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The Best and Worst Movies of Summer 2012 (According to Us)

Best + Worst Summer 2012 Movies
Universal Pictures/Focus Features/Warner Bros./Warner Bros./Marvel

You had your chance to pick which movies of summer 2012 were the absolute best and which ones just out right sucked. While ‘The Avengers’ definitely gave a good show, it looks like you all collectively decided on ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ but the question is, Did our movie critics feel the same way? If you’ve been keeping up with all our movie reviews, you might already know the answer.

Your favorite film buffs Jordan Hoffman and Matt Singer don’t always agree, and this time around when they were asked to rank their top five movies of the summer — and the worst ones, too — their answers were… less-than similar. So, which movies made their cut? Check out the debate they had over AIM after the jump to find out.

Jordan Hoffman
OK — so some parameters:
Five best wide release “summer” movies – eg, action-adventure, sci-fi or comedy.
Not limited releases. Not even limited releases that went wide, like ‘Moonrise Kingdom.’

Matt Singer
yup brb

Jordan Hoffman
take your time. I’m looking at pictures of cats in cardboard boxes and laughing myself silly.

Matt Singer
back

Jordan Hoffman
Okay! So, summer 2012 is almost at a close. It’s time to put away those bottles of sunblock and buy protractors at CVS (old habit). We ready to discuss this season’s summer movies?

Matt Singer
No, I want to go buy a protractor at CVS.
You made it sound so good!
But I guess we have no choice.
Did you think this was a good summer for movies, Jordan?

Jordan Hoffman
I thought it was a great summer for movies in general, but, in retrospect, there weren’t that many great “summer movies,” as we’ll discuss. The action-adventure/sci-fi/broad comedy field was actually pretty slim. If you add in limited-release films, as we’ll bring in at the close, yeah — terrific stuff. But the wide release stuff had a lot of middling and not-so-hot ones. You agree?

Matt Singer
I feel like the biggest of the big delivered in satisfactory fashion, but then the movies that were just a notch or two below that were almost all disappointments. But we also did get a few pleasant surprises along the way. So overall, I’d say it was a pretty mixed bag.

Jordan Hoffman
Fair enough. You wanna kick off w/ your #5 pick?

'The Dictator' + 'Prometheus'
Paramount Pictures/20th Century Fox

Matt Singer
All right.
My #5 pick was a lot of folks’ most anticipated movie this summer, but I kind of expected it to be a disaster. And so when the movie was a total mess — albeit an interesting one — I think they were more disappointed than I was.
So my #5 is ‘Prometheus.’
Which is a total mess, but a total mess with enough ambition, vision, beauty and weirdness to make it well worth your time.

Jordan Hoffman
I tell ya, I love arguing about ‘Prometheus.’ I loved the look of ‘Prometheus,’ and, in a way, I’m really glad a movie like ‘Prometheus’ exists. I also, ultimately, disliked it. In an effort to appear mysterious and deep they wound up just throwing a lot of junk on the screen and hoped it would all come out in the wash. I don’t think the movie works as an adventure or as a think-piece. Looked great, started many a bar argument, but, ultimately, not on any sort of best list for me.

Matt Singer
It definitely doesn’t hold together in the last act, which is almost comically full of plot holes.
But how about the opening with the Engineer creating life? Stunning.
And the early scenes of exploration are visually incredible, and loaded with suspense.
And then the friggin’ mapmaker — THE GUY IN CHARGE OF MAKING MAPS — gets lost in a cave, and that’s basically it.
At that point the movie basically gets lost too and really never recovers.

Jordan Hoffman
It aims big. I admire the moxie of the production, but still think it is a failure. My #5 has almost no visual ambition and is equally nonsensical, but, perhaps to low expectations, was a really fun time at the movies for me – and that’s ‘The Dictator.’

Matt Singer
Wow.

Jordan Hoffman
Yeah, I gotta be me.

Matt Singer
I saw this movie for the first time just a couple days ago.
So I have to assume that General Aladeen is standing behind you holding a gun to your head demanding you make this pick.
Otherwise you’re insane, and I’m going to recommend you a good psychiatrist.

