Now that 2012 is quickly coming to a close, let’s take a look back at which movies disappointed or surprised me throughout the year. I’ve never in my life watched more movies than in 2012. So you can believe me when I say that I’ve watched a lot of mediocre films. Some of them were movies I had high expectations for, namely because of the filmmakers involved or the subject matter. And there were some movies that completely surprised me with their quality or just memorable scenes and moments. So here are my top five disappointing and surprising movies of 2012. First the surprises…
Top 5 Surprises of 2012
5. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (dir: John Hyams)
I think I was surprised by this because I wasn’t expecting much from it to begin with. I mean, how could anyone get excited about the fourth film in the series that has been a long staple of the straight-to-video market. Although it has a slow start, it’s worth watching because it has some of the best action sequences of the year. Actor Scott Adkins does a fine job as a man who straddles the line between clarity and oblivion as he fights other universal soldiers in his pursuit to find the truth. But once he does find what he’s looking for, he makes a decision that will surprise and intrigue audiences.
4. John Carter (dir: Andrew Stanton)
Now there were a lot of horror stories about the production of “John Carter” before the movie was released. The film’s budget got out of hand, Disney changed the title to get more people interested in it (it was originally titled “John Carter Of Mars”), and that the film wasn’t coming together with only a month before it was due in theaters. Critics upon sight panned it. The film is fine. It’s entertaining and no movie this year has greater world-building sequences and scenes like “John Carter.” One of the best movie moments of 2012 was John Carter trying to figure out how to walk and move on Mars. This is good science fiction!
3. Compliance (dir: Craig Zobel)
I watched this during the Sundance Film Festival and was one of the last movies of my two week film blogging boot camp. From the opening moments of this film, I was uncertain if I should even be watching this movie. It was slow but once it kicked in it was something I didn’t even want to watch. I hated this movie as I was watching it but I had to hand it to director Craig Zobel for making a good movie. Once I left the theater and gave it time to breath and unfold in my mind, I admitted to myself that I was quite taken with it. My review.
2. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (dir: Bill Condon)
I’ve watched every “Twilight” movie and I think they’re mostly mediocre films. I don’t think any of them are terrible; there are worse movies out there. But when the last 20 minutes of “Breaking Dawn Part 1” freaked me out, I was not sure if Bill Condon could top that. He did! The last 20 minutes of “Breaking Dawn Part 2” are worth the price of admission alone. This was one of the best moviegoing experiences I’ve had in theaters all year. It was a complete surprise as I felt a full range of emotions from excitement, bewilderment, and then shock, and then pure joy.
1. Chronicle (dir: Josh Trank)
“Chronicle” was released in February 2012 and if you know anything about studio release dates, then you know January and February are the dumping grounds for bad movies. So when I watched “Chronicle” I was not expecting much, but with an 84 minute running time and it was in the found footage genre, then you can see the red flags everywhere. But it wasn’t terrible; it was actually pretty good. The story was somewhat original, the characters were somewhat likeable and then the film succeeds.
Top 5 Disappointments of 2012
5. Brave (dir: Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, and Brenda Chapman)
Most films on this list are not bad films, they are mostly good films but there’s just something about them that rubs me the wrong way. For “Brave,” I was disappointed when the film devolved into something very banal and uninteresting. While some may be invested in the mother/daughter narrative, I felt it was the weakest part of the film. There was no story. There were no thrills. It just lay there while I pleaded with it to move. “Brave” could’ve and should’ve been a better film.
4. Beasts of the Southern Wild (dir: Ben Zeitlin)
Now, you might think that I was disappointed in this film because it didn’t live up to the hype. Well, when I watched “Beasts of the Southern Wild” there was no hype. I watched it during the Sundance Film Festival where it first premiered. I was part of the fourth audience that ever watched this movie and I felt that it lost a lot of steam after the first 20 minutes. There is a lot of good faith out there from critics for this film and I just don’t know why. I don’t think that the film is good enough to be considered one of the best of the year. The film felt unfocused, which left me cold. My review.
3. Django Unchained (dir: Quentin Tarantino)
I like “Django Unchained” but it’s a movie that’s completely disjointed with an unfinished feel to it. Now that’s saying something considering the movie is two hours and 45 minutes long. It felt like it needed an extra 20 to 30 minutes to make it cohesive. The film is also very self-indulgent and excessive. The saying “less is more” has no meaning for Quentin Tarantino. Expectations were high for me considering Tarantino’s last film was nominated for Best Picture. “Django Unchained” remains OK in my estimation.
2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (dir: Peter Jackson)
Ugh. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a pretty bad offender. It’s clearly a money grab without the heart and soul of its predecessors. It’s needlessly long and at times boring and annoying and there are two more movies we have to “look forward to” after this one. The 48 FPS high frame rate gave me a splitting headache while its narrative is mediocre at best. Peter Jackson made “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, so we expect more from his films. My review.
1. Take This Waltz (dir: Sarah Polley)
I really wanted to like this movie. I managed to catch a pre-Tribeca Film Festival screening of Sarah Polley’s latest. I was so excited. I’m a huge fan of her last film “Away From Her” and I was expecting another mature effort from this young filmmaker. But what I got instead was something very middling and as it unfolded, just down right obnoxious. I couldn’t believe how horrible these characters were and how horrible Polley’s narrative was. For the longest time during the film, I thought Luke Kirby’s character Daniel was a figment of Michelle Williams’ character Margot’s imagination. No one but Margot addressed or even acknowledged Daniel for two-thirds of the movie so I was waiting for the reveal that he was imaginary. And then Seth Rogen’s Lou talked to him. He wasn’t imaginary at all; he was real. The film was just bad and this was an example of its bad writing, narrative, and very one-dimensional characters. I really wanted to like this film but once the credits started I bolted out of my chair and was the first out of the screening room. This movie was excruciating!