Top Ten Films of 2012

For those who don’t know, I’ve become a full time contributor to the sports and pop culture site, The Waiver Wire.  I’m still doing “Cresci Reviews…”, just on the new site.  Check it out.  To entice you here are my TOP TEN FILMS OF 2012!

 

 

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The Avengers

Spoiler alert: I fucking loved this movie.

Anyone who reads my reviews knows by now that I love superheroes.  They were a huge part of my childhood and I think the reemergence of the genre in the 21st century has been, despite some terrible films, fantastic.  If you follow the film industry you’ve seen that Marvel’s ambitious superhero crossover epic, The Avengers, has shattered box office records and compiled a Rotten Tomatoes rating over 90%.  Accomplishing both of these feats is near impossible.  High grossing movies like Twilight are poisonous filth that manage to be actively sexist, poorly written and offensive to anyone who thinks vampires and werewolves are cool.  High rated films like Midnight In Paris are happy to walk away with a small profit.  The battle between artistic quality and popular opinion rages on in all forms of artistic expression and I won’t ramble on about it here.  My point is, by all measurable standards, The Avengers is a smashing success.  General audiences have loved it and Joss Whedon managed to please fan boys like me.  Instead of a plain old review I want to break down some of the many things the film did right.

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Guest Post: John Carpenter and the Modern Western

Hey all.  It’s been a long time since I’ve posted but I’m working on a few new reviews and in the mean time wanted to share a guest post by fellow blogger and internet writer, Halit Bozdogan. He reached out to me about writing this piece and I think it’s well worth your time.  Enjoy.

Think of John Carpenter and chances are several of you will talk about how he’s really fallen from grace over the last few years. His output hasn’t been consistent to say the least. I refer to Ghosts of Mars in this instance.

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Top Ten Superhero Movies

I’ve wanted to write this list for a long time and the upcoming release of Marvel’s The Avengers has finally given me the motivation to sit down and do it.  This summer is going to change the historical landscape of the superhero film genre and it wouldn’t surprise me if all three of the major blockbusters due out crack the top ten list.  The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, in particular, seem like near guaranteed hits due to their excellent histories and the talent behind the films.  Before that potentially happens I wanted to reflect on the genre I love so much (you can read more on my love of the genre, and why it’s important, by clicking here) and how far it’s come.  Since I’ll likely look at this list differently after this summer I wanted to crystallize this moment in film history and give the current top ten their due.

10.) Superman: The Movie (1978)

Director: Richard Donner

Richard Donner basically created the blockbuster superhero genre with his iconic take on Superman.  There are several movies in my “honorable mention” section that I enjoy more but Donner’s flick makes the list on importance and based on the context in which it was created.

Christopher Reeves was the perfect casting and he stands as an icon because of this role. It also features a fun performance from Gene Hackman and a classic score.  People call this the movie that made them believe a man could fly.  That sort of fanciful notion is at the heart of why these movies are entertaining.  They take us to the sorts of places we go when we dream.

 

9.) X2: X-Men United (2003)

Director: Bryan Singer

I really enjoy the X-Men films ,(they were my favorite characters as a kid) but upon rewatching recently I noticed that the first film is a little goofy.  Bryan Singer’s follow up loses a lot of that and the result is a darker, superior film.  It also takes the established origin and runs with it.  The stakes feel more personal, yet higher, than the first film and it causes us to care deeply about the characters.

The casting is pretty strong across the board but the three standouts are Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.  Jackman is an uncannily (nerd pun intended) good Wolverine and he managed to take on a fan favorite and make it work.  Stewart and McKellen are both necessary to pull off the staggering characters that are Professor X and Magneto.  Fans of the comics/cartoon show know that these two have Shakespearean gravitas and one of the best relationships in all of fiction.  It is fitting that two thespians occupy these key roles.

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The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods is going to be incredibly difficult to review because giving away any plot elements will ruin the unreal experience you’ll have seeing the film.  The advertising has presented the movie as a traditional slasher flick and I’m glad it did because anyone randomly looking for such a movie is in for a non-stop battle of confusion and glee.  For fans of the incalculably amazing Joss Whedon, this is just another amazing storytelling treat.

