Critical Condition

2012: What I Missed

   

 

You may or may not have noticed, but I haven't been doing this in a while.  By this, I mean this... reviewing films, bothering you with my opinion, going all Harry Knowles on you (and by that, I mean going off on unnecessary tangents, not collapsing balconies).  My point is, I've been away for a while.

Why have I been away?  A number of reasons.  Those of you who have acute senses of observation will notice that the entire site has been update-poor for the last year.  It's been a number of personal things, a little bit of ennui, and a little bit of life completely sucking.

But I'm back and ready to go at this again.  I was thinking about doing and top and bottom ten of 2012, but I haven't seen enough 2012 movies to really do one justice, so that will have to wait.  Instead, I'm just going to do a quick and dirty rundown of everything I have seen this year with short nasty little reviews to go along with them.  Perhaps, if it is demanded (by my ego, not you, because it's all that matters) I will expand on them and write more, but for now, this is all you're getting so enjoy.  Let's start back in January with...

Underworld: Awakening

Underworld AwakeningAs you know, I've been a long-time admirer and defender of these movies even though they are convoluted and unnecessarily complicated.  With Underworld: Awakening, I join the throngs of haters.  This movie was terrible.

Rejoining Selene, the star of the first two movies who was temporarily cast aside for the prequel, Awakening catapults her into the future where she has been held in suspended animation for twelve years and awakens (Ha!  I just got it!) in a world where humans are well aware of the vampire and lycan threat.

You would think that Awakening would be a neat point to do a reboot of the entire franchise, but instead it's just more complication, more reliance on old point points, more endless shooting, and an annoying cliffhanger ending that relies on a star of the movie who isn't even in the movie.  Underworld Awakening is just more of the same... ignoring new audiences, losing the old audiences.

I'm so bored with it all now.

2 Stars

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Chronicle

ChronicleMany of you have expressed, shall we say, a small amount of disdain for found footage movies and, let me just say, I'm right there with you, brother.  Yeah, you've got the occasional winners like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and Grave Encounters, but overall, it's a bloated field littered with the decaying corpses of a hundred cheap movies doing exactly the same thing.

That's why I love Chronicle so much.  It takes the stinky bloated carcass of found-footage movies and does something new with it in some of the most inventive ways I have witnessed.

What's more is that it doesn't follow the old formula either.  The shaky cam is largely absent, there's no horror element to be found, and the story is actually engaging.

Big kudos to Dane Dehaan who played Andrew.  There's a bright future for this kid if he keeps getting roles like this.

I loved it.  Semi-comedic, somewhat serious, and always entertaining... Chronicle deserves a large credit for breathing new life into a lazy genre.

9 Stars

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Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Journey 2: The Mysterious IslandAppropriately, the title is the most clever thing about Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.

Though not mind-killingly painful, Journey 2 is annoyingly cheap and childish.  This sequel to the other annoying cheap and childish movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth, finds The Rock taking over babysitting duties as he protects a couple of annoying kids from the dangers of a strange island as they hunt for Michael Caine who, it seems, hasn't learned his lesson from Jaws 4.

This movie is not only childish, but it commits the greatest sin by not actually trying to be good... just "good enough" which is never "good enough."

I've seen worse, but rarely have I seen anything this annoying.

3.5 Stars

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The Woman in Black

The Woman in BlackThe Woman in Black is so gloriously creepy and atmospheric that it doesn't matter that the movie moves at a snail's pace.  It knows where it's going and it's going to suck you in and drag you along with it.

It's a new take on the old classic haunted house/vengeful ghost story.  Baby-eyed Daniel Radcliff is instantly easy to sympathize with as the hapless victim of the ghostly shenanigans and location of the home in question is creepy and wonderfully set.

This is a movie that is methodical, mysterious and frightening all the way through.  A true treat for anyone who loves a good spooky story.

9.5 Stars

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Ghost Rider: Spirit of VengeanceWhat is the deal here?  We can't get a sequel to Ghostbusters or Roger Rabbit, but a Ghost Rider sequel assembles itself out of the ether for no reason whatsoever and we're just supposed to smile and accept it?

