2012 Mini-Reviews: Killer Joe, Michael, Headhunters, Premium Rush, Bachelorette

Although I saw quite a few new releases last year, there were still several that managed to slip through the cracks for me. Here are some quick reviews on five 2012 films I saw recently:

Bachelorette [2012]
Bachelorette [dir. Leslye Headland]
It’s easy to compare this to Bridesmaids — it’s another crude, brash, female-heavy comedy centered around an upcoming wedding — but Headland’s screenplay actually made the 2008 Black List, well before the latter was even conceived. Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fisher are an entertaining trio of bridesmaids, even if Dunst does feel a bit miscast here. As expected, they run into a series of problems on the night before the wedding, some of which involve copious amounts of booze and cocaine. The jokes are hit and miss, but the best part for me was seeing a mini-Party Down reunion with Caplan and Adam Scott on screen together. A pretty solid comedy overall, one that got unfortunately overlooked. 7/10

Headhunters [2011]
Headhunters [dir. Morten Tyldum]
I had seen this pop up on a handful of year-end lists, so I was especially excited to see this Norwegian thriller. In what turns out to be a bit of cat and mouse, a so-called “headhunter” (Aksel Hennie) attempts to steal a rare painting from a merciless human tracker (played by the excellent Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, a.k.a. Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones). Needless to say, this doesn’t go well, and the thief finds himself alone and on the run. It’s a pretty tense affair full of unexpected twists and turns, and the payoff is very satisfying. Very glad I was able to finally see this. 8/10

Killer Joe [2011]
Killer Joe [dir. William Friedkin]
Holy hell, this is one wild and twisted movie! In another in a string of recent unforgettable performances, Matthew McConaughey goes all out as the eponymous Killer Joe, a hitman who doesn’t take shit from anyone. The poster calls this “a totally twisted deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story”, and that’s a pretty good depiction of what the film is all about. This is a trashy noir tale, and I felt like I needed to take a shower after viewing. The interactions between McConaughey and Juno Temple, playing a naive teenager, are creepy, but the dinner table scene is as gripping as it gets. I’ll never look at fried chicken the same way again. 8/10

Michael [2010]
Michael [dir. Markus Schleinzer]
This Austrian film is about one of the most disturbing subjects imaginable — pedophilia — and it is as hard to watch as you might expect. Michael (Michael Fuith) is a single bachelor who keeps a 10-year-old boy locked in his basement. The man appears normal to outsiders, even though he is a quiet fellow who keeps to himself. Little do they know the horrific secret he is keeping from everyone. It’s a gutting watch, but the performances from all involved are incredible. The ending will stay with you for days. 7.5/10

Premium Rush [2012]
Premium Rush [dir. David Koepp]
It’s not often that we get an action film involving cyclists, but here we are. This is pretty much a textbook popcorn flick. The action is fast and high octane, never letting up for a second. The characters are mostly shallow and the plotholes are plentiful, but it’s a fun ride all the same. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is reliable as always as the biker who gets mixed up with the wrong people, and Michael Shannon delivers a delightfully over-the-top villainous performance. Every now and then it’s nice to sit down for a quick, mindless film, and this easily satisfies that need. 7/10

Have you seen any of these? What do you think of them?

Top 10 Films From 2012

The “best of” lists have been well underway, and it’s time for me to join in on the festivities. I wanted to wait until I saw a few of the most recent heavy-hitters, and now I feel confident enough to put together my own top 10. This has been a great year for film, and I could have easily stretched this out to a top 20, or even 25. For the sake of consistency, I am sticking with a top ten.

Honorable Mentions:
The Intouchables
Zero Dark Thirty
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Beasts of the Southern Wild

Killer Joe [2011]
10) Killer Joe
“A totally twisted deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story.” Yeah, it’s as great as it sounds. I will never look at fried chicken the same way again.

Take This Waltz [2011]
9) Take This Waltz
Pretty much a “love it or hate it” film, but this one struck an emotional chord within me. I can’t get enough of Michelle Williams either.

Lincoln [2012]
8) Lincoln
Daniel Day-Lewis deserves every bit of praise sent his way, and he anchors a well-rounded cast in a film about one of America’s most pivotal moments.

7) Argo
Dare I say Ben Affleck is a much better director than actor? This is a gripping thriller that manages to maintain suspense despite the outcome being well-known.

The Dark Knight Rises [2012]
6) The Dark Knight Rises
I can’t think of a better conclusion to one of the best trilogies in recent times. The film flies by despite its lengthy running time, and Bane is a hell of a villain.

Indie Game: The Movie [2012]
5) Indie Game: the Movie
A documentary about indie game developers? Whaaaa-? This is actually a damn good film, one that shows a dedication to a craft where no outcome is certain.

The Imposter [2012]
4) The Imposter
The perfect example of truth being stranger than fiction. My favorite documentary of the year.

Oslo, August 31st [2011]
3) Oslo, August 31st
A look at a reformed drug addict trying to fit back into society. Sounds familiar, but this film looks at addiction in a fresh new light. Joachim Trier is a director to keep an eye on.

Django Unchained [2012]
2) Django Unchained
I could watch Quentin Tarantino recreate history any time. Just as stylish as expected from the eccentric director, with an especially memorable soundtrack.

The Master [2012]
1) The Master
I’m still a bit shocked at how divisive this film has been, but no other release resonated with me this year like Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest. The trio of Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams deliver some of the best performances of the year, and the film itself will leave you thinking about it for days (or much longer).

Still need to see: Amour, Seven Psychopaths, Rust and Bone, The Impossible, Holy Motors

Any thoughts? What do you agree with? Disagree?