Best Show You Don't Know About

Best Show You Don't Know About
Leverage

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top 13 of 2012

Yes I know that I already listed #13 in my last post, but I split #12. It's my list nd I can do with it as I want! :)


Top Ranked- these are the films which I enjoyed the most this year-


12 & 12 1/2- 21 Jump Street & The Raid Redemption- While trying to decide between these 2 films, I decided to just split the difference. Both of these films are examples of the films being much more fun and better than they have any right to be. The Raid is the most action packed, intense big dumb action movie of the year with amazing stunts and martial arts action to match any film you can think of while 21 Jump Street is a big dumb comedy that just makes you laugh- hard. Very enjoyable in their own ways.

11- Hunger Games- I have not read the books but was very impressed by this film. As great and as tight as it was, it was Jennifer Lawrence who grounded this film and made it interesting and fascinating to watch. Without her, I think the great performances by Sutherland, Harrelson, Kravitz, Tucci, and others would have been lost in a mess of a film. Looking forward to the next one.

10- End of Watch- One of the hardest films that I have ever watched. My father started his life as a policeman as an Ogden City Policeman. While the events in the film were not exact to events he was involved with, the feeling was exactly spot-on from the stories he told me. The relationship with the partners is something that I saw and rang very true. While the “self filmed” style didn’t work a time or two, it was more than compensated for, in what I brought to the theater, the relationship between Gyllenhaal and Pena and their families and the situations in which they found themselves.

9- Pitch Perfect- I have written a full review elsewhere on my blog about this, but, to quickly review: Kendrick, laughs, great music, different types of humor and I had a great time each of the 3 times that I saw it.

8- Paranorman- I am a huge fan of stop motion animation. This film roped me in with its amazing animation, quirky sense of humor, great characterizations, and a plot that touched me. I loved it every step of the way.

7- Dark Knight Rises- I am just as shocked as anyone that this is as low on the list as it is. A great ending to a fabulous trilogy with amazing acting turns by everyone from Bale to Hathaway to Hardy to Oldman to Caine to Leavitt to Freeman. As with Paranorman, I was with it every step of the way and entranced by the sights of Gotham City destroying itself.

6- Cabin in the Woods- While I enjoy horror films, generally they do not show up in my favorites of all time lists. This one is different because it is every bit the cliché while stepping outside of its clichés to bring a fresh view of horror movies to its audience. It was written by Joss Whedon who subverts the clichés at every turn. If you have ever liked a horror film, trust me and see this one. I will not describe it any further to keep the surprises and twists for those who have yet to see it. Am I still on speaker phone????

5- Bernie- My mouth was agape during most of the runtime of this film, not quite believing what I was watching. It is filmed in documentary style with some of the real life people who lived in the town where the true events occurred discussing their feelings of the events and people involved. Add in actors portraying some of the townsfolk (such as Matthew Mccaugnahey as the attorney prosecuting the case) and Jack Black and Shirley McLaine portraying the two main characters in reenactments of the events. Then, mix in one of the strangest true-life crimes and you come up with this winning film experience unlike any other this year. I saw it twice in the theaters and twice on video so far and it will be going into my constant rotation of films to watch.

4- Looper- A time travel, sci-fi mobster movie that stars Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon Leavitt, Jeff Daniels, and Emily Blunt directed by Rian Johnson (director of ‘Brick’ and ‘Brothers Bloom’, both of which almost worked). This one knocks it out of the park. Leavitt plays a ‘Looper’ who kills people who are sent back in time by the mob of the future so that the bodies can be destroyed before they are even born. When Leavitt does not kill a potential victim (once he realizes that it is himself 30 years older), he goes after himself. There is much more to the storyline, but again, the surprise is watching it unfold. Blunt plays a very important character as well. The only small issue that I had was a small twist involving a character played by Piper Perabo, which could have been a major twist but downplayed. A very happy surprise of the year!

3- Avengers- Joss Whedon did what many naysayers said he could not do- create a multi-character superhero film out of disparate elements from 5 previous films to create something stronger than the sum of its parts. And it worked! Equal parts action, drama, comedy, with surprising turns by most of the cast kept this one plowing through the summer box office from its release on May 3rd all the way until Labor Day. A winner in all areas- this is what a summer blockbuster can be!

2- Skyfall- An excellent film in its own right, let alone, the fact that it is a James Bond film! Like The Avengers, it takes the best parts of the previous Bond films, adds an amazing cast led by Daniel Craig as Bond and Judi Dench as M, blends it with the snazzy cinematography of Roger Deakins and the assured direction of Sam Mendes, and creates a film to rival Casino Royale from several years ago and starts the Bond franchise again in style after a 4 year hiatus due to MGM’s bankruptcy. Welcome back, 007!

