For those wanting to find the best previously undiscovered movie of 2012:
#1 Anna Karenina
A beautiful production that transforms Anna Karenina into a modern woman.
|Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats; the play is about to begin. And thus, with the curtains drawn back, the ingenuity, creativity and brilliance of Joe Wright's “Anna Karenina” begins. By taking it out of an unforgiving landscape and placing it inside a theatre to unfold on an infinite stage, but keeping it in 1870s Russia, we have a true-to-source story that can be adapted for our modern enjoyment.||2012 |
Directed by: Joe Wright
Screenplay by: Tom Stoppard
Based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy
Starring: Keira Knightley, and Jude Law
|See full review of Anna Karenina|
#2 Friends with Kids
Authenticity and maturity to a dramatic romantic comedy.
|“Friends with Kids” is the long-awaited third feature written by, directed by, produced by and starring Jennifer Westfeldt. 10 years ago she came out with the charming, witty and somewhat original romantic comedy “Kissing Jessica Stein” and then 5 years later followed that up with the charming, witty and somewhat original romantic comedy “Ira & Abby”. I loved all three.||2011|
Directed by: Jennifer Westfeldt
Screenplay by: Jennifer Westfeldt
Starring: Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt and Maya Rudolph
|See full review of Friends with Kids|
Character study boldly blurring the lines of life, happiness and right and wrong.
|Beginning Awards Season with a crash (in a good way), “Flight” eschews the general desire to turn a plane crash into either a dramatic sob-fest or a suspenseful thriller. What we have here is a character study, plain and simple. It doesn’t cower under the idea that your lead character needs to be sympathetic. He’s not. It’s dramatic but it’s also ambiguous without ever purposely leading the audience astray. I can’t say the same about the trailer.||2012 |
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Screenplay by: John Gatins
Starring: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly and Don Cheadle
|See full review of Flight|
#4 Django Unchained
Django’s story of revenge, romance and redemption.
|It’s time to take a step backwards – for humanity that is, not for anybody involved in the making of “Django Unchained”. Quentin Tarantino’s newest film is an homage to spaghetti westerns including “Django” (1966), but it’s a masterpiece all on its own and one does not need to have seen or even have an interest in the Western and Samurai films that came before it. This is how you tell the story of a slave.||2012 |
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson
|See full review of Django Unchained|
#5 Take This Waltz
A marriage and its possible demise as seen from three artfully crafted characters.
|“Take This Waltz” is a relationship drama, a romantic comedy, or a character study, depending on how you look at it. It's about marriage; it's about the individuals in a marriage; it's about the individuals involved in the destruction of a marriage; and it's about one individual in particular. It's funny, sad, and revealing. It's heartbreakingly hilarious, conflictingly optimistic and pessimistic, and perfectly Canadian.||2011|
Directed by: Sarah Polley
Screenplay by: Sarah Polley
Starring: Michelle Williams, Luke Kirby and Seth Rogen
|See full review of Take This Waltz|
Marriage of history and entertainment as Argo becomes a run-away hit.
|“Argo” starts with the history of the Iran hostage crisis of 1979 when Islamist students and militants stormed the American Embassy in Tehran and 6 American diplomats escaped with their lives and found temporary salvation in the home of the Canadian Ambassador. It was enough history to educate us but not too much to lose viewer’s interest. Like most stories, things start getting entertaining when the film moves to Hollywood.||2012 |
Directed by: Ben Affleck
Screenplay by: Chris Terrio
Based on an article and book.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston
|See full review of Argo|
#7 Silver Linings Playbook
Showing us the silver linings of life with funny, entertaining and inspirational results.
|Pat (Bradley Cooper) has just been signed out of the Karel Psychiatric Facility by his mother in Baltimore, Maryland after an 8-month court-ordered stint from bipolar disorder with mood swings. But it’s okay, he’s good now (at least he insists that he is). He has a plan for his life — his “Silver Linings Playbook”. He thinks he just has to get in shape, read Nikki’s entire high school syllabus, get his job back, and then he’ll get back together with his ex-wife.||2012 |
Directed by: David O. Russell
Screenplay by: David O. Russell
Based on the novel by Matthew Quick
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence and Jacki Weaver
|See full review of Silver Linings Playbook|
#8 To Rome with Love
All of your heart's fantasies played out in Rome with love, celebrities, death and opera.
