Greatest Films of the 2010s
Greatest Films of the 2010s

Greatest Films of the 2010s
2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019


Academy Awards for 2012 Films
Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

Amour (2012, Fr.), 127 minutes, D: Michael Haneke
Writer/director Michael Haneke's grim and raw French-language romance drama told of the emotionally-complex difficulties of aging for an octogenarian couple when one of them suffered a debilitating stroke. In the story (told in flashback), elderly Georges and Anne (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) were presented as retired classical-music teachers who lived together in a Paris apartment. Their daughter Eve ((Isabelle Huppert), also a musician, lived in Britain with her family, and often toured throughout Europe. One day over breakfast, Anne suffered a silent but severe stroke that made her catatonic. After surgery in the hospital to repair a blocked carotid artery, Anne was left paralyzed on her right side and confined to a wheelchair. Her devoted and dutiful husband declared that he was committed to becoming Anne's full-time caretaker at home, and refused to send her to a hospital or to a long-term care nursing home. On one occasion, he was distressed when she became suicidal. After a second stroke, Anne underwent a steep decline in both her mental and physical capacities and was unable to communicate in her demented state. The stresses and strains on the very-valiant Georges were becoming evident during his formidable and challenging task, even though he was assisted by a nurse three days a week. Eventually, the agonized Georges impulsively smothered Anne with a pillow. He prepared her corpse on a bed, adorned with cut flowers.

Argo (2012), 120 minutes, D: Ben Affleck
Director/actor Ben Affleck's tense political thriller and historical docu-drama, a Best Picture-winning film, told about a secret rescue mission (known as "The Canadian Caper") that occurred during the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis. Its story was based upon two sources: CIA agent Tony Mendez's 1999 book The Master of Disguise, and by Joshuah Bearman's 2007 Wired magazine article, "The Great Escape: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran." The historical background of the film involved the November, 1979 militant Iranian assault on the US Embassy in Tehran where 66 American Embassy staff members were taken hostage. However, during the siege, six of the hostages escaped and sought refuge in Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor's (Victor Garber) home. Consultant and CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) devised a secret and daring rescue mission. With the cooperation of two film-industry veterans in Hollywood, film producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman), they concocted a fake film production and film studio (Studio 6) as a cover story. Mendez would serve as the film's Canadian producer, and the film would be heavily advertised. The incredulous, deceptive, and clandestine idea of "exfiltration" was for Mendez (with the alias name of Kevin Harkins) to scout desert locations in Iran for the fictitious sci-fi film titled "ARGO," and in the meantime, execute a rescue of the six hostages by flying them out on a commercial jet as part of the film's Canadian film crew. The tense rescue, with unexpected delays, was finally accomplished when the group boarded a Swissair flight at the Tehran airport and narrowly escaped - on day 87 of the continuing hostage crisis.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), 93 minutes, D: Benh Zeitlin
This fantasy-adventure drama or fable was adapted from Lucy Alibar's 2010 one-act play "Juicy and Delicious." In the story narrated by high-spirited 6 year-old daughter Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis), she was being raised by her alcoholic, harsh-tempered father Wink (Dwight Henry). They lived together in two separate but nearby dwellings: a ramshackle, broken-down trailer and shack, located in the Southern Delta bayou town of Bathtub, LA that was occupied by many poor squatters. It was physically isolated and separated from the main town by a major levee. A major storm approached and threatened their lives with flooding, devastation, and contamination of the fresh water supply. (The sequence of the fierce storm waters was backed up by a climate change narrative being taught in school by Hushpuppy's teacher Miss Bathsheba (Gina Montana), who warned about the release of fierce, beastly, prehistoric frozen aurochs (cattle) from the melting ice caps.) After the hurricane submerged their homes, and Hushpuppy attempted to blow up the levee with dynamite to drain the water, the residents were given mandatory evacuation orders and taken to an emergency shelter for refugees. At the same time - linked with nature's disorderly wrath, Hushpuppy faced the serious debilitating illness of her father who was coughing up blood and required surgery, and whose health was rapidly failing. She sought help on a fantastical journey to find her absent biological mother (that she never knew), but was unsuccessful. After a fearless stand-off face-to-face with the auroch creatures, Hushpuppy returned home just in time to say goodbye to her dying father. After listening to his last heartbeat, she set his funeral pyre on fire and watched as it burned with some of the residents of Bathtub.

