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?


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.


Seven Psychopaths

Seven Psychopaths

Colin Farrell wants the Shih Tzu but Sam Rockwell just won’t share.

(2012) Black Comedy (CBS) Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, Olga Kurylenko, Zeljko Ivanek, Gabourey Sidibe, Harry Dean Stanton, Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Pitt, Linda Bright Clay, Long Nguyen, Amanda Warren. Directed by Martin McDonagh


Being a writer is tough, and yes, even for the movies. It’s not easy to articulate something from concept to finished screenplay. Sometimes you don’t even begin there – you just have a title and taking it into fruition sometimes can lead to unexpected destinations.

Marty (Farrell) is a screenwriter who is stuck. He’s got a title for his screenplay, “Seven Psychopaths.” He’s got a loose concept – that it’s about seven psychopaths. He’s even got a psychopath to begin with. That just leaves him with six more to go. And a plot. Piece of cake, right?

Yeah right. It’s doubly hard when his girlfriend Kaya (Cornish) is extra-bitchy to him and his best friend Billy Bickle (Rockwell) is getting more loony tunes by the day. Billy and his good friend Hans (Walken) supplement their income by kidnapping dogs from their well-heeled owners and then returning them for the reward money. Hans mostly gives his money to his wife Myra (Clay) who’s in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery.

Things turn even weirder as the psychopaths begin making appearances in Marty’s life. From a serial killer of mob killers known in the press as the Jack of Diamonds to a rabbit-carrying nebbish named Zachariah (Waits) who was after rescuing Maggie (Warren) from a sadistic serial-killing judge went on a killing spree of serial killers before getting tired of the violence and leaving her. He regrets that now, and makes Marty promise to put a message to her during the credits, apologizing and begging her to call.

Billy and Hans kidnap Bonny, an adorable Shih Tzu who happens to be owned by psychotic mobster Charlie (Harrelson) who isn’t too pleased at the kidnapping. He loves that little dog more than anything on Earth and will rain a path of destruction from here to perdition to get her back. He sends his right hand Paulo (Ivanek) out looking for her.

More I will not tell you because you’ll miss some of the nuances of the film that you would lose if you had too much foreknowledge of what is coming. McDonagh, who is a veteran Irish playwright, crafts a movie that is quirky without being snarky about it. Too often in independent movies the quirkiness can come off as smug superiority that we’re so much hipper and smarter than everybody else. That’s the arrogance of youth talking.

Here, the quirkiness is true quirkiness – people who are off-center and okay with marching to their own drummer. These are characters that populate most of McDonagh’s work. Farrell, who was so good in McDonagh’s first film In Bruges is just as terrific here – the two are obviously simpatico as both of Farrell’s performances in McDonagh’s films are among his best.

Marty is a bit neurotic and definitely alcoholic although deeply in denial about the latter. It has led directly to his writer’s block and even though he’s a basically nice guy, he’s a bit of a jerk when he’s been drinking. Farrell gives Marty a bit of Irish blarney and charm, with a whole lot of L.A. jadedness. It’s one of those kinds of characters that is Farrell’s bread and butter and he nails it.

Walken though is the main reason to see this. If I were an Academy voter, I’d be nominating him for Best Supporting Actor. This is one of the best – if not the best – performances of his storied career. Hans has a troubled past and has found God but more importantly, serenity. He has changed profoundly and that shows in the patience he shows Marty and particularly Billy.

Rockwell’s Billy is the catalyst who has secrets of his own. Rockwell is one of the most reliable actors out there, almost always delivering an amazing performance be it comedy, drama or something else. Harrelson is also trustworthy; like Rockwell has amazing versatility but seems to do best in roles that have a black humor to them as his does, a mean black-hearted mobster who’s fallen in love with a tiny little dog.

But then again I can’t blame him there. I have a Shih Tzu of my own whom Bonny resembles uncannily and my feelings toward her are not unlike Charlie’s for Bonny, sometimes to the chagrin of my wife. Shih Tzu’s are a particularly loving an adorable breed and I’m very thankful for mine; if she got dog-napped I’d probably go a little crazy.

