Continuing on with my “odd” presentation of the year-end films, I’m breaking these last parts into four sections. You get five “Honorable Mentions” today, five tomorrow, then my “Tops” on Monday and Tuesday next week. (There were too many movies that I felt like I enjoyed equally, and ranking them was stupid. However, three did, indeed, rise to the top.)
As you read, please note the following: Yes, I have seen The Hobbit, and while I enjoyed it, I enjoyed these films more. Also, at this writing, I have yet to see Argo, Lincoln, Life of Pi, or Les Miserables. Take that as you will.
These come to you in no particular order, simply five today, five tomorrow.
Seven Psychopaths: I love Martin McDonagh. After watching In Bruges, I knew this would be a director I’d be following for the length of his career. And while I didn’t quite like SP as much, this is still a very enjoyable film. Mostly, I think he’s a director that can get some wonderful performances out of every actor he works with. (He’s the reason I started liking Colin Farrell.) Everyone is spot-on in this film. And while the “meta” portions of the film almost become a little too self-indulgent at times—reminded me of Adaptation in some ways—the colorful characters and dark humor carried me along for a wonderful ride.
Safety Not Guaranteed: I worried this film would be one of those “quirky for quirkiness’s sake” films. However, I was glad to see that my worries were unfounded. There might be a few scenes that feel “oddball” just because they could be, but overall, the heart of the film lies in its examination of relationships, how they form—if they form at all—and the lasting impacts they can have when you remember the past in different lights. Plus, both
and Jake Johnson are all sorts of
wonderful. True, the ending might—and seems to irk—many, but it worked for me,
as I couldn’t see it wrapping up any other way. Aubrey Plaza
Hunger Games: Like the last few Harry Potter films, this one was so much better than it deserved to—or was expected—to be. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the novel enough, but I never thought the film would have been so well-realized, taking the novel from a “fantasy” and turning into something that felt much more grounded and “real” than I expected it would be. It’s a shame Lionsgate pushed out the writer/director simply because he was going to “take too long” for the next films. They had a good thing going, and I won’t be surprised if the second film will do what the second novel did for me: all but kill the series. Still, this one on its own is more emotionally engaging and well-acted than I ever thought possible for an adaption of this series.
The Dark Knight Rises: As one of my friends said, there is simply no way Nolan would be able to top The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger’s Joker is now the stuff of cinematic legend in terms of mind-blowing performances. But, to me, this one didn’t even top Batman Begins. Honestly, I don’t think it really works as its own, singular film—like the other two do. Yes, it’s entertaining enough, and I love much of what Nolan has done here, but without the other two films, this would’ve been less than “Meh.” That being said though, as a finale to the trilogy, this film does an amazing job tying up all the threads and giving a sense of closure to the trilogy that’s a rarity these days. (Plus, I don’t care what others say, Anne Hathaway nailed Catwoman.)
Pirates! Band of Misfits: I read Gideon Defoe’s first two Pirates! books more than a few years back—and thoroughly enjoyed them. So when I heard Ardman was adapting the first one into a stop-motion film, I eagerly anticipated this one for quite awhile. And the waiting was worth it. This film is all sorts of amusing, with bizarre one-liners and an extremely well balanced sense of humor, as it keeps both the kid-friendly “physical/visual” humor and “asides” for the older crowds in check. Plus, this film is face-melting when you think of all the detail and time that must’ve gone into filming some of these scenes. In particular, the bubbles on the beer are ridiculous. Kudos to the filmmakers that had the patience to animate such things. Films don’t get much more fun than this one—especially when keeping to a “family friendly” audience.