Smugglivus 2012: Thea’s Best of the Rest (Movies, TV, etc)

Clearly, both Ana and Thea are bananas, and in addition to reading and reviewing obscene amounts of books, we also obsess over multiple television shows, movies, video games, and all other manner of geekery. With that in mind, we needed to create ANOTHER list (we are list makers, yes we are) for our end of the year celebration. We give you our very own BEST OF THE REST (everything that isn’t a book).

Best Movies of 2012

I watch a lot of movies, and I watch a lot of television. This year, I didn’t make it to the theater as much as I would have liked to, but of the films released in 2012 that I have seen, here’s my top 5 list:

5. Cabin in the Woods


After years of delays, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s horror comedy The Cabin in the Woods was finally released to the world this year – and it was so very worth the wait. A tongue-in-cheek look at some very familiar horror tropes – the eponymous cabin in the woods, the hormonal twenty-somethings, brutal gore and doom – The Cabin in the Woods is alternately hilarious and terrifying, reminiscent of horror-com greats Sam Raimi (back when he was good), Fred Dekker (Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps), etc. I know this movie doesn’t work for everyone, but if you love the horror film and like the comedy, you’ll probably enjoy The Cabin in the Woods as much as I did.

4. The Life of Pi

Life of Pi

I’m going to say something that I usually NEVER say: this movie was better than the book. Considering that I wasn’t a huge fan of the book (so verbose! so pretentious! so…boring!), this isn’t actually that amazing a feat – but regardless of the source material, Ang Lee’s film adaptation is truly beautiful. In addition to being a beautiful film, it is one of two movies I’m glad I saw in 3D this year (the other 3D film is a little further up on this list). Emotionally rousing, funny, and heartbreaking, The Life of Pi captures the spirit of everything a movie should be.

3. The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

Were there problems with this film? Yes. In fact there were many things I took issue with, made all the more glaring because of the perfection that was The Dark Knight – superficially, Bane’s voice (and the waste of casting Tom Hardy) and Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle (yawn). More importantly, the script was over-the-top cheesy (“RISE! RISE! RISE!” or “People of Gotham, STAND!”), the pacing was off-kilter, and the treatment of female characters was, per Nolan’s usual, sorely lacking. RANTY SPOILERS FOLLOW: In what universe does Catwoman end up with Bruce Wayne playing house?! NO. It is contrary to her character AND it pisses me off to see her reduced to this role. Marion Cotillard’s character felt completely superfluous initially (not to mention the ridiculousness of having this beautiful, powerful millionaire jumping into bed with Hermit!BruceWayne whom she has never met before in person but TRUSTS SO MUCH because SHE JUST DOES), and when all is explained she is reduced once again to CRAZY! DEAD! LADY! I love Talia Al Ghul, but come on – the entire impetus for the conflict, with the decaying bomb THAT WILL GO OFF ANYWAYS and so so silly. Also, apparently the entire Gotham police force (which is trapped underground) is ALL MALE? No policewomen here? Ok. Whatever.

Continuity issues abound, too – most irritatingly, WHERE WAS “THE WORST PRISON ON EARTH”????? HOW DID BATMAN GET FROM THERE BACK TO GOTHAM??? As the boyfriend and I joked, it must be NEW JERSEY!!! Ok, kidding. But, seriously, after Bruce *rises* out of the pit, he apparently walks barefoot from the desert back to Gotham? Mmmkay.

Of course, the worst thing is…there isn’t enough BATMAN. This parody kind of says it all.

AND YET…all these criticisms said, it is the final movie in the trilogy, and it is still Christopher Nolan, and it is still Batman. The first time we see Wayne don the cowl, riding through the darkened streets of Gotham with that Hans Zimmer score blasting, you get the chills because IT IS FUCKING BATMAN AND IT IS AWESOME. The movie itself is beautiful, visually (that football stadium scene!), and you gotta love the addition of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the earnest rookie detective (and his ultimate storyline).

And it’s still a good film – just not the end I wanted for the batman.

