When visualizing the sci-fi film genre, I picture it as a large grumble of pugs (a grumble is in fact the correct term for a group of pugs) vying for the undying attention of the general public. They’ll do anything to please the masses, if only they’d be taken to a good home. Science Fiction, when done correctly, can be a massive money maker for movie studios. But they’re fighting against all the other cute little pugs attempting to grab your attention. So, in the scuffle of being cute, a lot of people overlook some rather pleasant and well behaved pugs for ones that, although initially cute, turn out to be impossible to train not to poop on your favorite chair once you bring them home.
Without a doubt, 2012 had plenty of entertaining movies with mass appeal with which to slop the hoard of cinephiles and assuage their glutton for moving pictures. The box office stats certainly show a trend in the types of movies that people enjoy watching, and it was absolutely no surprise. Action/adventure seems to always get people out to the theaters, particularly those originating from comic books and consisting of monumentally large budgets. I thought it might be fun to take a look at the top 5 grossing films from this year and pair them with lesser seen alternative films that compliment them quite nicely. I will admit that at the time of writing this list I have not seen the 3rd and 5th top grossing movies from this year, so my recommendations will be educated guesses..
5. Ice Age: Continental Drift
As I mentioned before, this is one of the films I didn’t see this year. Having seen two and a half of the previous Ice Age films, I think I have a pretty good idea of what this one was all about. These movies are pretty much the animated kiddie staples for the box office; giving parents a few hours of respite from their little monsters while offering as little artistic value as possible. It’s for this reason I recommend my favorite animated movie of the year ParaNorman.
ParaNorman could easily be viewed as an animated sequel to The Sixth Sense. It follows a young boy named Norman who is the only one in his town capable of seeing and communicating with the dead. When a curse summons a group of zombies from their graves, it’s up to Norman to stop the carnage. It’s essentially a “my first zombie movie”, in that it presents horror movie themes and scenarios in a childlike and visually fun environment. Paring excellent voice acting with interesting and engaging animation allows it to be engrossing both visually and through its narrative.
4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Hobbit was my favorite movie of 2012, and I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. It was the best fantasy movie I’ve seen in years. Everyone pretty much knew what to expect going into this due to the wild success of The Lord of the Rings and we certainly weren’t disappointed.
There is another fantasy movie that features a young and unlikely hero embarking on a quest of immeasurable importance (come to think of it there are probably thousands of fantasy films with the exact same basic premise.) The Dark Crystal is a film that is often referred to, but rarely seen. Jim Henson created a fascinating world filled with a ridiculous amount of puppets. Behind the scenes are probably twice as many people controlling these same puppets. Henson created some of the best creatures on film which is part of what makes The Dark Crystal so intriguing. It’s darker than anything The Muppets have starred in and not as lighthearted and “fun” as Labrynth offering a side of the Henson legacy that is rarely seen.
Skyfall is one of the movies that I really regret missing. I have every intention to see it when it’s released on DVD and Blu-Ray, however for this post I’ll have to refer to my knowledge of past Bond movies and recommend based on what I know. When figuring out what movie to recommend with Skyfall I eventually thought about some things that make the bond character so enjoyable to watch. Bond is a skilled assassin, he’s able to adapt to different situations and environments and he’s able to keep his head when he’s in terrible danger. The titular character in the movie Hanna shares many of these qualities with one major difference. She’s a 15 year old girl.
Hannah is trained by her ex CIA father to be a skilled assassin from the age of two. Throughout the course of the film we see her put various skills to use as she’s on the run, hunted by the CIA. The movie takes cinematic liberty, treating us to exciting and visually unique action and chase sequences. The story can be a bit confusing at times, but the dead-on character acting from everyone involved makes it well worth the watch.
2. The Dark Knight Rises
This was another movie that I really loved. As a matter of fact, there are few Batman movies I don’t like (namely Batman and Robin) so I’m going to cheat a little bit and offer up another of the Dark Knight’s many cinematic tributes.
