My lists for 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007.

Honorable Mentions: Flight. End of Watch. Moonrise Kingdom. Killing Them Softly. Jack Reacher. The Dark Knight Rises. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Holy Motors. The Impostor. The Raid: Redemption. Goon. Small Apartments. Dredd. Seven Psychopaths. Haywire. The Dictator. Brave. Bernie. Sleepwalk with Me. Silver Linings Playbook. Savages. Skyfall. Killer Joe. 21 Jump Street.
Films I Missed: Magic Mike. The Sessions. Les Miserables. Promised Land.
Film by a Friend I Would Totally Have High on the List: Detention.

Nick2012_CloudAtlas15Nick on Cloud Atlas:

There are a lot of frustrating things about this movie but the overall impact is difficult to deny. It’s as epic, bold, and ambitious as anything in recent memory and when it’s good it’s very good. Actors immerse themselves to new depths in their roles, the photography is fantastic, and the combination of the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer leads an audience to great places. It’s a sprawling movie but not as overwrought as some of the filmmakers’ earlier work.

It’s a must see, and a film that should ultimately be a beloved genre cornerstone once it’s had time to sink in. It’s not “next level shit” as some claim, but it is impossible to punish a movie for taking such risks and only being very good rather than life-altering.

Current rating:
3.5 out of 5

Contributing factors:
Ridiculous ambition. Beautiful filmmaking. Bold performances. Far-reaching ideas. Balance of art and entertainment.

Performance to savor: Hanks, especially in his all-too-brief role as Declan the murderous gangster asshole. Pull Quote: “Why watch Two and a Half Men on TV when you can see their movie?”

Buy it from us. Renn’s Review.


Nick2012_TheMaster14Nick on The Master:

This is one of those films that is hard to love but very easy to get absorbed into and feel something, though it’s not easy to articulate. Structurally it’s an oddity, there’s none of the same hooks to hang your hat on as a cinemagoer but it doesn’t really matter. Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the select few filmmakers we’ve ever had who seems to leave it all on the floor when making a movie. The Master is like a weird glimpse into a part of life we’ve never seen and when you have actors like Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman killing it, it’s magical.

Current rating: 3.5 out of 5

Contributing factors: Paul Thomas Anderson riffing on a high level. Amazing lead performances. A great sense of oddness and lunacy under the surface. Dialogue to die for.

Performance to savor: Hoffman. As much as Joaquin is contorting and making pained expressions and laying himself raw onscreen it is Hoffman who is the film’s rudder. Pull Quote:“Another difficult classic from one of the best and brightest.”

Buy it from us. My Review.

Nick2012_BourneLegacy13Nick on The Bourne Legacy:

It’s all about what you bring in with you. This is not a Matt Damon ‘Bourne’ movie in any way. It has a lot more in common with older thrillers and action flicks and writer/director Tony Gilroy has shown himself to be a fantastic cinematic voice, here really balancing his tight and efficient drama with great action. Although the last act is one big chase, the majority of the film is a brutal and lean affair with some great character work supporting Jeremy Renner’s effective leading turn. Edward Norton in particular delivers that corporate tough guy dialogue so well and there’s something icy about Zelchko Ivanek on his best day, let alone the eerie (especially NOW) scene where he goes on a shooting spree.

It’s a meaty movie but smart and someone old school. I’ve already watched it more than any of the Damon flicks in the series, primarily because of how it riffs on stuff from the other films but really plays up the chemical manipulation angle, which makes a great action series even cooler.

Current rating:
3.5 out of 5

Contributing factors: Great pacing and an unorthodox structure makes it fresh. A wolf gets hit by a missile. Some great moments we haven’t seen before. Ballsy structure decisions. Building a film around a antihero needing his meds is awesome.

Performance to savor: Renner. He pulls off this calculated efficiency so well. Pull Quote: “Shut up and watch a few older action movies before you snap off judgment!”

Buy it from us. My Review.


Nick2012_CabinintheWoods12Nick on The Cabin in the Woods:

Batshit crazy. Even when it’s living fully within the world of the familiar this is an above-average horror flick. When it cranks things up, it’s in a class all its own. It’s very easy to see the lineage from Buffy and Angel here, though divorced of all the soap opera and forced action scenes what is left is pure genre distillation and it is downright beautiful.

Current rating: 3.5 out of 5

Contributing factors: Absolute craziness. Great knowledge of genre and willingness to swim in the deep end. A playfulness absent in most genre efforts. Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins.

Performance to savor: Richard Jenkins & Bradley Whitford. Pull Quote: “Go in fresh. Know nothing about this movie before you watch it.”

Buy it from us. Renn’s Review.