Brave (2012), 93 minutes, D: Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews
Setting various milestones, this computer-animated, adventure-fantasy film by Pixar/Disney Studios was Pixar's first film with a female protagonist, the first to be a period piece, and the studio's first fairy-tale film. The film opened in the medieval Scottish Highlands, in the kingdom of King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson), who had a young, six year-old Scottish princess daughter named Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald). Merida was gifted a bow and arrow for her birthday and would soon train to become a skilled archer. Her father battled a fierce, demonic bear named Mor'du and lost one leg while saving the family. (In a legend-story told to Merida by her mother, the bear was originally a prince.) A decade later, the free-spirited, self-reliant, impetuous and reckless teenaged Merida refused to live a traditional life and defied age-old customs in her Dunbroch clan. She was being compelled to marry the first-born son of one of her father's three allies (Lords MacGuffin, Macintosh, and Dingwall) - the victor in the upcoming Highland Games. Refusing to marry and also proclaiming herself a "first-born," she proved her ability by out-performing all of the male competitors with her archery skills. Then, she ran away after arguing with her controlling and demanding mother and damaging one of her tapestries. In the cottage-hut of a witch in the forest, she asked for a spell and received a fateful, enchanted pie-cake that hid a terrible ancient curse. After her mother ate some of the pie-cake, she was soon transformed into a large black bear. The witch's added message added a warning - it declared that Merida had to "mend the bond torn by pride" before the 2nd sunrise or the unleashed spell on her mother would become permanent. In a quest to reverse the curse, Merida realized that she had made a mistake and had to atone for bringing a curse upon her mother in order to save her land, her kingdom, and her mother's life. She successfully reconciled with her mother after mending and repairing the tapestry she had slashed the day before.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012), 95 minutes, D: Drew Goddard
Director Drew Goddard's directorial debut film was specifically intended to be a satirical, tongue-in-cheek and self-aware horror film that deconstructed the entire genre of horror films within its twisty plot. The imaginative sci-fi horror-thriller plot commenced as a typical 'cabin in the woods' horror film - a group of five American college students traveled in an RV to a secluded, lakeside forest cabin - virginal, bookwormish Dana (Kristen Connolly) and her friends: athletic jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Curt's blonde and horny girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison), druggie-stoner and goofy, comical Marty (Fran Kranz), and nice-guy Holden (Jesse Willaims), for a weekend of promiscuous sex, drinking, swimming, and pot-smoking. Simultaneously, two engineering-technicians or operators - Gary Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford), who were led by their agent-supervisor Lin (Amy Acker) - were inside a mysterious, high-tech, underground control room where they were monitoring, controlling, staging, and manipulating the actions and environment of the students. (It appeared that there were a total of three similar arcane lab 'experiments' or 'rituals' being held around the world - also in Stockholm, Sweden and Japan.) The students stumbled into the cellar of the cabin and found various artifacts and curios, including an old diary of one of the cabin's young, abused residents named Patience Buckner (Jodelle Ferland) from the early 1900s. It described horrifying events that occurred amongst the sadistic Buckner family. After Dana read some of the incantations in the diary, she unwittingly unleashed the redneck family - composed of homicidal, backwoods zombies. In the completely mind-boggling conclusion, two of the surviving teens, Marty and Dana, entered the laboratory where they unleashed caged monsters that killed all of the lab's workers. Then, inside an ancient temple, they were confronted by the Director (Sigourney Weaver) who explained that their experience at the cabin was part of a worldwide annual ritual of human sacrifice. It was conducted to appease cruel Ancient Ones or dark gods who once ruled the Earth - to keep them dormant. In the US version of the required ritual, five slasher-film stereotypical characters were to be sacrificed: the whore (Jules), the athlete (Curt), the scholar (Holden), the fool (Marty), and the virgin (Dana). The ritual would only be successful if the whore died first (she did), and the virgin was the last-survivor. Marty and Dana were left with a choice - should they cooperate, obey and save humanity by following the Director's stipulations, or not? The film ended with the angry gods emerging on the surface with a giant hand - to destroy mankind.

