The Avengers (2012; dir. Joss Whedon)
The amazing thing about this summer's biggest Super Hero flick is how they were able to make a movie with so many characters (four of them being major characters who've anchored their own movies) and put them all together in one tight story that was never boring, not hard to understand, action-packed and funny as all get out! I think this film, single-handedly, made me more of a Super Hero fan than I have even been in my entire life!
Brave (2012; dirs. Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman)
Anyone who knows me knows I love Pixar films. They are magical, hilarious and breathtaking all at once. When Pixar's 13th film rolled around to theaters this summer, I wasn't as excited as I had been for almost every previous film from the studio. It didn't look as lighthearted and funny as some of their best work. Even seeing the picture didn't get me too excited and I placed it near the bottom of the rankings of Pixar Feature Films. Then I watched it again on DVD and I loved it. It's not Pixar doing Pixar, it's Pixar doing Disney...this is a more traditional Walt Disney Pictures kind of picture and it totally works that way. It is very magical, very funny and as always extremely breathtaking. Instead of comparing Brave to Toy Story and Monsters Inc, it needs to be taken for what it is - and it is a very well done, fantastic piece of film making.
The Descendants (2011; dir. Alexander Payne)
Some movies are just so good, you want to crawl inside them and live there. I don't know what that really means, but The Descendants was good as coconuts! (It takes place in Hawaii.)
(500) Days of Summer (2009; dir. Marc Webb)
One of my favorite things in movies is when something happens that not only don't happen in real life, but shouldn't happen in the movie. Case in point, there is an old fashioned musical number out of nowhere in the middle of this picture and I was instantly hooked on this movie from that point. There are alot of other neat, genre bending gimmicks used in this romance story told out of sequence. It's one of the very few movies that I felt the need to track down a DVD copy to own immediately after seeing it.
The Help (2011; dir. Tate Taylor)
Every once in a while I'll see a movie that I equate to the cinematic version of a fine steak dinner. The Help is a delicious meal of a movie about prejudice in the South towards white folks' black housekeepers. There are so many great characters here including Emma Stone's aspiring writer, housekeepers played by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Socialites Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain are also amazing to watch as is Allison Janney and the great Sissy Spacek. Beyond the great performances is a movie filled with humor, drama and a really thoughtful script. There's a reason this was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012; dirs. Peter Lord, Jeff Newitt)
There's a difference between making a funny movie and "doing comedy" and this might be one of the first films to come down the pike in a while that really had sharp comedy writing. Tucked away in this family appealing claymated comedy is some really funny bits. It's one of those projects where you can tell the filmmakers were just trying to make each other laugh. The animated adventure finds Pirate Captain and his crew on a perilous journey to accept the coveted Pirate of the Year Award. Perhaps my sights were set low for a non-Disney animated film, but my kids and I were all really blown out of the water by how funny this movie was.
The Secret World of Arrietty (2010; dir. Hiromasa Yonebayashi)
Boy, do I hates me some anime! I always have since I was a little kid. Japanese animation is usually devoid of everything I love about cartoons. That being said, Arrietty, which is a retelling of the famous tale The Borrowers, was really good. I think what made it so good is the simple fact that it is slow and quiet; two things no American piece of animation is every allowed to be! The U.S. voice cast in neat: Bridgit Mendler, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett and Carol Burnett.
Superman Vs. The Elite (2012; dir. Michael Chang)
This is just about everything a super hero movie should be...at least in my book. First, there's no origin back story. I like a film that knows that we know who Superman is and I don't have to watch him grow up on a farm for the 30th time. The plot is direct and simple. There's action and there is plenty of doses of humor. For an animated film, it's nice to see some adult material without being inappropriate for older kids. There is a little bit of mild swearing, the usual violence and some slightly stronger than suggestive innuendo. The action sequences packed a punch and never stepped into the territory of Saturday morning cartoons. This direct-to-DVD flick had my favorite opening credits sequence of the year - which payed homage to animated Superman shows of my youth and this movie also has the single best opening scene of any Super Hero movie ever...at least in my book!
Step Up 2: The Streets (2008; dir. Jon M. Chu)
The only thing goofier than me watching all four Step Up films this past year was for me to really take an extra liking to the second chapter. The first movie in the series is about a guy from the streets trying to fit in at a snooty arts school. The second movie is about a girl from the streets trying to fit in at a slightly less snooty arts school. Actually, it might have been the same school from the first movie...I don't remember. But the first movie tries to tell a story while the second movie is just mostly a bunch of dancing. There's just a silly kinetic energy to this movie that is really catchy. It's one of those movies that knows it's nothing special and just tries to entertain the hell out of you. It worked for me. The big giant dance battle in the streets and in the rain is one of the cinematic highlights of my movie watching year!
21 Jump Street (2012; dirs. Phil Lord, Chris Miller)
There's no reason a movie based on an 80's cop show from the FOX network should be any good, yet 21 Jump Street is brilliant! It's an action movie, a comedy, a high school movie and a story about friendship. It plays on all of these notes wonderfully and then throws in some self-mocking on top of that. The movie even manages to parody the entire concept of basing a movie off a TV show and throwing in all kinds of references and stunt casting. This movie is hilarious and jaw dropping amazing in a number of different ways.
please comment with some of your favorite films from the past year...