Tim’s Top 12 of 2012

12 is my lucky number, so I figured that would be the number of films I pick for my favorites of 2012, it kind of works, because then that would be one each month, though, for anyone who reads my blog, you’re well aware that I’ve seen a lot more than 12 movies this year!

the-expendables-2-poster12) The Expendables 2 – It’s loud cheesy 80s action fun with some of the biggest action icons to have ever been assembled for a movie – of course it’s going to end up on my list. For sheer mindless, good-times entertainment, this is a film series that after 2 films cannot be beat, and with rumors of a third one in prep (with Jackie Chan joining up) it looks like they may be around for a while as well. This time around Stallone and his band, including the ever-cool Jason Statham, is joined by Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and expanded roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The action is loud, noisy, bloody, and oh so much fun!

Seeing this in a theater with a bunch of people who love action movies as much as I do was a lot of fun, not to mention stars Terry Crews and Randy Couture were in the audience with us.

I will be the first one to say this series of films will never win any of the big industry awards, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are just good fun, and I cannot wait for the next one!

hermaster11) Her Master’s Voice – This was the first documentary that I saw at 2012′s Hot Docs, and I think because of that it will always have a special place in my heart. We chatted with the film’s subject and director, Nina Conti, about ventriloquism, her mentor, her sidekick Monkey. Up til that point I had never seen any artist lay themselves out so bare in front of the camera, all of her armour comes down as she carries on conversations with herself though her puppets.

The film follows Nina on her journey to Kentucky to an annual ventriloquist convention, while standing at a cross-roads of her life, deciding whether she still wants to carry on with her act, or leave it behind. When news of her mentor’s passing and his gifts to her sets her on an emotional journey of self-discovery, we are taken along for the ride, and see every moment of pain, joy, tears, and hope.

This ended up being my favorite film at Hot Docs because it was something truly heartfelt, and ventriloquism and puppetry has always had a special place in my heart.

Hitchcock-poster10) Hitchcock – I always find behind-the-scenes movies to be fun, especially when you have such a fantastic cast as Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Danny Huston, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, James D’Arcy, Jessical Biel and Michael Wincott. Combining a mature love story with the creation of one of Hitch’s most popular films, Psycho, the craft pays homage to Hollywood of yesteryear and made me nostalgic for a time that I never knew.

I have also never seen Ms. Johansson better in any film she’s done, she simply embodies Janet Leigh, and brings her to life right before your eyes. Course everyone has to be at the top of their game when you put to heavy hitters like Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins on the screen.

The film chronicles the love story of Hitch and his wife Alma while he struggles to make a film that none of the companies wanted to see made. They all thought it would be just another run-of-the-mill horror film… but what happens when one of the world’s best directors makes a horror film.

I’m looking forward to reading the book it’s actually based on, but this film was just a sheer delight.

american mary9) American Mary – I chatted with the Soska Twins briefly after one of the screenings of this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and I couldn’t rave enough about their genre-defining body modification horror/thriller. It ended up on this list because it was one of the films that I was really anxious about seeing, because I was worried about how graphic the film would be. Despite it’s visuals, the film has a restrained beauty that verges on the brilliant. I remember walking out of the theater completely stunned and amazed by what I had just seen. I had done a complete 180 from my expectations and perceptions of the film. Any movie that can do that to me is worth noting.

Katherine Isabelle is simply amazing, and stunning in her role, and watching her transformation from naive med student to a modification artist is a treat to watch. The Soska Twins now have a permanent fan in me, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Brave8) Brave – Oh, Pixar. How I love you. I look forward to each year’s new film and it is very rare that I am disappointed by them, and even their lesser films (I’m looking at you Cars 2) can entertain. This year’s effort took us to the wilds of Scotland, with a stunning story of a mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson) and a daughter, Merida (Kelly MacDonald), queen and princess respectively, and their relationship. I didn’t even know that going into the film, I just knew that Merida was a headstrong girl, who wanted to decide her own fate, who didn’t want to be told who to marry… And I knew there was a big dangerous looking bear.

What I didn’t know about it, made the film that much more enjoyable when certain events kicked in. Pixar has always been a master of character-based animated stories, making sure that the quality extends not only through the art of the film itself, but also through the story and the characters that inhabit the world they have created.

Pixar films always tend to be a highlight of the year for me.

life_of_pi7) Life of Pi – I loved this book when I first read it, it was an incredible journey, and was understandably anxious when I learned they were adapting it to the big screen. Ang Lee however was not only faithful to the novel, but did some of the best 3D work I’ve seen in a movie yet. The tiger, Richard Parker, is brought to life with amazing realism, combining live-action and CG work, blurring the lines between reality and fiction. It’s amazing to see this lumbering beast surviving alongside fellow traveller Pi (Suraj Sharma) as they struggle to live on the high seas, hoping against hope for rescue, battling the elements and each other.