A Coffee in Berlin (2012, Germ.) (aka Oh Boy), 83 minutes, D: Jan Ole Gerster
In this B/W tragi-comedy with a moody jazz score from first-time feature film writer/director Jan Ole Gerster, aimless, 20-something, indebted slacker and law school drop-out Niko Fischer (Tom Schilling) was having multiple hardships on one pivotal day in his life. He suffered a breakup with his girlfriend Elli (Katharina Schüttler), lost his bank card in an ATM, was declared 'emotionally unstable' after a DUI by a state psychiatrist and thereby lost his license, was found to be lying for two years by his father, and failed at repeated attempts to have his morning coffee. The self-ironic dramedy became a love-letter to contemporary Berlin (constantly in transformation similar to Niko) as he wandered around its streets, almost oblivious to the fact that he was lost and out-of-place. In the final uncomfortable encounter of the film, Niko met an elderly drunk German man (Michael Gwisdek) (first named Friederich) with no relatives who had vivid memories of living under Nazi rule, but then collapsed and shortly later died in the hospital. This caused Niko to realize that he might need to change his aimless, disconnected drifting, when he finally was able to have a cup of coffee in a diner as the sun rose at dawn.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012), 164 minutes, D: Christopher Nolan
This was the concluding film of director Nolan's epic Batman trilogy, composed also of Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008). Themes and characters were interwoven into the narrative from both previous Batman films. During the film, set eight years after the previous film, a new, gas-masked guerrilla-revolutionary anarchist Bane (Tom Hardy), a muscular ex-member of the League of Shadows, arrived to terrorize Gotham City, that had been mostly free of crime. After being trained by Ra's al Ghul (Liam Neeson), Bane's mission was to fulfill Ra's al Ghul's mission to destroy Gotham. His criminal activities lured reclusive, and physically crippled billionaire-socialite Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) out of exile and hiding to resume his old vigilante role as Batman to save Gotham City from the threat of nuclear destruction. One of Bane's first crimes, working from his base in the city's sewers, was to attack the Gotham Stock Exchange and bankrupt Wayne Enterprises, with an ultimate objective to cut off Gotham from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Wayne fell in love with his new acting CEO Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). Bane was able to convert Wayne Enterprises' fusion reactor core-generator prototype into a decaying, unstable 4 megaton neutron bomb set to go off in a few months, while Batman was overpowered and captured by Bane and sent to an underground 'Hell on Earth' prison (a deep circular stone-wall shaft). Five months later, Bruce miraculously escaped from the prison shaft and was able to return to Gotham to protect the city and defeat Bane, with the aid of elusive cat burglar Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway). During their conflict, Miranda stabbed Batman - revealing herself as Talia al Ghul, Ra's al Ghul's daughter (who as a child had escaped from the 'Hell on Earth' prison). She was seeking revenge for Batman's murder of her father. As Bane was about to kill Batman, the cunning Kyle saved him and mortally wounded Bane by blasting him with the Pod's large cannons. Talia died in the crash of the truck carrying the nuclear weapon. Batman was able to hoist the about-to-explode nuclear bomb with his sleek Bat aircraft away from the city to detonate it safely over the bay, while faking his own death. The film concluded with Batman having redeemed his former image to GCPD Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) (after also revealing his true identity), and the city was rebuilt in his memory as the heroic Dark Knight who had sacrificed himself. However, Wayne was discovered alive in Florence, Italy (by his trusted butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine)), seemingly retired with Kyle. Evidence suggested that Wayne/Batman had passed on access to the Batcave (through the contents of a duffel bag) to resigning GCPD rookie officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - his legal first name was Robin!

Django Unchained (2012), 166 minutes, D: Quentin Tarantino
Visionary writer/director Quentin Tarantino's violent, revisionist western slavery drama generally paid tribute to Italian 'spaghetti westerns.' It also specifically paid homage to and was influenced by director Sergio Corbucci's Django (1966, It./Sp.) starring Franco Nero in a breakout role as the title character - a coffin-dragging, blue-eyed cowboy-drifter gunslinger. [Note: Corbucci's film had purposely capitalized on the success of Sergio Leone's 'spaghetti western' A Fistful of Dollars (1964, It./Sp.) starring Clint Eastwood (in his first major film role), that itself was a 'remake' of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961, Jp.).] Tarantino's 'grindhouse' western was set in the Antebellum Deep South during the mid-1800s. In the film's plot, German-born dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) offered to purchase black slave Django (Jamie Foxx), in exchange for $75 dollars and his future freedom. Schultz's purchase was for the specific purchase of gaining Django's knowledge of his next bounty target - three outlawed Brittle brothers, overseers at the Tennessee plantation of Django's previous owner, Spencer "Big Daddy" Bennett (Don Johnson). After their successful first venture, Django and Schultz's next object was to rescue Broomhilda "Hildi" von Shaft (Kerry Washington), Django's wife from a Mississippi plantation (named Candyland) owned by cruel and tyrannical taskmaster "Monsieur" Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). To gain access, their strategy was to pose as potential investors in a "Mandingo" fight racket. Candyland's slaves were often forced - gladiator-style - to wrestle to the death in brutal fights. Their plan went awry when Candie's loyal house slave Stephen Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) learned that Hildi knew Django, and he alerted Candie about the deception. In a deadly altercation during a final purchase deal of $12,000 for Hildi, both Candie and Schultz were shot dead, and Django was forced to surrender when Stephen took Hildi as a hostage. Django avoided torture and death when Calvin's sister Lara Lee Candie-Fitzwilly (Laura Cayouette) interfered and sold him off to a mining company, but he soon escaped and returned to Candyland to seek vengeance. He freed Hildi, killed Lara, crippled Stephen with gunshot blasts to his knees, and dynamited the Candyland mansion with Stephen inside.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012, NZ/US), 169 minutes, D: Peter Jackson
Director Peter Jackson's first installment in his three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel The Hobbit was this fantasy epic adventure. Its two sequels in the trilogy were The Desolation of Smaug (2013) and The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) - all serving as prequels to the earlier-filmed, three part epic film franchise-series The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003). Set in the fictional world of Middle-Earth, the film opened with 111 year-old hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman as young, Ian Holm as old) from the Shire telling his favorite nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood) about his exploits many decades earlier, before the Fellowship of the Ring had been formed. As a young hobbit, Bilbo had been hired as a "burglar" by wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) to accompany exiled King Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his company of 13 dwarves on a quest to reclaim their homeland, including the Kingdom of Erebor and the Lonely Mountain, that had been seized by the gold-hungry dragon Smaug (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch). The monstrous Smaug had destroyed the nearby town of Dale and had seized the dwarves' hoard of gold hidden in the mountain. Thorin's intent was to reclaim his birthright as King of the mountain from Smaug. For much of the lengthy film, their adventures were followed as they met many foes and obstacles, including Trolls, Stone Giants, and Goblins, but most notably Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett) and his army of fiercesome Hunter Orcs. A side trip brought them to the peaceful sanctuary and Elven homeland of Rivendell where they were sheltered by Elven Lord Elrond (Hugh Weaving), and Gandalf was pledged support from co-ruler Galadriel (Cate Blanchett). During the journey, Bilbo encountered the treacherous Gollum (Andy Serkis) - a wretched, hobbit-like creature that had been corrupted by his discovery of the One Ring, forged at Mount Doom by the Dark Lord Sauron. Bilbo was able to pocket the Ring for himself. The film concluded as the group approached closer to Lonely Mountain where the sleeping dragon Smaug was awakened.

