THN’s 2012 Rundown – January & February

Jan and Feb

A new year brings the familiar award season line-up with the Golden Globes and Academy Awards on the horizon. We start our look back at the best (and worst) of 2012, unsurprisingly, in January.

January

Low-budget possession-themed chiller THE DEVIL INSIDE, which debuted at No.1 with an opening weekend of almost $34 million, provided the first surprise of 2012. The truly terrible film didn’t deserve such success with its “dull plot… plodding through a vapid, lifeless monotony“, much like Chris Gorak’s appropriately titled THE DARKEST HOUR. The worst film of the year (even beating KEITH LEMON: THE FILM) features a great cast wasted on a woeful script trumped only by the 90s GAMESMASTER-esque visual effects during the laughable finale. With a $30 million budget THE DARKEST HOUR lives up to it’s name and all involved should hang their heads in shame.

The always likeable Mark Wahlberg headlined an impressive supporting cast in the enjoyable, if a touch predictable, smuggling thriller CONTRABAND. Based on the 2008 Icelandic film REYKJAVIK-ROTTERDAM, the film was directed and co-produced by the original films star Baltasar Kormákur. THN’s Joe described it as “a fun and farcical heist movie that never taxes the brain, but maintains an energetic pace and continually ups the ante to keep the audience engaged”.

Kate Beckinsale (co-star of CONTRABAND) slipped back into figure-hugging lycra to play ass-kicking vamp Selene in the fourth UNDERWORLD action/horror hybrid AWAKENING. Was it worth the wait? Was it hell, but that didn’t stop it taking top spot on release. The film, predictably not screened to critics, is underwhelming, toothless tripe, with a bite as sharp as a gummy granny.

Acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh went HAYWIRE with the stunning MMA athlete Gina Carano in her first film role as framed operative Mallory Kane. Co-starring Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas and Ewan McGregor it “…wins in thigh-crushing choreography, lacks in narrative, but HAYWIRE is consummately effective as a stylistic and visual treat”. Miss Carano will next be seen in FAST & FURIOUS 6.

Joe Carnahan unleashed his underrated survival thriller THE GREY and along with it Liam Neeson’s finest performance. Centred on a band of surviving oil workers, who find themselves hunted by a pack of ravenous wolves in the frozen Alaskan wilderness, the film is more than the trailer and synopsis suggest with some deep and meaningful insight into flawed individuals fighting for their lives. ‘Once more into the fray. Into the last good fight I’ll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day’. – THE GREY is bloody epic and certainly in my top five of the 2012.

February 

The found-footage genre sprouted an impressive sci-fi thriller in first-time director Josh Trank’s superpowered teens movie CHRONICLE. The film, which Dan described as an “absorbing and imaginative spectacle“, brought a stand-out performance from Dane DeHann who recently bagged a role in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 and excelled in John Hillcoat’s LAWLESS. The film caught the eye of 20th Century Fox who were quick to snap up Trank for their forthcoming FANTASTIC FOUR reboot as well confirming CHRONICLE 2 is on the way, though the director is not expected to return.

Frightener THE WOMAN IN BLACK – Hammer Films biggest hit – starred Daniel Radcliffe attempting to shake off the boy wizard once and for all as widowed father Arthur Kipps shacking up in the haunted abode Eel Marsh House. James Watkins take on Susan Hill’s iconic source novel (previously adapted as an acclaimed stage-show and terrifying TV movie) had genuine chills with THN’s Fordy praising it as “…an artistic triumph for those behind and in front of the camera, and be it aesthetically or emotionally, a very satisfying experience”.

JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND saw Dwayne Johnson’s profile raised further. The Brendan Fraser-less sequel to 2008s woefully CGI’d steaming turd JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH floundered, but Fordy found some, erm, praise – “Dwayne Johnson remains watchable as ever and cements his leading man status … decent support from his trusty co-star, Vanessa Hudgens’ cleavage”.

Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds paired up for the enjoyable South African set chase thriller SAFEHOUSE. “Denzel is the star of the show, naturally, giving a sublime, effortless performance”, said our Chris, while Channing Tatum’s year as an A-lister got off to a flyer (following his cameo in HAYWIRE) with romantic memory-loss weepie THE VOW.

The month also brought five dismal releases, worth mentioning only for their deserved failures. Stupidly self-tagged tit end McG unleashed abhorrent failure THIS MEANS WAR, whilst GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE saw Nic Cage reprise his role as flame-skulled comic hero Jonny Blaze in a film that would of made me set the screen ablaze had I been in the cinema alone. George Lucas-produced RED TAILS saw the fascinating true-life story of the Tusagee Airmen reduced to a high-flying, soap-styled popcorn pic with no substance, while another fact-based action effort ACT OF VALOR provided more cheesy patriotism. Amanda Seyfried starring serial killer thriller GONE thankfully lived up to its name as it fucked off pretty quick!

Hidden Gem: J.C. Chandor’s directorial debut MARGIN CALL, the first film of 2012 to garner a THN five-star review, was largely ignored on release. Set amongst the anticipation of the financial collapse of 2008 we saw it as “nail-bitingly gripping and the first must-see film of the year“. Pity it got lost amongst the masses.

Box Office Round-Up

SAFE HOUSE proves exactly that, standing tall with a solid $126 million, as others stumbled:

SAFE HOUSE $126,181,630

JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND $103,860,290

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3D $81,639,237

ACT OF VALOR $70,012,847

CONTRABAND $66,528,000

Keep it THN tomorrow and the rest of the week as we round up 2012.

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Craig is leading the charge as our north east correspondent, proving that it’s so ‘grim up north’ that losing yourself in a world of film is a foregone prerequisite. He has been studying the best (and often worst) of both classic and modern cinema at the University of Life for as long as he can remember. Craig’s favorite films include THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, JFK, GOODFELLAS, SCARFACE, and most of John Carpenter’s early work, particularly THE THING and HALLOWEEN.

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