2012 RECAP: The Best & Worst Movie Moments

Picture 2Well folks, that’s a wrap! After 12 months and hundreds of movies, we’ve come to the end of 2012; I know, we can’t believe it either! Like everyone seems to do this time of year, we can’t help but reflect on the year that’s passed and, for the most part, it was a pretty spectacular 12 months at the movies. Though they’re certainly was a fair share of big disappointments (Prometheus) and flat out duds (Savages), 2012 saw a handful of truly awesome films, some great (Django Unchained), some masterful (Zero Dark Thirty), even some revolutionary (Cloud Atlas). As a result, we’re celebrating all week long with our end of the year coverage here at Reel Reactions. If you’ve already checked out our Winners & Losers of the year, than join us here for a look back at our favorite and least favorite movie moments of the year:

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Our 20 Favorite Moments of 2012:

1. The Processing Scene, The Master – Of all the scenes in Paul Thomas Anderson’s extraordinary The Master, the confrontational interrogation between Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix is the standout, a powerhouse display of riveting performances and controlled direction. As Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd asks a number of repetitive questions to Phoenix’s Freddie Quell, Anderson locks each actor’s face in an extreme close-up, trapping the characters within the frame and giving them nowhere to run but in the direction of the truth. What follows is a display of human emotions, courtesy of Phoenix, that is jaw-dropping, and as Dodd’s questions further expose the inner guilt and regrets of Freddie, Phoenix breaks down in a moment of raw and unnerving vulnerability. My god, I don’t think we’ve seen a more intense or a more riveting conversation all year.

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2. Opening Chase, Skyfall – James Bond films are known for spectacular pre-credit sequences (remember Casino Royale’s stylish black and white flashback opener?), and Skyfall’s first few minutes set in Turkey were heart thumbing, eye widening, and white knuckle-ing. In search of a computer hard-drive just snatched up by a freelance henchman named Patrice, Daniel Craig’s Bond and a field agent named Eve (Naomie Harris) chase Patrice through the streets of Turkey on foot, in cars, on motorcycles, atop the rooftops of the grand Bazaar, and then atop a roaring freight train through tunnels and over bridges. It’s another day at the office for 007 and a transportation game of planes, trains, and automobiles like no other. With ingenuity, witty remarks, and nuances that all resonate as characteristics of Bond, as well as property destruction and an outstanding segue into Adele’s musical credits sequence, the pre-credits sequence of Skyfall was a top-notch series addition and one of the finest action sequences of 2012.

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3. Bane vs. Batman, The Dark Knight Rises – With all the controversy surrounding The Dark Knight Rises and its quality as a whole, a lot of people forget about the many individual fantastic moments contained in the film, most notably the bone-crushing initial fight between Batman and the intimidating and menacing Bane. Instead of a quick-cutting, overproduced action scene, Christopher Nolan delivered one of the most intense and brutal fight scenes of the year thanks to brilliant simplicity. Where other, less talented directors would have filled the scene with wall-to-wall special effects, Nolan exceptionally focused on the duet between theses two forces to amazing results. He kept the scene completely quiet except for the sounds of their punches and dialogue, greatly increasing the tension and intensity of the battle. The scene expertly captures the raw power and ferocity Bane contains and quickly establishes him as a worthy Batman villain.

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4. Failing To Close Your Loop, Looper Looper wastes no time establishing the complex rules and regulations of its time-travel premise. Within minutes, you understand the basics of a Looper’s job and its many intricacies, most importantly the fact that they eventually have to kill their older selves. However, the one aspect they keep a surprise are the consequences of failing to close your Loop. When fellow Looper Seth (Paul Dano) fails to kill his older self, we finally get to see the lengths that the futuristic mob will go to in order to ensure the Loop is closed. The sequence takes you by complete and utter surprise as we watch the older Seth’s limbs slowly start to disappear from his body.  What starts as a couple fingers gradually intensifies into an entire leg and his nose, culminating in the character’s untimely death. It’s an extremely effective scene that quickly establishes Looper as a great and original sci-fi film.

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5. The Beach, Moonrise Kingdom It somehow makes sense that of all the scenes in Wes Anderson’s fantastic Moonrise Kingdom, the best and most memorable takes place at the titular Kingdom, a hidden beach cove where the love between Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop blossoms and whole-heartedly connects. Though Sam painting a watercolor of Suzy is hilarious, the most brilliant moment is a one take of the kids dancing like animals to Francoise Hardy’s jazzy and sultry “Le temps de l’amour”. It is in this moment that the clumsiness of adolescence and the bumbling awkwardness of maturing come to the forefront of Anderson’s picture, and as we see these two kids break free of the parental stresses in their lives and let loose, we somehow let loose ourselves and feel that sense of being a kid again, of being in love for the first time, of being a reckless runaway – my god, how freeing it is!

