Top 10 of 2012


2012 Top 10

It is almost a given that any film critic worth their salt is going to do a year-end list of the best films of the year. It’s de rigueur; it’s expected; it’s standard; you don’t get to wear the film critics t-shirt unless you do one. As I’m particularly fond of mine, I guess I’d better go ahead and give it a shot.

Some critics have a kind of scientific method that they use to determine their list. Me, I’m much less formal. I look back over my ratings and choose the movies I gave 10s to at the top, ranking them basically by how I’m feeling about them now. Next comes the 9s, then the 8s if it comes to that (and this year it didn’t). I ignore the half points, so you might see a 9 ranked above a 9.5. I don’t stand on ceremony as you can see.

The story of 2012 is that there were three movies that were at the top of my charts basically the entire second half of the year – nothing that came out in the fall really challenged the top three. The thing is, none of the three really stood out head and shoulders among the others; you could say it’s a three way tie for first. I have ranked them from one to three for the purposes of this list but throughout the year I’ve generally waffled as to what order that I’ve placed them in. I’ve shuffled, re-shuffled and changed my mind a million times. Each one of them has been my favorite movie of the year at various times throughout the year.

In fact, the list (as most lists do) has a highly fluid quality to it. For the most part, I’m pretty satisfied with the ten movies on the list and I don’t think I’d change any of the movies on it, but you never know. For now, these are the top ten movies of 2012, although ask me again tomorrow and the order might change completely but I think you’d find all ten of these movies on the list.

Some of these movies remain in general release even as we speak; you can head right out to a theater and see them the way they were meant to be seen. Some are already out on DVD/Blu-Ray and you can enjoy them in the comfort of your own home – or they soon will be. Lag time between theatrical release and home video release has been shrinking of late plus many films are being released on VOD concurrently to their limited theatrical release, although none of those are on the top ten at the moment. For those whose interests are piqued about the movies from the snippets I publish here, click on the movie’s title to see my original review and if you’d like to find out more, click on the picture above the review to be taken to the film’s official website when available.

As with any list, I guarantee mine will differ with yours significantly. Although I don’t think anyone has ever taken issue (at least publically) with my list, feel free to leave a comment as to why I know nothing about movies and which movies should have been on it, or not on it. Why make a list after all if you’re not going to disagree with it?

HONORABLE MENTION

There are a number of movies that didn’t quite make the cut of the top ten. I thought I’d add them here so you can get an idea of which ones came close, were considered and ultimately not chosen. Again, I will stress that all of these are quality films worth seeking out if you’re looking for entertainment, enlightenment or insight. I didn’t include links here but if you want to read my reviews of any of these, simply type in the title into the search field and have at it. So,  in no particular order;

Craigslist Joe, Renee, Arbitrage, Argo, Headhunters, Turn Me On Dammit, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Bully, Thin Ice, God Bless America, Brave, Safety Not Guaranteed, Frankenweenie, The Salt of Life, Skyfall, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Bernie, The Secret World of Arrietty, The Avengers, Girl Model, Moonrise Kingdom, ParaNorman, A Late Quartet, Sleepwalk With Me, Goon, Life of Pi, The Sessions, A Bag of Hammers, Paul Williams: Still Alive, Chely Wright: Wish Me Away, Seven Psychopaths, Ted, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey10. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

(New Line) Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee and a cast of thousands. Directed by Peter Jackson

Released December 16, 2012 After years of being held up by MGM’s financial issues, the classic novel by J.R.R. Tolkien finally made it to the screen and in typical Hollywood fashion, the shortest of his novels will now be three films by itself. Still, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was a license to print money for WB so you know it was inevitable that they’d milk it for all it’s worth. We’ll be seeing another Hobbit movie every year through 2015. After that, Silmarillion anyone?
WHY IT IS HERE: An epic adventure on a grand scale. Jackson has made Middle Earth come to life, living and breathing and he does so once again here. Using high frame rate technology, the Shire never looked so beautiful or Rivendell so serene. While it didn’t impress me at the level of the first trilogy, this is still a very good movie.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: At Rivendell, Gandalf and Galadriel communicate telepathically, both revealing hidden secrets as they discuss the dwarf mission to Erebor and the presence of the Hobbit. Two great actors do almost the entire scene with just their eyes and body language while the dialogue is read voice over. Magnificent.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $267.9 million domestic (as of 1/11/13), $830.7 million total.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Still in wide release.

