2012 – Best of the Best, Worst of the Worst, Grand Totals

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Well, folks…this has been an interesting year for movies.  It’s hard to believe I started this blog a year ago tomorrow…time sure does fly.  I’ve learned a lot in this past year and can see how my review style has evolved over the past twelve months.  I’ve appreciated your feedback, your company, and just your presence in my blog because I’ve used it all to help it get better.  Even if you read this everyday but never commented…I can still tell you’ve been here and that means a lot.  My readership has increased every month and it’s thanks to your word of mouth that has helped me get this blog up and running.  Some interesting developments are on the horizon that should make 2013 even more fun for you and me – thank you again for your patronage and keep spreading the news about The MN Movie Man. 

Best Wishes to you and yours for a most Happy New Year!

~Joe (The MN Movie Man)

And now…the Best/Worst/Special Mentions of 2012.  Keep reading all the way to the bottom for a grand total that made me equal parts embarassed and proud.

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5. Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson has been hit or miss for me for his entire career.  For each film I’ve liked there have been two that followed I could barely sit through.  Thankfully, Moonrise Kingdom is one of his best – a richly rewarding work that was as colorfully offbeat as you can be without making a Pee-Wee Herman movie.  Anderson gathered his usual troupe of players, many of whom play against type to wonderful results.  It’s not for everyone but those that like this kind of storytelling will be quite entertained.

4. Silver Linings Playbook – A most unexpected delight from director David O. Russell and an impressive line-up of actors, Silver Linings Playbook was not only one of the best films of the year but also one of the more unpredictable.  It kept changing its course ever so slightly so that you were never quite sure where you were headed.  In a year filled with great performances, the work of Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper should be dully recognized at Oscar time.

3. End of Watch – You missed this in theaters, didn’t you?  Shame on you!  Though well reviewed, End of Watch has come and gone into your local movie theaters TWICE since it was released in September.  The second release was aimed to give some extra oomph for Oscar voters but it may be all for naught as other higher-profile films drew the audiences that should have made this a priority.  Jake Gyllenhaal gives what may be his best performance along with underrated character actor Michael Pena as they play cops in Los Angeles that get on the very wrong side of a vicious drug ring.  The camera work and direction were excellent but it’s Gyllenhaal and Pena who make the dark drama fire on all cylinders.

2. Skyfall – Sorry Sean Connery but the mantle of “Best James Bond” has officially been passed to Daniel Craig.  The long-awaited return to the screen of 007 was an absolute winner from start to finish.  With a new director on board who was willing to push everyone involved to give their best, most timely work – a different kind of spy adventure emerged.  Add top shelf performances from Craig, Judi Dench, and SAG Award nominee Javier Bardem along with Adele’s (hopefully Oscar nominated) classy/classic theme song and you have all the makings for a film that set the Bond bar quite high.

1. Beasts of the Southern Wild – Though I saw this in mid-July, I’ve been unable to shake some of the passages and performances in Benh Zeitlin’s unique film.  Following a father and daughter in a bayou community as they live with the aftermath of Hurricaine Katrina, the film is pure magic thanks to Zeitlin’s creative script and the one-two punch of actors Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry.  If there is any justice, Wallis will become the youngest Best Actress Oscar nominee in history for her absolutely unforgettable performance.  You may have missed this one in the theaters, but it is available now for home viewing through the usual channels.

Honorable Mentions: The Cabin in the Woods, The Avengers, Les Misérables, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Looper, Django Unchained

Worst

5. One for the Money – Katherine Heigl blew her chances at a franchise with the total disaster that was One for the Money.  The first of the Stephanie Plum mysteries, this could have been a real game changer for her career but sadly Heigl is not a good enough actress to carry the film anywhere.  Though it may have worked better as a television series, there is still no good reason why Heigl was given the opportunity to bring Plum to life.  Heigl just isn’t a leading lady as her last five films have proven.  She needs to take a long, hard look at what type she is…I’d vote for the bitchy girlfriend supporting role.