1-Argo- a film which takes a stranger than fiction true story, great acting and directing from ben Affleck, a mix of drama, politics, comedy, suspense and action and turns it into a white knuckle thrill ride. While any of the top 7 films could have occupied this spot, this is the one which truly knocked my socks off this year. While I was expecting great things from Whedon, and Nolan, and hoping Johnson could finally take a film of his to the finish line, and loving Bond since I was a kid especially now with Craig, Argo was the one film that I was excited to see but not sure if it would work at all and was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.

Top Movies of 2012- #58-13

Watch for my top 13 list later tonight.

This is a list of the ranking of the films that I saw this year which were released in theaters in 2012. While I saw many other films this year, some of them were much older films that I was catching up on (Rocket Science, Junior Bonner, Cincinatti Kid, Poseidon Adventure), they were officially released in 2011 and I did not see them until this year (Footloose, Immortals, for example) or they were 2011 releases that I caught up on for Oscar purposes (Artist, Tree of Life, My Week with Marilyn, Jane Eyre, et al).

While there are some that I will be seeing in the next couple of weeks that I have not yet seen (Les Mis, Django Unchained, Hobbit, Life of Pi, Jack Reacher) and others that I do want to catch up with on video (The Grey, Big Miracle, The Vow, This Means War, Gone, Lucky One, Chimpanzee, Moonrise Kingdom, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,Part of Me, The Words, Hit & Run, Lawless, The Master, Dredd, Trouble with the Curve, Sinister, Seven Psychopaths, Silent Hill revelation, Chasing mavericks, Man with the Iron Fists, Wreck It Ralph, Killing Them Softly), this is where it stands at this time.

It is very interesting to me that as I went through the different areas of the list, as I subtracted titles, my top 13 favorites really did end up being at the top even though I did not specifically select from the top down.
Without further ado, here is the list, starting at the bottom:

Bottom of the barrel-

58- Chernobyl Diaries- I only saw this because I had to wait an hour and a half to see Men in Black 3 on opening weekend and the times worked out. I wish they hadn’t. I went in expecting a few creepy moments and didn’t even get that. While the concept was cool, the acting, script, production values, everything was totally botched. Other than the general idea, there was absolutely nothing good in this film.

57- Alex Cross- Tyler Perry taking over the Alex Cross character from Morgan Freeman. Really? This is the best we can do? While a couple of the ideas are interesting (sniper from a moving train) and some of the supporting actors are great in ultra-brief roles (John C Mcginley and Rachel Nichols, to name just 2) the rest of the film is a waste. The villain is violent but uninteresting, the mystery makes no sense, the emotional moments beat you over the head, and Tyler Perry looks like he is lost without a dress.

56- Wrath of the Titans- While I found the 2010 ‘Clash of the Titans’ to be a piece of crap, at least it was fun and had Gemma Arterton. This one had neither of those factors. When an action film is boring, you know you’re in trouble. While not as completely botched as Alex Cross or Chernobyl Diaries, there was not really anything to recommend it at all


Some good moments or a good cast, but even this, unfortunately, does not take the next batch out of the huge disappointment group.

55- Wanderlust- an amazing comedic cast (Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Alan Alda, Malin Akerman, Justin Theroux, Joe LoTroglia, Lauren Ambrose, even Linda Lavin and many more) is left to fumble their way through a largely improvised script about a couple who finds themselves on a hippie type free love and live off the land community. A few huge laughs don’t make up for the long stretches of unfunniness.

54- American Reunion- The film again centers around Jason Biggs which is a huge mistake. Even though the cast is coming back for their 12th high school reunion, most of it seems as though they haven’t changed at all in the intervening years. Alyson hannigan and Eugene Levy get the film’s best moments and biggest laughs, and Seann William Scott has a nice character moment near the end, but the rest of the film seems as though they are attempting to force these characters to have more onscreen adventures just for the sole purpose of money. It doesn’t work.

53- Raven- John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe trying to help the police solve murders which are done in the style of his books. While this is just the same basic plot as the pilot for the TV show ‘Castle’, there is nothing really interesting done with it. The cast flounders and the film sputters and has some good moments, but all in all, it is very blah.

52- Snow White & the Huntsman- The first 30 minutes is very good, but then it slowly goes downhill with much more style than substance. As the friend I saw it with mentioned to me after it was over, “If they could have just turned the volume off after the first 30 minutes or so, it would have been a fabulous film.” It looked good, and Chris Hemsworth came out showing that he has real star power (Charlize Theron even did a great job, but her character just had one attribute after the ebeginning-evil), the rest of it just sat on the screen looking like a ditzy gorgeous blond- looks good but has nothing in her head.

