Top 10 genre films of 2012
There was a slew of genre material to pick from this year, some mediocre fare that enjoyed huge box office success (see The Hunger Games), and fantastic films that were largely ignored and disappeared before they even had a chance to get a foothold (see Dredd 3D). There are also several excellent movies that I would consider borderline genre films because of their cult appeal, movies like Seven Psychopaths and Django Unchained, but that I’ve excluded from my list due to their mostly mainstream status.
It was hard to narrow my list down to the top ten, and it was difficult to leave out a couple of films that I really enjoyed, but that did not make the cut (see Wreck-it Ralph, Battleship, Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter and the aforementioned Dredd 3D.) What remains are the movies that I was most entertained by over the past year. That means these films do not necessarily have the best acting, the best direction or any of the other standard grading measurables, but that they are movies that I left the theater being the most excited about and that I could easily watch over & over again with nearly the same high level of enthusiasm.
#10) Skyfall – While many Sean Connery fans might scoff at the idea, Skyfall could quite possibly be the best Bond film ever made. It has the perfect balance of all the right elements that make up a great 007 flick; an amazing opening action spectacle followed by a fun old school title sequence & song, beautiful women, an eccentric villain, great gizmos and edge-of-your-seat thrills. What more could you ask for in a super-spy movie? This one sets the new standard and celebrates the 50th year of the franchise in style.Prometheus – I was shocked by how many Alien purists passionately disliked this prequel to Ridley Scott’s original film. For my movie money it was a fantastic science-fiction piece that logically tied to the first film without drawing a direct line to it – allowing the movie to stand on its own while leaving room for fans to speculate and fantasize about how the pieces might connect together. It had the great blend of science & horror than fans expect from the franchise, but was different enough to feel fresh and new.
#8) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – This first piece of The Hobbit film trilogy is a lot of fun for fans of the Tolkien universe. Many non-fans have bad-mouthed the film for its length, slow pacing and meandering narrative, but for those that love this epic story the answer is, “Yeah…and the problem is …?” Despite the movie’s controversial High-Frame Rate 3D flaws, I feel this film is a near perfect beginning to a very long and entertaining journey and I can’t wait for the next leg.
#7) Cloud Atlas – This sci-fi drama has a bold and unconventional narrative that demands you either view it repeatedly or walk away from it altogether. Cloud Atlas is very hard to describe and to understand, but for those with the time and patience to see it through two or even three or more viewings, it is one of the most incredible film experiences you will ever have. To say this film is of an epic scale is like saying that Galactus is just a super-villain; neither description begins to illuminate the actual scope of its object.
#6) The Amazing Spider-Man – As a lifelong spider-fan and someone who loved the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, I think this is the best take on the Spider-Man saga yet. Because of my devotion to the Raimi original and Toby Maguire as Peter Parker, I thought I would hate this new movie version. But like a true hero it overcame all of my preconceived notions and far surpassed all of my expectations. It may not be perfect, but it hits all the important notes perfectly.
#5) The Cabin in the Woods – Directed by Drew Goddard, who also co-wrote this film with his longtime collaborator Joss Whedon, Cabin in the Woods is a horror film fan’s ultimate dream (or nightmare) movie. It is completely original while at the same time a loving homage to decade’s worth of horror film culture. Just when you think you have this movie figured out – you’re wrong! It surprises at almost every turn with non-stop energy and enthusiasm; and you can tell that its creators had as much fun making this movie as you will watching it. And you will want to watch it over & over again to pick out its multitude of Easter eggs and subtle tributes.
Safety Not Guaranteed – SNG is the little movie that could. It is a sci-fi romantic-comedy that makes up in heart what it is lacking in budget; proving you don’t have to have $200 million dollars to make a great genre picture. It is directed by Colin Trevorrow, who has recently been in the running to helm the next Star Wars film, and that is the kind of clout that this movie has given this relatively new director. SNG is the story of a man searching for a companion to travel through time with in a machine of his own design. It’s eccentric & inventive and I loved the flawed characters of Darius the reporter/intern and Kenneth the time-traveler/store clerk. I was rooting for them through to one of the greatest movie endings ever. Everyone will find something to love in Safety Not Guaranteed.
#3) John Carter – John Carter is easily the most underrated movie of the year and its unjustified poor reputation is more about Disney’s ill-conceived marketing fiasco than any problem with the material shown on the screen. It breaks my heart that this movie was so publicly unsuccessful, hampering any chance of going forward as a much deserved franchise. Those who watch this film with an untainted and objective eye come away loving its classic adventure story and state-of-the-art special effects; but unfortunately, the movie-going public at large was swayed by this movie’s negative press coverage regarding its cost and crappy marketing campaign. Unless you are invested with Disney, who cares about those details? See this movie for yourself – you’ll be glad you did.
#2) Looper – What The Cabin in the Woods does for horror films, Looper does for the time-travel genre. It’s one of those sci-fi films that comes out of nowhere and completely blows you way with its ingenious plot and amazing insight into our potential future. This film mixes aspects of the X-Men with time-travel and gangster genres into something completely different. This one is at the top of my Blu-ray want list (to be released on New Year’s Eve) and I can’t wait to deconstruct the details of its extremely tight plot. This might be the best time-travel movie ever.The Avengers – Without a doubt, The Avengers is the movie of the year. There are so many ways in which this film could have gone painfully wrong, but writer/director Joss Whedon pulled off a miracle in making this film an accurate live-action portrayal of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Each fully developed superhero character is spot-on accurate and the world they are cast into is of such an epic scale that you believe it when team is in danger and cheer for them when the pull our planet’s butt out of the fire. The fact that Whedon was able to juggle all the pieces of this incredible ensemble picture and have it come together as masterfully as he did is a feat of super-heroic proportions in and of itself. This is my favorite film of the year, genre flick or no genre flick – this movie can’t be beat.
What are your film picks for 2012? Use our comments section to let us know what we missed, how we got it wrong, or what we got right.