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Movies I Watched for the First Time in 2012

Just like in 2011—although I’m late in sharing it—I kept a list of all the movies I saw for the first time in 2012. This time around I managed to average one new movie per week. In 2013, I’m already trending higher (34 as of today).

Seen at the theater
  1. The Hangover Part II

    Just like the first Hangover, only more of it. And also just like the first one, my “did they really just do that in a move?” reflex kicked in and I laughed and laughed and laughed. Mostly it just looked like all the actors were having a good time, and that always sucks me in.

  2. X-Men: First Class

    A period superhero movie. Fantastic. While I could probably nitpick the specifics of some of the mutant powers, I have to say that they nailed the main characters pretty well. Looking forward to the sequel coming next year.

  3. Haywire

    For my first theater outing of the year, I went to see this small, tightly shot action-thriller from Steven Soderbergh. Gina Carano makes her motion-picture debut, and the fights are all presented very flat and matter-of-fact. I doubt it will happen, but I’d love to see more of this character in future films from the same director.

  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

    We finally got to the last set of movies. At the time of viewing, it had been years since I’d read the last book in the series, so I was able to approach the movie with a fresh eye. The filmmakers were definitely at the top of their game by this point. My favorite part of this one is still the tale of the three brothers who faced death and came away with the Deathly Hallows. A brilliant bit of filmmaking.

  5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

    In this second part of the final Harry Potter story, everything comes to a head and we see where it has all been leading. It’s full of ups and downs, and they manage to incorporate all the key emotional points even while juggling around the specific details.

  6. Source Code

    From the director of Moon. The kind of good, cerebral science fiction that doesn’t involve aliens or space ships or a bunch of CGI animated monsters. Just enough ambiguity to let your mind turn it over and over and play with it.

  7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

    I’ve heard good things and bad things about this one, but I quite enjoyed it. Maybe there are plot holes or whatever, but it was a pretty gripping tale. And Andy Serkis is going to win an award for his performance-capture work one of these days. He’s got to.

  8. Bravo Two Zero

    An older movie I found on Netflix, based on a book/story from the Desert Storm days. Follows the SAS trooper Boromir and his team on a mission to find SCUD missiles in Iraq. Seemed pretty low budget; it might have been made-for-TV. In any case, I didn’t fall asleep trying to watch it, so that’s something.

  9. Red State

    Ah, Kevin Smith. Does whatever he feels like doing. This tale of a Branch Davidian-type religious sect that murders people in the name of their lord was filled with Smith dialog, but had a darker edge to it than his other stuff.

  10. John Carter

    This movie should have done better than it did. Many modern sci-fi films owe some of their heritage to the original John Carter of Mars stories (and others of that era). I can see how many people would see it as derivative, when not really aware of its history. Not everyone is versed in the history of the science fiction genre, and John Carter is not a household name.1

  11. Unknown

    Mr. Neeson has made quite a career out of this type of movie, starting with Taken. He’s certainly not someone I would mess with. Just wait until he starts punching wolves with glass in his hands…

  12. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

    Having watched all three of the original Swedish films last year, I was interested to see how differently things were interpreted by Fincher and Craig. For the most part it remained the same; the big plot points weren’t changed. Honestly, so much time had passed that I couldn’t point out specific differences. If anything, it was slightly toned down and more “Hollywood”, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The uncomfortable parts were still uncomfortable.

  13. Drive

    Um. Yeah. “Hey girl, wait just a minute while I stomp this guy’s head into paste.” What else is there to say? Ryan Gosling plays a handsome, yet creepy dude who tries to do the right thing but ends up making a mess of his life. It happens to the best of us.

  14. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

    I made the mistake of trying to watch this one late at night, after everyone else was in bed. It was dark. I was sleepy. I must have dozed off and rewound ten times trying to get through it. That’s not to say it wasn’t good–I quite enjoyed the old-school Cold War intrigue–but it is very low key and slow paced. Gary Oldman is a national treasure (regardless which nation you call home).

  15. Killer Elite

    DeNiro. Statham. Owen. Three manly men doing manly things. I don’t really remember a whole lot about this one. But it was manly.

  16. The Avengers

    What can I say? I saw this one twice in the theater, and would have seen it more if my schedule and budget would have allowed it. Finally, somebody put together the superhero team movie I’ve wanted to see since I was a wee lad reading my boxes and boxes full of comics. Everything meshed together nicely, and it was fun. So much fun. It’s not literary and it’s not an Academy Award-winning motion picture, but it was still smart and witty in a way that served up satisfaction.

  17. Prometheus

    Oh, Ridley. Mr. Lindelhof. You’re both talented men, and you both have so much to offer in the world of cinema. This was a beautiful movie, but it was also a beautiful mess that never quite lived up to the promise of your reputations. It’s been torn apart plenty, but I think the most crucial flaw is that characters did things because the plot asked them, not because they would have done them if they were real people.

