Foxcatcher

dir. Bennett Miller, 2014

While it’s true that the cool, calculated (and yeah, I’ll say it, sometimes glacial) pacing does wonders to set the mood and ratchet up the tension, what makes this flick really worth seeing for the trio of stupid-good performances by Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum (who is REALLY Good in this, not just “Channing Tatum Good”), and Steve Holy-Hell-I-Didn’t-Know-He-Had-It-In-Him Carell, who plays John E. DuPont as a man who, at the end of the day, just wants his Mom to think he’s worth something.

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The Theory of Everything

dir. James Marsh, 2014

While this biopic of Stephen Hawking (and, in a surprising twist, his wife Jane) is tender and quietly heartbreaking and lacking in any pretension, it is impossible to walk away from this film thinking about much else than Eddie Redmayne, whose impeccable resemblance to the iconic physicist is outdone only by his stunning performance, one that is likely more transformational than any other put to celluloid this year and involves a sequence where a pen falling to the floor had my jaw doing the same thing.

REC 3: Genesis

dir. Paco Plaza, 2012

I say without hesitation that the first two REC films are two of the scariest and most well-crafted horror films I’ve ever seen, making this third installment all the more painful to watch, with Plaza passing on the opportunity to build the mythos and instead turning this threequel into a parody of the two films that came before it, resulting in a funny (the-director-knows-how-clever-he’s-being) zombie-thriller that could have stood on its own just fine but, when unnecessarily attached to this franchise, instead points a finger and laughs at the two (much better) pics it shares a trilogy with.

The Evil Dead

dir. Sam Raimi, 1981

After committing myself to watching this without paying any regard to the cult classic aura that has surrounded this low budget horror flick over the years and preparing myself for a film that was probably going to be annoyingly self-aware and intentionally over-acted, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were some legitimate scares in the final act, accompanied by some genuinely nasty yet well-executed special effects.

The People vs. George Lucas

dir. Alexandre O. Philippe, 2010

This is a remarkably fair and balanced documentary that centers around the love-hate relationship that audiences have with filmmaker George Lucas: love because of the immeasurable amount of influence that his creations (particularly a little indie franchise called “Star Wars”) have had on the lives of people across the world and across generations, and hate because of his nauseating tendency to fumble with and crap on the very phenomenons that he himself created.

Compliance

dir. Craig Zobel, 2012

If someone had told me that one of the most provocative films of 2012 was set in a fast food restaurant called ChickWich, I would’ve cried “Bull!,” but this shocking-how-true-it-is true story is by turns thrilling and upsetting, with a perfectly naturalistic cast led by Ann “I’m Game for Whatever Her Next Project Is” Dowd.

Chasing Amy

dir. Kevin Smith, 1997

Here is a cult classic that lives up to its reputation, a romantic comedy unlike any that came before it, and a film that pitches itself as a classic Smith-style raunch-fest, only to slowly peel back its layers and reveal itself as a smart, mature examination of sexuality, morality, male camaraderie, love versus infatuation, artistic integrity, and the double standards involved in all of the above.

House of Cards – Episode 13 – “Chapter Thirteen”

In a solid finale that includes an investigation that connects the previously-drawn dots so well that it made me miss AMC’s “Rubicon,” we are left with a plethora of loose ends, which is fantastic as a means of driving up anticipation for the inevitable (given the show’s success) second season but is pretty disappointing for anyone who hoped that the first season might possess certain standalone qualities.

House of Cards – Episode 12 – “Chapter Twelve”

In the wake of Episode 11’s tragedy, Francis Underwood seeks to lay the groundwork for his future, and his lack of awareness concerning Zoe and Janine’s digging into the past illustrates that Beau Willimon and his writing team clearly planned things out, making this a compelling if tonally-odd penultimate installment.

House of Cards – Episode 11 – “Chapter Eleven”

I was quickly growing tired of several of this show’s subplots – the Adam-Claire affair, the sexual and pseudo-sexual mind games between Francis and Zoe – but a major twist in the last ten minutes is sure to redefine the entire series going forward and, as a sequence in the final act indicates, the ripple effect of this development will impact the lives of all of the show’s characters in varying degrees, as we’re left to wonder who knows what, how much they know, and where that knowledge will take them.