The Dark Knight Rises9. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

(Warner Brothers) Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman. Directed by Christopher Nolan

Released July 20, 2012 We knew in advance this would be Christopher Nolan’s last foray into Gotham and probably Christian Bale’s as well. After the major success that was The Dark Knight there was a great deal of anticipation although the inevitable backlash that comes after that kind of success was certainly lurking. The box office surely didn’t disappoint although one wonders if the competition from The Avengers didn’t keep this one from going a bit higher.
WHY IT IS HERE: A fitting end to the Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan pulls out all the stops with multiple villains, new gadgets and potential nuclear holocaust. The action was as good if not better than The Avengers and we get to see Batman at his most heroic.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Joseph Gordon-Levitt faces down a group of cops on a bridge with the lives of a bus load of kids hanging in the balance.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $448.1 million domestic (as of 1/11/13), $1.1 billion total.
BUDGET: $250 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon/Blockbuster. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Blockbuster.

The Intouchables8. THE INTOUCHABLES

(Weinstein) Omar Sy, Francois Cluzet, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Alba Gaia Bellugi, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri, Gregoire Oestermann, Josephine de Meaux, Dominique Daguier, Francois Caron, Thomas Soliveres. Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano

Released May 25, 2012 This was a box office record setter in France, capturing the imagination of French audiences as well as critical acclaim and major awards (including a Cleo for Sy as best actor). While overly sensitive politically correct American critics took pot shots at the relationship between Driss and Phillippe (white paraplegic employer, black attendant) it was based on an inspirational true story.
WHY IT IS HERE: I dare anyone to watch this all the way through and not feel better about life and the universe we live in. Da Queen will tell you I was in a terrible mood when I went to see this; when we left the theater I was a decent human being again. This should be mandatory viewing for depressives.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: When Driss gets to drive Philippe’s Mazerati for the first time. Priceless.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $10.2 million domestic (as of 1/17/13), $420.8M total.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release on March 5.

Monsieur Lazhar7. MONSIEUR LAZHAR

(Music Box) Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Nelisse, Emilien Neron, Danielle Proulx, Brigitte Poupart, Jules Philip, Daniel Gadouas, Seddik Benslimane, Marie-Eve Beauregard, Louis Champagne, Andre Robitaille, Francine Ruel, Helena Laliberte. Directed by Philippe Falardeau

Released April 13, 2012 As with the last feature on the top ten list, this was presented here in Orlando at the Florida Film Festival. It was, like the previous film, Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language film. The similarity stops there however; this is a much darker and dramatic film than the uplifting Intouchables.
WHY IT IS HERE: This deals with grief in several different ways, from the grief of children to the grief of adults. The snowy white Montreal backdrop gives the film a sense of insulation that is both warm and cold at once; it is no accident that the action begins in the winter and concludes in the spring. Fellag gives the kind of performance which would have attracted much more notice had he been working for a major distributor or for an American-made film. It’s a hard, hard film to watch at times but by the time it’s over chances are you’ll have learned something about yourself.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The courtroom scene in which Lazhar relives the tragic incident that drove him to Canada.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $2 million domestic (as of 1/17/13), $6.6M total..
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Netflix/iTunes.

Cloud Atlas6. CLOUD ATLAS

(Warner Brothers) Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Keith David, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, Brody Nicholas Lee, Raevan Lee Hanan, Alistair Petrie. Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

Released October 26, 2012 This is based on the David Mitchell novel that was widely thought to be unfilmable. The Wachowskis engaged their close friend Tykwer with each directing half of the sequences. Despite the all-star cast, marketing this epic work turned out to be nearly impossible and the movie made almost no box office impact whatsoever here in the States.
WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that talks about repression and personal responsibility in ways that we’re often not used to it. It shows that the ability of one human to force another to end to their will is timeless; so is the ability of one human to stand up and say no. There is an epic scope in each of the different segments – each set in a different era in history, three in the past, one in the present and two in the future. Cerebral science fiction, when done well can be as stimulating as any genre of movie extant but sadly, it isn’t generally cost-effective. This was overlooked by a lot of critics and granted, there were some flaws but such was its ambition that one can overlook them when admiring the whole.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Timothy Cavendish’ s break-out from the nuthatch in the 2012 sequence.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $27.1 million domestic (as of 1/19/13), $71.2 million total.
BUDGET: $102 million
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release in May 2013. It may still be seen in second-run theaters.