2. The Avengers

The Avengers

After years of buildup, The Avengers movie FINALLY came to fruition in great, explosiony, summer blockbuster glory – and I can’t think of a better ensemble superhero film that has done it even fractionally as good as The Avengers. This is EVERYTHING you could ever want from a superhero film (with just one really big reservation – the male gaze and portrayal of Black Widow, though Cobie Smulders’ tough SHIELD Agent Maria Hill is a nice, scene-stealing counterpoint to the sexified Scarlet Johansen). Fun, funny, action-packed, fun in 3D – The Avengers delivers. Yeaaaaah, Joss Whedon!

1. The Hunger Games

Hunger Games Poster

Of COURSE this movie was going to be on the list! I was a fan of the books and the film adaptation, in my opinion, skillfully brought the characters, the Capitol and the Arena to life. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss was not my first choice, but she has completely won me over – that young woman is one hell of an actress and does a phenomenal job of portraying the prickly, strong heroine (and makes her relatable, to boot). And Josh Hutcherson is adorable as the earnest Peeta (meanwhile Gale looks hilariously old and glamorous compared to the rest of District 12). I loved Donald Sutherland’s President Snow (CREEPY), Wes Bentley’s Seneca, Woody Harelson’s Haymitch, Amandla Stenberg’s heartbreaking Rue, Elizabeth Banks’ wonderfully over the top Effie Trinket, and most of all, Stanley Tucci’s cheeseball Caesar Flickerman. Although there were deviations from the book (the muttations at the end, especially), I loved the movie and am so excited for Catching Fire.

And, since no list is ever simple when it comes to Ana and I, I have to at least mention a few films I discovered this year although they were released prior to 2012 (AKA, Thea’s Instant Queue on Netflix):

4. Exam


I love psychological, cabin story thrillers – that is, I love tense situations that take place in an isolated location, focusing on character reactions and actions, as opposed to flashy big budget special effects and explosions (well, I love those too, but there’s something special about a play or a film that can entertain and frighten in a single room setting). British horror/thriller Exam is the most brutal job interview I’ve ever seen – 8 candidates are locked in a room with a single piece of paper in front of them. There is one question, and one answer. They have 80 minutes to finish the exam, with only three rules: do not talk to the Invigilator or the armed guard at the door, do not spoil the paper or allow it to be spoilt, and do not leave the room. You can guess how this goes over with the very opinionated and desperate candidates.

3. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

On the heels of The Cabin in the Woods, I saw this available on Netflix. It had popped up in my recommendation queue before, but I had always skimmed over it without much thought. But, one quiet Sunday I decided to give this a try and HOLY CRAP IT IS AWESOME. Like The Cabin in the Woods, Tucker and Dale plays on the horror trope of hot twenty-somethings on vacation, but it tells the story from the point of view of “hillbillies” Tucker and Dale. All they want to do is have a nice vacation together, repairing their newly purchased vacation home, fishing, and drinking beer. But then these college kids roll in, and one good samaritan act (Dale sees a girl hit her head and fall into the lake, and saves her) turns into a huge misunderstanding – the college kids think that the hillbillies have taken their friend and plan on doing unspeakable texas chainsaw massacre like things to her. And so, the bloodbath (and raucous laughter) begins. Bonus: the film stars Alan Tudyk (WASH!) and Tyler Labine (whom you might remember as Sock from the awesome, sadly canceled show Reaper).

2. Documentary Awesomeness: The American Scream / Jiro Dreams of Sushi / Indie Game

The American Scream Jiro Dreams of Sushi Indie Game

The boyfriend and I also really like documentaries, and Netflix is chock full of some awesome ones that I’ve either never heard of, or missed in theaters. Each of these documentaries were amazing in very different ways, and I highly recommend them:

The American Scream follows three families that are really into Halloween. These families spend all year working on decorations and effects for the one weekend of the year that they turn their homes into haunted houses to the delight and fright of their neighborhoods. You’ll be amazed by these Haunters and their dedication to what essentially is an unpaid labor of love (and, if you’re like me, you’re gonna wish it was Halloween).

Jiro Dreams of Sushi follows Jiro Ono, an 85 year old man who owns a Michelin 3-Star restaurant and is renowned as the best sushi chef in the world. We see the love that Jiro puts into every dish from picking the perfect fish, to the cooking of the rice, and the preparation of the nori. The documentary also details Jiro’s relationship with his two sons: Yoshikazu, who runs the day to day operations of his father’s restaurant and waits for the day that he will take over his father’s legacy; and Takashi, who has opened his own separate sushi restaurant.

