Top 10 of 2012 – Allen’s Picks
If I had to choose the one movie that delivers the goods exactly as promised, it would be Gareth Evans’s exhilarating, pulse-pounding The Raid. The set-up is as simple as it gets: a highly trained SWAT team infiltrates an apartment building run by a cruel and vicious drug dealer. Their exits get blocked, and their communications are cut, trapping them with an army of gangsters hungry for their blood. Coming out of Indonesia, this is an aggressive, non-stop action extravaganza. As the team moves deeper into the complex, their encounters with the enemy become more intense. Evans injects each battle scene with adrenaline, and molds them with enough creativity to keep highlighted moments stuck in our brains. Iko Uwais, who stars as young officer Rama, is set to become the next international action superstar. He kicks and flips and shoots and punches his way through each floor relentlessly, and his climactic fight scene with Donny Alamsyah and Yayan Ruhian will test the endurance of any action junkie. If you are looking for a rollercoaster ride in the purest sense, look no further than right here.
The award for the year’s best animated film should go to Laika’s wonderful ParaNorman. The studio that made the critically acclaimed Coraline (2009) has once again created an inventive, one-of-a-kind stop motion story that is both fun and moving at the same time. Kodi Smit-McPhee voices Norman, a young boy misunderstood by his parents and picked on by bullies at school. What no one believes is that Norman has a special ability: he can interact with the dead. This makes him the one person who can save the day when a witch’s evil curse causes a group of zombies to crawl out of their graves. Filled with horror movie references, along with good voice work from the supporting cast, this is an entertaining movie experience that offers more than what you may suspect. Themes involving fear of the unknown, accepting people for their differences, and not allowing hate and anger to overcome one’s self come bubbling to the surface. This is a much more mature story than other animated movies, with ideas that can resonate for people of any age.
Quentin Tarantino’s latest is a bloody good romp through America’s darkest time period. Calling back to his love of spaghetti westerns, Tarantino tells the story of Django (Jamie Foxx), a freed slave who joins forces with a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to save his wife from the sadistic plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). This is perhaps Tarantino’s most violent film yet, with acts of human torture depicting just how horrible slavery was. Shootouts are so bloody and over the top that certain scenes seem bathed in red. At the same time, Tarantino offsets it all by making this very funny and entertaining as well. Waltz sparkles as the bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz, who can kill his enemies with the politeness of a southern gentleman. Leonardo DiCaprio chews scenery with reckless abandon in his rare villain role, and Samuel L. Jackson surprises with how important his character Stephen is to the plot. The excess may not be for everyone, but I can’t deny that Tarantino is a filmmaker who loves movies, and infuses his work with the passion of a movie fan.
Let me tell you this right now: Martin McDonagh is the real deal. After writing and directing the highly underrated In Bruges (2008), McDonagh has quelled any thoughts of a sophomore slump with this hilarious and even thoughtful project. Colin Farrell stars as Marty, a struggling screenwriter trying to find inspiration for his next script. However, as Marty begins to gather ideas, all the people in his life pull him into a ridiculous and dangerous situation. This involves two friends who run a dognapping scheme (Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken) and a gangster (Woody Harrelson) hell bent on find his missing shih Tzu. This is arguably the most fun I’ve had in a theater this year. The plot flips on itself, as Marty takes real life events and incorporates them into his script. This meta approach is nothing new, but very few have done it in such a creative way as McDonagh has. Walken has one his best performances in some time, and Rockwell’s character steals the show, relating to Marty a shootout that can only be described as “unforgettable.” The film satirizes the crime genre and even questions people’s fascination with on-screen violence. McDonagh is a legit filmmaker, and hopefully his next project will come sooner rather than later.