I've been woefully absent from the blog lately, but have definitely seen some interesting movies of 2012. Here are some (very) quick thoughts on what I've been catching up with.
It may be the best movie I've seen so far this year, but you may (depending on your tolerance for ambiguity) also hate it. A movie that compels and repels at the same time, giving us hypnotic images and gorgeous cinematography in the service of some alienating characters. Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman give brilliant performances in Paul Thomas Anderson's epic that plumbs the depth of a damaged psyche and his relationship with a cult leader. What Anderson is saying about American society I am still deciphering and debating, but it has definitely stuck with me.
A wonderfully paced, completely engaging, nailbitingly tense look at one small aspect of the Iranian hostage crisis. The two hours zip by, and Ben Affleck (who made the very good crime films Gone Baby Gone and The Town) takes a step up in ambition and scope. A really good movie-my only qualm is its overdramitization in some of its final moments. I fully expect this to be a major Oscar player.
A time-travel movie that manages to be wholly original in the service of an action-packed and thought-provoking story. All three lead actors (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt) are great, and it ends with quite an original twist. I could have done with a bit more nerdy time-travel stuff and less action, but perhaps that's just me.
The Dark Knight Rises
Does a lot of what Nolan's Batman movies have done best-great action pieces, good backstory, and a compelling cast. I also loved Anne Hathaway, who brought a sense of fun to her role as Selina Kyle (AKA Catwoman). At times, though, I wish Nolan would give in a bit more to the playfulness of superhero movies instead of making everything so crushingly dark and self-serious. It also has a lead villain (Bane) who suffers quite a bit in the charisma department. Certainly not as strong as The Dark Knight, but a worthy end to the trilogy.
The Bourne Legacy
Matt Damon's gone, but Jeremy Renner does a great job of taking over and adding another chapter of the tense, brainy (for action films), and fast-paced Bourne movies. Rachel Weisz is also great as Renner's partner in fleeing from nefarious agents. I saw this a couple of months ago and honestly don't remember all the ins and outs of the plot, but it was a lot of fun to watch.
This Sundance-hit is about a disabled man in an iron lung (John Hawkes) who sets out to experience sex for the first time with a "sex surrogate" (Helen Hunt). Despite the topic, the movie actually manages to be quite sweet and almost tasteful. It also goes about every place you would expect it to, and doesn't give many surprises. I enjoyed it, but kept wishing these two great performances were in a movie that was a little tougher or more complex. You'll definitely see both Hawkes' and Hunt's names on Oscar nomination morning.
Safety Not Guaranteed
Like Looper, also about time travel... and that's where the similarities end. An indie comedy that doesn't push the quirkiness too far. Modest to the extreme, but fun to watch and I really liked Aubrey Plaza (April from Parks and Recreation) in her deadpan role that allowed her flashes of heart.
The megahit of the summer has a great cast having lots of fun with their roles. My favorites were Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. I liked it and its sense of fun, but like many action movies, I eventually got tired of the chase scenes.
Saw this when I did a summer double screening. Definitely some funny bits, but it felt too long even at less than 90 minutes. Zach Galifanikis actually outdoes Will Ferrel in funny moments. Worth a look on DVD if you are fans of the actors.