Tag Archives: The Invisible War

Top 10 Films of 2012

All those 2012 movie blitzes bring us to this point — the top 10 films of 2012!

Out of the 109 movies from 2012 (released in 2012, not necessarily watched in 2012) I have reviewed on this blog, these are the cream of the crop. To be honest, I’m fairly disappointed with this list. Looking through it again I think 2012 was a rather disappointing year, with some very good films but nothing really leaving a lasting impression (2011, for example, gave me Drive, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, all films that would have topped my list this year).

Anyway, I’ve decided to stick to my guns and prepare this list based on my ratings at the time I reviewed the films rather than what I think of them right now having had time to contemplate them in more detail or in some cases watch them again. Here they are, in reverse order (click on film titles for full review):

10. Prometheus (2D) (2012)

Yeah I didn't get this either, but he's really buffed
Yeah I didn’t get this either, but he’s really buffed

Despite what you might think, this is not my “worst of” list. Yes, I have selected Prometheus, notwithstanding all its well pointed out flaws, as one of the top 10 movies of the year. All I can say is: bite me. OK, allow me to explain. First of all, I don’t really care about how the film fits in or doesn’t fit in with the rest of the Alien universe (mainly because I don’t know it well enough). I watched Prometheus as a standalone film with elements from that universe, but more importantly as a film with scary creatures and cool special effects. I am frank in my criticism of various parts of the film in my review, but I still think, without having watched it again, that it delivers as an enjoyable horror sci-fi flick. Expectations aside, I really liked it when I saw it, and there aren’t any other films that scored higher than this film apart from those on this list. So there.

9. The Hunger Games (2012)

 

Jennifer Lawrence rules
Jennifer Lawrence rules

This is a film I wonder if I would put on this list had I watched it for a second time, but alas, here it is anyway. Having not read the books when I watched it, I found The Hunger Games to be a lot of fun, driven by a cracker performance by the wonderful Jennifer Lawrence and some stellar special effects. While the premise is not the most original, the execution was strong and the action was dynamite. The set up was a bit overlong (a problem repeated in the sequel, Catching Fire), but once they hit the game arena everything was forgiven. After Twilight, watching The Hunger Games was a real pleasure.

8. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Did I mention Jennifer Lawrence rules?
Did I mention Jennifer Lawrence rules?

Two entries this year for Jennifer Lawrence, who won the Oscar for best actress in Silver Linings Playbook, the best romantic comedy of the year. As I said in my original review, I’m not usually too high on rom-coms, but this one resonated because of the sweet chemistry between Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, the string supporting cast (Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver), the witty laughs and its ability to take a quirky angle on the very serious topic of mental illness. Ahh…Jennifer Lawrence…

7. Life of Pi (3D) (2012)

Ang Lee rules
Ang Lee rules

What more can you say about Ang Lee? The man knows how to make movies. Life of Pi, based on one of my favourite novels, far exceeded my expectations given that it was previously considered unadaptable. And yet Lee somehow manages to deliver one of the most magical, visually stunning and heartfelt movies of the year without drowning us in boredom, philosophy or pointless 3D. I admit it’s the type of film that can polarise audiences for its sometimes preachy tone and fantastical premise, but if you’re in the right mood for it then Life of Pi could turn out to be one of the most rewarding film experiences of the year.

6. The Invisible War (2012)

So sad
So sad

I’m not ordinarily a huge feature docomentary watcher but this one left such a lasting impression on me. The Invisible War documents sexual assault in the US military, and it’s one of the most shocking, harrowing and infuriating movies you could ever see. And it’s all true. Directed with a steady hand that doesn’t sensationalise the claims, allowing the victims to tell their own stories in their own words, The Invisible War is one of the most important movies of the year, or any year.

5. This is 40 (2012)

This is 40 is so good it makes you forget Megan Fox is in it
This is 40 is so good it makes you forget Megan Fox is in it

This is an entry that will probably surprise a lot of people given that it received a lot of mixed and negative reviews. I have been a very outspoken critic of most of Judd Apatow’s movies, so it came as a surprise to me too that I fell in love with This is 40, featuring a seemingly perfect couple played by Apatow’s real-life wife Leslie Mann and one of my fave actors, Paul Rudd. The jokes, often brutal but not as crass as some of Apatow’s other works, are painfully honest and spoke straight to my funny bone. Perhaps they resonated with me more as I am also a husband and father with similar pressures, but whatever the reason I just thought it was one of the most hilarious movies I had seen in quite some time.

4. The Avengers (2D) (2012)

Fun and games
Fun and games

Was The Avengers really one of the top four films of the year? In retrospect, I don’t really know, but at least when I watched it towards the start of the year I was in awe of the magnificent feat that director Joss Whedon was able to pull off, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else capable of putting together an ensemble superhero movie with so many big names and making them all fit together and play off each other so perfectly. Not to say I don’t love the growing trend of gritty, “realistic” superhero flicks, but it was also great to see an old fashioned one like The Avengers, where the mood is more relaxed, the jokes are sardonic and the tone a lot less grim. A super popcorn movie that didn’t disappoint despite near-impossible odds.

