Last Batch for 2013 – Quick Review: 12 Years a Slave, Enough Said, Dallas Buyers Club, Blue Jasmine, August: Osage County, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, Frances Ha & Inside Llewyn Davis

slave11n-9-web“12 Years a Slave” (2013, Steve McQueen)
RATING: 9/10

Director: Steve McQueen
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Benedict Cumberbatch
Screenplay: John Ridley (Based on the novel “Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup)

– The remarkable story of Solomon Northup, a free black man tricked and sold to slavery in the mid 1800s.
– Steve McQueen’s daring direction and artistic style is the perfect combination the film needed, and it’s what really brings out the true potential and glory of “12 Years a Slave”. Despite the truly wonderful ensemble cast and strong screenplay, McQueen is by far the heart and soul of the film. Not only giving us harsh reality of slavery, but also cinematic grit.
– Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays the lead character, is obviously best in show. How cinema fans are only truly exposed to him now is beyond me. He deserves all the praise given to him.
– Michael Fassbender, as always, is a trooper of good acting and intensity. Though Lupita Nyong’o plays a strong supporting character, I wasn’t that impressed with her as compared to Sarah Paulson (of recent “American Horror Story” fame) who plays a new type of character – terrifying, valuable and pure evil. She’s the actress that deserves praises in this film.
– Didn’t find anything special about the films technical achievements. The cinematography was good, but the score was nothing great for me. It often just sounded like noise and could have been improved. The production design and costume design did its part, but didn’t blow me away.

_EST3388.NEF“Enough Said” (2013, Nicole Holfcener)
RATING: 6.5/10

Director: Nicole Holfcener
Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, James Gandolfini, Toni Collette, Catherine Keener, Ben Falcone
Screenplay: Nicole Hofcener

– This cute romantic dramady by writer/director Nicole Holfcener, tells the story of Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss), a recently divorced woman, who decides to join the dating ring again. She then falls unconventionally in love with Albert (James Gandolfini), and suddenly learns that her new friend and client Marianne (Catherine Keener) is his ex-wife.
– Apart from a strong lead performance by comedian Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, the film lacked any real emotion halfway through the runtime. This disappointed me because the movie started off so well and so strong, that it became disappointing and rather rushed when the plot began to thicken.
– Hofcener’s screenplay has its funny moments, but sadly it’s just another romantic dramady that borderlines from mediocre to good. One thing that it makes me yearn for is that Louis-Dreyfuss is a perfect leading lady (though unconventional) and should be cast in more middle aged dramas and comedies.

EXCLUSIVE: Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto film scenes together for The Dallas Buyers Club in New Orleans.“Dallas Buyers Club” (2013, Jean-Marc Vallee)
RATING: 8.5/10

Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Cast: Matthew Mcconaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn, Dennis O’Hare
Screenplay: Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack

– When Ron Woodroof (Matthew Mcconaughey), a tough-guy cowboy living in 1985 Dallas Texas, learns he has AIDS and only a week to live, he takes measures in his own hands and explores better and more necessary medication for people diagnosed with the disease.
– Mcconaughey has walked a long road and has created himself a filmography fit for an upcoming Hollywood star that will be remembered in film history. His performance as Ron Woodroof is complex, heart-breaking and confident that you’d think the character (based on real life Woodroof) was written especially for him. Though you recognise Mcconaughey’s thick accent under this newly acquired sickly appearance, the audience never tires interest and continues to think that you’re watching this man’s inspiring tale and not a famous Hollywood movie star in a lot of makeup.
– Same goes for the risk taking Jared Leto. Man, am I glad that this rockstar is back to making films. I’ve always been quite a fan of his, and this is certainly the performance of his career. I know Mcconaughey will probably reach greater heights in his future career, but I think this is Leto’s big film. Playing a transvestite AIDS patient named Rayon, this so unexpected for the “30 Seconds to Mars” lead singer, but it’s a supporting performance for the ages!  Garner did what was necessary, and gave a good performance but was perfect for the tone of the film.
– The movie really is an “actor’s film” so to speak. Though the screenplay was written quite handsomely, Director Vallee had a lot of great material and actors to work with.

blue-jasmine“Blue Jasmine” (2013, Woody Allen)
RATING: 10/10

Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, Alden Ehrenreich, Louis C.K., Peter Sarsgaard
Screenplay: Woody Allen

