1. Dark Knight Rises-I had the reaction to it that many people had with Nolan's first two films: profound, definitive for the superhero genre, a story with great dramatic weight, add whatever other superlatives you want. I felt Batman Begins had too much exposition and Dark Knight was too focused on making its villain as grotesque as possible while Dark Knight Rises was primarily about its story.
2. Argo-Not much to say here that hasn't already been said. It's a very solid film that evoked a similar feeling of greatness as the Flight and Dark Knight Rises. It felt slightly less profound than Dark Knight Rises and slightly more broad than Flight.
3. Flight-One great crash scene, a great use of Denzel Washington's star power, and a great balancing out of two or three different story lines that draw from the best of different genres (i.e. disaster films, courtroom films, films with alcoholic characters).
4. Silver Linings Playbook-There were a few moments that didn't work emotionally (Robert DeNiro trying to be sappy comes to mind) that could easily have been discarded, but much of the film worked and the acting by the leads was phenomenal. The film was brave in showing characters who were really mentally ill.
5. Les Miserables-A grand spectacle but didn't have as coherent of a narrative as the top four entries. Hugh Jackman was a big highlight
6. Prometheus-A pretty squicky (read: nausea-inducing) film but one with an immensely imaginative vision and completely immersive narrative. It was also a film that can be described as highly intellectual.
7. Hyde Park on Hudson-Dare I say better than the Kings Speech? Its a quieter film but had quite a bit to say about politics and the illusions of power between all the subtleties. Plus, I've never seen a film that made polyamory seem so wholesomely American.
8. Wreck it Ralph-A film that's a lot of fun for anyone who grew up in the age of Nintendo. The film feels like it takes you deep into a wondrous world because it worked out its infrastructure and plot holes well. Great casting choices and chemistry between the characters.
9. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel-Slightly less memorable than on first viewing, I felt the Altmanesque story structure worked which is a hard task to pull off. Stories like this are often disjointed. The film nicely gave some of its characters a happy ending while leaving others hanging but apologetically gave the Dev Patel character a magical happy ending that felt a little Bollywood to me.
10. Robot and Frank-Not all films about the dangers of robots have to be dystopian sci-fi films. This one feels more like the kind of broody character piece you'd see at Sundance and that's a refreshing twist on the genre. Frank Langella is wonderful and Susan Sarandon shows she should be in more supporting parts. The hipster in charge of revamping the library makes for a great villain. Might have ranked higher if a better actor was cast in place of James Marsden
11. Quartet-Billy Connelly's character doesn't exactly fit but Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins, Sheridan Smith and Tom Courtenay are all terrific. The film can be a bit schmaltzy and sensationalistic but the overall sentiment and its anti-ageist credo are not lost. It's a film that takes us into another fascinating world but not all corners of that world are properly fleshed out.
12. Pirates Band of Misfits-This animated entry had the sort of fun spirit and inventiveness that work well for this genre. With Queen Victoria, the archetypal 19th century pirate, and Charles Darwin all fair play for reimagining (I don't think Queen Victoria was a supreme martial artist though I might be mistaken), there was a playful sense of fun in these historical archetypes. Good pacing as well.
13. Zero Dark Thirty-Less exciting than 80% of the episodes of Homeland. That's the consequence of the Golden Age of TV for you. The final scenes of the raid and the closing shot of Maya's short-lived catharsis before looking to the next challenge were highlights.
14. Pitch Perfect-Anna Kendrick probably shouldn't have done a film like this but she did and elevated the material significantly (and she now has a single that's topping the itunes charts). It successfully immerses the viewer into an interesting subculture, is written with a great sprinkling of humor (a 30 Rock writer penned the script), has great music and a pretty good collection of cast members.
15. Dictator-A great comedic effort on par with Baron Cohen's other comedic works that was still risky without the unpleasant byproduct of knowing that innocent people (who gave up their privacy by signing a misleading waiver) were hurt. I think it says more about our society's voyeuristic tastes that the film didn't come close to the general buzz of Baron Cohen's other efforts.
16. Compliance-Haunting and effective. A little sparser and less cinematic than it should've been. In other words, would it not have made a better play?
17. Paperboy-I read the book and saw the film and thought some good and bad choices were made Director Lee Daniels. At the end of the day, it was an interesting story and its a credit to the acting that these seemingly baffling choices weren't godawful. Nicole Kidman was the biggest snub of the year.