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Percy Jackson the perv
Percy Jackson the perv

When I look at all the movies from 2012 a few years from now, The Perks of Being a Wallflower will probably be my fondest memory. Having not read the book (yet — my later review of it is here), I didn’t really know what to expect from it, but I came way thinking that it was the best coming-of-age movie I had seen in years. Directed by the guy who wrote the book, Stephen Chbosky, Wallflower is a sensitive, heartwarming and heartbreaking tale about a damaged boy (played marvellously by Logan Lerman) trying to figure out his place in the world. Emma Watson and Ezra Miller were also brilliant as his soul sister and brother, demonstrating that their acting range is far from limited to the characters they’re best known for. While it is far from perfect, Wallflower has that uncanny ability to creep up on you and latch itself onto your emotions. It’s a sentimental film, sure, but it’s a sentimental film of the best kind.

2. Django Unchained (2012)

Leo being Leo
Leo being Leo, which means being awesome

Tarantino’s best film since Pulp Fiction? I’m not sure about that, but I think it is arguably his most entertaining. Django Unchained is an apologetically violent Tarantino-esque fantasy spaghetti western, and I enjoyed the ride immensely. Like most Tarantino films, Django is a unique experience — you don’t really know where you’re heading but you feel like you’re in safe hands, AND you’re having a lot of fun along the way. A story about a wronged black man who goes on a killing rampage is a premise that probably won’t work in the hands of any other director, but for Tarantino it feels apt. Powered by some awesome performances by Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leo DiCaprio, Django is quintessentially Quentin, filled with slick dialogue, unflinching violence, memorable characters and a truck load of coolness. Yeah, it’s far too long, but most movies are these days.

1. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Rubugrobumarubu Batman!
Rubugrobumarubu, Batman!

I only awarded one film the full 5 stars in 2012, and as it turned out, that movie was The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s epic conclusion to his Batman trilogy, without a doubt the best superhero franchise of all time. While many parts of the film either didn’t make sense or were only possible in comic land, The Dark Knight Rises offers the payoff audiences have been waiting for since Batman Begins hit our screens in 2005. With Batman more mentally and physically fragile than ever, plus a formidable adversary in Bane and an intriguing subplot in the emergence of Catwoman, The Dark Knight Rises elevated the stakes to new heights before ending with a fitting bang. Strictly speaking, however, I don’t think this is truly a 5-star film, but it felt right to award it the maximum rating after placing it in context as the finale of a magnificent franchise. As I said elsewhere, I think The Dark Knight, which I initially awarded 4.5 stars, is the better overall film, and if I had a do-over I probably would switch the ratings. But The Dark Knight Rises is like how everyone treated LOTR: The Return of the King. Does it really deserve to be one of three films in history with 11 Oscars (the others being Ben Hur and Titanic, though Return of the King was the only film to sweep all its nominations)? Probably not, but voters felt it fitting to reward it because of the quality of the franchise as a whole. That’s how I look at it anyway.

So there you have it, the top 10 films of 2012. I’ll endeavour to put up a worst and best of list for 2013 in the next 3 months! Seriously!

Missing the cut: Argo, Zero Dark 30, Compliance, End of Watch, Pitch Perfect, Jack Reacher, Looper, The Cabin in the Woods

Final Post-Oscars Movie Blitz

I’ve reviewed every Best Picture nominee from this year’s Oscars, so now I will get the rest of the Oscar-related reviews over and done with in one fell swoop. The five films below all missed out on a Best Picture nomination but were all nominated for at least one other award.

The Master (2012)

master_ver6_xlg

Nomination(s): Joaquin Phoenix (Best Actor), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Best Supporting Actor), Amy Adams (Best Supporting Actress)

I was a little disappointed in The Master because I am incredibly fascinated by Scientology (and this was supposed to be a veiled depiction of its founder, L Ron Hubbard) and I love all three leads and writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, who blew me away with his previous effort, There Will Be Blood.

Joaquin plays an ex-soldier who is sex-obsessed and a drunk. He stumbles across a cult called The Cause, ruled by Hoffman and his wife, played by Adams. He gets involved in the cult but has trouble following rules and keeping his emotions in check because he is so damaged.

While it was skillfully made, carefully paced and driven by three of the best performances of 2012 (in particular the lads), The Master was more about how and why people get sucked into cults (in general) rather than a Scientology expose. It is artistic and intentionally slow in parts, much like There Will Be Blood, but lacks the same edge-of-your-seat tension and explosiveness. For me it was just a little too flat and detached to pull me all the way into the story.

3 stars out of 5

PS: Maybe I was expecting too much, or maybe I was just thinking about this whenever I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman and couldn’t take him seriously.

