Monday, December 31, 2012

My Yearend Roundup: The Ten Best Films of 2012 That I Have Seen

December 31, 2012

According to my record, I had written 84 movie reviews this year.  This is a list of the best among the films of 2012 that I have seen and written about.  For this list, I will not include the 29 which had been released in 2011 or earlier, but I had only seen in 2012. These were mostly the Oscar winning films released in December 2011.  Too bad also that I will not be able to include here potential Oscar winning films of this year, which will only be shown in January 2013 locally, like "Les Miserables," "Lincoln," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Life of Pi," etc...

Here are the 10 Best Films of 2012 that I have seen and written about:

10. A Royal Affair (full review)

"A Royal Affair" is about exactly what its title tells us. Caroline is an English princess who was married off to the King of Denmark, in fulfillment of her childhood dreams. They meet for the first time when she went to Denmark, but she was distressed to discover that her husband Christian is not of completely sound mind.

After her first child was born, and wallowing in constant loneliness, Caroline begins the titular royal affair with Struensee, the court physician, who was also Christian's best friend and adviser. Caroline and Struensee not only share romantic love, but also a passion for political reform. Struensee uses his very influential position to institute radically progressive policies which eventually revolutionizes Denmark society.

9.  Rurouni Kenshin (full review)

In this story, Kenshin meets and helps a young lady named Kaoru, whose fencing school was vandalized. They then get entangled in the affairs of a notorious ruthless drug dealer Kanryu Tanaka when his drug chemist Megumi escapes and seeks shelter in Kaoru's school. On top of all this, there is a mad killer on the loose with mad sword skills calling himself the Battosai, a title bestowed on Kenshin in his murderous past which he would rather disown.

With all of these stories and more that the movie tries to tell, the running time is about two hours. However you will not feel the time at all as you get enthralled by the fantastic look of the movie and its spectacular fighting scenes. Either with sword, bare hands or firearms, the fights were choreographed with excitement. The cinematography, color palette and visual effects were impeccably executed. 

8.  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (full review)

The first scene had Judi Dench playing Evelyn, a new widow desperately trying to talk to a call center agent about some investment her late husband made. Then one by one, we get introduced to six other senior British citizen, each with a personal problem of their own, played by other prominent senior British actors, like Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith.

All seven of these people all decide independently to seek some respite from their present predicaments by booking a stay at the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" in Jaipur, India, managed by a struggling young entrepreneur Sonny (Dev Patel) who is also experiencing his own problem with his domineering mother. Here at the hotel, which unfortunately did not look a least bit like its beautifully photo-shopped brochures, these seven seniors undergo life-renewing experiences.

7.  Men in Black III (full review)

In this film, a vicious alien villain known as Boris the Animal escapes from his prison on the moon, where he had been locked up since being arrested by Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) back in 1969. One day, Agent K disappears from the present day. His partner Agent J (Will Smith) realizes that K had been assassinated by Boris forty years ago, which caused a major change of events, allowing Boris' alien race to overrun the Earth. J had to find a way to travel back in time to 1969 in order to save K and rectify the tragic consequences of his death. Can J save K and in turn save the Earth from the clutches of Boris?

The odd couple was just as they were before in the first films. Will Smith is still his old loudmouth Agent J as Tommy Lee Jones was his tight-lipped Agent K. As J goes back to the past, he will interact with the young 29-year old K, perfectly played by Josh Brolin. Brolin amazingly captures the laconic persona, and even the distinct voice, of Jones so well that they seemed to have been one and the same actor. It was also good to see Emma Thompson again in a major film as she portrayed Agent O, another senior agent with a soft spot for K. The younger Agent O was played by a cutie named Alice Eve, but she certainly did not convince us that she would look or act like Emma Thompson when she grows older.

6.  The Hunger Games (full review)

I have read all three books by Suzanne Collins several months before, so I know what will happen already. Despite this knowledge, I remained excited and riveted by how the details of the story had been translated on screen by writer-director Gary Ross.

The first hour was dedicated to the events preceding the games, as the last hour and a half depicted the games themselves. This movie was the story of a future world, in a country with 12 districts controlled a central Capitol. Every year, they would commemorate the revolution by staging a "Hunger Games", where two tributes from each district would fight to the death until only one remains the victor. On this the 74th Games, the tributes of outlying District 12 would be Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and the central heroine of the series, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).