But then this is a film about crazy. What is crazy really when life itself is completely whacked out? That’s a good question without an easy answer. For my money, crazy is as crazy does and Seven Psychopaths is not crazy funny (it lags in places) but funny enough to be crazy.

REASONS TO GO: Bonny the Shih Tzu is adorable. Walken and Farrell deliver outstanding performances., backed nicely by Harrelson and Rockwell.

REASONS TO STAY: Some of the film drags. Stretches believability occasionally.

FAMILY VALUES:  There’s a good deal of violence (some of it bloody and graphic), a whole lot of bad language, a bit of sex and nudity as well as a little bit of drug use.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Mickey Rourke was originally cast as Charlie before disagreements with the filmmakers led him to being replaced with Woody Harrelson. During the graveyard scenes the Jack of Diamonds hides behind a grave marked “Rourke.”

CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/2/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 85% positive reviews. Metacritic: 66/100. The reviews are mixed but on the strong side.



NEXT: Mickey Blue Eyes

New Releases for the Week of October 12, 2012

October 12, 2012


(Warner Brothers) Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Kerry Bishe, Kyle Chandler, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber, Zeljko Ivanek, Richard Kind. Directed by Ben Affleck

Most people are aware of the Iranian Hostage Crisis which occurred on November 4, 1979 when Iranian “students” overran the U.S. embassy and took all of the personnel hostage. What isn’t well-known (and only came to light after top secret documents were recently declassified) was that six American embassy workers escaped to the home of the Canadian ambassador. There’s no doubt if they are discovered they will all be killed and in a most unpleasant way. That’s when a CIA operative comes up with a wild plan so bizarre it just might work.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: True Life Drama

Rating: R (for language and some violent images)


(Roadside Attractions) Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Tim Roth. A Wall Street mogul tries to hide the evidence of his sins – an extramarital affair, financial impropriety and a drunk driving accident – while his company is in the middle of a merger that will allow him to retire. However, a bulldog-like detective is on his trail. This was screened this past January as part of the Sundance Across America program (which was in turn part of the Sundance Film Festival) at the Enzian and was reviewed here.

See the trailer, a clip or stream the full movie here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Financial Thriller

Rating: R (for language, brief violent images and drug use)

Atlas Shrugged Part II

(The Strike) Samantha Mathis, Jason Beghe, Esai Morales, Diedrich Bader. With the global economy collapsing, innovators and artists disappearing from sight and the world in the throes of a debilitating energy crisis, a beautiful and resourceful industrialist thinks she may have found the answer – a motor, discovered in the ruins of a once-thriving factory, that could conceivably solve the energy crisis and bring the economy back. However, the motor doesn’t work and there are forces in play that don’t want it to work. The inventor must be found or civilization may very well collapse.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Mystery

Rating: PG-13 (for brief language)

Here Comes the Boom

(Columbia) Kevin James, Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler, Joe Rogan. After his school, faced with massive financial shortfalls is forced to cut all extracurricular activities, a teacher with a background in college wrestling resolves to make up the deficit by earning money in MMA bouts. His determination and devotion to his students ends up inspiring the staff and kids in unexpected ways.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG (for bouts of MMA sports violence, some rude humor and language)

Seven Psychopaths

(CBS) Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson. A group of misfits who make a little extra cash on the side by kidnapping pets and returning them for the reward money pick the wrong Shih Tzu to steal when they kidnap the beloved dog of a vicious mobster. Caught in the middle is their screenwriter friend who needs to figure out a way out of this mess before things get out of control – if they aren’t already. From the writer-director of In Bruges.

See the trailer, a promo and a spoof trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Caper Comedy

Rating: R (for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use)


(Summit) Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Fred Dalton Thompson, Clare Foley. When a novelist and his family move into a new home they discover a cache of old home movies that seem to indicate that the previous owners of the home fell victim to some sort of demon. He soon discovers that seeing is literally believing – and that his own family is now in danger because of it.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Rating: PG-13 (for some disturbing and sexual images)

Four-Warned: October 2012

October 2012

Every 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 (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.