The very basic set up of the film, directed by Drew Goddard who co-wrote it with geek icon/genius Firefly creator/Avengers director Joss Whedon, is that a group of college friends are going to spend a weekend at a cabin.  That cabin is located in the woods.  There is another major plot in which two office workers (played marvelously by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) are monitoring the college vacation for mysterious purposes.  If I explain anything beyond that I’ll ruin the movie’s long string of unexpected moments, brilliant twists, amazing genre deconstructing turns and the pure shock of never having the slightest idea of what’s coming next.

Goddard and Whedon are taking the ingredients of something we’re extremely familiar with, attractive people go to a remote location and get murdered by monster/stalkers/rednecks/zombies, and baking those ingredients into a recipe we could never see coming.  They are slyly critiquing and subverting the genre at every turn.  The comparison that seems obvious is Wes Craven’s Scream and while both films are definitely getting meta on the horror genre and using audience expectations to craft humor, The Cabin in the Woods is more subtle in its exploration of genre tropes.  Ironically it’s also way more over the top, as well. Especially in the bonkers third act. Scream pointed out and analyzed what it was doing while it was doing it but still maintained the rules of a slasher movie.  Cabin takes the rules and demolishes them before giving way into full on insanity in the third act (which is one of the most unexpected and fun finales I’ve ever seen on film).

The movie has other benefits such as stellar work from the cast which includes the god of thunder Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams.  Kranz, in particular, steals the show with a wonderful take on the “funny friend/stoner” role that populates countless horror films.  He’s the first to figure out what’s going on but he’s far cry from Jamie Kennedy’s self-aware audience surrogate in Scream.  Kranz’s Marty has many of the best comedy moments and manages to make the archetype seem fresh.  Whitford and Jenkins are similarly hilarious and really make the entire flick work.  Their weary but business-as-usual routine plays perfectly off of the horror in the cabin and they have a real knack for Whedon’s signature witty dialogue.

If this all seems a bit rambly it’s because the film unscrewed my head, removed my brain in order to shake it vigorously, and then placed it back inside.  It’s a trip from start to finish blending comedy, horror, post-modernism, gore, quality CGI, and some stuff to genuinely get your brain working.  Do yourself a HUGE favor and avoid any trailers, TV spots, spoiler filled reviews, plot synopses, etc.  Then do yourself a second favor and see this one in theaters with an audience.  The mix of dumb/boring people getting mad the film isn’t what they expected and regular people slowly realizing what they’re in for is a treat, and the blend of comedy and horror plays really well with a crowd.

 

Grade: 10/10

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Guest Review: The Hunger Games

I’ve read all three Hunger Games books and I really enjoyed the first two.  I found both two be fun action novels that worked considering the reading level aimed at teens.  It’s nowhere near Harry Potter but it’s an infinite number of miles against the offensively bad Twilight series.  It features a strong female protagonist who, unlike Bella, makes decisions based on her own wants, needs, desires, circumstances, etc. rather than mindlessly fawning over two dangerous men and lacking any and all agency.  Still I did wish the books had done more with the dystopian elements.  All that being said I haven’t seen the film adaptation yet but my good friend, James Rizzi, has.  So I proudly present his review of the film (and if you’re interested in his previous guest post you can read it here):

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The Return of Mad Men and the Complicated Business of Who Rules TV

Since joining my friends’ sports/pop culture site, The Waiver Wire, I’ve decided to reduce my posts here to mostly reviews as my editorials and essays will fit into the pop culture side of my other gig.  That’s not to say I won’t be churning out reviews whenever I see something, and I’ll still be updating with relevant work I do at The Waiver Wire.  On that note I just published a piece on the premiere of Mad Men and its interesting place in the modern television landscape.  I also did some comparing and contrasting with my favorite show currently on television, Breaking Bad.  If you like any of the things I just mentioned I think you’ll enjoy checking it out by clicking here.

Be back soon with more reviews!

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