The year that was: Top ten films

7 December 2012

Written by: Steinar Ellingsen

10. That’s my boy!

Adam Sandler acts like a goose and makes people laugh, but eventually he is able to overcome his shortcomings as a friend/golfer/father and ensure a happy ending. While this sounds a lot like the typical formula for most Adam Sandler comedies of the last 15 years, it worked for That’s my boy!

Although recent Sandler films have missed the mark – Click and Funny People – That’s my boy! sees Sandler return to his loud, obnoxious and glorious past that produced the classics of Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore.

Well supported by Andy Samberg of SNL and The Lonely Island fame, That’s my boy! is simple, yet at times charming, and constantly funny.

9. The Amazing Spiderman

Andrew Garfield got it done. Where his web-tangling predecessor Tobey Maguire lacked charisma and on-screen presence, Garfield made a nerdy high-school-aged Peter Parker cool and likeable.

By the time Spider Man 3 ended, it felt as if the franchise had been beaten to death, but only via seeing Peter Parker through a solid emo stage.

Mary Jane, played by Kirsten Dunst in the three Sam Raimi Spiderman films, has been replaced by Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), while the chief villain is The Lizard, played by the talented Rhys Ifans.

While The Amazing Spiderman may have ruffled a few feathers with the traditionalist Spiderman fans – such as seeing the web-tangler zooming about on a skateboard – Garfield’s character adds a new and interesting slant on a much portrayed character, without completely disregarding the past interpretations.

The Amazing Spiderman has its dark moments, yet never descends to the level set, and often emulated thereafter, by Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy. But Spiderman works as a lighter superhero flick, and Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spiderman focuses away from the super-human heroics, and onto the people themselves; which makes this film a success.

8. Ted

Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy and American Dad, makes his feature film debut with Ted. The film follows the story of a chronically underachieving man (Mark Wahlberg) and his bear, of which has been magically enchanted into life and is his life-long best friend.

Ted, voiced by MacFarlane, is almost a cruder and furrier Peter Griffin, yet carries this film alongside Wahlberg and the talented Mila Kunis. The jokes are what you expect from a MacFarlane production, yet they continually hit the mark.

Giovanni Ribisi is almost underused as the creepy and obsessive antagonist, while Wahlberg’s talents – including his Marky-Mark and the Funky Bunch-era rapping skills – are all well used.

An enjoyable film, with a few tear-jerking moments, Ted was one of the better comedies of 2012.

7. 21 Jump Street

When classic TV shows become movies, the results are not always fantastic – like Bewitched or The Smurfs. But this is by no means the case with 21 Jump Street, one of 2012’s better comedies.

Phil Lord’s remake of the 80s TV show almost makes this list with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum’s HFS drug-infused scene alone.

Great chemistry between Hill and Tatum, a good supporting cast, a well-written script and a great cameo at the end – 21 Jump Street was one of the big surprises of 2012.

While Hill may have lost most of the weight that immortalised him as Seth in Superbad, he has lost none of his comedic value, and works well with Tatum.

21 Jump Street really hits the mark, remaining funny and clever, but without taking itself too seriously.

6. The Avengers

Sure, the premise for a Marvel super-superhero movie sounded great, but how do you fit so many big characters – the likes of Ironman, the Hulk, Thor etc. – into one film, without over-indulging or neglecting any of them? Well, for one, you have Joss Whedon direct, give Robert Downey Jr. the jokes, Mark Ruffalo the serious moments, and Chris Hemsworth the giant hammer. And it all works, beautifully.

But this mighty band of heroes needs someone equally brilliant to play the villain; and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki does this perfectly. Combining sheer malice with irresistible charm, Hiddleston stands out as the pick of the performers.

An ambitious project like The Avengers was at risk of becoming another flashy but shallow super-hero blockbuster in an already clotted genre. Yet Whedon is clever enough to remain true to the comic book characters, entertain the audience with impressive CGI effects – such as destroying New York City – but also keeping a strong story line to guide the film.

Expectation for The Avengers was huge upon its release, and the film delivered. Raking in a huge US $1,481,585,111 at the Box Office, The Avengers showed just how good a superhero film can be.

5­. Argo

A thriller in every aspect, Ben Affleck reprises the actor/director role from The Town with Argo, a true story about a fake film that helped extract six American hostages from Iran in 1980.

Argo looks fantastic, and has a nice, under-saturated grey look to quickly take us back to the late-70s and early 80s.

I’m not normally a huge fan of Ben Affleck’s acting talent – i.e. Pearl Harbour and Forces of Nature – but his stern, restrained performance in Argo as CIA operative Tony Menez is perfect, and it offers enough charisma and personality to really lead the film along.

Yet as with The Town, Affleck seems to have really found his grove with feature directing. Argo flows at a terrific pace, and really captures a sense of fear and entrapment around the hostages in Tehran.