Jordan Hoffman
There’s a wide range of comedy in there. The shock gags, the political gags, the Brooklyn Vegan stereotypes and then just absurdist silliness. Remember the part with the three bananas? I’m still laughing at that.

Matt Singer
You forgot the word unfunny. “There’s a wide range of UNFUNNY comedy in there.”

Jordan Hoffman
That scene in the helicopter killed. And Jason Mantzoukas is the next comedy titan.

Matt Singer
Oh man, did you know people in Brooklyn care about the planet and eat healthy and try to help their fellow man? THAT IS HILARIOUS.
See you’re from Queens so you’re not offended by clear anti-Brooklynic bias.

Jordan Hoffman
The movie is PRO-Brooklyn. They fall in love at the end!

Matt Singer
I am shocked that someone with as finely tuned a funny bone as yourself is not only giving this movie a pass, but calling it one of the best movies of the summer.
This movie wasted — WASTED! — the delightful Anna Faris. That, to me, is a crime worthy of UN sanctions.

Jordan Hoffman
Well, to be fair, it was a pretty shitty summer. I had a hard time finding a #5.

Matt Singer
Should have seen ‘Madagascar 3‘ my friend. That was my #6. And it nearly beat out ‘Prometheus’ too.

Jordan Hoffman
What’s your #4?

Marvel Studios/Disney

Matt Singer
My #4 is also set in New York City, but it’s about a real band of heroes.
It’s ‘The Avengers.’

Jordan Hoffman
FOURTH?
That’s only #4?
What’s the matter with you?

Matt Singer
Yes, it’s just slightly better than ‘The Dictator.’
Or not.

Jordan Hoffman
You are trying to say there are three movies that were widely released this summer that were better than ‘The Avengers’?

Matt Singer
Yes.

Jordan Hoffman
Now we’ve got excitement.

Matt Singer
I am not trying to say it. I am saying it.

Jordan Hoffman
Now I’m excited to read the rest of this article.
Before I only clicked because I was bored at work. Suddenly I’m engaged.

Matt Singer
You’ve got this weird thing with role playing.

Jordan Hoffman
Okay, tell me why you kinda-sorta liked ‘The Avengers.’

Matt Singer
Anyway, ‘The Avengers’ was a blast, but was it even really a movie? It was more like a comic book that talked back at you.
It was fun, but it was awful fluffy. And fluffy has its place, especially during the summer, but there really wasn’t much meat on the bones.
Who were the aliens? What were they doing? Why were they taking over just the one block of Manhattan by Grand Central Station?
Why did you introduce Hawkeye only to make the poor guy play a brainwashed flunkie the whole time?

Jordan Hoffman
Ugh. I may not be able to protect your top 5 list, but you can be damn well sure I’ll avenge it.

Matt Singer
The first 20 minutes of ‘The Avengers’ are horrible!
The last twenty are amazing, but the first twenty are horrible. It’s a really fun movie — but there are three others I enjoyed more.

Jordan Hoffman
No, the first five mins of ‘The Avengers’ are slightly less perfect than the rest of the movie. But that’s because you need a little extra time to get your pretzel nuggets.

Matt Singer
I don’t know what [that] means.

Jordan Hoffman
Let me get my Chitauri to English dictionary.
I’ll say this then we’ll discuss ‘The Avengers’ again when we find its PROPER place on the list – all those quibbles you mention are more than made up for by some of the best big whiz-bang beats in popcorn cinema in, perhaps, two decades.

Matt Singer
In two decades?
Are you snorting the pretzel nuggets now?
Was that a metaphor for drugs?

'ParaNorman' + 'Hope Springs'
Focus Films/Columbia Pictures

Jordan Hoffman
Okay, my #4 on the list is….’ParaNorman.’

Matt Singer
Which I have to admit I have not seen yet. But I’ve heard fantastic things.