As expected, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a special kind of terrible.  This is Nicholas Cage off his meds and unbridled by a director who is apparently afraid of what this maniac will do if he attempts to control him.  It's almost like two movies exist at the same time... a serious movie and some sort of screwball comedy that Cage and Cage alone thinks he's in.

It doesn't help that the movie is weighted down by dialogue that is pointless and unnecessary and that only serve as placeholders until an action sequence takes place.

I know a lot of people think that comic book movies are dumb and brainless.  Let me tell you, you won't find any dumber or any brainlesser than this shlocky mess of a sequel no one wanted.

Remember when Nicholas Cage won an Oscar?

0.5 Stars

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Eric and Tim's Billion Dollar Movie

Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar MovieThere must be some sort of hipster avant-garde movement I'm not aware of.  A comedy without laughs... in which case, this movie is genius.

Of course, I say that in full sarcasm.  This movie is probably one of if not the worst movies I have seen all year.  Humorless, pointless, so full of gross-out humor that even it loses all of its impact, and full of star cameos from people who honestly should have known better.

I'm sure that someone will tell me that Eric and Tim are hilarious and defend them with zeal and ferocity, but I can assure you that, whatever the intention they had when they made this movie, it's not experimental, it's not pleasant, it's not funny... it's simply awful.

0 Stars

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John Carter

John CarterTo my great surprise, John Carter (of Mars) was actually a lot of fun.  Yeah, it's getting knocked about because it was a colossal failure and Taylor Kitsch has basically become box office poison, but still... it's a lot of fun.

While I can easily see why this film didn't get a foothold in the market thanks to a piss poor marketing campaign and an unusual take on the sci-fi genre, the action adventure and unique technological elements held within its runtime more than make up for the lackluster performance of the leading man and some of the unnecessary goofball moments that it coughs up like Martian hairballs.

The scale of this movie is so impressive that I would probably give it a recommendation just for that, but overall I think that it's paced perfectly and satiates an inner need for an old-fashioned grand frontier adventure.  It kind of sucks that it bombed so stunningly when other movies deserved its fate far more.  Cough. Cough. Twilight Cough cough.

7.5 Stars

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21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street21 Jump Street is another movie that took me by surprise.  In an age where old TV shows are ripe pickings for lazy writers and directors, it's rare to see something this original and this entertaining done with one of them.

First of all, this movie is hilarious and, when I say hilarious, I mean consistently hilarious.  Comedies nowadays seem content with three or four funny scenes that usually are spoiled in the trailer, but 21 Jump Street is funny from beginning to end.  What's more is that I completely bought the friendship between Channing Tatum (who is famous on looks alone) and Jonah Hill (who is famous for God knows what).  This is actually the first movie I've seen with these guys where I wasn't actively despising them or wondering why they make more money than I do.

21 Jump Street is hilariously clever too as if it knows your expectations and takes delight in screwing with them the entire time.  It's also self aware enough to make fun of itself, but not so self aware that it becomes annoying.

21 Jump Street is intelligently stupid, with enough affection for the source material to be true to it, but with enough brains to playfully mock everything about it, Hollywood, and the YouTube generation.

9 Stars

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The Hunger Games

The Hunger GamesIf you're tired of me bashing Twilight, well... too bad.  Twilight is awful.  It's one of the most damaging things to ever come out of literature since Mein Kampf and, with the introduction of The Hunger Games and the quick disappearance of the last Twilight movie, perhaps things will finally even out.

For you see, unlike Twilight, The Hunger Games is actually good for would-be readers.  It's got a strong female lead, it's not written on a third grade level, and it brings up real questions of morality.

The movie, however, is not all that good.  Sure, it's strongly acted, but the direction is awful.  Yeah, I know that they were trying to show violence without actually showing violence to keep their PG-13 rating, but did the camera have to shake all the time?  Couldn't it have been still for just a few minutes during a quiet scene?  The camera didn't shake this much during The Blair Witch Project!

