Monday, December 31, 2012

Worst Films of 2012

I can't close out the year without a walk down memory lane of some of the painfully terrible movies I've had the displeasure of sitting through. And what qualities make a movie destined to a life of shame on this list? For me, it's gratuitous violence, phoniness, pointlessness, juvenile comedy targeted for adults, and those all-too-common Hollywood Assembly Line flicks.

Below are my least favorite movies of the year, beginning with the worst of the worst, 'Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie'.

Worst Films of 2012:
  1. Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
  2. A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman
  3. High School
  4. The Fourth Dimension
  5. The Loneliest Planet
  6. The Dictator
  7. Beyond the Black Rainbow
  8. Francophrenia
  9. The Three Stooges
  10. Act of Valor
  11. Goats
  12. The Deep Blue Sea
  13. Red Tails
  14. Samsara
  15. The Apparition
  16. The Magic of Belle Isle
  17. The Lucky One
  18. Turn Me On, Dammit
  19. Battleship
  20. The Devil Inside
  21. Damsels in Distress
  22. Jesus Henry Christ
  23. Sparkle
  24. Room 237
  25. Branded
  26. Solomon Kane
  27. Rise of the Guardians
  28. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
  29. Ice Age: Continental Drift
  30. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
  31. Underworld: Awakening
  32. Cloud Atlas
  33. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  34. John Carter
  35. On the Road
  36. The Do-Deca Pentathlon
  37. Moonrise Kingdom
  38. Playing for Keeps
  39. Fitzgerald Family Christmas
  40. The Guilt Trip
  41. Dredd
  42. Casa de mi Padre
  43. The Amazing Spiderman
  44. That's My Boy
  45. Here Comes the Boom
  46. Nobody Walks
  47. Mirror Mirror
  48. Haywire
  49. Wrath of the Titans
  50. Not Fade Away
(Note: There were some films I smartly skipped in 2012, which is undoubtedly why they didn't make my Hall of Shame, including A Thousand Words, One for the Money, Joyful Noise, Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection, Piranha 3DD, Resident Evil: Redemption, Silent Hill: Revelation, Fun Size, Twilight, Alex Cross, The Cold Light of Day, and Red Dawn.)

And how about those movies that boast a great cast, but turn out to be a waste of talent. These aren't all terrible films, but just poor relative to the quality of the talent attached. Below they are ranked starting from biggest disappointment:

Biggest Waste of Talent in 2012:
  1. Moonrise Kingdom
  2. Haywire
  3. Cloud Atlas
  4. The Amazing Spiderman
  5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

And how about those actors that show up in bomb after bomb?  Below is a list of the actors who had the worst overall year, ranked beginning with the overall worst.  (Don't you just know they're all going to show up in a movie together soon?)

Worst Overall Year in 2012:
  1. Kristen Stewart (Twilight, On the Road, Snow White and the Huntsman)
  2. Taylor Kitsch (John Carter, Battleship)
  3. Channing Tatum (Magic Mike, The Vow, 21 Jump Street, Haywire)
  4. Gerard Butler (Playng for Keeps, Chasing Mavericks)
  5. Kevin James (Here Comes the Boom, Hotel Transylvania)
  6. Adam Sandler (That's My Boy, Hotel Transylvania)
Note: Dishonorable mentions go to Taylor Lautner and Sam Worthington, who didn't have multiple bad films in 2012, but deserve to be included here because of a lifetime of sub-par work.

And finally the biggest disappointments of 2012.  No, these are not all terrible films.  But, to me, they were the biggest disappointments relative to my expectations:

Biggest Disappointments in 2012:
  1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  2. Cloud Atlas
  3. The Amazing Spiderman
  4. Hyde Park on Hudson
  5. The Woman in Black
  6. The Raven
  7. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  8. Branded
  9. The Do-Deca Pentathlon
  10. To Rome with Love
  11. Fitzgerald Family Christmas
  12. Lincoln

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Most Overrated and Most Underseen Films of 2012

Have you ever noticed that certain movies generate a lot of attention and critical praise, yet they really aren't that good? They're not necessarily bad movies, but just overrated. Well, here's my chance to rock the boat and call these out.

Most Overrated Narrative Films of 2012:
  1. Moonrise Kingdom
  2. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  3. Life of Pi
  4. Lincoln
  5. The Amazing Spider-Man
  6. 21 Jump Street
  7. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
  8. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Most Overrated Documentaries of 2012:
  1. Samsara
  2. Chasing Ice
  3. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
  4. Searching for Sugar Man
  5. Bully
  6. The Imposter
  7. The Invisible War

And what about those movies that no one saw or even heard of but were actually pretty decent? These aren't the best films of the year, but each of them has moments of greatness and are perfect for those of you who like discovering films on DVD or VOD.

Most Underseen yet Deserving Films of 2012:
  1. Perfect Sense
  2. Your Sister's Sister
  3. Sound of My Voice
  4. Newlyweds
  5. The Good Doctor
  6. The Tall Man
  7. Ruby Sparks
  8. Hello I Must Be Going
  9. Sleepwalk with Me
  10. Kill List
  11. Get the Gringo
  12. God Bless America
  13. Robot and Frank
  14. Thin Ice
  15. The Oranges
  16. 360
  17. The Details
  18. Safety Not Guaranteed
  19. The Hunter
  20. Intruders
  21. Butter
  22. Bernie
  23. Premium Rush
  24. Dark Horse

And finally, here are the most underrated films of the year.  I don't agree with the masses.  These films are good if not great.