Jordan Hoffman
It’s fun! It’s funny! It’s a little sad. And it wears its craft and exuberance on its finely designed sleeve.
‘ParaNorman’ isn’t as good as ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,’ simply because of that movie’s high concept and musical numbers, but it has a very similar attitude. It is purposefully hand-crafted and really charming and sweet.
It is one of the better animated films to come along in a really long time.
Your #3?

Matt Singer
My #3 movie is definitely the one you’re going to get angriest about.

Jordan Hoffman
uh oh.

Matt Singer
It’s ‘Hope Springs.’

Jordan Hoffman
Oh.
Well… I didn’t see that. But, does that count? Is that a “Summer Movie”? Can the judges weigh in?

Matt Singer
It was released wide by a major studio in the middle of July.
How is it not a summer movie?
Also there was a great scene where Steve Carell fought a robot dinosaur.
Also, I know you didn’t see that. Because when we got the invite for the press screening you made 18 different excuses and pawned the movie off on me.
But you screwed up — because this was a surprisingly well-made marital drama. With Meryl Streep giving yet another incredible performance, and Tommy Lee Jones atoning for the failure pile that was ‘Men in Black 3.’

Jordan Hoffman
Okay. We’ll allow it, but, I dunno, summer movie is action-adventure/sci-fi/broad comedy. But you get one allowance. For the record, I only pawned it off on you because I had tickets for Cirque de Soliel that night. I have no malice toward David Frankel — I enjoyed ‘Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘Miami Rhapsody,’ and I, like all right-minded people, consider Meryl Streep to be a national treasure.

Matt Singer
Does Meryl Streep giving Tommy Lee Jones a B.J. in a movie theater count as broad enough comedy for you?

Jordan Hoffman
That counts as stone cold Frederick Wiseman-esque cinema verite, my friend.

Matt Singer
Ew.
The movie actually was funny.
And it was moving too.
You really came to care about these characters — which is what we want summer movies to be.

Jordan Hoffman
I’ll definitely check it out before Awards Season.

Matt Singer
We want broad entertainment, but we want to care too.
But no by all means, let’s keep lowering the bar.

The Dark Knight Rises
Warner Bros.

Jordan Hoffman
My #3 pick is Gotham’s reckoning… and the spawn of a hundred great Halloween costumes. It is ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’
I’m a little bit afraid to see this movie a second time, because I’m worried that the silliness of Bane and the “Huh? Who? Wha?” aspect of the plot may shatter the illusion, but I still applaud [Christopher] Nolan & company’s propulsive filmmaking style. And Tom Hardy made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

Matt Singer
(Say it in Bane’s voice)

Jordan Hoffman
I think the best Bane quote isn’t even a line, it is just the sound he makes before he begins speaking… “Mooauuugherrrr.”

Matt Singer
Well, Muffled Bane jokes aside, it’s your #3, it’s my #2.
‘The Dark Knight Rises’ didn’t quite rise to the level of ‘The Dark Knight’ (you see what I did there?) but it was a pretty outstanding piece of blockbuster entertainment.
In what I would describe as a really timid summer, with lots of recycled, rehashed, remade, rebooted properties and very few original ideas, here was a sequel that went for broke.

Jordan Hoffman
So I see that you really liked this movie. I’m still not 100% sure if I liked it or if I “liked” it. I had a marvelous afternoon of entertainment, but I don’t know if it was the camp value I was responding to or if I was genuinely engaged. I’ve reached an odd stage in my life where those lines are really starting to blur.

Matt Singer
I understand, you’re dead inside.

Jordan Hoffman
I need a Lazarus Pit for my very soul

Matt Singer
I can tell you: there is some camp value to all that Tom Hardy grumbling like a character from ‘Danger Mouse’
But there are real stakes in the final act, and a really outstanding cast of supporting actors — particularly Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and especially Anne Hathaway, who give the movie a real richness and depth.
I like that Nolan and company swung for the fences — I’m not gonna hold it against them that they only hit a triple.
What’s your #2?

'Magic Mike' + 'Ted'
Warner Bros./Universal

Jordan Hoffman
If you are talking about those shots of her mounting a motorcycle in tight black pants, I definitely agree.
My #2 is a film that was hardly on my radar before sitting down to watch it. In fact, it comes from a creator that I’ve been somewhat hostile to for most of his career. I speak of the startlingly entertaining ‘Ted.’

