Category Archives: Film Listings/Ratings

12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen – 2013) A

What a horrific story. Obviously, slavery is a horrible enterprise but here we see it just how terrible it is framed with the true story of Solomon Northup. He was an educated free black man, a well-off violinist, a husband and father of two living in upstate New York. He gets abducted and sold as a slave in Georgia where his nightmare goes on for 12 years! It really is a horrible journey as we follow Solomon from one master who is “kind” to the next who can be described as a monster (although his wife might be even worse). We meet various slaves and see how they try to adapt and survive. Northup on the other hand faces various difficult choices and  tries to survive a day at a time. He is not a hero, he is not hatching plans to free his fellow slaves. He just wants to get home and his actions are at times not enviable.

McQueen does a brilliant job in telling this difficult story and builds well-rounded characters who we grow to hate, love or pity. The movie is tough to watch at times but it never felt exploitative or gratuitous. It is just bold and unflinching in its depictions of slavery and its impact on everyone. The movie has a lot of excellent performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon to Michael Fassbender as his sadistic master Epps and Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey, Epps’ favorite and most unfortunate slave. It is not a movie I want to watch many times over but it is a great telling of this tragic story that I’m guessing almost no one knew about.

World War Z (Marc Forster – 2013) B-

I think I might’ve liked this film a bit better if I had not read -well really listened to- the book. The audio book is a fantastic telling of the story through multiple witness accounts after the zombie war is over. The narrator is just compiling the data for record keeping. He interviews a number of people all read by different readers in the book. It makes it seem somewhat…real and very engrossing. Why even call this movie “World War Z”? It makes the Brad Pitt character more of an action hero and completely alters and simplifies the conclusion of the war. It’s not a terrible movie. It has some good set pieces and the plot unfolds well. It just falls too short of its source material and I could not ignore that.

The Master (Paul Thomas Andersen – 2012) B

It was different than what I expected. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is not my favorite P.T. Anderson movie. It’s not really about a cult leader who is played by Philip Seymore Hoffman but about the character of Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix). He is a WWII vet who is not the sharpest tool in the shed. He is violent, a drunk and seems lost after the war. He is a prime candidate for indoctrination by Lancaster Dodd. We see the rise of this cult from Quell’s perspective as he gets sucked into Dodd’s world. The acting is excellent by everyone here, the direction is as good as I would expect and the film is not boring. It just needed some sort of sympathetic anchor.

Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée – 2103) A-

The strength of this movie is really the awesome performances by Jared Leto (so unrecognizable) and Mathew McConaughey. They do a great job as a transvestite, Rayon, and homophobic cowboy, Ron, who are diagnosed with AIDS in the mid-eighties. With lots still misunderstood about the disease and no viable FDA-approved drugs to treat the symptoms they start a “business” to bring in drugs from Mexico, Europe or even Japan. Ron played by McConaughey, is the driving force of the film. The movie does a good job in capturing the chaos of that time and place that was known as the AIDS epidemic and how slow the wheels of government were turning in getting people the help they needed. It’s also a very sweet film with moments of triumph, joy and pain.

Flight (Robert Zemeckis – 2012) C+

A movie that starts off with a bang and then labors through over two hours of the portrait of an alcoholic. That is not too bad if it did not get terribly boring throughout most of that span. Despite a very good performance by Denzel Washington as Captain Whip Whitaker I just mostly did not care. The most interesting segment was involving the conversation with a cancer patient we meet in the hospital stairwell where captain Whitaker was recovering after the plane crash.

The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom – 2010) C-

I really did not like this movie much. It’s violence is sickening and the story is not very compelling. Something though makes this not total junk. It’s main character is played perfectly and stoically by Casey Affleck. He is a sick individual who has no redeeming qualities. He seems like a nice down home Texas boy in the 1950s when the movie opens up. That makes it all the more jarring when he explodes. This cycle gets a bit tiring though and by the time we get to the inevitable conclusion  I was really ready for it to be over.