Top Films of 2012: The Biggest Surprises

For films, while I plan on doing a “Top-List,” I’ve decided to break them down a few different ways this year, since I think there were some noteworthy films for one reason or another, but they may not have been the “best” overall. You know? So, for today, I want to cover the films that I was most surprised by that came out this year—in no particular order. (Mostly, I’m trying to buy some time to ensure that I can see a few other of these “end of year” releases before I make my final picks. Tomorrow will cover what I’ve dubbed, “The Visual Feasts.”)

  • Men in Black III: It’s taken years for the first film to grow on me. I never really liked it upon its initial release, and it’s only after multiple viewings that I’ve decided that I do, indeed, enjoy that film. That being said, I skipped the second film entirely and have yet to actually watch it. However, with this one, not only did I think the trailers looked rather amusing, but I also wanted to see Jemaine Clement as the villain. (That guy is so awesomely weird.) So, possibly against my better judgment, I went to see this film—and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has some good humor and quotable one-liners, it does a good enough job with time-travel, and it has much more heart and soul than I ever would have thought possible for a Men in Black film. Plus, James Brolin as Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K is almost as impressive as Looper's Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Bruce Willis as Joe.
  • Frankenweenie: I’m in the generation that’s pretty much grown up with Tim Burton’s career, and I’ve seen all of his films—most many times over—to date. This includes his original short of Frankenweenie. So when I first heard about this one, I thought it was rather lame that he has not only been remaking others’ films, but now, he is also remaking his own films. After the trailer’s release, I had even less desire to see it. However, being the animation junkie that I am, I saw it in spite of my misgivings. And I’m glad I did. The tributes to all the horror classics are too good to pass up. The teacher—holy shit, the teacher—Mr. Rzykruski has some of the best lines and commentary on today’s schools and learning environments that I’ve seen/heard in years. Lastly, even with its kid-film status, it managed to creep me out still. (Seriously, the bat/cat transformation… pretty sure I wouldn’t have slept for weeks as a child.)
  • Cabin in the Woods: I like Joss Whedon. But I honestly didn’t have high hopes for this one. It looked fun enough, for sure, but nothing too wonderful or noteworthy. However, there were few films that I saw this year that had me laughing as much as this one. So much dark humor… And where Frankenweenie paid tribute to the horror films of old, Cabin in the Woods took all those often-used tropes and flipped each and every one of them on their heads. It’s definitely a film more for those familiar with horror flicks, but if you don’t mind some blood and guts with your laughs, this is a good place to go.
  • 21 Jump Street: I never watched the show growing up, and even though I knew Jonah Hill had turned this into his “baby” of a project, I didn’t really care about it. I didn’t even bother to check it out in the theatre. But when I had my Blockbuster Pass for a few months this year, I picked it up off the shelf—and laughed until my ribs were sore. True, it may go “too far” for some in a few instances, but for those that are more than okay with laughing at the perverse, this is a hilarious film. And like Fight Club made me look at Brad Pitt in a different light, this one did the same for Channing Tatum. Anyone that can play into his stereotypes and, basically, make fun of themselves in a film, well, they’re okay in my book. And Tatum is downright ridiculous. Watch the “Fuck Yeah” portion of the film and just TRY not to laugh at him crashing the band room.