Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are) looks at how we interact in this excellent tale of the relationship between a man (Joaquin Phoenix) and his new self-aware computer operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). A unique work of speculative fiction that is sweet, sad, ingenious and thought-provoking. Opens in Indianapolis January 10.
2. 12 Years a Slave
Chiwetel Ejiofor gives an amazing performance in Brit director Steve McQueen's harrowing study of the experience of being a slave. Now playing.
3. The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese's nearly three-hour story of a group of corrupt stockbrokers is a rollicking exercise in excess, with swell work by Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and many others. Now playing.
4. Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey's performance is a career best in this fact-based story of a tough-as-nails redneck diagnosed with AIDS during the early years of the epidemic. Jared Leto does a standout job in a strong supporting role. Still in a couple of theaters, on video in February.
5. The Act of Killing
Documentary about genocide-committing Indonesian men that are treated like rock stars by the public. Horrifying and mesmerizing, this must be seen to be believed. Available on video January 7.
6. Captain Phillips
Of course Tom Hanks is terrific as the title character in this fact-based modern-day pirates story, but newcomer Barkhad Abdi is equally impressive as the leader of the pirate group. Available on video January 21.
Alfoso Cuaron's you-are-there film about astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) lost in space is a visual feast that also tells a tale of rebirth. Still in a few theaters, on video February 25.
Atmospheric modern-day adventure story in the style of Mark Twain, with another memorable performance by Matthew McConaughey. Now on video.
9. Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen brothers travel to 1961 New York City for this story of a talented folk musician (Oscar Isaac) with poor social skills. The bleak film features top-notch songs and notable supporting performances by Carey Mulligan and John Goodman. Now playing.
10. The Way, Way Back
Well-crafted coming-of-age comedy-drama about a teen (Liam James) that finds a new friend (Sam Rockwell, in peak form) while enduring a vacation with his mom (Toni Collette) and her overbearing boyfriend (Steve Carrell). Available on video.
11. All is Lost
Survival at sea with Robert Redford. One character. Almost no words. Intense. On video February 11.
Judi Dench searches for her son with Steve Coogan's help. Moving and beautifully acted. Now playing.
13. Enough Said
Smart romantic comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini. On video January 14.
14. White House Down
Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx in the best over-the-top dumb-ass action flick of the year. Available on video.
15. Before Midnight
Julie Delphy and Ethan Hawke squabble memorably in Richard Linklater's third film in the relationship series Available on video.
16. Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett steals the show in Woody Allen's comedy-drama. Available on video January 21.
17. Pacific Rim
Giant robots vs. Godzilla's cousins. Coolest monster movie in many moons. On video now.
18. The Spectacular Now
Striking coming-of-age story about a charming teen alcoholic. Available on video January 14.
Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal in a pitch black thriller. Get ready to squirm. On video now.
20. Fruitvale Station
Fact-based story of the hours leading up to a tragedy. Heartbreaking. Available on video January 14.
Frozen (Snappy Disney princess cartoon), Nebraska (Bruce Dern plays a mega-coot on a road trip with son Will Forte), American Hustle (wonderful performances by most of the cast - especially the women - nearly trumps a hard-to-follow story smothered by late '70s/early '80s period music, fashions and hairstyle schtick).
MOST ANNOYING MOVIES OF 2013:
1. Now You See Me
A group of magicians stage heists that would be impossible unless they had genuine magical powers. The lack of internal logic bugged the hell out of me, though no one else seemed to mind.
2. The Lone Ranger
Johnny Depp quirks it up as Tonto and makes wisecracks about the Lone Ranger, who is portrayed as a boob. Terribly long, with an annoying framing device.
3. Man of Steel
Hey, let's make Superman dark like Batman! Let's have him smash up half of Metropolis in a tiresome battle before killing his enemy! Sheesh.
4. Oz the Great and Powerful
Disney's prequel pays homage/mimics the structure and general story arc of The Wizard of Oz, minus the sense of wonder, the fancifulness and the heart.
5. Star Trek Into Darkness
Evoking the legendary Khan and giving us a new all-grim-and-'roid-rage version is like popping in a Van Halen disc expecting David Lee Roth and getting Sammy Hagar instead.
Austenland (an intriguing premise is wasted in this half-assed comedy about a Jane Austen-themed resort).