The story is personal, while being epic at the same time, and all the green-screen and CG work that went to stranding Richard Parker and Pi on the ocean makes the film look amazing! There are so many picture perfect moments in this film, a movie that is filled with humour, heartbreak, and ruminations on storytelling itself.

rosalind6) The Last Will & Testament of Rosalind Leigh – Everyone knows the story how Sue and I came across the booth for this film at Fan Expo and were taken in first by the poster, then the trailer, and the photo area. After we approached the director Rodrigo Gudino about a chance to see the film, both of us were struck by this beautifully crafted and creepy film.

Aaron Poole is on-screen for nearly every moment of the film and does so by himself, all though there is a haunting voice-over narration by Vanessa Redgrave, and it’s also one of those films that surprises you by the end of the film, allowing you to see everything that has gone before it in a whole new light.

A fantastic effort from the founder of Rue Morgue magazine, that deals with ideas of faith, love and family surrounded by creepy-ass angel statues…

cabin5) Cabin In The Woods – Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon turned the horror genre on its head with this brilliant film. Taking the traditional horror trappings of the remote cabin, and the stereotypical characters one finds in that vein of horror film. Once the film kicks into gear, there are nods to almost every horror genre, as well as characters.

The film features Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Kristen Connolly, Jesse Williams, Whedon alumnus Amy Acker, Tom Lenk and Fran Kranz. It also features Richard Jenkins and the awesome Bradley Whitford.

And despite the subject matter, and the amount of blood spilled the film ends up being more of a comedy than a horror, and every moment of it is entertaining. For anyone who knows and loved their horror films, this and the number 3 film on my list should be viewed and enjoyed often.

avengers4) The Avengers – The Marvel universe comes to the big screen, combining the already established box-office successes of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans), adding Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) into the mix under the able hand of famed geek writer-director Joss Whedon. The film is a giant, comic book action adventure set to Geek Overload!

Commanded by the fantastically cool Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Earth’s mightiest heroes take on an alien invasion, led by Asgardian Loki (Thomas Hiddleston), who makes a fatal mistake when he confronts fan fave, and recurring Marvel universe character, Agent Colson (Clark Gregg). Their next team-up is a few years off yet, but at least we’ll have new individual adventures from Tony Stark, Cap and Thor soon…

paranorman3) Paranorman – This film was a sheer delight, in that I just didn’t expect it to be as amazing as it was. I’m a huge stop motion animation fan, and add to that a fun story that features zombies, a witch’s curse and a message that doesn’t hit you over the head repeatedly, and you have a family film that is truly suitable, and enjoyable, for the entire family.

And oh! the in-jokes!!

The ring-tone, the hockey-mask, the sight gags, and on top of that, it really is a great story filled with great characters, some laugh out loud moments.

The effects on the witch towards the end of the film, are some of my favorites, a brilliant combination of practical stop-motion and CG effects.

Of course knowing it was being released by Laika who also gave us the exemplary Coraline, I should have realized that it would be as amazing and as enjoyable as it is.

skyfall2) Skyfall - Daniel Craig’s 3rd outing as James Bond ends up being one of my Top 5 007 films of all time. Directed by Sam Mendes, and featuring a fantastic score by Thomas Newman, and a powerful title track by Adele, Skyfall ends up being one of the best looking films I have ever seen. The cinematography is top-notch, and there are character changes and introductions, putting familiar pieces back on the secret agent board. Daniel Craig is top-notch in this film, bringing that dangerous edge which defines his Bond.

The film starts on an epic scale, and races towards a small, almost intimate climax in northern Scotland. There are some fantastic stand-out sequences, and Judi Dench has so much more to do this time around as her entire department is put on trial while she is targeted by Javier Bardem’s Silva.

Fantastic fun, and hopefully they get back on the track of releasing a Bond film every two years, and Craig will stay with the role for a few more years yet.

hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-poster1) The Hobbit – I was so happy to step back into the world of Middle Earth. Tolkien’s world is brought to life once again by Peter Jackson, creating a place I would happily call home. Expanding on the text of the original novel, and incorporating the legend and lore that was happening at the same time as Bilbo’s (Martin Freeman) expedition with Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), Gandalf (Ian McKellan) and company to the Lonely Mountain. Is it as great a film as the original trilogy? No, but it still stands head and shoulders (which is tough for a halfling) above a lot of the other films I’ve seen this year.

As of this writing, I still need to see it in the 48fps frame rate (another excuse to see it of course) but I simply delighted in seeing familiar places, faces, and setting out on a whole new adventure. Ian McKellan brings Gandalf back to the screen, and the Shire made me weepy again.

For me this was a pitch-perfect film that I loved.

What were your favorite films of 2012?

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Happy 1st Birthday for The Mind Reels!