Chasing Ice5. CHASING ICE

(Submarine Deluxe) James Balog, Svavar Jonatansson, Louie Psihoyos, Adam LeWinter, Kitty Boone, Jeff Orlowski, Tad Pfeffer, Suzanne Balog, Dennis Dimick, Emily Balog, Simone Balog, Sylvia Earle, Jason Box, Synte Peacock. Directed by Jeff Orlowski

Released November 16, 2012 The growing climate change has become an issue everywhere else in the world, but here in the United States there is oddly no dialogue, unless it is to ridicule Al Gore for his attempts to bring it to the attention of Americans. This movie was an attempt by one of the world’s most passionate and respected nature photographers to document the erosion of the world’s glaciers. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Song but oddly, not for Best Documentary Feature.
WHY IT IS HERE: This documentary shows graphically the importance of glaciers to the global eco-system, the potentially catastrophic consequences of their continued erosion and shows measurably that it is happening right now. The movie is eerily beautiful as it terrifies.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scenes near the end of the film where the erosion of the glaciers is graphically shown. It’s beautiful and terrifying.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $970,721 domestic (as of 1/19/13), $970,721 worldwide.
BUDGET: Not available
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release in April 2013.

Lincoln4. LINCOLN

(DreamWorks) Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Peter McRobbie, Gloria Reuben. Directed by Steven Spielberg

Released November 9, 2012 This biography of America’s 16th (and perhaps best) president had long been in gestation as Spielberg meticulously researched his life and times, recreating his office down to the wallpaper. It has been something of a surprise hit, with Day-Lewis up to his usual standards of performance, garnering an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win to add to his trophy collection.
WHY IT IS HERE: This really gives you a sense of the man behind the majesty, a man who has carried the weight of a bloody civil war on his broad shoulders and is beginning to buckle. This Honest Abe is not above political chicanery and is not above shouting at his subordinates to get this vote done. And the great Mr. Lincoln drove the people around him crazy with his stories, like the long-winded uncle everyone avoids at family reunions. Not that I have a long-winded uncle.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The vote on the floor of the House of Representatives is gripping even though most Americans who know their history know how it turns out.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $156.6 million domestic (as of 1/18/13), $156.6 million total.
BUDGET: $65 million.
STATUS: Still in wide release.

Cabin in the Woods3. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

(Lionsgate) Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Sigourney Weaver, Brian White, Amy Acker, Tim De Zarn, Tom Lenk, Dan Payne, Jodelle Ferland, Dan Shea, Maya Massar, Matt Drake. Directed by Drew Goddard

Released April 13, 2012 This was a pretty good year for Joss Whedon who not only directed the biggest blockbuster of the year but produced this film as well. The movie actually had been languishing in the vaults of MGM during its bankruptcy woes and was picked up by Lionsgate who were sadly never really able to get across to the public what a great ride this movie is.
WHY IT IS HERE: Those who love Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead (which itself is being remade later this year) are going to love this. Part horror spoof, part action flick, part Lovecraftian gorefest, part conspiracy flick and all of it fun, we get a solid cast, put them in a playground and watch them get mind raped. It has been a rare thing that I’ve had this much fun at a movie and although it starts off a bit slow, when it gets going it REALLY takes off! Just keep asking yourself this: Am I on speaker phone?
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The elevator ride down into the bowels of the complex.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $42.1 million domestic (as of 1/20/13), $66.5 million total.
BUDGET: $30 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Blockbuster.

The Lady2. THE LADY

(Cohen Media Group) Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Jonathan Raggett, Jonathan Woodhouse, Susan Wooldridge, Benedict Wong, Flint Bangkok, William Hope, Victoria Sanvalli, Danny Toeng, Nay Myo Thant. Directed by Luc Besson

Released April 11, 2012 This biopic of Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi was my favorite film from last year’s Florida Film Festival and a very real contender for my favorite of the year period. Oddly, it got extremely disappointing reviews which I found incomprehensible – but the box office figures were far more disappointing than the reviews.
WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that shows how resilient the human spirit is. Suu Kyi is one of the most courageous people of our time and yet her story is largely unknown in the West. Michelle Yeoh gives a performance that in a just world would have been considered for an Oscar – it’s at least on par with favorite Jessica Chastain’s. However because of the almost non-existent theatrical release and the critical shellacking it received, most people will never get a chance to see it.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene in which Aung proudly listens to her son Alexander give the acceptance speech for her Nobel Peace Prize, the ceremony for which she was unable to attend.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: Domestic box office figures unavailable (as of 1/23/12), $3.4 million total.
BUDGET: $29.4 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Blockbuster.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel1. THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

(Fox Searchlight) Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Dev Patel, Tena Desae, Lillette Dubey, Sid Makkar, Seema Azmi, Diana Hardcastle, Lucy Robinson, Paul Bhattacharjee. Directed by John Madden

