December 26, 2012



The year-end movies are almost all out now (2012’s final limited release, PROMISED LAND, opens on Friday), so here’s a handy capsule guide to what’s worth seeing at the multiplex-and what isn’t.  Just click on the titles for our full reviews.


ZERO DARK THIRTY: Kathryn Bigelow’s (and screenwriter Mark Boal’s) brilliant, precise, gripping and completely believable dossier on the way Osama bin-Laden was tracked down and killed, anchored by Jessica Chastain in one of the year’s great performances.

DJANGO UNCHAINED Two hours and 45 minutes of Quentin Tarantino’s version of an American History lesson:  superbly entertaining and often anachronistic dialoguing by a fantastic cast that leads to explosive (and bloody) violence.

LES MISERABLESIf you think you want to see it, you do:  as rousing and thrilling an epic visualization of the musical as one can imagine, with Anne Hathaway so immediate it feels like she could pop off the screen, Purple Rose of Cairo style.  (Try to ignore Russell Crowe.) 

LINCOLNThis year’s Civil War epic that doesn’t end in a bloodbath:  Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner give us an intimate, fascinating account of one of history’s greatest Presidents at his very peak.  And Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t so bad, either.

SKYFALLThe best Bond, James Bond, ever?  It may very well be.  Certainly the richest and smartest (and most successful) in franchise history.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOKJennifer Lawrence puts the movie, and Bradley Cooper, and the audience, in her pocket, in David O. Russell’s rom-com of the year.



RUST AND BONE:  Marion Cotillard is heartbreaking and inspiring as a woman who loses her legs but finds her true self in this soapy but strong drama from Jacques Audiard.

THE IMPOSSIBLE:  The Asian tsunami is amazingly recreated, and almost as memorable as those visuals are the wrenching performances of Naomi Watts and Tom Hollander as a mother and son trying to survive.

LIFE OF PI: Both this and the next title are mostly worthwhile for their visual spectacle.  A somewhat muddled allegory about the meaning of life, but fantastic cinematography and 3D.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY  Not the equal of its Lord of the Rings forebears, but it’s still Peter Jackson in Middle-Earth, and even if the HFR technology is going to require some tinkering, you’ve never seen anything like its 3D.

RISE OF THE GUARDIANSAn enjoyable adventure for the whole family, sparked to life when Alec Baldwin voices his Santa crossed with The Rock.

ON THE ROADIt lacks, finally, the urgency and passion of its great source, but still a handsome, well-acted translation of Jack Kerouac’s classic to the big screen.



JACK REACHERThe presence of Tom Cruise is all that keeps this from being the show after Criminal Minds on CBS.

THIS IS 40Judd Apatow’s comedy-drama, despite both insightful and funny moments, goes on far too long, and ultimately settles for being a sitcom with little to say.

THE GUILT TRIP:  Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen are surprisingly well-suited to playing mother and son.  After that, there’s not much else to praise about this slack, routine cross-country journey to heartwarming-land.

ANNA KARENINAAbsolutely gorgeous, but Joe Wright’s film emphasizes its high-concept visuals (almost all of it takes place within a stylized theater) at the expense of Tolstoy’s drama.

HYDE PARK ON HUDSON:   Bill Murray turns out to be an inspired choice as FDR, in an otherwise mild drama that spends too much time with its least interesting character, the confidante/mistress played by Laura Linney.

HITCHCOCK Not even the best Hitchcock biography of the year (HBO’s The Girl was superior), with some intriguing details about the making of Psycho (and a marvelous turn by Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh), but a very so-so Anthony Hopkins as Hitch.

NOT FADE AWAY:  David Chase’s first work since The Sopranos takes place in Jersey and features James Gandolfini in a small role, but those are about the only signs that this familiar tale of a 1960s small-time rock band has any connection to one of TV’s great auteurs.



PARENTAL GUIDANCEUnless you’re a devotee of examining the resuls of plastic surgery and botox on aging actors, don’t.  Just don’t.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."