The Best and Worst Films of Spring 2012

by Bill Gibron

1 May 2012


The Best

The Best

#5: John Carter

So sue us, we liked this. A lot. In fact, we chalk up the failure not on what was onscreen, but more so on what audiences were expecting. Sci-fi has been watered down and weakened by the whole George Lucas school of Star Warring, leaving little for thought provoking, old school speculation. Carter started out life as a pulp character and this was definitely a pulp production, just one that cost $250 million to make. Yes, it cost one Disney executive his job, but is it really the biggest flop of the year? Maybe financially. Surely not aesthetically.

#4: The Raid: Redemption

Yes, this is a martial arts movie, and as such, it is mostly just beautifully crafted and choreographed fight scenes grafted onto a classic clothesline plot. In this case, however, the form is known as Pencak Silat and is huge in Indonesia. Featuring two masters of this ancient skill set—Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian—and helmed with significant skill by UK transplant Gareth Evans, this is a rollicking, rejuvenating experience. Just when you think you’ve seen it all before, the trio delivers a last act beatdown that is so brutal, so unbelievably sadist in its stuntwork, that you wonder how anyone survived.

#3: Friends with Kids

Just what we need, another smarmy urban RomCom featuring characters carved out of the Motion Picture Primer on Post-Modern Angst. Turns out, triple threat Jennifer Westfeldt is the new Woody Allen. She wrote, directed, and stars in this passionate paean to reproduction (or the decision against) and filled it with co-stars capable of matching her bon mot for witty bon mot. Heck, she even rescued Megan Fox from a career on the Comic-Con circuit, turning the often one-note nonentity into a real, living breathing character. It’s a shame that so few ended up seeing this. It should have been the new genre benchmark, not a Spring also-ran.

#2: Chronicle

Finally, a found footage film that understands the needs of the traditional audience. The concept was clever—three high school boys discover an alien artifact that zaps them full of super powers—but the intended delivery reeked of rejected film school silliness. Then director Josh Trank came up with several inspired answers for many of the subgenres lingering complaints (Why are they still filming? How did they achieve that angle?) and crafted the first great grass roots comic book movie ever. Exciting, exhilarating, and perhaps bound to become one of the seminal sci-fi franchises of the post-millennial age.

#1: The Cabin in the Woods

As he prepares to take over the box office for the next month or so (he’s responsible for the instant classic known as The Avengers), Joss Whedon can breathe a bit easier. Not only has he delivered what is bound to be one of Summer 2012’s best, he helped bring the Spring’s greatest entry to the fore as well. Working with Cloverfield scribe Drew Goddard, the artist formerly known as a geek god turned to horror and then tweaked the genre to fit his own growing geek nostalgia. In fact, there are so many references and homages to terror past that one could make glorified game of it.

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