Batman the Animated Series is fantastic. They provided excellent quality cartoons that, although kid-friendly, certainly didn’t shy too far from the source material. The series produced a number of feature length movies, among them was Mask of the Phantasm. The film used the signature dark style of the series which used black paper as a starting background for the frames in lieu of white to maintain that same dark feel. In this film, Batman is blamed for the deaths of numerous crime bosses, the murders are actually being committed by another masked and caped vigilante. This puts Batman in a position that forces him to save and protect his enemies while keeping his own demons at bay.
1. The Avengers
I’m pretty sure everyone reading this has seen The Avengers; Marvels all star masterpiece was the highest grossing movie of the year. Joss Whedon delivered a super hero tour de force that left the entire world impressed with what he accomplished. For this reason I want to recommend another movie written and directed by Joss Whedon: Serenity.
The differences between Serenity and The Avengers is staggering. One is based on a successful comic book empire, preceded by dozens of movies over the past few decades culminating in the mega-blockbuster that was The Avengers. and then there is Serenity; a film that almost wasn’t made, continuing a TV show that was cancelled with only 14 episode completed. Still, Firefly (the television show that preceded the movie) and Serenity gained a large cult following. The show had a fairly simple plot, it followed a band of guns-for-hire that took whatever jobs they could, legal or otherwise. It was a fun mixture of the Science/Fiction and Western genres. The movie was a chance to both tie up loose ends and wish the loyal fans of the franchise a well deserved goodbye. There is no need to see Firefly before Serenity (I hadn’t even heard of Firefly) though it may make it more enjoyable. The catchy-sometimes-corny dialogue and ever-so-slightly melodramatic tones create a dramatic mixture of sci-fi, comedy and adventure that feels like Indiana Jones in space.
As we begin a new year we are quickly approaching the Academy Awards, a time when Hollywood gives itself a big pat on the back for a job well done. It is for this reason that I’ve asked a few friends of mine to pick their favorite movie of the year. So, with no more delay I present to youmy friends andguest bloggers for the day.
My favorite film of the year is The Hobbit. First off I have to hand it to the team whose now spent two decades bringing some of the greatest works in literature to fans of Tolkien and moviegoers alike. Even if you don’t like Peter Jackson or Tolkien you have to admire that kind of dedication and work ethic. I have always been a big fan of large scale movies. While The Dark Knight Rises was also large in scale, The Hobbit wins out for the reason’s that follow.
There are many reasons why I loved the movie but here are a few reasons to consider. I love the characters and set designs for The Hobbit. The great thing about fantasy films such as The Hobbit is that they have to design everything in the movie from the ground up. They put a tremendous effort into making Middle Earth believable. The set’s were great and the costumes were full of detail. The beautiful landscapes were icing on top. Also there were a lot of memorable Characters in The Hobbit. The dwarves were a solid supporting cast. They were comical and they were mischievous but ultimately they were brave warriors on a mission. I have to say though, Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo or Andy Serkis as Gollum is as good as it gets in the business. Finally I love that they stayed true to the feel of the Hobbit. They could have made the film with the same winning style as LOTR but instead did something a little controversial. It was a little more light hearted and fun than what some critics may have been expecting. Ultimately The Hobbit was loyal to the book and it stands on it’s own feet apart from LOTR. I’m definitely looking forward to the next two.
Whit Stroup was y college roommate and good friend. We worked together on multiple film projects while in School and shared an affinity for film.
|Marvel’s The Avengers|
I always have problem picking the best of anything. I think that is because “my” bests always change with my mood and frame of mind, but this year picking the best movie was very simple : “Marvel’s The Avengers“. Disney/Marvel did the impossible creating an amazing movie based of Marvel’s “B” grade heroes. It looks like the folks over at Disney found the key to making super hero movies: hire people that love them. Hiring Joss Whedon was an inspired move, sure he was given the cast and the basic starting point of the movie, and I am sure he was told how the movie kind of had to end up so they could plan the next phase of movies, but everything in between was all Joss Whedon magic. It wasn’t as “talky” as other Whedon vehicles, but the dialog was always spot on, and the action was perfectly framed and amazing to watch. It just doesn’t get better then that for a comic book geek like myself.