It's such a shame that the rest of the movie was actually pretty good, but it's all detracted from by the piss-poor camera work that is a constant thing throughout the movie. 

It just goes to show that, when making a film, everything has to click and just one bad variable can bring the whole thing crashing down on a level it doesn't deserve to be.

6.5 Stars

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The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the WoodsTalk about a come out of nowhere surprise, The Cabin in the Woods is easily... easily a contender for my favorite movie of the year.  This movie came at me with a refreshing take on horror and such a unique story that you actually have to watch it two or three times to fully appreciate the genius behind it.

I literally loved everything about this movie. The casting was perfect, the location was perfect, the music, writing, and special effects were perfect.  The Cabin in the Woods is a loving tribute to horrific slasher movies as well as a steely slap to the face of the same genre.

This movie is nothing short of brilliant.

10 Stars

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Lockout

Lockout (Unrated)It's almost as if someone wrote a decent sci-fi escape movie and then gave the script to a bunch of drunken annoying frat boys and told them, "Write the dialogue for the hero!" After about three hours, those frat boys were done and the script for Lockout was complete.

I can't fault this movie too much.  At its core, it's fun... a stupid daft kind of fun that you hate yourself for having with with, but the movie is also resplendent with out of place and badly written one-liners designed to make the hero seem cool and edgy, but doing nothing than making the hero look like he's trying too hard to be cool and edgy.

In the end, between the bad special effects of the opening chase scene, the closing scene where two characters parachute gently to Earth from orbit, and the overwhelming urge to want to punch Guy Peirce in the face every time he says something, this movie is a goddamn mess.

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Marvel's The Avengers

Marvel's The AvengersAn exclamation point put on the end of a sentence started all those years ago with Iron Man, expectations were high for The Avengers and those expectations where knocked out of the park.  Not only out of the park, but into orbit.

One cannot underestimate the sheer scope or ambition of this movie.  It has done something that has never been done before - a combination sequel of four different film series into one gigantic epic humongous action adventure that is both large, humorous, and full of humanity.

And, honestly, who would have ever thought that after two mediocre movies, Hulk would finally be done right?

Usually, my enthusiasm for movies like this wanes over time, but here it is... seven months since I first saw this movie and my enthusiasm is still with me.  Not only was The Avengers a great movie, it was something incredibly special and that is a quality that should not be underestimated.

10 Stars

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Dark Shadows

Dark ShadowsI have a theory that Tim Burton walks into an office full of writers and says, "Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, pale skin, funny hair!  MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!" and everyone is too polite to tell him that he's demanded the same thing, like, twenty times already.  One of these days, he's going to lose it, and make a movie called Johnny Depp that stars Helena Bonham Carter as Johnny Depp.

So, yeah... Dark Shadows is another lazy movie from Tim Burton and, arguably, one of his most dull.  It's supposed to be a comedy, but it's not funny... it's supposed to be scary, but it's not.  It's just going through the same lazy motions yet again with no regard for anything other than what will sell at Hot Topic.

Remember how I said 21 Jump Street is a movie-based-on-a-TV-show done right?  Say hello to the other side of the coin.

It anything, I guess I can thank Dark Shadows for making the Twilight vampires just a little more tolerable.

Just a little.

2.5 Stars

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The Dictator

The DictatorThe Dictator falls somewhere between the brilliant Borat and the awful Bruno meaning that it's half-funny and half-not-funny.

The parts that are funny are chuckle worthy, and the ones that aren't will have you just cocking your head at the screen and wondering, "Wow?  Is that it?"

The Dictator doesn't have the teeth of Sacha Baron Cohen's earlier films, nor does it have the devil may care, get a laugh at any expense bullishness of his previous works.  I may not have liked Bruno, but I respected Cohen's bravery in many of the scenes.  With The Dictator, it's all sacrificed to make some sort of romantic comedy and that's an unfortunate decision... very very unfortunate.

