A new year of film begins with a few more awards-season titles trickling our way.

In Theaters

Promised Land(Focus Features)
Promised Land
(Focus Features)

Apparently, Matt Damon will only write screenplays that Gus van Sant is willing to direct.  The Good Will Hunting and Gerry collaborators are back with Promised Land, with The Office‘s John Krasinski taking the co-scribbler role typically reserved for an Affleck brother.  Damon stars as Steve Butler, a representative for a natural gas company who sells the concept of fracking as a means of economic recovery to struggling towns.  Known for his strong record of closing deals, Steve and his co-worker (Frances McDormand) head to a rural Pennsylvania community only to face opposition from a science teacher (Hal Holbrook), a potential love interest (Rosemarie DeWitt), and an environmentalist (Krasinski).  An even-handed presentation of a timely issue, the film occasionally borders on preachiness, but the story and performances ultimately make it well worthwhile.  Look for my review on Friday.

Hyde Park on Hudson(Focus Feature)
Hyde Park on Hudson
(Focus Features)

When the first trailer for Hyde Park on Hudson debuted in early fall, it heralded what appeared to be an intriguing period film.  With Bill Murray playing FDR, Laura Linney as his cousin/confidante/lover, and gorgeous cinematography, it looked like a sure thing.  If that wasn’t enough, there was even an unlikely Rushmore reunion with Olivia Williams, Miss Cross herself, as Eleanor. The film itself, however, is not so hot and, other than Django Unchained, may be the year’s biggest disappointment.  Look for my review on Friday.

Texas Chainsaw 3D(Lionsgate)
Texas Chainsaw 3D
(Lionsgate)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a franchise of which I’m sadly ignorant, having never seen the original, its sequels, remakes, or any iteration thereof.  This blind spot also includes the 1994 chapter, starring Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger, whose VHS cover of red lips being polished by a chainsaw lipstick regularly caught my attention at video rental stores during my youth.  Now the saga has made the inevitable leap into 3D with…wait for it…Texas Chainsaw 3D.  The film concerns Heather (the fairly attractive Alexandra Daddario), whose inherited mansion from a grandmother she never knew holds a dark secret…that may or may not have something to do with a tool used to cut down trees.  Surely it can’t be worse than The Collection.

Fleeing the Scene

Hitchcock and Anna Karenina head out after respectable runs.  If you’re wondering whether or not to rush out before they’re gone, know that the former will do fine in the home setting, but the latter’s ambitious staging deserves a look on the big screen.

On DVD

Looper may not have been the atomic wowser many had hoped, but in the months since I saw it, I’ve wanted to revisit it more than any other film from 2012.  (The Master is a close second.)  Also hitting the home front is David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, the year’s other man-in-a-limousine film, in which Robert Pattinson is driven around New York, makes high-risk financial moves, stops off for trysts, and even has his prostate examined en route to a haircut while society crumbles around him.  Based on Don DeLillo’s novel, the film never quite establishes a groove, but Cronenberg frames plenty of interesting shots and Pattinson lives up to hype…that the cluster of folks who saw the film doled out.  With these names and a supporting cast that includes Juliette Binoche, Mathieu Amalric, and Paul Giamatti, it’s a mystery why Cosmopolis only played 65 theaters and grossed $763,000.  Watch it and formulate your own theory.

On Netflix Instant

How to Survive a Plague has been named 2012’s best documentary on multiple critics’ and critics’ associations lists, with indie drama The Loneliest Planet popping up on many of those reviewers’ Top 10s.  Spike Lee’s quasi-Do the Right Thing sequel, Red Hook Summer, was generally panned but I tend to like his films that are easily dismissed (He Got Game, anyone?).  Continuing the color trend is Red Lights, the star-studded (Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen) paranormal flick that appears intent on staying out of the public eye.

If you’re itching for the zoom-heavy, improv-friendly work of the Duplass Brothers, a double dose of their 2012 work could be in the cards with the brother-competition comedy The Do-Deca-Pentathlon and the vastly overrated brother-helps-brother comedy Jeff, Who Lives At Home.  Elsewhere are a pair of titles from early 2012 (buyer beware!): One For the Money, Katherine Heigl’s ill-fated take on Janet Evanovich’s beloved Stephanie Plum series, and The Devil Inside, which my sources inform me is the first film to cover exorcisms.

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