Best of 2013

12 Years a Slave

by Alan Rapp on December 1, 2013

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: 12 Years a Slave
  • IMDB: link

12 Years a SlaveBased on the memoirs of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free New England man kidnapped and forced into slavery for 12 years while visiting Washington, D.C., the historical drama from director Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley is an accounting of those experiences and the long road Northup takes to make it home to his wife and children. It’s often not an easy film to watch but it is an example of exceptional filmmaking that mark it as one of the best films of 2013.

Any discussion of the film must begin with Chiwetel Ejiofor, a longtime favorite of mine. Ejiofor’s terrific performance of a man caught-up in events and circumstances far beyond his control, struggling with loosing hope or ever seeing his family again while doing what he must to survive, is a brilliant piece of acting. Against the harshness of the events which surround his character, Ejiofor’s humanity shines through as a witness to the sin of slavery. Without what he’s able to bring to the role the stark honesty of McQueen’s film would be difficult to endure.

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Blue is the Warmest Color

by Alan Rapp on November 30, 2013

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: La vie d’Adèle
  • IMDB: link

Blue is the Warmest ColourAdapted from the graphic novel by Julie Maroh by writer/director Abdellatif Kechiche, Blue is the Warmest Color examines the sexual awakening of a French secondary-school student and the journey her first lesbian relationship will lead her on over the next few years.

In its best moments Keciche’s film captures the perfect mix of emotions between the young Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and the more experienced Emma (Léa Seydoux) creating a completely believable and natural love story where passions run extremely high but whose differences lead to problems down the line.

The film doesn’t immediately start with Adèle and Emma. Instead we get Adèle’s attempt at a heterosexual relationship with a cute young classmate (Salim Kechiouche). Feeling something missing, Adèle journeys into a gay bar with friends where she meets Emma for the first time.

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Ender’s Game

by Alan Rapp on October 31, 2013

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Ender’s Game
  • IMDB: link

Ender's GameOriginally written as a short story published in the August 1977 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, author’s Orson Scott Card‘s story of a complicated boy who is humanity’s best chance at survival took another eight years before it was released as the full novel Ender’s Game. I first read the novel more than two decades ago. It’s held-up remarkably well, although given its subject matter I doubted would ever be made into a movie.

Adapted and directed by Gavin Hood the story of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin isn’t an easy one to pull off, especially in under two hours. Although the timeline is heavily condensed, and the subplots involving Ender’s siblings is largely ignored, the movie gets far more right than I expected.

A lonely child with a good heart but a special talent for measured brutality, Ender Wiggin isn’t the easiest of protagonists to put on screen. The best choice Hood makes is to cast Asa Butterfield in the complex role that requires us to feel for the situation the young man finds himself in but also be a little taken aback by the methods he uses.

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Much Ado About Nothing

by Alan Rapp on October 25, 2013

in Home Video

  • Title: Much Ado About Nothing
  • IMDB: link

Much Ado About NothingFilmed over the period of 12 days in director Joss Whedon‘s home, Much Ado About Nothing is a low-key character-driven of version of William Shakespeare’s play that comes off quite different than the far more lavish version Kenneth Branagh dazzled audiences with two decades ago.

Set in present day, shot entirely in black-and-white, and filled with performances of several of Whedon’s favorite actors, it could be easy to dismiss the film as a vanity project. To do so would be a mistake.

The film casts two of my favorite Whedon actors in Alexis Denisof, as the quick-witted Benedick, and Amy Acker, as the sharp-tongued Beatrice. Having spent many a night in Shakespeare readings with Whedon, as well as the time together on Angel, the pair have an obvious comfort level and chemistry that would impossible to create with such a short shooting schedule.

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Gravity

by Alan Rapp on October 17, 2013

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Gravity
  • IMDB: link

GravitySpace and underwater films offer the unique juxtaposition to explore both vastness and claustrophobia simultaneously. With Gravity writer/director Alfonso Cuarón offers a tense thriller, a moving character study centered around a single performance, and a roller-coaster that provides some of the best action scenes of this year. The result is a thrilling 91-minute thematic experience which easily ranks as one of the year’s best films.

Seeing the film in 3D IMAX, Cuarón’s vision is breathtaking. Although George Clooney has a supporting role as a throwback larger-than-life astronaut who would have been right at home during NASA’s heyday when astronauts were the country’s greatest heroes, Sandra Bullock carries nearly the entire film. And she does it well. As Dr. Ryan Stone,  a scientist sent to work on the Hubble Space Telescope, Bullock becomes untethered and lost in the vastness of space miles above Earth when debris from a Russian satellite rips through the shuttle and leaves her without anyone to rely on other than herself.

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