Released May 4, 2012 General movie audiences notoriously find movies about the elderly to be anathema. It’s not hard to figure out why – moviegoers are mostly teens and young adults; that demographic doesn’t really care about the elderly and their issues because they simply aren’t there yet. This one, however, struck a chord with audiences of all age groups.
WHY IT IS HERE: I have to admit I wasn’t particularly interested in visiting India for most of my life. I’d heard about the noise, the smell, the crowded conditions and the heat – it didn’t sound like my particular cup of tea. That all changed after I saw this movie and saw India from a completely different viewpoint. Besides that, this is a movie about aging and living as an “old person.” You might look at aging differently when you see this.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Tom Wilkinson’s strolls through town were always full of joy.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $46.4 million domestic (as of 1/23/12), $134.4 million total.
BUDGET: $10 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes.

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Life of Pi


Some days you feel like you can grab a tiger by the tail; other days not so much.

Some days you feel like you can grab a tiger by the tail; other days not so much.

(2012) Drama (20th Century Fox) Suraj Sharma, Irffan Khan, Gerard Depardieu, Rafe Spall, Adil Hussein, Ayush Tandon, Gautam Belur, Tabu, Ayan Khan, Mohd Abbas Khaleeli, Vibish Shivakumar, James Saito, Jun Naito, Andrea Di Stefano, Elie Alouf, Shravanthi Sainath. Directed by Ang Lee

 

Things happen. Whether it is for a reason or if they just happen has been a question that we have been trying to figure out since we could put a coherent thought together. In many ways, this is what is driving our entire faith versus reason argument that we seem to be engaged in as a culture.

Piscine Molitor Patel (Sharma) was born in Pondicherry, India, where the French once held sway. He was named for a swimming pool in France where the waters were remarkably clear and his swim-crazy uncle (with a body that can only be described as cartoonish) was remarkably fond of. Unfortunately, his school mates pronounce his first name as something that young boys are prone to doing in swimming pools (think about it) and he decides to shorten it to “Pi” and paves the way for it by memorizing the numerals of Pi to many, many decimals in turn impressing both students and teachers in his school.

Nothing about Pi’s life is ordinary. His father (Hussein) owns a zoo although he really know nothing about animals. It is up to Pi’s mother (Tabu), his brother Ravi (Shivakumar) and himself to tend the animals. Even so, Pi finds time to fall in love with Anandi (Sainath), which looks like it could be going somewhere.

Unfortunately, fate has a curveball in store for Pi. The zoo is failing and his father has decided to move the whole family (including the animals) to Canada to start a new life. Pi is devastated. He has no desire to leave but this is not anything within his control. After a tearful goodbye to Anandi (which he doesn’t remember, only spending that last day with her) he and his family board a Japanese cargo ship bound for Canada.

Once again, fate steps in with another game-changer. In the middle of a terrible storm, the ship sinks and everyone aboard drowns. Everyone, that is, except for Pi, an orangutan, a zebra and a hyena. Oh, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker who find themselves marooned in a lifeboat. The law of the jungle prevails and the tiger kills and eats everything except for Pi who takes refuge on a makeshift raft made up of oars and life jackets. Richard Parker guards his territory well and as the boat and raft floats aimlessly in the Pacific, the odds that Pi and Parker will survive dwindle.

This is all told through a framing mechanism in which the adult Pi (Khan) relates the story to a writer (Spall) who was urged to hear the story from Pi’s uncle who remained in India. Pi is still affected by the emotions of his ordeal (breaking into tears at one point) but is remarkably sanguine about the whole ordeal which his uncle told the writer would make him believe in God. However, let’s just say that Pi may not be the most trustworthy narrator you can find.

This is as visually inventive and breathtaking a movie as you will see this year. Everything about it rings true but there is also a kind of fairy tale-like flavor to the story and even to the visuals, turning Pondicherry into an idyllic place, and a sea into a multiple personality disorder entity, alternately calm as glass with a cloud-streaked sky reflecting in it, to full of luminous green plankton and raging with storms. The water is a metaphor for life, changing when we least expect it and never into anything convenient.

The movie is based on a book that was widely considered unfilmable and it is to Lee’s credit that he found a way to make it work. However do keep in mind that the bulk of the action takes place on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with one human and one tiger. While it never gets boring, it can get slow.

Much about the film is fanciful and towards the end of the movie you are given a choice to make which essentially gives you the option of faith or reason. The movie heavily skews its own leanings towards one side and that might be offensive towards those who lean in the other direction. And while it is professed that Pi’s story will make you believe in God, quite frankly I don’t see it converting any atheists.

