To help sort through the surplus of possibilities, we’re looking at this year’s Washington area releases from different angles. Whether you’re batty for the superheroes who dominated this year’s box office or intrigued by the quiet festival favorites, curious about the critically acclaimed documentaries or swooning over awards-show sweethearts, you can brush up on the notable releases here. Read on to learn about the movies you might have missed and how to see them.
After a disappointing box office haul in 2011, ticket sales rebounded during the past 12 months thanks in part to some flashy heroics. By far, the biggest blockbuster was
Marvel’s the Avengers
, Joss Whedon’s action adventure that finds Iron Man, the Hulk and Captain America, among others, teaming up to take on an ominous villain with slicked hair and an overcoat. The movie raked in more than $600 million domestically and critical accolades, with Post critic Ann Hornaday among those applauding, giving it three stars. (See chart for our critic ratings for these movies.) Two trilogy installments with similarly positive reviews landed in the second and third spots. The final Batman film from director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale,
The Dark Knight Rises
, and the first film in
The Hunger Games
series each brought in more than $400 million domestically. But Katniss Everdeen was no match for Daniel Craig’s James Bond in the global market.
, the latest in the 007 franchise, had big returns overseas, earning the third-largest haul of any 2012 film worldwide.
(“Skyfall” is playing in area theaters. All other movies are available for home viewing.)
If the wide-release cash cows have fairly straightforward plots — good guys take on bad guys — the limited-release films that brought in the most dough are decidedly trickier to describe. Topping the list is David O. Russell’s pleasantly quirky
Silver Linings Playbook
, which covers mental illness, divorce and sports fan superstitions and culminates in a dance competition. Other big films included Sundance darling
Beasts of the Southern Wild
, the poignant and lyrical journey with a 6-year-old protagonist, and the reality-based character study
, about a well-liked Texas funeral director charged with murdering an old curmudgeon, much to the shock of his friends and neighbors.
(“Silver Linings Playbook” is playing in area theaters. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Bernie” are available for home viewing.)
The Oscar contenders aren’t revealed until Jan. 10, but Golden Globe nominees are already awaiting their Jan. 13 fates. As expected, there were early accolades piled on the beyond-buzzy Osama Bin Laden chase film
Zero Dark Thirty
, which doesn’t come to Washington area theaters until Jan. 11. But Kathryn Bigelow’s movie didn’t score the most nominations. That honor goes to Steven Spielberg’s
, which garnered seven nods, followed by five nominations for another historically inspired film,
. The suspenseful tale of Americans trying to escape from Iran stars and was directed by Ben Affleck. Also up for five awards: Quentin Tarantino’s pre-abolition spaghetti western-inspired revenge fantasy,
, which has a more erratic relationship with real events.