The movie isn't even that shocking, to be honest.  You almost get the idea that Cohen is retracing the steps of movies like Team America: World Police and that all of the gags had been done before.

Is it funny?  Sure, but it's all lowball and disappointing.

5 Stars

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Battleship

BattleshipSurprisingly, for a movie so reviled, I actually sort of liked Battleship on a Beavis and Butt-Head kind of level.

Sure, it's badly written and, to be honest, far too long for its own good, but every now and then I caught myself going, "Huh huh, that was cool."

This Beavis and Butt-Head type of love is tempered, however, because I fully recognized what a base form of escapism this is.  It's got spectacle and excitement along with a few cool ideas, but overall, it's a perplexing and distended actioner overpowered by special effects and loud noises.

Battleship could have been a lot worse, but given how silly it already is, that's not high praise.  A little bit of tongue in cheek humor would have probably gone a long way as well as starting the final act about an hour earlier.

Taylor Kitsch really is box office poison, isn't he? 

2.5 Stars

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Men in Black III

Men in Black IIIThe Men in Black franchise is a movie series that has never exactly found its footing and that's really a shame.  The first movie rates as just okay, the second was pretty awful and the third... well, I'll just come out and say that the third one is pretty good.  Not great, but pretty good.

 There's nothing unusually spectacular about this movie, everything is as is always has been.  I will say that Josh Brolin and Jemaine Clement are very entertaining, but it never leaves the good level to graduate up to the great level which is, sadly, the curse of the MiB movies.

Still, Men in Black III does end rather strong with a pretty good climax at Cape Kennedy and a twist that, well... you see coming from a mile away, but the heart that it displays makes you hopeful that, if there is a Men in Black IV, they'll finally get it right next time.

6 Stars

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Snow White and the Huntsman 

Snow White and the HuntsmanIf you hate having fun or being entertained, this is the movie for you.  Snow White and the Huntsman is a dreary and nearly unwatchable new take on Snow White that is destroyed from within by bad acting and a confusing and unnecessarily dark story.  Did anyone in this movie smile once?  Is there another color available on this set besides gray?

Snow White and the Huntsman is a movie trudging through mud which would be okay if it actually knew where it was going.  Instead, it shuffles along in the colorless world designed by depressed art directors and writers trying to make us care about actors who don't seem to care about their characters.

Rarely have I ever witnessed a movie so determined to make itself so unentertaining.

One Star

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Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most WantedProbably the biggest surprise of 2012 is that, not only did the latest Madagascar movie not suck, but it turned out to be the best of the entire bunch.

The movie is endlessly entertaining with new characters that seem more alive than ever.  Vitaly the tiger, for example, seems like he's just going to be a big band-guy brute, but he turns out to be the most fascinating and damaged character in the movie.

There is a wonderful moment at the opening of the third act when the characters finally get home and stand at the gates of the zoo they escaped from three movies ago that brings the four friends full circle and it is such a wonderful moment in a wonderful movie.

Great humor, great music, a terrific villain and more... color me surprised, but Madagascar 3 was a great movie and, if they end the trilogy with this one (and they should) it leaves our heroes in the most appropriate place imaginable.

9 stars

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Prometheus

PrometheusIt really disappoints me when people say that Prometheus was the worst movie of the year.  I'm not disappointed in this movie, I'm disappointed in people who are unable to be content with questions instead of convenient answers.

To me, while not a perfect movie at all, Prometheus was a perfectly cerebral offering giving us wonder and some very scary scenes (medbay, anyone?).  Yes, some of the choices were a little confounding as far as casting and exposition went, but does that make it the worst movie of the year?  Absolutely not.

Prometheus is a perfectly good movie.  Haunting, grotesque, mysterious, and not leaving answers like little M&Ms all over the place.  This is a movie that wants you to think and debate... small wonder that those detractors like to engage in neither.

8 Stars

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterI have a slight love/hate relationship with this movie.  On one hand, I loved the story and the alternate take on American history.  The very idea is hilarious.