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6. Hushpuppy Searches For Mama, Beasts of the Southern WildPart of the astonishment that came with seeing Beasts of the Southern Wild for the first time was realizing what an incredible talent Ben Zeitlin was in his first outing as a director. In the film’s most stirring sequence, the young Hushpuppy travels to some sort of restaurant in search of her mother; is the women she meets actually her mama? The answer is never clear, but the comfort Hushpuppy feels while being held in the arms of a maternal figure is manifested in Zeitlin’s gorgeous cinematography. With a camera that continually spins around our young hero, lights that hazily flicker in the background, and smooth jazz music that plays like poetry to the ears, Zetilin creates a soothing dream world, blurring together imagination and reality and showing us the peace Hushpuppy feels in this crucial moment. If this scene is any indication, Zeitlin has one bright future ahead of him.

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7. The Monster Mash, The Cabin in the WoodsWhat an absolute gem Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods turned out to be, a razor-sharp and brightly original horror comedy that flipped the genre on its head and then folded it inside out, creating a meta masterpiece of Earth-shattering proportions. Sheer brilliance. Anyway, this particular scene, the ‘monster mash,’ was the moment our jaws hit the ground and then fell through the two stories of the Loews Boston Common 19 and landed on Tremont Street. Our protagonist, Dana (Kristen Connolly), comes to the harrowing realization that her and her good friends had put their lives in danger the minute they arrived on the cabin grounds. Underneath the woods, in a Rubick’s Cube-like structure, are an assortment of creatures awaiting the opportunity to descend on human flesh and each of their calling cards are in the cabin’s spooky cellar. In the end, the inhabitants of the cabin choose their killers and it was Dana who inadvertently selected the undead cannibal family that ended the lives of her good friends. Signaling the halfway point of the film, this marveling scene leads into the explosive last forty-five minutes where monsters and creatures of all types and from all dimensions wreak havoc on the horror operators who all answer to a much higher power of godly proportions.

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8. The Clock Tower, Cloud Atlas – In one of Cloud Atlas’ six genre-specific stories, Ben Whishaw plays homosexual composer Robert Frobisher, who becomes the amanuensis to an aging composer (Jim Broadbent) and writes letters to his true love, Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy), chronicling his time in the composer’s company. When the mentor-student relationship gets hairy and Robert goes on the run, he realizes that suicide is his only option, but first he hurriedly completes his opus, the ‘Cloud Atlas Sextet.’ Surprisingly, Sixsmith comes searching for him and nearly finds him atop a Scottish cathedral, but Frobisher hides from his love, knowing that he cannot subject the man he loves to what will happen to Robert if he is captured by the authorities. In a breathtaking visual set piece, segment director Tom Tykwer frames both characters in the shot as Rufus searches desperately and Robert winds in and out of the structure’s frame, avoiding detection and eventually slipping away. “I watched you as long as I dared…” reflects Frobisher. It’s a beautiful climax to a heartbreaking romantic period tale.

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9. One Last Time…Into The Fray, The Grey – While the trailers for The Grey promised another badass Liam Neeson film, the final film couldn’t have been more different from the likes of Taken and Unknown. Instead, the film was a much more subdued and morbid study of men accepting their inevitable death, an extremely heavy and dark film filled with intense and exhilarating moments, none more so than the harrowing ending. After spending the entirety of the film trying to escape the wolves that have tormented him and his crew, Liam Neeson’s character finds himself walking right into the Wolves’ den as the lone survivor. In one of Neeson’s best moments of his career, we see him run a gamut of emotions, from fear to acceptance to resilience, as he gathers up enough strength to take the Alpha-Male wolf down with him.

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10. Anything Hulk Related, The Avengers – When sitting down to choose the moments for this list, we knew we wanted something from The Avengers but we couldn’t think of anything specific. When it came time to actually write the article, it became astoundingly clear that every scene with The Hulk is worthy of a spot on this list, such as the scene where Bruce Banner reveals he has a new level of control over his anger and The Hulk and then swiftly transforms before destroying one of the flying worms. There is also the awesome moment when he saves Iron Man as he falls back to earth and then revives him with a well-timed yell. However, his best moment may be his confrontation with Loki as he shuts up the verbose villain by repeatedly slamming him in the ground.  Mark Ruffalo’s approach to the character was easily the best depiction of The Hulk yet and one of the best parts of the blockbuster film.

