Movies. Man, there was a time in 2012 that I felt burned out with watching/reviewing movies and so I thought of taking a break, which I did. I have missed several movies that I really wanted to see, I missed ARGO, CLOUD ATLAS, WRECK IT RALPH and SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS in theaters. But despite my limitations in time and schedule this year, I still think that I saw enough to make a credible list, thanks to my home theater set up.
Please keep in mind that I reserve the right to change this list once I sort through some of the movies still on my shelf and catch up on the limited screenings. Please take note that foreign movies from 2011 may be included since their release in the States is delayed by almost a year. I also try not to include movies in this list that I haven't reviewed; in case, I didn't include some movies I loved this would be the reason why.
This list is not in the order of how much I liked or disliked the film, but rather how a film made an impact, how entertaining....movies are all based on one's personal tastes.
We all know that Bushido/chambara movies often portray proud tales of loyalty and of betrayal and "Sword of Desperation" is no different. I do have to admit that while the themes of this film are familiar, the interpretation may be more fresh and original since Yamada's own Bushido films about a decade ago. I do have to say that there is a definite "Shakespearean" element around its screenplay. This may be one of the best films I've seen for 2012, and definitely something that will become a classic. This film is a must if you are a fan of Bushido films.
See the full review, "Loyalty and Honor in Oneself Means More Than Obedience to a Code".
War of the Arrows" may be one of the best Korean films I will see this year. It was a blockbuster in Korea in 2011, it won a best actor award for Park Hae-Il and won a best new actress award for Moon Chae-won in the 48th Daejong awards, and is the highest grossing Korean film in 2011; these facts speak a lot for the quality of the film. This is a tale about family, redemption and honor. "War of the Arrows" is a lavish epic and at times, even violent and brutal. I am very pleased that this film had finally hit U.S. shores.
See the full review, "Two Dynasties At War...One Man on a Mission!".
Director Na Hong-jin truly out did himself with his second film. I liked "The Chaser" a great deal, and I truly cannot say just which of his films is better. It is amazing how a simple story if handled by an unskilled director would no doubt only be bordering on ‘fair', while in Na Hong-jin's hands, a premise such as this could be this incredible. It is to the director's credit that a screenplay that works around familiar devices could become such a compelling story because of the manner it is told. Hong-jin did a fine job because of his tight editing, timing and good old fashioned know-how to execute a scene. "The Yellow Sea" is poignant, intense, powerful, filled with surprises and twists that it thrilled and truly kept me at the edge of my seat up to its final scene.
See the full review, "A Hellish Journey To One's Own Personal Hell".
I almost kicked myself in the butt for almost missing this so I am a little late for it. As good as it was, it wasn't a perfect movie, but my complaints were so little to even try to nit-pick. There were times that I did feel that the film rushed into some areas in the last act, but at that point, I was already had by McQueen that I was ready to ignore its small flaws. This film is not an easy watch, but the way it was performed, scripted and shot were on the nose that it was easy to get immersed with the film. "Shame" is a captivating film; I would not say entertaining, and it is definitely a little hard to watch but it is one of 2011's best films.
See the full review, "Courageous, Truthful and Mesmerizing Portrayal of Sex Addiction".
The film was planned and the screenplay was co-written by Hayao Miyazaki who is known for "Princess Mononoke", "Ponyo" and "Spirited Away". As such, fans of his work would know exactly how well structured and smooth his storytelling skills really are, and "Arrietty" is just another proof how good he is in rendering animated features. Together with director Hiromasa Yonebasyashi, the two have created a world that is magical, interesting and delightful that is fit for viewers of all ages. Japanese Anime have always been successful in expressing that an animated film does not need fancy CGI animation to enthrall an audience, but rather, it is the depth of storytelling that would really matter.
See the full review, "Amazing, Enchanting, Mesmerizing Japanese Anime about a very little Girl and a Young Boy....".
The film was engrossing and highly enjoyable; despite its simple devices and set ups, it never lost its momentum and I was definitely drawn into the film the longer it went on. I suppose while the writing weren't totally successful in bringing together a true study of power and corruption, it more than made up for it by sheer boldness and imagination. Sure, it did have some rough spots, but it gets a strong recommendation from me. But keep in mind, if you never cared about the documentary POV style cinematography before, you would be better off skipping it. "Chronicle" is a must-see for certain viewers.
See the full review, "Power Corrupts Absolutely....Especially When You're in Over Your Head".
The animation and set pieces were done in a manner that it mimicked the art of the source material. I was in awe as to how the direction followed certain areas that feel as if it had been lifted off the graphic novel. From the re-emergence of the Bat against the underworld, to the scenes of the news reels, to the assault on the mutant gang, up to the final encounter, the scenes captured the drama of the struggles and the sheer thrills that came with each scene. For an animated film, it was pretty violent and went into as much blood and brutality as it could muster into a PG-13 film. I just loved that final encounter with the mutant gang leader. While I did miss the moody and gritty monologue that made the graphic novel its thoughtful, brooding drama and 'noirish' feel; I thought the direction still was still able to capture the suspense as I found myself immersed into each scene
See the full review, "Frank Miller's Critically Acclaimed Graphic Novel Comes to Life in Animated Form!".
