Top 10 Geek Out movies of the year

Django Unchained: Geek Out Movie of the Year

What a time 2012 has been for the Geeks! In the year that was supposed to end in a fiery Mayan Apocalypse, the Geek community made out like bandits. On any television channel there seems to be a show of every genre; The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, An American Horror Story, Revolution, Arrow; tailor made for us. In each game shop, anything with the brand Call of Duty, Resident Evil or Elder Scrolls couldn’t be kept on the shelves fast enough. And of course, if you look at the biggest box office hits of 2012, you’re lucky to find something that doesn’t involve grown men in tights, vampires or those short, furry-feet fellows. 

With all this diversity of content a Geek can be overwhelmed. Fortunately, we’re here to take one last look at the year that was in pop culture films and find the truly best in Geek cinema. For this list, we have compiled only movies that had the most fervent fan followings and most ecstatic Geek-gasms when released. You’ve most likely seen them, but it’s time to see who’s the best. So shake off those last few bars of “Auld Lang Syne,” give Master Chief a rest and join us down one more trip through 2012.

Honorable Mention:
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof
Den of Geek Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

When director Ridley Scott announced that he was returning to the Alien universe he helped create after a 30-year absence, many a Geek’s chests felt like they were about to burst. The Aussie filmmaker hadn’t done science fiction since 1982’s unforgettable Blade Runner. Even better, Lost mastermind Damon Lindelof was overseeing the final script! When you throw in the original Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) and the newest Magneto (Michael Fassbender), what could go wrong?  As it turns out, a lot. There is no denying that the movie has some leaps in logic and enough plot holes to crash a trillion-dollar space ship through. However, the movie is still a work of visual mastery from Scott who returns to the foreboding and mysterious style of the franchise’s greatest heights. The director has the guts to bring back the Lovecraftian fear of not knowing what is going on and leaving the audiences shrouded in questions by credits end. Add the overt-sexually charged designs inspired by H.R. Giger and some great performances from its leads and you have a sci-fi flame worth stealing away.

Biggest Geek Out: 

A woman should control her body. Too bad the O’Toole quoting robot David (Fassbender) doesn’t feel that way. After Shaw (Rapace) learns that she’s impregnated with an alien monster in her womb, the domineering cyborg intends for her to carry it to term. Faced with the prospect of becoming the mother of a mutant squid, Shaw disturbingly performs a C-section on her own body just as the babe discovers its first inklings of wanting to feed ON her. It is a grotesque moment of body horror and may be the most terrifying thing we’ve seen since a phallus with teeth thrust out of John Hurt’s body.

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10.  Chronicle
Directed by Josh Trank
Written by Max Landis
Den of Geek Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

It was only a matter of time. The Blair Witch Project showed Hollywood that cheaply made and poorly shot “found footage” could make a boatload of cash. After Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity reminded them again, the approach has exploded by branching away from the horror genre. Enter Chronicle, the first “superhero” found footage flick. Still, there’s something really surprising about this low-budget effort from newcomers Tank and Landis. Chronicle is the story of three high school kids (Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan) who stumble upon a weird…something. The mysterious energy coming off what they assume is a comet turns out to give them superpowers. From this simple concept, we get an engrossing character study of what teens with unlimited powers and no Uncle Ben would really do. They get into everything from harmless pranks and impressing girls at school to putting alcoholic fathers in the hospital and turning on each other. It’s a surprisingly good flick if you can look past that none of them ever hit the STOP button on their cameras.

Biggest Geek Out: 

At some point every kid wishes he could fly. Plenty of movies have tried to offer that fantasy. But how many of them are of three buddies dressed in winter coats playing football in the clouds? In a few minutes we are as stunned as the characters at their initial Peter Pan antics and just as awed when they barely avoid being hit by a commercial jet.