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11. Trippin’ At School, 21 Jump Street 21 Jump Street was easily one of the biggest surprises of the year. Most people expected little out of this questionable remake of a minor 80’s television show but were happy to discover a smart, inventive, and downright hilarious comedy. While there are numerous highlights of the film, the real standout is when Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum trip on the designer drug OMFG while undercover at the local high school. The entire scene plays out as one giant montage as both Schmidt and Jenkins go through the four stages of the drug throughout the entire school. While tripping, Schmidt is given the confidence to nail his Peter Pan performance but also fails at his track meet to hilarious results. Meanwhile, Jenkins horribly attempts to display his knowledge of science and the number 4 while also destroying the band room as if he was a human cannonball. Both Hill and Tatum play the entire scene perfectly, culminating in a riotous exchange with Robb Riggle’s gym teacher.

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12. The Tsunami, The Impossible The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami was undoubtedly a horrific tragedy that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Director Juan Antonio Bayona perfectly captured the devastation and destruction the tsunami wrecked on the coast of Thailand during this devastating sequence in The Impossible. He expertly stages the set piece as if you were right in the water besides this innocent family with all sorts of debris and dead bodies rushing past you. The water continually rushes over you, pushing you down under the surface as if you’re drowning. It’s a truly harrowing scene that forces you to really realize the destructive power a tsunami contains. It’s one of the best depictions of a natural disaster and one that will stick with you long after you leave the theater.

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13. Slo-Mo, Dredd 3D Though not one of my favorite movies of the year, expect me to defend the sky-high entertainment value and technical ingenuity of the bombastic B-movie, Dredd 3D. From Vantage Point’s Pete Travis, this comic-inspired bloodbath was not only filmed and shown in wonderfully effective 3D, but it also utilized some glorious slow motion effects that lie somewhere in between the visual splendor of Zack Snyder and the directorial expertise of John Woo with a hint of Sam Peckinpah. Writer Alex Garland cheated the system by allowing the slow motion effects to make sense contextually, and Travis intelligently uses it sparingly, thus never withering its effect. When it is used, it creates a balletic beauty to the wild and blazing action set pieces. When this movie finally gets viewership in a few months on HBO or SHO, the 3D will be unobtainable, but Dredd 3D may still become the cult classic it deserves to be because of the unique slow motion style Travis has implemented. Bottom line: Michael Bay should take notes.

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14. Calvin Candie’s Skull Monologue, Django Unchained – On the Django Unchained DVD there will hopefully be a scene chapter that is entitled, “How to make Leonardo DiCaprio scary”, because that’s exactly what this exceptionally scripted and immaculately acted scene does. As we edge toward Django’s blood-soaked final act, DiCaprio headlines a showstopper of a scene with a monologue about dimples on the inside of African Americans’ skulls – the monologue even includes a dead slave’s skull as a teaching tool. For somewhere between five to seven minutes, DiCaprio’s villainous plantation owner, Calvin Candie, rants about how these dimples allow for African Americans to be instinctually subservient, hence making them the best option for slaves. This lecture turns into a cultish sermon of a twisted magnitude, showcasing DiCaprio’s acting ability on a caliber level never before seen. This scene alone should earn DiCaprio a Best Supporting Actor nomination, if not a win, and is one of the most memorable and sadistic scenes of the year. It really proves what Tarantino’s fantastic dialogue can do.

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15. The bin Laden Raid, Zero Dark Thirty – If there was ever a women to bombastically blow up the phrase, “Action is a man’s game”, it would have to be Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow. In the riveting climax of her masterpiece, Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow proves no one can create white knuckle tension and escalating suspense like she can. Partially shot in night vision, the climax sucks you into the nearly 30 minute raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound that led to the death of the terrorist leader. With breathless choreography, the scene becomes a recreation of events as well as emotions, and as the group of Navy SEALS make there way further into the compound, the scene becomes an edge-of-your-seat, four-star knockout in itself. By the time the killing of bin Laden occurs, the film leaves you in a mental state of perplexity  – is this a moment worth lauding? Or is it an event that proved how much we lost of ourselves during the decade long manhunt? The answer is ambiguous and it makes ZDT the most important movie of 2012.

