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Created Mar 03, 2012 02:02AM PST • Updated Apr 27, 2013 03:43PM PST

The Great, Really Great and Perfect new movies I saw in 2012.

Average

  • Really Great
  •  
  • 81 Points
Title Released Trust Weighted Summary Viewable
1st The Cabin in the...
2012 Perfect 83 Points
_100

Is there a funnier scary movie? While not laugh-your-guts-out, The Cabin in the Woods is LOL all thru. The comedy just keeps coming and coming. Bloody deaths come too, soon a welcome part of the comedy.

Some reviewers decline to describe the movie. Just go they say. Why not describe it? Everyone knows that most people come to gruesome ends in zombie movies. How and in what order are the questions.

The Cabin in the Woods gets its charm by establishing a method to the madness, an evil deus ex machina writ large. Think "The Hun…

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Added Apr 15, 2012 10:44PM PST • Updated Apr 30, 2012 08:34PM PST
2nd Act of Valor
2012 Great 83 Points
_100

Think of Act of Valor as real US Naval Special Warfare come to cineplexes, not as a normal war movie. Thus the valor is certain, the acting not so much.

Directed by a couple of former stuntmen and starring a bunch of active duty SEALs, it is earnest in the extreme and often wooden in its non-firefight scenes. So what, given how exciting and enlightening it is.

Before going on, let’s quibble with the title’s misleading first word: It should be Acts of Valor. Valor at home but mostly valor down-range, up to and including several acts worthy of the Medal of Honor.

Heroism is ra…

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Added Mar 03, 2012 02:02AM PST • Updated Apr 30, 2012 08:34PM PST
3rd Contraband
2012 Great 83 Points
_100

High-powered action thrillers should all be this accomplished. Contraband smuggles a slyly clever plot, heavy-metal action and solid exploitation of an underexploited setting into theaters. A strong cast led by Mark Wahlberg is less a secret but no less an asset for this savvy crowd-pleaser.

The heavy-metal action is the best since Unstoppable, the last action movie to adroitly use massive machinery – trains and rail-yards in Unstoppable, freighters and ports in Contraband. The merchant marine milieu perfectly supports a s…

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Added Mar 03, 2012 02:02AM PST • Updated Apr 30, 2012 08:34PM PST
4th Jeff, Who Lives ...
2011 Great 83 Points
_100

Better to think of Jeff, Who Lives at Home as affecting drama with LOLs than as comedy with some stinkers. Consider the title as Exhibit A. Funny and intriguing to me, others might say “What The …?”

Many will reject [email protected] on stinkers alone, though it ends up as serious as a shot to the solar plexus. Oh yeah, it’s also quite precious, though what do you expect from a movie about a 30 year old man-child.

If you’re not scared off yet, prepare yourself for a great movie.

The story revolves around a pair of dumb and dumber brothers, a nice guy and a jerk, each self-pitying …

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Added Mar 18, 2012 02:43AM PST • Updated Apr 30, 2012 08:34PM PST
5th 21 Jump Street
2012 Great 83 Points
_100

The 21st century 21 Jump Street bangs the comedy gong by expertly exploiting high school and cop show cliches. Well mounted, creatively inspired and charismatically performed, it’s almost enough to give commercial crap a good name. OK maybe not, but it’s entertaining as hell.

Hell-on-wheels is a major part of the program in a movie that is a deal-with-the-Devil high concept done up with major production values. The Big Booms do take awhile to appear though, leading to a running joke.

A big bromance between Channing Tatum’s manly-man and Jonah Hill’s loser-man works very well.
Wel…

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Added Mar 22, 2012 03:14PM PST • Updated Apr 30, 2012 08:34PM PST
6th The Hunger Games
2012 Great 83 Points
_100

An important but hardly perfect movie, The Hunger Games is however great enough to justify the fuss. The monster box office being generated by this first installment of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling trilogy of young-adult novels is helping The Hunger Games and heroine Katniss Eberdeen become primary cultural influences on tens of millions of real young adults.

In short, The Hunger Games is the American Harry Potter.

