the staff gives their opinions on the best films of the year …
Who doesn’t love lists?
We here at Pop-Break were raised on lists. We love them like we love bears, cookies and all things pop culture.
So as we do every year, we present to you our personal favorites in film, music (albums and songs) and television.
This year we’re also debuting a new category: Pop-Break Live, our live performance we were a part of.
And this year we’re excited by the fact we’ve added a whole new slew of writers plus we’ll have two special contributors: Maria Mar of 95.9 WRAT’s Jersey Rock and Popblerd! Editor-in-Chief Mike Heyliger.
Here’s Who is Contributing to this Year’s List:
Bill Bodkin – Editor-in-Chief, Trailer Tuesday Columnist, Singles Party Columnist
Sue-Ann Bodkin – Contributor
Brent Johnson – Managing Editor, Lost Songs Columnist, Singles Party Columnist
Jonathan Elliott – Marketing Coordinator, Staff Writer
Jason Kundrath – Senior Editor, Indie Music Editor, Singles Party Columnist
Joe Zorzi – Senior Editor, Music Content Coordinator, Singles Party Columnist
Maxwell Barna – Senior Editor, Photography Editor
Logan J. Fowler – Senior Editor, Trailer Tuesday Columnist, Link to the Past Columnist
Jason Stives – Senior Editor, Music & Film Content Coordinator, Dr. Who Columnist
Lauren Stern – Assignment Editor, Senior Writer, Singles Party Columnist
Daniel Cohen – Film Editor
Ann Hale – Staff Writer, Horror Editor, Film Content Coordinator
Michael Dworkis – Staff Writer, Wrestling Columnist
Lisa Pikaard – Staff Writer, Music Content Coordinator
Kimberlee Rossi-Fuchs – Staff Writer, Featured Columnist
Luke Kalamar – Staff Writer, Walking Dead Columnist
Kelly Gonsalves – Staff Writer, Singles Party Columnist
Erica Batchelor – Staff Writer
Brendan Williams – Contributor
Nick Porcaro – Contributor, Web Designer
Joel Wosk – Contributor
Brendan Hourican – Contributor
John Lawrence – Contributor, UFC Columnist
1. The Dark Knight Rises
In a year where it seems like all movies have been almost three hours long, at 165 minutes, there isn’t one wasted moment in this film. And to me, that’s an impressive feat in it of itself. I know a lot of people disagree, but I don’t think this movie moves slow at all. I love this film. It has everything that makes film great, from the character development, to the acting, and the score by Hans Zimmer is simply phenomenal. There are so many scenes in this film where I say to myself, ‘that’s why I go to the movies.’ But it’s also the conclusion to one of the greatest trilogies of all time, and what cements it for me is that last shot. I can’t think of a better way to end a trilogy. I understand this movie wasn’t for everybody, and there are legit criticisms to be sure, but I can let the petty things go when the things that do work are just so damn good.
This is a film that starts off really good, and just keeps building, building, and building. I never thought Bruce Willis would be in two movies that cracked my top 5 in the same year, but here we are. And he’s great in this, playing the older version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Joe). But aside from all the cool sci-fi shenanigans, the brilliance of this movie is that both Joe’s go through reverse character arcs. And in the middle of their private war is young Cid played by Pierce Gagnon, who’s story becomes even more interesting then the two Joe’s. There’s one bloody moment with Cid that is just pulse-pounding to watch. With great supporting roles from Jeff Daniels and Emily Blunt, Looper is an instant sci-fi classic up there with Inception, Terminator, and The Matrix. Director Rian Johnson has a bright future.
This is how you do a found footage movie, Paranormal Activity! It’s not used as a gimmick, but as a major character trait for one of the protagonists. Not only does the element of found footage work, but the character development of Andrew played wonderfully by Dane DeHaan is both incredible and hard to watch. The film starts off a little sad, gets really fun, and by the third act is an absolute and utter tragedy. These are comic book themes we’ve seen hundreds of times, but director Josh Trank made it so good, it didn’t matter. The final 15 minutes of this movie are the definition of gut-wrenching.
