2012 has been an interesting year at your local theater. We’ve had our share of big budget, target audience pictures, some pointless and some amazing sequels, some highly anticipated films, and some smaller surprises. We’ve also seen several trends that mercilessly continue – a bombardment of raunchy comedies and the typical assortment of sub-par romantic comedies. I could point several other negatives about the 2012 movie year but this is all about the positive.
It’s July which marks the half-way point of the movie year. So in place of the normal “Phenomenal 5”, I’m going to look at my top 5 movies of 2012 so far. Mid-year lists do carry with them a disclaimer. Things can change throughout the movie year and when my year-end top 10 list is done, all of these could be in still here or left out. Second viewings always help in determining my overall feelings about a film and I’m really anxious to see some of these again. But, all have made an impression on me thus far so they have earned their spot on the list. With that, here we go….
#5 – “HAYWIRE”
I was stunned that I liked an action thriller starring a mixed martial arts fighter. But such was the case with “Haywire” and it’s largely due to the fantastic Steven Soderbergh. His direction, editing, and cinematography gives the film a slick stylish look which perfectly matches the unorthodox action movie vibe. Also surprising is the movie’s star, Gina Carano, who works in large part to her tremendous physical ability but also due to the measured way she is used. And how can I not mention the fantastic supporting cast featuring Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Ewen McGregor, Michael Douglas, and an even decent performance from Channing Tatum. “Haywire” went largely unnoticed by audiences but it’s a movie that I had a blast with.
#4 – “THE KID WITH THE BIKE”
From the Belgian filmmaking duo the Dardenne brothers, “The Kid with the Bike” is a foreign picture that debuted overseas in 2011 but made its US opening earlier this year. It’s an emotional drama that completely grabs you from its opening moments. The Dardenne’s use a visual style that pulls you into the story and that also engages the audience with the characters on pretty personal levels. Young Thomas Doret’s performance is quite good but it’s Cecile de France that really blew me away. Her character’s acts of grace combined with the personal void in her own life is a key component to what makes the movie work so well. It’s a great little movie with a punch and it’s one more people need to see.
#3 – “PROMETHEUS”
Many have voiced their problems with Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated return to the science fiction genre. And while I don’t deny the second half of the film isn’t as polished as the first and there are a few storytelling issues, I really responded to the film. The visual presentation is astounding and Scott’s mix of top-notch CGI and elaborate set pieces make the futuristic world believable. For my money Scott asks enough questions to challenge the audience and his intentional ambiguity, a turn-off for some, worked for me. The cast is strong particularly Michael Fassbender who is already on my short list for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. I’m a huge Ridley Scott fan and “Prometheus” does nothing to change that. It may not have met everyone’s expectations but it certainly met mine (and they were high).
#2 – “CORIOLANUS”
“Coriolanus” is a movie that could also be considered a 2011 film but it made its limited premiere here earlier this year and I loved it. The film marks Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut and he really shines. He takes the Shakespeare story and throws it into a more modern setting while keeping the original language intact. It’s tricky material and the movie nails it. Fiennes also stars in the film and his towering performance is mesmerizing from his first appearance on-screen until the last scene. “Coriolanus” also features a fantastic supporting cast including Gerard Butler, Jessica Chastain, Vanessa Redgrave, and Brian Cox. The movie’s choice of language can be a bit jarring at first but it quickly becomes perfect for what the movie is shooting for. Fiennes’ first shot at directing is incredibly good and his performance reminds us that he’s one of the better actors in the business.
#1 – “THE AVENGERS”
Speaking of high expectations. In what may be one of the most ambitious projects in movie history, Marvel Studios not only succeeded in bringing their superhero team together on the big screen, they gave us an incredibly funny and action-packed movie that took the movie world by storm. What’s great is that “The Avengers” is actually a genuinely good movie. It’s not all explosions and spandex. One of the reason it works so well is because of Joss Whedon’s script. His familiarity with the characters and the injection of just the right amount of humor makes everything gel nicely. Whedon also had the challenge of taking the previous movies that have led up to “The Avengers” and giving them all a harmony. Mission accomplished. The cast, led by Robert Downey, Jr., is simply wonderful and Whedon (who also directed the film) uses them perfectly. “The Avengers” is a blast and Marvel Studios accomplished their goal. I think the over $1 billion box office proves that.
So what did I miss. There are a few other movies that were right there but just fell short of my Top 5. What are your top 5 movies of the year so far?