When I was younger, physically and chronologically, not mentally, I often thought about talking and working with people in the entertainment industry. I also thought about being a starship captain like James T. Kirk or walking with dinosaurs, but hey, one dream at a time.

Growing up, I was not necessarily an outsider, but I was often on the fringes of my school groups, I wasn’t necessarily the ‘weird kid’, I was just interested in different things. They liked the movie where such and such happened. I may have liked the same film, but I was always more interested in how the such and such happened on the big screen, the story behind the story. And that’s what I wanted to do with my life, maybe write, maybe direct, maybe even act!

Life, as it tends to, got in the way, and I found myself manning the counter of two of the bigger names in home video rentals, and watched the transition from VHS to DVD, and DVD to Blu-Ray.

It wasn’t til last year, as my 40th Birthday leaned threateningly over the horizon, that someone dear to my heart (you know who you are) pushed and nudged me, insisting I do something with my love of film, television and pop culture. I toyed with the idea as I crawled into bed that night, and just as I was drifting to sleep, my eyes snapped open, and I turned the lights back on, jotting down a title on the notepad I keep next to my bed. ‘The Mind Reels.’ I liked it. It worked. And it worked on a couple of levels. Brilliant I thought.

The next morning, I ran the idea past one of my best friends, Sue, and convinced her (it didn’t take a lot) to partner up with me on this idea. I sought out the advice of where the best place was to start up a blog, and got some advice on podcasting from my friend Ryan, and boom.

Within 24 hours, The Mind Reels had been created.

And now here we are.

1 year later.

And what a year this has been, this blog and our podcast, has taken off beyond any of the dreams I had for the first year. I’ve met some amazing people, some I’m lucky enough now to call my friends, seen tons of movies and TV. I do need to do a little more in the book department (I’m constantly reading – I just never make a post about them, I’ll see about changing that) and yet for all that we’re constantly expanding.

We’ve covered film festivals (thank you Hot Docs! WorldWide Short Film Festival, Toronto After Dark Summer Nights), we’ve covered conventions (Niagara Fall Comic Con, Wizard World Toronto Comic Con, and Fan Expo!) we’ve been to screenings, set visits (Sex After Kids, Pete Winning & The Pirates) and then, there’s the podcasts!

We’re now featured on the internet channel Smithee.TV and Sue and I are constantly looking at one another with dumbstruck looks on our faces… how did this happen?

Our friend Ryan, whose own website is brilliant, gave me all kinds of advice on podcasts, and then after that very important screening of The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard, which we did to support our love of Lost Girl, and it’s cast members Zoie Palmer and Kris Holden-Ried who were both in it, the world of interviews opened up to us thanks to one man… Jeremy LaLonde.

We took a chance, and contacted him and asked him if there was any conceivable way that he would meet us for an interview.

And he surprised us both when he said yes.

I mean, we were shocked! I mean honestly… who were we? Just a couple of people who were interested in films, admittedly I had written a raving review of Paul Shepard (SUCH A GOOD MOVIE!!!).

But Jeremy, one of the people I know count myself lucky to call a friend, told us that in most cases, interviews would be ours for the asking. You just have to find the right route, the right contacts, and network. This year has seen a lot of that.

And look how it’s paid off for us, what a guest list we’ve had… IN OUR FIRST YEAR!!! Jeremy LaLonde, Beth Beard, Christine Horne, Katie Boland, Anna Silk, Rick Howland, Nadia Bassett, Tanya Lemke, Jodi Anne Balfour, Victor Webster, Ali Liebert, Mary Krohnert, Charlotte Hegele, KC Collins, Natasha Eloi, Emily Schooley, Sandra DaCosta, Devon Bostick, Tim Doiron, April Mullen, Amanda Brugel, Mary Krohnert, Anthony Grani, Kate Hewlett, Tony Amendola, Miracle Laurie, Robert O’Reilly, JG Hertzler, Huse Madhavji, Paul Amos, Stacie Mistysyn, Sean Cisterna, Supinder Wraich, Dan Fox, Jay Ferguson, Lucas Bryant, Casey Hudecki, Nina Conti, Ryan Goldhar, Lance Guest, Catherine Mary Stewart, Sylvia Caminer, Melanie Lentz-Janney, Clay Peterson, Michael Harmon, Michael MacLennan, Adrienne Mitchell, Janis Lundman, Rebecca Sandulak, Tanis Rideout, Simon Racioppa, Tony Todd, Jamie Bamber, Daniska Esterhazy, Bruce Sweeney, Chloe Rose, Seth Cooperman, Ashley Hirt, Rebecca Gibson, Kiowa Gordon and Meg Tilly.

HOLY CRAP!

Thank you, each and every one of you! You have made such a huge impact on myself and Sue, you’ve come on our show, you’ve made us feel like friends and family, and you’ve spread the enjoyment you’ve had with us to others.