9.  Ted
Directed by Seth MacFarlane
Written by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild
Den of Geek Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

We all remember our favorite toy. We’d spend hours with it in our rooms and backyards, talking to it like a good friend. What if it talked back?  This is likely the premise of a thousand Disney movies, but it’s also the premise of Family Guy guru MacFarlane’s first feature length film. He only adds the wicked twist of what would happen when that child grows up. Ted is the hilarious R-rated comedy about a foul-mouthed teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) who sits on the couch all day ordering escorts and smoking weed. His best buddy is John Bennett (Mark Whalberg), a wayward Bostonian car salesman. The two would be happy just getting drunk and high for the rest of their lives, but thankfully John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) wants to give them a little purpose. The movie’s plot is both the conventional story of a relationship with a third wheel and an outside-the-box raunchy laugher about the crudest plush toy you’ll ever meet. The gags come often in something even Family Guy fans will concede is the best thing MacFarlane has done in years.

Biggest Geek Out: 

John means to do well by Lori when she has an important work function, but Geek matters of state intercede when obscure sci-fi icon Sam J. Jones winds up at Ted’s apartment. Jones may be unknown to most audiences, but for Geeks-in-the-know, he is FLASH GORDON of the 1980 movie of the same name. The best way to celebrate meeting their childhood hero is, of course, to do tons of cocaine with him in the bathroom and party down while the teddy bear sings/mocks Hootie and The Blowfish.

8.  Skyfall
Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan
Den of Geek Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Stars

James Bond is looking pretty good for a guy who just turned 50. A half-century after Sean Connery wooed audiences in Dr. No, 007 returned to the big screen for his 23rd official mission. Star Daniel Craig has never looked more comfortable as the superspy and art house filmmaker Mendes intends to take full advantage of the grittier interpretation. Bond spends the adventure butting heads with a deliciously evil cyber terrorist named Silva (Javier Bardem) as he defends his disgraced “Mum,” M (Dame Judi Dench). Shot gorgeously by cinematographer Roger Deakins, Skyfall may be the best-looking Bond movie ever made. Action highlights include a daring chase across Istanbul rooftops and a moving freight train in the movie’s opening sequence and a mesmerizing fistfight in a shadowy Shanghai high rise that is lit only by digital signs. However, the film’s greatest strengths remain the post-9/11 paranoia the Bond producers are finally willing to explore and 007’s arc of learning his own mortality by letting go of a parent.

Biggest Geek Out: 

Oh no!  The villain has captured James Bond and is taking him to his secret lair to…talk! Okay, it’s a bit cliché, but Mendes and Bardem make the old convention awesomely new. Shot in one long take, Silva’s story of his grandmother’s island and its rat infestation feels a bit on the nose, but Bardem’s inflections and quirks make it instantly iconic. Then he threatens to go where no male Bond villain has gone before: inside 007. Craig has often been criticized for not being humorous enough to play Bond but his wry retort to Silva’s proposition could be a series best.

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7.  The Hunger Games
Directed by Gary Ross
Written by Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray
Den of Geek Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Some may roll their eyes at this entry, but all I can say is get over it, women can be Geeks too! Yes, as that other major adaptation of a girl-centric Young Adult series, The Hunger Games more than earns its spot among the Geek brethren. Based on Collins’s own book, Hunger Games tells the story of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), a 16-year-old girl who defied a post-apocalyptic empire by taking her sister Primrose’s place in an adolescent death match. Unlike that other YA franchise that will not be named, this movie features a strong female protagonist who is wonderfully brought to life by the charismatic Lawrence. Thanks to starving in the Southeastern woods all her life, Katniss is adept at hunting with a bow and surviving in the wilderness. With the help of her slothful mentor, a mugging Woody Harrelson, she will win the hearts of her nation’s viewers by faking a love story with fellow tribute Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), despite having the dreamy BFF Gale (Liam Hemsworth) waiting at home. It just goes to show that with good writing, even the typical YA love triangle can be involving. Perhaps some vampires and werewolves should take note?

Biggest Geek Out: 

The best scene of the movie is when Katniss volunteers herself as tribute in her sister’s place. Ross’s overuse of handheld direction has been criticized since the movie’s opening, but the immediacy with which the shaky documentary-style brings you into the story here cannot be denied. The terror in little Primrose’s (Willow Shields) eyes is only surpassed by the horror in Lawrence’s performance. The lack of music as the youthful lambs line up for their slaughter makes for a chilling moment in dystopian cinema.

