20. The Five-Year Engagement
I lost patience toward the middle when it took some really stupid decision-making to prolong the engagement to five years, but even when it stretched credibility, the movie never stopped being funny or having Jason Segel in it. It wins points for both of those things.
19. John Carter
Nowhere near the mess that lots of people claim it was; just not as spectacular as it should have been for the talent involved. It's a fun, scifi escape with a couple of legitimately great moments; we just all hoped for so much more.
18. The Amazing Spider-Man
"Expectations" are a recurring theme on my honorable mentions list this year. I didn't have high ones for The Amazing Spider-Man and like most people, I questioned the fundamental existence of the project. It was made for purely cynical, We Have to Do This or Lose the License reasons.
But though it contains some highly unnecessary rehashing of the Sam Raimi material, it also found some new things to do with its tone and the central relationships. It's worthwhile for Peter and Gwen alone.
I love the theme in ParaNorman about being your own person and not letting other people define you. Also: the animation is amazing. I wasn't totally in love with the character designs though, and since that's what I was looking at for most of the film, that's what keeps it out of my Top 10.
16. The Hunger Games
I'm disappointed that this isn't in my Top 10 for the year, either. I totally thought it would be, but during the second viewing I found myself getting bored. I kept myself entertained by focusing on Jennifer Lawrence's wonderful performance, which communicated very well the horror of Katniss' situation. Without her internal monologue though, it was hard to get what I wanted from her moral struggle over how to act in the arena.
Still looking forward to Catching Fire, but I'm more detachedly curious about it than wildly enthusiastic like I was for this one.
15. Underworld: Awakening
In a year that brought a disappointing entry in the Resident Evil movies, I'm thrilled that we got a worthy film in my other favorite horror/scifi adventure series starring a woman. Awakening pretty much punts and launches a Bold New Direction for Underworld, but it's a good direction with some likable, new characters and I enjoyed it very much.
14. 21 Jump Street
I want to say that this is so much better than a movie based on an all-but-forgotten TV show has the right to be, but even though that's true, it's not really fair to suggest that that's all 21 Jump Street has going for it. It's just a very funny movie, period. That it gets a small part of that humor from pointing out and making fun of its sordid roots is just frosting for the cake. I'd probably rate it higher if not for the skeevy romance between Jonah Hill's character and a high school student.
13. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
Listen: After the horrible piece of derivative crap that Madagascar 2 was, I'm as surprised as anyone to find Madagascar 3 on this list. In fact, I didn't want to see it at all when it was announced. It wasn't until it got a 79% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes that I had to see what the heck was going on with this thing. To my surprise, it was hilarious and - more importantly - original. It also pretty much wrapped up the saga with a nice bow on top, so I don't expect to be interested in a Madagascar 4, but never say never.
No, Gina Carano is not a great actress. And the plot of Haywire is nothing new. But the movie makes up for both of those things with heart and authenticity. I wrote a full review of it, so I'll point you there for more thoughts, but it really was one of my favorite movie experiences of the year.
11. Moonrise Kingdom
This was my first Wes Anderson film since Rushmore, which I never quite forgave for stealing Bill Murray away from movies like Groundhog Day and The Man Who Knew Too Little. Seeing Moonrise Kingdom makes me want to find out what I've been missing. It's a small movie, but a lovely one, and makes great use of its setting and awesome cast.