1. CLOUD ATLAS (1.0)
3. ARGO (1.5)
4. TAKEN 2 (1.6)

1. BLACK TULIP (1.1)
3. TAI CHI ZERO (1.4)

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

OCTOBER 1, 2012

FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES IN 3D (SK) Genre: Documentary. Follows the migration of monarch butterflies to their winter homes, an amazing journey that took scientists 40 years to unravel. Release Strategy: Wide (IMAX). RATING: 2.2 Beautifully photographed; might out-do DisneyNature.

OCTOBER 3, 2012

BEL BORBA AQUI (Abramorama) Genre: Documentary. “The People’s Picasso” transforms Salvador, Brazil from a 500 year old typical colonial town to an awe-inspiring art installation. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 Seems curiously affecting from the clips I’ve seen.

OCTOBER 5, 2012

BUTTER (Radius) Genre: Comedy. The wife of the reigning but retired butter-carving champion means to keep the crown in the family, regardless of what it takes. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Looks Coen Brothers funny and with a nifty cast could be a left field dark horse must-see.
DECODING DEEPAK (SnagFilm) Genre: Documentary. The son of Deepak Chopra, a journalist, embarks on a year-long road trip with his father to resolve the spiritual icon the world reveres with the simple man who raised him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 It is ironic that the man we go to answer the question “Who am I” is seen so differently by so many.
FRANKENWEENIE (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. A young boy mourning the loss of his dog determines to bring him back to life with unforeseen consequences. Release Strategy: Wide (3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.9 Tim Burton takes his original black and white stop motion short and creates a 3D feature film out of it.
THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (Abramorama) Genre: Documentary. A look at the abject failure of the War on Drugs and it’s human fallout. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles October 12). RATING: 1.3 “A holocaust in slow motion.” Chilling words; unforgettable documentary from Eugene Jarecki.
THE ORANGES (ATO) Genre: Romantic Comedy. The comfortable suburban existence of a family is shaken up when their daughter, newly returned home after a bad break-up, begins an affair with their married neighbor and best friend. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A cast of Hugh Laurie, Oliver Platt, Alison Janney and Catherine Keener makes this worth a look.
THE PAPERBOY (Millennium) Genre: Thriller. A journalist’s crusade to get an innocent man off of Death Row unlocks a cesspool of mixed motives, sexual tension and lost innocence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Another impressive cast, including Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack, Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron but the trailer didn’t impress me.
SISTER (Adopt) Genre: Drama. A 12-year-old boy living in a housing complex below a Swiss ski resort takes on the provider role for his troubled older sister by turning to a life of crime. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles October 12). RATING: 1.8 Gritty and uncompromising, the trailer looks awfully strong.
SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU (FilmBuff) Genre: Dramedy. The son of a divorced couple chooses to live his life according to his own rules and to nobody’s preconceptions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Precocious kid movie doesn’t really look too different than all the others like it.
TAKEN 2 (20th Century Fox) Genre: Action. The father (with a particular set of skills) of a former kidnap victim takes on the father of one of the kidnappers he killed. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Liam Neeson may well be the best action hero going at the moment.
V/H/S (Magnet) Genre: Horror. Criminals hired to retrieve a videotape discover a whole stack of them and must find the right one – and each one is stranger and more horrifying than the last. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Could well be the best horror movie this Halloween season.
WINNIE (D Films) Genre: Biographical Drama. The life and times of Winnie Mandela. Release Strategy: Canada. RATING: 2.0 A powerful look at the wife of one of the most revered figures of our time, who underwent suffering at least as equal to his own.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Drama. A young ward becomes enamored by the daughter of the farmer who took him in. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Another pass at the classic Emily Bronte novel.

OCTOBER 8, 2012

IN MY MOTHER’S ARMS (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. An orphanage in a rough Baghdad neighborhood is given two weeks to vacate the premises. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.0 Footage I’ve seen looks disjointed; with a better trailer I’d have much more interest in this.