– After loosing her money and family because of her husband’s money laundering scams, New York socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), moves to San Francisco to her sister’s home (Sally Hawkins) but begins to unravel as the demons of her past begin to haunt her.
– Where to begin? “Blue Jasmine” is probably one of the few movies form 2013 that I can watch again and again, and there are so many reasons why I can say that. Firstly, because of Cate Blanchett’s ravishing performance as Jasmine. If this woman does not win an Oscar for this film, I don’t know what I’m going to do anymore. I’ll probably freak out. Jasmine is Blanchett’s finest film role, and that’s saying a lot because I’ve always thought that she is one of the most talented people in the movie industry today. Her Jasmine is luscious, delirious and so good, that I feel like I’m watching a classic “Great” movie star in an old 1950s film. Though she gets comparisons with Vivien Leigh’s performance as Blanche Dubios in 1951’s “A Streetcar Named Desire”, Blanchett’s Jasmine stands on its own. It’s one of the greatest performances I’ve seen on film in recent years.
– Woody Allen has always been hit or miss with me. I’ve never really been a huge fan of his, but I’ve never disliked him. This reaffirms why he’s one of the greatest writers (I’m not saying director) in Hollywood working today. This is his best screenplay since “Match Point” (2005).
– The ensemble cast truly fantastic. If Woody Allen has another strength apart from his writing, it’s most certainly his casting decisions. Sally Hawkins was a joy to watch as Jasmine’s kid sister, Ginger. And Bobby Cannavale is pitch perfect as Ginger’s new, trashy boyfriend.
– One underrated factors the film holds is the great production and costume design. From the highest highs of Upper East Side New York and the Hamptons to the high hills of lowlife San Francisco they got it right. Contemporary costume design is not easy, and costume designer Suzy Benzinger hits in right in the bulls eye!

20131206_augustosagecounty_eatyourfishredband“August: Osage County” (2013, John Wells)
RATING: 5.5/10

Director: John Wells
Cast: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Ewan McGregor, Sam Shepard, Dermont Mulroney, Julianne Nicholsons, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Misty Upham
Screenplay: Tracy Letts (Based on the play by Tracy Letts)

– When their father dies from a boating accident, the Weston family reunite under one roof for the first time in many years. However, their angry, pill-addicted mother Violet (Meryl Streep) starts to test the family’s patience and ultimately their relationships with one another.
– “Oscar begging by Harvey Weinstein 101” – the film wasn’t good, and the cast is wasted on material (that was well received on the stage – so what happened?) that does not come off well on the silver screen. It may be the fault of director John Wells who can’t control his actors, especially the larger-then-life (AKA cliche and typical) Meryl Streep character, that does nothing to improve the movie in the slightest bit, and yet tries to steal the camera from anyone any chance she gets.
– Julia Roberts and Margo Martindale were the only saving graces of the film. They give fine performances, especially Roberts who never seemed as layered a character as she is in “August: Osage County”. She wasn’t just good, she was fantastic!
– The cinematography did nothing for me. Yes, I understand we’re suppose to be in the middle of nowhere, and the dark lighting matched the dark subject matter and mourning for their father and all, but the way cinematographer Adriano Goldman photographed the film was so dull. It may be the reason why I got so extremely bored just a quarter into the film.

Film Fall Preview“The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013, Martin Scorsese)
RATING: 10/10

Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew Mcconaughey, Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, P.J. Byrne
Screenplay: Terrence Winter (Based on the novel by Jordan Belfort)

– The true story of the rise and fall of Wall Street mogul Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), who sets himself up for his own destruction with a life of drugs, corruption and greed.
– WARNING: I am a Scorsese fan boy.
– Everything I wanted and everything I hoped for came true with “The Wolf of Wall Street”, which was my most anticipated film of the year. A sister film to two of my favourite Scorsese movies “Goodfellas” (1990) and “Casino” (1995), the director never fails to make an interesting character study on the corrupt low lives of the United States. This is the reason why he is my favourite director of all time. And his collaborations with Leonardo DiCaprio (this being the fifth) was exhilarating and masterful, running a close second to “The Departed” (2006) which was an instant classic, well at least for me.
– Scorsese will always be a class act. At 70-something years old, he still has the spunk, guts and balls to impress and overshadow the young talented filmmakers of today. His “Wolf” is full of energy, risqué material, comic timing, intensity, and doesn’t seem like anything a man of his age would even dare touch. But Scorsese understand this certain underworld and brings it to new heights all the time.
– Leonardo DiCaprio is always constant with his acting, and has a filmography to envy if you’re an actor in Hollywood land. His Jordan Belfort may possibly be the role he will be remembered for. It’s a iconic performance in the making. DiCaprio has had a very good year in film (earlier in 2013 he was in “The Great Gatsby), this being the height of his career for sure! He is “The Wolf of Wall Street”, The Wolf of Hollywood and the Best Male Performance of the year. Though signs are pointing to a Mcconaughey Best Actor Oscar win, I’ve never felt this strongly about a DiCaprio role, and I honestly think he’ll win the gold this year. Get that Oscar, Wolfie!
– Terrence Winter’s script is a rally of sin and fun! It’s a party on paper, so smartly and tightly written, and in Scorsese-esque style too, that the three hour was win is not a bore at all.
– The supporting players were magnificent. Jonah Hill (thought I disagree with the Oscar nomination) was never better! But Margot Robbie is the true star of the supporting cast. She is incredibly funny, sexy and plays the film extremely well.
– Love it or hate it, this film will be remembered by this generation. Not a day passes when someone talks to me about this film since 2014 started, as compared to “12 Years a Slave” and “Blue Jasmine” (masterful in their own right), which people hardly talk about, if not movie geeks.