Nick on The Avengers:

One of the most effective and resoundingly appealing tentpole movies ever made. Grown ups weaned on The Dark Knight‘s intensity and maturity may be disinterested but the balance of great dialogue, fantastic action sequences, and legendary characters being handled right is tough to ignore.

This is populist stuff but it’s so much fun and so well done it’s hard to see why even the more cynical viewers wouldn’t be affected. The Avengers is a gift to this generation as Star Wars was to me. It’s not as fresh and pure and it’s most definitely a product, but compared to nearly everything we’ve seen over the past ten summers it’s manna. And Joss Whedon rocked it.


Current rating: 4.0 out of 5.

Contributing factors: Nothing left to chance, all the fun is on the screen. Classic characters done right. Great balance of action and character stuff. Pure fun.

Performance to savor: Joss Whedon’s ability to hodl the center. Pull Quote: “Quit being such bitches and just enjoy this.”

Buy it from us. Josh’s Review.


Nick2012_KillList10Nick on Kill List:

Ben Wheatley’s cold and powerful film is a lot of things, and that’ll scare some people. Especially as the story moves on. Is it a modern thriller or a 70’s horror flick? Who cares. It’s fantastic and more proof that Wheatley’s one to watch. A nice mix of elements makes this one a keeper.

But don’t read too much about it.


Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: Fresh approach. Great genrebending premise. Performances and tone are spotless.

Performance to savor: Michael Smiley. Pull Quote: “Know nothing going in. Have a bath afterwards.”

Buy it from us.

Nick2012_BeastsSouthern9Nick on Beasts of the Southern Wild:

Beautiful. Odd. Wondrous. Bold. Bizarre. Confident. Rustic. Spiritual. Earthy. New-age. Ancient. Fun. Sad. Crazy. Sane. So many ways to describe this little bit of whimsy that came from out of nowhere. It’s a difficult film, living between adorable and heartbreaking so often and instantaneously that it’s hard to pin it down. What is easy to pin down are the performances all being phenomenal and the entire vibe of the film being downright refreshing.

A classic, but a very weird one.


Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: A sense of awe laced with a down home charm and amazing work by all involved. Creatures galore and a nice refreshing way to look at food and our relationship with the world around us.

Performance to savor: Quvenzhané Wallis. Pull Quote: “There’s a shitload of crayfish in this movie.”

Buy it from us.


Nick2012_Chronicle8Nick on Chronicle:

This Josh Trank guy is good. Chronicle is that rare found footage movie that entertains, surprises, and finds fun ways to stay within its concept even as it becomes a legitimate superhero/villain story. It’s pretty deft, both in how it uses its ample special effects and how it treats its two leading characters. It cuts a few corners but not in any way that hurts the overall product. This is a fun, ballsy, and legitimate flick and one that has shown stability over repeat viewings.

Current rating: 4.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: An actual story that escalates and develops. Great filmmaking and fresh use of superhero tropes. Strong performances. Actual merit as a film above and beyond its core concept.

Performance to savor: Dane Dehaan. Pull Quote: “Proving in a big way that there’s legs to the found footage thing.”

Buy it from us. Tim’s Review.

Nick2012_TheGrey7Nick on The Grey:

This movie should have been released right in the thick of the holiday season because it is gritty and powerful and raw in a way very few modern movies are. It’s the kind of man vs. nature movies that used to be a staple that rarely make it through the system anymore. Liam Neeson is fantastic as are Dermot Mulroney and Frank Grillo in a film that is less about men vs. wolves than it is some primordial statement about will and instinct.

Joe Carnahan absolutely rocks this thing, injecting a lot of art into what is superficially a meaty stew of a flick. Beautiful. Haunting. Jarring. Brutal. All of those things and more. A must buy.
Current rating: 4.0 out of 5
Contributing factors: Powerful filmmaking. A grounded and haunting performance from Liam Neeson. Great survival action. A serious tone married to a really cool aesthetic.
Performance to savor: Grillo. Pull Quote: “This is one that will be shared from father to son as a rite of passage for decades.”

Buy it from us. Renn’s Review.


Nick2012_Argo6Nick on Argo:

Ben Affleck wins.

This movie is very entertaining, very tense, and surprisingly effective considering the high concept and the fact the story is now quite public domain. Cast perfectly, the film is that rare balance of legit awards contender and resoundingly strong piece of entertainment. Affleck does a very stout job in front of and behind the lens, locking him in as the real deal and seeing him be an actor rather than a movie star is enriching. Goodman and Arkin and Cranston are terrific in support and Scoot McNairy does amazing work as a skeptical hostage.
Current rating: 4.0 out of 5
Contributing factors: Crackerjack casting. Great style. A new story told well. Tension galore even though you know the ending going in.