51- Dark Shadows- Some great elements (Eva Green’s sexy witch, Elfman’s great score, Chloe Grace Moretz looking amazingly like she could actually be Michelle Pfeiffer’s rel life daughter, bits of the actual TV show’s plotlines) just couldn’t come together for a cohesive whole.


Good for what they were-pure entertainment- not really ranked, just in chronological order of release

50-Underworld- Awakening- More with Kate Beckinsale as a vampire in tight leather- nothing wrong with this at all.

49-Man on a Ledge- silly, but fun suspense thriller with a great side performance by Genesis Rodriguez.

48- Safe House- Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington in a throw-away action movie. Fun action scenes but very forgettable.

47- Ghost Rider 2- A flaming skull riding a motorcycle doing the devil’s bidding. Very cool, but another forgettable action movie. With Anthony Stewart Head in a throw away 30-second role.

46- Lockout- More Luc Besson good guys vs bad guys in space prison. You get what you expect Maggie Grace and Guy Pirece acquit themselves well.

45- Abraham Lincoln- Vampire Hunter- some fun ideas that are poorly executed more often than not.

44- Expendables 2- the 80’s action bad boys are back. Again, you get exactly what you expect. One heck of a 10 minute opening sequence, though.

43- Premium Rush- Joseph Gordon Leavitt does what he can to elevate this almost-shot-in-real-time chase movie . It’s fun, but, again, forgettable.

42- Taken 2- Nowhere near as good as the first one. The action is not shot as well and the script is much more silly (how many times can we leave Famke Janssen alone just so she can get kidnapped again IN THE SAME FILM???), but Maggie Grace uses her action chops she got from Lockout and gets into it more this time around. Neeson is awesome as always, but just a fu action flick, nothing more.

41- Paranormal Activity 4- While the Wii moments and the final 10 minutes are standouts, a lot of this film is waiting for something to happen, and not much does. Good to see Kathryn Newton getting back into acting after Gary Unmarried, and much more Katie Featherston in this one to move the mythology along- I just wish they could have done more with it.

40- Red Dawn- A fun update of the 1985 original. Nothing spectacular, but again, easy to see that hemsworth is a star.


Good for what they were, but had a lot to live up to and did not quite make it

39- Prometheus- When 2 of the most intense sequences of the year are from this film and yet they make no real sense to the continuity of the film, there is something wrong. Great ideas and great stand alone sequences do not add up to a cohesive whole, unfortunately.

38- Rock of Ages- With the cast it has( Tom Cruise, Julianne Hugh, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta Jones, Bryan Cranston, Paul Giamatti, HeyMan, and many more), it should have been better. As it is, it is an awful lot of fun, but for every good thing it has, there is at least 1 bad thing in it. The overall experience is fun, but the mai story does not work.

37- Savages- Oliver Stone getting back to his Natural Born Killers vibe. The actors do a fine job, but the characters are just not really interesting or intriguing and when your “heroes” are not even really interesting anti-heroes, it just falls flat more often than not. This is an issue with the main story, not the acting or directing. Although the 2 endings is a little weird and takes the wind out of the film as a whole.

36- Bourne Legacy- With a couple of great action scenes, particularly the ending motorcycle chase, an intriguing story, and good acting (Renner, Weisz, Allen, Norton, and others), it is nowhere near a waste, but the ending does not end. While the endings of the previous Bourne films always left a thread hanging to send a sequel to latch onto, this one is nothing but a non-ending. Not bad, just doesn’t live up as a whole to the others.


Good for what they were, and surprisingly better than I expected

35- Act of Valor- Yes, the acting is horrible, but the scenes of the actual Navy SEALs doing their jobs and the emotion behind it as whole, this film still works, even though it is about as bad in spots as filmmaking can get.

34- Safe- A Jason Statham action film with some actual character moments and believable emotions. Who would have thought it was possible?

33- Ted- While it hits ever so slightly more than it misses, this is still a very hit-or-miss comedy. But the bits that work are so amazingly funny, with fabulous acting from Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis in this silly comedy, that it actually works as a whole.

32- Chronicle- A mix of superhero and found footage film, this posits the question of ‘What if a normal teenager got superpowers but did not necessarily use them for good?” A much more satisfying film than I was expecting.

31- One for the Money- Yes, this is a completely breezy adaptation of the first boo in the Stephanie Plum series and yes, it stars Katherine Heigl (an actress I only like on rare occasions) but this is just a fun entertaining time at the movies that I liked much more than I was expecting. I would totally be up for another cinematic adventure with Stephanie Plum.

