SPOILER ALERT: 2012 is nearly over and will go down in history as one of the most twisty turny years for movies in recent memory. It felt like every week played host to a new blockbuster we lived in fear of having spoiled for us. When we finally caught them, they blew our minds with a big third act reveal or a death we just weren't ready to handle. Then there was the week after: were we allowed to talk about it? Who didn't see it already? Who doesn't know?!?
Looking back, here are the juicy tidbits from 2012 that had our heads spinning and our mouths zipped, to ensure that no one out-of-the-know was spoiled:
The Devil Inside: No Ending, Just a Website
January's first movie and modest horror hit The Devil Inside was met with a reasonable backlash when it attempted to continue the spiritual madness on the web. The film concluded with a nightmarish car attack, the invisible ghost jumping from human to human in a fury of violence. Then it just stops, cutting to black and flashing a URL: www.therossifiles.com. 2012 started with an enormous "WTF" moment that people couldn't wait to spoil.
The Grey: The Big Wolf Fight (or Not?)
The trailers for The Grey promised the ass-kicking Liam Neeson we are now familiar with, courtesy of Taken, fighting off a pack of wolves. That rules! But the big spoiler for The Grey is actually what isn't there. Joe Carnahan's film was really an introspective drama about man vs. nature, and the conclusion ended before the epic wolf punching fight even began. Suitable for the tale Carnahan was telling, but anyone looking for a canine brawl who found out the real story beforehand may have had the movie spoiled for them.
Chronicle: Steve Bites the Dust
When Steve (Michael B. Jordan) quite literally takes to the skies to check in on his troubled pal Andrew (Dane DeHaan) he finds out the hard way that his powers don't include the ability to not get struck by lightning. His jarring, shocking death alters the course of the movie, and sends a guilt-ridden Andrew down a very dark path.
Mirror Mirror: Sean Bean Actually Survived a Movie!
Sean Bean dies in everything. There's even video proof. So when the British actor bites the dust in the beginning of Mirror, Mirror, it was business as usual. Color us shocked when the evil dragon plaguing the kingdom and secretly controlled by the Evil Queen turns out to be the King. http://youtu.be/zEhtsgu6bJg
The Cabin in the Woods: The Entire Conceit of the Film
Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's latest creation was sold as your typical horror movie. A few kids head to the family cabin, stumble upon a room full of suspicious artifacts, and without too much delay, are attacked by a family of undead rednecks. But from frame one, it's apparent Cabin in the Woods is anything but. Behind the scenes of the gruesome events are a team of technicians who… well, maybe it's best to just see this one.
The Raven: The Fanboy Did It
When he's not screaming "EMMMMILLYYY!" at the top of his lungs, The Raven's Edgar Allen Poe (John Cusack) uses his literary knowledge to hunt down a serial killer who has kidnapped his one true love. When the mystery is finally solved, the "big reveal" is more a surprise that the exhausting thriller is finally coming to an end. Turns out, the guy who imitated Poe's stories to kill of his victims was just one of Poe's co-workers who was really into reading. An autograph wasn't enough?
Men in Black 3: Oh, So That's What Happened to Will Smith's Dad
Time travel allowed Men in Black 3 to call back the colorful, kooky alien designs of '60s era sci-fi, but it also allowed them to answer the question no one was wondering: whatever happened to J's dad? Turns out the former military man was murdered by the alien who J pursued back in time to the first Apollo launch. During his escape, he murders J's dad, a young J left behind to be comforted by — you got it — young K.
Prometheus: Weyland Is on Board and Vickers Is His Daughter for Some Reason
One of the major complaints against Prometheus was that Ridley Scott's Alien prequel didn't answer any of the big questions it set out to uncover. Who were the Engineers? Why did they create human life? What was that whole black goo thing about? Prometheus leaves it ambiguous, but it does throw in some twists for those clinging for "answers." For instance, it turns out David the Android was actually following the orders of Peter Weyland, the super old founder of Weyland Corp. who joined the crew in hopes of finding eternal life. And Vickers (Charlize Theron) is revealed to be his daughter! Why? C'mon, do you want everything to be so clear cut?!
That's My Boy: Leighton Meister Is Screwing Her Brother
No one walked into Adam Sandler's R-rated comedy expecting a revelation, but That's My Boy packed a surprise gag that knowing in advance would certainly lessen the blow. Suspecting that his son's fiancée Jamie (Leighton Meister) is cheating, Donny (Sandler) follows her during a routine night out. What he discovers is shocking even for the foul-minded: Jamie is sleeping with her brother Chad.
Brave: The Plot of the Movie… Revealed!