It does suffer from phoniness in how it depicts humanity operating under grotesquely insane situations. People don’t e…

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Added Apr 11, 2012 11:39PM PST • Updated Apr 30, 2012 08:34PM PST
7th Chimpanzee
2012 Great 83 Points
_100

Youth is wasted on the young – the saying goes. The same can be said about Chimpanzee. Not that children won’t appreciate it. They’ll love it. It’s just that grownups will appreciate it more, though how many adults without kids in tow deign to see “family” nature documentaries?

Dramatic nature documentaries like Chimpanzee – combining up-close nature with major dramatic development – are a new breed. The never-seen-before nature is bracing and the drama is hard to believe, even if there’s no reason not to believe it. The Last Lions

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Added Apr 29, 2012 06:54AM PST • Updated Apr 30, 2012 08:34PM PST
8th Headhunters
2011 Great 83 Points
_100

Released in the States early May 2012.

The slang for corporate recruiter once connoted a frisson of danger. Then “Headhunter” lost its edge. Headhunters returns it and then some. An insanely funny thriller, it rivals fellow Scandin…

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Added May 06, 2012 02:55AM PST • Updated May 06, 2012 03:07AM PST
9th The Avengers
2012 Really Great 83 Points
_100

The Avengers do more than avenge. They dominate – the box office and Disney’s financial performance.

More personally, they fulfill the hopes of fanboys everywhere, including older generations who don’t even know they are fanboys. Ever love a Marvel comic? Prepare to be fulfilled, fanboy.

We’re talking the biggest opening weekend ever, a fitting achievement for the culmination of five huge prequels, each the cinematic distillation of half a century’s comik brilliance. Literature even.

It shows on screen through a six pack of Marvel heroes, each with a deep backstory, personal …

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Added May 08, 2012 01:40AM PST • Updated May 08, 2012 01:41AM PST
10th Dark Shadows
2012 Great 83 Points
_100

There’s lots to sink your teeth into – lots to like and chew over – in the reimagining of Dark Shadows. Camp-classic TV soap opera, it stands up to eccentric genius Tim Burton’s silver screen amplification.
Who cares that the LOLs are a bit strained.

Chortles count as laughs and Dark Shadows triggers more than a few of those.

Johnny Depp never strains as Barnabas Collins, 18th century dandy turned vampire dropped into the 1970s. Depp’s droll otherness is perfect for a largely fish-out-of-water comedy.

Droll melodrama is a tough ticket when it comes to LOLs however, even with…

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Added May 27, 2012 10:22PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
11th A Separation
2012 Really Great 66 Points
_100

A Separation fascinates both as an absorbing domestic drama and a lens into contemporary Iran. That compelling combination has made it a worldwide sensation, the odds-on favorite to win Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Oscars.

It presents two families drawn together by domestic needs who are then drawn into dire circumstances due to pique and familial love. A middle-class family’s elevated aspirations – leaving Iran; taking dignified care of a grandfather – bring them into conflict with themselves, while a lower-class family’s survival requirements bring them into conflict…

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Added Jun 03, 2012 09:58PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
12th Men in Black III
2012 Great 83 Points
_100

The best MIB? Indeed. MIB3 is clever and fun, as expected, with a surprising inventiveness that MIB1 approached and MIB2 didn’t.

Now … it’s not especially LOL, chuckles and appreciative guffaws notwithstanding.

Charisma it’s got in abundance, courtesy of major moviestar turns by Will Smith and the two Agent Ks – Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin. Speaking of doubles, a great action movie needs a worthy villain, which Jermain Clement’s Boris the Animal assuredly is, twice. The love interest is doubled also – Emma Thompson and Alice Eve, Miss Brilliant and Miss Aphrodite.

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Added Jun 07, 2012 10:27PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
13th Bernie
2012 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Bernie – the most genuinely funny movie of the year and the most pleasant surprise – mixes amateur townsfolk with big name stars to create an only-in-America story, and a true one at that. Well, truthy.

