2012’s best … … and worst movies

Biggest disappointment: Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers.”

Biggest disappointment still worth seeing: Paul Thomas Anderson’s self-obsessed “The Master” was a pretentious bore, but Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of a self-destructive loner was as ferocious a performance as Robert De Niro’s in “Raging Bull.”

Best movie that needed time to grow on you: Whit Stillman’s “Damsels in Distress.” For the first 10 minutes, you’re like “Whaaaat?” After that, you’re like “Ha ha ha!”

Best safety lesson tucked inside a summer blockbuster: “Prometheus.” When being chased by a giant rolling spaceship shaped like a doughnut, it’s better to run parallel to the vehicle instead of trying to cross directly in its path.

Most entertaining example of how Hollywood can help save lives: In “Argo,” a CIA agent hires some studio reps to pose as a film crew in order to rescue six people stranded during the Iran hostage crisis. The power of movies!

Most mind-bending moment: Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, two versions of the same man at different ages, sit down for a conversation at a diner in the time-travel thriller “Looper.”

Most whimsical image: An enormous treehouse sits high atop a tree as thick as a toothpick in “Moonrise Kingdom.”

Best sequel: None.

Most superfluous sequel: “Men in Black 3.”

Most disappointing sequel: “American Reunion.”

Worst sequel: “Taken 2.”

Worst remake: “Total Recall.”

Most satisfying end of a trilogy: “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Most surprising end of a franchise: “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2,” in which things are finally allowed to get crazy.

Least promising start of a franchise: “The Hunger Games.”

Best entry in a continuing franchise: “Skyfall.” Bond has never been better.

Most distracting use of soft-focus to hide the actors’ out-of-control facelifts: “The Expendables 2.”

Saddest sight: A rusty Arnold Schwarzenegger wincing as he fires a machine gun in “The Expendables 2.”

Scariest sight: Jean-Claude Van Damme’s plastic surgery in “The Expendables 2.”

Best closing shot: As the music swells, a man stands before an enormous rising platform in “The Dark Knight Rises”: A new hero is born.

Worst closing shot: Donald Sutherland looking annoyed in “The Hunger Games,” as if he was stuck in a long checkout line at the grocery store.

Best action movie: “The Raid: Redemption.” Relentless.

Worst action movie: “Red Dawn.” The movie was delayed for two years. Should have stayed on the shelf.

Least exciting action movie: Steven Soderbergh’s curiously uninvolving “Haywire.”

Biggest cop-out: The ending of Oliver Stone’s ludicrous “Savages.” We were only kidding!

Most creative use of the found-footage format: The superhero movie “Chronicle.”

Best line that doesn’t make any sense taken out of context: “The harbinger is on line two,” from “The Cabin in the Woods.”

Best raise-the-roof moment: The Hulk uses Loki as a fly swatter in “The Avengers.”

Best close-but-no-cigar attempt at something totally different: “Cloud Atlas.”

Most successful attempt at something totally different: Leos Carax’s indescribable “Holy Motors.”

Most admirable attempt at something totally different: Will Ferrell’s “Casa de Mi Padre,” which was set in Mexico and spoken entirely in Spanish. The joke got old after a while, though.

Best romantic comedy: “The Silver Linings Playbook.” Crazies in love.

Most surprisingly fun romantic comedy: “Think Like a Man.”

Worst romantic comedy: “This Means War.”

Creepiest romantic comedy: “People Like Us,” in which a man pretends to woo a woman he knows to be his half-sister.

Most convincing evidence Tim Burton has run out of gas: “Dark Shadows” and the warmed-over leftover “Frankenweenie.”

Coolest sound effect: The thwap-thwap of the propellers of the special low-noise, hard-to-detect helicopters used during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Most horrifying plot twist: In “Kill List,” two hit men carrying out orders try to execute the wrong guy. Suddenly, we are in “The Wicker Man” territory.

Best car chase: Tom Cruise chases the bad guys while cops chase him in “Jack Reacher.”

Worst car chase: The bicycle-messenger thriller “Premium Rush.”

Funniest out-of-nowhere comedic bit in an otherwise serious movie: KKK members (including Jonah Hill) complain about not being able to see through their hoods in “Django Unchained.”

Best documentary structured as a mystery: “Searching for Sugar Man.”

Most bloated movie: “Flight.” After that horrifying plane crash, the rest of the movie went nowhere - for 2 1/2 hours.

Most bloated movie that at least looked cool: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was at least 45 minutes too long, but the 3-D and high frame rate kept your eyes entertained.

Best reboot: “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

Best horror movie disguised as a cop drama: Two LAPD patrol officers (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peqa) get into increasingly harrowing situations in “End of Watch.”

Most lurid, over-the-top movie: “The Paperboy.” Lee Daniels later said he intended to make a comedy. Sure, dude. Whatever you say.

Best place for single guys who want to meet women: The lobby showing the male stripper comedy “Magic Mike.”

Further proof that whenever Hollywood races to make two competing movies about the same subject, they both turn out bad: “Mirror, Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman.”

Best marketed movie: “Prometheus.” The extensive ad campaign was better than the film.

Worst marketed movie: “John Carter.” It’s as if the studio did everything it could to make the film look bad.

Best example of a good gag overstaying its welcome: The foul-mouthed teddy bear from “Ted.” Shut up, already.

Best use of 3-D: Ang Lee’s eye-popping “Life of Pi.”

Worst use of 3-D: “Wrath of the Titans.”

Most needless use of 3-D: “The Avengers.”

Best photographed film: “Skyfall,” shot by the great cinematographer Roger Deakins (“No Country for Old Men,” “The Big Lebowski”).

Most convincing proof mankind’s future is bright: Adam Sandler’s “That’s My Boy” and the jukebox musical “Rock of Ages” both bombed.

Worst movie: “The Devil Inside.”

Most pretentious attempt to invest a simple genre movie with profundity: “The Grey.” Too much philosophizing, not enough wolf-punching.

Most badly squandered high-concept movie: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

Best Blu-ray released in 2012: “Jaws.” Worth the money for the extras alone.

Further proof Judd Apatow needs a new editor: The endless “This Is 40” and “The Five-Year Engagement.”

Best argument for sticking to what you know: Tyler Perry set aside the Madea drag and tried to go the tough guy route in “Alex Cross.”

Best use of a pop song: Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen” in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” When you’re young, the right song at the right time can cure any ills.

Most disappointing finish after a promising start: Martin McDonagh’s scabrously funny “Seven Psychopaths” deflated once the movie took the meta route and tried to turn into “Adaptation” for gangster pictures.

Biggest botch of excellent source material: “Hitchcock,” which was supposed to be about the making of “Psycho” but focused more on the director’s marital woes.

Biggest gross-out: A psychopath, a chicken drumstick and a bloodied Gina Gershon in William Friedkin’s NC-17 “Killer Joe.”

Best “all bets are off” moment: The elevator doors open in “The Cabin in the Woods.”

Biggest miscalculation: Going the gooey and sentimental route instead of staying funny in the apocalyptic comedy “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”

Best 2012 movie that won’t open most places until 2013: Michael Haneke’s “Amour.”

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