Indie Game follows three different independent games and their developers – Super Meat Boy, Braid, and Fez. These guys are up against the huge corporate tanks like Electronic Arts and Activision, but unlike the big guys, these independents program very personally expressive games, pouring countless hours and meager funds into their development. It’s a fascinating look into the video game industry (which feels eerily similar to the book industry), and a great underdog story.

1. The Wild Hunt

The Wild Hunt

A canadian horror film, The Wild Hunt is the story of a young man’s quest to get his girlfriend, Evelyn, back – she has left him and has taken up with a Middle Ages-derived live action role playing game in the woods. Erik enlists the help of his older and estranged brother, Bjorn (who lives his life for the game, and plays under the moniker of the Viking Lord Magnusson) to win Evelyn back. But what starts off as an almost comical look at LARPing quickly turns into a horrific, violent scene. The Wild Hunt is part character drama and part horror story; it becomes very easy to see how things could so easily get violent in this very tense LARPing environment. This is a haunting, memorable film and I highly recommend it.

Best TV Shows of 2012

Ahh, television. In 2012 I started and caught up on old series that everyone else had been raving about (I am so slow!), as well as continued with new seasons of old favorites. Here are my top 10 notable shows of 2012:

10. Dexter

Dexter Season 8

To be honest, this season of Dexter was not nearly as strong as prior seasons – the whole Deb finding out and having a massive crisis of conscience was protracted, and I don’t really know what to think of Dexter and Hannah McKay (love the actress, but I don’t really want to see him end up happily ever after with her, if you know what I mean?). The Koshka brotherhood storyline was not very compelling at all, and is it just me or does anyone else think Quinn needs to die already?

Regardless, I like that the writers upped the Dexter ante and brought back LaGuerta and the Bay Harbor Butcher questions – the finale, too, is pretty freaking amazing. I think the end game is near, and hope next season is the last one for my favorite neighborhood serial killer.

9. Doctor Who

Doctor Who (Angels Take Manhattan)

This season broke my heart. Really. We had to say goodbye to Amy and Rory (I think their ending could have been better – GUH – but as long as they are together, wherever and whenever they are, I am happy), we got to see more Daleks, Weeping Angels, and nefarious invading cubes. I really, really do not know how I feel about the new companion yet – my first impression is one of intense dislike (but that may just be my love and heartbreak for Amy and Rory), but I do like the idea of Oswin/Clara and her many different iterations through time and space. What I do not like is another romance with the Doctor – he’s married to River, people! I like River. No more confusion, please.

8. Sherlock

Sherlock (reichenbach fall)

Thanks to Ana, I started watching Sherlock the moment it was available on Netflix – and when season 2 was added, I devoured all the episodes in a single sitting. Holy MOLY, was that finale amazing?! Moriarty was just as terrible and brilliant as I dreamed he would be, and that heartbreaking scene with Watson at Sherlock’s grave?! Brilliant. I have no idea how Sherlock did it, but I am so very excited to find out as soon as the new season begins.

7. Revenge

Revenge Season 2

I’m very behind on the love for Revenge, but can you blame me?? The show LOOKED like it was going to be crap – but at the urging of many friends, Smugglivus posts, and from Ana, I finally gave Revenge a shot (thank you Netflix, again!). And OHMIGOD IT WAS SO GOOD. Season 1 is full of cheesiness, twistiness, double-crosses, secret identities, and fabulous clothes. I was obsessed and ran through the first season in the space of two weeks, just in time to catch up with season 2. Unfortunately, this year is solidly mediocre compared to the awesomeness of season 1, but still entertaining enough. Hopefully the show will be able to reclaim some of that season 1 amazingness, but even if it doesn’t, there’s no denying that the first 20-some episodes of this show are among the very best in television drama.

6. Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey Season 2

So, I had watched all of season 1 and loved it, but missed the PBS airing of season 2. Finally, the boyfriend and I just bought the season and devoured it in a single day with mixed emotions. There is a LOT of WTF in season 2 (amnesiac Titanic survivor? Edith’s many storylines? Lord Grantham’s affair with the maid?! THE MAGICAL CURE FOR MATTHEW! COME ON!) that was soap opera-ish and had no bearing on the actual PLOT of the show. That said, there are many things I love about this show and this season had some undeniable high points – Daisy’s muster, the humanization of O’Brien and Nicholas, the heartbreaking storyline for Bates and Anna, and Sybil standing up for what she believes no matter the cost. Bring it on, Season 3 (the DVR is set and I cannot wait).

5. Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire Season 3

HBO’s Boardwalk Empire is a beautifully put-together show, with costumes and sets that are freaking amazing. It is also a high tension, slow-simmering story about power, alliances, and betrayals, and I absolutely loved the direction the show took in this third season. With Michael Pitt’s departure, I finally feel like the show has some breathing room and isn’t being dragged down by the melancholy James – and the addition this season of Gyp Rosetti in all his loose cannon glory was AWESOME. This season’s last two episodes are, in my opinion, the strongest we’ve seen from the show ever and I cannot wait for season 4.

4. Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation

Oh, Parks and Recreation. You are the highlight of my Thursday night, with your awkward, endearing humor. The best part about this show? The strong, competent female characters – Leslie Knope is a handful but SHE LOVES HER JOB and is the best friend anyone could ever want – and the beating heart to every storyline. This is a show with characters you grow to love, who have their quirks but are so very human and relatable underneath it all. Oh, yeah, and it’s freaking HILARIOUS. If there is any justice in the world, Amy Poehler will win all the Emmys and Golden Globes.

3. Game of Thrones

Tyrion Game of Thrones

HBO is on the list twice with the masterful adaptation of GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire series – like almost every other fantasy fangirl in the universe, I am hooked on Game of Thrones. And I was thrilled to see that season 2 is a much tighter, much better season than its predecessor – I love the places where the show deviates and expands on storylines from the books (the Arya/Tywin storyline, OH MY GOD AWESOME). The casting is perfect, and I love the development of my favorite characters’ storylines – namely, Arya, Jon Snow, Tyrion and Jamie Lannister. I hope season 3 has more screentime for Jamie, in particular.

2. The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

FINALLY we are away from that damned farm, finally Rick has established his Ricktatorship and has dispensed with the illusion of happy go lucky democracy, finally we have reached the prison and our beleaguered heroes try to make a home for themselves. We also meet the Governor this season, we bid Lori adieu (I feel bad for her, but she was a terribly written character in both the comics and the show), and we get MERLE AND MICHONNE! This season of The Walking Dead has certainly upped the ante, and I have loved every bittersweet step of the way, with just a few annoyances (namely Andrea – lady, you were so awesome in seasons 1 and 2, why are you falling for the Governor’s shit now?! COME ON!). I want more Michonne, I want Andrea to snap out of her ridiculousness, and I want the epic showdown between the Prison Camp and the Governor to happen. I cannot wait for the season to resume very soon!

1. Homeland

Homeland Season 2

I am kicking myself for NOT starting this series last year when it premiered – as a general rule, I’m not a fan of IT WAS THE TERRORISTS shows or films (they tend to dichotomize and demonize other cultures and beliefs, and it pisses me off to no end). That said, I decided to give the show a try because of all the accolades and at the urging of my friends – and HOLY FREAKING CRAP, BATMAN IT IS AMAZING. This is a show with brilliant twin lead characters (how often do you come across a show with two true stars???), played by incredible actors. Clare Danes has never been more perfectly suited for a role – her portrayal of the neurotic, obsessed, and dangerously smart Carrie is EPIC (her Claire Danes Cry Faces have never been more desperately spot on – I joke about the Cry Faces, but truly I am in awe of this amazing, superlative actress). And Damien Lewis!!! His Brody is, impossibly, a sympathetic character despite the fact that he actually is a terrorist, and the relationship that unfolds between him and Carrie is phenomenal (like Ana, I am desperately rooting for them). Season 2 is every bit as good as season 1, with pivotal, television GOLD episodes like “Q&A”. And that FINALE! Saul’s face! GUH! I have absolutely no idea where the series will go next, but I am wholeheartedly on the Homeland bandwagon and will happily go wherever it wants to take me.

SO that’s it! My favorite Movies and TV shows of 2012. Here’s to an equally exciting 2013!