Still, it does lead you to ask some pretty deep questions as to the truth behind faith and reason. What is reality, after all, but our perception of it and what we perceive as fact and what we perceive as beyond our understanding can be tricky. The will to survive can’t be quantified or measured but it is undeniably there – yet a Bengal tiger that looks for all the world like a living, breathing animal can be completely computer generated. Is he any less real for that however? This is the kind of thing that used to give Aristotle headaches.

The good thing however is that you can give these thoughts whatever attention you believe they deserve or what you’re willing to give them. You can sit back and relax and take in the breathtaking images and let not a single stray thought invade your skull if so you choose. It’s all up to you. Now, there are those who won’t even consider seeing this without a single solitary star in the cast (Gerard Depardieu appears briefly as a ill-tempered ship’s cook but many Americans wouldn’t even consider the French Colossus in the same firmament of a Tom Cruise or a Brad Pitt), although several of the actors including Irffan Khan and Tabu are big stars in India. Still, that hasn’t been enough to really propel the film into stratospheric box office numbers which does give rise to the theory that Americans really don’t like movies that make them think. Ah well. Perhaps Lee should have figured out how to put a car chase in this one, or had the tiger fight the shark with machine guns and rocket launchers. And you wonder why our test scores suck.

REASONS TO GO: Beautifully shot. Deeper and more thought-provoking than the average Hollywood film.

REASONS TO STAY: Loses momentum at times.

FAMILY VALUES:  Some of the emotions depicted here are pretty rough. There are also some action sequences that are pretty scary.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Although Khan doesn’t appear in any scenes with the tiger, this is the second movie in 2012 he has appeared in with a character named Richard Parker, the first being The Amazing Spider-Man.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/11/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 88% positive reviews. Metacritic: 78/100. The critics definitely love this one..

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Where the Wild Things Are

BENGAL TIGER LOVERS: Richard Parker, the tiger in the movie is mostly CGI – every scene in which he appears with Pi is CGI. However, real tigers were used in certain scenes early on in the film, as when the tiger was swimming for example.

FINAL RATING: 7.5/10

NEXT: Killing Them Softly

New Releases for the Weak of November 23, 2012


November 23, 2012

LIFE OF PI

(20th Century Fox) Suraj Sharma, Irffan Khan, Gerard Depardieu, Adil Hussain, Rafe Spall, Tabu, Shravanthi Sainath, Andrea Di Stefano, Ayush Tandon, Gautam Belur.  Directed by Ang Lee

Based on a beloved book, this is the story of a young man who escapes from a sinking ship in a terrible storm and embarks on an adventure with the ship’s only other survivor – a Bengal tiger. Director Ang Lee and producer James Cameron team up to produce one of the most unforgettably visual movies of the holiday season.

See the trailer, featurettes and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG (for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril)

Red Dawn

(FilmDistrict) Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. An idyllic small town’s life is shattered by the invasion of North Korean and Chinese forces. A group of young people, led by a marine home on leave, escape the invasion and after witnessing the brutality of the oppressive new regime, take up arms as partisans in a war to retake their country. A remake of the 1984 film of the same name.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Action

Rating: NR

Rise of the Guardians

(DreamWorks) Starring the voices of Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher. Legendary immortals Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman must enlist the help of Jack Frost, a somewhat anarchic youth, to battle Pitch, a demonic spirit bent on enslaving the world through his nightmares.

See the trailer, a clip and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: PG (for thematic elements and mildly scary action)

Silver Linings Playbook

(Weinstein) Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver. A man starts over after losing everything and spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain. Living at home with his mom and dad, he determines to reunite with his wife. He meets a girl with problems of her own who offers to help him get back together with his wife in exchange for him performing a task very important to her. Things then get pretty complicated from there.

See the trailer, a clip and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for language and some sexual content/nudity)

Four-Warned: November 2012


November 2012Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Distributor/Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. SKYFALL (1.0)
2. LIFE OF PI (1.3)
3. FLIGHT (1.4)
4. LINCOLN (1.5)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. A LIAR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1.0)
TIE. CHASING ICE (1.0)
3. THE BAY (1.3)
TIE. CALIFORNIA SOLO (1.3)
TIE. HIGH GROUND (1.3)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