Assistant funeral home director Bernie Tiede really did murder the richest widow in his small town, only to have the town rally to his defense, a story documented in Texas Monthly as Midnight in the Garden of East Texas. The author of that piece went on to write Bernie with Texan director Richard Linklater, who recruited two of h…

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Added Jun 19, 2012 11:00PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
14th Ted
2012 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Comic genius, thy name is Seth MacFarlane, the writer, director and voice of Ted, a wildly ill-behaved “living” teddybear. The movie’s conceit is that a grown man’s arrested development gets enabled by this magical best buddy, who has taken on nothing but bad habits since leaving chronological boyhood behind.

Wake and bake? Check. Blow off work? Check. Avoid commitment? Check. Indulge prejudices? Check. Live vicariously? Check.

Fortunately MacFarlane’s creation – coupled with a tremendously appealing cast – makes for a flat-out hilarious movie. Often appalling, yes. But …

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Added Jul 01, 2012 12:33PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
15th Moonrise Kingdom
2012 Great 83 Points
_100

Wes Anderson movies are an acquired taste – highly stylized, absurdly droll comedies. Moonrise Kingdom? Stylized well into pronounced surrealism. Yet it works due to a lovely and improbable romance between a couple of emotionally disturbed twelve year-olds.

Being a Wes Anderson movie, the star-crossed lovers are surrounded by dysfunctional families and quasi-families, plus some haplessly officious functionaries. All’s well that ends well, wrote the Bard. True enough with Moonrise Kingdom, which uncorks delightful surprises right through to its happy ending. Bravo.

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Added Jul 03, 2012 09:44PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
16th The Amazing Spid...
2012 Great 83 Points
_100

Imagine there’s no Spider-Man. It’s easy if you try.
No web below us, above us only sky.

Imagine Spider-Man as if Toby Maguire never wore the suit and James Franco were still a sensitive nobody. Seen thusly, The Amazing Spider-Man is a great movie, notwithstanding a treacly story that’s often tinny.

Did Marvel need to reboot Spider-Man just a decade after its first big screen incarnation? No, but they’ve done a creditable job, in part by locating the story when Peter Parker was still a school kid. This makes it a nifty high school ro…

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Added Jul 04, 2012 05:22PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
17th Safety Not Guara...
2012 Great 83 Points
_100

Safety not guaranteed, but viewing pleasure assured from this endearing romcom. It features a smart story about a Miss Lonelyheart falling in love with an apparently crazy time-traveler whom she’s researching for an exposé. This crazy but real (crazy-real?) scenario meshes easily with today’s über-ironic audiences.

Unfortunately it’s not easy for audiences to find. It was in a couple theaters in June, then went missing. This week CineArts at Santana Row has it at 5:30 and 10:15. I caught the late show last night with an appr…

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Added Jul 08, 2012 03:14AM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
18th Quadrophenia - T...
2012 Great 66 Points
_100

The complete story of Quadrophenia is essential viewing for Quadropheniacs. You know who you are.

Pete Townshend takes us on an hour-plus tour through his magnum opus, the greatest of rock operas, followed by twenty minutes of Quadrophenia concert outtakes from the decades. Felt complete to me.

Roger Daltrey gets a few words in edgewise, consistent with their fraught relationship. Additional commentary comes from members of their early 70s entourage: their sound engineer, the manager who became their manager after they fired their previous manager, their gorgeous office girl and a …

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Added Jul 28, 2012 12:12PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
19th The Dark Knight ...
2012 Really Great 92 Points
_100

The finale of the Dark Knight trilogy rises to the occasion, delivering a compelling and consummately produced big screen experience. Famously long at almost three hours, it does indeed fly by, the rich story and characters well harnessed to Christopher Nolan’s masterful direction, the closure complete… yet open.

That said, DKR’s twists are often grossly manipulative, its double-crosses and dubious motives wearying. Thus The Dark Knight remains the peak of the trilogy, followed by DKR, with Batman Begins

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Added Jul 29, 2012 11:08PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
20th Premium Rush
2012 Great 83 Points
_100

Premium Rush deserves to be a huge hit. Aptly titled, it delivers as declared. A premium rush it is.
Smart, sexy, thrilling, powerful, fresh and original, it’s an instant classic and a first rate crowd-pleaser.

It’s also the best smartphone movie yet, even if the app-tivity mostly happens in nifty animated sequences between the surreally hyped-up action. How surreal is it? NFW is the proper reaction to many scenes. Occasionally NFW!!!

