1. Premium Rush — 76%
Summary: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s psychotic bike messenger has to deliver an extra-dangerous, extra-special message that is liable to get him killed, except for the fact that he’s the best bike messenger in Gotham, nahmean?
Review excerpt: “The whole film sizzles with urban aggression.” — Bruce Diones, The New Yorker
Saving grace: That, despite the insane and bizarre premise of focusing a high-octane action/chase movie on bike messengers, it’s actually good! (Also, Michael Shannon!)
2. Salmon Fishing In The Yemen — 67%
Summary: Ewan McGregor tries to make fly fishing in Yemen a thing. (Fishing is a sport, so back off.) Surprisingly for Ewan McGregor, he does not get naked.
Review excerpt: “Proudly, it has no conviction to offer, just the comforts of its genericness.” — Wesley Morris, the Boston Globe
Saving grace: I mean, McGregor and Kristen Scott Thomas are excellent actors, and the movie got solid reviews and, hilariously, was nominated for a bunch of Golden Globes. That title, though: hysterical, fascinating, bizarre, and totally meaningless all at the same time.
3. The Man With The Iron Fists — 51%
Summary: The RZA makes complicated instruments of death for a bunch of battling tribes in China that somehow includes Russell Crowe. Kung Fu movies are the original sports movies, and The Man With The Iron Fists is basically an adoring, deranged ode to Kung Fu movies.
Review excerpt: I’m going to give pro and con reviews for this one:
Con: “Lunatic, slipshod, absurdly violent, horribly acted, and borderline incomprehensible.” — Ty Burr, the Boston Globe
Pro: “As erratically enjoyable as it is consistently ridiculous, the martial arts pastiche “The Man With the Iron Fists” is the latest evidence that the vogue for neo-exploitation cinema shows no sign of flagging.” — Manohla Dargis, the New York Times
Saving grace: Are you kidding???? IT WAS DIRECTED BY AND STARS THE RZA.
4. Trouble With The Curve — 51%
Summary: Clint Eastwood plays every retrograde, completely outdated baseball figure currently alive in Hollywood’s attempt to make the antithesis to Moneyball. Also, Justin Timberlake and Amy Adams are there, being very attractive.
Review excerpt: “Seriously, though: You’re gonna have to swallow a lot of idiocy.” — Will Leitch, Deadspin
Saving grace: I already mentioned Amy Adams, who was Oscar-worthy in the best movie of the year, The Master, so it gets a little residual glitter from that. John Goodman’s cool. Clint Eastwood is very good at grumbling. But seriously, if Mitch Albom were a movie, he would be this.
5. Crooked Arrows — 38%
Summary: Hey, Native Americans invented lacrosse! Let’s use lacrosse as a clumsy, stereotypical metaphor for reservations’ highly complex and difficult struggles! I mean, I’m not ragging on the complicated racial issues this movie is attempting to confront, at all — lacrosse is just generally hilarious, and pitting the underdog reservation team up against rich white prep-school lax bros seems a little trite.
Review excerpt: “A millennial brace of lacrosse action propels Crooked Arrows through a thicket of cliches liberally planted in its path.” — Ronnie Schelb, Variety
Saving grace: Appears to actually deal with Native American history and issues quite well, and had the backing of various tribes.
6. Chasing Mavericks — 33%
Summary: Wise, troubled surfing legend Frosty Hesson — yes, Frosty Hesson — yes, I said Frosty Hesson — no, I did not make that up — helps a young bro named Jay Moriarty — yes, god, I didn’t make any of these names up — chase some massive rad killer waves. Gerard Butler plays Frosty Hesson, making the smooth transition from action hero to surfing guru, because they’re totally similar roles.
Review excerpt: “It’s a perfect fortune cookie of a movie, full of bland life lessons for everybody; would that there were some drama or style in it somewhere along the way.” — Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine
Saving grace: Watching Gerard Butler try to turn himself into Matthew McConaughey, naturally.
7. Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D — 6%
Summary: The official synopsis: “The show follows Travis and the Nitro Circus Crew as they travel around the world setting up outrageous stunts and pushing the human body to the limit, constantly looking to innovate the world of action sports.” So, extreme-sports porn, basically, doubling as another thing for the massively successful Travis Pastrana to add to his list of accomplishments. It’s basically like Jackass, but with actually talented athletes, which makes very little sense.
Review excerpt: “Remains firmly planted in the realm of the inarticulate dude-bro, where shirtless men gleefully engage in physical acts of self-inflicted pain without a trace of real self-awareness or understanding.” — Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times
Saving grace: Rad Xtreme Sports Stunts, brah.
8. Playing For Keeps — 4%
Summary: GERARD BUTLER’S BACK, BABY, this time as a soccer star who becomes a youth soccer coach and can’t evade all the soccer mom COUGARS who come chasing after him, hungry for just a bite of that shirtless-Butler magic that apparently fills so many sports movies in 2012.
Review excerpt: Well, Rotten Tomatoes’ consensus is pretty great — “Witless, unfocused, and arguably misogynistic, Playing for Keeps is a dispiriting, lowest-common-denominator Hollywood rom-com” — but for a single review, this, from the Village Voice’s Melissa Anderson, takes the crown: “I’ll long be haunted by Dennis Quaid’s manic performance as a palm-greasing dad who seems to be under the influence of bath salts.”
Saving grace: None! None at all! Unless you really have a thing for Mr. Butler.
9. Silver Linings Playbook — 1,000%
Summary: Mark Wahlberg, playing himself, tries out for the Eagles, then makes it, subsequently inspiring a city (Philadelphia). I’m not really sure why Mark Wahlberg is pretending to be a substitute teacher, but I guess they needed to increase the grit. He also wins the heart of Elizabeth Banks in the process of making the NFL. This is a documentary.
Review excerpt: “The movie is shamelessly manipulative.” — Ruthie Stein, the San Francisco Chronicle
Saving grace: Look, people have very strong feelings about the Eagles, and about Mark Wahlberg, and when you tap into those feelings like this film does, you’re guaranteed a winner. It’s like Rocky, but set in America, because America is FOOTBALL, not boxing.
Wait — what movie are we talking about?
Huge thanks to Rotten Tomatoes for help with screengrabs and information.