Although it thematically treads well-worn cinematic ground, Dallas Buyers Club stands out because of Matthew McConaughey’s intense and remarkable portrait of AIDS victim and activist Ron Woodroof. There are a few “Wow, the government really is hard to take on” moments as Woodroof circumvents the FDA to give himself and paid members to his exclusive club of HIV-positive patients unapproved meds (vitamins and proteins, mostly). He’s also at war with a local hospital treating patients with dangerous doses of AZT. All the while, of course, he’s an emaciated husk of a man teetering ever closer to death. Woodroof takes an unlikely business partner in Rayon (Jared Leto), a transvestite patient with access to a lot of potential customers. It’s hard to imagine that the star of Sahara and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days could do this, but McConaughey has given us one of the year’s most sterling performances.