Most Underrated Films of 2012:
  1. Hysteria
  2. Deadfall
  3. The Tall Man
  4. Won't Back Down
  5. Red Lights
  6. Savages
  7. Gone
  8. 360
  9. Seeking Justice
  10. Think Like a Man
  11. Man on a Ledge
  12. Hit & Run
  13. Bourne Legacy
  14. Dark Shadows
  15. Lockout

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best Behind-The-Camera Work of 2012

Now, don't worry.  I'm not going to bore you with awards for Best Sound, Best Editing, Best Gaffer, and Best Best Boy.  But there are some behind-the-camera achievements I need to give a shout out to.

Best Directing:
  1. Paul Thomas Anderson - The Master
  2. Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight Rises
  3. Ben Affleck - Argo
  4. Lynn Shelton - Your Sister's Sister
  5. Tanya Wexler - Hysteria
  6. Lee Toland Krieger - Celeste and Jesse Forever
  7. Todd Louiso - Hello I Must Be Going
  8. James Ponsoldt - Smashed
  9. Mike Birbiglia - Sleepwalk with Me
  10. Kathryn Bigelow - Zero Dark Thirty

Best Screenplay/Story:
  1. Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard - Cabin in the Woods
  2. Rian Johnson - Looper
  3. Martin McDonagh - Seven Psychopaths
  4. Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer  - The Dark Knight Rises
  5. Kim Fupz Aakeson - Perfect Sense
  6. Andrew Dominik, George V. Higgins - Killing Them Softly
  7. Paul Thomas Anderson - The Master
  8. Nicholas Jarecki - Arbitrage
  9. Stephen Dyer, Jonah Lisa Dyer, Howard Gensler - Hysteria
  10. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan - Skyfall

Best Score:
  1. Dan Romer & Benh Zeitlin - Beasts of the Southern Wild
  2. Hans Zimmer - The Dark Knight Rises
  3. Patrick Doyle - Brave
  4. James Newton Howard - Snow White and the Huntsmen
  5. John Powell - The Lorax

Best Song:
  1. On My Own - Les Miserables - Performed by Samantha Barks
  2. I Dreamed a Dream - Les Miserables - Performed by Anne Hathaway
  3. One Day More - Les Miserables - Performed by the cast of Les Miserables
  4. The Confrontation - Les Miserables - Performed by Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe
  5. Breath of Life - Snow White and the Huntsman - Performed by Florence and the Machine
  6. Let it Grow - The Lorax - Performed by Ed Helms, Betty White, et al.
  7. Skyfall - Skyfall - Performed by Adele
  8. Learn Me Right - Brave - Performed by Birdy with Mumford & Sons
  9. Touch the Sky - Brave - Performed by Julie Fowlis
  10. Everybody Needs a Best Friend - Ted - Performed by Norah Jones

Best Makeup:
  1. Looper
  2. Lincoln

Best Action Sequence/Visuals (CGI or Real):
  1. The Impossible
  2. The Dark Knight Rises
  3. The Avengers
  4. Cabin in the Woods
  5. Prometheus

Friday, December 28, 2012

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day Fox 35 Orlando 12/28/12

Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'Les Miserables', 'Django Unchained', and 'Parental Guidance'.

FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now

(new releases are in green):

The Impossible      Grade: A

Django Unchained      Grade: A

Flight      Grade: A

Skyfall     Grade: A

Promised Land     Grade: A

Argo      Grade: A

The Sessions     Grade: A-

Silver Linings Playbook     Grade: A-

Rust and Bone     Grade: A-

This is 40     Grade: A-

Les Miserables      Grade: B+

Hitchcock     Grade: B+

Lincoln     Grade: B+

Jack Reacher     Grade: B

Life of Pi     Grade: B

Hyde Park on Hudson     Grade C+

Anna Karenina     Grade: C

Parental Guidance     Grade: C

Not Fade Away     Grade: C-

The Guilt Trip     Grade: C-

Playing for Keeps     Grade: D+

The Hobbit     Grade: D

Promised Land

Certain actors are pretty much always bankable for great quality entertainment.  George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and pretty much anyone from the Ocean's 11 cast are generally bankable for great quality entertainment.  And Matt Damon is surely one of those people.

Here Damon plays a slick natural gas salesman adept at getting small town folks to agree to drilling under their property in return for some quick cash upfront and promises of great fortune when (or more likely if) they find what they're looking for.  Frances McDormand plays his partner in crime, and John Krasinski plays an environmentalist doing whatever it takes to oppose them.

On the surface this is a message film about 'fracking' (not be confused with 'frakking' from Battlestar Galactica.)  And message films can be a bit preachy for me.  But this one's done really well showing all sides of the debate, and doing so in an uncorny fashion.  And both Damon and Krasinski are at the top of their games.  And it's great to see at age 87 Hal Holbrook is still gettin' it done in the acting department, as a small town teacher who goes head to head in the debate against Damon.  All in all it's a very entertaining drama.

Grade: A

Not Fade Away

The fourth quarter of 2012 has overwhelmingly been a great time for films.  I've been giving out A's and A-'s left and right.  But all good things must come to an end, and my double header this week of 'Playing for Keeps' and now 'Not Fade Away' was the one-two punch that did it in.