Matt Singer
Mmm, another one I missed.

Jordan Hoffman
No one was more shocked than I that I enjoyed ‘Ted,’ and, even more surprising, is how much it has stayed with me. It is legitimately funny and sweet.

Matt Singer
Well you do have a talking teddy bear that lives with you and your wife. You should mention that.

Jordan Hoffman
I thought I was tired of MacFarlane’s shtick, and this seemed like another talking dog/talking alien gag, but something got added to the mix here. I’d like to thing it was a meddling studio producer’s notes that was the magic element, because MacFarlane’s “renegade outsider” persona is so tired. I hope it was bland market research and audience testing that made ‘Ted’ so good. That would be the ultimate punk rock slap in that guy’s face. See? I’m still hostile to him even though I loved his movie. I clearly have some problems.

Matt Singer
So the #2 movie of the summer was a movie you kind of didn’t like, made by a guy you hate.
Got it.

Jordan Hoffman
Now you see how hard it is to be me.
Is it time for your #1 pick? You still have time to say ‘The Avengers.’

Matt Singer
No I don’t, ‘The Avengers’ is #4.

Jordan Hoffman
Wait!
Don’t say your #1
I want to guess.
Is it… ‘The Avengers?’
No, that’s not it.
Um… I have no idea.
What is your pick.

Matt Singer
You’ll probably give me more grief about this pick, but I’m ready to fight for what I love, like Ralph Macchio fighting for Elisabeth Shue in ‘The Karate Kid.’
The best movie of the summer was ‘Magic Mike.’

Jordan Hoffman
Okay, let’s go to Merriam-Webster.com and look up “Summer Movie.”
Unless you want to argue that Matthew McConaughey is a superhero, in which case you may have an argument.

Matt Singer
His performance is definitely superheroic.
The physiques were superheroic.
The characters all have dual identities

Jordan Hoffman
Y’know, the truth is, it follows ALL the superhero origin story beats.

Matt Singer
Or a supervillain origin story, in the case of Alex Pettyfer’s character.

Jordan Hoffman
Where’s the ‘Chronicle’/'Magic Mike’ slash fiction?

Matt Singer
Again, you can argue that this movie is too serious to be a “summer movie” but I think that’s just silly.
It’s a big loud silly movie about male strippers!
How does it get more crowd pleasing — at least to a certain segment of the audience — than that?
It’s kind of interesting that the picks you refuse to acknowledge as “summer movies” are the ones largely targeted towards women.

Jordan Hoffman
Okay, well, I’ll give you this, Magic Matt, but were I to widen my conception of a “summer movie,” this would certainly bump ‘The Dictator’ out. And, now that I think about it as a superhero movie where the powers involve giving women the vapors while dressed like a fireman, I think it works pretty well.

Matt Singer
But I guess I’m just not as sexist as you.

Jordan Hoffman
I saw ‘Magic Mike’ in Chelsea, so I hardly consider that a movie marketed to women.

Matt Singer
Oh so you’re sexist AND homophobic!
Look, i saw this in a theater, with a crowd that clearly enjoyed itself on a pure popcorn level just as much as anything I saw this summer except maybe ‘The Avengers.’
Was it darker and more thoughtful than ‘The Bourne Legacy‘? Hell yes.
And that’s exactly what I want! I want to have my cake and eat it too. I refuse to let myself attain Jordan Hoffman-ish levels of soul deadenation.
(Or proper grammar). And now let’s get to your number one movie which, by process of elimination, is ‘Dark Shadows.’

'The Avengers'
Marvel Studios

Jordan Hoffman
Okay, I accept ‘Magic Mike’ as a summer movie and I liked it a hell of a lot, too, but my #1 pick, ‘The Avengers’ is real magic. I think it is a miracle of filmmaking and of modern economics.

Matt Singer
Oh, ‘The Avengers,’ right.

