The Destinies Film Review Team assembles live to discuss the best and worst genre films of 2012. Featuring the picks of Howard Margolin, Phil Merkel, Audrey D. and Gregg Epstein.
And if just listening to the show isn’t enough for you, check out everyone’s lists below, including full comments from Howard.
(NOTE: Films are rated according to the Destinies $0-$8 rating scale, where the reviewers provided)
Howard Margolin’s 2012 Film Picks
1) Marvel’s The Avengers ($7.90)
My number one movie of 2012, which also happens to be the rest of the world’s choice, at least box-office wise is Marvel’s The Avengers.
As close to perfection as a superhero movie can probably achieve, and still remain pretty faithful to the source material. Four years of Marvel Movieverse building came to a crescendo in this breathtaking blend of the four Marvel heroes who have starred in their own feature films along with supporting characters Nick Fury, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. Witty dialogue, comic-book worthy battles between heroes and villains and even heroes and heroes, and awesome visual effects proved that director Joss Whedon can deliver a major hit. Let’s hope that the next round of Marvel movies, leading up to the 2015 sequel, live up to the expectations set by this one.
2) Cloud Atlas ($7.67)
In second place is Cloud Atlas. Instead of six superheroes, here six storylines intertwined in this epic which jumped between the 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, and 24th Centuries, with talented actors such as Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugo Weaving playing multiple roles, sometimes disguised so effectively that they became unrecognizable. From a plot to kill a passenger on a 19th Century sailing ship, to the search for the key to saving humanity in 2346, a cohesive narrative arises, and gives us characters we come to care about—something that the similarly-themed “The Fountain” failed to do back in 2006. Cloud Atlas also features a complex and lovely score by no less than three composers, who develop motifs that re-occur throughout time.
3) Men In Black 3 ($7.50)
Coming in third is Men In Black 3. I enjoyed the return of the Men In Black, after a ten-year absence following the somewhat disappointing Men In Black 2. While I thought the villain was one-dimensional, the time travel element allowed us to view the history and evolution of the organization, and how the MIB interacted with the world and people of the 1960s. There was added emphasis on characterization, and a major revelation with strong emotional content near the end of the movie, which is what rocketed this into third place for me. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones jumped back into their characters. Josh Brolin effectively channeled Tommy Lee Jones to create a younger Agent K (even if he was too old to be 29) and Michael Stuhlbarg gave a breakthrough performance as Griffen, a nebbishy pan-dimensional alien who could view alternate timelines simultaneously, like Woody Allen crossed with Dr. Manhattan.
4) The Dark Knight Rises ($7.25)
Fourth on the list is The Dark Knight Rises. Combining elements from the Batman storylines “Knightfall” and “No Man’s Land,” Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to his Batman trilogy brought Bruce Wayne out of retirement, then down to his absolute lowest point—emotionally, physically and geographically—only to have him rise up to reclaim the mantle of the Bat one final time (at least in this continuity). Christian Bale made his Bruce Wayne more relatable than in the previous films, as he struggled to overcome his own apathy and physical disability to overturn Bane’s takeover of Gotham City. Anne Hathaway, who can currently be seen in the heart-rending role of Fantine in Les Miserables, gave us the most realistic version of Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman ever seen on screen, showing us a woman who could very well be the equal of the Batman in terms of cunning and fighting skills, minus the cat-puns of Julie Newmar or the mystic origin of Michelle Pfeiffer. The always excellent supporting cast, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman, showed us what their characters were capable of on their own. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt provided a wonderful point-of-view character for the audience, with a depth and intelligence that was surprising for an original creation. My problems with the film were the hard-to-understand dialogue of Bane, Bruce Wayne’s miraculous recovery from a crippling injury, and the idea that Batman would have retired after the events of The Dark Knight. But it is still a powerful film.
5) Skyfall ($7.00)
Along a similar line was Skyfall. Having watched every James Bond movie since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to see him become a more well-rounded character, with a backstory and vulnerabilities other than the natural limitations of the human body. We saw glimpses of that in Die Another Day and Casino Royale, but in Skyfall we see a Bond filtered through the lens of the Dark Knight Trilogy. Here, Daniel Craig’s Bond, who has clearly aged since we last saw him, is shot and presumed killed in the line of duty. He disappears for months, recuperating, until he returns to England to help with a crisis that threatens MI6. However, he is not fit for field work, and for the first time we see a truly human Bond, who demonstrates a genuine connection with Judi Dench’s M, in an almost mother-son relationship that draws comparisons to the one between M and the villainous Silva, portrayed by Javier Bardem. We also meet the young Q, who, like Lucius Fox for Batman, provides Bond with more realistic weaponry than in previous films. Bond also travels to his ancestral home, from which the film derives its title, and we meet the faithful, Alfred-like caretaker, Kincade, played by Albert Finney. And, in the film’s climactic battle, Skyfall meets a similar fate to Wayne Manor in Batman Begins. Ralph Fiennes makes Gareth Mallory a character with surprising depth. And, the film ends with the promise of a renewed sense of purpose for Bond.
I think I had more difficulty picking my top 5 this year, because I saw so many good films, both blockbusters and smaller-scale science fiction art films. Honorable mentions for 2012 go to The Cabin in the Woods, a true game-changer for the horror genre; Ted, Ruby Sparks, Wreck-It Ralph, and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, in large part due to its featuring Herb Alpert’s classic album “The Beat of the Brass, ” a childhood favorite of mine.
Worst Film of the Year) The Collection ($0.75)
The worst film I saw in 2012 was The Collection. A sequel to 2009’s The Collector (which I never even heard of, let alone watched) this also seems to be the spiritual successor to the allegedly completed Saw series. The survivor of the earlier movie, named Arkin, is drafted to rescue a kidnapped girl from the clutches of the Collector, a masked terrorist with a penchant for killing people with elaborate traps for no apparent reason. The characters are almost completely unmemorable, and the only smart move I saw the heroes make was when Elena, the kidnap victim, smashes some of the Collector’s fluid-filled display cases to put out a fire. What makes this movie absolutely ludicrous was the complexity of the deathtraps. Early in the movie, the Collector rigs a giant lawn-mower blade on the ceiling of an underground nightclub, which stretches from one end of the club to the other. And, to catch anyone who tries to get out of the room, he also causes the ceiling to come down and crush anyone else to a pulp. I’d love to know how he managed to arrange that with the club owners. “Sir, we asked you to install a sprinkler system. What’s with the giant rotating blades and the hydraulic system?” “Oh, don’t worry. There’s no extra charge for those.” Don’t pay more than 75 cents to see this movie, and certainly, don’t bother adding it to your DVD collection.