'Sopranos' creator David Chase takes a leap from the small screen to the big screen with this coming-of-age throwback to the early days of rock-n-roll of the 60's.  And he brings Tony Soprano's alter ego, James Gandolfini, along for the ride, as the stereotypical bigoted, blue-collar, head-of-household dad who can't understand why his son opts to grow out his hair, form a rock band, and date the local hot chick rather than stay in school.  Duh, dad.  Duh.  Gandolfini's sporadic and brief appearances are the only things worth watching in this amateur cornball borefest.  The rest of the cast is completely unengaging, the script is paper thin, and the end was as unsatisfying as the beginning and middle.  I'd say that Mr. Chase should return to TV where he spent his career, but that's not really how I feel.  Truthfully, his TV work was always overrated, and perhaps it's time for the public to wake up and see what I have been saying for a decade.  (I sure hope I don't get whacked for that statement.)

Grade: C-

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best Performances of 2012

A great performance can make an otherwise unmemorable movie memorable. And conversely, a movie is rarely great without at least one great performance. Below are my favorite performances from 2012, ranked roughly in order beginning with my favorite. You will notice that, just like with my Best Films of 2012 list, I don't subscribe to a fixed number.

Best Actor:
  1. Joaquin Phoenix - The Master
  2. Denzel Washington - Flight
  3. Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln
  4. Ben Affleck - Argo
  5. Matt Damon - The Promised Land
  6. Richard Gere - Arbitrage
  7. John Hawkes - The Sessions
  8. Bradley Cooper - Silver Linings Playbook
  9. Hugh Jackman - Les Miserables

Best Actress:
  1. Mary Elizabeth Winstead - Smashed
  2. Naomi Watts - The Impossible
  3. Melanie Lynsky - Hello I Must be Going
  4. Viola Davis - Won't Back Down
  5. Maggie Gyllenhaal - Won't Back Down
  6. Rashida Jones - Celeste and Jesse Forever
  7. Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook
  8. Jessica Chastain - Zero Dark Thirty

Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Master
  2. Ewan McGregor - The Impossible
  3. John Goodman - Flight
  4. Sam Rockwell - Seven Psychopaths
  5. Stanley Tucci - The Hunger Games
  6. Eric Bana - Deadfall
  7. Philip Seymour Hoffman - A Late Quartet
  8. Gary Oldman - The Dark Knight Rises
  9. Bill Nighy - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  10. Matthew McConaughey - Killer Joe
  11. Leonardo DiCaprio - Django Unchained
  12. Samuel L. Jackson - Django Unchained
  13. Christoph Waltz - Django Unchained
  14. Javier Bardem - Skyfall
  15. Michael Caine - The Dark Knight Rises
  16. Alan Arkin - Argo
  17. John Krasinski - The Promised Land
  18. Jeremy Irons - The Words
  19. Jonathan Pryce - Hysteria
  20. Aaron Paul - Smashed

Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Anne Hathaway - Les Miserables
  2. Amy Adams - The Master
  3. Catherine Keener - A Late Quartet
  4. Helen Hunt - The Sessions
  5. Elizabeth Banks - The Hunger Games
  6. Gina Gershon - Killer Joe
  7. Samantha Barks - Les Miserables
  8. Anne Hathaway - The Dark Knight Rises

Best Young Actor/Actress:
  1. CJ Adams - The Odd Life of Timothy Green
  2. Quvenzhane Wallis - Beasts of the Southern Wild
  3. Tom Holland - The Impossible
  4. Samuel Joslin - The Impossible
  5. Pierce Gagnon - Looper

Best Overall Year:
  1. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, A Late Quartet)
  2. Ewan McGregor (Perfect Sense, The Impossible, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen)
  3. John Goodman (Flight, Argo, Trouble with the Curve, Paranorman)
  4. Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, The Dark Knight Rises)
  5. Christopher Walken (Seven Psychopaths, A Late Quartet, Dark Horse)
  6. Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games, The Details, Pitch Perfect, People Like Us, Man on a Ledge, What to Expect When You're Expecting)
  7. Chris Messina (28 Hotel Rooms, Ruby Sparks, Argo, The Giant Mechanical Man, Celeste & Jesse Forever, The Trouble with Bliss)
  8. Richard Jenkins (The Cabin in the Woods, Killing Them Softly, Darling Companion, Liberal Arts, Jack Reacher)
  9. Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe, Magic Mike, Bernie)
  10. Maggie Gyllenhaal (Won't Back Down, Hysteria)
  11. Mark Duplass (Your Sister's Sister, Safety Not Guaranteed, Darling Companion, People Like Us, Jeff Who Lives at Home - director)
  12. Olivia Wilde (Deadfall, Butter, People Like Us, The Words)
  13. Zeljko Ivanek (The Words, The Bourne Legacy, Argo, Seven Psychopaths)

Best Ensemble:
  1. The Master
  2. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  3. Seven Psychopaths
  4. A Late Quartet
  5. Argo
  6. Les Miserables
  7. Django Unchained

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Best Films of 2012 By Genre

Not everyone loves every genre.  So, my Top 52 of 2012 list may not be optimal for you.  To help, I have created categories so that you can hone in on your particular taste.