There is a very small number of great zombie movies I have seen the past 3-5 years and "The Dead" is indeed one of them. It is so much more engaging and engrossing to see a zombie movie that is really about survival and human drama than to see the zombie comedies that have plagued us of late. The Ford brothers' "The Dead' is a calculated outing and the brothers knew what they wanted to do with a zombie epic.
See the full review, "Finally, After Some Years...A Really Good Zombie Survival Horror Epic!".
I haven't been left breathless in a film in quite awhile. I love martial arts films and this is indeed one of the best ones made in the past 10 years. It is indeed one of the best action movies to grace the screen. Evans wanted to promote Silat in his films, and believe me, he succeeds. He captures the right atmosphere and style for a truly gritty and brutal action film that pushes the limits of martial arts fighting. Raw, edgy and visceral, "The Raid: Redemption" is on its way to become an action classic.
See the full review, "Ultra-Violent Indonesian Action Film Finally Takes America by Storm!".
Much like the 1962 original, "Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai" is a gripping exploration of revenge, honor, individuality and serves as a scathing indictment of the code of Bushido. Miike does pay homage and tribute to Kobayashi's classic tale, and the message is as powerful as the original's. While it carries a very critical commentary on the pretensions of the code, there is more of a human side to Miike's execution and in some ways I feel that he had held back. Kobayashi's tale was all about the hollow practices of the samurai tradition while Miike's appears to be making an appeal to our more human instincts
See the full review, "An Exploration of Revenge, Individuality and Honor in the Face of an Oppressive Tradition".
Technically speaking, Zhang Yimou's "Flowers of War" is impressive. His strong talents as a director still managed to impress me, despite the fact that he was compromised because of the film's screenplay and characterization due to its marketing ambitions. Explosions are used for visual and emotional effect, the war sequences are strong and intense, and slow motion was used sparingly. It does manage to build up from its intense and grim battle scenes to the drama that whose emotions were felt in the final act.
See the full review, "Are Innocent Lives Truly More Valuable Than Damaged Lives?".
When I saw Quentin Tarantino's cameo appearance in Takashi Miike's "Sukiyaki Western Django" (please see the original uncut of Miike's movie before you judge it), I had a small hunch that the acclaimed director was about to go into something with the ‘western' flavor (or so he states ‘southern'), and guess what, I wasn‘t far from wrong. Tarantino's movies often become something to be anticipated, probably because of the fact that the filmmaker only makes movies every 2-3 years and when he does, his films are often easy to like.
"Bedevilled" is one Korean thriller that reminded me why I got into the Korean "new wave" some years ago. It was methodical, bold and definitely nihilistic, but it does not allow itself to wallow in its displays of violence alone. It had a good laid-out plot and impressive performances. Debuting director Jang Cheol-Soo may have small ‘growing pains' in his art, but I am definitely curious what he can come up with next.
See the full review, "A Film That Generates Genuine Unease All The While Immersing You in its Narrative".
Be that as it may, the film was able to keep things together. The powerful first half even wihen the second half's weaknesses hampers the film's strength. It does build up to the final act wonderfully but the climax seems to resolve in a way that came a little too simply and wasn't able to match the power of the first half. This is not a negative comment but rather an observation. The first half was just such a tough act to follow, that anything may just seem to be a little lacking. Still, "Sacrifice" turned out to be a wonderful film. The stakes were carefully defined, it had a powerful middle climax, and as a whole, the film can match other great Chinese epics play by play. The martial arts sequences proved to be an essential part of its narrative, but never its central focus to create a spectacle of swordplay. Chen Kaige made a beautiful, dramatic, tense film that is sure to get a reaction. Chen Kaige had redeemed himself after his small misfire "The Promise".
See the full review, "How Justified Can One Be To Exact Such Vengeance?".
Despite the fact that purists of Tolkien's original book will say that most of this new trilogy is built on ‘fat and fillers', I doubt anyone can really say that any additions felt or seemed as such things. Ok, it sure felt like a lot of marketing was built around it, but hey, which high-budget movie isn't? To its credit, the plotting was steady and its flow went smoothly, it did not feel like a ‘long movie' at all. I have to admit, I am one of those folks who always feel that an adaptation should capture the essence of its source material and to stay within its confines; but I found myself, not wanting to pass judgment just how faithful it is to Tolkien's book until the completion of this new trilogy. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is one film that made me curious that I look forward to its next chapter "The Desolation of Smaug". The new adventure has began and I will be along for its ride
See the full review, "Youthful, Lighter and Does Well as the First Movie in a New Trilogy".