|“To Rome with Love” is a fantasy film; a comedy about people living out their fantasies. The great thing about it is that it’s subtle enough that you don’t recognize the fantasy element in all of the relationships until later on in the film. The obvious one is when native Roman, Leopoldo Pisanello (Roberto Benigni), becomes a celebrity over night. “It’s better to be a celebrity than an unknown.” And as Benigni shows, way funnier too.||2012 |
Directed by: Woody Allen
Screenplay by: Woody Allen
Starring: Roberto Benigni, Alison Pill, Woody Allen and Jesse Eisenberg
|See full review of To Rome with Love|
#9 The Diary of Preston Plummer
Preston falls in love, Kate falls apart, and the Universe expands as it always does.
|Preston Plummer (Trevor Morgan) is graduating from university with the feeling of never really having loved anything. At a party he meets a girl who wants him to drive her home. Not just college home, but home, home – in another state. She needs to go home and he needs an adventure which he never got to experience. “The Diary of Preston Plummer” is about the long journey home — physically, emotionally and spiritually.||2012|
Directed by: Sean Ackerman
Screenplay by: Sean Ackerman
Starring: Trevor Morgan, Rumer Willis
|See full review of The Diary of Preston Plummer|
#10 A Royal Affair
Love, power and enlightenment in the Royal Court of Denmark.
|A young princess, Caroline Matilda (Alicia Vikander), lived an affluent lifestyle in 1760s England and at age 15 she was shipped off to Denmark to marry King Christian VII (Mikkel Folsgaard). Christian was mentally ill and Caroline did not know. Upon arrival at the castle in Copenhagen, it wasn’t long before she understood his mental state. He took to her with force, spoke bluntly and rudely and acted like a child. As soon as Caroline conceived a son, she retreated internally.||2012 |
Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
Screenplay by: Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Mads Mikkelsen and Mikkel Folsgaard
|See full review of A Royal Affair|
#11 Killer Joe
Perverted maturity and twisted humour take us through Texas and the chillingly evil plot.
|A dirt road at night in Texas; the sky is dark blue, pitch black, and a streak of lightning flashes across the sky. A clunker of a car rumbles down the road and turns into a trailer park. An under-fed dog, chained out front, barks his head off, and Chris (Emile Hirsch) is banging on the door in the pouring rain, demanding Dottie to let him in. Dottie (Juno Temple) is pretending to sleep, a desire to be innocent keeping her in bed.||2011 |
Directed by: William Friedkin
Screenplay by: Tracy Letts
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Juno Temple, and Emile Hirsch
|See full review of Killer Joe|
#12 The Master
Destructive forces taking us on an historical ride through the allure of cults.
|Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a sexually-frustrated World War II Navy vet who struggles to find his place in the world when he returns to America. He excels at mixing highly-toxic liquids into consumable alcoholic concoctions and seducing women, but neither are self-fulfilling careers. Then he meets The Master, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a charismatic cult leader perfecting his writing and theories.||2012 |
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Screenplay by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams
|See full review of The Master|
#13 Life of Pi
Telling a life story with imagination and visual entertainment.
|“Life of Pi” is better than “this year’s ‘Hugo’”. It has a story. A simple story but a global one that pulls you in and then lets you marvel at the epic cinematography and impressive visuals. Pi (Irfan Khan), as a middle-aged man, retells the story of how he became the man he is today, and how he got the name “Pi”. He was named after a swimming pool in Paris, the Piscine Molitar. This has brought him both grief and happiness.||2012 |
Directed by: Ang Lee
Screenplay by: David Magee
Based on the novel by Yann Martel
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irfan Khan and Rafe Spall
|See full review of Life of Pi|
#14 Moonrise Kingdom
Young, yellow love finding happiness in the world of Wes Anderson.
|Like all Wes Anderson films, “Moonrise Kingdom” has its own specific colour palette. This time it’s yellow. Yellow can symbolize wisdom, joy and happiness but also the conflicting traits of cowardice, loneliness and deceit. All of which can be found in the characters that inhabit this world. “Moonrise Kingdom” takes place in the 1960s on a remote island of New England, but I’m pretty sure it’s set in a time and place that doesn’t exist and never has.||2012|
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Screenplay by: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Haywood, and Bruce Willis
|See full review of Moonrise Kingdom|
#15 Seven Psychopaths
Finding the middle ground between comedy, violence and psychopaths.
|Depending on how you count, there really are seven psychopaths. Also depending on how you count, there could be more, which is a good thing because Marty – the lead character played by Colin Farrell not the screenwriter Martin McDonagh – can use as many as he can find. Marty (Colin Farrell) is an alcoholic Irish screenwriter suffering from writer’s block since Hollywood’s needs and his ideals do not match up at all.||2012 |
Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Screenplay by: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken
|See full review of Seven Psychopaths|
True crime comedy, Texas-style.