Best Action:
  1. The Dark Knight Rises
  2. Deadfall
  3. Headhunters
  4. The Hunger Games
  5. Skyfall
  6. The Avengers

  1. Ted
  2. The Avengers
  3. Hysteria

Best Dramedy (Comedy/Drama):
  1. Your Sister's Sister
  2. Newlyweds
  3. Ruby Sparks
  4. Celeste and Jesse Forever
  5. Hello I Must Be Going
  6. Sleepwalk with Me
  7. Game Change
  8. Robot and Frank
  9. Thin Ice
  10. Jeff, Who Lives at Home
  11. The Sessions
  12. Silver Linings Playbook
  13. This is 40
  14. The Five Year Engagement
  15. The Oranges
  16. Liberal Arts

Best Emotional Melodrama:
  1. Perfect Sense
  2. The Impossible

Best Violent / Crime / Dark Comedy:
  1. Django Unchained
  2. Seven Psychopaths
  3. Killing Them Softly
  4. Killer Joe
  5. God Bless America

Best Drama / Thriller:
  1. The Good Doctor
  2. The Tall Man
  3. Arbitrage
  4. End of Watch
  5. Argo

Best Action Drama:
  1. Zero Dark Thirty
  2. Get the Gringo

Best Indie Drama:
  1. 28 Hotel Rooms

Best Dramas about Alcoholism:
  1. Smashed
  2. Flight

Best Otherwise Unclassified Drama:
  1. Won't Back Down
  2. A Late Quartet
  3. Promised Land

Best Sci-Fi:
  1. Prometheus
  2. Looper

Best Campy Horror / Sci-Fi / Comedy:
  1. Cabin in the Woods

Scariest Films (Including Dramas, Thrillers, and Horror):
  1. Flight (drama)
  2. End of Watch (drama / thriller)
  3. Kill List (crime / drama / horror)
  4. Citadel (horror)
  5. V/H/S (horror)
  6. Sinister (horror)

Best Coming-of-Age Drama:
  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Best Films involving Cults:
  1. The Master
  2. Sound of My Voice
  3. Kill List

Best Atmosphere:
  1. Red Light
  2. Woman in Black (though it's not a very good a movie)
  3. The Raven (though it's not a very good a movie)
  4. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (though it's not a very good a movie)

Best Animated:
  1. Brave
  2. Frankenweenie
  3. The Lorax

Best Live Action Family Friendly Film
  1. The Odd Life of Timothy Green
  2. Big Miracle
  3. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Best Foreign Language:
  1. Headhunters
  2. Sister
  3. A Royal Affair
  4. After Lucia
  5. The Intouchables
  6. Rust and Bone
  7. Amour
  8. My Worst Nightmare
  9. Holy Motors
  10. Elles
  11. Delicacy
  12. Salt of Life
  13. Extraterrestrial

Best Documentary:
  1. The Queen of Versailles
  2. West of Memphis
  3. Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope
  4. Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey
  5. The Zen of Bennett
  6. American Scream
  7. Seeking Asian Female
  8. Central Park Five
  9. Marley
  10. Paul Williams: Still Alive

Most Ambitious:
  1. Cosmopolis (success)
  2. Holy Motors (success)
  3. Cloud Atlas (failure)

Most Memorable Mustaches:
  1. For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada
  2. Anna Karenina

Sequels & Prequels I would most like to see:
  1. Prometheus (Planned, but with no release date)
  2. Cabin in the Woods (No Plan Currently)
  3. The Dark Knight Rises (No Plan Currently)
  4. The Hunger Games (Planned release 11/22/13)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Best Films of 2012

Here it is, folks!  The Super Bowl of blog posts!  The fruits of my labor!  The culmination of watching over 260 new releases in 2012!  The coveted 'Best of the Year' list!  And, in keeping with the tradition I began last year, I cannot and will not restrain myself to a Top 10.  10 is not nearly enough and, frankly, I'm not confident enough in my ranking to be sure I'm choosing the right 10 to include.  So instead I give you 53 films I think are the most worth your time.  (Don't feel overwhelmed.  You don't have to see all 53!  And later in the week I'll be grouping them by genre to help you hone in on what you like best.)  But before we get there, let me offer my general thoughts on the year in film:

Overall 2012 turned out pretty well, though it was certainly rocky at the beginning.  Summer was brutal at times, but we were fortunate to have so many great releases between September and December.  (Fun fact: Of my top 53, the number released by quarter were 6, 10, 17, and 20 for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters, respectively.)  But while there were more films I really liked in 2012 than in 2011, there were fewer that I absolutely loved.  I had more difficulty giving out the coveted A+ and picking my top 10 this year than last year.

As I've commented before, you may notice that my 'Best' list doesn't resemble many awards nominees, or the countless other 'Best' lists out there on the web.  This is not because I'm trying to be an individual, but rather because I'm trying to keep it real.  I don't hop on the band wagon or drink the cool-aid, as some less diligent or willing-to-rock-the-boat critics may.  I didn't include 'Lincoln' or 'Les Miserables' and certainly not 'Life of Pi', 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' or 'Moonrise Kingdom', as I don't believe they're as good as my top 53.  I have seen many of the films below (and the aforementioned five) twice in order to be as comfortable as possible with my list.  You may not agree.  And that's ok.  But rest assured, plenty of thought went into my list and I'll stand by it.  (At least until next week when I feel like changing it.)  But obviously, this is not an exact science.  I see so many films, that it's hard to rank those that I saw 52 weeks ago against one I saw yesterday.  If I watched them all again next week, the order could certainly change.  And that was the case with many films that I did have a chance to revisit and subsequently either upgraded or downgraded.  So I've tweaked some of my initial grades, though few of these changes were drastic.

And now, before the big reveal, a detailed explanation of my Top 5:

Comedies don't often make my Top 10 list.  But my number five pick is a really great and unique combination of risque adult comedy mixed with your typical stuffy British period film feel.  I've seen it twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times.  It's about the invention of the vibrator, and it's called 'Hysteria'.

