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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Silver Screen Surprises of 2012

Morticians, Robots, Crazy Danes, and More...

By Chris Sabga

This is a different kind of "best of" list. Instead of a routine top five or ten filled with the usual suspects and a hidden gem or two, here are simply some of the biggest surprises of 2012.

Bernie: There's nothing particularly surprising about a film directed by Richard Linklater ("Before Sunrise," "Before Sunset"), populated with major actors, being one of the year's best. The surprise here is Jack Black's career-redefining performance as Bernie Tiede, a small-town mortician who has a habit of befriending widowed old ladies. Even if you're completely sick of Jack Black, the role of Bernie is like no other he has ever taken. It showcases him in a new light as a supremely talented actor and well-deserving of an Oscar nomination.

Klown: This is a rude, raunchy, shocking comedy from Denmark about two friends who "kidnap" a young boy and take him on a canoe trip they've dubbed "Tour De Fuck." You won't believe what you're watching. There is no low this film won't stoop to. It's all wildly inappropriate but extremely funny. "Klown" makes "The Hangover" look like "Bambi." You have been warned!

Lockout: Is this a "great" movie? No. But it's a fun homage to '80s-style action flicks, with Guy Pearce playing a wisecracking action hero who seemingly has a one-liner for every situation. Pearce can do no wrong as an actor, and he proves it again in "Lockout."

The Other Son: Two boys – one Israeli, one Palestinian – were switched at birth. That irresistible premise is the basis for "The Other Son," which came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the best surprises of the year. Filmed in four languages, this thought-provoking tale follows both boys and their families as they find out and struggle with the truth.  

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Unfamiliar with the bestselling novel of the same name, I didn't know what to expect. As it turns out, "Perks" was written and directed for the screen by the book's author, Stephen Chbosky. That makes all the difference. This story about three high school friends in the early '90s packs an emotional wallop.

Robot & Frank: Frank Langella deserves an Academy Award nomination for his funny, touching portrayal of an aging former jewel thief who is given a robot to take care of him. Unfortunately, in what is sure to be a crowded Oscar field this year, Langella is likely to be overlooked for his beautiful performance in this little-seen hidden gem.  

Sleepless Night: Filled with tense pacing and wild fight sequences, this French import about a questionable cop trying to rescue his kidnapped son from a seedy nightclub proves that America isn't the only country adept at crafting a masterful action thriller.

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