|Going into “Bernie”, I only knew that it was a dark comedy, and it was exactly what I wanted. Writer and director Richard Linklater has decided to master another sub-comedy genre, this time mixing in true crime and documentary. Grab your cowboy hats, belt buckles, and King James Bible because we are off to Carthage, Texas for a story about funerals, murder and homosexuality.||2011 |
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Screenplay by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey
|See full review of Bernie|
#17 The Paperboy
In southern Florida where a racial murder case turns into a coming-of-age character study.
|“The Paperboy” has received some harsh criticism, not just divisive but mostly negative reviews. I’m happy to provide an opposite perspective but it is worth mentioning that most critiques seem to come from a superficial point-of-view. Anita (Macy Gray) as the narrator takes us down to small town life in Florida in the late 1960s where she worked as a maid for the white, upper class Jansen family. Nothing is as it seems.||2012 |
Directed by: Lee Daniels
Screenplay by: Lee Daniels, Peter Dexter
Based on the novel by Peter Dexter
Starring: Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, and Nicole Kidman
|See full review of The Paperboy|
Characters who step out of their relationship and into real life.
|The opening scene of “Newlyweds” looks like it could have come out of any Woody Allen movie (or “Husbands and Wives” to be more specific). Two couples are sitting in a restaurant discussing the various ins and outs of married life. And then they turn to the camera and start saying what they really think. The editing from typical romantic dramedy-styled scenes to documentary-styled scenes is where the comedy comes in.||2011|
Directed by: Edward Burns
Screenplay by: Edward Burns
Starring: Edward Burns, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Kerry Bishé
|See full review of Newlyweds|
#19 Jesus Henry Christ
Eccentricity and precociousness put to the paternal test with hilarious results.
|“Jesus Henry Christ” is a quirky indie comedy with a genetics, homosexuality and heresy bent. It starts off with heavy ‘70s-influenced comedy which you just have to hustle through to get to the heart of the story. The plot might seem a bit eccentric, but that is probably necessary if the comedy is going to be actually funny. Henry is a genius test-tube baby. He might be a freak but his mother (Toni Collette) wants to raise him normally.||2012 |
Directed by: Dennis Lee
Screenplay by: Dennis Lee
Starring: Jason Spevack, Toni Collette, Samantha Weinstein and Michael Sheen
|See full review of Jesus Henry Christ|
Undertones of mental illness, religion and politics take Virginia to interesting places.
|Virginia (Jennifer Connelly) is one seriously disturbed woman. One possible look at it is that she was screwed over by having an affair with an aspiring Senator, Dick Tipton (Ed Harris), who left her pregnant and alone to raise her son as a single mother. “Virginia” has a number of storylines, some in present time, some in flashbacks, but all resulting from the affair between Virginia and Sheriff Tipton.||2010 |
Directed by: Dustin Lance Black
Screenplay by: Dustin Lance Black
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris
|See full review of Virginia|
#21 Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
|A rich sheik has decided that he would like to bring the faith and sport of fly-fishing to Yemen. British fisheries expert, Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), thinks it’s a joke. But the PM likes the idea of positive Anglo-Yemeni cooperation and the 2 million potential voters who fish. Dr. Jones still thinks it’s a joke. The sheik transfers $50 Million over to his consultant’s firm, and thus the project begins.||2011|
Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Screenplay by: Simon Beaufoy
Based on the novel by Paul Torday
Starring: Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt
|See full review of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen|
#22 Janie Jones
A subtle father-daughter story told with quiet undertones.
|Janie Jones (Abigail Breslin), a 13 year-old girl is with her mother and they are off to meet her father. Except her mother (Elisabeth Shue) is a whore-like drug- addicted loser who’s abandoning her daughter. And her father (Alessandro Nivola) is a fading rock-and-roll star who has no idea he has a daughter, let alone any intention of being a father to one. “Janie Jones” the film and each of the characters pick all the right notes.||2010 (with 2012 DVD release)|
Directed by: David M. Rosenthal
Screenplay by: David M. Rosenthal
Starring: Abigail Breslin and Alessandro Nivola
|See full review of Janie Jones|
Intelligence of a character study and the intrigue of a thriller.
