Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Must-See Movies of 2012

Job 8:7 says, “Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.” I’ve decided this is my verse for 2013. More on that some other time.

Because I have one more post concerning 2012. Movies, of course. It’s ten of the ones I enjoyed most last year.

10 – Rise of the Guardians – I liked this one so much, I wrote a review about it here on Dry Ground. (CLICK HERE to read the review) Funny how I turn my nose up at a trailer for one reason or other, but end up adoring the movie. That’s the film-world version of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ This one is rated PG and appropriate for all audiences.

 9 – Lincoln – I know, I know. Historical epics either end up being boring, grossly inaccurate, or so un-epic like that you have to laugh. And this one has had its share of nay-sayers. But… I really enjoyed it. Prime reason – Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln. He’s not the only highlight and he doesn’t diminish the quality performances of the others. He doesn’t grandstand or mug the camera. He’s just… perfect. I mean, there’s no other word for it. Not just in a – geez, he really looks like Lincoln – way. He’s engaging. Mesmerizing. Captivating. It almost doesn’t matter what he says because how he says it enchants. Of course, I’m not all that upset about the content either. This historical film is anything but a drag. It’s rated PG-13 for war violence and some language.

8 – The Hobbit – I read the book a couple of weeks before the movie hit theatres, not to nit-pick every detail of the film version when I got the chance, but to have an understanding of the story. Sure, my imagination ignites and I wonder how characters and events will be portrayed, and I judge in my own small way. Still, I know a book can never, ever be translated to screen exactly as it is written. There’s an art to making a successful translation, and I guess that’s what I’m critiquing when I watch the movie. Well, and I know there are a few who’d disagree with me, I thought the translation was spot on. The spirit of the story shined through. In addition, the filmmakers had a larger task to tie in this prequel with the other three Lord of the Rings movies already out there. And in that, they succeeded as well. I didn’t agree with all their decisions, but not enough to take away from my enjoyment of the film. My favorite part was the scene with Bilbo and Gollum because it was chillingly perfect. PG-13 for fantasy ‘violence’ if you want to call it that. Really, a fine film for all audiences aside from the very young.

7 – Dark Knight Rises – Despite the tragedy everyone remembers that happened to involve this movie, the film itself is masterfully done. Again, as in The Dark Knight, the villain is awesome. But for the hero to prevail, shouldn’t the villain be worthy of the fight too? I especially liked the introduction of Robin who, according to this version of the fable, isn’t Batman’s sidekick but possibly his replacement. The last five minutes of the film, with the music and the montage of wrap-up scenes and the voice-over – sublime. PG-13 for violence and, as the MPAA would say, ‘a scene for sensuality.’ 

6 – Act of Valor – I went to this one for my Daniel. I thought – another war movie with the hook of using ‘real’ Special Forces members. I ended up teetering on the edge of my seat the entire movie, my heart thrilling, cheering, wrenching. The story was much better than I expected and the action kept a good pace. One of the best aspects – it shows 100% honor and respect to the USA military. Unfortunately, due to the nature of its subject matter, this film isn’t for everyone. It’s rated R for violence and language throughout. But if your personal ‘line’ is set to accommodate those things for the sake of an incredible story, I absolutely recommend this one.

5 – The Avengers – Here’s a lesson in marketing if there ever was one. Patient and calculating, the studio powers-that-be have introduced the Marvel characters into our lives for years. Yes, through the decade-old comics, but through the movies recently inviting us to get to know individual super heroes – Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America – and then to weave them all together in an entertaining, smart script… I only wish I could be that witty with words. The scary thing, in these set ups, is the risk of epic failure. If the combo doesn’t work, if each hero doesn’t shine through as themselves as well as work perfectly together, if the script sucks or the action is too Transformers 3, then everything goes down the tubes. Fortunately, or as I like to think ‘by design’, Avengers works. It doesn’t just work, it shines! It rocks! It wins in my book. PG-13 for super hero violence and some language.

4 – Wreck-It Ralph – This one is an animation, a clever fairy tale of sorts based on the classic video games of the 80s, the dawn of said media. For a 30-something like me, that alone is reason to watch it. The delightful surprise is that smart writing and colorful characters make this a knock out show. And the moral of the story comes through without being preachy. It was sweet without being gag-me-with-a-spoon (might as well stick with the era at hand!). It’s rated PG for what they like to call ‘crude’ humor, but it’s only like picking-your-nose kind of crude. So, appropriate for all ages then.

3 – Silver Linings Playbook – This is the only one on my list I can only recommend to a few people. However, I have to include it because this movie spoke to me. Yes, it is wrought with bad language. But a huge heart lies beneath and I found it was worth discovering. It’s about a guy, Pat, who snapped when he witnessed his wife’s infidelity. His break-from-reality beating of the other guy landed him a stint in a mental facility. The film begins with his release and explores mental illness, heartache, family ties, and love. Not just the boy meets girl kind, but the agape kind too. Many scenes can be described as ‘messed up’ – so much shouting and fighting and chaos. But the whole picture reveals truth about people, about relationships. I related to these people on a certain level, and I know many others could too. Yes, this is a Hollywood film with the obvious absence of God, for the most part, in dealing with these all-too-human problems. However, it is so perceptive, that taking what I learned from it and marrying it to my faith in God – well, it was kind of like “Eureka.”  I don’t know – maybe I’m just crazy. Rated R for pervasive language. I mean, throughout. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

2 – Les Miserables – A story from the pages of an 1882 Victor Hugo novel, which I have yet to conquer but would love to some day, this movie brings to the screen the beloved opera-esque stage version. Therefore, it is 99.9% sung. That may deter a few of you. However, it is also acted, and in such a way that the story lives and breathes and speaks. The fact that they are singing about it falls out of consciousness. Unless, of course, you’re paying attention because you are in love with songs, and then you’ll notice how well they are performed. And then… you cry. Fabulous film. Simply fabulous. Rated PG-13 for what they used to call ‘adult content’ though I have no idea where they draw the line on THAT nowadays.

1 – Moonrise Kingdom – Alrighty - #1 – but only as numbers fall since I do not necessarily rate ‘best’ or ‘favorite’ movies because there are too many that I love – is this Wes Anderson tasty coming-of-age morsel set in the 60s. It’s quirky, it’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s bizarre, but it’s also clean, sweet, relatable, and it touches a part of your heart way, way back in the back you haven’t visited for a while – the pre-teen years. Sure, there are awkward moments, but meant purely for fun. I adore this movie. Once I saw it once, I watched it three times in a week, gobbling up all the odd things that made me laugh out loud. It explores mistakes and resolutions, ambitious and failures, and again, it focuses on relationships. It’s PG-13 for that awkwardness I mentioned, but also because the MPAA must rate it thus if any character smokes. Silliness, if you ask me, but there you have it.

Stories – tales of relationships – upon which our lives should be based. Is it any wonder I love writing about this stuff? (I didn’t have room to tell you about The Amazing Spiderman,  Argo, Snow White and the Huntsman, or The Odd Life of Timothy Green!)
Hope you’re all having a wonderful 2013 so far, Dry Ground friends!