By Daniel Denehy
2012 Movie Recall
Without a doubt, 2012 was one of the best years of movies in a long time, particularly if you're a fan of sci-fi and fantasy. We saw the end of franchises, the start of new ones, and even the catalyst for an entire new way of telling stories on the big screen. Unfortunately, what was a fantastic year had to come to a close, and though there are a good deal of promising movies coming out in 2013, here in the first few months we are left in the film industry's slow season. There aren't too many quality films in theaters right now, and we here at SciFi Vision thought it would be a good idea to bring up some movies from this past year that didn't get reviewed. We wish to encourage you to go back, and enjoy some movies that you may have missed or were unsure about. Of course, some of these may be on DVD now, but at least a couple are still in theaters for those of you who enjoy the movie-going experience. Now sit back, grab some munchies, and remember the following six movies, they may save you from boredom in these trying times.
A lot of people went to see this because it was a Pixar film, but a lot were driven away by less favorable reviews from critics. When it comes to reading reviews on Pixar films, the thing to remember about most critics is that they hold these films to high standards. That's understandable, as Pixar has produced several truly touching, and inspiring films. Oh, everyone of them is good in different ways, but if a critic wasn't touched by them the way they were with their favorite Toy Story, they tend to judge the film a little harshly.
By now, my readers know that (with exception to one), I don't condemn movies. That being said Brave isn't the most memorable of the Pixar films. Oh, it's good. It's an emotional story about a mother-daughter relationship in Celtic Europe with great visual flair. It's a safe, entertaining film with strong female leads that represent tradition and freedom respectively. Remembering that this is also a Disney film, that last may sound a little familiar. Yet, as I said with archetypes in my Battleship review, storytellers keep using them for a reason. Brave is an enjoyable, family film, that any little girl will likely love. For everyone else, if you enjoyed How to Train Your Dragon, you should enjoy this one too.
Now here's a movie that a lot of folks skipped, and that's a real shame. This film has a lot of heart. Most of us have seen a film that as we watch it we can tell that the creators really cared about the story they were trying to tell. Such is the case here. Though the story of a child who is outcast because he sees and is fascinated by strange things is nothing new, the protagonist, the characters are portrayed so authentically, and with just the right amount of exaggeration, to make them unique, endearing people to follow. Think of it as a less pretentious, more honest, and more adventurous Donnie Darko for the family.
For those who did see this hidden gem, I predict a fond attachment, and an ascension to cult classic status. Much as with the two movies I compare this film to. If you enjoyed Coraline or The Goonies, rent this dvd, and don't be surprised when you buy it not long after.
4. Rise of the Guardians
Having come out during the holiday season, and featuring Santa Claus as one of the main characters, many people thought that this was an adventurous Christmas movie. That didn't turn out to be the case, as though the holiday is featured it is a minor event in the overall story. For those unfamiliar, Rise of the Guardians is a Avengers-esque tale of various “fairy tale” characters who have been charged with protecting the children of the world. The film follows Jack Frost as he goes from a (literal) nobody, to becoming a member alongside the likes of the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.
It's an entertaining film, with some cool action, and a unique concept. Yet, it is not a great film, as the creators missed opportunities to develop the characters' relationships into something a bit more meaningful. That being said, as it stands, the story arc of Jack Frost is a tear jerking, heart warming tale, while the story of Pitch Black is a surprisingly deep tragedy. This one was hard to compare given it's unique nature, but the closest movie I could think of was The Incredibles. If you enjoyed that, you should enjoy this film as well.
3. Wreck-It Ralph
About now someone is saying, “Man, this is a lot of family films.” Don't worry, the next couple will break that mold quite spectacularly. As for the current film, Wreck-It Ralph is a great movie. It's entertaining, it's inspirational, it's heart-meltingly cute at times, and it's funny. A lot of people went into this one thinking from the trailers that it was going to be full of nothing but video game cameos and gamer in-jokes. Though, both of those elements are present, they take a backseat to an original cast, and their adventure across the many worlds of a video arcade. (For those who grew up in the halcyon days of such establishments, the nostalgia can hit pretty hard.)
For anyone who didn't get to see the trailers, Wreck-It Ralph is the story of a video game villain who is tired of his friendless life, and goes on a quest to become a hero, learning about what that word really means along the way. The setting, is inventive, and the characters very likeable. I wouldn't be surprised to see a sequel in the works soon. Of all these family films, I recommend this one the most. For me, this movie was akin to the Toy Story movies, and if you liked the inventive themes of those, you should enjoy this as well.
2. The Hobbit
Now, this is a movie that is not only still in theaters, but a real blockbuster. The only reason it's on this list is because of how recently it came out. If for some reason you haven't seen this one yet, it's time to plan a weekend trip to the movies. Much as with the Star Wars saga, Peter Jackson has gone back in the timeline of his franchise to present a new trilogy of movies. Unlike Star Wars, at least so far, these prequels are far better films that give high hopes for the new trilogy. Admittedly there are a lot of people out there who disagree with yours truly, so much as I've done in the past, I will give context to my opinion. I never read the books this franchise is based on. I enjoyed the stories, but found Tolkien's writing style to be, frankly, long winded and boring. And for any who are about to start calling me bad names, I am a fan of the Dune novels, so I'm plenty accustomed to hyper-detailed settings.
That being said, back to the film. The Hobbit is a long film, much like its predecessors, and is padded with a good deal of exposition, but, everything it presents is interesting and eye catching, if not beautiful. For those that found the previous trilogy a little heavy in tone, you will be delighted to know that though The Hobbit is told in the same style of storytelling, it uses humor and song to present a lighter story. That being said, I'd recommend this film to anyone who was a fan of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
1. Django Unchained
Time to really break the mold. Django Unchained is the only movie on the list that can cleared be identified as not science fiction or fantasy. Further, it is a “hard R” movie that I include for those adults who would like to use this off season to enjoy something a little darker. Django Unchained is a spaghetti western about a slave-turned-bounty hunter who goes on a quest to free his wife that will take the audience and himself to the darkest corners of pre-Civil War slavery. It is a heavy film that has received some controversy due to its content. Take what opinion you may, but it is a movie to be experienced if you enjoy a serious films. Thanks to its director, Quentin Tarantino, it is also sure to reward fans of 70's action films, with gratuitous amounts of fake blood.
That last, was one thing that turned some people away from this film. It is true that Tarantino has a unique style to his films, but for those who are not fans, I encourage you to try this one. Most the “Tarantinoisms” audiences have grown used to are not present. In fact, the horrid accuracy of the setting does well to focus some of his more outlandish film mannerisms. Further, Jamie Foxx's portrayal of the protagonist, Django, is one to be seen. Foxx portrays the twisted tale of role so well, it is hard to see the actor past the character. The best of this acting comes in the latter half of the film, where Django is forced to portray a black slaver in order to trick is wife's captors, and his performance becomes truly chilling.
It is dark, controversial, bloody, and most decidedly not sci-fi/fantasy, but if you enjoy films such as Gangs of New York, you'll thank yourself for skipping one of the recent releases to go see Django Unchained.