Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jason's Top 10 of 2012

This was supposed to be a Top 5 list -- 'cause that's what we do here in The Basement -- but I quickly realized we'd watched a lot of cool shit during the last 12 months. As in years past, this list is based strictly on what I was able to see during the year and is genre heavy. Duh. It's what I do.

Note, the list is far from complete. I have yet to catch Skyfall, Looper, Dredd, Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty, all flicks that'd have a decent shot at making this list. If only I could be all things to all people.

Anywho, on with my thoughts on the best of 2012.

10 - Kill List

This movie ruined my day in the best possible way. I'm still left reeling from it, like I'm punch drunk. Or just drunk. You decide. I can't say I enjoyed this movie, although I know I will watch it again and would recommend it to horror fans in a heartbeat. Yes, it's a horror film. But not in the traditional sense. It's frightening and surreal, but oddly funny and touching too. I'm not quite sure what happened at the end, but I was disturbed by it. I call this brilliant because I really don't know what else to call it. It pulls no punches and pushes your buttons. A harrowing experience.

9 - The Cabin in the Woods

A horror fan's wet dream, this loving hate letter to scary movies subverts the genre while catering to its every whim. We get the boobs, blood and backwoods terror of the traditional cabin-in-the-woods slasher picture while, at the same time, see the cliches turned on their collective heads. And there's a whole other twist that spins everything 180 degrees. Not especially scary, but very smart and funny . . .  and fun! Good cast, well made and sharply written. Thank you, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. In a world filled with sequels and reboots, you've made this jaded horror fan very, very happy. Take note, the less you know going in the better!

8 - Absentia

Talk about going into a movie expecting one thing and ending up with something completely different. Is this a story about a junkie's hallucinations? Is this a story about a grieving pregnant woman seeing things? Or is something far more sinister at play? And there is one shorts shitting moment after another along the way to finding out. Absentia works so well because writer/director Mike Flanagan knows what the fuck he's doing. He wrote a good script, he cast his actors well, and he knows how to make a good, scary film. Sure, some of it's slow, but I know it will stick with me. This is how you make a no-budget movie.

7 - Rites of Spring

Boy oh boy, is this a highly entertaining throwback to the horror flicks of the late 70s and early 80s. Rites of Spring is the kind of movie John Carpenter would have made in his heyday. It's that good. Kudos to A.J. Bowen and Anessa Ramsey, who pull off great performances here, not that that's what we're all about in The Basement. Is there blood? Yes. Boobies? Yup, but not in a fun way. Hotties? More than enough eye candy is present thanks to Ramsey, Katherine Randolph, and Sarah Parchelli. The last 33 minutes of this movie play like gangbusters, satisfying all your horror needs. And the villain of the piece is pretty badass. This is a must for genre fans, and one to enjoy over and over again. I've watched Rites of Spring three times now. I can't wait to see it again. And I am so looking forward to the sequel. Give it a go!

6 - The Pact

I'm having a hard time writing this review. It's not that didn't like The Pact -- because I really did. It's important to note that right out the gate. In a way, Nicholas McCarthy's tale is reminiscent of Absentia in that you go in expecting one thing, but end up with something completely different. Yet horror fans will get everything they want out from this movie. It's unsettling, atmospheric and even has a few genuine shorts shitting moments. Leading lady Caity Lotz is just awesome on the eyes and she can act. We even see Casper Van Dien get a knife to the throat (spoiler alert). This is a creepy fucking movie and McCarthy is a talented filmmaker. I think what's thrown me is that I ended up watching something a little different, and that's not what I expected. Originality is so rare in movies these days, even the ones we love to watch in The Basement. One of our diamonds in the rough!

