Daniel Day-Lewis is towering and phenomenal as the 16th president of the United States in Steven Spielberg's meticulous drama set during the last few months of Abraham Lincoln's life, against the controversial passing of the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery. Unlike any film Spielberg has ever made sans sentimentality in favor of respectability and honor. A terrific cast and an impeccable score by John Williams help make this, perhaps, the year's greatest triumph in film.
Ben Affleck's third directorial effort (after Gone Baby Gone and The Town) is a gripping and engrossing drama about the Iranian hostage crisis of the late-Seventies and a CIA team's efforts to rescue and bring home six American hostages who managed to escape. Uses a surprising amount of restraint and respectability in its subject matter, and features terrific performances and execution.
Easily the most entertaining, action-packed, and crowd-pleasing blockbuster of the year. Featuring an impeccable ensemble cast of Marvel characters (not to mention the actors who play them) and a great balance of humor, action, and humanity, writer-director Joss Whedon proves himself a fanboy filmmaker to be reckoned with.
A powerful and profound true story of a family's survival during the 2004 Tsunami in Thailand. Told from the perspective of the Belon family, their story is a reminder of the power of perseverance, love, and grace amidst such unexpected horror and tragedy. Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts lead with such affection and emotion.
5. The Dark Knight Rises
An epic, challenging, and worthy conclusion to director Christopher Nolan's now-infamous Dark Knight trilogy. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale, the third time around) takes up his mantle as the Caped Crusader after seven years in hiding and goes up against the villainous Bane (a menacing Tom Hardy) for the fate of Gotham City, all the while finding a mysterious ally in Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman (a superb Anne Hathaway). Although it falls short of the mind-blowing themes of its 2008 predecessor, it is nonetheless an explosive entry in an ever-growing collection of films that are more than just action, superheroes and/or comic-book characters.
6. Arrietty (a.k.a. The Secret World of Arrietty)
A beautiful fantasy-drama from Studio Ghibli, based on Mary Norton's classic children’s book "The Borrowers." While most of the year's animated features have either dazzled (Brave, ParaNorman, Rise of the Guardians) or overwhelmed (Ice Age 4) with CGI or handmade stop-motion, the creators of Spirited Away and Ponyo remind viewers of the beauty and value in hand-drawn characters and worlds that transcend art and reality. The film's characters, for one, are appealing, adventurous, and believable.
An emotionally-engaging and spiritually-challenging story, not to mention a visually-breathtaking experience. Director Ang Lee and screenwriter David Magee adapt Yann Martel's bestselling (and, supposedly, unfilmmable) novel into a faithful and epic drama that stands on its own. It's the story of a young Indian boy who survives a shipwreck and is stranded in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger as his lone companion (and fierce enemy).
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