For my number four film, I went with my gut.  It's not an important film.  It's not pretentious, or artistic, or highbrow, or anything like any Academy Award Best Picture winner.  It's simply the film I had the most fun watching all year.  It seamlessly blends horror, fantasy, and comedy, with superb original writing that keeps you on tilt from start to finish.  Not since 'Scream' have I enjoyed this genre.  Unfortunately it didn't hold up as well for a second viewing, but not every movie has to.  It's 'The Cabin in the Woods'. 

My number three pick is a film by Paul Thomas Anderson, who I believe to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.  It features some of the best performances of the year, particularly Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, and it mesmerize you while you're watching it, and it will stay with you long after it's over.  It is 'The Master'.

My number two film will undoubtedly surprise everyone reading this as much as it surprises me to select it.  Most haven't heard of it.  And of those who have, some didn't care for it.  I saw it very early in the year on Video on Demand and found it very powerful and moving, but didn't give it the full praise it deserves.  But as time passed I found myself thinking about it a lot.  And I just revisited it and loved it so much.  It's artsy.  It's bleak.  It's heavy.  It's thought provoking.  It features moving performances by Ewan McGregor (one of my new favorite actors since 'Beginners' and 'The Impossible') and Eva Green.  It blends science fiction, romance, and melodrama beautifully.  And it touches me in a profound way.  My second favorite film of 2012 is 'Perfect Sense'.  Buyer Beware: It's not for everyone.

And, coming in at number one, a little known low budget film called 'The Dark Knight Rises'.  (I kid, of course.  It cost $250 Million and it's the 7th biggest box office revenue film of all time, both domestically and internationally, even despite the opening weekend being marred by the tragic Colorado shooting.)  I've seen it twice and it gave me chills both times.  Is it as good as 'The Dark Knight'?  Probably not.  But, as a whole, the Dark Knight trilogy is absolutely breathtaking and, like the Harry Potter series, it deserves much more love and respect by critics and award voters than it is receiving.  Do yourself a favor and have a marathon of all three.  You can thank me later.

And now, without further ado, I give you my Top 53 of 2012:

  1.  The Dark Knight Rises
  2.  Perfect Sense
  3.  The Master
  4.  The Cabin in the Woods
  5.  Sound of My Voice
  6.  The Tall Man
  7.  The Hunger Games
  8.  Django Unchained
  9.  Looper
10.  The Good Doctor
11.  Prometheus
12.  Hysteria
13.  Newlyweds
14.  Your Sister's Sister
15.  Deadfall
16.  The Impossible
17.  Ruby Sparks
18.  The Queen of Versailles
19.  Celeste and Jesse Forever
20.  Smashed
21.  Flight
22.  Headhunters
23.  Sister
24.  A Royal Affair
25.  Zero Dark Thirty
26.  Skyfall
27.  Seven Psychopaths
28.  Hello I Must Be Going
29.  Sleepwalk with Me
30.  Arbitrage
31.  28 Hotel Rooms
32.  Won't Back Down
33.  Game Change
34.  End of Watch
35.  Killer Joe
36.  A Late Quartet
37.  Kill List
38.  Promised Land
39.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower
40.  Argo
41.  Citadel
42.  Killing Them Softly
43.  Get the Gringo
44.  God Bless America
45.  Robot and Frank
46.  Ted
47.  Marvel's The Avengers
48.  Thin Ice
49.  Red Lights
50.  V/H/S
51.  Jeff, Who Lives at Home
52.  The Sessions
53.  Silver Linings Playbook

I hope you enjoy this post as much as I've enjoyed compiling it over the last 52 weeks.  I would love to hear your thoughts!  And keep checking back this week, because I have many more lists to come, including Best Performances, Best Films by genre, Most Overrated, Most Underrated and Underseen, and of course the Worst of 2012.  Stay tuned...

In Theaters Now

(new releases are in green):

Deadfall     Grade: A

The Impossible     Grade: A

Django Unchained    Grade: A

Flight    Grade: A

Skyfall     Grade: A

Argo     Grade: A

Killing Them Softly     Grade: A-

The Sessions     Grade: A-

Rust and Bone    Grade: A-

Silver Linings Playbook     Grade: A-

This is 40     Grade: A-

Les Miserables    Grade: B+

Hitchcock     Grade: B+

Lincoln     Grade: B+

Jack Reacher     Grade: B

Life of Pi     Grade: B

The Central Park Five     Grade: B

Hyde Park on Hudson     Grade C+

Anna Karenina     Grade: C

Parental Guidance     Grade: C

The Guilt Trip     Grade: C-

Playing for Keeps     Grade: D+

The Hobbit     Grade: D

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino follows up his terrific homage to the 'guys on a mission' films of classic cinema, 'Inglourious Basterds', with his take on the spaghetti western genre.  And it is Quintessential Quentin, for sure.  Fans of Tarantino should know exactly what to expect: snappy dialogue, extreme violence, inappropriate and excessive use of the 'n-----' word, and lots of really fun and really memorable scenes.   And this time we're treated to excellent performances by new Tarantino cast members Jamie Fox and Leonardo DiCaprio, along with instant classic returns by regulars Samuel Jackson and Christoph Waltz.  It's a bit long at 2 hours and 45 minutes, but it rarely feels it.  If you're a fan of Tarantino (and I am), you'll surely enjoy his latest very, very much.  Non-fans, newbies, and prudes should approach with caution.

