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Opposites Attract: The Best Movies of the Year, So Far

May 14, 2012

By John C.

We are only partway through 2012, and it’s already shaping up to be an interesting year at the movies.  Box office records have been broken, and there have been several films that I just know will be vying for spots on my best list come the end of the year.

There have already been several movies that stood out in a big way, and I would like to take a look back at the best ones we’ve seen so far before we get any further into the summer movie season.  It’s a diverse mix that includes blockbusters and independent films, comedies and documentaries, animated films and even a horror movie that turned convention on its head.

Let’s start with reality.  The latest Earth Day documentary from Disney•Nature was Chimpanzee, a touching and beautifully filmed look at the life of an adorable chimp named Oscar.  With a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales going to the Jane Goodall Institute, this was a film that allowed the breathtaking images to speak for themselves.  Both as a movement and a documentary, it would be impossible to forget the heartbreaking Bully, a profoundly effecting film that left us emotionally drained and desperately wanting to make a difference.

We have also gotten a couple of excellent comedies that managed to go beyond their ability to make us laugh.  Nobody really knew what to expect from the 21 Jump Street reboot with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, but what we got was a smart and hilariously raunchy comedy that worked both as 1980s nostalgia and a sharp satire of our current pop culture.  Jason Segel and Emily Blunt both continued their winning streaks when they teamed up for The Five-Year Engagement, an immensely likeable romantic comedy that didn’t mind shaking up the genre with raunchy humour and scenes of touching drama.  I already look forward to watching both of these films again.

After being stuck in distribution limbo for three years as it built almost deafening buzz amongst fans, we finally got The Cabin in the Woods.  Thrilling and surprisingly intelligent, you didn’t even have to be a big fan of horror movies to admire this film.  But we’ve also gotten a couple of good movies that were enjoyed by those of all ages.  The cautionary tale The Lorax opened on what would have been the 108th birthday of author Dr. Seuss, and the big screen adaptation of his literary masterpiece was filled with appealing characters and an important environmental message.  The beautifully animated and deeply heartfelt Japanese film The Secret World of Arrietty has stuck with me in a way that I didn’t expect.

Among the most hotly anticipated movies of the year was the big screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling teen novel, The Hunger Games and it was a thrilling and emotionally powerful blockbuster that spoke to our acceptance of violence as entertainment.  Equally big and brilliant was The Avengers, another blockbuster that doubled as a piece of smart filmmaking.  The superhero extravaganza had the biggest opening of all time when it pulled in $207.4 million and just became the first film to ever break $100 million on its second weekend, making it rank among of the biggest movies of all time and one of the best of the year.

Continuing with the theme of opposites attracting, there have also been several excellent independent films to go along with the big blockbusters.  Although by nature of awards season it was considered a 2011 release, the quietly powerful and beautifully acted Canadian film Monsieur Lazhar is still one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.  Another personal favourite was Jeff, Who Lives at Home with Jason Segel and Ed Helms.  A brilliantly acted and deeply moving film that has stuck with since I first saw it at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, this was a small masterpiece.  The wonderful dramedy Your Sister’s Sister was another favourite from last September’s TIFF, and is finally opening in theatres next month.

Some of the ones that I’m looking forward to over the next two months include Moonrise Kingdom (June 1st), Prometheus (June 8th), Rock of Ages and Safety Not Guaranteed (June 15th), Brave and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (June 22nd), People Like Us (June 29th), The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3rd), Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D (July 5th), Beasts of the Southern Wild (July 6th), Ted (July 13th) and The Dark Knight Rises (July 20th).  It’s a very diverse list, but just like the best movies we’ve seen so far this year, sometimes opposites attract.

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