
Shoot the floor! SHOOT THE FUCKING FLOOR!!!
This is one of those films that everyone says is amazing and will blow you away, so you think “yeah yeah, whatever”, then loads more people say the same, including the ones to who you actually pay attention, so you decide to watch it.
And it blows you away.
I’m sure there are plenty of martial arts films from the various far flung corners of the globe in which they do a lot of the same things; but, like most people, I haven’t seen them. I have however seen this, and it is excellent and came out in 2012, so it’s the one that gets on the list. Extremely violent, fast paced, funny (ok, maybe not everyone will find it funny, but it is) and with numerous “What the fuck?” set pieces, this is a film that is meant to be enjoyed as opposed to studied.
It’s also a film to which there is no need to make a sequel or continuation. It stands alone as a top quality piece of bone crunching entertainment, and all concerned can hold their heads high and move onto whatever takes their fancy next.
Sit back, don’t take PCP (you can’t do the things they can in the film, no matter what it makes you think. You’ll get hurt), and enjoy 100 minutes of spectacular fighting and killing. Can’t say fairer than that.
God Bless America
Change the jumper or I shoot you in the face
This one really came out of nowhere for me, and I absolutely loved it. If you only know Bobcat Goldthwait as the guy with the freaky annoying voice in the Police Academy films, then prepare to be pleasantly surprised by his film making skills.
It’s a simple story: terminally ill man decides to have a go at ridding the world of its most repellent specimens before he dies. Not sea cucumbers, not camel spiders, not even those little fish that swim up your jap’s eye – he has more worthy targets: humans. Not all humans though – if you’re even a half decent person, you’re safe – but instead those who don’t really deserve any more time on the planet.
I should point out that these are his opinions, and he is a fictional character. I would never dream of going on a killing spree, wiping out pointless wastes of skin and breath to benefit the greater good. Ok, I might dream of it, but that’s my brain’s fault.
Anyway, enough psychology. This is without doubt a very dark comedy, which will appeal to anyone with a good i.e. slightly twisted sense of humour. You may even find yourself siding (heavily) with our hero Frank, expertly played by Joel Murray who you will undoubtedly know from something but probably won’t quite be able to place what. Did I mention he has an equally likeable teenage sidekick called Roxy, who is smart mouthed but not in the way most teenagers are i.e. you don’t want to punch her repeatedly in the face? Another fine reason to watch this.
More people should see this film. Anyone reading this should see this film. It’s not perfect, it’s not shiny and flawless, but it is quite inspirational and very funny.
…and that’s it. Extremely notable mentions go to The Woman In Black, Chronicle, Prometheus (shut up, haters!), Father’s Day, Cabin In The Woods, Cell 211 (technically from 2009, but I saw it this year and it’s utterly brill) and Sightseers.
Any and all of these could have got into this list had I written it on a different day in a different mood, and all deserve to be seen.
Please feel free to let me know via the comments section if you agree, disagree, or just want someone to talk to.
Bring on 2013.