Saturday, June 30, 2012

2012 Mid-Year Top 10 List

Since I started generating these lists about two or so years ago, something I've tried to avoid commenting on is the state of the quality of movies in general. In my experience, I have usually been able to find about 1-2 quality films a week at either the multiplex or a more independent minded theater. Since the close of last year however, there really has been a noticeable dearth that warrants comment. So for those you feeling bombarded by battleships, titans, loraxes, dystopian teenagers, vampires, vampire hunting presidents, dwarves, piranhas, aliens, or whatever big, loud bombardment has left you reeling, and also somewhat out of a duty to tradition, here are the 10 best films that have risen above the dismal wreckage so far this year:

10. Haywire - Earlier this year, Steven Soderbergh released another film, this entertaining espionage thriller featuring UFC fighter Gina Carano and a star studded cast including Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, and "Magic Mike" star Channing Tatum

9. Chronicle - A high school movie about three teens acquiring kinetic powers and filmed in a Blair Witch/Cloverfield queasy cam style was the last film I expected to enjoy, but found this instead to be an astute, character driven movie with an interesting premise.

8. Coriolanus - Ralph Fiennes chooses a lesser known Shakespeare work for his directorial debut, sets it in modern day Rome while retaining the original language in John Logan's script, and delivers a fierce, snarling performance.

7. The Deep Blue Sea - Rachel Weisz gives an affecting performance in Terrence Davies stark but well-realized tale of a bored housewife partaking in an affair during the bombing of Britain.

6. The Kid with a Bike - There's not a moment of false sentiment or untruth in the Dardennes brothers story of a troubled youth being adopted by a kindhearted young woman and being enticed by the neighborhood gang.

5. Hemingway and Gellhorn - Philip Kaufman's movie about the stormy and steamy relationship between a war correspondent and the larger than life author. Great performances from Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman.

4. Bernie - Richard Linklater presents another unique and unexpected work, this one a crime story featuring Jack Black as a mortician becoming an unwilling companion to Shirley MacLaine.

3. Under African Skies - "Paradise Lost" filmmaker Joe Berlinger's documentary is both a celebration of Paul Simon's seminal album Graceland and an introspective of the controversial storm surrounding Simon's ignoring of the South African U.N. embargo by working with musicians affected by the evils of apartheid.

2. Prometheus - Vitalic director Ridley Scott revisits "Alien" territory and crafts an original, intelligent, visceral, and well-acted science fiction film.

1. Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson hones his craft and concocts his most mature film to date, arty and whimsical yes, but a gorgeous and tender ode to young love, featuring a cast of Anderson regulars and newbies all contributing their best to this magical work.