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The Best Guilty Pleasure Films of 2012

As much as we hate to admit it, these addictive missteps captured our attention in ways cinema shouldn't. Others will condemn them. We can't complain... not at all.

As much as we hate to admit it, these addictive missteps captured our attention in ways cinema shouldn't. Others will condemn them. We can't complain...not at all.

Film: The Paperboy

Director: Lee Daniels

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, John Cusack, Nicole Kidman, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray, Scott Glenn


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The Paperboy

In his new film, Lee Daniels makes his own world out of Peter Dexter's novel, The Paperboy. That world comes into a first focus when Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey), a well-known Miami journalist, comes to a small Florida town with his writing partner, a supercilious Brit named Yardley Achemanto (David Oyelowo). They mean to investigate the case of Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), a swamp-dwelling hick who is on death row for killing a local sheriff. Ward's younger brother Jack (Zac Efron), just kicked out of college, takes a job as their driver.

The film remakes the book in its casting of black actors (including Oyelowo) as characters who were written as white. When we first see the movie's narrator, Anita (Macy Gray), she seems a stereotype, slow-talking, entirely focused on getting paid, in this case by her interviewer. But as she tells the story of two brothers she raised as a servant for a white family, Anita becomes a deadpan, perceptive commentator on the action. She notes that Jack, whose mother left when he was little, fell in love with Charlotte because she was "his mom, high school sweetheart, and oversexed Barbie doll all rolled into one". Much like Daniels' Precious, The Paperboy urges viewers to sympathize with characters beyond the clichés they might seem to embody. Elena Razlogova

Film: Get the Gringo

Director: Adrian Grunberg

Cast: Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez, Peter Stormare, Dean Norris, Bob Gunton


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Get the Gringo

Really the only guilt involved here is liking an angry, violent Mel Gibson. After all, real-life angry Mel has been well documented and clearly isn’t good for anyone, including Mel. Movie Mel, though, is still indisputably entertaining. Here he plays a thief trapped in a Mexican prison who befriends a young boy and then kills a whole bunch of people. Obviously, there’s more to it than that, but really it’s all about the body count in this darkly comedic old-timey action flick. Ben Travers

Film: The Innkeepers

Director: Ti West

Cast: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, Alison Bartlett


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The Innkeepers

Even before you get to the movie, the DVD for writer/director/editor Ti West’s The Innkeepers already sets itself apart in an entertaining way. The screen just before the main menu features a message from producers of the disc, urging you to play it loud. This throwback to '80s metal albums, prodding listeners to pump up the volume, does a few things right out of the gate. It makes you smile, immediately drawing you into what is a fun, well put together package, and it readies you for the nostalgic nature of the film you are about to see.

West’s previous film, House of the Devil, was a homage to babysitter-in-trouble subgenre of horror that was popular in bygone decades. The Innkeepers operates in a similar manner, only this time West takes on the ghost story as his model. The Innkeepers is not a self-aware genre tribute, like a Scream or, more recently, Cabin in the Woods. Instead of wallowing in nerdiness and obscure minutiae, West crafts a simple, spooky, no-frills tale that both stands alone as an individual work, and plays into the overall tradition. Brent McKnight

Film: The Vow

Director: Michael Sucsy

Cast: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill, Scott Speedman, Wendy Crewson, Jessica Lange


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The Vow

OK, stay with me people. I listed The Vow as a guilty pleasure not because I felt at fault for liking it, but because I felt guilty about needing to feel guilty for loving the hell out of the Channing Tatum mega romance. In short, The Vow deserves respect.

1) It’s a true story, so some melodrama is acceptable.

2) It’s got Channing Tatum as a hipster. Yes, the 200-pound “Sexiest Man Alive” is doing his best impersonation of a plaid-wearing, cat-loving, Logan Square-living punk. And he pulls it off.

3) The film’s heart is in the right place.

It’s a stark reminder of what matters in life and how fragile so many of us hold it. Its resonance is as shocking as its quality. Ben Travers

Film: Branded

Director: Jamie Bradshaw, Aleksandr Dulerayn

Cast: Ed Stoppard, Jeffrey Tambor, Max von Sydow, Leelee Sobieski


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Sometimes, a movie is so baffling in its agenda, so outrageously out of step with the reality of the cultural world around them, that you just have to sit back and wonder: WHO MADE THIS? Sadly, the answer to that question only continues the confused head scratching. A Russian-American mash-up purporting to be sci-fi, this dopey diatribe is so surreal, so resplendently ridiculous in its "capitalism is crap" core that you just have to laugh... and laugh... and laugh. Like the love affair over Ayn Rand and her ambling Atlas Shrugged, we're sure that some political party will embrace this nonsense as something serious and profound. For us, it's like They Live without the epic WWF smackdown subtext. Bill Gibron

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