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Posts Tagged ‘12 Years a Slave’
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He plays Bill Marks, an aging U.S. federal air marshal safeguarding the 150 passengers (including Julianne Moore, Corey Stoll, Linus Roache and flight attendant Lupita Nyong’o) on an international flight from New York to London.
He’s also a burn-out, a lonely guy with a loaded gun and a propensity to get loaded on booze. The routine flight becomes fraught with danger when he receives text messages from a mysterious source threatening to kill a passenger every twenty minutes unless a ransom of $150 million is deposited into a bank account. When that account is discovered to be in Marks’s name he’s accused of being a hijacker.
“Non-Stop” has more red herrings than a fish and chips shop. Clues are dropped and discarded and the plot is so ludicrous that every now and again someone has to say, “I can explain this,” so the audience has a fighting chance of making some kind of sense of the intrigue. The story is simple but is muddied by outrageous twists. Once I decided to not try and play along—this isn’t “True Detective” where every word and scene counts—I enjoyed watching Neeson in action man mode. He’s better than the movie and he made this movie better simply by showing up.
There is a certain cheesy joy to be found in the image of Neeson floating in zero gravity, grabbing a gun out of the air and getting business done. Nothing can spice up a borderline action movie like the Flying Neeson Shot ™. He has carved a unique action niche for himself and seems to be having fun growling and gunning his way through trashy action movies.
Is “Non-Stop” great art? Nope, but did you really expect it to be? It’s the Neesonator after all.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra makes good use of the airplane’s small spaces, builds some nice scenes of claustrophobic tension and even makes a comment on how news organizations jump to conclusions, using conjecture instead of facts to fill the twenty-four hour wheel but story credibility is not his strong point.
Building tension, however, is. The movie is bookended by two terrific scenes. At the beginning Collet-Serra takes his time with the nicely shot boarding of the airplane sequence. Unease builds as the passengers, one of whom is a terrorist (not a spoiler, watch the trailer), take their seats.
The climax (SPOILER ALERT) is a typical ticking bomb sequence, but it’s an exciting one with cool visuals and the aforementioned Flying Neeson Shot ™.
The supporting cast is serviceable, in underwritten and generic roles. I hope Julianne Moore buys something nice with the pay cheque. She gets the job done, but that part could have been played by anyone. I feel worse for Lupita Nyong’o. She’s an Oscar nominee for “12 Years a Slave,” but here she’s reduced to a Grace Jones impersonator with just a few lines.
Despite a good pace and mounting tension, “Non-Stop is almost undone by superficial characters and a silly story. I say almost because it’s been Neesonized, the action movie equivalent of a sprinkle of fairy dust.
We’re celebrating everyone’s favourite award show in true Drake style. Put on your best threads + play our Oscar pool while snacking on free popcorn from the Drake kitchen. Did we mention the evening is hosted by cinema king Richard Crouse? Meet us here + challenge your friends in a match of cinematic trivia. There’s great prizes to be won + even a special bubbly menu to choose from, while cheering on your picks from the silver screen.
- Venue: Lounge
- Type: Film
- Cover: FREE
- Time: March 2, 2014, 6 p.m.
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1. 12 Years a Slave. There’s a key line near the beginning of “12 Years a Slave, “ the new drama from “Shame” director Steve McQueen. Shortly after being shanghaied from his comfortable life as a freeman into a life of slavery Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) declares, “I don’t want to survive. I want to live.” Based on Northup’s 1853 memoir the movie is an uncompromising story about will, suffering and injustice.
2. American Hustle. “American Hustle” is one of the year’s best. It’s an entertainingly audacious movie that will doubtless be compared to “The Wolf of Wall Street” because of the similarity in tone and themes, but this time around David O. Russell has almost out-Scorsese’d Scorsese.
3. Before Midnight. “Before Midnight” is beautifully real stuff that fully explores the doubts and regrets that characterize Jesse and Celine’s (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) love affair. Done with humor, heart and pathos, often in the same scene, it is a poignant farewell to two characters who grew up in front of us.