A well-constructed mid-movie twist or a bait and switch? Brave's big twist halfway through Pixar's Scottish fairy tale feels like an entirely different beast: Merida is a princess desperate to live a life in opposition to her overbearing parents, full of adventure. Then Brave takes a literal turn when her Mom actually becomes a bear. The filmmakers behind Brave insisted it was a big spoiler, but in the end, what couldn't be revealed was enough of a twist to deserve a stand alone movie.
Savages: No, It Actually Happened This Way
Oliver Stone has never shied away from a hefty injection of style, but the finale of his latest nearly ODs. A frantic shootout between a drug cartel and the duo of hunky growers and their shared girlfriend (Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively) ends in a blood bath — just like it did in the book. And then, through the magic of voice over, it undoes it all. Lively's narration reverts the action back to the beginning, with the feds arriving just in the nick of time. WHAT?!?!
The Dark Knight Rises: Comic Book Name-Dropping Out the Wazoo
Christopher Nolan never felt an obligation to the comic book origins of Batman, taking liberties with character origins and picking bits and pieces to suit his needs, but this year's The Dark Knight Rises was a cornucopia of fan service, all working to various degrees of success. The revival of Liam Neeson as Ra's Al Ghul, Marion Cotillard as his daughter Talia (who was actually the kid in the pit prison!), and the reigning champ of 2012 fan service, the reveal that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake character is actually named "Robin." Three heart attacks later, we can go back and assess, but in the moment, it was a spoiler lover's heaven.
ParaNorman: A Little Dead Girl Controls the Zombies, Who Hanged Her For Being a Witch
Yes, this is the spoilery conclusion of a stop-motion animated film aimed at children. Which is what makes ParaNorman great. After outrunning a hoard of zombies, Norman takes a second to figure out why the zombies are attacking. Turns out the undead Puritans aren't trying to hurt people, they just want Norman to read their controller, the ghost of a little girl who they sentenced to death way back when. Agatha was a medium, so she was sentenced to death. You could see how that would make a gal a little upset. ParaNorman ends with an emotionally complex conclusion and one of the biggest surprises of the year.
Looper: The Angsty Kid Has Superpowers and Might Be an Evil Crime Lord from the Future
Old Joe kicked and punched his way back in time in hopes of killing off future crime lord "The Rainmaker." Turns out — surprise! — his own murderous rampage may have actually been the cause of The Rainmaker (oh, the wonders of time travel logic). We spent a good deal of time wrestling with this idea, but the kid Young Joe encounters when he takes refuge on a local farm turns out to be telekinetic (double spoiler!) and very, very irritable.
Skyfall: The Bond Universe Resets Itself
When Casino Royale stripped Bond of its recognizable parts and took the path of a dark, gritty reboot, audiences thought the 007 series would never look back. Not so thanks to the crafty works of Skyfall director Sam Mendes, whose love for the old days of Bond ushered in a reintroduction of the early movies' ensemble. We got Q back, but the big spoiler was the death of Judi Dench's M and the reinstatement of a male headmaster, along with the reveal that Mi6 agent Eve is the beloved Moneypenny. Familiar faces with modern twists.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2: Lots of Familiar Faces Die, But It's OK Because It's Only a Vision!
Similar to Savages (and better yet, the little seen Nic Cage film Next), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 sent Twihards into a twizzy when it changed up the established ending, substituting the novel's anticlimax for an all out war. The Cullens and the Volturi launch into a violent battle and characters that survived the book were suddenly being decapitated. And then in a flash — courtesy of Alice's psychic visions — the action snaps back to before the fight, Aro having witnessed the battle in a premonition. It took until the final ten minutes of the movie for audiences to actually catch their breath.
Lincoln: He Dies at the End
If only you had paid attention in History.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Lionsgate; Warner Bros.]
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Over 80 years after the Belgian artist Herge first conceived him Tintin the plucky journalist-adventurer whose stories have sold over 350 million books worldwide has finally got his own big-budget Hollywood movie. The Adventures of Tintin is already a runaway hit in Europe where it opened in late October (some eight weeks ahead of its U.S. release) and where the character enjoys the bulk of his popularity. But while most Americans have never heard of Tintin they’re undoubtedly familiar with the name of Steven Spielberg who after directing 24 live-action features makes his 3D-animation debut with the rollicking action-adventure.
The film is set in the early-middle 20th century in an unnamed European town. Though his spiked widow’s peak and baby-faced visage peg him at no older than 16 the titular Tintin (Jamie Bell) is already a respected newspaper reporter and something of a neighborhood celebrity. (He also lives alone and owns a handgun -- quite an accomplished young lad indeed.) The chance purchase of a model boat leads him to a mystery involving a treasure-laden ship that was lost at sea over three centuries prior. Together with his trusty dog Snowy and a drunken sea captain named Haddock (Andy Serkis) he embarks on a globe-trotting adventure that pits him against a nefarious figure named Sakharine (Daniel Craig).
