Monday, July 30, 2012

The 20 Best Movies of 2012 So Far

2012 is turning out to be a huge year for movies - and at little more than halfway through there have been some great commercial blockbusters and indie gems. It is futile to include The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers in a 'best of' list, because they don't need validation at this point, everyone loved them. 

Naturally, I haven't seen many films that have released this year, so here are the 20 best of the ones that I have.

20 - Sleep Tight

'REC' director Jaume Balaguero forgoes the blood and constant dread of the zombie movies for a chilling Spanish thriller about a hotel concierge who isn't as demure as he looks. Luis Tosar is excellent as the sad faced loner with a creepy disability, and Balaguero even manages to get the audience to sympathize with his proantagonist.

19 - Take this Waltz

Michelle Williams stars in yet another heart wrenching story of doomed marriage and the frailty of a relationship. Also starring Seth Rogen, director Sarah Polley takes us through the most devastating couple seen on screen since Blue Valentine. 

18 - Elles

Starring Juliet Binoche, Elles is a distressing story of a French reporter who discovers a bunch of girls who pay for their college fees by prostituting themselves. A self indulgent film, no doubt, but one that doesn't pass judgement to drive its point.

17 - The Day He Arrives

A thoroughly mesmerizing Korean film about a has-been filmmaker who arrives in Seoul to meet his friend for drinks and loses himself in a strange warped Groundhog Day. Director Sang Soo Hong revisits the theme of a filmmaker with midlife crisis from his 2008 movie Night and Day. Although a big recco for movie buffs, this is a must watch for those who make movies.

16 - Marley

Having made One day in September and Life in a Day, director Kevin Macdonald was the perfect choice for the biopic of the legendary Rastafarian. Marley is perhaps the best retelling of Bob Marley's life we'll ever see. Macdonald mixes some fascinating footage with Marley's classic hits and delivers an extremely comprehensive account that is enough to drive fans crazy in emotion.

15 - The Dictator

This year's guilty pleasures are courtesy of Sascha Baron Cohen who plays a tongue-in-cheek version of Gaddafi in America. The Dictator is as funny as Borat and is a proper feature with a 'plot' instead of a mere mockumentary. Cohen makes sure he targets all kinds of audiences and offends them as much as possible, but what makes it work is that he does it without being smarmy.

14 - Chronicle

Chronicle was the biggest surprise of the year as first-time director Josh Trank combined intricate handheld live-action camerawork with CGI wizardry to stunning effect in this found footage superhero thriller.

13 - This is not a film

Jafar Panahi has been put under house arrest and banned by the Iranian govt from making movies. To be shown to the rest of the world, This is not a film was smuggled out of his house hidden inside a cake. The footage contains Panahi's account of a film that he wishes to make and is a heartbreaking political statement against the dictatorial Iranian government, one that echoes last year's No one knows about Persian cats.

12 - 21 Jump Street

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller make dick jokes funny in this hysterical movie version of the hit series. 21 Jump Street is buddy cop comedy done right with the perfectly cast Hill and Tatum for non-stop gut busting gags; what's more, it even parodies its own genre.

11 - Snabba Cash

Snabba Cash is Snabba Entertainment, and a cooler Swedish version of a Pusher style mafia thriller. Starring Joel Kinnaman (the new Robocop) and a vast array of characters, the film packs enough smarts to shame recent Hollywood gangster movies. A sequel is slated to release next year. 

10 - Supermen of Malegaon

In an industry ruled by the Khans and Kumars director Faiza Ahmad's docu is a fresh breath of air. Clocking in at just over an hour, Supermen of Malegaon is fascinating and often funny, plus it avoids sentimentality and all the cliches found in most documentaries.

9 - Gangs of Wasseypur

Currently the best Indian film of the year, Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur is a visceral epic with glorious characters and gently mocking dialogue. Part two releases in a few days and it remains to be seen if it matches the quality of its predecessor. 

8 - The Loved Ones

An absolutely bloody and shocking thriller from Australia, The Loved Ones is currently the best horror movie of the year. The 2009 film arrived late to our shores; it has enough squirmy thrills to satisfy the die hardest fans of Martyrs. Robin McLeavy is great as a batshit crazy school girl who kidnaps her crush after he refuses to go to prom with her.

7 - Polisse

The French film Polisse is the feel bad movie of the year and contains no redemption or hope. Director Maiwenn emerges as the Kathryn Bigelow of France after stepping out of the shadow of her ex husband Luc Besson and delivering an unsettling story of a Child Protection Unit. The powerhouse acting ensemble is so good that at some moments you forget that these are actors.

6 - A Monster in Paris

The feel good film of the year is a French cartoon that contains some of the most exquisite animation ever put on screen. Director Bibo Bergeron crafts a smart, funny, quirky comedy that gets better and better as it plays and even contains a couple of fun song and dance numbers.

5 - Sleepless Night

Starring Tomer Sisley, this french action thriller is set almost entirely inside a nightclub. The single location with flickering lights and pulsating music of the discotheque makes for a very claustrophobic atmosphere, and combined with wall to wall action it simply becomes an insanely gripping watch.

4 - The Raid

A 100 minutes of non stop cyclonic mayhem, The Raid: Redemption is not one of the better action films of the past few years, it is one of the best action movies ever made. Indonesian star Iko Uwais using his bare hands slices, dices, stabs, jackhammers through scores and scores of ruffians with the ease of a ballet dancer, and director Gareth Evans' camera lingers around for long, uncut shots.

3 - Indie Game: The Movie

You've heard of indie films and their struggle, but have you heard of indie video games? Indie Game The Movie is a beguiling spotlight on the people who refuse to join the big companies or submit to the commercial consumers. Directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky chronicle the lives of three sets of indie game developers who give up everything to create smart, innovative games at a hundredth of the budget of mainstream franchises. It is a story that has never been told before, and is without a doubt the best docu of the year so far - its big achievement is that it appeals to people who don't even play video games.

2 - Cabin in the Woods

Written by Geek God Joss Whedon and Cloverfield's Drew Goddard, Cabin the the Woods is twisted, unique and endlessly fascinating to sit through. The two deliberately mix horror movie clich├ęs with darkly absurd genre dissection and ultimately dole out a modern masterpiece.

1 - Beyond the Black Rainbow

This year's WTF Genre Champion is director Panos Costamos dark, brilliantly trippy, crazy as hell pastiche of THX 1138, Scanners, Eraserhead, Blue Sunshine and 80's Russia and Kubrick. Beyond the Black Rainbow stars Eva Allen as a patient in a strange institution interrogated by an even weirder doctor, and it eventually turns into a horror movie. If the imagery in this film is anything to go by, we can expect some very imaginative films in the future from Cosmatos.      

Honorable Mentions: Haywire, God Bless America, Rec 3: Genesis, Penumbra.

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