4. Blue Jasmine. Darker than most of Woody Allen’s recent output, “Blue Jasmine” doesn’t go for laughs—very often anyway—but is an astutely crafted psychological character study. Jasmine is a modern day Blanche Du Bois, a faded bright light now forced to depend on the kindness of strangers. Getting in her way are delusions of grandeur and a continued sense of denial—likely the same sense that kept her guilt free during the years the illegal cash was flowing—that eventually conspire to fracture her psyche. “There’s only so many traumas one can take,” she says, “ before you end up in the street, screaming.”
5. Captain Phillips. I don’t think it’s fair to charge audiences full price for screenings of “Captain Phillips.” While watching this exciting new Tom Hanks thriller I was reminded of the old Monster Trucks ads that bellowed, “You Pay for the Whole Seat but You’ll Only Need the Edge!”It a film about piracy and I don’t mean the sleazy guys who bootleg movies but the real pirates who were responsible for the first hijacking of an American cargo ship in two hundred years.
6. Dallas Buyer’s Club. In “Dallas Buyer’s Club” Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée has made an emotional drama that never stoops to melodrama. Instead it’s an inspirational film about standing up for what you believe in.
7. Frances Ha. The seventh film from “Greenberg” director Noah Baumbach isn’t so much a traditional narrative as it is a character study of Frances (Greta Gerwig), an underemployed dancer struggling to find herself in New York City. It plays like a cleaned up black-and-white version of “Girls”; an emotionally rich and funny portrait of twenty-something ennui. “Frances Ha” is a collection of details. There is an engaging story, but it’s not exactly laid out in three acts. It feels more intimate and raw than the usual twenty-ish crisis flick and with each detail we get another piece of the puzzle that makes up Frances’ life.
8. Fruitvale Station. It’s important to remember that “Fruitvale Station” isn’t a documentary. Director Ryan Coogler has shaped the movie for maximum heartrending effect, and by the time the devastating last half hour plays out it’s hard to imagine any other movie this year packing such a emotional wallop.
9. Gravity. “Gravity” isn’t an epic like “2001: A Space Odyssey” or an outright horror film like “Alien.” There are no monsters or face hugging ETs. It’s not even a movie about life or death. Instead it is a life-affirming movie about the will to survive.
10. Her. “Her” is an oddball story, but it’s not an oddball film. It is ripe with real human emotion and commentary on a generation’s reliance on technology at the cost of social interaction.
11. Inside Llewyn Davis. “Inside Llewyn Davis” is a fictional look at the vibrant Greenwich Village folk scene. Imagine the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” come to life. Sharp-eyed folkies will note not-so-coincidental similarities between the people Llewyn meets and real-life types like Tom Paxton, Alert Grossman and Mary Travers, but this isn’t a history, it’s a feel. It gives us an under-the-covers look at struggles and naked ambition it takes to get noticed.
12. Nebraska. The humour doesn’t come in the set-up-punch-line format but arises out of the situations. A scene of Woody’s gathered family—his elderly brothers and grown sons—watching a football game redefines the word taciturn but the subject of the sparse conversation, a 1974 Buick, is bang on, hilarious and will likely sound familiar to anyone with a large family.
13. Wolf of Wall Street. “Wolf of Wall Street” makes for entertaining viewing, mostly because DiCaprio and Jonah Hill are able to ride the line between the outrageous comedy on display and the human drama that takes over the movie’s final minutes. Both are terrific, buoyed by the throbbing pulse of Scorsese’s camera. With its fourth wall breaking narration, scandalous set pieces and absurd antics “The Wolf of Wall Street” is an experience. At three hours it’s almost as excessive as Balfort’s $26,000 dinners. It feels a bit long, but like the spoiled brats it portrays, it will not, and cannot, be ignored.
TOP FIVE MISSES
TREND: Big stars don’t guarantee box office!