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16. The Self-Abortion, Promethues – In an otherwise disappointing return to the genre of science fiction, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus reaches the horrifying heights that were so prevalent in the original Alien during one particular scene involving star Noomi Rapace fighting an alien organism that is growing inside of her. She awakens to find herself in massive pain with android David (Michael Fassbender) telling her that a successful operation is impossible. But she doesn’t take David’s prognosis as a final answer. She hobbles herself over to a futuristic operating table – an encapsulated, egg-looking contraption – and manually configures the machine to do an abortion. Through hair-raising shrieks, she climbs inside and, while awake, watches a laser slice open her stomach and a claw remove the space seed which then attempts to attack her once it’s out of her womb! She narrowly avoids her ‘child’s’ attacks as she gets sewn up and then leaps to safety, locking the alien inside the medical machine. Whew! What a sequence, combining both gross out medical procedurals, intensity, and full-fledged horror. If only the movie didn’t have such a by-the-books lead up to this scene and then completely run itself into the ground just after this scene’s completion. This scene alone is worth giving Prometheus a shot.

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17. The Diner, Silver Linings Playbook – If you take the “processing” scene of The Master (see #1 above) and lighten it up a fuck ton, substitute Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence for Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, and add the wacky bluntness of David O. Russell’s script, then you end up with the sensational diner sequence of Silver Linings Playbook. During this semi confrontational “date”, the great Bradley Cooper and the sizzling Jennifer Lawrence turn our perceptions of their characters on their heads, and as the vulnerable side of Lawrence’s Tiffany begin to emerge, we see the real pain these two lost souls share. Though Pat and Tiffany may be crazy, they’re ultimately two people looking for someone to connect with, and this truth that comes out during this comically potent diner sequence is as hilarious as it is true. Oh, and it’s also pretty awesome that Tiffany orders Raisin Brand…at a diner…for dinner!

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18. The Graveyard Shootout, Seven Psychopaths Another under-seen meta piece from 2012, Martin McDonaugh’s In Bruges follow-up peaked with an uproarious and imaginative sequence in which Sam Rockwell’s Billy utilizes his present predicament and presents it as a generic action set piece to his friends – peyote-smoking Quaker, Hans (Christopher Walken), and alcoholic screenwriter, Marty (Colin Farrell). He inserts himself, the two of them, the characters that Marty has created for his script, the mobster that’s chasing them (played by Woody Harrelson), Marty’s girlfriend, and an assortment of other players into a rainy graveyard where they all attack one another with shotguns, crossbows, pistols, and Uzi’s. In Billy’s mind, this would make the perfect climactic shootout for the script that Marty is desperately trying to write. It’s bloody, irreverent, and side-splittingly hilarious. It also features one of the year’s funniest one-liners: “Peace is for queers, now you’re gonna die.”

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19. The Parent-Teacher Conference, This Is 40 – While This is 40 may have its fair share of problems, there’s no denying that there are some side-splitting moments throughout the film, primarily thanks to Melissa McCarthy. Every scene that she appears is in instantly hilarious and better than pretty much anything else in the film, with the best example being the Parent-Teacher Conference she shares with Pete and Debbie. What starts off as a heated, yet civil discussion about the way to handle their kids and their parenting turns into a bombardment of insults from McCarthy. While she starts with Pete and Debbie, McCarthy soon turns her wrath on the principal of the school, basically calling her an incompetent bitch. In a film that tries to depict life as realistically as possible, this scene could have easily come off as over-the-top, but McCarthy is just so damn funny and captivating that it exceeds the rest of the film.

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20. Riddles in the Dark, The Hobbit – The “Riddles in the Dark” chapter of The Hobbit is widely regarded as one of the best individual moments of Tolkien’s entire career, so it’s safe to say that there was a bit of trepidation regarding this scene’s translation onto the big screen. Thankfully, Peter Jackson once again proved he fundamentally understands Middle-Earth and all its components, crafting one of the best scenes of the year. The ballet of riddles between Bilbo Baggins and the reprehensible and pitiful Gollum is perfectly captured thanks to perfect pacing, Martin Freeman’s great performance, the advances of technology involving Gollum, and Andy Serkis once again proving he is the master of motion capture. It’s pretty amazing just how well Serkis was able to slip right back into the character he defined over a decade ago, and you could easily make the case that he is even better than ever in The Hobbit. Now if only he could show up again in the next two films!