NOVEMBER 2, 2012

A LATE QUARTER (EntertainmentOne) Genre: Drama. When a member of a renowned string quartet receives grave news, the groups fragile dynamic threatens to explode prior to their 25th Anniversary Concert. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The amazing cast includes Christopher Walken, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener.
A LIAR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Brainstorm) Genre: Animated Feature. The late Graham Chapman of Monty Python reads his life story set to animation created by 14 different animators. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The closest thing we’ll ever get to a final Monty Python film.
A MAN’S STORY (Trinity) Genre: Documentary. The story of Ozwald Boateng, one of the UK’s most innovative and influential clothing designers of the past 20 years who struggles to balance his family life and career. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.8 Once again, fashion documentaries really don’t float my boat much.
THE BAY (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Horror. A quiet Maryland bayside town undergoes a metamorphosis when insidious parasites invade the bodies and the minds of the town’s residents. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 The latest from Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson looks to be maybe the most terrifying film of the year.
BONES BRIGADE (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. The story of skateboarders Tony Hawk, Stevie Caballero and Stacy Peralta whose amazing exploits revolutionized the sport in the 1980s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.7 Interesting from a historical perspective but only if you’re into the lifestyle.
CAFE DE FLORE (Adopt) Genre: Drama. Two people – one in 1960s Paris the other in modern day Montreal – are connected through time in profound and mysterious ways. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles on Nov. 9). RATING: 2.9 Looks kinda trippy.
THE DETAILS (Radius) Genre: Comedy. A suburban man goes to war with a pack of raccoons that have invaded his yard. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks full of genuine weirdness and human frailty all in one delightful crap sandwich.
FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS (Self-Released) Genre: Drama. A troubled teenager in 1980s New York City dreams of reuniting with her father in Guyana. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 A compelling subject but a curiously passionless trailer.
FLIGHT (Paramount) Genre: Drama. A pilot hailed as a hero for saving a passenger jet from certain holocaust is suddenly viewed differently once he’s put under the media microscope. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 The return of director Robert Zemeckis to live-action features is marked by an outstanding cast including Denzel Washington.
HIGH GROUND (Red Flag) Genre: Documentary. Eleven veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan aided by veteran mountain climbers make an ascent up one of the highest mountains in the Himalayas (Mount Lobuche) in order to find some healing from their ordeals. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.3 How many documentaries about war are actually about healing? This is a must-see.
JACK AND DIANE (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. Two young women hook up in New York and find a deep, fulfilling relationship but when it threatens to break up it triggers terrifying changes in one of their bodies. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 It looks kind of out there but in a good way.
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (Universal) Genre: Martial Arts. A shipment of gold in 19th Century China ignites a long-simmering clan war with a blacksmith who makes incredible weapons of war caught in the middle. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.9 The directing debut of RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan reminds me of Quentin Tarantino’s (who also produced) Kill Bill.
MIAMI CONNECTION (Drafthouse) Genre: Martial Arts. Florida, circa 1987, is controlled by vicious motorcycle ninja gangs who incur the ire of martial arts rock band, determined to take back the Sunshine State for the people. Release Strategy: (New York City; opens in Los Angeles Nov. 9). RATING: 2.2 Exceedingly retro and campy; will either be serious fun or seriously annoying.
THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (Weinstein) Genre: Dramedy. A somewhat addlepated rocker who is estranged from his father returns to New York for his dad’s funeral and decides to take on his father’s crusade to find the man who humiliated him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Sean Penn is the only reason you need to go see this one.
VAMPS (Anchor Bay) Genre: Horror Comedy. Two single party girls who happen to be vampires must choose between love and eternal life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 From director Amy Heckerling, stars her clueless star Alicia Silverstone, Kristin Ritter and Sigourney Weaver among others but trailer looks a bit cutesy-pie
WRECK-IT RALPH (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. An arcade videogame villain decides he wants to be a good guy and leaves his game to find another that will accept his inner hero. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.7 A definite must-see for anyone who loves classic arcade videogames.

NOVEMBER 6, 2012

FIRE WITH FIRE (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. A firefighter, in witness protection for testifying against the mob after witnessing a murder, must go into places he couldn’t have imagined to protect those he cares about when his identity is compromised. Release Strategy: On Demand. RATING: 2.8 Josh Duhamel and Bruce Willis make an intriguing pair.