30- Contraband- A heist movie with some very dark moments. Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale are great in this with a nice ever so slight twist and a plot that doesn’t quite go where expected. Not amazing, but fun.

29- Battleship- After a completely awful opening 30-40 minutes, this movie settles in and is a great blockbuster action movie. Trim that opening down to 10-15 minutes and it would have been a much bigger hit. I think this is better than all 3 Transformers films combined. A big, dumb action spectacle. And there is nothing wrong with that.

28- Amazing Spider Man- while there was no need for a complete reboot and retelling of the origin story, the cast more than makes up for it. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are spectacular together onscreen with Denis Leary, Martin Sheen and Saly Field also having fun in the Spider Man sandbox. I will admit that I am much more excited to see the sequel than I am to watch this film again, but it was much better than it had any right to be. Add Shailene Woodley in as Mary Jane in the sequel and the cast alone will make it worth it. Extra points go to this film for the scene where Flash tries to give his condolences to Peter. Very nice character moment on both sides.

27- Five Year Engagement- Great cast and some big laughs which are sidetracked by a film that runs a touch under 2 hours and 10 minutes. A lot of subplots that don’t really add to the film, but Jason Segal and Emily Blunt are great together!

26- Haywire- While Gina Carano is not a great actress, this film is all about the action scenes of her beating up Hollywood men in one-on-one fashion. A fun Saturday night film!

25- What to Expect When You’re Expecting- While not a fan of some of the cast (Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez), they even do good work among the many other actors and actresses in this film. There are some great laughs and some great emotional moments as well. While a definite chick flick, one that works as well. My only major complaint: the strongest acting and character (Anna Kendrick) gets sidelined for the second half of the film since, apparently her story is not as interesting….. Great moments also by Dennis Quaid and Ben Falcone (Air ashal John from last year’s Bridesmaids).

24- Total Recall- A new re-imagining of the Phillip K Dick story with a much more dark take on the material and no Mars scenes. Bokeem Woodbine is the standout actor, while Colin Ferrell and Jessica Biel have great battles with an amazingly evil-and-enjoying-it Kate Beckinsale.

23- John Carter- I do not understand why this film got as maligned as it did. I thought it was a fun version of the story and while, yes, some of the scenes felt like we had been there done that, the scenes originally came from John Carter books and it shouldn’t be penalized for that. The film oooked great and had some thrilling sequences. While a touch too padded, it was a fun ride and Lynn Collins stood tot to toe with Taylor Kitsch every step of the way.

22- Men in Black 3- Some amazing work by Josh Brolin as a young Tommy Lee Jones (Brolin did all of the vocal work himself), a fabulous new character (the seeing all futures at once Michael Stuhlberg), and a great new villain along with the expected fun acting of Will Smith, Emma Thompson, Alice Eve, and an unexpectedly touching ending made this a very worthy sequel to the original.



Great films, but missing that extra little “thing”

21- Pirates- Band of Misfits- Great stop motion by Aardman Animation (of Wallace & Gromit fame) and some very inventive sequences do not quite make up for a slightly plodding plot. I had a great time with this but a bit more of a tighter edit could have helped this one jump up in the ranks. Very fun for all members of the family, though and a much better kids film than most of them out there. Why did this only make 20% of what The Lorax made?

20- Brave- This is a problem with the high expectations that Pixar has created for itself.While a fabulous film n its own right, it is just a 10 out of 10 and not the 14 out of 10 that we have come to expect from Pixar. The animation and voice work is incredible (look at the individual strands of her red hair! Along with the pantomime by the “bear”) , but it is just missing that extra Pixar spark.

19- Cirque de Soleil- Worlds Away- If you have seen anything done by Cirque de Soleil, you will know what to expect. This does not hold together at all as a film, but it is a very cool experience. It is basically a ‘best of’ package from 7 of their different shows in Vegas at this time. Highly recommended for Cirque fans. Not sure if it is a good intro for Cirque newbies, though.

18- Frankenweenie- Great stop motion animation with quirky character designs and a lot of love for the old classic Universal monster movies. The more of those classic films that you have seen, the more you will enjoy this. While a great film in its own right, not as good or entertaining as the other animated film higher on my list.

17- Magic Mike- Some great character moments, an engaging character played by Channing tatum, a sleazeball played by Matthew McConaghey, and a very realistic sense of place made this much more than the “male stripper movie”. While my least favorite movie going experience in a very long time (it was marred by a really creepy audience and several strange things directed to me personally by that audience), it was a much deeper and darker portrayal of the male stripper lifestyle. While I think it will go down in many people’s memories as a film like ‘Saturday Night Fever’ (where people only remember the dancing), it also has the much darker tones and character shading that ‘Fever’ had as well.