Baba O’Riley’s synth opening opens David Koepp’s perfectly directed film. Choosing one of the Who’s signature rock intros? Bold choice, but …

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Added Aug 25, 2012 01:30PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
21st Lawless
2012 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Heard of the Bondurant School of Driving? Lawless is the Bondurant school of bootlegging, V8 Fords careening along dirt roads included. Indeed, the story of a legendary family of moonshiners from Western Virginia – the Bondurants – gets a monumental telling in this powerfully assured and entertaining movie.1

Nominally “based on real events,” Lawless soars to fictional heights reached by precious few crime movies. It’s more than enough to induct the Bondurants into the cinematic Valhalla that houses legendary crime families like the Corleones

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Added Sep 01, 2012 10:09PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
22nd The Master
2012 Really Great 66 Points
_100

Monumentally accomplished storytelling plus bravura cinema done in rich and deep 65mm images make The Master another Paul Thomas Anderson masterpiece. Plus there’s the Best Acting trophies all around.

Intoxication unites its leading men – hooch for one, power the other. Joaquin Phoenix’s hardcore alcoholic latches onto Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sophisticated cult leader and his luxo lifestyle. A destructive boozer gets enabled by an uppity bamboozler, basically. It’s not a healthy bromance.

Amy Adams’ Queen of Scientology, er, Queen Bee completes a powerhouse thespian triumvirat…

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Added Sep 27, 2012 11:17PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
23rd Looper
2012 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Looper is one of the most satisfying movies of the year. An outstanding action picture, a mind-bending time-travel yarn and a charismatic moviestar showcase, it’s exciting, thought provoking and often damn funny. Writer-director Rian Johnson must be a very hot commodity in Hollywood now based on his Super Duper Looper. Plus he’s constructed it as an origin story, more about which later.

Mob assassins – so called Loopers – travel back 30 years from the late 21st century, where they whack unfortunates also sent back … for elimination. This sets up one hell of an identity conflict b…

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Added Oct 04, 2012 04:26PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
24th Argo
2012 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Two political movies were released this third weekend before the Obama retention election – one on heroic capitalism, the other recreating a little known cloak-and-dagger success during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, an otherwise dismal chapter in American history. The second movie – Argo – is the great one.

Tense and funny, it’s nothing less than a Great American Movie, three decades removed yet timely as hell.

How timely? George Clooney and Ben Affleck – Left Wing royalty – premiered their movie1 exactly one month after the September 11th sacking of the American Consulate in Beng…

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Added Oct 16, 2012 11:40PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
25th Seven Psychopaths
2012 Great 66 Points
_100

Seven psychopaths, a Shih Tzu and an alcoholic screenwriter add up to a damn funny movie. Each psycho gets featured in a short within the larger movie, then gets additional screen-time based on how immediately expendable they are. As with horror-comedies, most are introduced just to get entertainingly bumped off.

We’re talking over-the-top violence played for laughs. The laughs do come, some hearty and from the belly, others chortles from the throat. The horrid level of sacrilege means you can’t wash the stench off however, though funny is funny and Seven Psychopaths is damn funny…

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Added Oct 21, 2012 12:50AM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
26th Flight
2012 Great 83 Points
_100

Flight is a heavily Hollywoodized Great American Movie, with a superstar anchoring a tall tale that apes an American triumvirate of powerful popular experiences. Denzel Washington’s Whip Whitaker echoes Sully Sullenberger; the crash site of Whip’s plane resembles 9/11’s Shanksville field; and the phenomena of the modern insta-celebrity who wilts in the limelight is the crucible in which it all plays out.

It’s also perhaps the most powerful movie about a hardcore alcoholic ever committed to the silver screen. The producers needed a powerful star to play the super-high-functioning alco…

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Added Nov 13, 2012 09:38PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
27th Lincoln
2012 Really Great 86 Points
_100

A fine, fine movie, Lincoln delivers an outstanding history lesson centered on an iconic performance for the ages. With it, Stephen Spielberg continues his own ascent into the American pantheon, while Daniel Day-Lewis creates his single most memorable role.

