5 This Is The End
The All-Star Apatow crew (Rogen, Hill, Baruchel, Franco, Robinson and McBride) and a host of their celebrity buddies play themselves smack in the middle of the fiery destruction of The Rapture, paying the price for their douchey existences as most of the rest of decent humanity ascends to heaven. The result is the smartest, most original and outright funny thing to come out of this camp in a good while. You will never look at Michael Cera the same again.
This harrowing, stark look at a young girl being sold into sex slavery in the mid-90s Southwest is based on a true story and is anchored by Jamie Chung’s lead performance as an average, (somewhat) innocent teenager who gains the iron will to survive throughout her nightmarish ordeal. Throw into the mix an icy turn by Beau Bridges as the crooked sheriff who lords over the vast flesh-trading enterprise, and the sure-handed direction of Megan Griffiths, and you’ve got one tough picture to chew.
3 Man of Steel
This bold and divisive film maybe could use more nuance in a few places, but Man of Steel is a rip-roaring reintroduction to the most important superhero of all, with great performances, (particularly Henry Cavill, effortlessly embodying the Last Son Of Krypton) often stunning visuals (Supes’ home planet is quite unlike anything else), and eye-popping comic book action, the likes of which have rarely been seen off the page. A perfect stepping stone for the eventuality of a shared cinematic universe for DC Comics, not unlike Marvel’s own.
2 The Place Beyond The Pines
Though your girlfriend may not be thrilled with the actuality of Ryan Gosling’s screentime in this ambitious, powerful drama, The Goz’s second outing with Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance packs a magnificent script and great performances all around (from a cast that includes Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper, Ben Mendelsohn, Ray Liotta, Rose Byrne and Dane DeHaan) as it weaves a rich tapestry of fatherhood, legacy and destiny in Schenectady, NY. Despite some contrivances, a standout and a stunner all the way.
Someone woke Matthew McConaughey up and got him back to doing actual acting, (as opposed to charming the likes of Kate Hudson in middling rom-com drivel) and it’s a good thing they did, because Mud is one of the year’s best reviewed films, with McConaughey’s flawless performance as a down-and-out fugitive living on an island off the Arkansas delta at its heart.