Grade: A

Les Miserables

I'm often surprised at which films are highly anticipated.  I know Les Miserables has been a beloved musical for decades, but it's also been adapted to screen already, in 1998, starring Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, and Uma Thurman.  So I'm surprised at all the anticipation and Oscar buzz this received for months before its release.  Sure, the cast is strong, including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, and Sacha Baron Cohen.  And it's directed by recent Oscar winner Tom Hooper (for 'The King's Speech').  But we've all seen it already!  I don't quite get it.

But anyhow, now that I've seen it I can better comment.  It's good.  It's quite good.  And many of the performances are great, particularly Anne Hathaway who truly moves me with her all too brief supporting role.  She'll get my vote for the Critics Choice Movie Awards this year.  So it's sure to please those that await it.  But let's keep it real.  It's just not one of the 10 best films of the year.  Not even close.  It takes a while to get into it, even for those of us who are familiar and know what to expect.  And those uninitiated into the cult will probably be taken aback by the fact there's no spoken dialogue.  There's only singing.  That takes some getting used to.

Grade: B+

Parental Guidance

Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play grandparents who are a bit rusty with their parenting skills, but are about to get a crash course when they baby sit their kids, played by Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott.  Of course, each child has their own unique problems and, of course, these old school grandparents are going to turn all that around.  (Oops, should I have said spoiler alert?)

I take no pleasure in speaking ill about family friendly films.  I really don't, particularly one that stars Billy Crystal, who I've always been a big fan of.  But, to go from 'When Harry Met Sally' and 'City Slickers' to this is an abomination.  I may be a little harsh here, but I really had trouble sitting through this cornball message laden film.  Sure, it's got some humor and I chuckled here and there.  But, if you're going to have messages in your cornball film, at least make them appropriate for impressionable kids watching the film.  I disagree with many of the lessons taught, and I therefore cannot recommend this as the Christmas Day film for your kids.

Grade: C

Friday, December 21, 2012

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 12/21/12

Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'Jack Reacher', 'The Guilt Trip', and 'This is 40'.

FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now

Deadfall       Grade: A

The Impossible     Grade: A

Flight       Grade: A

Skyfall       Grade: A

Argo       Grade: A

Killing Them Softly       Grade: A-

The Sessions       Grade: A-

Rust and Bone     Grade: A-

Silver Linings Playbook       Grade: A-

This is 40        Grade: A-

Hitchcock       Grade: B+

Lincoln       Grade: B+

Jack Reacher     Grade: B

Life of Pi       Grade: B

The Central Park Five       Grade: B

Hyde Park on Hudson       Grade C+

Anna Karenina       Grade: C

The Guilt Trip       Grade: C-

Playing for Keeps       Grade: D+

The Hobbit       Grade: D

The Impossible

Inspired by true events, this is the story of one family vacationing at a luxury resort in Thailand in December of 2004 when a devastating tsunami hits.  Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as the parents of three young boys, all five of whom are unexpectedly taken by storm.

I must say, I'm a sucker for good tearjerkers and melodrama.  Last year we were blessed with 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close', and those who responded to that film will surely enjoy 'The Impossible'.   It's a really well made film, with Oscar caliber performances across the board.  And the tsunami is one of the most breathtaking things I've seen all year.  (It's reminiscent of the one at the beginning of 'Hereafter' in 2010, but even more intense, and as a whole this is a much, much better film.)  Like the beginning of 'Flight', experiencing this film is almost like being in the disaster itself, and it's terrifying.  But it gives you a real look into what some have to face and how heroes emerge out of the most unlikely situations.

Grade: A

This is 40

Over the last seven years, Judd Apatow has become the king of comedy, and yet his name and his face are still unfamiliar to many.  He's the man behind the curtain, so to speak.  The Wizard of Ha's, if you will.  (Can I copyright that?)  Apatow wrote, produced, and directed 'The 40 Year Old Virgin', 'Knocked Up' and 'Funny People' and helped produce too many other well known R-rated comedies to name.  And long before that he had his hands in classic TV shows like 'The Ben Stiller Show', 'The Larry Sanders Show' and 'Freaks and Geeks'.  He's a comedy genius and if you ever get a chance to see him live, he is a riot at improv.

So I had high expectations for this sort-of sequel to 'Knocked Up'.  The 'sort-of' is used because it's really more of a spin-off than a sequel.  It focuses on the supporting characters from 'Knocked Up' played by Paul Rudd and Apatow's real life wife, Leslie Mann.  (It also features Apatow's real life kids as well.  It's a real family affair.)  And sure enough there's a lot to like here.  The comedy is strong and the cast is great, including Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Megan Fox, Jason Segel, and Melissa McCarthy.  But it's quite long and, like 'Funny People', has more drama than I expected.  In 'Funny People' that blend worked extraordinarily well.  Here, it's kind of awkward at times.  It almost feels like this is two separate films.  Instead of having a typical three act structure, it felt like five, with a 2 hour and 14 minute run time.  I kind of wish Apatow stayed with just comedy for this one and trimmed it down a bit, but it's still a very enjoyable film and fans of Apatow, Rudd, and Mann won't be disappointed.

Grade: A-

Jack Reacher

Tom Cruise plays Jack Reacher, an ex-military captain who voluntarily disappeared from society for a few years, but now he's mysteriously reappeared at the request of a man accused of a random shooting spree.  Jack Reacher will conduct his own investigation.  And Jack Reacher doesn't play by the rules.

