Sunday, July 1, 2012

2012 MOVIES: THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY

It’s now July and we’ve reached the middle of the film year, and so far, not so good. For many reasons, it’s been an exceptionally weak six months for cinema. The rest of 2012 holds some great promise, but of what I’ve seen so far, here is the good, the bad & the ugly:
Rachel Weisz gives one of the year's best performances in one of its best dramas so far THE DEEP BLUE SEA.

DRAMA 
The Good: Rachel Weisz had her best role in years in THE DEEP BLUE SEA, a searing examination of love and lust in time of war and crisis. 

The Bad: Did we really need “TITANIC re-released in 3-D?  

The Ugly:  Lindsay Lohan’s personal dramas continue to make us long for the days when she used to be a promising actress. 
Sacha Baron Cohen was once again hilarious, and controversial. This time in THE DICTATOR.
COMEDY 

The Good: Why did THE DICTATOR bomb? It was hilarious, but perhaps a bit too political as it savaged USA’s own dictatorial ways. 

The Bad: MIRROR, MIRROR didn’t know what kind of comedy it wanted to be – one for children or one for adults. So it ended up being neither. And was bad for all. 

The Ugly: Adam Sandler’s straining performance in THAT'S MY BOY almost made me forget he played twins in last year's abomination JACK & JILL. Almost.
Richard Jenkins, Amy Acker & Bradley Whitford played scientists causing the frights in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.


HORROR
The Good: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS managed to lampoon the genre and still make for a scary and compelling horror movie. THE WOMAN IN BLACK and ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER are also two worthy of note, adding fun and frights to the genre.   

The Bad: THE DEVIL INSIDE made me question why God lets such bad movies happen to good audiences. 

The Ugly: CHERNOBYL DIARIES looked ghastly and dank, as any mutant zombie movie in Russia should. Yet its story was as limp and vanilla as any B thriller.
Why did Disney make their BRAVE doll look more like Barbie than Merida?
 ANIMATION

 The Good: BRAVE proved that Disney & Pixar together could do no wrong. Again. 

The Bad: The Cineplexes continue to be day care centers as animation features virtually guarantee box office bonanzas. The downside of that is it likely keeps more adult-themed films from getting made. 

The Ugly: Shame on Disney for letting the dolls of their BRAVE heroine Merida look more like a Barbie version of her. The lesson that there’s room for all different kinds of girls in the world is lost when the movie’s toys reek of conformity. (See my slide show to see exactly how off the likeness of Merida is.) 
THE AVENGERS is distinguished by its action set pieces but even more by its excellent characterizations.
ACTION  
The Good: THE AVENGERS had characters we cared about filling the big action set pieces. In fact, the characters were so good their dialogue scenes were even better. 

The Bad: BATTLESHIP took a beloved child’s game about Navy strategy and turned it into an alien invasion movie. Talk about the plot sinking a picture! 

The Ugly: THE RAVEN squandered its interesting period premise with Edgar Allan Poe tracking a serial killer through the streets of Baltimore by unleashing buckets of bloodletting that were more appropriate for a SAW movie.
Adam Sandler continues to embarrass himself with another atrocious performance, this time in THAT'S MY BOY.
ACTORS 

The Good: Michael Fassbender continues to fascinate onscreen, as an urbane hit man in HAYWIRE and even in his role in PROMETHEUS, where his robot only runs the emotional gamut from A to B. 

The Bad: Is there any actor squandering his talent more these days than Adam Sandler? What happened to great work like he did in PUNCH DRUNK LOVE or FUNNY PEOPLE?

The Ugly: Okay, maybe Andy Samberg. He shouldn’t have left SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE if all he was going to do was tripe like THAT'S MY BOY with Sandler.
How many times is Tyler Perry going to dress up in drag?
ACTRESSES 

The Good: In THE HUNGER GAMES Jennifer Lawrence hit a bull’s-eye and established herself as a major star. 

The Bad: What happened to the Elizabeth Olson who played so many notes brilliantly in MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE? She was a one-note wonder, and a dull one at that, in the stupefyingly dumb SILENT HOUSE. 

The Ugly: Is drag still funny? Is it a laugh riot seeing Tyler Perry in a dress for the umpteenth time like he is in MADEA'S WITNESS PROTECTION? Really?
Charlize Theron's first scene in PROMETHEUS, doing angry push-ups, promises an excellent villain.
VILLAINS 

The Good: Charlize Theron. Played bad twice. Superbly. In both SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN and PROMETHEUS. And Tom Hiddleston played Loki in THE AVENGERS as if he were a top drawer Bond villain. Bravo to them both! 

The Bad: Johnny Depp made for an ineffectual and effete vampire in the misguided re-imagining of DARK SHADOWS. It’s easily one of the year’s biggest movie disappointments, as was his performance as Barnabas Collins. 

