Uploaded: Friday, January 4, 2013, 8:03 AM
Tyler Hanley's top films
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|10. Pitch Perfect
This upbeat crowd-pleaser was one of the year's feel-good surprises thanks to its strong script and catchy soundtrack. The modern music woven throughout (such as David Guetta's "Titanium") infuses the film with a vibrant, contagious energy. Big props to director Jason Moore (a 2004 Tony Award nominee for the Broadway musical "Avenue Q") for maintaining a playful atmosphere and getting the most from his charming cast.
Richard Linklater ("Dazed and Confused," "Waking Life") is a gifted filmmaker, if not a particularly prolific one. In this compelling dark comedy, Linklater reunites with his "School of Rock" star Jack Black, creating a fascinating character study that benefits from the director's mockumentary approach. The three leads -- Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey -- all deliver terrific performances, and the screenplay is crisp and clever.
8. Django Unchained
Sharp dialogue and dynamic characters drive Quentin Tarantino's riotous and uber-violent revenge flick. "Django" comes across as the film Tarantino was always destined to make, with his well-documented appreciation for blaxploitation and spaghetti westerns ("Django" essentially combines the genres). Christoph Waltz is excellent as bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz while Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington also impress.
Daniel Day-Lewis shines with a towering performance as Abraham Lincoln, while Tommy Lee Jones nearly steals the show as anti-slavery Republican Thaddeus Stevens. Steven Spielberg directs with a meticulous, deft touch, and the exquisite production values (especially costuming and set design) establish the time period beautifully. And while "Lincoln" plays a bit like a $50 million history lesson, four score and seven years from now it may well be considered the most accurate and authentic film ever made about the 16th president.
6. The Avengers
Adjectives used in some of Marvel Comics' iconic titles from the early 1960s through today -- amazing, fantastic, incredible -- also describe director Joss Whedon's superhero epic. Whedon ("Serenity") helms with a master craftsman's focus and a devoted fan's enthusiasm in adapting the popular Marvel series that made its print debut in 1963. The screenplay is witty and rife with whip-smart dialogue; visual effects and costume design are exceptional; character dynamics are deeply developed; and the ambitious action scenes are astonishing.
5. Life of Pi
The most visually stunning film since James Cameron's "Avatar" is also a spiritually insightful powerhouse. The filmmaking team of director Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain") and screenwriter David Magee ("Finding Neverland") inspire with this vibrant adaptation of Yann Martel's award-winning novel. Phenomenal 3D effects (was it raining in the theater?) highlight the breathtaking action sequences while the story poses interesting questions about faith, inner strength and survival.
4. Beasts of the Southern Wild
There is an organic, elemental undertone to rookie director Benh Zeitlin's Louisiana-based drama. "Beasts" is as harrowing as it is heart-wrenching. Youngster Quvenzhane Wallis captivates in a demanding role while the rest of the unrecognizable cast rallies around her. Symbolism flows throughout, and the musical score by Zeitlin and Dan Romer strikes an emotional chord. In a year flooded with star-driven, big-budget blockbusters, "Beasts" is the little indie that could.
3. Moonrise Kingdom
The films of writer/director Wes Anderson ("The Royal Tenenbaums," "Fantastic Mr. Fox") are something of an acquired taste, and this sweet romantic comedy is a treat. "Moonrise" is akin to a cinematic dollhouse: a movie unusual in tone but universal in context. Many of us can relate to the thrill of independence and young love, which Anderson and his adolescent leads Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward capture wonderfully. Honest, understated performances from an A-list cast that includes Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton and Edward Norton further accent the storybook atmosphere.
Ben Affleck's sophomore directorial effort is a nail-biter from beginning to end. Affleck and his crew do a phenomenal job capturing the time period and casting actors who both resemble their real-life counterparts and have the thespian chops to hit all the right emotional notes. One of the film's many strengths is its ability to draw in the audience -- we often feel we are there with these people throughout the ordeal, for better or worse. A goofy sci-fi film dubbed "Argo" never got made in 1980. Fortunately for moviegoers, a brilliant, Oscar-worthy drama/thriller of the same name did get made in 2012.
1. Silver Linings Playbook
This poignant dramedy from director David O. Russell ("The Fighter") has nothing to do with science, but the chemistry is palpable. Sparks fly between leads Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, and both serve up career-best performances. Russell's adaptation of the Matthew Quick novel brims with raw energy and rich dialogue. An intimate candor permeates the picture as real-world issues (commitment, family dynamics, mental health, resilience) are addressed with sincerity and a sparkle of humor.
Tyler Hanley's pans
The typically reliable tandem of director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp disappoints with this underwhelming comedy/horror hybrid. In trying to walk the tightrope between two genres, "Shadows" tumbles somewhere into the murky middle, where ho-hum movies go to die.
The convergence of two personal favorites -- writer Edgar Allan Poe and actor John Cusack -- piqued my interest. But "The Raven" proved to be never more than a hackneyed thriller with uneven performances and a lousy climax.
Rock of Ages
Musicals are something of an acquired taste, and "Rock of Ages" is more cheeseburger than lobster bisque. A soap opera-esque love story and stagy undertones lend a certain silliness to the whole affair despite Tom Cruise's electric turn as rocker Stacee Jaxx.
The Three Stooges
Ninety-two minutes of slapstick and sound effects coupled with a numbskull plot that prominently features the cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore." Ouch.
Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, we hope, will appear in good movies again someday after a string of forgettable flops. Case in point: director Akiva Schaffer's comedy/sci-fi hodgepodge with its wealth of awkward scenarios and dearth of humor.
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