OCTOBER 12, 2012

3,2,1…FRANKIE GO BOOM (Variance) Genre: Comedy. A put-upon sibling hopes that rehab will keep his brother from humiliating him on camera; unfortunately, that ain’t happening. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Trailer wasn’t really impressive.
A WHISPER TO A ROAR (Appleseed) Genre: Documentary. Chronicles the struggles of pro-democracy advocates from five different nations – Egypt, Malaysia, Venezuela, Ukraine, Zimbabwe – and their clashes with often totalitarian regimes. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks very compelling at grassroots activism bringing change, something perhaps our own country should experience.
ARGO (Warner Brothers) Genre: True Life Drama. The State Department tries to rescue six stray embassy employees during the Iranian hostage crisis and comes up with a unique plan to get them out. Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Ben Affleck’s follow-up to The Town looks to be his best yet.
ATLAS SHRUGGED PART II (Strike Productions) Genre: Drama. On the eve of complete global economic collapse, industrialists race to find the secret of a motor that could be the salvation of the planet but not everyone wants the planet saved. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 4.0 The first part was amateurish and its politics were offensive to me.
GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 (Self-Released) Genre: Horror. A film student sets out to prove the footage from the first movie was not fake but real; be careful what you wish for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 The first film (review coming soon) was an underrated little creepfest that too me by surprise; from the looks of things this isn’t quite as good but still pretty damn scary.
HERE COMES THE BOOM (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. A teacher takes it upon himself to raise a $40,000 budget shortfall for his school by competing in Mixed Martial Arts matches. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Kevin James is as likable as they come and even though this looks fairly low-brow the trailer has some funny moments.
LEAST AMONG SAINTS (Brainstorm) Genre: Drama. A combat vet returning home to an uncertain life decides to aid a troubled 10-year-old neighbor boy find his father. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Looks a bit over-the-top sentimental with an abundance of dialogue clichés.
MIDDLE OF NOWHERE (AFFRM) Genre: Urban Drama. When a brilliant med student’s husband is incarcerated, she puts her life and career on hold, only to find a greater realization is in store for her. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.4 Big winner at this year’s Sundance looks plenty powerful from the trailer.
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (CBS) Genre: Comedy. After a couple of misfits kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu, a screenwriter gets caught in the crossfire. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 From the writer-director of In Bruges.
SIMON AND THE OAKS (FilmArcade) Genre: Drama. A young working class man in Sweden gets sent to an elite school where he becomes involved with a Jewish family on the eve of World War II. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.6 Beautifully shot and well-acted, the trailer looks amazing.
SINISTER (Summit) Genre: Horror. When a crime novelist finds a series of home movies in his new home he inadvertently releases an ancient demon that preys on children. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 This could well be the scariest movie of the Halloween horror season.
SMASHED (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A young couple who like to have a good time begin to spiral into alcoholism with devastating effects on their lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks like it could be a performance that establishes Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an Oscar-worthy actress.
SMILEY (Fever) Genre: Horror. An emotionally fragile woman believes she has summoned a serial killer through the Internet. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks like it has the elements of a typical slasher flick with a supernatural-psychological twist.
SPECIAL FORCES (EntertainmentOne) Genre: War. A special forces unit is dispatched to rescue a beautiful war correspondent who has been kidnapped by the Taliban and marked for execution. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Looks kind of typical for a Gulf War action movie.
SPLIT: A DEEPER DIVIDE (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. Examines the deep political division of the United States and how it got that way. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.9 For once a tag line is dead on – should be required viewing before the elections.
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.

OCTOBER 17, 2012

HOLY MOTORS (Indomina) Genre: Fantasy. A man travels around Paris for a series of appointments, transforming into different characters for each encounter. Release Strategy: New York City (expands November 9). RATING: 2.8 Not sure if this is an art film, a melancholy drama, a romance, science fiction or a little bit of all of them.