The Ugly: The aliens in PROMETHEUS looked hideous. The only problem was they were virtually the same villains from the original 1979 ALIEN and its multitude of sequels. Been there, seen that, too many times.
Shirley MacLaine was finally honored with AFI's Life Achievement Award this past spring.
ODDS & ENDS 

The Good: Jennifer Westfeldt wrote and directed the wonderfully heartfelt examination of immature adults growing into mature parents in FRIENDS WITH KIDS. 

The Bad: I was thrilled Shirley MacLaine finally was awarded the Life Achievement Award by the American Film Institute, but why did it take so long to happen? She’s been a major star since the 50’s and should have been honored a few lifetimes ago. 

The Ugly: The over-the-top costumes and make-up in THE HUNGER GAMES were so garish that for me, they almost stopped the picture and turned it into caricature.
Of anything that opened in 2012 so far I think there is precious little to warrant critics lists or Oscar consideration, so let’s hope the second half brings an upturn. And with the SPIDER-MAN reboot about to open and the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s take on BATMAN due later this month, things would seem to be looking up. Let’s hope that some great things occur the remainder of the movie year, especially if those pesky Mayan calendars are right and this is cinema's last hurrah!

8 comments:

  1. I missed so many of these so thanks for the pruning!

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  2. Good insights as always. I am in disagreement with you (and the rest of the movie-going world) on The Avengers however. What a waste of talent and money! As full of empty calories as a bag of marshmallows. Many parts of it were enjoyable but as a whole I found it astonishingly unsatisfying. The (by contrast) spare production of Thor hit closer to the target IMHO. However, discussing movies with Mister T.E. Shot is always a satisfying experience. Thanks for the list of the year to date. I look forward to the next six months.

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  3. Dear Anonymous, glad I could help cull down your choices!

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  4. Thanks for commenting McDave, as always. And too bad we disagreed on THE AVENGERS but like you, I too liked THOR better. I think THE AVENGERS could have gone off the rails in so many ways, and was happily surprised that it didn't. And that it made enough time for characters and dialogue. But I wouldn't put it in my top comic book movies of all time. Just this year so far. I'm hoping that Spidey and Bats are even better. In fact, we're in total agreement that the year needs to improve greatly to be qualified as a good one for film. So far, kinda so-so.

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  5. Here are mine for the first half of 2012. And good thing there’s not a category here for “The Great”, because nothing I’ve seen yet this year truly was.

    The Good:
    THE DEEP BLUE SEA – Beautiful, yet tragic period romance, best heart-wrenching performance by Rachel Weisz since THE CONSTANT GARDENER.
    BERNIE – Believe it or not, Jack Black was born to play this completely restrained and suppressed role. And Shirley MacClaine is back in such great form, she “out-bitched” the brilliant Meryl Streep in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA.
    THE INTOUCHABLES – Yes it’s French and in subtitles, and a damn shame it mostly plays in art houses! It’s got an American sensibility and humor, comically brilliant French actors most of us are not familiar with (refreshing!), and when the music of Earth, Wind and Fire kicks in, well...you’ll see...

    The Bad:
    RAMPART – An incomprehensibly written, poorly shot, cringe-inducing cop drama that only Woody Harrelson (or perhaps Nick Cage) would have starred in.
    ROCK OF AGES – I didn’t even see it but I know I hate it.

    The Ugly:
    WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN - So unsettling and disturbing, that I walked out of the theater completely depressed.

    The rest of the year can only get better.

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  6. Thanks, Fan! Great comments. As always.

    Technically, both RAMPART and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN are considered films from 2011. They were released in New York and LA last December, but were not released further afield until the new year. Always nice to be in a 2nd or 3rd tier market, isn't it?

    And I did see ROCK OF AGES and believe me, it was one of the worst. I suppose I could have put it in a few Bad and Ugly categories!

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  7. Oops...my bad on getting the distribution year wrong on those two!

    Here are three more in the category of: The Disappointing. Films that I really, really wanted to not let me down, but did. I blame the screenwriters.

    THE RAVEN: In addition to your comments about it, it had the dumbest, most unbelievable ending to Poe’s life ever theorized, considering the man had such influence on detective fiction.

    THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL: With a well-known British cast like this, it could have been brilliantly witty, but instead the mediocre ‘fish out of water’ screenplay was often more flat than funny; this one was just a rewrite or two away from the hilarity it deserved.

    PEACE, LOVE & MISUNDERSTANDING: Screenplay, screenplay & screenplay...even Jane Fonda couldn’t overcome this clichéd and contrived inter-generational plot where everybody hooks up instantly; why she didn’t demand ‘executive privilege’ and a rewrite, I’ll never know.

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  8. Thanks Mister Shot. Can I call you "The"?

    I hope to be able to discuss the Avengers at greater length with you some day.
    Or, better yet, Bats and Spiders! (creepy crawlies!)

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