5.  Sinister (full review)

Ellison (Ethan Hawke, in his first appearance in a horror film) is an author of true crime novels who is seeking to follow up his one hit book. He moves his family into the very home where a gruesome family massacre had previously taken place. When he discovers a box of film reels which turned out to be video footage documenting the deaths of several families, his research turns into a real life horror for him and his family.

The eerie and tense atmosphere is set up from the very first scene where we see four people hanging from a tree. It never let up from there up to the bloody end. OK, there are horror clichés here like the house in seemingly perpetual darkness, or the sudden scares that lead nowhere, creepy children drawing on walls, and so on, but in this movie, these things actually work well to work up the audience's heart rates and goosebumps. The music is pulsating as it is unsettling, very effective to work you up some more with every step that Ellison takes in the house.

4.  I Do Bidoo Bidoo (full review)

"I Do Bidoo Bidoo" (by writer-director Chris Martinez) does not deny that it was inspired by the success of "Mamma Mia".  However, instead of ABBA songs, this local counterpart uses the similarly diverse discography of the APO Hiking Society, a collection of Filipino pop classics accumulated for more than 30 years since they started to record in the early 1970s.

This is a story about two families.  The Polotan family is lower middle class, while the Fuentebella family is super rich. Rock Polotan (Sam Concepcion) falls in love with Tracy Fuentebella (Tippy dos Santos), leading to an unexpected teenage pregnancy.  Rock's parents are Pol (Ogie Alcasid), a one-hit wonder songwriter who gives guitar lessons to kids in the neighborhood, and Rosie (Eugene Domingo), a caterer to funerals.  Tracy's parents are Nick (Gary Valenciano), a career-centered businessman, and Elaine (Zsazsa Padilla), a lonely neglected housewife.  The obviously radical class difference of course led to a very disastrous "pamamanhikan."  This consequently led to all the characters rethinking about their own situations with their respective partners in love.  Will love prevail in the end?

3.  Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (full review)

The film opens with Abraham Lincoln on a voice-over talking about how History prefers legends to men, then flashes back to his childhood when young Abe witnesses his mother being killed by what seemed to be a vampire. The desire to seek vengeance on the ghoulish murderer would carry him over the next years as the child grew up. After a botched attempt, he meets a vampire-killer named Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) who trains him in the killing craft using his weapon of choice, the axe. 

From there, this fantastic back story would then intertwine with more historically-familiar events we knew about Abe Lincoln, like his marriage to Mary Todd, his rise to the Presidency, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War, the Gettysburg Address and his fateful date at the theater. This is practically everything the layman knows about Abe Lincoln. Even viewers with only a passing knowledge of American history can readily relate. You simply have to watch to see how they dovetail the fantasy parts into the history parts.

2.  The Avengers (full review)

The anticipation for this film has been building up so many months since the showing of the solo movies about each of the heroes that comprise this superstar group -- Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and finally, Captain America. These individual films were all very good on their own, so very expectations are foisted on this special film that would unite all of them in one big adventure. Even though I am out of town now, that did not stop me from catching this film with some Marvel comics geeks. And for once, a film has come that fulfills it's advanced hype, and then some!

The film follows how these heroes were called together and assembled by Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. to retrieve a blue high-energy cube called the Tesseract stolen by the Asgard god Loki. It was fun how the film depicted the clash of their individual big egos of the heroes, and they did not really get along with each other right away, as would be expected. There is humor along with the high-intensity action. 

1.  The Dark Night Rises (full review)

"The Dark Knight Rises" is an EPIC superhero movie. This in fact could potentially be an unprecedented award-winning superhero movie. The two and a half hours that was needed to tell this huge story were wisely used. The film was absorbing and the details were all vital. The photography, the visual effects, the crowd scenes, the stunts, the Bat vehicles were all AWESOME to watch, and that was only on 2D. 

It is a practically an impossible task to compress the span of the complicated screenplay into a single paragraph. The story basically picks up eight years after revered former Gotham City District Attorney Harvey Dent was assumed to have been murdered by the Batman. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) had been leading a hermit existence since then, and the Batman had been unheard of. The arrival of a revolutionary respirator-masked super-villain named Bane (a massive and unrecognizable Tom Hardy) that shattered peace in Gotham City knocks sense into Bruce Wayne/Batman to come out of his retirement. Question is, does he still have what it takes to defeat Bane and save Gotham?