her-2013-film“Her” (2013, Spike Jonze)
RATING: 8/10

Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlet Johansson, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde
Screenplay: Spike Jonze

– Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodre Twombly, a lonely man who has recently separated from his wife, but then falls in love with his OS (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).
– As bizarre as the basic plot sounds, Spike Jonze’s “Her” truly has a lot of heart and emotion. It’s definitely one of the better directed films of the year, with a stunning performance by Joaquin Phoenix who keeps surprising me every year of his recent career choices.
– Jonze’s “Her” has the right spirit to make such a story work. The director’s visual style and pacing gives the film the edgy and sentimental feeling that it needs to be something new to viewers. His screenplay was lovely, and had the right amount of humour and drama to make you feel warm inside. Jonze is a true juggernaut behind the camera, and always gives such quality and mind-reeling motion pictures.
– The film is also filled with an array of talented Hollywood actresses. Amy Adams was marvellous, Olivia Wilde seems to be revitalising her career, and Rooney Mara was decent. But Scarlet Johansson’s voice work as “Samantha the OS” is something else! Her husky voice was bewildering, and showed more range then any of the actresses that you see on screen. Her chemistry with Phoenix was amazing.
– The score written for “Her” was tremendous. From the piano sequences to “The Moon Song”, it was the perfect soundtrack for a such a film. It also matched the lovely aesthetics put together by Jonze. The production design played a huge role in the time period the film was set (the non-distant future) and the cinematography was almost flawless.

Frances-Ha-Film-still_2“Frances Ha” (2013, Noah Baumbach)
RATING: 7/10

Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Summer, Michael Esper, Adam Driver, Michael Zegen, Patrick Heusinger
Screenplay: Noah Baumbach & Greta Gerwig

– Frances (Greta Gerwig) is a quirky, unemployed Modern dancer, who happens to find herself homeless in New York City. Her adventure begins as the confused Frances moves from apartment to apartment, friend to friend, trying to find a home and ultimately trying to find herself.
– Greta Gerwig is a comic genius in the making (well hopefully), and I think she’s found her match in writer/director Noah Baumbach, coming up with an enjoyable film like “Frances Ha”. Though the movie is still very raw and could have been better, it was truly entertaining to watch and not typical, even in the indie-movie sense. I hate quirky characters (AKA Zooey Duschanel in anything), but this one worked.
– The black and white cinematography was gorgeous. Perfect choice for the film. I’d even go as far as saying it was an inspired choice. So was the music, which I was very impressed with.
– I’m excited to see what Baumbach and Gerwig will do next together, they’re a dream match made in cinema heaven. Hopefully, they don’t disappoint!

Inside-Llewyn-Davis-cat“Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen)
RATING: 9/10

Director: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver, Ethan Phillips, Robin Bartlett, Max Casella, Stark Sands
Screenplay: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

– Set in the 1961 folk music scene, we meet the depressed, self-loathing singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), and follow him for a week as he tries to survive the streets of New York, make it in the music scene and settle his relationships in his life.
– The biggest Oscar snub of the year is Oscar Isaac not getting much consideration for the Best Actor race. Isaac was a true revelation. Though he’s a new face in mainstream cinema, his comfort with the camera and the material made him seem like such a veteran. I’m glad he’s truly launching his career with this amazing Coens brother film, because no huge Hollywood star would be able to take on this role as well as he could. He is the entire film, and the rest of the cast rests on his mighty hand. Two thumbs up for his acting alone.
– The Coens, like Woody Allen, are hit and miss for me too. I was one of those people who didn’t understand the love for “No Country for Old Men” (2007) but was extremely into their less popular work like “Burn After Reading” (2008). But with “Inside Llewyn Davis”, they find a middle ground which I can’t get enough off. It was a cinematic treat, with great music and even better visual storytelling. Did I mention that I’m in love with the screenplay?

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