NOVEMBER 9, 2012

A ROYAL AFFAIR (Magnolia) Genre: Romance. The true story of a scandalous love triangle in the 18th Century between a German Doctor, the Queen of Denmark and her deranged king. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A florid historical epic that might well be more interesting than the trailer suggests.
CHRISTMAS IN COMPTON (Barnholtz) Genre: Comedy. When the son of a beloved Christmas tree lot owner tries to make some improvements and jeopardizes the business, a miracle will be needed to make things right – the kind of miracle only found in Compton. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks a little corny but with an extra heaping helping of heart.
CITADEL (Cinedigm/Flatiron) Genre: Horror. An agoraphobic dad raising his daughter alone tries to protect her from an invading gang of mysterious hooded thugs hell bent on kidnapping her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 The trailer is legitimately frightening; got raves at SXSW this year.
THE COMEDY (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. An aging Brooklyn hipster finds himself getting restless with his life and yearns to move into something more meaningful. Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Featuring Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job, looks decidedly more cerebral and artsy than what they’re known for.
DANGEROUS LIAISONS (Well Go USA) Genre: Drama. A womanizer must choose between the sensuous socialite and the chaste humanitarian he loves Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A sumptuous new version of the classic French novel, transplanted to 1930s Shanghai.
IN THEIR SKIN (IFC Midnight) Genre: Thriller. A friendly evening among friends turns into a terrifying struggle to survive when one of the men, obsessed with perfection, turns to violence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks twisted in a good way and a decent cast (albeit not household names) sweetens the pot.
LINCOLN (DreamWorks) Genre: Biographical Drama. America’s 16th President leads his country through the bloodiest war in its history. Release Strategy: Limited (Opening Wide November 15). RATING: 1.5 The latest from director Steven Spielberg takes on Daniel Day-Lewis as the Great Emancipator; might be an Oscar contender.
NATURE CALLS (Magnet) Genre: Comedy. A pair of brothers become at odds over a group of boys in the elder brother’s scouting troop. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Even with Patton Oswalt, this looks mind-numbing.
SKYFALL (MGM/Columbia) Genre: Spy Action Thriller. Indiscretions in the past of M, the starchy head of MI-6 will lead the agency to come under attack by a ruthless madman whom even James Bond cannot stop. Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX opening Nov. 8). RATING: 1.0 The most successful franchise in cinematic history returns after a brief leave of absence with one of the most anticipated films in the 50 year history of the Bond films.
STARLET (Music Box) Genre: Drama. A young woman who lives to get high befriends an elderly woman in the San Fernando Valley after a confrontation at a yard sale. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.2 The trailer is a pretty sweet one with plenty of L.A. heart.

NOVEMBER 13, 2012

JAB TAK HAI JAAN (Yash Raj) Genre: Bollywood. A former soldier relocated to London is living a double life. When his two lives collide he must choose between them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The latest from legendary Bollywood director Yash Chopra.

NOVEMBER 14, 2012

BUFFALO GIRLS (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Two eight-year-old girls in rural Thailand become professional Muay Thai fighters to provide for their families. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles Dec. 7). RATING: 3.1 This practice isn’t uncommon; a moving look at what two little girls will go through to help their families escape abject poverty.
THE LAW IN THESE PARTS (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. A look at the laws created in the wake of the Six Days War that relegate the West Bank and Gaza Strip as occupied territories and how those laws are used to promulgate injustice even today. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.8 A very powerful examination of a situation that modern Israeli’s grapple with, and with the soul of a nation at stake.

NOVEMBER 15, 2012

BARRYMORE (Image) Genre: Drama. As he rehearses a play that must be a do-or-die comeback performance, legendary stage actor John Barrymore looks back at the events of his storied life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 With Oscar winner Christopher Plummer in the title role this could be one for the ages.

NOVEMBER 16, 2012

ANNA KARENINA (Focus) Genre: Drama. A Russian woman of the upper class, married to a member of the aristocracy, falls in love with a common soldier. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Based on the Leo Tolstoy classic and from the director and actress of Pride and Prejudice.
CHASING ICE (National Geographic) Genre: Documentary. A heroic National Geographic photographer captures the erosion of the Arctic Ice in an effort to move the debate from whether there is climate change to what to do about it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 A movie that should be shown to everyone – policy makers, citizens – we are all affected.
FUNERAL KINGS (Freestyle) Genre: Comedy. A couple of irresponsible teenage altar boys open a locked trunk and get far more than they bargained for. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 2.9 Irreverent and foul-mouthed – might well give you another reason to despise certain teens.
HITLER’S CHILDREN (Film Movement) Genre: Documentary. The descendents of the leadership of the Nazi party struggle today with the legacy of their family shame. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.7 Riveting stuff; how does one live down that sort of family name?
MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD (HBO) Genre: Documentary. Four courageous young men try to get justice for the systematic abuse of children by priests of the Catholic Church. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 This may very well be the Church’s lowest moment.
PRICE CHECK (IFC) Genre: Comedy. A suburban man working for a supermarket chain gets a new boss whose attraction to him turns his life upside down. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 I’m always up for watching Parker Posey go ballistic.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2 (Summit) Genre: Romantic Fantasy. The series concludes with the Cullens battling the Morituri for their very survival. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 The last two films in the series have been dreadful; no reason to expect a change here.