Special Mentions:  Other Excellent Filipino Films of 2012

1.  Sta. Nina (full review)

"Sta. Nina" is set in lahar-ravaged Pampanga. A small coffin was unearthed in a quarrying operation. When Pol (Coco Martin) opens the box, the dead little girl encased inside was still intact with no sign of decay. Puzzled, he brings it home with him. His neighbors begin to experience unexplainable healings when they are in the presence of the uncorrupted corpse.

Meanwhile, Pol's personal life is also in shambles as he still has bitter years-old conflicts with his estranged wife Madel (Alessandra da Rossi) and her vindictive mother (Irma Adlawan). As Pol struggles to rid himself of the bad luck that hounded him all his life, could the miraculous corpse of little Marikit also prove to be his salvation?

2.  Posas (full review)

Watching this film is not easy. It is a harrowing experience as the director Lawrence Fajardo literally takes you through the entire experience of a young petty thief named Jestoni Biag (Nico Antonio) on one fateful day when he made the mistake of stealing the iPhone 4S of feisty and sexy call center agent Ms. Maria Grace Resuello (Bangs Garcia).

Without divulging any spoiling details, you as the audience will watch in pained disgust and horror as the policemen who arrest Jestoni, led by Police Officer Domingo (Best Supporting Actor winner Art Acuna), do MORE than simply shackle him in handcuffs. Paraphrasing the tagline, "The day they set him free, was the first day of his life sentence."

3.  Thy Womb (full review)

Its story can be told in one sentence. A middle-aged childless Moslem Badjao woman named Shaleha (Nora Aunor) living in Tawi-tawi finds a suitable second wife for her husband Bangas-An (Bembol Roco) to have a child of his own, unmindful of the consequences this decision might impose on her.

Director Mendoza intertwines very colorful scenes of daily Badjao life and culture to beef up the sparse story line, creating a brilliant visual spectacle that would educate us about how our Badjao countrymen live. We see how they live on their houses on stilts, weave mats, catch fish, dress wounds, do their marketing, and mainly, how they negotiate dowry and get married. I feel these scenes really brought me into their difficult and uncomfortable living conditions. I felt like I was actually there given the realism of execution.


  1. Wow, it feels like it's been long since I've seen you blog.

    Anyway, for me, The Hunger Games holds the #1 spot followed by The Avengers and somewhere along the line is MIB. I haven't watched the rest of the films but was interested with Abraham Lincoln. Haven't been the movie buff that I was :)

  2. I've seen half of these films only...but those half were great! The other half on the list are mostly drama so I didnt really pursue them

  3. I would agree on your top 2 pics as Batman makes you want more of the series and the Avengers was really nicely done.

  4. Great list! I hope I included Filipino films on my list. I just thought it would be great if I post an all filipino list for 2012.

    TDKR didn't make it on my list. lol

    1. I was thinking at first to separate foreign and Filipino films, but decided not to, especially since a Filipino film made it into my top 5. I do not get to watch a lot of Filipino films yet, but hope to see more Filipino indie stuff in this coming year.

  5. I've also watched Sinister in this list and it was really disturbing. Replaying all those murders again and again makes the movie heavy to absorb.

  6. I Do Bidoo Bidoo? .. really hehe. Haven't watched it yet. On top my list are Cloud Atlas, Breaking Dawn 2 and TikTik - The Aswang Chronicles. :)

    1. Hi Rain. I have not seen Cloud Atlas nor Tiktik so I could not comment or assess them yet. It is same with Looper or Deadfall or Rise of the Guardians for which I have also heard good things, but have not seen. Just outside this top 10 though are "Perks of a Wallflower" and "Wreck It Ralph," both of which I also liked a lot.

  7. You really know your films Fred. I love your special mentions. So far I have watched 6 of the ten movies you listed here and none of the special mentions. Though, I've seen the trailer of "Thy Womb" and it really looked interesting.

    This year I hope you would consider watching animes. If you like the story of Rurouni Kenshin I'm sure you will be surprised of all the unappreciated gems you can find in anime. Can't wait to exchange ideas with you about them. :)

    1. Hi Ia. I guess I will have to start from Samurai X animated series and take it from there. Hope to find a copy of this series soon!

  8. Nice film summary! I love the movies Sinister, Avengers, Abraham Lincoln among others. Happy 2013!

  9. I missed I Do Bidoo Bidoo, heard a lot of good reviewa about it.

  10. check this out :) - >