First off, I must say the timing of the release of this film couldn't be worse.  It begins with a shooting spree that feels particularly unsettling in light of the recent incident in Connecticut.  This could certainly create some controversy and bad buzz, and I'm surprised they didn't delay it, like they did with 'Gangster Squad' after the movie theater shooting spree last summer.

That aside, it's a pretty decent and pretty fun film, albeit with a really unique and peculiar tone.  It's alternately intensely serious and unexpectedly darkly comical.  I assume it's purposefully campy at times, but it's not obviously so.  I couldn't tell if the audience was supposed to be laughing in many scenes, but I suspect that was the filmmaker's intention.

It is my continued opinion that Cruise makes any movie better just by being in it.  But while he really shines in the 'Mission: Impossible' series, here he doesn't add as much value as usual.  He's good, but not irreplaceable.  And in other strange casting news, Robert Duvall pops up in a role totally unworthy of him, and famed documentarian Werner Herzog plays an over-the-top creepy bad guy that I just can't tell if you're supposed to laugh at or not.  Overall it's a strange but pleasurable enough watch.

Grade: B

The Guilt Trip

Have you ever fantasized about driving cross country with Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen?  No?  Me neither. 

And therein lies the fundamental problem with this all-too-standard and completely unimaginative Jewish mother-son road trip 'comedy'.  (And I use the word comedy lightly, as I don't recall laughing once.)  This one's for audiences who don't like surprises and instead prefer comfort food films that were undoubtedly written in one afternoon and made on the Hollywood assembly line.  Movies like this are the result of Hollywood studios being increasingly averse to take risks.  But no risk, no reward.  And you certainly won't get any reward watching this one.  You're better off with Albert Brooks' 'Mother' featuring Brooks and Debbie Reynolds.

Grade: C-

Friday, December 14, 2012

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 12/14/12

Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey', 'Hyde Park on Hudson', 'Playing for Keeps', and 'Ted'.

FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now

Deadfall         Grade: A

Flight              Grade: A

Skyfall            Grade: A

Argo               Grade: A

Killing Them Softly          Grade: A-

The Sessions           Grade: A-

Silver Linings Playbook         Grade: A-

Hitchcock          Grade: B+

Lincoln           Grade: B+

Life of Pi             Grade: B

The Central Park Five       Grade: B

The Girl (HBO)           Grade: B-

Hyde Park on Hudson        Grade C+

Anna Karenina          Grade: C

The Fitzgerald Family Christmas       Grade: C-

Cloud Atlas          Grade: C-

Playing for Keeps             Grade: D+

The Hobbit         Grade: D

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

It goes without saying that the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are beloved by many and even sacred to some.  And while I admit to coming a little late to the party, the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films have become very special to me over the last decade, more so every time I see them.  In their extended forms, they span over 11 hours, so they're no small commitment of time.  Yet I recently had a full day marathon in preparation for this prequel, and I could not have enjoyed them more. 

Needles to say, I have been so looking forward to 'The Hobbit'.  After all, it's been nine years since the last LOTR and once again this one is directed by Peter Jackson and starring Ian McKellan as Gandalf.  How could this be anything but fantastic, right?  Wrong!  It's hard to describe what I'm feeling right now.  It's a combination of anger and shock.  Mostly, I kind of feel like Jackson killed my puppy.  But where to begin? 

I know.  How about Jackson's experimental use of filming in 48 frames per second (fps)?  Now, just like you, I had no idea what this really meant when I first heard it.  But according to the buzz, this would look even better, as other films are filmed in 24 fps, but our eyes see in 60 fps, so supposedly this, combined with that crazy new trend of 3-D, would make this new trilogy even more realistic!  Really?  I kid you not, it looks like we time travelled back to the days of 'Land of the Lost', 'H.R. PufnStuf', and 'Sigmund the Sea Monster' from the Krofft Superstar Hour.   Or, if that reference goes over your head, picture old BBC shows, like the original Dr. Who.  From minute one I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  Is this a practical joke, I thought?  I was praying it would go away and return to the beautiful film quality of the original holy trilogy once they go to flashback.  It didn't.  Now, those that know me know that I don't embrace change well.  And I agree, innovation is important, and James Cameron took visuals to a new level by experimenting with 'Avatar'.  But you don't experiment on a beloved franchise!  You stick to the formula that works and save your experiments for a new freakin' project!

Well, the look of the film aside, it must have other positive attributes, right?  Well, not much.  For one thing, the tone is all wrong.  It's silly.  Jackson has changed everything that made LOTR such a mature fantasy series.  He actually turned this into a freakin' kids' franchise!

Sure, I freely admit, McKellan is still perfect as Gandalf.  Yet I felt embarrassed for him in this debacle.  And Martin Freeman was a very good choice for the lead, Bilbo Baggins, but his thoughtful acting is lost in the mess.  And, thankfully, Andy Serkis and Cate Blanchett return, providing a few rare moments of solid screen time.  But the rest of the cast are as forgettable as the lines everyone was given to say and the uninteresting creatures they are endlessly fighting.  Oh, and don't get me started on Elijah Wood's pointless cameo.  It was hardly worth his plane ticket to New Zealand.

Over the last decade I have heard many complain that George Lucas has lost his mind and ruined the Star Wars legacy.  Well, I'm not completely on board with that statement.  But Jackson has truly LOST HIS MIND and RUINED THE LOTR LEGACY!  I honestly can't believe it.  It's a sad day for film.  It really should have been called 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Disaster'.

