Top Ten Movies of 2012

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#6
Zero Dark Thirty

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
Photo: Columbia Pictures

I’ve now watched Kathryn Bigelow‘s Zero Dark Thirty twice and it’s a towering achievement on the part of both Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal. To condense ten years into just over two-hours-and-30-minutes and to do so in a way that presents so many facets of the hunt for Osama bin Laden fairly and without an agenda is commendable on its own, but to do so without all the frills and dramatic filigree stories such as this typically rely on is to have the utmost confidence in the story being told. Bigelow rightly has that confidence.

Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler and all the members of the cast bring to life a film that’s cold and procedural, and yet tense and dramatic that will leave you shaken. For more you can read my full review right here.

#5
Magic Mike

Joe Manganiello in Magic Mike
Joe Manganiello in Magic Mike
Photo: Warner Bros.

I mentioned expectations when writing about The Perks of Being a Wallflower and how they were quite low walking into that film. Well, walking into Steven Soderbergh‘s Magic Mike I had absolutely no expectations because there was no way of knowing what exactly to expect.

I don’t watch trailers so to the best of my knowledge I was getting the film all the hollering ladies were expecting — something along the lines of Showgirls, only this time with male strippers instead of “Saved by the Bell” alumni licking a stripper pole. Why I would ever believe that’s the kind of film the man behind Traffic, sex, lies and videotape and The Girlfriend Experience would make is beyond me, because that’s not the film I got.

Magic Mike is a straight-forward drama with a flair for the eccentric, penis pumps and a kick-ass soundtrack. Channing Tatum shows he may in fact have a future in acting, Matthew McConaughey shows he is always best when he’s Matthew McConaughey and Cody Horn is much better than many are giving her credit. Shut down your expectations and watch this film now if you haven’t done so already.

#4
End of Watch

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena in End of Watch
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena in End of Watch
Photo: Open Road Films

The marketing building up to the release of End of Watch relied on the fact it was written and directed by David Ayer (Training Day) and was told using the “footage from the handheld HD cameras of the police officers, gang members, surveillance cameras, and citizens caught in the line of fire.” This led me to believe it was going to be some kind of gimmicky found footage cop thriller from the guy that made the awful Street Kings, but I never expected the nuanced story approach Ayer took to capturing the lives of two South Central, Los Angeles police officers (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena).

I could have chosen a far more flashier picture to accompany this film’s place on this list, but the image of Gyllenhaal and Pena laughing in their police cruiser felt like it was the best way to showcase the reason this film is so good. Gyllenhaal and Pena bring to life two police officers, but more importantly, two best friends and it’s through their camaraderie and love for one another that this story is allowed to unfold in very dramatic, intense and emotional ways.

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