“The Master”: Most films made in 2012 hit like rain drops of varying size and frequency, “The Master” smashed down like a tidal wave. Its strange subject matter, oblique presentation, and nuanced, powerful acting made it one of last year’s best film but also one of its most challenging. As opposed to Paul Thomas Anderson’s earlier films, it provided no easy points of entry or heartening catharsis, it flashes, gorgeously, in front of the audience demanding attention with no guarantees of explanation. Watching “The Master” only to outcomes are possible, you’ll be left frustrated and angry or you’ll get lost in the current. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams.
Special features: “Back from the Beyond”, a montage of deleted scenes and outtakes scored by Johnny Greenwood, a new eight minute short/behind the scenes featurette called “Unguided Message”, and “Let There Be Light”, the 58 minute John Huston documentary that inspired parts of the film.
“Chasing Mavericks”: A biographical film about surfer Jay Moriarty (Jonny Weston) and his quest to master the legendary big waves of Northern California’s Mavericks. As with all surfing movies not titled “Psycho Beach Party”, the draw here is with the sweet ocean footage. And it should be particularly stunning stuff since it was filmed on the Epic Red camera by Bill Pope (“The Matrix” trilogy). Unfortunately the hypnotic aquatic photography is broken up by scenes of Gerard Butler trying to train someone to do something other than bitterly resisting the Persians undoubtedly; most of this movie will be a snooze. Hopefully co-director Curtis Hanson has recovered enough from his recent heart surgery to make another good movie soon. “8 Mile” was a long time ago. Also starring Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer, and Scott Eastwood.
Special features: A digital copy of the film, two featurettes, and deleted scenes.
“Chicken with Plums”: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud direct this adaptation of Satrapi’s graphic novel about a violinist (Mathieu Amalric) who loses the will to live after his wife (Maria de Medeiros) destroys his instrument. The filmmakers’ earlier film, 2007’s “Persepolis” was an enchanting animated film and “Plums”, while live-action, employs a number of stylistic techniques (chiaroscuro imagery and Jean-Pierre Jeunet-like maximalism) that makes it one of the more visually fantastic films to come down the pike in a long while. Also starring Isabella Rossellini, Golshifteh Farahani, and Jamel Debbouze.
Special features: Commentary with Satrapi and Paronnaud and a Q&A with the directors.
“Holy Motors”: Leos Carax’s magnificent film follows human chameleon (Denis Lavant) as he carries out his bizarre and transfixing work. The film has often been called inscrutable but it isn’t really, it simply rests outside of the modern cinematic conversation while using its vocabulary for its own mesmerizing ends. Because David Lynch has spent the last decade in semi-retirement and none of his would be successors possess his power or commercial appeal, undiluted surrealism has seemingly fallen out mainstream consciousness. “Holy Motors”, with great flair and dynamism, reminds of where we have been and boldly purposes where we should go next. Also starring Édith Scob, Eva Mendes, and Kylie Minogue.
Special features: Making of, cast and crew interviews and domestic and international trailers.
Mario McKellop has written about film on Examiner for the last three years and can be reached directly at email@example.com