The movie focuses on a great legislative battle Lincoln fought in the last months of his life, an apt lens through which to view the man in full. Canny and idealistic, melancholy yet jovial, riven by familial tension, Abraham Lincoln comes alive in the movie as fully human yet worthy of his demigod status.

Lincoln delivers a …

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Added Nov 24, 2012 12:13PM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
28th Silver Linings P...
2012 Perfect 95 Points
_100

Ladies and gentlemen, behold the Best Movie of the Year, indeed the Great American Movie of 2012. Silver Linings Playbook serves up a perfect stew of current American enthusiasms, including the NFL, psychiatric meds and Dancing with the Stars. Oh yeah, it’s also an ultimate Philly movie. What’s it to ya!

About the title, sometimes you need a plan to find life’s silver linings. Presto. Silver Linings Playbook.

It’s not surprising that SLP reaches perfection. David O. Russell has proven a great writer and director time and again. Three Kings

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Added Dec 02, 2012 01:51AM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
29th A Royal Affair
2012 Really Great 83 Points
_100

A Royal Affair is truly regal, with a King, his Queen, their courtiers, grand councils and balls in castles.

  • Infidelity so grand – so right – it was ultimately forgiven by the cuckold King of Denmark.
  • History made, the Enlightenment brought to the Danes and their colony of Norway.
  • Romantic history in the extreme. Royally romantic. “Live from 1772” Seems like it anyway.
  • All of it real, a true story. Better yet – one of the great true stories.

Princess Movies have a new member in their esteemed royal court, right up there with The Young Victoria

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Added Dec 09, 2012 12:56AM PST • Updated Dec 23, 2012 12:36PM PST
30th Django Unchained
2012 Really Great 95 Points
_100

Django Unchained is an absurdly good movie that goes where few filmmakers would dare tread, and succeeds so completely that only Tarantino could pull it off. What he’s pulled off is a Tarantinic take on the first of the two genocides to occur in the heart of Western Civilization, 3 years after addressing the other.

IOW, Django Unchained does to Afro-American Slavery what Inglorious Basterds did to the Holocaust – recreates it in the form of exuberant revenge fantasy. Further, Django is to Basterds what Roots

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Added Jan 01, 2013 09:15PM PST • Updated Jan 05, 2013 01:38AM PST
31st Zero Dark Thirty
2012 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Zero Dark Thirty tells the truthy tale of the deadly hunt for Osama bin Laden, making it one of the most potent political movies of all time. The certain reverberations are hard to predict. Wikileaks? Wikiflick.

It starts with a dark screen, then a title card. September 11, 2001. Screen still dark, radio chatter fills the air, capturing the desperate last words between al-Qaeda’s doomed victims and feckless 911 operators.

It ends with a statement that any character, characterization, dialogue and – you know – most any “fact” can and may be bullshit. Any resemblance between a…

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Added Jan 05, 2013 02:08AM PST • Updated Apr 27, 2013 03:43PM PST
32nd Not Fade Away
2012 Perfect 66 Points
_100

David Chase & Little Stevie should’ve released Not Fade Away here in January, instead of at the October film festivals. It coulda been the first great movie of 2013. Instead it’s yet another great movie from 2012.

OK, that ain’t chopped liver. Still, it coulda set the pace for the New Year, coulda been a contenda.

That’s because it’s a perfect little Sixties coming-of-age movie from somewhere in the swamps of Jersey. Written and directed by Garden State auteur David Chase, music mastered by Steve Van Zandt, it features James Gandolfini’s perfectly drawn Joisey Dad. Yes, David C…

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Added Jan 06, 2013 01:23AM PST • Updated Apr 27, 2013 03:43PM PST

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Subscribe to 2012 Great Movies 8 replies, 2 voices
Dec 23, 2012 4:25PM
Wick

Yeah, felt the effects of it being drawn out so much.

Dec 23, 2012 1:59PM
BrianSez

Ah – so you ended up being annoyed by the 3-way Hobbit split up

Dec 23, 2012 12:41PM
Wick

Upon further reflection, I’m rating The Hobbit as Very Good, not Great. So pulled it out of the list.