These were my favorite films this year:
1. The Hunger Games
I went in not liking any of the casting and fearing they wouldn't get anything right. Every character was perfect and I was drawn into the world as soon as the movie began. I think they captured the essence of the games and the sickness of the society that promoted them. I loved all three books and look forward to seeing the rest of the trilogy on film.
2. The Hobbit
Brave Hobbit! The original Hobbit adventurer was Bilbo, who finds his comfortable home invaded by dwarves and a wizard one day. Despite his protests that he wants no part of any adventure he is soon on the road in their company, showing uncommon bravery for a person of any size. I love the dwarves for their humor and determination. Thorin Oakenshield is a great character. It was nice to see Gandalf be a little less sure of himself. The Goblin King was gloriously horrid. Ack that fleshy beard of his....Radagast the Brown and his fleet of rabbits!!!!
I just saw this today (12/29/12), but it moves right up the list. A portrait of the last four months of Lincoln's life it shows him as everything you ever thought he was and more. A storyteller, legal minded, precise, folksy, humanitarian to his deepest soul, honest to a fault when he chose to be. I was taken by what a deep philosophical mind and soul he had. His family problems with his wife and eldest son made him more endearing. The political maneuvering in the House over the 13th amendment was really interesting to me who hates politics. I knew the amendment passed but it certainly looked like an impossible task. I wonder if representatives today toss out such amazing personal insults at each other in the course of debate. Historical movies with bad endings for the hero are hard for me to take. I'm glad the film cheated and didn't show the assassination of Lincoln. I had come to just love him over the length of the film and wouldn't have been able to look.
Here is a fun article showing the actors in the film and the real photographs of the historical figures. Uncanny except for one person. I spent time after the movie looking up Thadeus Stevens, Lincoln and Mary Lincoln to get an idea of what what their real lives were like. Incredible lives.
4. The Dark Knight Rises
I haven't minded the many actors playing Batman in recent years. The character has sufficient depth so that he can be played with many subtle variations. The character is almost understated compared to the villains who inhabit his world. Bane of the Dark Knight rises wasn't an enjoyable villain for me. He seemed to have the upper hand for most of the film and I'd prefer a fair fight. Still, there were twists to the plot that made it a great Batman tale. Anne Hathaway's Catwoman was a fine addition. Albert, alas, of little faith.
5. The Avengers
I had seen the movies of the individual characters and particularly liked Thor and Iron Man. The Hulk was a pleasant surprise as a really intelligent, sensitive Bruce Banner who fought his big green demon. I loved seeing them all working together. Captain America stands out also as a man out of place in time but still determined to fight evil. Just a very solid, noble guy.
The film had so many echoes of Alien despite its being a prequel. The aliens were so perfectly without emotion or care for what the old results of one of their experiments (us, presumably) might have to offer. We were of no interest whatsoever. The nasty spawning cave dwellers who had killed many of the super aliens...now THOSE were something. It makes you wonder if they had just seen in early man the potential for a weapon. To use against what? Elizabeth Shaw, the tiny but insanely tough archeologist is luminous as she does extraordinary things to survive.
7. Cloud Atlas
This convoluted tale within a tale running over multiple time periods is something I'm eager to see again to find what I missed as I struggled to figure out the plot. And who was who when. Lots of action, adventure and romance.
I don't think Daniel Craig is the best Bond ever or that this is the best Bond movie ever, as the reviews have had it. I think Craig is cool and suave but a bit humorless. I did like his backstory and his attachment to Q. As always, I like a hero who never swerves from doing what is right and what he is supposed to do. I thought the villain whose name escapes me because he was such a cipher was again, too smart, had everything planned to the T, no failures to his plots, blah blah.
9. John Carter of Mars
Great adventure film. Pure golden age science fiction. Spectacular bringing to life of an alien world and civilization. The film should have been called a Princess of Mars after the Edgar Rice Burroughs book or at least John Carter of Mars after the character. They felt this would not appeal to some audiences so they called it John Carter, told noone what the movie was about in any marketing, and complained about how much it cost to make.
View a trailer that shows the wonders of the film and the rich historical significance of Burroughs' story at http://thejohncarterfiles.com/