Tonight in Seattle:  

Film

The 6 Best Children's Movies of 2012 (yup, 2012!)

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Since the Magnificent Liz has been making her way through her Best of 2013, I thought, what better time to polish up the Best of 2012 list I started over a month ago (though still a good month after 2012 was actually over)? I figure the target audience for this list is probably, like me, months behind anyway, so what the hell.

So without further ado, here are my top 6 children’s movies of 2012.

6. Brave 
I’ll admit up front, I had some quibbles with the plot. And it’s hard to avoid a whiff of affirmative action when talking about it: it is, after all, one of the only animated megahits in memory with a strong, independent female badass at its center. (Tiana? Rapunzel? Mulan? Discuss.) But dammit, she is a badass! And the characters are nuanced and interesting, and the animation is breathtakingly beautiful, and the mischievous little brother triplets are hilarious. Don’t be dissuaded by the tepid reviews (mine possibly included). Let Merida elbow out some of the more vapid princesses in the pantheon.

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Latest comment by: Adam: "Here here for the scurvy gang of Band of Misfits. I really liked this one. I enjoyed Wreck it Ralph, but not nearly as much as Band of Misfits. Spoiler Alert: "They're not scientists; they're Girl Scouts!""

Recommended Viewing: John Dies at the End {Opens 2/22 at The Varsity}

If you can’t tell from the trailer, John Dies at the End is one of those movies that’s completely unhinged—which is honestly why I think I liked it so much. And likely why I laughed almost all the way through the end (that reminds me, make sure you stay through the credits!). 

It’s hard to describe the plot since it’s kind of all over the place, but in a nutshell: John and Dave are two friends who stumble onto a psychedelic drug called “soy sauce” (courtesy of a Jamaican named Robert Marley) that may or may not be alive.

While on the sauce, the boys have the ability to talk to the dead, travel between dimensions, and completely mess with their own timelines. At some point, they get recruited into fighting the forces of evil alongside a slick celebrity Doctor named Marconi (a Russian-accented, suited up Clancy Brown. Yay!).

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A Good Day to Die Hard

{A Good Day to Die Hard opens in Seattle on 2/14, and is screening at the Regal Meridian, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, Thornton Place, and Pacific Science Center IMAX. Note: A few of these theaters are showing 10pm screenings on 2/13}

I don’t want to be a hater. I promise you, I went into A Good Day to Die Hard with an open mind (yes, even *I* appreciate big, dumb action movies).

I love the original, revel in the cheesiness of the second, think the third works brilliantly, and even though the fourth was poorly constructed, I thought it at least had some charm. This, though? THIS. This is just. Terrible.

After his son Jack (Jai Courtney) gets thrown into a Russian prison for shooting a guy in a night club, John McClane (a lean-looking Willis) heads to Moscow to uh, I guess provide moral support? Even though he mentions that he and his son haven’t spoken for at least a few years. I was hoping it would be to actually break his son out of prison, but that didn’t happen.

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Side Effects

{Side Effects opens in Seattle Friday, 2/8, and is screening at Sundance Cinemas, Oak Tree, AMC Pacific Place, and SIFF Cinema Uptown} 

Well, Soderbergh finally made a movie with Channing Tatum that I wanted to see—if only to watch Rooney Mara work her magic.  

Side Effects is one of those movie that I think could have been brilliant, if it focused more deeply on the issue of pharmacology and the responsibility of psychiatrists and drug companies. Instead, it uses those things only to provide a frame around a cheap thriller.  

Mara plays Emily, a depressed young woman whose husband Martin (Tatum) has been in prison for 2 years for insider trading. Emily and Martin were living the high life when he was arrested with mansions and fancy cars and designer clothes, and now the poor girl actually has to work a 40-hour a week job! And she can’t even afford a decent psychiatrist. 

After Martin is released, Emily slips further and further into her depression, ghosting through her days, and eventually slams her car into a concrete wall, which lands her in the hospital and in front of Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). The concerned doctor strongly suggests that she either be committed or get on antidepressants. 

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Latest comment by: Imaginary Rich: "

Ouch - that last line stings. ;-) I thought he made a terrific looking movie here. But otherwise I agree for the most part. I think it's hard to make something that one won't unravel pretty early once you start casting minor seeming characters with ...

Recommended Viewing: In Another Country at The Grand Illusion {thru 2/7}

In Director Hang Sang-soo's In Another Country, three different women played by the same actress (the lovely Isabelle Huppert) visit the same seaside resort in Korea, encountering a trio of men who can't help but fall for her (duh. It's ISABELLE HUPPERT) -- including a lovestruck lifeguard who fumbles through every seduction. 

The stunning Huppert acts the hell out of each part: a filmmaker, an adulterer, and a divorced woman in despair, and each repetitive situation seems so awkwardly real that you can't help but laugh ... over and over again. 

It's charming in a way that makes me curse recent American-made rom-coms, and a satisfying way to spend and hour and a half. Dig up $8 and head over to The Grand Illusion to see it before 2/7. 