  18. Love & Other Drugs

    Beautiful people can be damaged, too, I guess? Anyway. Anne Hathaway.

  19. Chronicle

    Most “found footage” movies are kind of irritating, but the conceit worked pretty well in this one. My favorite thing about it, maybe, is that the real origin of their powers is never really explained. There’s something in a cave or whatever, and then they start being able to do things. Another take on what it would be like for kids to get superpowers “in real life”.

  20. Brave

    Cars 2 notwithstanding, Pixar has a nearly immaculate track record for me. Brave is no exception, and on top of that it has a strong female as the protagonist. Before we even saw this movie, my daughter wanted a Merida doll. Just a couple of weeks ago, she bought a plastic bow-and-arrow set with her birthday money. The only part I really didn’t like was the anachronistic witch sequence. I think it would have played better if they’d stayed “in period” for that segment.

  21. Safe House

    Denzel Washington is quite a capable actor, and this role seemed similar to his turn in Man on Fire. Ryan Reynolds is no slouch, either. Overall a fairly competent action-thriller.

  22. 21 Jump Street

    So funny. Channing Tatum has a solid career ahead of him.

  23. Book of Eli

    Denzel again. I had kind of figured out the twist early on, but I didn’t have the stamina to go back through the movie and see if they had kept things consistent. My gut tells me no.

  24. The Grey

    Liam Neeson has a particular set of skills, and one of them involves fighting wolves with broken liquor bottles between his fingers. The fact that this scene–shown in all the trailers–comes at the end of the movie and lasts all of about ten seconds does not diminish its badassery.

  25. The Adjustment Bureau

    There are some superficial parallels between the fedora-wearing adjustors in this film and the Observers of Fringe. Matt Damon is another one of those actors I always enjoy watching, and here he plays a good “panicked but still intent on action” pretty well.

  26. Hot Fuzz

    I am truly at a loss as to why it took me so long to see this movie. Much like Shaun of the Dead was a thrilling send-up of the zombie movie genre, Fuzz lampoons the Die Hard-era action spectaculars in a very refined manner.

  27. Kick-Ass

    This movie walks the fine line of “what would it be like if someone attempted to be a superhero in real life” and the traditional superhero movie. We get to see Dave Lizewski try to emulate the heroes that he sees in comics simultaneously to the “real” exploits of Big Daddy and Hit Girl as they chew their way through the mob. A strong Mystery Men vibe toward the end, which sets us up nicely for Kick-Ass 2.

  28. Fever Pitch

    I am not a sports fan. I am a baseball fan. I’ve had this movie lying around in my queue for a long time, and wanted to see it just because of how it tied into the 2004 Boston Red Sox championship season, which was a stroke of good luck for the movie makers as it added some heightened emotion to the ending of their story. Otherwise, this was just pretty OK.

  29. Bourne Legacy

    I got to see this one before its general release, and for a free movie it was good enough. They made a valiant attempt at extending the Bourne franchise beyond Matt Damon, and Jeremy Renner continues to impress. I especially enjoyed how they weaved the story of the previous film(s) concurrently into their timeline. But in the end I was left wondering why I would want to see another movie with these characters. I just didn’t seem to go anywhere. Also, the final motorcycle chase sequence was about ten minutes too long.

  30. Moneyball

    I haven’t read the book, but I enjoyed their view into how the sausage called a baseball team is made.

  31. The Dark Knight Rises 

    Frankly, Mr. Nolan set himself up for failure with the first two movies in his Batman trilogy. How do you live up to the promise of those two stories? And while I wouldn’t quite call TDKR a failure, per se, it wasn’t 100% successful. A bit long in running time, it tended to meander through the middle. I’m not exactly in the “not enough Batman in the movie” camp, because I understand Nolan’s view that the Bruce Wayne character is really the interesting part, but honestly: probably not enough Batman in the middle of the movie. I kind of like the way he ended it, with an “out” for Warner Bros. to continue the franchise without tying them directly into the existing (expensive) cast.

  32. The Punisher

    Execrable.2

  33. From Paris with Love

    Also execrable. I guess I felt like torturing myself with recent-vintage John Travolta (he was the villain in The Punisher)?

  34. Wanderlust

    My wife and I share a mutual love of Paul Rudd. I think he might be our movie star lobster. It’s a close race between him and Jason Segel. This was a fun one, full of The State alumni and Alan Alda.