6.  The Cabin in the Woods
Directed by Drew Goddard
Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard
Den of Geek Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Stars

Everyone knows how this story goes. A couple teenagers and/or college students go to a cabin in the woods. There’s a jock, a promiscuous girl, a nerd, a stoner and a virgin. A monster of some kind comes and kills them. It’s such a tired formula that one might wonder how it keeps happening again and again in these movies. Goddard and Whedon set out to answer just that in this deliriously demented flick. More comedic satire than scary horror, The Cabin in the Woods is a loving middle finger pointed in the direction of nearly every horror subgenre imaginable. To describe more than the basic premise would be to risk giving the game away for the uninitiated. Suffice it to say that if you have ever loved OR hated a horror movie in your life and you haven’t seen this yet…Go do so. Right now. You can thank me later.

Biggest Geek Out

The last 20 minutes. If you don’t already know what I’m talking about, then you aren’t listening to my instructions above.

5.  The Avengers
Written and Directed by Joss Whedon
Den of Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Completing the Whedon double-header, The Avengers may be the most Geek-tastic movie ever made. The culmination of half-a-decade of work by Marvel Studios and five other films—Iron Man; The Incredible Hulk; Iron Man 2; Thor; Captain America: The First Avenger—this was the movie comic book fans and general audiences alike have been waiting for. With nearly a dozen major characters and actors contending for screentime, it could easily have been a disaster. Yet the stars aligned and Whedon, creator of TV ensembles like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, took over this gargantuan effort. With his ear for witty dialogue and his eye for heroic bluster, he was able to wrangle a dysfunctional comedy piece out of the rigid lines of blockbuster moviemaking. When the action does come, it’s giggle-inducing but what sticks with viewers most are scenes like Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) bromancing Dr. Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) or Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) having a tête-à-tête with the villainous Loki (Tom Hiddleston). The biggest compliment I can pay the spandex-ed opera is to note that it, more than any of the dozens of other superhero movies from recent years, captures the pure whacky joy of 1960s Marvel comics. What should have been a mess instead is Marvel’s best effort yet at recreating the world of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby et al. 

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Biggest Geek Out: 

The entire 30-something minute battle for New York could count. Iron Man, Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) have finally assembled. They stand proud beneath Grand Central Station as they turn Midtown into a warzone. The biggest highlight of the scene is a tracking shot that captures each hero in action on the ground and in the air as they lay waste to Loki’s horde of alien soldiers. And it’s all punctuated by Hulk sucker punching Thor. You’ve got to love yourself some Whedon.

4.  Looper
Written and Directed by Rian Johnson
Den of Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Hitmen grow consciences in a lot in movies. But you cannot really blame Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) for hesitating when he’s asked to kill Joe (Bruce Willis), himself from 30 years in the future. That is the mind-bending premise of this balls-to-the-wall sci-fi thriller. It starts with the intriguing question of whether one would kill their future self for enough money, but only uses that as a diving board. While most sci-fi thrillers these days are content with letting their premises be window dressing for generic chase movies, Looper is much smarter than that. Sure, Young Joe’s pursuit of Old Joe is the initial drive of the story, but it asks about more than time travel paradoxes. With the introduction of Sara (Emily Blunt) and her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon), who may or may not become a genocidal gangster one day, it morphs into a drama about parenting, childhood poverty and how time travel can just make all that stuff even more bloody confusing.

Biggest Geek Out: 

You can probably guess from the set-up that the moment making your inner-Geek squeal is when Joe comes face to face with Joe. Murdering future victims has become so routine for the younger that seeing his older self causes more than a second’s pause. All that’s missing is one of them saying, “Great Scott!”

