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The Movies of 2012

Though it's possible I have a sampling bias due to the fact that I have to be particularly choosy about which movies I go to see nowadays, I'd have to say 2012 was another banner year for Hollywood, as evidenced by the many high scores below. Adaptations, in general, seem to be the running theme, as comic book films like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises demonstrate alongside high quality novel treatments like The Hunger Games and The Hobbit. There are even two movies on this list based on Snow White. I know people like to bitch about the lack of originality in movies these days, but I'd have to say that sequels, adaptations, and derivative guilty pleasures fared far better this year than the meager handful of original works.



The Hunger Games
THE HUNGER GAMES
Release Date: Mar 23
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $152.5
To-date: $408.0

Attention prospective film-makers: this is how an adaptation is done. The Hunger Games both embraces and expands upon the novel, unafraid to tweak things here and there to serve a different medium, but also respectful of what the book is trying to accomplish. It doesn't shy away from the disturbing subject matter of kids being forced to kill one another, even as it presents an adventure that is geared for teenage audiences. The film-maker, Gary Ross, manages to include some brilliant artistic flourishes that are wholly unexpected, and he manages to get wonderful performances out of each and every member of his cast. This is easily one of the most surprising--and one of the best--films of the year. (Check out my full review here.)





Mirror Mirror
MIRROR MIRROR
Release Date: Mar 30
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $18.1
To-date: $64.9

Tarsem Singh is a director who always seems to be on the brink of becoming an auteur; he just needs one truly excellent film to break through. Unfortunately, Mirror Mirror is not that film. It is undeniably gorgeous to look at, but it treats the material with a cloyingly sweet abundance of mirth and jubilance that doesn't fit the tone of a Grimm fairy tale. On the other hand, the child-like charmingness and warmth of it creeps in on you and manages to elicit a smile. It's not a bad movie by any stretch, and it's hard not to find things about it to like, but as a unique take on Snow White, it fails miserably.





Lockout
LOCKOUT
Release Date: Apr 13
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $6.2
To-date: $14.3

Let's get one thing straight: Lockout is, by all rights, a terrible film. The effects are uneven (there's an early chase scene that is embarassingly bad), the plot is a cliché-riddled take on late-80's action and science-fiction, the acting is hammy all around, the characters are two-dimensional at best, the plot twists are questionable, and there is nothing here that you can write about in a college-level film course. However--and pardon my French for saying it--I absolutely fucking love it. I never would have pegged Guy Pearce as an action hero--his one previous attempt in The Time Machine isn't exactly sterling--but he nails it here, delivering one great cheesed-up line after another while smoking a cigarette and saving the whiny girl from the crazed bad-guys. I will be quoting this movie for years, much to the annoyance of my wife, and I have already bought the DVD so that I can be sure to get every word right. This movie is best described as awesome. In fact, I'm going to watch it again as soon as I'm done with this blog.





Marvel's The Avengers
MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS
Release Date: May 4
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $207.4
To-date: $623.4

I have never been so happy to be proven so wrong. The Avengers is the ultimate popcorn flick, the culmination of everything the fledgling Marvel film studio has been trying to do ever since Iron Man. Somehow, it manages to exceed even the most overblown expectations, doing what should be impossible by presenting a comic book movie with multiple superheroes fighting villains who have come from "beyond space" to serve the megalomaniacal whims of a fallen god. Seriously, this movie should be awful, but it's not. Why am I telling you this, though? I'm sure you've already seen it. (Check out my full review here.)





Snow White and the Huntsman
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN
Release Date: Jun 1
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $56.2
To-date: $155.1

The second big budget Snow White film to come out in 2012, Snow White and the Huntsman is a more serious take than Tarsem Singh's Mirror Mirror. Punctuated by an almost melodic fantasy backstory, this version tries to be a little darker and a little grittier than we are used to (though nowhere near as dark as Snow White: A Tale of Terror). It works, overall. Most of the characters are pretty flat, aside from Charlize Theron's evil Queen Ravenna, but the action scenes are mostly well-handled and none of the actors truly fail to perform. Since I am on the Internet, I know I will be criticized for saying it, but Kristen Stewart does a perfectly good job with what she was given. Unfortunately, the film's pacing is awkward, Snow White's transformation into an action hero in the third act is borderline ridiculous, and some of the effects are just plain bad. It's ultimately a decent movie, but largely forgettable.



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-e. magill 12/18/2012










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