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Our 5 Least Favorite Moments of 2012:

1. The Faux Ending, Savages – There are moments in the second half of Oliver Stone’s Savages where we started to excitedly wonder if the film was going to turn itself completely around…and then the final five minutes destroyed all progressive steps forward that the movie had taken to makeup for its appalling first hour. It all culminates in a wild shootout that leaves several key characters in bloody messes and a camera pulling back that we were sure would usher in the ending credits. Unfortunately, Stone threw up a giant middle finger to the audience and sucked us back in to the movie for a “well that’s not actually how it all went down” moment and we then see a totally different ending, which isn’t even laughable, it’s just insulting. To make matters worse, our three abysmal leads survive and retreat to a tropical island where Blake Lively wears flowers in her hairs and looks longingly into the sunset. And the final smack in the face: Her droning voiceover provides a Webster’s definition of ‘Savages’ before we cut to black. It turns an uneven, but slightly refreshing, action movie into an unforgivable train wreck. Is there any way I can get $12 and 131 minutes of my life back? No? Fuck you, Oliver Stone.

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2. FDR Gets A Handjob, Hyde Park on Hudson – What more can we say that the title to this paragraph doesn’t already imply? Before walking into the theater, Hyde Park on Hudson seemed like it could be a nice surprise; for starters, the legendary Bill Murray was taking on the role of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and to make matters more appealing, the trailer promised a juicy story of the British monarchs’ first trip to America to ask FDR for aid in WWII. Unfortunately, the movie was a complete dud and the trailer was completely misleading since the film was actually about the incestuous affair between FDR and his sixth cousin, Daisy (Laura Linney). Though this main plot was highly unappealing, the start of the affair, in which FDR drives Daisy to an open hill and indirectly suggests some foreplay, was even more unappealing. Did any of us really want to see FDR get a hand job by Laura Linney? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

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3. The Reveal, Trouble With The Curve – When Clint Eastwood decides to return to acting after vowing never to do so unless the material is highly worthy, it’s almost impossible to ignore the movie, in this case Trouble With The Curve. What a surprise it was, then, to watch Curve and realize that it was one big, clumsly, awful crapshoot. In the film, Eastwood’s Gus has a tumultuous relationship with his daughter (Amy Adams, the film’s only saving grace) that stems from a secret that continually plagues Gus’ dreams as if the film was some horrendous horror movie. When the event that caused the strained relationship is finally revealed – a man almost sexually abused Gus’ daughter in a shed at a horse racetrack – the film becomes unintentionally hilarious. I mean, really? You’re daughter almost gets sexually abused so you decide to completely shun her and live a life ignoring her? Are you kidding me? The reveal turned Eastwood’s Gus into the year’s worst parent and most unsympathetic character; I mean, seriously, what an asshole! Oh, and did I mention this is a baseball movie? Yeah, it other words, it’s a disaster!

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4. The “Let’s Start a Franchise” Ending, Prometheus Prometheus’ climax is already a mess. Then, in ten minutes, we get a jarringly rushed resolution, which screams one word: SEQUEL! As Noomi Rapace flies off in search of more Aliens with nothing but the head of android David (Michael Fassbender) in her possession, we then cut to black…but, wait there’s more: We come back to the Engineer who was killed by Rapace’s self-aborted alien baby. From the Engineer’s stomach pops out the xenomorph (i.e. the original alien creature from Alien, Aliens, etc.). It does a few screams and growls before we finally cut to the ending credits. For so long, writers Damon Lindelof and John Spaihts, as well as director Ridley Scott ,were saying, “No, no, it’s not a prequel it just takes place in the same universe as Alien,” and that would have been fine if all we saw of any extraterrestrial life was the Engineer or that nasty thing that popped out of Rapace’s stomach, but then you had to throw in the xenomorph didn’t you? Lazy tie in, you guys; that’s a cop out if I’ve ever seen one.

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5. The Jail Scene, The Paperboy – It’s not that this sexually absurd exchange between Nicole Kidman and John Cusack in The Paperboy is our least favorite moment of the year per say, it’s more that it’s the most uncomfortable moment we think we’ve ever seen on screen, ever. After months of exchanging letters, Kidman’s sexually charged Charlotte Bliss and Cusack’s creepy convict Hillary Van Wetter finally meet at the prison where Van Wetter is being housed. Sitting in a chair with his hands cuffed, Cusack sloppily commands Kidman to show him her underwear and touch herself while moaning and gyrating, which all leads to the two reaching simultaneous orgasms without ever touching. Can we just throw up now?
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And there you have it, our favorite and least favorite movie moments of 2012! Agree with our picks? What were your most beloved moments of the year? Which moments made you cringe? Let us know below and come back all week for more 2012 RECAP articles.

Article by Reel Reaction Staff

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2 thoughts on “2012 RECAP: The Best & Worst Movie Moments

  1. Pingback: 2012 RECAP: Best & Worst Performances « Reel Reactions

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