16- Flight- Absolutely stunning performances( by Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood) and an amazingly intense plane crash sequence still cannot quite overcome the Hallmark Movie of the Week melodramatic script about an addict overcoming his addiction. I would have no problem if anyone from this cast gets awarded for their performances, though.

15- Lincoln- The script is my major issue with this film. While fabulous acting and filmmaking is all over this film, the script seems ever so slightly boring. Not the events or anything like that, it just doesn’t have the extra punch. While critics and audiences are falling all over themselves praising this film (all of it rightfully deserved), I cant help but wonder what might have been if Aaron Sorkin would have written the script instead of Tony Kushner (whose script also ever so slightly marred Munich, in my opinion).

14- Silver Linings Playbook- Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert Deniro all bounce off of one another in a big way in this romantic comedy/drama dealing with mental illness in many different forms. Everyone is at the top of their game, but it just doesn’t quite come together at the end. Elfman’s score is very different for him and a great sound!

13- Best Exotic Marigold Hotel- To see the best older British actors working in film today, see this film! Fabulous acting and some touching stories almost make up for one or two boring or predictable moments in this film. Missed out on the top tier of films by a smidge, but still very much worth your time!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Love & Death & Christmas

In May of 2010, Aleisha's grandma died. Then, June 12, 2010, my dad died. The day before Thanksgiving of 2010, my cousin was killed in a plane accident. Needless to say, we did not feel festive that year and put up no Christmas decorations. As the holidays came around in 2011, we got out a few minor decorations (my Grinch sled, Max the dog, and a few mangers, but no lights were put up as we still did not feel festive. As the holidays of 2012 approached, I felt like I wanted to celebrate again. I started listening to Christmas music on November 1st and started getting excited. Then, on November 12th, one of our cats, Forti, was discovered run over in the parking lot and I saw his back crushed and his eyes bugged out. I felt sad and it dampened the mood a touch, but I was still looking forward to the holiday season. Thanksgiving came and went and I had a blast with 2 full Thanksgiving dinners. The day before Thanksgiving, we visited my uncle Dennis in the hospital (who had been in and out of the hospital since September 15th) and had a good time visiting with him. We decided to go to my mom's in Hurricane and celebrate Christmas with her on the weekend of December 9th. As we were heading out the door, we noticed that our 12 year old cat, Harry, was looking very sick. His nose was dry and crusty and Aleisha alerted me to the fact that he had urinated on himself earlier that day while I was at work. With the car already packed for the trip, we took Harry to the vet. And found out he was dying of liver failure and only had a few days left to live. So, we decided to put him to sleep. We held him one more time and I went to finish trip packing while Aleisha was with him as he was put to sleep (I could not be there to watch it). Then, we went on the vacation and cried most of the way down. Worst. Beginning. to a vacation. ever. The weekend celebration was muted somewhat. But, I still was excited to put up decorations, but, with the 2 jobs I have, it was tough to find the time. On Friday, December 14th, my Uncle had emergency surgery and it was discovered that the cancer he had that they thought could be cured, was still growing, ripping apart his internal organs, his kidney was dead, his vascular system was shutting down, his lungs were filling up with fluid and, it was discovered on Thursday December 20th, that he was terminal with no way to save him. On Saturday, December 22nd, Uncle Denis decided that he was going to stop fighting and he decided to be taken off of everything and spend the holiday with his family surrounding him and enjoy his last few days. On Sunday, December 23rd, he was transferred to his daughter's house where he will spend the end of his life and we are now pretty much awaiting word that he has died. Amazingly enough, I found time to put up the lights and more decorations than we have had in the past 3 years. While not totally decked out, our house pleases me with the decorations that we do have and I am really feeling the spirit of Christmas this year. Why? This is the question which has been in the back of my head for the last few days. and I think that I finally have an answer. Christmas is the celebration of the birtn of Christ who came to Earth to be our Savior so that we could live again- truly live again. While I still have the separation anxiety of death and not being able to see my loved ones again for a long time, I do know that I will see them again. Of that I have no doubt. And this was brought to pass by the Birth of our Savior who lived a perfect life and died for us and took his life again in resurrection. This is the meaning of Christmas. This is why we celebrate the season and the giving of gifts ad the lights and the trees and the decorations. But it is all about Christ and the love that He brought to this earth so that death is only a temporary thing nd we may be able to live and love our family and friends again after this life.