Performance to savor: Scoot McNairy. Pull Quote: “One of the most entertaining serious hostage movies ever!”

Renn’s Review.

Nick2012_Lincoln5Nick on Lincoln:

Spielberg. Day-Lewis. Tommy Lee. Jackie Earle. Goggins. Seriously, what isn’t to like?

That it’s not the best movie of the year has more to do with expectations than anything else. By focusing on a very finite period of Abraham Lincoln’s life Spielberg and gang have made something that may be a little less epic and weighty in favor of making a movie that hums along and distills the greatness of the man into a digestible portion. It works. Lincoln is not only a strong movie with one staggering central performance but also something that isn’t a chore. That’s actually a surprising and very wise decision.
Current rating: 4.0 out of 5
Contributing factors: Powerful. Moving. Funny. Unique. And the cast is staggeringly good.

Performance to savor: Duh. Pull Quote: “The best Lincoln movie yet!”

Renn’s Review.


Nick2012_Looper4Nick on Looper:

This is a great little flick. By taking two rather known actors and tweaking expectations Rian Johnson has created a fresh time travel sci-fi flick without having to break the bank (or go super analog like Primer). The action is fantastic, the violence impactful and not cool, and the conceit of time travel as an assassination game is handled in such a manner that the film feels timeless.

A very strong and resonant movie that will surely improve like a nice bordeaux.
More Rian Johnson. Now.
Current rating: 4.0 out of 5
Contributing factors: Smart sci-fi, great action beats, unique perspective on time travel. Great work by the entire cast. A few actual surprises, which is rare in this age.

Performance to savor: Noah Segan. Love that guy. Pull Quote: “Rian Johnson is one of the sneakiest big talents working today and has reached the point where his involvement guarantees a must-watch film.”

Buy it from us. Renn’s Review.

Nick2012_Django3Nick on Django Unchained:

Inglorious Basterds wasn’t a fluke. The new mature, tightly edited version of Quentin Tarantino is so much more fun than the guy who made way too much Kill Bill and the awful Deathproof. This is all of what made the filmmaker great and  more. It’s beautiful, crazy, sexy, vicious, smart, profane, and inspiring. Not an easy combo. Christoph Waltz is amazing, Leo DiCaprio is obviously having a time, and Jamie Foxx is fantastic in a role that he makes his own wholly.

It’s the most fun, most vulgar film of the year.
Current rating: 4.5 out of 5

Contributing factors: A one of a kind filmmaker doing what he does best. Great leading work by everyone involved. Material that is insanely fun and not racist at all, a recent complain that blows my mind.

Performance to savor: Waltz. Pull Quote: “Finger-lickin’ fun. An impossible movie to not enjoy fully,”

Tim’s Review.


Nick2012_LifeofPi2Nick on Life of Pi:

This is a breathtaking movie. Elegant and effortless, Ang Lee has built something truly unique that takes material many people are very personal about or conflicted on and makes them universal and accessible. You don’t have to be a spiritual person to find the golden light permeating every frame of this film. At times staggeringly exhilarating to look at and others just plain beautiful there’s nothing but legitimate magic coursing through this movie. From the harrowing shipwreck to the the numerous animal moments to the deep sea mindbender that occurs in the latter moments, Ang Lee has outdone himself. Which is saying a lot.

Current rating: 5.0 out of 5

Contributing factors: Sheer beauty in storytelling. A perfect way of communicating very person beliefs in a manner not preachy. Fantastic performances. A sense of wonder unlike any other film.

Performance to savor: Suraj Sharma. Pull Quote: “This is the most effectively spiritual film I’ve ever seen.”

Nick2012_ZeroDark1Nick on Zero Dark Thirty:

This is a meaty, ballsy, powerful, and dense movie. Epic in the sense that good adult thrillers are. It’s smart, confident, ruthless, and filled with elegantly cast characters that sell the idea. It’s a long film but it shimmies right to the big climactic Osama bin Laden hunt in a manner that betrays the running time. Kathryn Bigelow is operating at an insanely high level as a filmmaker now and what she and screenwriter Mark Boal have done with very publicized material is astonishing.
Jason Clarke is a revelation. Jessica Chastain absolutely carries the film. The quality of the the drama is matched perfectly with the more kinetic scenes and the end result is that rare blend of deep, exciting, and so smart it hurts.

Current rating: 5 out of 5

Contributing factors: Bigelow doing what she does best. A great eclectic cast of characters. Extremely fresh and current subject matter. Being one of very few sober, grown-up mainstream movies and actually exceeding expectations is difficult, but Zero Dark Thirty pulls it off. Highly articulate filmmaking.

Performance to savor: Chastain. Pull Quote: “Kathryn Bigelow has entered very elite company among filmmakers!”


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