1. The Fifth Estate – Budget: $28 million, Global box office: $6 million, Return: 21% Late into “The Fifth Estate” Guardian investigative journalist Nick Davies (David Thewlis) says, “most good stories start at the beginning.” I argue that he’s right– about 99% of the time. Unfortunately this look at WikiLeaks and hacker-turned-whistleblower Julian Assange falls into the 1%.
2. Bullet to the Head – Budget: $25 million, Global box office: $9 million, Return: 36% With a name like Bullet to the Head you know the new Sylvester Stallone movie isn’t a romantic comedy. Although he paraphrases the most famous rom com line of all time, “You had be at BLEEP BLEEP!” the movie is nothing but an ode to testosterone.
3. Getaway – Budget: R180-million, Global box office: R105-million, Return: 58 percent. On a scale of zero to stupid, ”Getaway” ranks an eleven. It is what we call in the film criticism business a S.D.M. (Silly Damn Movie). OK, I made that last part up, but I couldn’t really think of any other category to place this movie under. Maybe E.S.D.M. (Extremely Silly Damn Movie).
Paranoia – Budget: $35 million, Global box office: $13.5 million, Return: 39%.
R.I.P.D. – Budget: $130 million, Global box office: $78 million
Synopsis: From January to December 2013, hundreds of movies opened on our screens. We saw everything from American Hustle to Zero Charisma, from the ridiculous — 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — to the sublime — 12 Years a Slave. The Reel Guys watched a lot of bad movies this year so you don’t have to and saw many great ones to recommend. But some of the good flicks slipped by without finding an audience. This week they revisit some movies you may have missed but should take a look at.
Richard: Mark, Pain and Gain seemed to me like it couldn’t lose. Starring Dwayne Johnson, who was recently named 2013’s biggest money-making star, Mark Wahlberg and directed by Michael “big bucks” Bay, it was the funny-but-true story about a trio of greedy dumb criminals who kidnap a rich guy. It plays like an episode of CSI: Miami performed by the Three Stooges and should have done boffo box office, but for some reason it didn’t. What did you like that slipped through the cracks?
Mark: I loved Pain and Gain, and if anyone told me one of the best movies of the year would be directed by schlockmeister Michael Bay, I would take it as a sign of the upcoming apocalypse. Another overlooked gem to me was Trance, Danny Boyle’s genre buster. Is it about an art heist? Mind control? Sexual obsession? Revenge? Best to ask James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson, both in fine form, and in the case of Dawson, I do mean — ahem — fine form.
RC: Also in fine form were the giant robots and sea monsters in Pacific Rim. I know they always say about Hollywood that “nobody knows anything,” that you never know what will be a hit, but I thought the combo of Guillermo Del Toro, colossal sea beasts with an appetite for destruction and humungous rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots was a winner. It’s a supersize geek freak out that transports you back in time to wherever you were when you were lucky enough to see your first Godzilla movie.
MB: Sorry, Richard, to me, actual rock-em, sock-em robots are more interesting, and are better actors. Another undiscovered gem for me was Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh’s Hitchcockian mindbender from early winter. Starting off as a condemnation of the pharmaceutical industry, it turns a lot of corners and becomes a thrilling cerebral murder mystery. And Jude Law, no longer acting with his looks, is magnificent.
RC: Warm Bodies was essentially one joke — the zombie as a metaphor for awkward teenage love — but it’s a pretty good one and well performed. Too bad more people didn’t see it. The movie doesn’t exactly make sense, particularly if you’re a zombie fan of either the Romero or Walking Dead schools, but no matter how fast and loose it plays with the established mythology of the undead it’s still a new twist on an old form.
MB: Warm Bodies reminded me of Ricky Gervais’ Ghost Town in mood and had the same limitations of premise. A foreign film I thought was brilliant was China’s A Touch Of Sin, which interwove four stories Pulp-Fiction style about the new economy in China and its victims, often ending in sad violent episodes. Brilliant Richard.
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