Movie – 12 Years a Slave: A

12 years a slaveA
This is easily the best depiction of a well-tread subject. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender give performances that will surely earn nominations if not wins. Lupita Nyong’o’s debut will certainly also capture some attention. But I also loved the use of fantastic actors in extremely minor roles, including Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, and Brad Pitt. I especially loved how contrastingly eloquent everyone was, particularly the slaves. It portrays slave-owners without resorting to cliche, with even the “good” ones having serious faults in their morality. At times, some of the more stylistic sections would drag a bit, and the opening time skip caused me some mild confusion, but overall I enjoyed the competent look of the film. The music and sound effects had some especially great moments of focus too.

Movie – World War Z: B+

world war zB+
Though I’d heard it had absolutely nothing to do with the book (which of course I loved and recommend as the best zombie-rated piece of media I’ve ever consumed), it isn’t quite just a zombie movie with a title stolen from the novel. There were several ideas taken from the book it hinted toward, and the globe-skipping aspect remained somewhat intact. And it was a pretty darn good zombie film, wasting no time before the initial outbreak, and leaving genre-blindness mostly behind. The zombie behaviors and scenes were almost all fantastic, except for their cliche twitching and dumb sound-effects. Also the ridiculous final plot resolution. I enjoyed the “ant mound” scene but it was nearly ruined by bad CG, but there were plenty of other great ideas too (Zombies on a plane!). It’s pandering to a PG-13 rating also hurt the film significantly, and having things happen slightly off camera woefully hindered the cinematography.

Movie – Killing Them Softly: B-

killing them softlyB-
It didn’t have much of a story arc, but it certainly had style, from the campaign speeches heard during establishing shots, the genuine feeling the conversations had, and small details like showing unrelated crime scenes taking place in the background. I enjoyed the slow-motion kill, but the first-person drug visions were lacking. The problem is that showing the criminal world with little exaggeration or sensationalism makes them seem mundane. And it’s difficult to stay interested in the dealings of the mundane.

Movie – Moneyball: B-

All sports movies should be underdog stories, and most are. They make the films easier to watch for those not incredibly interested in the sport. Additionally, if they’re using the sport as a backdrop for a more important issue, it’s even more poignant. (Especially racism a la Remember the Titans and Invictus.) Moneyball was a baseball movie about stats and economics. Baseball, stats, and economics are each far from exciting. The screenwriter and actors put up a valiant effort to make these subjects interesting. They didn’t quite succeed.

Movie – Tree of Life: D

As often is the case for me, I didn’t get the hype. Nothing profound was shown, and certainly not stated. The beginning was like a watching a demo reel of IMAX films on space and dinosaurs overlaid with whispered poetry that sounded like a wrist-cutting high-schooler. (Actual lines: “I cry to you. My soul. My son. Hear us.”) Then we’re treated to a bland tale of a boy hating his father told with minimal dialog and artistic camera work, broken up with hyper-symbolic images of Sean Penn wondering (and wandering) existentially. Pretentious and uninteresting. It was nice to see some scenes set in Houston though.