Like the Indiana Jones blockbusters it’s so clearly crafted to evoke The Adventures of Tintin is cutting-edge filmmaking with an old-fashioned ethos. Spielberg’s gift for spectacle hasn’t diminished one iota with his transition to animation. The inexorable march of technology and the constant bar-raising of the 3D-animated genre has schooled us to expect dazzling color and detail and Tintin dutifully delivers on that front but what impressed me most about the film is the cinematography which is nothing short of astounding. Liberated from the physical constraints of the live-action realm Spielberg and his longtime director of photography Janusz Kaminski deliver shot after shot of breathtaking scope and complexity.
Such freedom of imagination has its drawbacks of course. I grew tired of the filmmakers’ fondness for reflected images. They’re found everywhere in the film -- on mirrors windows eyeglasses bottles and anything else translucent or shiny. Moreover story is reduced to a secondary role in service of the film’s elaborate set pieces. And Tintin himself for all his exploits is an unremarkable protagonist his only distinguishing features a determined optimism and a MacGuyer-like ingenuity.
The Adventures of Tintin was made using a “performance-capture” approach of the type pioneered by Robert Zemeckis which might bring alarm to those who recall the infamously dead-eyed characters of Polar Express with disdain. The technology has come quite a long way since those rueful early days. The characters in Spielberg’s film possess a vitality and expressiveness that signal the much-maligned “uncanny valley” could soon be a thing of the past.
With four days left before his execution notoriously reticent death row inmate David Gale (Kevin Spacey) decides at last to share his story with the press. He chooses as his vessel reporter Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) who's just spent a week in the slammer for refusing to reveal her sources on a kiddie porn cover story. As Gale's story unfolds (and we see it in flashback) Bitsey becomes convinced he's innocent and she and her intern Zack (Gabriel Mann) begin a race against the clock to discover the truth that will save him. Sound like an overblown blurb from a movie studio's press files? Apologies for that but the best way to talk about this story's climactic points is to resort to hyperbolic clichés of this ilk--the movie's key moments are without exception melodramatic and overblown. Nonetheless most of the movie is suspenseful the story has several interesting (I wouldn't go so far as compelling) twists and there are plenty of reasons to root for Gale's cause especially if like him and admittedly like me you're a political liberal who fancies yourself at least somewhat intellectual.
If there's one thing that defines Kevin Spacey's acting style it's his unparalleled ability to discourse at length on philosophical minutiae a gift that undoubtedly contributed to his getting this role in the first place. But Spacey gets to stretch a bit more playing Gale--the professorial character in his pre-death row life was a loose cannon even by academia's standards: he partied with his students talked about fantasy and desire in class and belonged to Death Watch a liberal advocacy group opposed to the death penalty. Beyond that his personal life was a disaster. His wife was having an affair with a Spaniard Gale was a borderline alcoholic and his ego was the size of a generously proportioned watermelon. So there are plenty of challenges for Spacey in the part--both in the flashbacks and the death row sequences--and he obviously embraces them all; unfortunately sometimes he squeezes the life out of them in the process foregoing for example the tragic nuances of real alcoholism for the stumbling sobriquets of an overblown town-drunk philosopher. The equally gifted Laura Linney as Constance--Gale's stalwart friend fellow professor co-director of Death Watch and alleged murder victim--finds herself in less familiar territory. Her character is complex yet remarkably one-dimensional for most of the movie which leaves the talented actress turning--albeit reluctantly--to melodrama for support. Winslet too is on unfamiliar ground with an American accent (quite well done old chap-ette) a mission and a bitchiness that's too little seen from this pristine young girl.
It's truly unfortunate that director Alan Parker didn't keep a tighter handle on The Life of David Gale's more dramatic moments since had they come off better this would have been a more even and generally more watchable film. As it is each of the talented lead actors has a scene in which they really let loose on the hysterical wailing waterworks--Winslet lucky gal has two. They may not be bad enough to make you cringe necessarily but they're obviously overplayed. The film would have benefited from a wail-o-meter that would have allowed the bawling to go so far and only so far. All that aside though this film is ultimately less melodramatic than its equivalent TV movie version would have (and probably has) been--and that leads me to my final point. The Life of David Gale is about what TV pundits would call a hot-button issue and while the public is intelligent enough not to be emotionally swayed by the hue and cry of activists on either side of the argument we can--and by God we will--be entertained by it. So I just want to say thank you Hollywood for once again one-upping the 6 o'clock news and for showing that even discussions of the most important issues of our time can be squeezed into a two-hour movie and manipulated in the interests of suspense and drama.