The thing I hate about this movie?  It takes a hilarious idea and takes it so damn seriously.  The result is a movie that demands one thing, but delivers something completely different.  It's played up as straight drama and action and it's a mistake... big mistake.

Looking beyond that, however, it's a serviceable supernatural tale that works much better during Abe's later life than it does during his younger years.  Some may call the idea that vampires were using slaves as food distasteful, but since when did movie bad guys care about political correctness?

It sort of works, it sort of doesn't... It could have done with a lot more fun, but as it is... not terrible.

5.5 Stars\

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Brave

BraveBrave is actually the most grown up story that Pixar has ever told.  Despite the magic, witches, and fairies that you find while watching it, the crux of the story is a simple relationship between a stubborn woman and her willful daughter

What you get in this movie is surprising maturity, flawed characters, and a beautiful sense of moroseness and love.

It also doesn't hurt that there are moments in it that are funny as hell and other moments that will shock you beyond belief.  How the men got out of the tower, for example... very shocked that Pixar was able to get away with that.

Another great offering from Pixar to get the shit taste of Cars 2 out of our mouths.

9 Stars

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Ted

TedAnother big surprise this year, for me at least, was just how goddamn good Ted was.  I went into this thing expecting the same old same old from Seth MacFarland and got a movie that was both crass and sentimental in its execution.

Not only does the movie offer some genuine emotion with its tactless humor, the laughter it elicits is consistent and the movie says something important about choices and maturity.

I loved this movie and I want a stuffed Ted of my own.

8.5 Stars

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The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-ManSome reboots work, and some don't.  I know a lot of you liked this movie and that's fine, but it just didn't work for me.  Aside from spending much of its opening moments on the origin story that we've seen a million damn times already, Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker comes off as a sarcastic asshole it's nearly impossible to empathize with.  I mean, come on... he breaks his word with a dying man within FIVE MINUTES of making it all because he wants to score some tail!

There was really nothing new or exciting about this movie, I really only remember one good action sequence in the entire thing, and the Lizard's plan to lizardize the entire population of New York was so mind-numbingly stupid that I'm surprised the audience took it seriously in the first place.

I found this new Spider-Man amazing... Amazingly unnecessary, amazingly charmless, and amazingly unfunny, and amazingly heartless.

3 Stars

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Ice Age: Continental Drift

Ice Age: Continental DriftStop the epoch, I want to get off.

As a long time supporter and defender of the Ice Age movies, this is where I hop off.  Ice Age: Continental Drift is a humorless assembly line effort containing none of the fun that the first three movies had. 

This is what I'm afraid Madagascar will turn into if DreamWorks can't say no.

The new characters in Ice Age 4 are horrible from the awful now-teenage daughter, Peaches to the horribly annoying character of Granny.  Never have I wanted a mass extinction to happen to a more deserving group of assholes.

Hey, DreamWorks... it's time to stop!

2.5 Stars

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The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight RisesGrim, gritty, and thoughtful... The Dark Knight Rises brings about an appropriate end to Christopher Nolan's Batman tales as Batman not only has to fight a new threat to Gotham, but also his own body and will to fight that betrays him with age.

Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway are glorious additions to the cast as Bane and Catwoman (who is never called Catwoman, but she's Catwoman, goddammit!).  Hardy plays himself almost like a prize fighter from the 1920s and, for some reason, it works.  Bane is not only dangerous when he throws a punch, he's dangerous when he uses his mind and that makes him a perfect villain.

While, yes, the movie may be a little too long and the final act lurches into endless pummeling, when the movie is over, it's more than obvious that it's the greatest superhero trilogy of all time.

9 Stars

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Total Recall

Total RecallIf ever there was a remake that didn't need to exist, it's this one.  Let's face it, Arnold Swartzenagger's Total Recall is a sci-fi classic.  This one... it will be a shameful footnote.

Sure, the special effects are better than the 1991 version of the movie, but it's also lacking the fun, the scope, and the grittiness of the original.  Here, Colin Farrell is about as intimidating as a lost little kitten and the movie doesn't seem to know where it's going.