A two-hour movie that is tense from the very beginning, and doesn’t let up till the end credits.Ben Affleck directed The Town in 2010, which is a very good crime drama, but with Argo, he was able to blend a multitude of tones together, and does so perfectly. Between the humorous Alan Arkin/John Goodman detour, the moments of doubt and fear felt from the hostages, to the ridiculously intense third act, it’s no wonder everybody is loving this film. Affleck also shines in front of the camera as the protagonist Tony Mendez, the man responsible for getting these hostages out of Iran. There are superb moments where Affleck exhibits the weight of the world just in his facial expressions. Argo is great, and may be the most well directed movie of the year.
5. Moonrise Kingdom
Even though Wes Anderson made Fantastic Mr. Fox back in 2009, this was really a return to form for the director in terms of live action fare. Moonrise Kingdom does what The Royal Tenenbaums did in bringing in Anderson’s classic dead panned humor, but added just enough seriousness to take it to that next level. And while all the adult characters are classic Wes Anderson, it’s the two lead kids, Jered Gilman (Sam) and Kara Hayward (Suzy), who truly make this film work. You are very invested in their journey, which leads to a very emotional climax. As for the adults, Edward Norton and Bruce Willis especially shine here, with Willis giving one of two great performances this year.
1. Django Unchained, 2. Argo, 3. Lawless, 4. Looper, 5. Ted
1. The Dark Knight Rises, 2. The Avengers, 3. Wreck-It Ralph, 4. Ted, 5. The Woman In Black
1. Django Unchained, 2. Argo, 3. Skyfall, 4. The Dark Knight Rises, 5. Seven Psychopaths
Logan J. Fowler
1. The Avengers, 2. Prometheus, 3. Argo, 4. Wreck-It Ralph, 5. Looper
1. The Avengers, 2. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, 3. Looper, 4. The Dark Knight Rises, 5. The Cabin In The Woods
1. The Dark Knight Rises, 2. The Cabin In The Woods, 3. Seven Psychopaths, 4. Moonrise Kingdom, 5. Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 2
1. The Avengers
Does this need an explanation? Joss Whedon took every aspect you could fathom in any single superhero flick, and combined them all into the best film of the year. Action, suspense, mystery, fear, seriousness, comedy, and even tragedy, all rolled into one. Many doubted such a film could exist, even in the superhero world, but here it is. Avengers successfully took heroes from their individual films and spent years putting the puzzle pieces together. The banter between them was fluid, each character had their own time on-screen to continue their development, all building towards an epic climatic event. Truly, The Avengers was a work of art.
2. Robot And Frank
This movie deserved every award it won, plus the awards it did not win. Frank Langella plays an aging man in the not-so-distant future, where being young and technologically savvy is the only way to remain mainstream. The former burglar finds himself losing touch due to dementia, so his son buys him a robot butler. While predictably the old man rejects the help, he eventually welcomes the ‘bot as his own through touching and comedic scenes which anyone with an aging relative can relate to. I watched my grandmother age and succumb to dementia, watching Langella rise above despair and fight for what remains of his life and memory is nothing but touching and sensational. The movie does conclude on a somber note, however the tale of technology taking over society and two lovers quest to retain interpersonal relationships, through one more run as a thief and a robot who opens the door for salvation is simply incredible and leaves the watcher stunned and satisfied at its end.
3. Wreck-It Ralph
It’s a fun ride of classic video game characters and what happens when the screens shut down for the night. Ralph of the inspired fictional 8-Bit game comes to realize that his opposite number, Fix-It Felix gains more popularity that he does, and Ralph wants to change his fate. Desiring to be the good guy, he goes on a quest through various video-game inspired adventures and ultimately decides his future. Disney knocked this film out of the console. Animation is perfect and the voice-casting just right for each character. The nods to current and vintage (weird to say that, right?) games are funny and as a avid player of Coleco Vision and the NES, I loved the 8-bit aspect of the movie.
4. The Amazing Spider-Man
The new take on the origin of our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler parallels that taken from Marvel’s Ultimate universe. A great cast got a great story. My favorite, Denis Leary as a cop! The masters behind the film to the time to really develop the relationships Peter has outside of donning the red and blue suit. Interactions and development with Flash Thompson and Gwen Stacy were excellently portrayed. Thompson going from jerk to friend might sound predictably cheesy, but not so here, as it was done slowly and progressively, showing Thompson and Parker developing different perceptions of each other. Even with the love story with Gwen Stacy and Pater Parker, its conclusion left us surprised but teased reconciliation. The after-credits bonus of Dr. Conner talking with one Norman Osborn leaves us drooling for the inevitable sequel. This edgier version is likely to continue on a potentially dark path for one Peter Parker.