And THIS has just been our first year doing interviews and podcasts!

Now we’ve moved into our full studio, soon to be podcasting live and our guest list seems to be growing, and we’ve got so many amazing things in the works, familiar faces and friends will be back, as will new and amazing guests. Who would you like to see come on the show? I have a dream list that I am constantly updating, and I’m really starting to dream big! I’d love to chat with Steven Moffat, or Steven Spielberg! I’d love to kick back and laugh and have a chinwag with Tom Hanks! But you know what?

I wouldn’t change a thing about any of the interviews we’ve had. Every single one of them has been FANTASTIC, and I truly believe that once they realized we weren’t your usual interview, they all had a great time, and just relaxed and opened up.

In fact, that is my favorite moment in each and every interview, the point that I constantly bring up with Sue in our post-interview talk… I love when each and every guest reaches that relaxation point and just chats to us. They openly relax, we’ve got them to relax by talking about something like their favourite movie, and then we’re just chatting and laughing with one another. That is always my favourite part.

Everybody does interviews, we’ve always been more interested in having a conversation.

It’s literally been a whirlwind, and Sue and I are right there in the center of it. It’s been amazing!

And people read our posts, people listen to our interviews!

That still amazes us, and from the bottom of our hearts, I thank each and every one of you. You read what we write, you retweet it, you respond to it, you tweet us your thoughts about what we’ve shared, you’ve helped us chase down interviews, and we’ve been lucky enough to meet some of you in person.

We have been so fortunate with the people who have come to our website.

So, with my eyes a little teary as I write this…

Thank you.

Thank you so much.

And for me personally, Thank you for letting me do what I’ve always wanted to do, and letting me know that I’m not wasting my time with it.

As we move into our second year, I have high hopes, aspirations and dreams for what’s to come for The Mind Reels, and I know it’s not going to be easy, we’re going to have to work at it, to make it be all that it can! To push ourselves, to chase down leads on stories and interviews. It’s really hard work, but it’s paying off, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it. Because I do.

I’m looking forward to many more birthday celebrations for The Mind Reels, looking back on what we’ve done, and going boldly forward to our next goals, challenges, and oh, all those amazing people we get to meet.

Nina Conti – Her Master’s Voice

I loved Her Master’s Voice, it’s my favorite documentary I saw screened this year at Hot Docs.

So I was delighted when we had the chance to have a brief chat with the talented and charming ventriloquist Nina Conti, and her good friend Monkey.

I can’t recommend this doc enough, it’s fun, charming, touching, occasionally weepy, and just an all around entertaining and well-made film about an artist exploring her life and her craft.

Screens one last time Friday May 4 at 1:30pm at the Cumberland.

But for now, pull up a seat and join us for Nina Conti – Her Master’s Voice.

Her Master’s Voice – Nina Conti, UK

I’ve always been fascinated and delighted by puppetry, muppets and ventriloquism, so when I read the blurb on this film, I knew I had to make the effort to see this one.

Having done so, I can’t recommend it enough. As I said in my Documentary post, a good one can make you laugh, cry, think, and feel changed at the end.

This one accomplished every one of those aims.

Nina Conti is a brilliant and entertaining comedienne and ventriloquist, but she’s beginning to question whether she can do this for the rest of her life. Thinking about retiring her act, and by extension her dummy, she seeks out the advice of her much-loved but estranged mentor Ken Campbell, only to learn he’s passed. And left her his collection of dummies.

Feeling the need to do something important with them, she goes to Kentucky for the annual Ventriloquist convention with the intention of bequeathing them to Vent Haven, the ventriloquist museum.

Along the way, she talks with herself and to herself, and it’s amazing to watch.

Nina, both the subject and the director of the film, lays her soul bare for the camera, often on the brink of tears in her private moments as she tries to figure out what to do with her life, her new wards, and her perceived worthiness. You don’t feel like you are intruding in those moments, because, to all appearances, she’s having a conversation with someone, even if it is only made of cloth, plastic and foam.

Her companions serve as a voice to all her inner doubts, her fears, worries, and ultimately her support, and it’s simply stunning to watch.

There are moments when in conversation with one of her dummies, she actually seems stunned or taken aback by something they say to her… and you feel that each and every one of them is truly their own person, and not just another side of Nina.

I laughed aloud, had my bottom lip quiver on the cusp of crying as my eyes grew damp, and found myself growing incredibly attached to all of her wards.

The film is an examination of a woman reaching a crossroads in her life, re-evaluating from whence she came, and wondering where she’s going. It’s a first-rate experience, and truly amazing.

Her Master’s Voice is presented on Sunday April 29, at 7:00pm at the Cumberland, Tuesday May 1 at 11:00am at the ROM, and back at the Cumberland on Friday May 4 at 1:30pm.