Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 in Review: The Year's Best Movies

Well, another year is in the books. Like everyone else has said, 2012 was a pretty great movie year. Coming up with a Top 10 was relatively easy -- although I'm sorry I couldn't find room for Only the Young, Tabu or 28 Hotel Rooms. So here we go ....

1. The Turin Horse
2. Elena
3. The Master
4. Compliance
5. It's Such a Beautiful Day
6. Room 237
7. Zero Dark Thirty
8. Detropia
9. Amour
10. Holy Motors

I go into more detail about my Nos. 10-6 here. And I write about movies Nos. 5-1 here.

What else? Well, there's my Village Voice ballot, where I lay out my picks for Best Actor, Actress and so on and so forth. (If that isn't enough to tempt you, I also reveal my vote for the year's worst film.)

As for my fondest personal movie memories of 2012, this was a year that started with me attending the first public screening of Compliance at Sundance -- yeah, that one -- and ended with a last-minute viewing of the remarkable It's Such a Beautiful Day the night before the LAFCA awards vote. In between, I was proud to bring director Andrei Zvyagintsev's The Banishment to the Los Angeles Film Festival as part of its invaluable "Films That Got Away" series. (I thank Nicholas Bell for his sharp and perceptive review from the festival.) In my own life, 2012 was not without its challenges, but the movies helped keep me going. I'm grateful to them -- and for you for reading. Here's to a healthy and prosperous 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Atoms for Peace - "Default"

Plenty of potentially worthwhile albums will be coming our way in 2013. One is from Atoms for Peace, the side project from Thom Yorke. Here's "Default" from their debut, Amok.

Happy New Year, folks.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 in Review: The Year's Worst Movies

You don't see more than 300 movies in a year without having to sit through some real duds. So, for Deadspin, Will and I each picked our five worst of 2012. I noticed after putting mine together that they're all comedies. What can I say? I hate laughter.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Love You, Tom Cruise

It was about 30 minutes into watching Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol that I realized, "You know what? I just really love Tom Cruise." So, with Jack Reacher now out, I try to explain what it is about the guy that makes him so special -- to me, anyway. You can read my conclusions over at Deadspin.

Friday, December 21, 2012

'Parental Guidance' Review

When I saw my first poster for Parental Guidance in the lobby of a theater at the Toronto Film Festival, I was convinced it was a spoof. (Sleep deprivation can do things to you.) But, no, it's a real movie, and now that I've seen said movie, my glowing blurb is "It's not as terrible as I thought it was going to be!" This should not be confused with any sort of endorsement for this wholly benign, incredibly disposable family comedy. My review is up at Screen International.

The Weeknd - "Wicked Games"

The Weeknd's House of Balloons was one of my Top 10 albums of last year, and in 2012, it as well as two other mixtapes he put out in 2011 were remastered and sold as Trilogy. "Wicked Games" is from House of Balloons, and it's one of those rare cases where the remixed version really is superior. Damn thing jumps out of the speakers now -- and I was already a fan from last year. Like Weeknd's best stuff, it's sexy, dark and despairing all at once. (Warning: explicit language, if you're wanting to enjoy this in your office cubicle.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

'Les Miserables' Review

In case you thought you could confidently peg my tastes -- or lack thereof -- I hope it comes as something of a shock that I really liked Les Miserables. Oh, it's far from perfect -- there are some really woeful casting choices in there -- but if you're looking for (as I call it) "a towering, somewhat lumbering monolith of entertainment disbursement," well, it fits the bill. Judge me as you see fit -- but do me the courtesy of at least reading my Deadspin review before you do.

'Jack Reacher' Review

I should point out that this review of Jack Reacher was written before the killings in Newtown. I bring this up because this Tom Cruise vehicle has a great set piece concerning a sniper. Honestly, how people will respond to it now is beyond me. Regardless, I had pretty mixed feelings about the movie, which I explain over at Backstage.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

'This Is 40' Review

This is just an OK movie. This is probably Judd Apatow's weakest effort. This is somewhat reminiscent of a Bergman film (which is intentional, apparently). This is my review of the movie. (Yes, this is pretty lame schtick.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 in Review: The Year's Best Movie Moments

For IFC Fix, I decided to put together a list of every great moment from a 2012 film I could recall. As a result, the final product may seem a little haphazard and random but, at least in my brain, it's a highlight reel of what the year was like at the movies. I keep saying over and over again what a great movie year this was. (Everyone's saying it.) But reading back through my list, well, seriously, wow. (And, by the way, notice how many of my moments reference dancing. What can I say: Even a mediocre movie will be elevated in my mind by some good moves.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

'Amour' Review

This review was written before the shooting in Connecticut. I say this because Amour looks at death with a clear-eyed perspective and, yet, in relation to what happened today in the real world, well, it's hard to talk about death right now. Anyway, this is a tremendous film and highly recommended. My review is up at Deadspin.