4. Mirror Mirror – The first (and worst) of two disappointing Snow White films this year, Mirror Mirror earns its spot on the list by featuring some of the best looking sets/costumes paired with an absolutely abysmal plot and performances.  Though Julia Roberts may have relished playing someone wicked, she doesn’t have the follow through to make it work.  She looks like she’s having a great time…at our expense.  The truly awful one here is Lily Collins as Snow White, hampered by an unfortunate set of bushy eyebrows and a bad habit of letting her mouth hang open whenever she’s not speaking…she makes the fabled heroine seem like an absolute mouth breathing idiot.

3. Magic Mike – I know I’m in the minority on this, but I found Magic Mike to be a piece of crap.  Even with the pedigree of a good (but inconsistent) director and a buzz-worthy cast, the movie went nowhere slowly.  The most interesting thing about the film was in its origins as a loose adaptation of star Channing Tatum’s pre-Hollywood life as a stripper.  Filled with ugly cinematography, a terrible soundtrack of awful music, and more than a few head-scratching developments that didn’t jive, no amount of bared flesh could ultimately save this film from pole dancing onto my Worst of 2012 list.

2. This Is 40 – A late addition to this list but well deserving of the high placement, This Is 40 was the worst comedy I saw in 2012.  Most frustrating was that it featured two very likable stars in a film I described in my review as “a miserable cinematic mallet to the head.”  That the film could feature such funny people and be virtually laugh free is a gigantic achievement.  Director/writer Judd Apatow has once again forgotten that the first step in making an interesting film is to make it, well, interesting.  It’s a dull, sloppy, crude movie that’s 134 minutes of fights about the same thing and observations on married life/aging/raising kids that were funnier on episodes of Home Improvement.

1. The Apparition – Without question, The Apparition is the worst worst Worst of the Worst in 2012.  Seemingly edited by a rotating group of morons that never saw what the other was doing, the film makes no sense and has terrible acting on top of it all!  Twilight star Ashley Greene should be thankful she made some cash on that franchise because her movie career is over.  It’s a film that should never be heard from again…along with everyone that made it.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions: American Reunion, The Vow, The Raven, The Three Stooges, Won’t Back Down

Special

Most Misunderstood

John Carter – I still don’t  get why people attacked this film quite the way they did.  I found it to be an enjoyable sci-fi flick that blended some nice elements from adventure serials of the past.  With parts reminding me of the Indiana Jones films and nice performances from Taylor Kitsch (who struggled through Battleship but did good work in Savages in 2012) and Lynn Collins, the film was a critical and financial disaster.  I just don’t get why it was SO bad…I for sure saw worse big budgeted films this year.

Honorable Mention: Jack Reacher

Worth the Wait

Prometheus – A huge Alien fan, I had been looking forward to the semi-prequel Prometheus ever since it was announced nearly two years ago.  Though it left many with questions that didn’t get answered, I found Ridley Scott’s return to the genre he helped redefine (twice, once with Alien and again with Blade Runner) to be an entertaining ride.  Heck, I saw it three times in the theater and would have seen it again had I had the time.

Honorable Mention: The Bourne Legacy, The Dark Knight Rises

Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen But Should:

Cracks

Julia’s Eyes (Los ojos de Julia)

Kill List

Paradise

Taking Chance

The Intouchables (potential Oscar bait!)

Wolfen

GrandClick HERE for a full listing of films

Total Movies Seen in the Theater: 138

Total Movies Seen at Home: 242

Grand Total for 2012 (not couting films seen multiple times): 370

Where I Saw the Most MoviesShowplace ICON (43 in 2012)

Movie Review ~ This Is 40

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A look at the lives of Pete and Debbie a few years after the events of Knocked Up.

Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Megan Fox, John Lithgow, Iris Apatow, Maude Apatow, Melissa McCarthy, Robert Smigel, Charlene Yi, Albert Brooks, Chris O’Dowd

Director: Judd Apatow

Rated: R

Running Length: 134 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (2/10)

Review: A miserable cinematic mallet to the head, This Is 40 is the latest film from director/writer Apatow and is being billed as a “sort-of sequel” to his 2007 blockbuster Knocked Up.  Instead of continuing on the story of the mismatched couple that found themselves pregnant, Apatow has crafted a very long follow-up that focuses on the characters from the “B” storyline from the first film.  In Knocked Up, married couple Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) were interesting variations on the best friend characters…people that had problems of their own that didn’t always come to the rescue like they would in most films.

In This Is 40, Debbie and Pete are both approaching the big 4-0 within days of each other (at least I think they are close together, the timeline for the film seemed to be rewritten every half hour) and…stop me if you’ve heard this before…the female is taking getting older worse than the male!!!  I know, right?  Unheard of!  That’s just one of the many clichéd situations, jokes, dialogue, etc. that This Is 40 employs in its epically long 2 ¼ hours.

It’s clear that Rudd (Wanderlust, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Mann (ParaNorman) have good chemistry and, like Knocked Up, I totally bought them as a married couple.  I’m just convinced that these particular characters didn’t need another whole film to themselves to complete their arc.  What’s more, this film is LONGER than Knocked Up and doesn’t have the strong supporting players that film did to keep things moving.  Instead, the movie is laboriously carried by Rudd, Mann, and the actresses playing their daughters.  Did I mention that Mann is married to Apatow and their real-life children play the offspring of Mann/Rudd (clearly standing in for Apatow) in the film?  Basically you are paying money to see the Apatow family home movies.

Like Apatow’s previous directorial efforts (Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Funny People) the movie is nearly 90 minutes too long.  There is so much extraneous material here that Apatow has seemed to jump the Director’s Cut gun and just given us his preferred cut of the film now instead of later.  What’s more, Universal Studios let him do it!  There are characters and scenes that could be wholly excised and not harm anything integral to the story yet there they are consistently ruining any sort of momentum the film gets going.  I’d go out on a limb and say that every scene went on at least a minute too long.

When you have to say that Megan Fox is the best of the supporting players, you know you may be in trouble.  The truth is, Fox is quite good as an employee at Mann’s barely mentioned California boutique and she saves whatever scenes she’s a part of…even though many of the jokes come at her expense.  Brooks and Lithgow play Rudd and Mann’s loser fathers – both actors could play these characters in their sleep…and it looks like they are asleep most of the time.  (Interesting to note that the credits list more make-up artists for Brooks than Mann…yet he still looks like a sand dune with eyes)  Yi and O’Dowd are awful in their roles…McCarthy starts off fairly well in her glorified cameo until she and Apatow take the comedy to an out-of-control hyper-vulgar state that lost my attention almost immediately.

Vulgarity is really the lifeblood of this film and Apatow may have thought he was being real witty letting his actors use all the swear words in the book and their derivatives but it only shows how average his writing style is by not finding a better voice to give to his actors.  I’m absolutely no prude when it comes to potty mouth-edness but the amount of expletives that come from every person in the film (even the children) is exhausting and undercut any point they are trying to make while using them.

Mann and Rudd spend 98% of the movie bickering and when they aren’t bickering they’re drunk, or high, or having sex, or laughing at their own jokes.  By the time Mann blows up at Rudd for the 900th time, the audience is numb to the conversation and we just await their eventual reconciliation.  Even if Apatow gets in a few on-the-nose observations about married life, they wind up being overshadowed by a general feeling of misery that is absolutely toxic.

So, in summary, here’s what I learned from seeing This Is 40: Marriage is hard, raising kids isn’t easy, parents are crazy, getting old sucks, and young people have different musical tastes than older people. Cutting edge material, Mr. Apatow….cutting edge.  It’s hard to believe that the same guy that gave us the excellent and witty television show Freaks and Geeks has sunk to this sub-par level.  It’s one of the least entertaining and least funny films released in 2012.