The Hunger Games (2012), 142 minutes, D: Gary Ross
The basis of the 4 films in The Hunger Games franchise-series was author Suzanne Collins' best-selling series of young-adult science-fiction novels: The Hunger Games (2008), Catching Fire (2009), and Mockingjay (2010). The books (and films) presented the futuristic, dystopian story of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who sought to unify the 12 Districts of the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem in an effort to revolt and rebel against a tyrannical Capitol, led by totalitarian and ruthless President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland). This film was the first of a four-part theatrical film series, from 2012 to 2015. In the film's opening, an annual competition was held for 24 teenagers, when each of the 12 Districts was compelled to send a male and female 'tribute' (aged 12-18) to represent them and compete in the 74th Hunger Games. The brutal competition presented as entertainment for the masses, a government-sponsored fight to the death with only one survivor, was "reality"-televised to the nation. District 12 was represented by two tributes: 16 year-old Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a childhood friend. While Peeta declared his true love for Katniss, she was also mentored by District 12's hard-drinking, troubled Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), the District's only surviving past champion, and she also received hunting tips from her friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). The games were headed by Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley), the Head Gamemaker. The fiercely capable but selfless young Katniss was forced to rely on sharp instincts, reflexes, and know-how to survive and overcome her opponents. A change in the rules mid-way in the death match by Crane allowed for there to be two winners provided they were from the same district, but then, when both Peeta and Katniss were the last two standing, Crane revoked the rules change. As the two were about to commit suicide together, Crane declared them co-victors. Interpreted as an act of defiance, Katniss had set herself at odds with the menacing and wily President.

Life of Pi (2012), 127 minutes, D: Ang Lee
Director Ang Lee's meditative, coming-of-age, adventure-drama was based upon Canadian author Yann Martel's best-selling novel of the same name, published in 2001. The remarkable and emotionally-moving film was highlighted by its stunning visual-effects work and cinematography. The storyline set told about the title character, Piscine "Pi" Patel ( (Irrfan Khan as adult), a Hindu Indian man and son of Santosh Patel (Adil Hussain), a local zoo-keeper, grew up in Pondicherry, India. He related his incredible life story as a spiritual-minded, curious boy aged 11/12 (Ayush Tandon as boy) and at age 16 (Suraj Sharma as teenager) to an eager young novelist-writer (Rafe Spall) in Montreal, Canada. As a boy, he had adopted a hybrid faith, embracing three religions (Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam) in an effort to find and love God. When he joined his family to move to Winnipeg, Canada (with all of the exotic animals to be sold) on the Japanese freighter Tsimtsum, their ship experienced a fierce storm that caused a shipwreck that took the ship to the bottom of the ocean. Although the crew and all of his family drowned, Pi survived adrift on the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat stranded with some of the animals, including an injured zebra, an aggressive hyena, a friendly orangutan (Orange Juice), and a hungry, unpredictable Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Soon enough, all of the animals cannibalized each other, leaving the dominant Richard Parker alive. Pi relied on prayer for rescue and his own resourcefulness to fish and feed himself and the tiger so that he wouldn't be harmed. After a scary experience with an acidic, 'carnivorous' floating island with trees and meerkats, Pi reached the west coast of Mexico and parted from the tiger, who fled into the jungle. When questioned by insurance agents, Pi changed his story about what had actually happened, and replaced each of the animals with crew members and his own mother Gita (Tabu). In Pi's metaphoric second version of his story, he had become the adult Richard Parker.