Randy Newman - "I Want You to Hurt Like I Do"

Congratulations, Mr. Newman. You're the best.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2012 in Review: My Problems With 'Brave'

For Deadspin, Will and I each picked a hit movie from 2012 that we really couldn't stand. I took Brave, which I think is easily Pixar's worst effort. (I say this despite leaving the screening surrounded by folks who were loudly sniffling at the film's ending.) You can read my reasons here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

'Django Unchained' Review

I should probably confess to you before linking to my review of Django Unchained that I'm not a gaga Quentin Tarantino fan. How can you tell? My favorite of his movies is Jackie Brown, which I think is the smartest, most resonant of his pictures. With that said, though, it's impossible -- as always -- not to be deeply impressed by what he achieves in Django. But I do have my reservations, which I explain in my Screen International review.

Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 in Review: The Small Gems You May Have Missed

2012 simply had too many great movies. (My Top 10 ballot had to be narrowed down from a pretty excellent list of 13 contenders.) For IFC Fix, I decided to single out five movies that have hardly been part of the critical or Oscar discussion this year. They're all worth seeing.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Looking Back at 'Lord of the Rings'

We're mere days away from the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. (You can read my review here.) For Deadspin, I decided to look back at the Lord of the Rings trilogy to marvel at how completely unlikely its success really was. (Interestingly, some commenters have said things like, "C'mon, everybody loves those books. Of course they were going to be huge hits." Then how come other big properties, like the Chronicles of Narnia, never quite took off?)

By the way, if you haven't read (or re-read) Gillian Flynn's 2001 Entertainment Weekly story about the making of the trilogy, it's definitely worth your time. Beyond being well-reported, it really does capture the uncertainty of this whole enterprise -- remember, the piece came out before The Fellowship of the Ring, back when no one knew if Rings would flop or not.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Beatles - "Julia"

This week's Friday Video goes out to some dear friends who just had their second child and named her Julia. The father is a huge Beatles fan, and one of our most contentious ongoing debates was whether "Julia" (off The White Album) was brilliant or dull. I argued it was brilliant, and I was right. Congratulations, guys: I can't wait to meet your little girl.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

2012 in Review: The Scene in 'Trouble With the Curve' I Hated

I prefer singing the praises of the films I love as opposed to ripping on the ones I can't stand, but in the spirit of end-of-the-year recapping, I decided to pick the one scene from 2012 that most enraged me. Which led me to Trouble With the Curve, a film I had major problems with. I detail the movie's dumb scene --and why it matters -- over at Deadspin.

'Hyde Park on Hudson' Review

I know that others hated Hyde Park on Hudson, but I personally couldn't muster up enough disdain to care one way or the other. This Bill Murray historical drama just evaporates on contact, although I do think he makes for an amusing FDR. My review is up at Back Stage.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

'Promised Land' Review

Promised Land is a film that I desperately wanted to like more than I did. A smart, sincere, thoughtful small-town drama about an energy company rep (co-writer Matt Damon) trying to sell the community on fracking, the movie does a lot of things right ... and then it stops doing them. My review is up at Screen International.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

2012 in Review: Why I Love the Ending of 'The Grey'

Continuing with our series of end-of-the-year pieces, Will Leitch and I today took a moment to write about our favorite movie scene of 2012. I went with the ending of The Grey. You can wolf if down here. (And, yes, that may be the worst pun anyone has attempted ever.)

Monday, December 03, 2012

'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' Review

Two things I think are worth mentioning in regards to my review of The Hobbit. The first is that I wasn't the biggest fan of the Lord of the Rings films, save for The Return of the King, which was really tremendous. The second is that I saw The Hobbit in conventional 2D and 24 fps, which I think may have helped. (The reviews I've read thus far from 3D/48 fps screenings seem to be very down on the visual bells and whistles.) So, with all that said, I enjoyed this film just fine. OK, enough preamble: My review is now live at Screen International.

Brad Pitt and 'Killing Them Softly'

As you probably heard, Killing Them Softly tanked over the weekend. That's too bad -- it's a great movie, and Brad Pitt is darn good in it. For IFC Fix, I look back at Pitt's career and am very impressed by what I see: He's a guy willing to take risks and make them work. Here's my article