14. Exam

In the year of the single room thriller, here’s my favorite.  The premise is simple: eight job candidates are in a room for a final test.  The invigilator (Colin Salmon) details the few rules: don’t talk to him or the guard, don’t leave the room, don’t spoil the paper in front of them.  He tells the candidates they just need to answer the question.  And that’s it, as the candidates have to figure out what the test is, exactly, and how to use the room and each other to do so.  If you like mysteries, I’d definitely recommend you check out this BAFTA nominee.  If you don’t, you may be a bit put off by the “solution”.

13. City Island

City Island was a moderate success, as far as indie films go, but I remain surprised it couldn’t find a larger audience.  This comedy about a dysfunctional New York family stars Andy Garcia as a corrections officer who harbors secret dreams of being an actor.  He’s a devoted family man, but among the prisoners he comes across the one big mistake of his life: the son (Steven Strait) he had when he was very young.  Telling no one, including the young man, Garcia brings him home under the pretense of a work-release program, a lie that sets forth a rather hilarious farce.  Julianna Margulies plays Garcia’s wife, joyfully bursting out of the cold persona she inhabits on The Good Wife.  They have two kids, the lovely Dominik Garcia-Lorido (Andy’s actual daughter) who secretly has tossed aside college to work at a strip club and Ezra Miller, who is finding out he has a thing for BBW.  The final piece of the puzzle is Emily Mortimer, a fellow student in Garcia’s acting class.  The film is consistently funny, with a plot always serving to create humor out of the lies and misconceptions.

12. The Trotsky

Awhile back, when the Genie Award (the Canadian Oscars) nominations came out, John sent out a link and pointed to The Trotsky, saying it sounded like my kind of movie.  Oh, John.  I can’t see a possible reason why you’d think I’d be interested in a high school romantic dramedy steeped in history and starring Jay Baruchel.  It is like you don’t know me at all!  (Of course, I’d already seen the film by the time John sent out his e-mail.)  One of those films where I can’t imagine a target audience other than, well, me.  Baruchel stars as Leon Bronstein, a senior in high school who believes he’s the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky.  Yup.  He spends the summer unionizing the workers at his dad’s (Saul Rubinek) plant and getting them to strike.  In an effort to straighten Leon out, his dad sends him to a public high school with a strict principal (Colm Feore).  Once there, Leon immediately gets to work organizing the students while wooing an older girl to whom he is preordainly drawn.  The film is funny and charming and filled with historical jokes, most of which I’m sure I didn’t get.

11. The Expendables

I mean, yes, it is a second tier 80s action flick stuffed to the gills with ridiculously awesome actors.  But that’s a good thing.  When did we become so self-important that we looked down at a film with characters named “Hale Caesar” and “Yin Yang” (the Asian one, obviously).  Where the bad guys are unquestionably bad — except when they are being manipulated by people profiting off of drugs in some nonsensical scheme.  Where the women are hot, empowered in the sense that they fight back, but always need saving and are barely relevant.  The explosions are plentiful and completely totally necessary, as are the fights and cameos.  Sometimes you just need to sit back and have some fun.

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