Jordan Hoffman
Not only is it exciting and whiz-bang and iconic and funny and has OH-MY-GOD moments up the wazoo, it is a milestone in the way big movies get made. Never before, really, has there been a “serial” of gigantic, big budget films with real stars leading to a massive team-up like this. If you would have told me, in 2007, that there would be an ‘Avengers’ movie with major stars like this I would have laughed.

Matt Singer
Well, to be fair, most of these guys weren’t “major stars” before the Marvel movies made them major stars.

Jordan Hoffman
Chris Hemsworth was too busy being awesome to act in movies before ‘Thor.’

Matt Singer
Ah, I see.
Will you at least concede that Sam Jackson and Jeremy Renner are almost completely wasted?

Jordan Hoffman
No.

Matt Singer
Will you at least concede that you have terrible taste in movies?

Jordan Hoffman
They’re fine. They’re great. The whole movie is great. Shut up. Leave me with my toys.

Matt Singer
Worth a shot.
It’s a fun movie! I enjoyed it!
By your definition of summer movies it is ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘The Godfather’ all rolled into one.

Jordan Hoffman
Jeremy Renner is able to fire an arrow at a speeding space alien without even looking. We should all be so wasted.

Matt Singer
But I want more!

Jordan Hoffman
Jokes aside, you can’t have more. ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ gives you more, but that was lightning in a bottle. This has whiz-bang on a level of ‘Raiders’ and characters as fun, too. Maybe not as iconic, but, you know, there’s MORE of them so it balances out.

Matt Singer
You just put ‘The Avengers’ next to ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’
Which you’ve previously called one of the greatest movies of all time.

Jordan Hoffman
I don’t think ‘Avengers’ is as good as ‘Raiders’ but it plays in the same pool.
There are trace elements of ‘Raiders’ in ‘Avengers.’

Matt Singer
What is ‘The Avengers’ running from the bolder moment?
It has a shooting the swordsman moment — Hulk and Thor — I’ll give you that.

Jordan Hoffman
The moment when the cop does what Cap orders him to do will be in every great movie montage from now until we’re all living underwater.

Matt Singer
At which point Namor will become the star of ‘The Avengers 8′

Jordan Hoffman
He may be owned by Fox, but by then everything will be one corporation anyhow. General Mills, I hope, because I love Captain Crunch.

Matt Singer
It’s Cap’n Crunch. You can’t even spell his name properly!
Shows how much you love him.

'The Apparition' + 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter'
Warner Bros./20th Century Fox

Jordan Hoffman
Okay, we’ve gone on for a long time — can you give me your least favorite Summer Movie?

Matt Singer
There were a few bigger movies that were pretty terrible, including the aforementioned ‘Men in Black 3′ but for pound-for-pound heinousness, you’re not going to top ‘The Apparition.’

Jordan Hoffman
Which I’m now bummed I didn’t see. I saw ‘The Possession‘ and ‘The Tall Man,’ so gave this one a pass. Why was it so awful?

Matt Singer
Because they shot this ghost movie which, at least according to the marketing, had one unique twist: that ghosts are fueled by our belief in them; so the more you think they’re real the more trouble you’re in.
But then when the movie came out, that twist had been completely erased from the film.

Jordan Hoffman
Wasn’t that the premise of ‘The Simpsons” episode with Paul Anka?

Matt Singer
Which probably explains why the whole movie was only about 75 minutes long, and the first 15 minutes was just the main couple shopping at Costco.
They needed to get a cactus, Jordan! It was crucial to their character development!
I’d say without that hook ‘The Apparition’ was basically just another generic ghost movie, but that would be deeply insulting to actual generic ghost movies.

Jordan Hoffman
Well, Costco is pretty fascinating. The price break on produce is remarkable, and always so fresh!

Matt Singer
Costco got a lot of play at the theaters this summer; they loomed even more large over the plot of ‘THE WATCH.’
Which wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone said, by the way.
What’s your #1 stinker?