This is just a piss poor excuse to capitalize on someone else's work.  The most amusing thing about the Total Recall remake is that it's from a company called "Original Film."

That word... I don't think you know what it means!

2 stars

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The Campaign

The CampaignAll I ask from my movies is that they make me laugh at regular intervals.  Don't make me laugh once and then make me wait ten minutes to laugh again... be consistently funny!  That's all I want!

The Campaign is a consistently funny movie and, from a comedy, that's all I want!  I don't really require a movie about politics to be educational or make me aware... just make me laugh at the absurdity of it all and, yes... that's just what The Campaign does masterfully.

This is Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell at their very best delivering a somewhat blunt and obvious slam against politics, but as I said... it's funny.  Hilariously funny.  The two stars are politicizing against each other and, for once... the public are the winners.

8.5 Stars

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ParaNorman

ParaNormanIt's rare to find a movie as amusingly and slyly subversive as ParaNorman.

On its surface, it is what it is... a story about a young boy who can speak to ghosts trying to undo a curse on his hometown.  Underneath, though, is a story about bullying throughout the ages that is delivered to the audience with gusto on the end of a baseball bat.

This movie delves into some deep and dark places with an emotional impact that can be both shocking and sad.  When it's all over, Paranorman handles the subject matter with far more maturity that its live-action counterparts and tells a wonderful story along with it.

ParaNorman is, simply put, an amazing movie.  Smart, scary, heartfelt, surprising, and beautifully animated.  This movie is something special and easily ranks as one of the best of the year.

10 Stars

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Resident Evil: Retribution

Resident Evil: RetributionDear God, why do they make these horrible movies anymore?  I don't care... the public doesn't care.  Hell, I don't even think the people who make these movies care.  They seem to pop into existence like a deformed child to be regarded with sympatric disgust and then allowed to limp off to the Blockbuster bargain bin where they will be safe from prying eyes.

This intellectually and emotionally vacuous motion picture is loud, dumb, and annoying with little regard for story or common goddamn sense.

I hated every painful thudding picosecond of this god-awful train wreck and hope and pray that this mess is over.  Given the cliffhanger ending, I'm fairly certain it isn't... which is the true horror of this series.

Zero Stars

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Dredd

Dredd 3DLord below, I enjoyed this movie so goddamned much.  This straight up and simple take on Judge Dredd is the kind of movie that the first attempt only wishes it could be.  Dredd is brutal, cold, and gritty with a creamy center of awesome.

As I said, it's a simple story of survival and justice... in the end, the world isn't saved and society isn't redefined, it's just a day in the life of Dredd.  It's also one of the more clever uses of 3D I've seen in along time and, remember... I fucking hate 3D.

Karl Urban is a good fit for the role, even if his exaggerated scowl is more comical than intimidating.  Still, this is the character who never smiles, so what are you going to do?

8.5 Stars

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Hotel Transylvania

Hotel TransylvaniaHotel Transylvania is a harmless little fluff piece.  It isn't trying to change the world or deliver a message, it just wants to make some coin during the Halloween season.  Nothing wrong with that, after all... Hollywood is a business and to that, I can say that Hotel Transylvania isn't horrible.  I wouldn't give it any awards or even buy it on home video (well, my kids will probably want it, so I probably will), but it's existence isn't insulting or degrading.  It tells a fun story, it finishes the story, and goes away.

Adults will probably find it as transparent as I did, but as I said... my kids have subjected me to much worse than this.  I will admit to smiling a couple of times.  Not laughing, but smiling.  At least I wasn't scowling.

5.5 Stars

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Frankenweenie

FrankenweeniePale skin?  Check.

Weird hair?  Check.

The only thing we're missing is Johnny Depp and/or Helena Bohnam Carter!

It's hard to believe that Frankenweenie was birthed of the same man who shat Dark Shadows into our laps a few months earlier, but at least it shows that Tim Burton hasn't lost all of his touch... at least not yet.

This story about a boy who brings his dog back to life is a biting satire of the way that science is regarded by close-minded people and, while the movie is populated by characters I would call unnecessarily annoying, the movie is a quaint little homage to black and white horror movies even if the end of the movie betrays what came before.

7.5 Stars

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Sinister

SinisterWhere I want comedies to just make me laugh, I want horror movies to make me feel scared.  It's not much to ask... just scare me with something more than a goddamn smash cut or rock n' roll editing.  Gore doesn't count either!

Sinister almost achieves this.  Almost.

This story, which takes place in a house were all of the lights apparently don't work, follows a man's quest to uncover the mystery of a mysterious figure that appears in the background of home videos shot by families who were all murdered.

When Sinister works, it works goddamn well!  The mysterious figure is an evil looking sinister individual who evokes a feeling of absolute dread when he hides in the background.

When he's placed right in front of the goddamn camera, however, he loses this air of mystery and you realize it's just a guy with joker makeup.

Still, for a horror movie... it's not half bad.

6.5 Stars

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Paranormal Activity 4

Paranormal Activity 4Do we really need more Paranormal Activity movies?  Wasn't a trilogy enough?

Hey, I actually like the Paranormal Activity films, but with number four, it's more than obvious that the idea well has gone hopelessly dry.

Perhaps I'm being a little unfair... There are one or two neat ideas that come out of this movie.  Using the Kinect sensors was pretty neat, but overall this is film series running on empty and desperately trying to grab more cash before being relegated to a world of direct to video sequels.

3 Stars

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Cloud Atlas

Cloud AtlasLess a movie and more of a work of art, Cloud Atlas is a sprawling and ambitious story combining six interwoven stories from different points in time from the 1840's to the far dystopian future.

These stories are all told at the same time, cutting back and forth and featuring the same actors in different roles.

Most of us may look down on the Wachowskis as fallen directors, but Cloud Atlas and, to a less extent, Speed Racer, has shown that these two filmmakers are not afraid of risk and experimentation.

Cloud Atlas is a wonderful artistic work, engrossing and emotional on so many levels.  The interwoven stories of connectedness will make you laugh, cry, be enraged and amazed.

This movie is brave, refreshing, and wonderful.

9 Stars

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Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-it RalphDisney went under our noses and created what I believe to be the first truly great video game movie.  All right, it's not a video game movie about a specific video game, but it is a story about video games... and it's great!

Although formulaic, Wreck-It Ralph is a heartfelt and colorful tale about finding your place in the world.  The cameos by famous video game stars from the 80's and 90's and the sly video game references definitely appeal to my inner nerd, but what makes this movie work is the relationships between the wonderful characters that Disney has invented for this film.

It's witty and brilliant on many levels even though you can probably guess the ending from the trailer, but it's still a feather in Disney Animation's cap... so much so that, after this and Tangled, I suppose I should finally stop making fun of them.

9 Stars

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Skyfall

SkyfallCasino Royal was a brilliant reboot of James Bond.  Quantum of Solace was a, let's just say... profoundly disappointing follow-up.  With Skyfall, however, it appears that the right mixture of Bond has been shaken and not stirred and I am fully within my rights to say that this is not only one of the best movies of 2012, but also the best James Bond movie ever.

Skyfall makes James Bond not only mortal, but damaged as well.  This is not the man we've watched for so many years, he's trying to rebuild himself which is pretty much an appropriate metaphor for the state of the James Bond series.

Blunt, sexy, and throwing back enough to the legacy of James Bond without getting entangled in it... Skyfall is just what the doctor ordered.

9.5 Stars

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Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the GuardiansSo close... so close to being a classic.

What Rise of the Guardians does right is give a new makeover to some legendary characters.  I never would have pictured a Russian Santa with tattoos, but it works for some reason.  That's good.

The bad is that this Avengers of the holidays and myths never seems to congeal into its full awesomeness as if it just needed an extra oomph to get to where it was going, but never quite made it.

I'm not smart enough or coherent enough to know what that oomph is, but I do know it's just not there.  What we have instead is a tragically average movie that should have been much better.

6 Stars 

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