The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Top 10 of 2012

I admit it. I'm a movie nerd. I love 'em. I keep a list of every movie I see and even put together a NCAA tourney-like bracket at the end of the year. Cool, huh? But here we sit, and it's time to look back. These aren't simply the four-star reviews, but the ones I enjoyed the most. And for you nitpickers among us, these are films I saw in the calendar year, not just 2012 releases.

10. Rocky Mountain (1950)
Right from the start, I enjoyed this western with Errol Flynn. It was pretty standard stuff, but there was something oddly appealing about it. Flynn plays a Confederate cavalry officer leading a small squad of soldiers heading west during the Civil War in hopes of starting a second front in California. Instead, his squad ends up in a to-the-death fight with Indians, a beautiful woman's safety at stake. Liked the whole movie, loved the darkness of the last 25 minutes.

9. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)
It seems like the first Mission: Impossible movie -- released in 1996 -- was just hitting theaters, but the franchise continues on, and it's better than ever. Tom Cruise returns in this action blockbuster that amps up the action formula to a ridiculous level. It's not just mindless action either. We're talking smart, well-written and intricately choreographed sequences. Also look for Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Tom Wilkinson and some fun appearances from the previous M:I movies.

8. Black Narcissus (1947)
One of the most incredibly visual films I've ever seen. Whole scenes and individual shots look artistic to the point they could be paintings. Deborah Kerr stars as a nurse sent to an isolated, mountaintop mission in the Himalayas and finds out that all the personalities and charged energy seem to have an odd effect on everyone. That visual pays off in a big way in the end with a story that heads into the horror department with some truly chilling twists.

7. The Hasty Heart (1949)
Based off a stage play, this WWII story is a gem. Richard Todd plays a wounded British soldier sent to a hospital/rehab facility deep in the jungle. He's unaware his wounds are fatal and will eventually kill him, but his nurse (Patricia Neal) and fellow patients (Ronald Reagan among others) are quite aware and try to make his last few weeks memorable....if he'll allow. A little too sentimental at times, a little too sappy, but I loved this one, especially Todd in an Oscar-nominated part with Neal and Reagan providing solid support.

6. Twelve O'Clock High (1949)
Gregory Peck seemingly never disappoints, including this part that is one of his best (even if it's never mentioned in that way). He plays a general assigned to clean things up with a bomber squadron taking extreme casualties on bombing runs over Germany in the middle of WWII. For a movie released so close to the conclusion of the war, it doesn't pull any punches. More than a few scenes stuck with me long after viewing, and a supporting cast led by Dean Jagger and a relatively unknown cast doesn't disappoint. An underrated WWII classic.

5. Moneyball (2011)
When I heard that Michael Lewis' baseball story of the 2002 Oakland Athletics and forward-thinking GM Billy Beane, I was skeptical. When the seemingly never-ending production kept hitting roadblocks, I was even more skeptical. With Brad Pitt playing Beane in a great part, the movie was worth the wait. It's not your typical sports movie, Pitt's Beane not settling for the same old, same old in terms of putting a team together. Jonah Hill is a scene-stealer as well, Philip Seymour Hoffman makes the most of a small but worthwhile part, and the style and soundtrack help boost this baseball story up a notch.

4. Drive (2011)
This is a film that defies all descriptions and in a good way. It's an ultra-violent, art-house crime thriller that is unlike just about any other movie I can think of. Ryan Gosling plays Driver, an unnamed Hollywood stunt driver who doubles as a getaway driver. He gets caught up on a road that will lead nowhere but trouble. It's difficult to explain this movie in a little blurb, but it is a gem. Albert Brooks, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac and Christina Hendricks co-star. More proof that a movie doesn't have to be "mainstream" to be epically good.

3. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
I don't know if there was a more anticipated movie released in theaters in 2012. How would director Christopher Nolan wrap up his epic superhero trilogy? Especially considering how loved The Dark Knight was, it seemed a mammoth task to one-up himself and close the trilogy on a high note. Reviews were somewhat mixed, but I loved how the series finale came together. The last hour -- especially the closing scenes -- are perfect with Christian Bale and Michael Caine both delivering their best performances in the Batman trilogy, Tom Hardy a scene-stealer as villain Bane with Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard and some surprises from the past joining the cast. Great conclusion to a great series, the best superhero trilogy ever...and probably the darkest.  

2. Warrior (2011)
Just calling this one a great sports movie isn't enough. This is just a great movie. It's familiar, but it finds a way to rise above the cliches and the stereotypes we've all come to expect out of sports movies (any sports movie). Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton -- both rising stars -- play estranged brothers brought back together because they're both in trouble in vastly different ways. Nick Nolte delivers a great performance as well as their father with quite a few faults. It's hard to describe that emotion when you watch a movie and completely fall for it hook, line and sinker. I certainly did here.

1. Skyfall (2012)
While I was psyched to see The Dark Knight Rises in July, this is the movie I most wanted to see in 2012. I was disgustingly excited to see this film, the 23rd in the James Bond franchise, and after the struggles of Quantum of Solace, I was very curious to see where it would go. Amazingly perfect turnaround. Daniel Craig continues to catch up to Sean Connery as the best 007 around, playing the iconic secret agent in more human fashion than anyone before him. Bond isn't a cliche anymore, he's a human being, flaws and all. Loved the look of the movie (a visual treat from cinematographer Roger Deakins) with a great supporting cast including Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney and Ben Whishaw as Q. Great action, better story, and one of the best Bond films of all-time, easily climbing into my top 3, and my favorite film from 2012.

What does 2013 hold? I'm looking forward to it for sure. Thanks again to all the readers for their support and keep on reading Just Hit Play!

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