Side note: if you are a comic book geek like me and did not watch Dredd 3D, I will not talk to you until you own the Blu-Ray because that movie demands a sequel.
A recently developed past time of mine is watching incredible movies with Ryan Partlow. After moving to Washington state he has become a good friend. And seriously… buy Dredd.
My favorite movie of the year (always with an asterisk: I still need to see Anna Karenina, Looper, Zero Dark Thirty and others) is Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson’s beautifully precise filmmaking dovetails with great performances (Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schartzman are especially great with very little screen time) and a sweet, melancholy story. In a year crowded with ambitious films, this may be an unassuming choice, but no other movie worked as consistently for me. Set to Benjamin Britten’s music–a brilliant soundtrack, thematically–the movie presents its island community as an orchestra, each instrument in dire need of tuning. I haven’t liked every movie Anderson has made, but this feels like his masterpiece to me.
During college, Paul nurtured my appreciation for film and film history by watching a verity of films with me; including some of the most boring movies I’ve ever seen. our friendship and shared interest in film has caused us both to enter the world of blogging. Read more of Paul’s work at Infinite Crescendo.
I sat on my couch for three hours last night, pondering the philosophical concepts of The Grey. I didn’t remember the blood, the jump scenes, the scenery, the music or the acting; though all of that is outstanding. But, The Grey is not about the wolves, or even about Liam Neeson. It is first and foremost a story about God, and where He is when suffering bares it’s fangs. The film is not necessarily interested in answering the provocative questions it presents, nor should it, but it presents them in the midst of transcendent emotion and complex spirituality.
The ending is akin to The Sopranos, and it will divide audiences. I personally felt it ended on a pitch-perfect note, both ambiguous and gripping. It allows it’s themes to fully remain intact without succumbing to cliche, and frankly, it is refreshing to see a film end a film on it’s own terms, rather than on the expectations of it’s audience.
The twist that is revealed will not rock your world, but the climactic build up to it had tears in my eyes. It forces us to look beyond the present state of chaos and focus on what gives life meaning. And does that meaning involving more than just an instinct for survival?
Nicholas Ahern and I grew up as friends in the same Home School group in southern California. His interest in writing has been prevalent the entire time I have known him. Read more of Nick’s work at Split Frame Of Reference and follow him on Twitter @NickAhern.
Time travel movies always tend to run into the same exact snag: how does the behavior of the eventual time traveler(s), protagonist or not, affect the eventual timeline and outcome(s?) of the story we have just been immersed in. It’s not an original thought to conclude this dilemma ultimately boils down to the argument of an inevitable destiny/fate as opposed to free will that causes an unpredictable result.
Let’s be honest. We’ve all taken part in far-too-lengthy discussions about how time travel would/should work. Maybe you’re in the Kate and Leopold school of thought: time is a pretzel, and your actions in the past or future only result in the fulfillment of what was already predestined. There’s the Back to the Future approach: actions in the past cause alternate timelines to offshoot into various futures; an idea that MIB III hinted at with their adorably innocent alien Griffin character. Or then you could delve into the mystically confusing convolutions of films like Donnie Darko and so forth.
What I’m ultimately getting at is that time travel films have made me tired. At some point, it just gets exhausting to argue about the potential merits and flaws of time travel. Which is why I enjoyed Looper quite a bit, and it succeeded in keeping me surprisingly engaged. The scene which eventually sealed the deal in my approval for this film takes place in the cafe where Bruce Willis speaks with his past self (an awkwardly square-jawed JGL). That Willis’ character ends up sighing and saying “it’s complicated” in response to JGL’s repeated inquiries and counter-arguments felt like he stole the words right out of my mouth.
Oh. Other high and low lights: Amusing torture/note-passing from past to future selves. Emily Blunt’s frightening biceps. The second time I’ve felt like punching a child in a movie. And a fairly predictable ending spurred by the “No…love will cause ME to sacrifice more!” motivation. So yeah.
It’s confusing. We should accept that, sometimes.
Praus Nichols and I became good friends while attending The Master’s College together. He has been interested in movies and sports for as long as I’ve known him and offers plenty of insight on any topic he chooses to talk about. Follow him on Twitter @PrausNichols