12 Years Of Slave
Directed By: Steve McQueen
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Lupita Nyong’o, Scoot McNairy, Alfre Woodard

It’s hard to watch a movie like this and not compare it to Django Unchanged. I mean it’s the same setting, similar themes, big name stars, and unsettling images. However, unlike Django, 12 Years A Slave is extremely subtle in its powerfulness and Chiwetel Ejiofor is definitely one to watch come Oscar time, despite the difficulty in spelling his name.

In the 1800’s Solomon Northup, a hard working New York State citizen is kidnapped and sold into slavery and abused for 12 years despite his free status. While routinely punished for his rebellious behavior he has passed from family to family in the south, 12 Years A Slave is a recount of his time and the nefarious characters he encountered along the way.

Yes is wracked full of impressive guest stars, all who stay on screen a short time with minimal character development. However, the imagery, the themes, and the brutality of the entire frustrating and degrading situation is captured perfectly by astute directing and incredible acting. But nothing in this movie will affect you more until the final 10 minutes of the movie. When the moment you have been holding your breath for finally happens, you’ll be shocked at how easy the tears come. It’s a release you never knew you were holding on to. Rating 3 ½ Stars

August: Osage County
Directed By: John Wells
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson

The best thing about August Osage County is the raw performance by Meryl Streep. Her performance in this movie is unlike anything I’ve seen from her in a long time. Streep plays matriarch Violet Weston of a dysfunctional family that gets together upon the disappearance of their father. She is a woman filled with rage and bitterness with absolutely no filter so it’s ironic that she is terminally ill from cancer of the throat.

The fact that this movie is based on a play makes me wonder just how awful it must be to watch it as one. The movie isn’t bad, persay, it’s just these people have pro-blems! And it’s depressing, and frustrating. It’s never easy dealing with sick parents, and stubborn parents, and parents who have belief systems that are old school and out dated. But it’s another thing to deal with a mother who is belligerent at making her daughters’ lives miserable. And it’s not even like the daughters are angels, they have their own twisted and complicated issues. But seriously, there is not one happy moment in this quiet little movie.

This isn’t exactly a rave review and a movie like this isn’t for everyone. But Meryl Streep commands the screen and watching her fight with Julia Roberts is quite entertaining. Now I know a lot of people who have been raving about Julia Robert’s performance, but honestly, I’ve heard so many bad things about her as a person, I couldn’t help but think of her tantrums on screen as a little glimpse of what it is to work with her when she’s in a bad mood. Rating: 2 ½ Stars

 

 

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