Soderbergh dropped this little ass-kicker back in January to little notice, but those who “got” his approach to action cinema were able to relish the chaos. A few of 2012’s better fight sequences, which almost cinch the deal, really pepper a fun, small-scale spy tale whose complicated proceedings are just an excuse to get to more of the beatdowns. That’s typically a major problem with the genre, yet when all of it, punch or no punch, has a bang-up cast — comprised of Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, and a surprising debut from Gina Carano — tight editing, and some jazzy music, that’s not so bad. — Nick N.
The most twisty-and-turny, exciting film of the year thus far, Morten Tyldum’s thriller contains the best cat (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and mouse (Aksel Hennie) in recent memory. Good enough that Mark Wahlberg voiced his want to remake the film, only to get cast in Tyldum’s follow-up feature. – Dan M.
The Kid with a Bike
The Dardenne Brothers have a unique brand of filmmaking, usually focusing on the social issues of their home country Belgium, that have made them one of the most well respected and revered pair of auteurs working today. In their latest heart-wrenching tale, 12-year-old Cyril, played by newcomer Thomas Doret, has been abandoned by his father into a foster home without his precious red bike. After escaping to retrieve his bike, he finds refuge in a young woman Samantha, played by famous French actress Cécile de France, who is compelled to find and return his bike, which had been sold by his broke father for money. The emotional contrast between Cyril and Samantha defines the film and exemplifies the kind of cinematic power that the brothers Dardenne wield. – Raffi A.
This William Friedkin–Tracy Letts collaboration — their second, following the distinguished, distrubing Bug — is, simply put, my idea of a good time, consisting of two intelligent, established storytellers doing all they can to spice up material that could have easily be dismissed in less capable hands. Through the toxically cryptic, almost spiritual backbone of the film’s central romance — between Matthew McConaughey’s darkly charismatic titular lawman and Juno Temple’s airily innocent Smith-family virgin — Killer Joe becomes something smarter, dirtier, and more abrasively absorbing than it probably has any right to be. It’s damn funny, too. – Danny K.
A nightmare come to life in everything from plot to specific editing techniques, Ben Wheatley’s Kill List frustrates as much as it intrigues, right down to the startling finale. While not necessarily as complex as it may seem while viewing, this is one film that’s difficult to shake off. It’s also exciting to see Wheatley take off, with his Edgar Wright-produced Sightseers landing in festivals this year as well. – Jordan R.
While summer was a hotbed for major studio comedies, this foreign import hit our subversive funny bone better than any other option. This Danish drama, following a canoe trip and much, much more, certainly earns its R-rating, hitting about every dark area of comedy that others fear to head into. Uncomfortable, awkward and hilarious, this one will stick with you for awhile. – Jordan R.
One of the most harrowing tragedies that can happen to any family is dealing with a missing child. But what if suddenly a call arrives from a foreign country, claiming to have the missing person in their possession. How would that family react? Such is the focus of director Bart Layton’s The Imposter, a fascinating documentary that straddles the line between real life drama and a film noir narrative. There is a slight reality TV quality to the drama that may cheapen the experience for some, but the taught direction elevates the material into a realm of compelling cinema, making it one of the most intriguing documentaries of the year. – Raffi A.
Indie Game: The Movie
First-time filmmaking duo Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky do a remarkable job of capturing the tireless passion and endless hours of coding that goes into making an independent video game. This new breed of struggling artists who refuse to compromise on their personalized creative visions reflects the same ambition of independent filmmakers trying to make a mark with their film. Beautifully shot and superbly edited, Indie Game: The Movie is a fascinating window into the hard work and dedication needed to fulfill one’s dream, no matter what the medium. – Raffi A.
The Island President
While many of the summer blockbusters feature world-saving plots, the stakes cannot get any higher than those in this documentary, which features Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed fighting for his life, literally. As captured with fierce precision by Jon Shenk, Nasheed’s country is the lowest lying on the globe and in the fear of disappearing completely. We’re are right by his side, crying out to governments to make a vital change. Add in a handful of tunes from Radiohead and it’s near the top of the list when it comes to enthralling documentaries. – Jordan R.
It’s exactly what you want this sort of movie to be: thrilling, funny, atmospheric, well-shot, a little sexy and not without a brain in its moonshine-filled head. John Hillcoat really knows how to use his cast, playing on each actor’s respective strengths through every interaction; no one is wasted here, but an incredible Guy Pearce steals the show. A blast from top to bottom. – Nick N.
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