I think I need a good cry.

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:    Grade: A+
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:     Grade: A
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King:    Grade: A
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey     Grade: D

11/16/13  UPDATE:

I just watched the film again on DVD and I am happy to say it was a better viewing experience the second time around, largely due to the look of the film.  Thankfully it looks normal and that makes a huge difference.  But I still have all of the other issues with it I mentioned above (and a new one as well): 
  • It's way too long.  It could easily and should definitely have been edited down significantly to keep the pacing tighter.  The battle sequences with the trolls, orcs, goblins, and whatever else go on way too long.  This book clearly shouldn't be split into three films. Two would have been much better (and less greedy.)
  • None of the dwarves on the journey with Gandalf and Bilbo have standout, memorable personalities.  Remember how great Merry and Pippin were?  And how about Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn?  We don't get that here at all.
  • As great as the score was in the first one, it feels like rehash this time.  The themes we know and love should have been included to supplement some equally memorable new themes.  John Williams didn't rest on his laurels with Star Wars Episode 1.  He wrote 'Duel of the Fates' which is at least as good as any theme he write previously.  Howard Shore must have called out sick on this film.
  • There are too many kid-targeted moments that tarnish the maturity of this fantasy franchise which is beloved by adults.  There are plenty of movies for kids.  This shouldn't be one of them.
Nevertheless, when it isn't shown in that horrendous 48 fps, it gets a much better grade.  Lo and behold:

Revised Grade: B-

Hyde Park on Hudson

Bill Murray as FDR?  That's all I needed to hear.  Count me in.

Murray plays the 32nd President of the United States during the Great Depression, and this is the story of his extracurricular activities, particularly with his distant cousin, played by Laura Linney.  Like 'Hitchcock', rather than a biopic, this is more like a historical tell-all smear, if you will.  It certainly has the look and feel of an Oscar Best Picture nominee (and even features King George VI, a.k.a. Bertie, the focal character from Oscar Best Picture winner 'The King's Speech') but despite having all the right ingredients, it certainly doesn't deserve a nomination.  Frankly, it's one of the bigger disappointments of the year, at least relative to my hopes.  It's not terrible, but it never really reaches any memorable moments.  Call it this year's 'J. Edgar' or 'The Iron Lady' or 'My Week with Marilyn'.  (Is it just me or are all these highly anticipated semi-biopics disappointing?)

Grade: C+

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Thoughts on the Critics Choice Movie Awards Nominees

Earlier today I posted the nominees for the Critics Choice Movie Awards selected by myself and the other 270-ish members of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.  But, as you know, I am critical in my reviews and now it's time for me to criticize my fellow critics (with all due respect to them, of course). 

The nominees that were selected, by and large, were exactly what I expected.  That is to say, they are the most buzzed about films of the year.  They are also the same films that are being selected by other regional film critics' organizations, and are undoubtedly the same films that will be selected for all the award shows to come in January and February.  Frankly, if you want to score well on your office pools, just pick the nominees and winners from the Critics Choice.  But, let's be honest.  While many of these are very good films (although some are not), most of them aren't the best of the year in my opinion, and certainly everyone shouldn't have the same opinions.  If they do, it just means they're hopping on the band wagon.  'Lincoln' is a good film.  But that's all.  For it to receive the most nominations of any film is kind of outrageous.  But it seems my fellow critics have drunk the 'Lincoln' cool-aid.  But that's just my opinion.  And I assure you that when I publish my 'Best' lists later this month, they will be quite different than you see from any other lists, not because I'm trying to be an individual, but because I always keep it real here on Flieder on Film.  And with that said, here's a quick reminder of my opinion on the 10 films selected by my fellow Critics:

The Master - A   Like most of director Paul Thomas Anderson's work, it's a true 'master'-piece with 'master'-ful performances across the board.  I felt like I was hit by a truck afterwards, and I mean that in a very powerful way.  I totally agree this deserves a nomination.

Argo - A  Ben Affleck has matured from a movie star to a great actor and director, and this is a well made suspenseful thriller based on a hard-to-believe true story.

Silver Linings Playbook - A-  I love dysfunctional dramedies and this one has more than its share of dysfunction, comedy, and drama.  It's a crowd pleaser for sure.  But I'm a bit surprised at all the critical hype.

Lincoln - B+  'Lincoln' is a good film headed by, debatably, our greatest actor, Daniel Day-Lewis.  But it's just not great.  It's slow, it's quiet, and it's dry.  C'mon people, let's not drink the 'Lincoln' cool-aid.

Life of Pi - B  While I freely admit the second half of this film is much better than the first, building to an exciting adventure at sea, with a poignant ending, I can't fully forgive the painful beginning.

Beasts of the Southern Wild - C  Every year we need a dark horse contender, starring and made by complete unknowns on a shoestring budget, and this year 'Beasts' is it.  Though I've never really understood the love for it.  It's alright, I guess.  Though I do think the score is exceptional, and makes the film seem better than it is.  And yet my fellow critics didn't nominate the score!  Go figure.

Moonrise Kingdom - D+  Someone needs to explain this one to me.  I just don't get Wes Anderson films.  And I don't get the widespread love for them.  It's a mystery to me.  I stand by my original quote:  No one wastes talent like Wes Anderson.  There, I said it.

And since it is prior to release date, I am not allowed to offer my thoughts on the remaining three, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, and Django Unchained at this time.  But I have strong feelings about all of them, I assure you.  So c'mon back.