“12 Years a Slave”
Let’s not pity-pat around this thing – this film is brutal and sad to watch. But it’s also a piece of amazing filmmaking. It’s the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man abducted into slavery in the antebellum South, based on the book written by Northup. Chiwetel Ejiofor champions the role of Northup, and director Steve McQueen (not the late action hero) pulls no punches in his delivery. This makes the third time Michael Fassbender has worked with McQueen, and the trust is evident because Fassbender is able to find frailty in ruthlessness. Other great assists are given by Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch and Paul Dano. But none of the performances distract. This movie could stand next to one of Steven Spielberg’s as a standard-bearer of historical entertainment. It’s epic in scope, never narrow in vision or opinion, and definitely worth a watch.
“Thor: The Dark World”
“The Avengers” has put its heroes in a very peculiar situation. All the villains have to be just bad enough to cause discomfort, but not so bad that the heroes have to yell “Avengers assemble!” for reinforcements. Luckily, Thor is a god and would be deemed a bit of a wimp if he called in a bunch of mortals for help. The whole cast returns for this sequel – Chris Hemsworth as the title character, his love interest Natalie Portman and his devilish brother Tom Hiddleston (who has proven to be the star of the show). The rest of the cast also return to prove that nobody has better casting agents than superhero movies. As in the first film, there’s plenty of levity. All the fantasy themes are dealt with in an easy-to-digest manner. A change in directors was made when Shakespearean Kenneth Branagh was switched out for “Game of Thrones” director Alan Taylor. Christopher Eccleston was brought in to be a bad elf, and he kills. Hammer this one down as another fun flick to add to the Marvel movie collection – worth a watch.
Here we go again – the old Internet poker plot. OK, maybe this storyline hasn’t been done a million times, but watching a movie about Internet poker is about as interesting as watching a movie about how Facebook was created…oh wait. Either way, it’s not really about Internet poker is it? It’s about characters. And this one is about a successful con man (Ben Affleck) teaching the up-and-coming con man (Justin Timberlake) a thing or two. Obviously, you have to have the duplicitous femme fatale (Gemma Arterton) and the pressuring cop (Anthony Mackie). With this cast you’d think the chemistry itself might be worth the time and trouble of pushing play, but it’s all so standard. It’s surprising, because young director Brad Furman had made such a mark at setting the mood with 2011’s “The Lincoln Lawyer.” But the plot takes broad turns you see coming from the beginning, and the characters are stock cut-outs. Run run away from this one – pass.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge