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By Matt Rodriguez

2012: A Year in Review

2012 has been domestically the highest-grossing year in film, barely surpassing 2009’s $10.59 billion haul with close $10.8 billion. It not that much of a surprise, seeing as there have been three films that passed the coveted $1 billion in gross revenue benchmark; The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and most recently, Skyfall. This year I saw well over 100 films in theaters and reviewed 80 of them. These are some of my favorites.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Pitch Perfect

If you would have told me that an a capella comedy would be one of my favorite films of the 2012 early in the year, I probably would have laughed at you. Yet here we are at the end of the year, and the laugh-out-loud comedy Pitch Perfect is on my list. The film combines the music/dance moves of the Step Up franchise with the humor of Bridesmaids to create one of the best comedies of the year. Pitch Perfect also features a great cast consisting of Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and Skylar Astin who can not only act but sing amazingly as well. Plus, any film that makes abundant references to The Breakfast Club gets an A in my book.

BIGGEST GEEKOUT: Wreck-It Ralph

Normally this would go to a superhero film like The Dark Knight Rises or The Avengers but while I love those characters, I’m not a huge comic book reader. What I am though is a huge gamer, and Wreck-It Ralph pays perhaps the biggest tribute to gaming film has ever seen. Every scene is packed with gaming references, many of which you’ll miss if you blink, so repeat viewings are a must. Some notable examples that brought a huge smile to my face include the exclamation mark and alert sound from Metal Gear Solid, “Aerith Lives” graffiti scribbled on the wall in the Game Central Station, and the infamous Konami Code making an appearance. Wreck-It Ralph is a fantastic movie in general, but being a big gamer only made it all the sweeter.

BIGGEST SCARE: Sinister

The horror genre is the most hashed out genre the film industry has to offer with the Paranormal Activity’s and SAW’s coming out on a yearly basis. It’s the film definition of “if it isn’t brook, don’t fix it.” Sinister may have flown under the radar for many, which is a shame because it’s one of the scariest films of the year. The film introduces audiences to the pagan deity Bughuul who lives within images and possesses children to do his bidding. He’s this twisted cross between Billy the Puppet and Michael Myers who never utters a word and barely moves a muscle yet will instantly send chills down your spine; the perfect recipe for a good horror.  

BIGGEST SMALLEST CAST: Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas was a huge undertaking but if anyone could pull it off it was Lana and Andy Wachowski. They, along with fellow director Tom Tykwer, managed to bring together a fantastic cast to tell six interconnected stories across generations of people. Actors Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, and Hugh Grant all play six vastly different characters throughout the film. Others including Jim Broadbent and Ben Whishaw play five. Basically, everyone in the film plays multiple characters, more so than I’ve seen in any other film. The makeup and costume design are absolutely fantastic and actually obscure the fact that you’re looking at the same people over and over again in different roles. Cloud Atlas shows the broad range these actors have and weaves a compelling story across time.

BIGGEST WTF: The Cabin in the Woods

It’s difficult to explain The Cabin in the Woods without spoiling anything. Frankly, all you need to know is that it’s awesome and that you should see it. Joss Whedon flips the horror genre on its head and plays directly to the stereotypes to invent something fresh, exciting, and downright hilarious. There’s never a dull moment, and you can’t help but try and guess what’ll happen next. I’m just so surprised it too this long to finally get released.

BEST REMAKE: 21 Jump Street

It can be difficult for a remake to live up to its predecessor’s name, I’m looking at you Total Recall/Red Dawn, but sometimes age treats a franchise well and fans get a halfway decent film. 21 Jump Street surprisingly eclipses its original with comedy duo Johan Hill and Channing Tatum. The two have a wonderful dynamic together and bring plenty of laughs to the big screen. The film introduces the old TV show to a younger generation as well as pays a fitting tribute to old school fans. Throw in some unexpected cameos, and you’ve got a winner on your hands.

BEST TIME TRAVELLER: Looper

Time travel is a touchy subject in film as there are so many paradoxes to consider that could get fans up in arms about whether or not time travel’s actually possible rather than simply enjoying the film. For Looper, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis make the film spectacular, not to forget a surprisingly strong performance from the young Pierce Gagnon. There’s a great blend of action and sci-fi that isn’t overly cliché that sets the pace and doesn’t let go. It’s not often I have high expectations for a film, and it completely lives up to them. Looper managed to surpass them all with ease.

BEST MOONSHINE: Lawless

The Bondurant brothers were a force you wouldn’t want to mess with. Their rough and tough attitude made them perfect for the illegal business of making and selling moonshine. Like all illegal things, the law in the form of the disturbing Charlie Rakes, played by Guy Pearce, comes crashing down on them threatening their empire. For once, this was a film where I didn’t hate (dare I say even loved) Shia LaBeouf. As expected, Tom Hardy gives a great performance as the older Bondurant brother, one who’s said to be invincible. Best of all, Lawless has some ring of truth to its story in that the Bondurant brothers were real moonshiners.

BEST SUPERHERO: The Dark Knight Rises & The Avengers

2012 was a big year for comic book lovers as both The Dark knight Rises and The Avengers passed $1 billion in revenue. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy comes to a fitting end with a stellar performance by Tom Hardy as Bane. The darker, more realistic superhero that Nolan introduced to us is sure to cement itself within the genre for years to come. Just look at the upcoming Man of Steel. On the other hand, The Avengers was a nonstop action thrill ride with all our favorite superheroes coming together in one film. With just the right amount of Joss Whedon’s style of humor, it paints a contrasting portrait when compared to Batman. Both are great, and both deserve a spot on my list.

As you can see, 2012 has been a productive year for the film industry, and I’ve yet to experience all it has to offer. Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Les Misérables, Chronicle, and Argo are just a few of the film I’ve managed to miss this year. As we look toward the future, 2013 looks even better with Star Trek into Darkness, Man of Steel, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug coming out. I simply cannot wait!