Jordan Hoffman
My least favorite movie did something that is almost impossible to do: it offended me. You see, I strongly supporting insulting people and being inappropriate, yet I felt that ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter‘ was disrespectful to history.
Not because I’m so stuck up that I won’t allow for a tall tale…
But because this movie did nothing with it.
It was a bore.
It wasn’t exciting.
It wasn’t funny.
And it mocked someone who was, by all accounts, somewhat notable.

Matt Singer
Ouch. You’re shooting President Lincoln in the back like John Wilkes Booth!

Jordan Hoffman
The ‘Whitest Kids You Know’ sketch about John Wilkes Booth is one of YouTube’s best finds (the dirty one) – so it isn’t like I’m crying crocodile tears over our fallen 16th president. It’s just that this movie is vapid, ram-rodding of what some oafish idiots think “the kids” will want to see in a movie trampling over history that was already plenty interesting and important.
Dammit, I’m not afraid to say it, this movie is a disgrace.

Matt Singer
Plus it killed the market for your movie, Rutherford B. Hayes, Zombie Babysitter.

Jordan Hoffman
He smothers them in his beard.
Shall we close it out to a shout-out to a summer film that got only a limited release?

Matt Singer
Sounds good.

'Moonrise Kingsom' + 'Klown'
Focus Features/Drafthouse Films

Jordan Hoffman
Special note — ‘Moonrise Kingdom‘ started limited, then went wide — so it falls through all the cracks of this article!

Matt Singer
I’m going to go with one of my favorite movies of the year, not just the summer: the Danish comedy ‘Klown.’

Jordan Hoffman
Because you are a pedophile, sure.

Matt Singer
It’s a sort of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’-style buddy movie about two idiots who go on this canoe trip without their girlfriends, hoping to get laid, but at the last minute one brings along a 13-year-old kid in a desperate (and really dumb) attempt to prove he’s fit to be a father.
Basically the movie beats US comedies at their own game: it’s more outrageous, but it’s also much more invested in its characters, who are so believably flawed and stupid.

Jordan Hoffman
It’s a great flick, and proves once again how foreign cinema can just destroy American cinema in terms of boundaries, yet still be warm and welcoming. Must be in the translation, or because we don’t “know” the faces or something.
Now, Matt, as you’ve already shown, I have a very close-minded approach to what a “summer movie” is, due to my inherent flaws.
So, while I loved ‘Killer Joe,’ and ‘Compliance‘ and the depressing war zone documentary ’5 Broken Cameras,’ there was one tiny movie that no one but critics and festival goers saw that really hit me. It is the buddy-crime science-fiction comedy ‘Robot and Frank.’
Frank Langella and a robot break into museums and houses.
It is wonderfully bittersweet and has a lot of sharp “futurist” moments. It’s a terrific little picture that, I hope, finds a wider audience at some point. Maybe Langella will hire a megapublicist for Awards Season and get a best actor nomination. He deserves it for this one.

Matt Singer
Because you are a robophile, obviously.

Jordan Hoffman
And I like stealing.

Matt Singer
Well, it’s another one I haven’t caught yet, so I can’t tell you you’re wrong, even though I very much want to.

Jordan Hoffman
You’ll like this one. It’s a real crowd pleaser, but it is smart. It has genuine awards potential, so I hope it gets another push to critics before the year is up. We’ll watch it together. I’ll bring some Kleenex because it is a real tear jerker.
Well, Matt, we’ve done it again. We took close to two hours to talk about something that should have taken 15 minutes. But I hope you’ve learned something.

Matt Singer
I did.
I’m right and you are wrong.
And you think ‘The Avengers’ is one of the best movies of all time.

Jordan Hoffman
I think ‘The Avengers’ is one of the best SUMMER movies of all time.
Good night everyone!

Final Lists

Jordan Hoffman
5. ‘The Dictator’
4. ‘ParaNorman’
3. ‘The Dark Knight Rises’
2. ‘Ted’
1. ‘The Avengers’
Worst Movie: ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’

Matt Singer
5. ‘Prometheus’
4. ‘The Avengers’
3. ‘Hope Springs’
2. ‘The Dark Knight Rises’
1. ‘Magic Mike’
Worst Movie: ‘The Apparition’

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