18. Casa de mi Padre-A noble experiment that had its moments. Didn't take full comedic advantage of its premise leading to the humor not resonating 100% but Ferrell and crew went all out on replicating the world they were parodying.
19. Safety Not Guaranteed-A winningly clever film knocked down a couple pegs by two elements that rubbed me the wrong way: The unnecessary and implausible romantic pairing of two characters and the painting of Jake Johnson's character as more of a jerk than Johnson projects. Other than that, much to
like about the film as an inventive indie film.
20. Beasts of the Southern Wild-Yes it's highly imaginative but kind of slow and the dad character is awfully hard to like. I ultimately did come around to appreciating Dwight Henry's character as a tough-love dad and applaud the performance but why did the film make it so hard.
21. The Master-The film had some great performances and a few scenes that resonates but did the film really have anything important to say? It rode high in critical appreciation on the backs of Paul Thomas Anderson and the love for Phil Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams so I know I'm in the minority but I'm struck more by the anticlimactic ending.
22. Men in Black 3-Looking back, I don't think I've ever been in love with the Men in Black franchise. I've watched all three simply because of a fondness for Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. The second installment was the one that had the best flow and comic rhythm. This one had a few more bumps and an immensely complex plot (for a series that's not supposed to take itself seriously) but was still enjoyable nonetheless.
24. Trouble with the Curve-It's an adequate popcorn film that alternates between moments that are slightly cheesy and high notes that are genuinely earned. Timberlake gives the first performance I can genuinely see him as an actor in, Amy Adams is great as always although Clint Eastwood's performance seems like a Gran Torino imitation. The main reason it's ranked so low is that the entire premise is just dumb: A man who looks well past retirement age and losing his sight is protesting retirement?
23. Hunger Games-Gary Ross is a great director, but I don't think he gave the film that much of an auteur stamp. It was pretty simply a by-the-numbers adaptation with a few small upgrades: The map room and the fireballs were both pretty impressive, for example. Still, even megastar casting moves like Jennifer Lawrence, Lenny Kravitz, and whatever semi-random hunk of the year they get to play the love interest isn't enough incentive to advise someone to just read the book instead.
25. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter-Wasn't a disappointment in relation to my expectations. The special effects were pretty up there (even when compared to your average $200 million dollar budget film) and the performances of the supporting actors (Anthony Mackie, Jimmi Simpson, Alan Tyduk) were strong (although those three rarely disappoint).
26. Bernie-It wasn't necessarily a flawed film and it stayed faithful to the story it was based on. I would simply argue that neither the story nor the lead character (though quite endearing) were never that interesting. In addition, it's a film heavy on a sense of place and I never quite fell in love with Carthage, Texas.
27. The Impossible-On the upside, the film set likely beat Titanic out for most gallons of water taken from the public reservoir for use on a movie set. We can also point to Naomi Watts' Oscar nomination but she is pretty much Oscar-worthy in everything she does. For a film that was about arguably the biggest natural disaster of my lifetime, I found it surprising that the film was devoid of any interpersonal conflict nor did I find very much of an intriguing man vs. the elements through-line like Cast Away or Alive.
28. Seven Psychopaths-A Martin McDonagh shoot-em-up film with a gimmick that I don't even think Martin McDonagh took very seriously. It had some nice moments but I don't think it came off as much of a clever twist of the genre as it meant to be. The end result was less entertaining than a straight-up version of the genre that had a better sense of what it was.
29. Madagascar 3-I enjoyed the first two for their clever humor and interplay between the well-developed characters but this one seemed haphazard and even illogical (a tiger fitting inside a wedding ring? the quartet of zoo animals swimming to Europe from Africa?) by the standards of a cartoon. The set pieces (particularly Monte Carlo) were uneven, the additional characters took away from the interplay of the original quartet, the villainous zookeeper was treated kind of ridiculously and the film felt rushed.
30. Struck by Lightning-Chris Coffer has veered away from his flamboyant diva character on "Glee" (although he admittedly got more likable in later seasons) to an ungrateful brat. How is this considered a good career move? The film lacked enough of a positive pole to counterbalance it's depressing aura. I believe Chris Coffer is talented but it wasn't the right vehicle for him, even if he wrote it.
31. Ted-I was hoping for Seth McFarlane to make a great transition to movies and I'm happy others liked it but I found the film highly disappointing, juvenile and somewhat of a cop out at the end. Mark Wahlberg still gets massive points for bravery with this role.