Lincoln (2012), 149 minutes, D: Steven Spielberg
In Spielberg's great political biopic and wartime costume drama with rich dialogue (including folksy homespun yarns, outhouse humor and parables spun by the title character), based upon Doris Kearns Goodwin's 2005 biographical book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Best Actor-winning Daniel Day-Lewis convincingly portrayed the 16th US President who presided over the country from 1861 to 1865. It mostly concentrated on the final four months of his life in 1865, when he faced divisive politics, ongoing family issues, and his own personal demons. It opened with President Abraham Lincoln's re-election in 1864, followed Lincoln's conflicts with Congress over passage of the 13th Amendment (to outlaw slavery and involuntary servitude in the Union), and the end to the bloody Civil War in 1865. Lincoln's dilemma was whether the Amendment should be passed before or after the defeated Confederate states were readmitted and returned to the Union. There were rumors that a southern peace delegation had journeyed to Washington, DC, and was ready to discuss terms, although Lincoln kept stalling and denying their existence (to avoid postponing the amendment's vote) with a carefully-worded statement that the envoys were not in Washington. Lincoln was aided in his effort to end slavery by assistance from his trusted Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn). He also hired political negotiators, including Republican operative William N. Bilbo (James Spader) and his two lobbyist cronies: Democrat Richard Schell (Tim Blake Nelson), and Republican operative Col. Robert Latham (John Hawkes) to secure at least 20 votes from lame-duck House of Representatives' Democrats (most of whom staunchly opposed the amendment) to vote for the bill (in exchange for patronage positions or federal jobs - or greenbacks!). The political struggle was aided by uncompromising, Radical Republican abolitionist congressman Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) from Pennsylvania who staunchly believed in racial equality (and personally had a bi-racial housekeeper Lydia Smith), but in the end compromised by stating that he only believed in "legal equality." The vote on the amendment passed by only two votes, but still needed ratification by the states. Arranged by Republican politician Francis Preston Blair (Hal Halbrook), Lincoln's subsequent meeting with the Confederate State officials failed, and the bloody war continued for a few more months. In early April of 1865, Lincoln - on horseback - was dismayed as he surveyed the carnage on the battlefield at Petersburg, Virginia. In the meantime in his own personal life, Lincoln faced further challenges from his fragile, high-strung and emotionally-unstable First Lady wife Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field) - nicknamed Molly, who was still grieving from the loss of her ill son Willie three years earlier, and was worried about the desperate wishes of son Robert Todd Lincoln (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to end his law school education and enlist in the Union Army before the war ended. (Lincoln was able to secure a less dangerous officer's commission and position for his son.) Only a few days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee's (Christopher Boyer) surrender to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (Jared Harris) at the Appomattox Court House on April 9th of 1865, and Lincoln's planning to enfranchise blacks, Lincoln was assassinated while accompanying his wife to a performance at Ford's Theatre (off-screen). The news of his serious condition after being shot was relayed to young son Tad (Gulliver McGrath) who was attending a different children's play at nearby Grover's Theatre. Lincoln's death came a day later. The film concluded with a flashback excerpt to Lincoln's delivery of his March 4th, 1865 2nd Inaugural Address (with the famous sentence: "With malice toward none, with charity for all").

Looper (2012), 118 minutes, D: Rian Johnson
Writer/director Rian Johnson's intelligent sci-fi thriller was a complex time-travel tale, with a central concept - "loopers" were 'present-day' contract killers in the year 2074 hired by future-time criminal gangsters and syndicates to be sent back 30 years in time (to the year 2044) to terminate their enemies and leave no trace. The contract killer was hired to assassinate each of the mob's victims at a pre-arranged drop-off point, a remote corn/wheat field. In the story, 25 year-old Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) lived in the year 2044 in the burned-out, socially-decayed, dystopic metropolis of Kansas City. He was a low-level, yet specialized hitman (or "looper") working with another fated fellow looper named Seth Richards (Paul Dano). Both loopers were hired by crime boss Abe (Jeff Daniels) in a Kansas syndicate. They had been sent back from 30 years into the future by controlling mastermind and mob boss Rainmaker to manage or run the loopers, and to close every single loop. Although time travel was to be invented in 30 years, it was outlawed. Because of his fancy and lucrative lifestyle and career, young hedonistic Joe was able to afford fine retro clothes, a classic red Miata, and a fancy hooker/showgirl Suzie (Piper Perabo), who worked as a can-can dancer at Abe's nightclub "La Belle Aurore." The main plot was that Joe suddenly found himself in a twisting situation where his next and final target was himself - his 30 years older self Old Joe (Bruce Willis). (He was to be disposed of by his younger self. This would be a foolproof and clean method to eliminate the loopers (or close the loop) - and leave no trace.) It was revealed that Old Joe had been living a good life in the future - in Shanghai, China with a wife (Xu Qing). He had traveled back in time - to find and kill three kids born on the same day, one of whom would grow up to become the monstrous and vicious Rainmaker. Old Joe's reason to kill the 'young' Rainmaker was to save his own loving wife in the future. (Her death had been ordered by a man known only as "The Rainmaker.") The younger Joe found himself in trouble with his own mob boss and was in hiding at the remote Kansas farmhouse of devoted single-mother Sara Rollins (Emily Blunt), with a son named Cid (Pierce Gagnon). Joe suspected that Cid might be one of the children Old Joe thought was the Rainmaker, so he was there to protect Sara and her child. The mind-bending conclusion revealed that Cid was the Rainmaker. Joe realized that if Old Joe killed Sara, Cid's destiny would be disastrous, filled with anger and hatred. He would grow up to become the evil, vengeful Rainmaker, creating a closed time loop of murder and revenge. In the inevitable face-off shootout, to remedy and avert the situation, younger Joe suicidally shot himself to death in the heart to erase Old Joe's life, just as he was about to shoot Cid's mother. Old Joe immediately disappeared in front of Sara.

