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HOLY MOTORS – This mind-bending masterwork by French director Leos Carax (The Lovers On The Bridge, Pola X) came in at number 3 in the National Film Critics Poll for 2012. Monsieur Oscar (Denis Levant) takes a rollicking, soulful journey by limousine through the streets of Paris as he transforms into multiple characters for a series of mysterious appointments. Carax blends genres – film noir, romantic drama, musical, crime thriller, even anime – to create a fever dream of a film that is both mirthful and dazzling. Perhaps not for every moviegoers taste, but it’s an undeniably adventurous viewing experience for those willing to take the ride.

MARGARET – Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, and Matt Damon star in director Kenneth Lonergan’s long awaited follow-up to “You Can Count On Me”. This story of a Manhattan teenager whose life is profoundly altered after witnessing a terrible accident, went unreleased for 4 years while the director battled the studio over his final cut of the film. It’s had an equally troubling journey to DVD, first as a Bluray only release, before finally coming out on regular DVD. It was worth the wait. Anna Paquin gives the performance of her career as an emotional teen whose ideals come into conflict with the harsh realities of the adult world. Polarizing and provocative!

THE HOBBIT: An Unexpected Journey – Peter Jackson’s epic prequel to “The Lord Of The Rings” saga follows the young Bilbo Baggins as he is swept up in the quest to reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug. It’s through this adventure that the “precious” ring first comes into his possession and where we first meet the treacherous Gollum. Beautifully photographed with some great set pieces including the epic final battle.

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS – The Guardians of the title are Jack Frost, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus together for the first time in one movie. When the evil Pitch threatens to take over the world, it’s up to these heroes to protect the hopes and dreams of children everywhere. From Dreamworks animation.

THE MASTER – Haunted by his past, a traumatized WWII veteran and drifter, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), crosses paths with a mysterious movement called The Cause, led by Lancaster Dodd- “The Master” of the title (Phillip Seymour Hoffman)- and his wife Peggy ( Amy Adams). Their twisted relationship is at the core of this latest film by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood). Steeped in the psychology of fear, delusion, exploitation, and rage, with unlikeable characters and no transcendant truths this is P.T. Anderson’s most challenging film so far. It was declared the number 1 film of the year in the National Film Critics Poll, though audiences seem to either love it, or hate it.

LIFE OF PI – Winner of 4 Academy Awards including Best Director (Ang Lee), this tale of young Pi Patel stranded on a lifeboat with only one other survivor, a ferocious Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, is a remakable cinematic achievement, especially when the book it’s based on was considered unfilmable. With Oscar winning Cinematography, Music score , and Visual Effects, if you didn’t get to see this in theaters in 3-D you need to at least watch it on DVD.

MEEK’S CUTOFF – This stark and poetic drama set in 1845 follows a wagon train of three families as they try and navigate the Oregon Trail. Claiming to know a shortcut their hired guide, Stephen Meek, leads the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage brush. They are soon facing hunger, thirst, and their own lack of faith in each other’s instincts for survival. Michelle Williams stars in her second collaboration with director Kelly Reichhardt (Wendy and Lucy).

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