The Impossible (2012)

The-Impossible-Poster

Nomination(s): Naomi Watts (Best Actress)

I was wary of this film as I’m usually wary of tear jerkers, but this turned out to be one of the better ones, and not just because it’s based on a true story. Well, the true story involved a Spanish family caught in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but the filmmakers decided to turn them into a British family. I didn’t have a problem with that — they had to do what they had to do to sell film.

The movie works better if you don’t know how it ends, so if you haven’t seen it, avoid finding out. The special effects and the make-up are amazing, and the moment the tsunami hits is as realistic (and terrifying) as you could have hoped it to be.

But such a film wouldn’t work if it didn’t strike the right emotional cords, and the right emotional cords would not be struck if the performances didn’t hit their mark. In this regard The Impossible delivers because Naomi Watts is stunning as the battered mother, and Ewan McGregor is also very good as the distraught father. The one who links the film together, however, is young newcomer Tom Holland, who plays the eldest son of the family.

I didn’t shed any tears but the emotions did get to me, and that’s already quite an impressive feat because I knew exactly what I was getting myself into.

3.75 stars out of 5

The Sessions (2012)

The-Sessions-Poster1

Nomination(s): Helen Hunt (Best Supporting Actress)

If you want to be crass about it, The Sessions is a true story about a horny disabled guy’s mission to get laid. John Hawkes plays Mark O’Brien, a poet who has lived with an iron lung after being struck down by polio as a child. He is paralyzed from the neck down and requires near-constant care for life’s most basic activities.

Mark has a sharp mind and an even sharper wit, and he’s also a smooth talker, a charmer and a flirt. If he was able-bodied he’d probably be quite a ladies man, which is why he is so frustrated that he can’t get a girlfriend, or simply someone to help him lose his virginity.

Enter Helen Hunt, a “sex surrogate” who specializes in cases like Mark’s. The two have a limited six sessions together, but things don’t turn out the way Mark had envisioned. Naturally, instead of just a physical relationship, both of them undergo emotional changes that will affect their lives forever.

Sounds like an uncomfortable movie, doesn’t it? But The Sessions is poignant and surprisingly hilarious, tackling the sex with humour and wit. It doesn’t shy away from it — Hunt goes the “full Helen” for the first time since The Waterdance in 1992, when she played the girlfriend of a paralyzed writer — but the sessions are skillfully portrayed and have a gentle and lighthearted feel to them.

Emotionally, I didn’t connect with the film as much as I thought I would, but I was still impressed by how funny it was (especially Hawkes’ exchanges with a priest played by William H Macy) and the way director Ben Lewin (a former Aussie barrister!) handled the difficult subject matter.

3.5 stars out of 5

Brave (2012)

brave-movie-poster

Won: Best Animated Film

I had only seen one other animated film nominee and that was Wreck-it Ralph (the others were Frankenweenie, ParaNorman and The Pirates! Band of Misfits), which I liked but thought didn’t fulfill its full potential. If I had to compare the two then Brave would have gotten my vote too.

That said, Brave, while a very good animated film, is not in the same league as former winners such as Toy Story 3 and Up. It’s is an ambitious story set in the Scottish Highlands about a girl who refuses to accept her fate by expressing the desire to not marry, setting off a chain of events that predictably teaches us to follow our hearts before leading to an obvious conclusion.

It has a strong female protagonist voiced by Kelly Macdonald and with Emma Thompson as her overbearing mother and Billy Connolly has her stubborn father. The Scottish accents were finely tuned to ensure audiences could understand them.

Notwithstanding the predictable underlying message and ending, I found Brave generally enjoyable and amusing and one of the stronger Pixar efforts I’ve seen over the years. But if this was the best animated film of the year I think it was probably a relatively weak field.

3.5 stars out of 5

The Invisible War (2012)

invisible-war-poster

Nomination(s): Best Documentary Feature

The Invisible War lost out to Searching For Sugarman for Best Documentary, meaning the latter must be one heck of a film because the former is one of the best and most important documentaries I’ve ever seen.

The film documents sexual assault in the US military, and the stories you will hear are shocking and sickening and will probably infuriate you. It’s not just the assaults, but the trauma the victims have to continue to suffer when they are ignored, blamed and/or ostracized by the military while the perpetrators continue to roam free and even get promoted.

The filmmakers do a fantastic job of letting the facts, the statistics and the victims speak for themselves, and the commendable research and interviews provide a broad spectrum of victims (predominantly female but also male) and loved ones. It’s heartbreaking to watch at times but it’s a film I would recommend everyone to watch.

The film has already sparked some changes in the way the military handles assault cases and will hopefully continue to do a lot more. This is what’s happening to the men and women who serve their country and it’s unacceptable.

Putting aside all the anger, The Invisible War is simply a finely crafted documentary that will keep you engrossed.

4.5 stars out of 5