|In “Arbitrage”, Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is a rich, successful business man and family man. Except he’s not as perfect as he seems. He’s involving his business in illegal fraudulent activities and he has a mistress on the side. While everyone is singing his praises at his 60th birthday party, and news journalists want to do reports on how smart, business-savvy and successful he is, Julie (Laetitia Casta) is complaining that he isn’t with her when she wants him to be.||2012 |
Directed by: Nicholas Jarecki
Screenplay by: Nicholas Jarecki
Starring: Richard Gere, Brit Marling, and Susan Sarandon
|See full review of Arbitrage|
#24 Zero Dark Thirty
An interesting thriller told from the perspectives of unknown characters.
|“Zero Dark Thirty” is the ten-year long hunt for Osama bin Laden. There are a number of issues with the film, but minor issues, all stemming from the fact that this is 10 years edited down to three hours based on real people whom we really don’t know. I wouldn’t know how to tell that story either and that realization makes it much easier to appreciate the film at hand.||2012 |
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Screenplay by: Mark Boal
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke
|See full review of Zero Dark Thirty|
#25 Stuck Between Stations
A relationship drama about the characters and what they have to say.
|Not too often do small, indie, unknown films come along and engage you with dialogue, only dialogue. That’s what makes “Stuck Between Stations” such a good movie. There isn’t really a story as it just meanders along with two semi- directionless people on one night with parties and conversations. The trailer suggested there was a mysterious element, but none to be found. Rebecca and Casper connect and reconnect and we connect with them on a very meaningful and personal level.||2011|
Directed by: Brady Kiernan
Screenplay by: Sam Rosen, Nat Bennett
Starring: Zoe Lister Jones, Sam Rosen and Josh Hartnett
|See full review of Stuck Between Stations|
#26 Hyde Park on Hudson
Through one affair, one perfect friendship is formed at the beautiful Hyde Park on Hudson.
|In 1939, King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) made the trek across the ocean to visit American President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) at “Hyde Park on Hudson”. It was the first trip of its kind and tensions were high. First Lady Eleanor and Mother Roosevelt expected perfection, and the Queen (the eventual Queen Mother) also expected perfection. Roosevelt was in no shape to deliver perfection.||2012 |
Directed by: Roger Michell
Screenplay by: Richard Nelson
Starring: Laura Linney, Bill Murray, Samuel West and Olivia Colman
|See full review of Hyde Park on Hudson|
#27 God Bless America
Hilarious cynicism so accurate and extreme that no target is left alive.
|Frank (Joel Murray) hates his neighbours. He thinks they are rude, inconsiderate, selfish buffoons who lack any comprehension of how their actions may affect other people. Frank wants to kill them, especially the crying baby. Frank hates his co-workers. He thinks they are celebrity-obsessed morons who no longer have any real thoughts of their own and just regurgitate everything they hear on the TV and radio. He would want to kill them too except he just got fired.||2011 |
Directed by: Bobcat Goldthwait
Screenplay by: Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr
|See full review of God Bless America|
#28 Rid of Me
A bleak character study encompassing the best and discomfort of a dark comedy.
|Advertised as a black comedy, and that’s all, “Rid of Me” suggests that there is an event or plot twist that should not be revealed. And indeed it does open with an obscene, aberrant action which most people have the little bit of self-restraint required to never perform such an act. Following that opening sequence, the film reveals two subtle twists which show how unique and independent this is.||2011|
Directed by: James Westby
Screenplay by: James Westby
Starring: Katie O'Grady
|See full review of Rid of Me|
#29 Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Lazy and incompetent, Jeff is actually one of the better comedic characters of the genre.
|Jeff (Jason Segel) approaching 30 still lives at home. That’s because he’s lazy, indolent and incompetent. However, just a few more viewings of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs” and he might be on to something. You see, Jeff is looking for his life’s mission, he’s looking for a sign. Once he finds it, he might move out of his mother’s house. Maybe. “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” introduces us to one of the best characters of the genre.||2011 |
Directed by: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Screenplay by: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Starring: Jason Segel and Ed Helms
|See full review of Jeff, Who Lives at Home|
#30 Pitch Perfect
Romance to cheer for, low-grade comedy, but musical numbers both predictable and perfect.
|“Pitch Perfect” is kind of like taking “Glee” and putting it into a college environment, but is more like mixing the popularity of “Bridesmaids”-styled humour and the popularity of a cappella singing. The Barden Bellas are a struggling all-girl singing group trying to succeed with old-school female pop songs and bikini bodies, but after an on-stage meltdown, the team is left with two high-strung seniors and is forced to rebuild.||2012 |
Directed by: Jason Moore
Screenplay by: Kay Cannon
Based on the novel by Mickey Rapkin
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, and Rebel Wilson
|See full review of Pitch Perfect|