Monthly Movie Mayhem — November 2012


MOVIES SEEN IN NOVEMBER 2012

Wreck-It Ralph
Flight
Skyfall
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
Infernal Affairs
King Kong (1933)
Lincoln
The Flight of the Phoenix
Rise of the Guardians

STATS (for month / for year)

Seen theatrically:  5 / 40
Seen at home:  4 / 105
New films:  6 / 92
Rewatches:  3 / 53

INDIVIDUAL HONORS

Best Movie:  Lincoln (review)

And it wasn’t even close.  December is going to bring about a lot of other contenders, but Lincoln is my pick for the best film I’ve seen this year.  Admiring without being fawning, inspiring without being maudlin, majestic without being overwhelming, it’s a very human portrait of a figure whose humanity too often gets lost in the legend.  Credit to Daniel Day-Lewis for investing his Lincoln with so much charm and warmth, and to Steven Spielberg for letting the camera just linger on this remarkable performance, allowing us to savor it to the fullest.  If Saving Private Ryan is a monument to a generation of men, Lincoln is a monument to one great one.

Honorable Mention:  Skyfall

Worst Movie: None

There’s not what I would call a single bad film on my list for November.  Even Flight, which I had some problems with (see below), was at least entertaining with some great performances.  So among the many things for which I was thankful for on Thanksgiving, add to the list that there wasn’t a wasted two-hour block of my time.

Biggest Surprise:  Wreck-It Ralph (review)

Surprising in that the merry romp through video game nostalgia that the trailers seemed to promise never really materialized.  Instead, what we got was a rather more substantial story about acceptance and friendship and self-worth.  Naturally, a lot of people were disappointed that this didn’t turn out to be a guided tour of their childhoods, and that so much time was spent in the Sugar Rush game, but I think the choices made resulted in a better film. You want to relive playing Street Fighter and Donkey Kong?  There are plenty of clips on YouTube.  I’ll take an actual story over 16-bit greatest hits any day of the week.

Honorable Mention:  Rise of the Guardians

Biggest Disappointment:  Flight (review)

Like I said before, Flight isn’t a bad film, it’s just a lazy one.  There are no surprises here, no unexpected directions, no hard decisions, no tangents.  You can guess where the film is going and be right pretty much every single time. Which is too bad, because the film wastes some phenomenal work by Denzel Washington, and a fun turn by John Goodman (even if his character seems to have wandered in from a different, less serious film).  Washington is more than capable of playing the darker turn this film could have taken, so to see it shy away from that with a more pat “happy” ending was even more disappointing.

Dishonorable Mention:  None

RANDOM THOUGHTS

As much as I enjoyed Peter Jackson’s take, flaws and all, it’s still amazing to watch the original King Kong and realize just how quickly Kong actually shows up.  And how the film just dives right in and shows him off.  No fleeting glimpses, no teases; he just stomps right in and is front and center for the rest of the film.

I was initially a little down on Rise of the Guardians, but I have to admit, it’s been sticking with me.  To the point where I feel I may have been a little harsh in my initial assessment.  This may merit a re-visit at some point.

I’d forgotten just how bleak The Flight of the Phoenix is.  It seems to be setting itself up as a rousing men-against-the-desert adventure yarn, but before long everyone has sun blisters and people are dying left and right, and the ones who survive are either crazy or hopeless.  The willingness to go to those depths makes the eventually flight all the more exhilarating; we want these guys to finally catch a break.

It was interesting to note how rarely anybody speaks face to face in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.  So many conversations take place over a radio or telephone.  The whole plot centers on a rather soulless and utilitarian piece of anonymous infrastructure.  But in the end, the crooks’ plans fall apart once they’re dealt with face-to-face, forced to interact with other people.

I can’t really compare Infernal Affairs to The Departed, because they’re really different kinds of films.  Affairs wants us to sympathize equally with the cop-turned-gangster and gangster-turned-cop, whereas I don’t think Scorsese ever wanted us to warm up to Matt Damon’s character.

LOOKING AHEAD

Yes, there’s Django Unchained, which certainly won’t be boring, even if some are questioning Oscar chances I really never thought the film had much of in the first place.  Yes, there’s Les Misérables, which gets points for not being content to simply present the musical as we’ve all heard it for the last 27 years.  But if I’m being honest, December is all about the agonizing wait to see just what the hell Peter Jackson has done with The Hobbit, and whether it works.  I feel like I went through the stages of grief over the two-film version, finally coming to acceptance once the trailers finally hit, only to descend back into anger and depression when it turned into a trilogy.  And now I bounce back and forth between anticipation and dread, hopes rising whenever I see anything related to the book, dropping when I see the additions from the appendices.  Everyone says Jackson earned the benefit of the doubt with the Rings films, but they seem too eager to overlook King Kong and The Lovely Bones.  So I hope for the former and steel myself for the latter.  It’s going to be a rough two weeks.

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