(Marvel's) The Avengers (2012), 142 minutes, D: Joss Whedon
This escapist, action-oriented, blockbuster superhero adventure sci-fi film was the 6th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Three sequels followed in fairly rapid succession: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019). It was the highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2012. This first installment featured many of Marvel's comic-book characters who were brought together to stop the threat of Norse god Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) villainous adoptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). The Asgardian Loki appeared on Earth to retrieve a mysterious artifact known as the Tesseract - a cosmic cube that contained an infinite energy source, a force that could subjugate the Earth and enslave humanity. The head of a secret, international peace-keeping spy organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick (Samuel L. Jackson) recruited various superheroes to save the planet and retrieve the stolen Tesseract, including Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and skilled assassin and former Russian spy Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), known collectively as The Avengers. Banner was given the task of tracking down the artifact's gamma radiation emissions as a signal to locate its whereabouts. One of the areas of dispute among the Avengers was S.H.I.E.L.D.'s plan to use the Tesseract to develop weapons as a deterrent against hostile extra-terrestrials. The conflict against Loki widened when he escaped from imprisonment and opened a wormhole above Stark Tower to allow the extra-terrestrial race of Chitauri to invade. The Avengers came together as a team of fighters to defend NYC from the Chitauri fleet's attack, while evacuating and saving citizens. Stark was able to intercept a nuclear missile aimed at midtown Manhattan that had been launched as a strike measure by the World Security Council, and he directed it through the open wormhole at the mothership of the Chitauri fleet to end the invasion. The film concluded with Loki being escorted to Asgard (with the Tesseract) by Thor, where Loki would stand trial for war crimes.

The Master (2012), 138 minutes, D: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's well-crafted, visually-compelling, intelligent, R-rated psychological drama was controversial for its similarities to the charismatic leader of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, author of the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a leader of a cultish religious movement known as "The Cause" (also the title of Dodd's first book) that preached self-fulfillment, attracted rogue drifter Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a WWII US Navy veteran (with post-traumatic stress disorder). Freddie - a misfit and sex-obsessed loner and alcoholic (from a home-made moonshine potion composed of lethal paint thinner), suffered from drastic mood-swings, but was accepted into Dodd's movement and taken under the 'Master's' wing. Freddie began to travel with Dodd's family, including his wife Peggy Dodd (Amy Adams) who became extremely wary of Freddie. Dodd's technique for his followers involved "processing" sessions, repetitive questioning and testing that were designed to clear out one's emotions through confession, to cleanse one's internal wounds. Meanwhile, Dodd was coming under scrutiny for illegally practicing medicine, while the skeptical and self-destructive Freddie was also doubting Dodd's saving abilities and teachings - calling him fake. In the final scene, Dodd delivered an ultimatum to Freddie - remain devoted with The Cause forever, or leave and never return, and Freddie chose the latter.