  35. The Expendables 2

    I didn’t enjoy this as much as the first one; I think they were trying too hard. The idea of Schwarzenegger, Willis and Stallone actually performing in a movie together, something more than a cameo, was tantalizing. But instead of putting some weight behind it, we got Ahnuld and Bruce hamming it up with stupid one-liners. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

  36. The Cabin in the Woods

    I’m not sure I could say enough good things about this one. In a striking and unexpected turn of events, I had not even seen a trailer for it, and had no idea going in what it was about. I thoroughly enjoyed this Whedon-infused genre-bending masterpiece.

  37. Looper

    A good, solid science fiction film that doesn’t hit you over the head with the “science” part and instead fills up your head with a good yarn. I’m sure you could pick apart the time-travel aspects without too much trouble at all, but as Bruce Willis’ character says in the movie, don’t think about it too much or you’ll make yourself sick.

  38. Lockout

    Hm. Not sure what to think about this one. Kind of a “_Die Hard_ in space” concept. But you never get the impression that the good guys won’t win, so not much suspense. A mostly harmless action thing. Also nice to see Maggie Grace is still out there working in a post-_Lost_ world.

  39. Magic Mike

    One training montage short of an 80s “finding my place in the world against the odds” sort of deal. Soderbergh makes big films and small films, and they’re all good. I’d consider this one of the small ones.

  40. The Five-Year Engagement

    Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, exploring an increasingly ludicrous extended engagement. Not one of my favorites, but it has its moments. Also the third Emily Blunt movie I watched in 2012.

  41. The Amazing Spider-Man

    I fully expected not to like this, but in the end it was pretty good. Mechanical web shooters! Wisecracking, awkward Spider-Man! Gwen Stacy! Those were some of the good parts. Bad parts? Didn’t care for the look of the Lizard, and I think they tried too hard to expand Peter Parker’s back story with his parents and the Oscorp connections and all that baloney. I guess we’ll see how that pans out in the sequel(s).

  42. Skyfall

    Smarter people than I have floated the idea that this is the best Bond film of them all, and I find it hard to disagree. The Craig-era bond has been a much-needed revival of the hard-as-nails Bond I remember from the Sean Connery days combined with the frenetic pace of the Bourne movies. The villain is over the top and the plot is sketchy, but the formula is there and it’s successful.

  43. Real Steel

    Over the Top with robots, starring Wolverine, with a side of Freckles.

  44. Argo

    Whether or not he continues to act, I hope that Ben Affleck directs movies for a very long time to come. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and love how it plays as a period piece. It felt like looking through a window into 1980. It may not be a 100%-accurate historical record, but it sure captures the emotion of the whole series of unlikely and improbable events.

  45. Wreck-It Ralph

    Perhaps the most Pixar-y movie to come out of somewhere other than Pixar. Plenty of fresh laughs for the youngsters and nostalgic references for the old-timers. Full of perfect voice casting. The twist was deftly set up and revealed; it took me completely by surprise, but in a way that felt inevitable.

  46. Savages

    This reminded me a little of U Turn, another drama filled with interesting characters that make increasingly poor choices resulting in violence. I sense a theme from Mr. Stone.

  47. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

    Too long? Probably. But it sure is pretty, and Jackson has the right spirit. This one was especially enjoyable, since we got to see it as a family. We just finished reading the book a few months before the movie was released, and the kids loved it.

  48. Premium Rush

    Since Looper and The Dark Knight Rises, I’ve been a big Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan. This one wasn’t a groundbreaker, but it was fun. Michael Shannon was also a great bad guy with no redeeming qualities.

  49. Brick

    I’ve had this one in my Netflix queue for a long time, since I read something about it on Ain’t It Cool News. The original pairing of Rian Johnson and Gordon-Levitt, this is a tightly wound riff on hard-boiled detective film noir set around high-school-age politics and social cliques.

  50. The Nines

    Another one that sat in my queue for awhile, probably couple of years. One of the first movies I ever reviewed on the internet was Go, by writer-director of this film, John August. I also listen to his podcast, and he talked about this movie enough that I finally got around to watching it. It’s definitely an indie, and a high-concept one at that, but I came away with enough to say I don’t feel like I wasted my time.

  51. Goon

    Seann William Scott is great. I read somewhere that he never really considered himself a comic actor, but just keeps getting cast in those roles. It has paid off for him, but he was allowed to show a bit more of his serious side in this charming little hockey movie about a guy that doesn’t have a lot to offer except loyalty to his teammates, a strong right hand, and a hight tolerance for pain.

  52. Jack Reacher

    I squeezed this one in right at the end of the year to make it an even 52, and I’m glad I did. I’ve read a few of the Jack Reacher books, and while Tom Cruise doesn’t physically match the six-foot-four mountain of a man that comes to life in those pages, he does a good job capturing the intelligent intensity of the character.


  1. Unless you mean the one from ER.

  2. Thomas Jane deserves better. He agrees, which is why he made this.