{In Another Country | 7pm & 9pm at The Grand Illusion cinema | through Thursday, Feb. 7 | $8/$5 for members/$6 for students} 

Warm Bodies

{Warm Bodies opens in Seattle on Friday, 2/1, and is screening at both AMC Pacific Place and Thornton Place}

I know there are a few others out there, but this is the first “Zombie Romance” film I’ve seen, and it was pretty well done. But! If you’re a hardcore Zombie purist, you’re going to hate it because it seriously messes with the rules of the genre.

Instead of focusing on the outbreak, Warm Bodies deals with the aftermath of a Zombie apocalypse, where the remaining humans (led by a militant John Malkovich) wall themselves up inside the remains of a big city, and the zombies run around outside eating whatever brains they can find. But here’s the catch: the zombies can think pretty much the same way they did before they became the walking dead.

It gets harder for them to retain their humanity the longer they’ve been at it, but “R” (super-dreamy Nicholas Hoult – yes, even as a Zombie) seems to have a little more consciousness than the others, clinging to his human persona by collecting various chotskies, including a boss collection of ‘80s albums—I knew I was going to like this film as soon as they queued up John Waites’ “Missing You”.

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Promised Land

{ Promised Land opens in Seattle Friday December 28th at the Regal Meridian 16 and Lincoln Square Cinemas (in Bellevue) }

Promised Land starring Matt Damon is your best choice this weekend if you're seeking a picturesque tale of how America's rural heartland is in danger of being steamrolled by big energy with a bit of romance tacked on. Less of a great choice if you want either some hard data on fracking or an especially compelling film. A lightweight take on environmental devastation that's well constrained within a familiar narrative. Naive (or willfully ignorant) boy with big ambition turns a blind eye on how his corporate masters do business. Until wiser folks and the double crossing sneaky big money interests eventually shake up his world view. Promised Land is the sort of film that feels interesting enough while you're watching, but even given the weighty subject matter isn't especially likely to stick with you longer than the time it takes to get to the parking lot.

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Django Unchained

{Django Unchained opens in Seattle on December 25, Christmas Day, and is screening at SIFF Cinemas Uptown, Regal Meridian, Landmark Varsity, and Thornton Place}

I am a Tarantino fangirl through and through. There is not one single thing he’s done that I don’t love with all my heart … but I was still a little worried about Django, since it’s a Western and that genre is not really my favorite.

But I shouldn’t have.

Django Unchained is everything I wanted it to be: a kick-ass tale of revenge with amazing performances from its leads, smart chunks of dialog punctuated by action, blood-spattered (and more blood-spattered) gun fights, and Quentin Tarantino with a ridiculous Australian accent. I LOVED ALL OF IT. Even the twangy Western ballads sprinkled throughout.

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Latest comment by: Imaginary Amie: "

Yay! Glad you liked it too, John.

I just read something about that QT cameo that said he stepped in to take the place of an actor who couldn't make shooting that day -- and another that said he just really wanted to do the silliest cameo ...

Hyde Park on Hudson

{Hyde Park on Hudson opened in Seattle on Friday, December 14, and is screening at the Landmark Egyptian Theater as well as the Bellevue Lincoln Square Cinemas}

Hyde Park on Hudson is a fascinating film, but not in a particularly positive way. It's fascinating as a demonstration of how any numerical 1-5 star type rating approach would miss how good the best parts are, and how "meh" the rest of the picture is.

Hyde Park follows a relationship between FDR (Bill Murray) and a somewhat distant cousin Daisy (Laura Linney). Over a critical weekend in the British/U.S. relationship on the eve of World War II, the Roosevelts entertain the King and Queen of England in their home.

The picture is a grab-bag of messages. History lessons, thinly veiled commentary on the nature of media presence in the modern era, dark romance, and aspects of period costume drama crash together. Producing a work that's mostly pretty dull, but decorated with an occasional flash of genius.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

{The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens in Seattle on Friday, 12/14 and is screening pretty much everywhere, but I personally recommend the Cinerama}

In order to talk about Peter Jackson’s much-anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, you have to talk about the craziness of him creating a new 3D film technology and deciding to use it—even at the risk of alienating some hardcore fans, and also, uh, making some of them literally throw up. But, we’ll get to that later. Let’s start with the actual plot first.

I was worried going into this that the dwarves would mean a lot of slapstick-y nonsense, and my fears were proven true as soon as the prologue about the dwarves was over, and they reached Bilbo’s house. It’s absolutely true that the dwarves are so similar that outside of the leader, Thorin, you can’t really tell them apart. It’s also absolutely true that the quickest way to make me facepalm is to have a bunch of characters sing while juggling dishes, but I digress.

The plot (like any of you going to see it DON’T know—humor me here) is thus: the dwarves were once rulers of this incredible mountain kingdom, and had more gold and jewels than they really knew what to do with, which unfortunately attracted a greedy dragon named Smaug who forced them out in order hoard the treasure.

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Latest comment by: Imaginary Amie: "

I sure did enjoy that! Especially the part where you called everybody who disagrees with you "dumb", "stupid", and "prejudiced", and imply that they should all lose their jobs and be replaced with people who LOVED The Hobbit -- ...