Les Misérables (2012, US/UK), 158 minutes, D: Tom Hooper
The long-running beloved 1980 French musical Les Miserables (with many film and other stage adaptations) was chosen by director Tom Hooper for this lavish, epic-period musical drama, based upon French author Victor Hugo's 1862 French novel. The story of revolution and redemption followed the basic plotline of many other productions. Set during a period of rebellion in France in the early 19th century, released prisoner after 19 years of incarceration Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) worked for many years in a respectable job as a factory owner and mayor of Montreuil in N. France, while keeping his past a secret. He was shocked to learn that the new police chief-inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), a former prison guard (at the Toulon prison where Valjean had been held) was now in fervent pursuit of him for earlier breaking his parole. At his work, Valjean agreed to care for Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), the illegimate daughter of one of his struggling ex-factory workers Fantine (Anne Hathaway) who had turned to prostitution after being fired from her job (for being an unwed mother) and soon after died of a terminal case of TB. Valjean paid off Cosette's caretakers the Thénardiers (Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen), a corrupt and greedy couple who were innkeepers, in order to adopt and care for the girl. When Cosette grew up, she began a passionate romance with student revolutionary Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne), who was a member of the rebel group "Friends of the ABC." Marius was joined by two others in the rebellion: Enjolras (Aaron Tveit) and street urchin Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone). Another female was also secretly in love with Marius - the Thenardiers' daughter Éponine (Samantha Barks). During the growing revolution, Éponine was shot and died in a gunfight and perished in Marius' arms, while Valjean joined the student rebels to save Marius's life from government troops, and barely made it out alive himself. Valjean was given the chance to execute the captured Javert, but declined to kill him. The morally-conflicted Javert, who also later caught Valjean but then let him go, committed suicide by hurling himself into the Seine River. After the wedding of Marius and Cosette, Valjean died peacefully in a local convent from a heart-condition, with the married couple by his side.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012), 93 minutes, D: Wes Anderson
Co-writer/director Wes Anderson's quirky coming-of-age comedy-drama was set in the mid-1960s on New Penzance, a fictional New England island. In the story, 12 year-old misfit orphan boy Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), attending a Khaki Scout camp known as Camp Ivanhoe at Fort Lebanon, went missing. The possibly emotionally-disturbed young boy left a note for his Troop 55's Scoutmaster Randy Ward (Edward Norton) that he had voluntarily resigned. The unpopular Sam felt alienated from both his peers and his guardians and had decided to flee, with a canoe and some supplies. The island's local police chief Captain Duffy Sharp (Bruce Willis) organized a search party of scouts, and his foster parents Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Billingsley (Larry Pine and Liz Callahan) were notified. At the same time, married lawyers Walt and Laura Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), who were involved in a dysfunctional marriage, reported that their oldest and only daughter, often aggressive-acting and rebellious 12 year-old Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) was missing. [Note: Laura was engaged in an affair with Captain Sharp.] They also discovered that she had been engaged in a secret pen-pal correspondence relationship with Sam for about a year. The two had met backstage in 1964 during a production of "Noye's Fludde" at St. Jack's Church on the neighboring island of St. Jack Wood. Suzy had performed as a costumed Raven on biblical Noah's Ark in the play. Apparently, the two like-minded, unhappy outcasts/lovers and soulmates had planned to runaway and rendezvous weeks earlier at an isolated beach or cove (later named Moonrise Kingdom). Unbeknownst to them, a violent storm was brewing off the New England coast and threatening a monumental flood, as the two tweens were being tracked by the scouts and other authorities. At the cove, Sam and Suzy camped, talked, went swimming, and experienced their first feelings of romance (including a kiss). After the pair was apprehended the next morning, Suzy was taken home, while Sam was awaiting a representative (Tilda Swinton) of "Social Services" to take him to a "juvenile refuge" since he could no longer live with his foster parents. There was talk of electro-shock therapy treatment. Sam's former Khaki Scout enemies had a change of heart and decided to rescue the pair - they reunited Suzy with Sam at a larger Khaki Scouts camp (known as Hullaballoo) on St. Jack Wood Island at Fort Lebanon, staffed by Cousin Ben (Jason Schwartzman). Ben performed an impromptu and unofficial 'wedding' for the two, but again they were forced to flee off the Hullaballoo premises with various adult figures and some of the Scouts in pursuit. Meanwhile, the raging hurricane struck, and during its fury, Captain Sharp resolved himself to become Sam's legal guardian so that he could remain on New Penzance Island and keep in contact with Suzy.

The Sessions (2012), 98 minutes, D: Ben Lewin
This emotional, independent erotic drama was based on the true story of Mark O'Brien, based on his 1990 article "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate." It was a compassionate look at the issues of engaging in sexual behavior for those who were disabled. Living in Berkeley, CA in 1988, 38 year-old poet and journalist Mark (John Hawkes) was forced to exist for 20 hours a day in an iron lung due to a severe childhood case of polio. With a curved spine, he was paralyzed from the neck down. He proposed to his pretty student caretaker Amanda (Annika Marks), but she could not reciprocate his feelings and was scared away. Fearing that he was near death, but had never experienced sex or love, the devout Catholic contacted his spiritual counselor and unconventional, long-haired priest Father Brendan (William H. Macy) for a consultation and was allowed permission to have sex therapy. He was referred to hands-on 'sex surrogate' Cheryl Cohen Greene (Helen Hunt), a married mother with a Massachusetts accent, to help him lose his virginity and discover sex. For each therapy session, assistant Vera (Moon Bloodgood) wheeled Mark to her at a motel. Only six therapy "sessions" were allowed in order to avoid having him develop an emotional attachment to her. However, after intimate body awareness sessions and sexual contact, and the loss of his virginity, it was clear that they were both developing romantic and emotional feelings and attachments for each other, and the sessions had to be cut short. Cheryl's husband Josh (Adam Arkin) was becoming uncomfortable with her transformational encounters with her client. The film ended with Mark's funeral attended by the important women in his life, including Cheryl.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012), 120 minutes, D: David O. Russell
Writer/director David O. Russell's offbeat dramedy was based upon Matthew Quick's 2008 novel of the same name. It told the story of troubled patient Patrick "Pat" Solitano, Jr. (Bradley Cooper) living in Ridley Park, PA (in Upper Darby township of Delaware Co.). Due to a plea bargain after violently beating up his ex-wife Nikki's (Brea Bee) lover, he was sent to the Baltimore, MD Karel Psychiatric Facility where he was diagnosed with bi-polar depression. When released after about 8 months, he moved back into his childhood home with his parents, a part-time illegal bookie Patrizio Solitano, Jr. (Robert DeNiro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver), and was attending required therapy sessions with Indian Dr. Cliff Patel (Anupam Kher). Although he had anger issues, Pat was attempting to rebuild his shattered life, and live a more optimistic lifestyle with the mantra: Look for the good (or silver linings) in everything. His father was a devotedly-obsessed Philadelphia Eagles football fan mixed with problems of OCD (obsessive-compulsive-disorder) and gambling. The determined Pat had two goals: to get his old substitute teaching job back, and to reconcile and win back his ex-spouse Nikki, but she had a restraining order on him. At dinner with friends Ronnie (John Ortiz) and his wife Veronica (Julia Stiles), he met her sister - a depressed, unemployed young widow Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence) who also suffered mental imbalances and was still mourning her husband's death. One of her issues was the need to compulsively offer herself for sex. She offered to deliver a letter to Nikki for Pat - in exchange for him becoming her partner in an upcoming local dance competition. During their training together, they established a growing rapport, but also exhibited a love/hate relationship for each other. The film came to a climax on the day of both the dance competition and a big game between the Eagles and Dallas, when Veronica unexpectedly brought Nikki to the dance theatre. Fearing that she would lose Pat to Nikki, Tiffany (who had forged a letter from Nikki to Pat) retreated to the bar for two stiff drinks, but then was coaxed onto the dance floor with Pat to perform their number. Two objectives were met that evening: they scored 5 out of 10 in the competition, and the Eagles won the football game. Pat expressed his enduring love for Tiffany when she jealously stormed off (after viewing him and Nikki together), and Pat, Sr. used his windfall profits from gambling over the game to open a restaurant.