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  • Ana
    January 2, 2013 at 8:31 am

    omg yes, to all the things you said about Batman and Downton Abbey!!! I am so pleased you have been watching all of these TV shows! SHERLOCK! *love*

    Now, you MUST watch The Killing and Borgen next. Pleaseeeeee Thea?

  • Bookgazing
    January 2, 2013 at 8:37 am

    I am convinced Saul is evil and love that the actor playing him says he has no idea whether he is or not. The finale was really good this year although I wish they hadn’t killed one of the prominent secondary characters within the organisation (no comment spoilers). Looking forward to S3.

  • Iris
    January 2, 2013 at 8:40 am

    I second the recommendation of Borgen. Even though I am only on episdoe 4 of season 1, I feel all the love for that show.

    And I’m so happy to find a fellow Parks and Recreation fan. That show makes my heart glow. I haven’t watched the most recent episodes, but did catch up with all previous seasons last year. Definitely my favourite new discovery of last year when it comes to TV shows.

  • Ana
    January 2, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I am convinced Saul is evil


  • Thea
    January 2, 2013 at 10:05 am

    @Bookgazing – DUDE for the longest time in season 1, I thought Saul was a bad guy too!!! But I’m convinced he isn’t. I think. Also totally agree with you about the death of major secondary character – but is it wrong that I doubt character is dead and hope character is still alive?

    @Ana – OK! I am down to give Borgen and The Killing a try, as soon as I can get my hands on them without paying a fortune!

    @Iris – the new season of Parks and Rec is just as good as earlier seasons, I’m happy to report :mrgreen: It’s my favorite show to just zone out on when I need a pick me up! I’m so glad you discovered and are loving it, too.

  • Amy @ My Friend Amy
    January 2, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Parks and Rec <33333333333 Seriously that show is my happy place.

    If you don't mind watching TV on your computer LinkTV runs Borgen marathons semi-frequently and then puts up the episodes for two weeks. I just watched part of the first ep of season 3 without subtitles on the DR site that is how much I LOVE THIS SHOW and cannot wait for the third season, lol. (got gooood and spoiled, too!)

    You guys are kind of a breath of fresh air when it comes to Andrea in that you didn't hate her before now. I think she'll "snap out of it" and having her in this position was probably really important to whatever comes next.

  • Mia
    January 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Cabin in the Woods was my favorite movie of the year. I’ve seen it about half a dozen times now and I’m still picking up things I missed on previous viewings. I love it. (And thank you for the shout out to Fred Dekker. Monster Squad has been my favorite movie since it came out…on laserdisc.)

  • Kate & Zena
    January 2, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Okay, because I am a Batman geekwad, I just have to say the whole Batman/Catwoman thing weirded me out when they became “canon” in the comic Hush (I’m sorry, IT WEIRDS ME OUT.) Totally and completely. Just, blech.

    Then there was the whole “alternate universe” show where they had a kid named Huntress, who in other comics, is totally not related to them. I mean gag me.

    I always imagine Batman as being the forever bachelor though.

    Having not seen The Dark Knight Rises (need to filch from dad), my favorite has definitely been the Hunger Games. Beautifully adapted.

  • Annie
    January 3, 2013 at 9:21 am

    I haven’t seen The Cabin in the Woods yet, but I’m dying to. It sounds amazing and absolutely horrifying. I loved The Hunger Games as well and am so excited for Catching Fire. And I loved Jiro Dreams of Sushi as well.

  • Kynzi
    January 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I actually liked the way Black Widow was portrayed – yeah, her costume has a bit more cleavage than necessary, but she is clearly strong and capable and is very much using her size and femininity to her advantage.

  • Leah
    January 3, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I’m a BIG fan of documentaries & my boyfriend and I fell in love with Jiro Dreams of Sushi. A family friend of his was one of the producers and we were only planning on watching the opening credits to see his name. Before we knew it we were halfway into it, completely silent and thoroughly absorbed.

    An enormous yes! to all of the shows! As I’m typing this I’ve actually got Doctor Who on in the background. If you’re into British miniseries, you should definitely give Jekyll a watch! I flailed over it back in December. It’s only six episodes and it’s SO. GOOD.

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