Best: "The Dark Knight Rises"
The Catwoman's transition from sultry siren to woman-on-top badass can lead to success (Michelle Pfeiffer) or ignominy (Halle Berry). Hathaway scored with a sexy, dangerous Selina Kyle, whether channeling Audrey Hepburn in a series of slinky gamine-about-town outfits or credibly battling Christian Bale's Caped Crusader.
Worst: "Les Misérables"
Will Hathaway win an Academy Award as the long-suffering Fantine? Quite possibly. Does she embarrass herself with a hammy, grimacing, oxygen-sucking, back-balcony-playing, self-serving, eyelid-fluttering, oh-so-noble death scene as she belts out "I Dreamed a Dream"? You betcha.
ROBERT DE NIRO
Best: "Silver Linings Playbook"
After decades of this venerable legend phoning it in, it's a treat to get such a rich and hilarious performance as the shaky patriarch of a deeply dysfunctional Philadephia family. De Niro never smoothes out the rough edges or takes cheap shortcuts to audience likability.
ROBERT DE NIRO
Worst: "Red Lights"
Even by the standards of lesser De Niro performances, this slab of marbled ham was difficult to digest. Cast as a blind medium with powers ranging from spoon-bending to psychic surgery, De Niro went full-tilt bananas in this one, like Joan Crawford in a William Castle horror cheapie.
Best: "Holy Motors"
In Leos Carax's mind-bending fantasia on acting, illusion and the movies, Australian pop princess Minogue plays a former lover of the film's mysterious leading man, and during their brief interlude together, she sings a haunting, plaintive song of loss. It's a powerful moment that lingers, delivered in one of the year's very best films.
Worst: "Jack and Diane"
It's hard to say what anyone is doing in this shoddy teen-lesbian-romance-cum-monster-movie, but Minogue appears to be completely at sea in the role of a lecherous tattoo artist. Unless you're titillated by the idea of Minogue having a love scene with the granddaughter of Elvis Presley (actress Riley Keough), "Jack and Diane" is a big yawn.
Of the three "Twilight Saga" stars, Pattinson has given the strongest extracurricular performance as a callow Master of the Universe facing his own demise, and possibly that of society as a whole, from the back of an white limousine. Pattinson's whispery deadpan meshes perfectly with director David Cronenberg's aesthetic.
Worst: "Bel Ami"
Without someone like Cronenberg or Bill Condon at the reins, Pattinson appears to be left to his own devices. In this period piece, Pattinson stars as a blank rake who seduces all the influential ladies of Paris. Unfortunately, we never figure out why they roll out the red carpet (much less the clean sheets).
Best: "The Hunger Games" and "Pitch Perfect"
In both the megahit and the cult success she nurtured to the screen, Banks plays a self-absorbed media figure lingering on the edges of a ruthless competition for young people, a perfect fit for her trademark brand of dismissive wit.
Worst: "What to Expect When You're Expecting"
Stuck with a hacky script and aimless direction, Banks feels particularly adrift here, unable to make her businesswoman-turned-pregnant-hormonal-wreck feel anything but grotesque and caricatured. If anything, it's an object example of why actresses like Banks become producers: to avoid getting stuck in crap projects like this one.