Skyfall (2012), 145 minutes, D: Sam Mendes
This was the 23rd film in the series after a long four year gap since the last film, and the third film with now 44-year-old blue-eyed Daniel Craig as 007 agent James Bond. This thrilling, violent, action-oriented spy movie presented a daring deconstruction of the James Bond role and all its accompanying iconography, with some throwback-tributes to legendary elements in the franchise. The film opened with a near-death experience for Bond working in Istanbul, Turkey with assistant MI6 field agent Eve (Moneypenny) (Naomie Harris). Meanwhile, Bond's superior M (Judi Dench), the head of MI6, was having her abilities and competence repeatedly questioned by rising Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). At the same time, there was a devastating attack on MI6 headquarters in London. Miraculously alive, Bond returned to London where he was commissioned by M to find the mastermind behind the attacks and additional subterfuge. A new threat was in the offing - the revelation on the Internet of the identities (5 at a time) of undercover NATO agents embedded in terrorist organizations worldwide. Bond met with Q (Ben Whishaw), MI6's young new quartermaster, to acquire requisite gadgets. He then traveled to Shanghai, CH where he met Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe), the cyber-terrorist mastermind's associate and mistress. He was led to her employer - the twisted and sadistic villain Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former MI6 operative, who had vengefully planned the London attack. His dastardly plan was to seek revenge against M for a past injustice (betrayal and abandonment in 1997, followed by torture and disfigurement) when he worked for the Secret Service in Hong Kong with her in the 1980s-90s. Silva would cause a scandal through breaches of security that would force her resignation, as part of his plot to kill her. The film concluded at Bond's childhood home located at Skyfall (in the Scottish Highlands), where M, Bond and estate gamekeeper Kincade (Albert Finney) set up booby traps to prepare for an expected attack by Silva and his men. During a face-to-face confrontation between M and Silva, Bond threw a knife into Silva's back to kill him, but M died of an earlier bullet wound in Bond's arms.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012), 157 minutes, D: Kathryn Bigelow
Director Kathryn Bigelow's political-action war-time thriller and docu-drama told the story of the US government's years-long, step-by-step, procedural worldwide man-hunt for international terrorist Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 Al Qaeda attacks in September of 2001. It was regarded as controversial for its realistic (and condemning) depiction of the torture practice of water-boarding on detainees. Rookie CIA agent-operative Maya Harris (Jessica Chastain) - a fictional character, working in Pakistan in 2003 with colleague Dan Fuller (Jason Clarke) at a CIA black site, reluctantly witnessed the torture of one of bin Laden's associates Ammar (Reda Kateb) (a nephew?) during an approved act of water-boarding. It was interrogation tactic to acquire intelligence and information about his whereabouts. Over a period of years, she became single-mindedly focused on pursuing leads to find the elusive terrorist mastermind, even after the deaths of some of her co-workers. Her dedication led to quite a few dead ends and false leads, but she was nonetheless determined and driven to persevere. She came upon old, indistinct and tentative information about the location of bin Laden's hiding place (through the identity of his courier Abu Ahmed) in urban Abbottabad, Pakistan, and was able to finally convince higher-ups to launch a strike with an elite force. In the final half hour of the film, the action sequence of the raid, Bin Laden (Ricky Sekhon) met his death in his Pakistan compound at the hands of an intricately-planned raid by Navy SEALs Team 6, on May 2, 2011.

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