5. The Expendables 2
Before anyone throws their computer desk over, take a moment to think. Have you ever wanted to just go watch a movie where you do not need to worry about a serious plot, or anything that might actually tax your brain to think? If so, this is the movie for you. It is an over-the-top explosion-fest of a film. Boom! Bang! Pow! Wheeeeee! The best part? It has all your favorite action heroes of yesteryear. Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, Jean Claude Van-Damme, Bruce Willis, and Jet Li paired with current stars Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth, and Jason Statham. This is one where you just go and enjoy the fireworks, or Crew’s big “Boom Boom” cannon.
1. The Avengers, 2. The Dark Knight Rises, 3. The Hobbit, 4. The Amazing Spider-Man, 5. The Cabin In The Woods
1. The Avengers, 2. Prometheus, 3. Skyfall, 4. The Amazing Spider-Man, 5. The Hunger Games (for my daughter)
1. Dark Knight Rises, 2. 21 Jump Street, 3. The Amazing Spider-Man, 4. Flight, 5. Lincoln
1. The Dark Knight Rises, 2. Lincoln, 3. Ted, 4. 21 Jump Street, 5. Project X
1. Silver Linings Playbook
Aside from the Philly pride, this is just a wondrous, heart-storming miracle of a movie. Bradley Cooper is all wide-eyed, steel-jawed determination as a mentally ill man trying to get his life back on track, and Robert De Niro as his bookie dad deserves every inch of praise he’s garnered for this film. Oh, and Jennifer Lawrence is smoky, gorgeous, sexy depth in this career-making role. She’s the new Meryl Streep, people. And she’s 22! She can do anything. And I’ll watch each and every film she’s in.
Everyone loves this film. What else can be said? Affleck is the closest thing our generation has to a Paul Newman, as both a fragile, fascinating leading man and steadfast and creative director. We all know this film’s got a happy ending — but the chase/escape sequence had us all on the edge of our seats anyways. That’s talent. Also, John Goodman is perfect in this film.
4. Take This Waltz
Seth Rogen deserves an Oscar nomination for his work here. I can’t believe I just wrote that, but it’s true. His turn as a cookbook-writing nice guy married to an unsatisfied, desperate Michelle Williams is wonderful, and deep, and nuanced. This is a shockingly personal, fun, interestingly-shot film that got overlooked from every angle this year. Sarah Silverman is ALSO excellent in this film, even if you discount her terrifying full-frontal nude scenes. But seriously, see this film. It’s on Netflix Instant. Go. Watch it.
The Will Ferrell-produced big-screen adaptation of Leslye Heyland’s shocking stage play flew under a lot of radars this year. Heyland (who also directed the film, and was a writer for last year’s beloved and much-missed tv show Terriers) created a thirtysomething female-marriage-shock comedy that is every bit as funny as Bridesmaids was disappointing. Kirsten Dunst gives a career-best performance as an ice-queen, leader-of-the-pack maid of honor on a bachelorette party night gone horribly wrong, and Rebel Wilson, as the title character in question, does a lot of the heavy lifting as a sympathetic plus-size woman who refuses to be victimized. She’s going to get an Oscar nom one of these days, as well. Just you watch.
5. Pitch Perfect
I know, I know. But this was the surprise snark comedy of the year for me, deserving of a place on the shelf next to Mean Girls and Bring It On and Easy A and Drop Dead Gorgeous. It gets the college a cappella scene really, really right, and it’s fun, and loud, and cheer-worthy where you expect it. And holy crap, someone needs to give Anna Kendrick the vehicle she needs to become an A-list, hitmaking star. She’s fantastic. I mean, she’s like forty percent teeth, but she’s adorable and super-talented. And the girl can sing. Also, Rebel Wilson is pretty amazing.
1. Pitch Perfect, 2. The Dark Knight Rises, 3. The Avengers, 4. The Hunger Games, 5. Although I haven’t seen it yet, I’m sure Les Miserables deserves to be on this list.