Santa is not the only big boy coming out to play this Christmas holiday.
Things are certainly looking up in December after Mel Gibson's $34 million-plus record-setting opening last weekend at the box office for "What Women Want."
And judging from the big names, business is only going to be better this weekend as heavily anticipated films such as Tom Hanks' "Cast Away" and Nicolas Cage's "Family Man" bow nationwide today.
"It's going to be a huge weekend this holiday. I can't see how it can't be, with all the hot openings and strong holdovers," Brandon Gray, editor of boxofficemojo.com, told Hollywood.com.
And despite all the new entries breathing down its neck, Gray maintains that Gibson's "What Women Want" might not go quietly down the rankings and that the battle to watch this four-day holiday at the box office will be between the mind-reading romantic comedy and Hank's "Cast Away."
And without further ado, here's a look at the major films that will be opening during the long Christmas holiday weekend.
OPENING FRIDAY, Dec. 22
THE SKINNY: Multiple Oscar winner Tom Hanks plays a FedEx guy stranded on an island after he miraculously survives a plane crash (and you thought Bruce Willis was lucky in "Unbreakable"). Helen Hunt again plays second fiddle as the girlfriend who has been worried sick. THE UPSIDE: "It's going to be a super close weekend between 'Cast Away' and 'What Women Want,' but I am giving the edge to the Tom Hanks film," Gray says. "It seems like Tom Hanks has another winner here. He's reteaming with his 'Forrest Gump' director Robert Zemeckis, and the film has a very impressive marketing campaign." THE DOWNSIDE: The scraggly Hanks reminds you too much of "Survivor" jackpot winner Richard Hatch ... especially whenever Hanks is half-naked, which is pretty often.
"THE FAMILY MAN"
THE SKINNY: Oh, the big "what if": Nicolas Cage does a turn as a ruthless banker who wakes up one day to find himself shacked up in a beautiful house and a beautiful wife that were not his before. THE UPSIDE: It's "It's a Wonderful Life" with a somewhat modern overhaul. THE DOWNSIDE: Alas, Cage is no Jimmy Stewart. And, alas, the film will probably only be good enough for a No. 3 or No. 4 opening this weekend, depending on if "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" continues to make a killing, Gray predicts.
THE SKINNY: Sandra Bullock plays an FBI agent planted as a mole in a beauty pageant to thwart a terrorist bombing. THE UPSIDE: "This film is a wild card," Gray said. "It could come in at No. 5. It's either that or 'The Emperor's New Groove.'" THE DOWNSIDE: Remember "28 Days"? Need we say more.
"WES CRAVEN PRESENTS DRACULA 2000"
THE SKINNY: Horror-meister Wes Craven's millennial update of the bloodsucker yarn. This one has Justine Waddell, Christopher Plummer, singer Vitamin C and Omar Epps. THE UPSIDE: The teen-heavy horror film is trying to duplicate the success of "Scream 2" back in 1997, which also opened during the same weekend. And this positioning of "Dracula 2000" for the teen set might just work, especially when the marketplace is saturated with sappy, old fart flicks. THE DOWNSIDE: If you really want to see a vampire flick, it might serve your needs better to see "Shadow of the Vampire" next week.
And that's not all. Over in the limited release category, there're the "Good Will Hunting"-esque "Finding Forrester" with Sean Connery and the psychological drama "The Gift" with Cate Blanchett, last year's Best Actress Oscar winner Hilary Swank and Keanu Reeves (as a wife beater, no less).
Plus: the Coen Brothers' "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" with George Clooney and the David Mamet comedy "State and Main" will also open in limited release.
OPENING MONDAY, DEC. 25
"ALL THE PRETTY HORSES"
THE SKINNY: In this tale helmed by Billy Bob Thornton, Matt Damon plays a Texas cowboy heading south of the border for some adventure and life experience. He finds both in Penelope Cruz, who plays the daughter of a Mexican rancher not too keen on the burgeoning romance. THE UPSIDE: Since the film opens on Christmas Day and at the tail end of the four-day holiday weekend, it will definitely not be a Top Five contender. But, as Gray says, that shouldn't keep the film from doing decent business for the day. THE DOWNSIDE: The talented Mr. Damon was swiftly forgotten by moviegoers in "The Legend of Beggar Vance." Will audiences do the same to him with this film?
Kevin Costner's Cuban Missile Crisis drama "Thirteen Days" and the luscious period piece "Vatel" with Uma Thurman and Gerard Depardieu both also open -- in New York and Los Angeles -- on Christmas Day.
And don't forget other holdovers such as "Dude, Where's My Car?," "Vertical Limit," and "Proof of Life" to finish out the Top 10.