But the final escape is what makes the film and is a perfect example of how to put together a strong climax of a thriller.

The supporting cast of Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Alan Arkin work fantastically with the dour Menez, while the six hostages have a nice little arc of character development as they sink into the most unlikely of escape plots.

The film gives a strong middle finger to the Iranian regime of the 80s – and very possibly the current one too – but strives to point out that not everyone in the country were evil fanatics who wanted the destruction of the West.

The best thriller of 2012.

4. Looper

Time-travel films can be among the hardest of Sci-Fi films to do and do well. Robert Zemeckis did it during the 80s with Back to the Future, Ashton Kutcher showed his serious side in The Butterfly Effect, and Steve Pink kept it simple and amusing with Hot Tub Time Machine.

When Looper was released this year, the story about assassins that wait for their targets 30 years in the past sounded unconvincing.

But Rian Johnson’s third feature film was both impressive, ambitious and a success. Not content with just taking on the concept of time travel, Johnson’s characters also had telekinetic powers as well.

Bruce Willis co-stars with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, both playing the same character, but with 30 years difference between the two. And both play it well. Gordon-Levitt’s face is altered with make-up to resemble that of Willis, and the transformation is compelling, right down to Gordon-Levitt’s mimicry of Willis’ renowned angry-stare.

One of the surprises of 2012, Looper was an ambitious punt that paid off, and will continue to help Gordon-Levitt’s star-power grow in Hollywood.

3. Seven Psychopaths

Seven Psychopaths is the second collaboration between writer/director Martin McDonagh and Colin Farrell since the brilliant In Bruges, and the two pick up where they left off.

McDonagh won a BAFTA for the screenplay of In Bruges, and fully deserves another nod at the least for Seven Psychopaths.

Colin Farrell plays the jaded, down on his luck writer Marty, who has the title for his next screenplay, Seven Psychopaths, and not a lot else. So Marty inadvertently surrounds himself with a number of real-life psychopaths, who begin to fill out his script and destroy his life.

While Farrell is good as the lead, the supporting cast Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Hans (Christopher Walken) are hilarious and insightful – in a thoroughly deranged way. Woody Harrelson plays the mobster Charlie, the film’s antagonist.

Seven Psychopaths rolls along at a cracking pace, misadventure after misadventure, and goes out with a bang. The comedy pick of 2012.

2. The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has been something truly special, and the final of the three was an epic and extraordinary film.

The film takes on terrorism, financial crisis, identity crisis and much more in its expansive running time, but remains true to the essentials of Batman; the selfless service of one man to his city. And there are also fights, explosions, laughs, and Catwoman in an impossibly tight suit.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for The Dark Knight Rises was outdoing its predecessor, The Dark Knight – or even just reaching that immensely high bar Nolan set. The “Dark Knight” was all about The Joker – which earned Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar – so how would the final chapter do the trilogy justice in the super-villain department?

Well, they brought in one of the better actors in Hollywood – Tom Hardybulked him up and wiped the world’s memories of the gimpish Bane from Batman and Robin with one of the most imposing and terrifying antagonists ever seen in a superhero film. Part psychopath, part terrorist, part revolutionary; Bane has an immense on-screen presence, and is almost likeable – when he eases up on the killing and destruction of Gotham City.

While it may not have blown everyone away like The Dark Knight spectacularly did, The Dark Knight Rises is a fantastic end to a brilliant series that has completely revolutionised the entire comic book/superhero genre, and was one of the best of 2012.

1. Skyfall

Casino Royale made James Bond cool and contemporary in 2006, and introduced a new Bond in Daniel Craig. 2008’s Quantum of Solace saw Bond get angry and vengeful. Now we have Skyfall, which has laid down a claim to be the best Bond since the Sean Connery days.

Skyfall is smart, cool, modern and slick, yet weaves in a handful of classic Bond elements, without appearing gimmicky or clichéd.

Skyfall is the 23rd Bond film, and marks 50 years since Connery’s debut in Dr No.

Directed by Sam Mendes, the film has an increased ‘British’ feeling to it, and sees the action spread from the London underground to the Scottish countryside. Dame Judi Dench returns as Bond’s boss M once more, and is given a bigger role that she revels in.

Though Daniel Craig plays his best Bond to date, the fantastic Javier Bardem steals much of the show as Silva, an ex-MI6 agent, who returns to level a grudge against his former employers.

Bardem’s performance is as good as his role in No Country for Old Men, and possibly even at the level of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. Silva’s opening appearance in Skyfall is accompanied by a brilliant monologue about rats, which is simply phenomenal.

The plot of Skyfall is reasonably straightforward and direct, yet the film doesn’t fail to impress, for both the devout James Bond fans and regular cinemagoers alike.

The best film of 2012.

Shane Palmer is a Bachelor of Journalism graduate from La Trobe University.