NOVEMBER 21, 2012

LIFE OF PI (20th Century Fox) Genre: Adventure. A young man survives a disaster at sea and forms an unlikely bond with the other sole survivor – an irritable Bengal tiger. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 Director Ang Lee looks like he’s crafted yet another beautifully shot masterpiece.
RED DAWN (Film District) Genre: Action. When the Chinese invade the United States, a small group of teenage boys and girls fight as an American resistance . Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 I’m not sure why this movie needed to be remade but it has been sitting on the shelf for a very long time.
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (DreamWorks) Genre: Animated Feature. Jack Frost, Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman stand united to protect the children of the world against an evil nightmare spirit named Pitch. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.1 Although I love the concept and think the animation is crackerjack, I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach for this one.
WAR OF THE BUTTONS (Weinstein) Genre: Drama. Two rival gangs from neighboring French villages must band together to save a Jewish girl from the Nazis. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Courage comes in all shapes and sizes.

NOVEMBER 23, 2012

THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Documentary. The story of five teenagers wrongfully convicted of the 1989 rape of a woman in central park whose lives were irrevocably changed and the fight to see justice – albeit delayed – done. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A feature length documentary by PBS mainstay Ken Burns.
HITCHCOCK (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of how the greatest director of his time put up his own personal funds to make a picture that nobody thought he should make – a little film called Psycho. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock makes me think this movie is going to gain a little bit of attention come Oscar time.
RUST & BONE (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A whale trainer who loses her legs in a horrific accident is nursed back to health – physically and spiritually – by a struggling single father. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Looks absolutely enthralling and emotionally powerful; Marion Cotillard may need room on her mantle for another Oscar.

NOVEMBER 28, 2012

BEWARE OF MR. BAKER (SnagFilms/Insurgent) Genre: Music Documentary. Legendary rock drummer Ginger Baker of Cream remembers his success, his excess and his inner wild child. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 A fascinating look at one of rock and roll’s most difficult – and talented – musicians ever.

NOVEMBER 30, 2012

CALIFORNIA SOLO (Strand) Genre: Dramedy. A former Britpop artist turned organic farmer and podcaster faces deportation and must face past demons with his estranged ex-wife and daughter to stay in the U.S. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles.. RATING: 1.3 Looks really, really good and Robert Carlyle is at the top of his game here.
THE COLLECTION (LD Entertainment) Genre: Horror. When a wealthy man’s daughter is kidnapped by a sadistic serial killer and put in a maze of deadly traps and torture, he hires mercenaries who in turn enlist the only man to escape the maze who returns – reluctantly. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Looks kind of like a Saw rip-off – and with the writers of the last four films of that series in charge of this film it’s not surprising.
DRAGON (Radius) Genre: Martial Arts. When a village craftsman saves a shopkeeper from notorious gangsters, the village detective suspects he may be more than who he seems. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Not many martial arts films get a showing at Cannes – this one earned it.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Weinstein) Genre: Crime Comedy. A hit man is called in to investigate the robbery of a mob-protected poker game. Release Strategy: Limited.. RATING: 2.0 Pretty nifty cast includes Brad PItt, Sam Rockwell, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins and Ray Liotta.
KING KELLY (See Think) Genre: Comedy. An aspiring Internet star does webcam stripteases and surfs social networking sites. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.4 Recorded entirely on phone cams, shows a media-obsessed self-absorbed youth culture. Rawr.
TALAASH (Reliance Big Pictures) Genre: Thriller. A cop investigating the drowning death of a popular film star is embroiled with a housewife and a prostitute in a tangled web. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks like it could hang with the best of the Chinese cop dramas.
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (Magnolia) Genre: Science Fiction. After waking up to find his family slaughtered, a family man discovers that he may have more to do with the Universal Soldiers who he believes were involved than he could have thought. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 The last few direct-to-video films in this franchise have been downright awful but this one looks at least somewhat better.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Flight, The Man With the Iron Fists, Miami Connection, This Must Be the Place, Wreck-It Ralph, Skyfall, Lincoln, Life of Pi, Red Dawn, Rise of the Guardians, The Silver Lining Playbook, Killing Them Softly