1. Looper, 2. Beasts Of The Southern Wild, 3. Skyfall, 4. Moonrise Kingdom, 5. The Avengers
1. The Avengers, 2. Perks Of Being A Wallflower, 3. The Dark Knight Rises, 4. The Amazing Spider-Man, 5. Frankenweenie
1. Skyfall, 2. Django Unchained, 3. Silver Linings Playbook, 4. 21 Jump Street, 5. The Avengers
1. Silver Linings Playbook
Call it the Good Will Hunting of the 21st Century. It’s a drama, but it could pass as a comedy. It’s extremely well made but not showy. It’s touching in a quirky but honest and human way — looking at love through the prism of mental illness. And you won’t find better acting on screen this year — not even from Daniel Day-Lewis. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper both deserve Oscars.
Speaking of Good Will Hunting, remember all those jokes we used to make about Ben Affleck? Seems like a lifetime ago. The one-time star of Gigli proves for the third straight time that he’s a top-notch director — seamlessly pulling off comedy in one scene and tense thrills in the next. Plus, Alan Arkin’s hilarious performance as an old-school cocky Hollywood producer is worth your $10 alone.
3. Django Unchained
Is Quentin Tarantino capable of making a dull film? Yes, it’s a half-hour too long, but Q.T.’s exploration of slavery is probing, funny, exciting, terrifying, and — as always — incredibly well-acted, well-written and well-directed. As for the controversy surrounding its graphic depictions and liberal use of the N-word? The bottom line is: Tarantino is making you think about something we have all too often ignored.
4. Life Of Pi
Avatar was better than expected, but even that didn’t prove that 3-D truly made a film better. This movie does. Few cinematic experiences are as gorgeous as Ang Lee’s adaptation of a hit novel that once seemed unadaptable. The fact that it’s thought-provoking, too, makes it great.
Any movie that deftly combines Mark Wahlberg, a talking teddy bear, Boston accents, Flash Gordon, Norah Jones, raunchy humor, and a touching moral is pretty sweet. The directorial debut of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane is the year’s best pure comedy.
The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan has clearly always had talent, but sometimes it seems like he’s trying too hard to prove it. Still, the third installment of his Batman series is gripping, thoughtful, and heartbreaking — emotions even the trilogy’s much-praised last chapter often lacked. (In hindsight, The Dark Knight seems largely a showcase for Heath Ledger’s legendary performance.) And am I the only one who thought Tom Hardy’s creepy turn as Bane was Oscar-worthy?
21 Jump Street
It could have been the next Starsky & Hutch — a big-budget, lazy remake of an old TV show. Instead, it takes home the award for the 2012 film with most laugh-out-loud moments. Just rent it — you won’t be sorry.
Yes, there are too many damn closeups. Yes, director Tom Hooper’s camera angles are sometimes awkward. And yes, it should have ended 20 minutes earlier. But how can you not love Hugh Jackman’s bold performance as Jean Valjean? How can you not be mesmerized by Anne Hathaway’s shockingly naked rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream”? And how can critics sit there and say the score to this Broadway classic is anything less than gorgeous and memorable? Every now and then, film needs a spectacle like this — even if it’s flawed.
1. Argo, 2. Django Unchained, 3. The Hunger Games, 4. Ted, 5. Skyfall
1. The Avengers, 2. Dark Knight Rises, 3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, 4. Prometheus, 5. Moonrise Kingdom
1. Cabin In The Woods
1. Perks Of Being A Wallflower, 2. End Of Watch, 3. 21 Jump Street, 4. Ted, 5. Project X
Destined to be a genre classic. The movie brings sci-fi and action together with a very human tale exploring love, destiny and the lengths we’re willing to go to save ourselves. The performances are top-notch. And the script is a masterpiece. I cannot say enough good things about this movie.
Epic. Sure, there were flaws. And haters will hate. But this was a wild ride, and I want to take it again.
3. The Dark Knight Rises
Better than The Dark Knight, IMHO. Come at me, bro.
4. Moonrise Kingdom
I admit it. I am a Wes Anderson fan. And — surprise! — I loved it. But wait!!! While it bears many of Anderson’s touchtones, this movie has a wider appeal than perhaps any of his other movies. The two child leads are wonderful, and the supporting cast is just impeccable: Bruce Willis, Ed Norton, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton. Do not miss this.
5. Django Unchained
(Editor’s Note: Originally Jay had this as No. 5 based solely on reading the script. Then on Saturday, Dec. 29, he texted paragraphs to us on why this was his favorite movie.)