5 - The Expendables 2

If The Raid: Redemption is the best action movie ever made, then The Expendables 2 is an old-school action fan's wet dream. It's corny, cliched and full of violent gunfights and brutal brawls. And praise Jebus for it! For one, the action is awesome. The opening sequence is bigger and better than the shootout at the end of The Expendables. And things just improve from there. The final battle inside an airport is damn great, as is Stallone's fistfight against Van Damme. It's not a long punch up, but it's worth the ticket price. And all the other stars get their moments to shine. And how about those stars? Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis get into the action this time and just when you think you're not going to get enough Chuck Norris, Lone Wolf McQuade comes back for more. Dolph Lundgren provides the comic relief and gets to be big and scary. We like him big and scary. Props as well to Jean-Claude Van Damme. The man has had one too many facelifts, but he's got a hell of a screen presence. Hopefully we'll see him on the big screen again soon. If you like big, loud, and bloody action movies, you won't be disappointed with The Expendables 2. It's better than the first one and entertaining as hell. 

4 - Goon

Probably the best movie ever made about hockey, and it's as brutally funny as it is violent. There's as much blood and teeth spilled during the fights as there is in an average slasher movie and the games and combat are filmed with equal amounts of energy and wit. The first 20 minutes are the funniest I've ever seen put on film. Seann William Scott and Liev Schreiber are brilliantly cast. Schreiber actually pulls off a Newfie accent better than anyone I've heard this side of the Prairies. And the beauty of Goon is that non-hockey fans will likely dig it as much as those of us who enjoy seeing someone take a puck to the head

3 - The Dark Knight Rises

As a film fan, there's no better feeling than watching a movie told by a master storyteller. Few writer/directors can claim to be such a filmmaker, but Christopher Nolan is certainly one of them. He's proved it with his first two Batman films and movies like Inception and Memento, and he drives the point home with The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan's final Batman film -- and there's no doubt that this story is done -- is just as complex and gritty as The Dark Knight, weaving multiple characters and story arcs into one very grown-up take on what is an epic comic-book story. There's a lot of movie in the two-hour-and-45-minute running time, but everything moves so fast you don't notice. Yet the film isn't all action. There's humour, heart, redemption and a morality lesson or two at play here. A good bye between Alfred and Bruce Wayne is especially moving, as is a final encounter between Batman and James Gordon. It's rare to find an action movie with an emotional core, but Nolan and company pull it off. This is at least as good as The Dark Knight, but is in some ways better. Warner Bros. will surely attempt a reboot, but I won't be seeing them. Nolan's films are the only Batman stories worth any salt. The world doesn't need any more.

2 - The Avengers

Best. Comic. Book. Movie. Ever. Well, it at least equals The Dark Knight. But comparing The Avengers to The Dark Knight is like comparing apples to oranges. Christopher Nolan's Batman films are realistic, gritty, crime dramas that happen to be about a guy in a bat suit. The Avengers is a Marvel comic brought to glorious, vibrant life. It's manic, thrilling, fun, funny and doesn't compromise any of it's great characters or the great actors who play them. Everyone is given his or her due and moment to shine. And the amazing set pieces -- including a 40-minute thrashing of New York -- don't overshadow the quieter moments a memorable movie needs. Bless you writer/director Joss Whedon. You were given something that could have backfired horribly and made it shine. You took all these characters, each introduced in a film of their own, and melded them perfectly into one dazzling motion picture, one that demands to be enjoyed again and again. And yeah, I admit it: it needs to be seen on the big screen. I look forward to watching this with my son when he is old enough.

1 - The Raid: Redemption

I love, love, LOVE this movie! Where have you been all my life!?! Think the final showdown in the hospital at the end of Hard Boiled and that is the entire movie. No bullshit Gareth Evans knows how to shoot an action scene. The gunfights are blazing and the martial arts the best I've ever seen. Period. There is a sequence of carnage where main dude Rama (Iko Uwais) stabs, kicks, punches and elbows his way through about 20 people. No shaky cam, no wire-wu, no faking it near as I can tell. It all happens on screen. It's brutally awesome. And there's about three or four more fights like that. Uwais is Tony Jaa, only better. Don't let Hollywood get a hold of him, they'll ruin his awesome. Evans's script is also willing to slow down and add some character beats. Not too many, just enough to give the viewer time to breathe. Then it's back to what we're paying to see -- the action. I will own it. I will watch it again. And I will screen it for other action fans.

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