3.  Les Misérables
Directed by Tom Hooper
Written by William Nicholson
Den of Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

There are many kinds of fan communities in this world. For those who would look down, look down upon their fellow (theatre) Geeks, can I merely point out that the Les Misérables stage show has been seen by 60 million people the world over, translated into 21 languages and produced in 42 countries. Can’t really say the same for The Punisher, now can we? Les Misérables, based on a French musical adapted from Victor Hugo’s sprawling literary classic, tells the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) and his decades-long evasion of Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), all because he broke his parole for stealing a loaf of bread. The unbridled epic also chronicles the wretched lives of the poor in post-Napoleonic France and features an ensemble cast spreading misery through pop operatic ballads and failed student revolutions. Despite director Hooper’s flat visual style left over from The King’s Speech, this movie evokes the tragedy and sentimental optimism that has allowed Hugo’s book to long outlive its many critics. The live-singing used to capture the actors’ voices on set also makes the performances kinetic and easily more accessible. It’s all done in service to what seemed impossible: adapting a 3-hour musical into an entertaining movie. 

Biggest Geek Out:

Unsurprisingly, the musical’s most famous solos are the movie’s best scenes. The first is a handkerchief-ruining song of lost hope for fallen lady of the night, Fantine (Anne Hathaway). After being abused by a client, Hathaway cries, “I Dreamed a Dream” with the kind of desperation and pain that awards are made of. Almost as powerful is when Eponine (Samantha Barks) canonizes onscreen “On My Own,” the anthem of every lovelorn teenage girl of the last 25 years. Only the most hopeless of cynics won’t want to give them a hug.

2.  The Dark Knight Rises
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Den of Geek Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Chris Nolan and his entire Batman Company took us to Gotham one more time in 2012. If there was one overhyped Geek movie that stood above all others this year, this was it. The expectations were so sky high after Nolan’s previous Joker-led entry that it shouldn’t be too surprising that they were not quite met by The Dark Knight Rises. Even so, it is a superb film in its own right and stands apart as the most ambitious superhero movie ever made. It has it all: Bane breaking the bat; a French styled revolution; convoluted themes related to our economic crisis; a passing of the torch to a Bat-heir; a scene stealing Cat burglar! Indeed, there is so much to like and digest about this movie that any Geek worth their salt should have been talking about it for days. My personal favorite aspect is Anne Hathaway’s slinky scene stealing Selina. But the greatest achievement of the film is progressing Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) beyond the cowl. Nolan’s Bruce has reached a level of maturity and understanding that will forever elude his comic book self and most other iterations. That may be uncomfortable for some fans, but for this one it is fantastic.

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Biggest Geek Out: 

Batman is over the hill and trapped alone in a caged dungeon with Bane (Tom Hardy). Nothing he throws at the villain will stop him. No film has better brought to life the Batman’s abilities than this scene…and they are all found wanting when Bane breaks the Dark Knight over his knee like a log.

1.   Django Unchained
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Den of Geek Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Which leads us to our number one. The top banana. The best Geek movie of the year! And what better selection than a movie made by the biggest film Geek of all time? Yes, Quentin Tarantino has probably seen every schlocky B, C and Z-film ever made and loves them all. If one were to guess his particular favorite genre, it’d likely be the Spaghetti Western. He has played with its tropes in Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds. He’s even called The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly the best-directed movie of all time. So, it should come as no surprise that he finally made one of his own. But this being Tarantino, there absolutely must be a twist to the convention. Set during 1858 in the Antebellum South, this Southern Fried Western combines conventions and technologies from decades later and irreverently puts them in the wrong time period. The anachronistic period piece has plenty of musical ballads, but they are usually mash-ups of James Brown and 2Pac. The story is about Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who has been freed by the eccentric German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Together, they set out to free Django’s wife, Hildy (Kerry Washington), by tricking the malicious Mississippi Planter Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Honestly though, the story is not the important part. It is the style and mood the film evokes. It would be absurdist if not for how Tarantino presents the horrors of slavery. At the center of it all is a trio of deliciously broad performances. Waltz and DiCaprio are having so much fun that it’s infectious, especially when they’re sharing a scene. But the real scene-stealer is Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen, an Uncle Tom from Hell. The movie is such a wild ride in the saddle, you won’t even care that it indulgently goes on for a needless 20 minutes past the climax.

Biggest Geek Out:

Jonah Hill, Don Johnson and a slew of bigots in a mob having to stop for five minutes and argue about the size of eyeholes in their lynching masks. It’s Tarantino dialogue mocking racist idiots.  ‘Nuff Said.

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