Film Briefs: “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Ender’s Game” and “12 Years a Slave”

ben-kingsley-enders-gameFilm Briefs is our way of giving our opinion on films we might not necessarily have the time to review in full.  This is a column where we sum up our feelings about movies currently playing in theatres and throw ‘em up just to give you an idea of what’s out there.

Follow the jump to see briefs for “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Ender’s Game” and “12 Years a Slave”

Dallas Buyer’s Club

filmz.ruthree-stars15As a loosy-goosy rule of mine (really, are there any other kinds of rules?), I tend to not go out of my way to see biopics. Give me a documentary over a feature length reenactment any day of the week. But like anything else there are exceptions to this rule, even times when the movie can pleasantly surprise me, as was the case with 12 Years a Slave (see review above). Unfortunately, no pleasant surprises were to be found within Dallas Buyers Club, a film in where both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto lose an incredible amount of weight in order to play AIDS victims who sell unapproved FDA drugs to those who need them most.

To give credit where credit is due the movie does deserve some praise (after all, I did give it 3 stars). So here it goes: Kudos for not over-utilizing the score in order to heighten any dramatic elements. That, along with the performances are really the only solid things this film has going for it. Take away these two things though and what your left with is another commonplace slightly above average biopic, one that I will most likely forget about within the next few years or so.

Ender’s Game

enders-game-tvtwo-stars1Having never read the popular sci-fi book from which this movie is adapted from I can confidently say, what a letdown. If sitting through 2 hours of watching kids playing video games in a Harry Potter-esq futuristic school setting, while constantly being forced-fed images that alternate between a computer’s screensaver to a lesser version of Robert ZemeckisBeowulf (2007), only to then be rewarded with an idiotic and mammothly poorly written plot twist is your idea of escapist entertainment at the theatres, then by all means, enjoy.

On the plus side, just as he most recently did in Iron Man 3 (2013), Ben Kingsley once again plays a small part in where he overshadows the entire plot as well as every other actor in the film, and is the sole reason for the two stars. Yeah, he’s that good.

12 Years a Slave


four-stars4A more in-depth review of the film written by our own Tom Ellis can be read here.

Anyone else think we should save time by skipping the Oscar ceremony in February and giving Mr. Ejiofor his Best Actor Oscar right now?

Steve McQueen (the director, not the actor) obviously has a gift for tackling serious subjects with an earnest eye that few other filmmakers working today have. He also has a gift for letting important scenes linger to where I am both simultaneously in awe and disgusted, ultimately making me feel uncomfortable. This is a good thing, and something few other filmmakers, especially those who dwell in the horror and gore genres tend to ever do. (Again, I urge you to check out Tom Ellis’ review in where he delves deeper into the “uncomfortableness” one feels while watching this film)

Just as in McQueen’s last two outings (Shame (2011) and Hunger (2008)) once again he extracts another fantastic performance from his usual leading man, Michael Fassbinder. This time Fassy is given the supporting role of a sadistic slave owner, where he once again delivers a par for the course stellar performance. Yet in an even stellarester (stell-ar-est-er: meaning far more stellar than even the most stellar. Country of origin: Me) role is Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a real free man who was kidnapped and turned into a slave for a good many years, 12 to be exact. Which brings me to my only big complaint I had with this exceptional film, the title sucks!

Even having not seen any previews (I avoid them like the plague), and having not known anything about Mr. Northup, I still knew how the film was going to end. It might as well have been called 12 Years a Slave, Then a Free Man. In most other cases, knowing what is going to happen would ruin any suspense, but here it does not. Now that’s powerful filmmaking.

Also, it may be an unfair comparison, but this makes Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained feel even more cartoonish than it already is.


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