OCTOBER 19, 2012

ALEX CROSS (Summit) Genre: Thriller. The detective/psychologist from the James Patterson bestsellers takes on a brutal serial murderer who wants to make things personal. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 I’m intrigued to find out how Tyler Perry does in a movie that isn’t directed by him.
BIGFOOT: THE LOST COAST TAPES (XLRator) Genre: Horror. A disgraced journalist tries to prove that a Bigfoot hunter’s claim that he has the corpse of a sasquatch is a hoax. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The trailer looks kinda cheesy.
THE FIRST TIME (Goldwyn) Genre: Teen Romance. Two teens – one pining for a girl he can’t have, another stuck with a boyfriend who takes her for granted – meet at a party and over the course of a weekend discovers what love truly is. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 The angst just kind of drips off of the trailer.
NOBODY WALKS (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. A New York art student moves into the pool house of a laid-back open-minded L.A. family which will have unanticipated consequences. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Unusually sensual for an American film.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 (Paramount) Genre: Supernatural Horror. A continuation of the events of Paranormal Activity 2. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 Could be the scariest entry in the franchise if the second trailer is any indication.
THE SESSIONS (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Drama. A man confined to an iron lung engages a sex therapist (with the blessing of his priest) to help him lose his virginity. Release Strategy: Limited.. RATING: 1.7 Based on a true story; with John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy the cast is rock solid.
TAI CHI ZERO (Well Go USA) Genre: Fantasy. A Chinese village where everyone is a martial arts master must rely on a stranger to save them when an evil master resolves to build a railroad through their peaceful town. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 One of the most amusingly self-aware trailers it’s been my pleasure to see.
THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID (Phase 4) Genre: Comedy. Three women of wildly varying personalities go out on the town in New York City for a night they’ll never forget. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Nothing in the trailer convinced me that this would be anything but the latest capitalization on female-oriented raunchy sex comedies.
YOGAWOMAN (Shadow Distribution) Genre: Documentary. A look at the rising popularity of yoga among American women and the profound effects on their lives and relationships. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles October 26). RATING: 3.5 Seems a little New Age-y and preachy.

OCTOBER 26, 2012

BLACK TULIP (SnagFilms) Genre: Drama. A family opening up a restaurant with regular poetry readings in post-Taliban Afghanistan must struggle to maintain their way of life in the face of opposition from lingering extremists. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.1 The official Oscar submission for Afghanistan in the 2011 Foreign Film division, a powerful and moving trailer marks this film as a tribute to the human spirit in the face of adversity.
CHASING MAVERICKS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Biographical Drama. A young California boy is taken under the wing of a legendary surfer, only to become a legend himself. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Surfer movies have rarely done it for me.
CLOUD ATLAS (Warner Brothers) Genre: Science Fiction. The effects of a single act of kindness in the past reverberate through the present and into the future, inspiring a revolution. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.0 Co-directed by visionary directors Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis, this looks like the movie to see this month.
FUN SIZE (Paramount) Genre: Comedy. A high school senior, forced to babysit her brother rather than go to the Halloween party of the year loses him while trick or treating and enlists friends to find hi before her mom finds out he’s gone. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 Ecch. Won’t be as good as Adventures in Babysitting and might just be as bad as The Sitter.
THE LONELIEST PLANET (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. A couple, hiking in the remote Caucasus mountains of Eastern Europe find their relationship and lives in jeopardy after a momentary lapse changes the way they look at each other and degrades their trust. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 The trailer just quietly stays with you for a good long time.
LONG SHOT: THE KEVIN LAUE STORY (Dutchmen) Genre: Documentary. A young man aims to be the first one-armed person to play NCAA Division I basketball. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.3 A true underdog story.
THE OTHER SON (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. Two young men – one Palestinian, one Israeli, discover that they were switched at birth. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 While the plot isn’t new, the trailer suggests that the movie is well-crafted and well-written.
PUSHER (Radius) Genre: Crime Drama. A drug dealer runs afoul of a crime lord after botching a drug deal. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Based on the film trilogy by Nicholas Wining Refn.
SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D (Open Road) Genre: Supernatural Horror. A young woman with a deep connection to the cursed town must rescue her father from its clutches. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.7 The first film was maybe the best videogame adaptation ever.
SLEEP TIGHT (MPI/Dark Sky) Genre: Horror. The doorman for a Barcelona apartment becomes obsessed with making people unhappy, leading to escalating violence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The trailer looks suitably creepy.

Frankenweenie, Taken 2, Argo, Here Comes the Boom, Seven Psychopaths, Alex Cross, Chasing Mavericks, Cloud Atlas