12 Years A Slave
Rated R for violence, torture, sexuality, nudity and ethnic slurs
Chiwetel Ejiofor Stars In Adaptation Of African-American Autobiography
Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) was a black man born free in upstateNew York in 1808. A skilled carpenter and fiddler, he and his wife (Kelsey Scott) settled in Saratoga Springs where they were raising their children (Quvenzhane Wallis and Cameron Zeigler) when their American Dream turned into a never-ending nightmare.
For, in 1841, he was approached by a couple of white strangers (Taran Killam and Scoot McNairy) who offered him a high-paying job playing music with the circus in Washington, D.C. However, upon arriving in the Capital, they instead sold him to a slave trader (Christopher Berry) who put Solomon in chains before shipping him to a cotton plantation theDeep South.
What ensued was a 12-year ordeal during which he was whipped whenever he attempted to protest his plight. Despite being tortured by a sadistic master (Michael Fassbender) determined to break his spirit, Solomon managed to not only maintain his sanity but his dignity to boot.
Furthermore, with the help of a kindly Canadian (Brad Pitt) passing through town, he was eventually able to inform abolitionists up North of his dire predicament, and was ultimately reunited with his very relieved family. Upon his emancipation in 1853, Solomon also penned and published a memoir chronicling the cruelty of his captivity in explicit detail.
Entitled 12 Years A Slave, the book became a runaway best-seller before it slipped into obscurity after the Civil War. Directed by Steve McQueen (Hunger), the screen version proves to be a fairly faithful adaptation of the eye-opening autobiography.
In a banner year for African-American film fare, this heartbreaking historical drama just might be the best of the bunch. The film has already been generating a ton of early Oscar buzz, thanks to a People’s Choice Award coming courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Unapologetically graphic in its depiction of the institution of slavery’s evils, 12 Years A Slave contains nary a comic aside à la Quentin Tarantino’s similarly-themed Django Unchained. Therefore, brace yourself for a relentlessly-gruesome endurance test featuring ever-escalating violence.
A sobering slave narrative recounting a recorded, real-life case of inhuman bondage.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 133 minutes
I’m In Love With A Church Girl
Rated PG-13 for PG for violence, suggestive content, mild epithets and mature themes
Ja Rule Stars In Faith-Based Tale Of Redemption
Rapper Ja Rule was paroled from prison earlier this year after spending a couple of years behind bars for a weapons violation and tax evasion. In a case of art imitating life, he now stars in a faith-based tale of redemption revolving around a hip-hop producer endeavoring to go straight following his release from jail.
I’m In Love With A Church Girl was actually inspired by a true story, but not Ja Rule’s. Rather, the autobiographical screenplay was penned by convicted coke dealer-turned-preacher Galley Molina while incarcerated in aCalifornia penitentiary. The movie is set in theSan Jose native’s hometown where the ex-gangsta now serves as youth pastor at theEvergreenValleyChurch.
Narrated by Ja, the picture’s protagonist is a fictional character called Miles Montego. As the flashback flick unfolds, we find Miles returning to the ‘hood after a stint in the slammer.
He immediately gets a good piece of advice from his Bible-thumping mom (Marjorie Mann), namely, to attend services on Sunday in order to meet a good God-fearing woman who might help keep his nose clean. Sure enough, he soon falls in love at first sight with Vanessa (Adrienne Bailon), a clerk at a store specializing in Christian-oriented products.
The two hit it off, despite her concern about all the bling and his degenerate-looking posse. Eventually, Vanessa becomes convinced that he’s left the life of crime behind, but the same can’t be said about the DEA agent (Stephen Baldwin) still tailing Miles him with hopes of arresting him again.
Given the film’s spoiler of a title, there’s a sense of inevitably about I’m In Love With A Church Girl. This easy to predict morality play is certain to resonate with the Evangelical demographic, and it even has a chance of attracting a mainstream audience because of the presence of the charismatic Ja Rule in the lead role.
A faith-based modern parable with a positive message for both believers and wayward souls ripe for redemption.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 118 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening October 18, 2013
Carrie (R for profanity, sexuality, graphic violence and disturbing images) Chloe Grace Moretz plays the title character in this remake of the 1976 Stephen King classic about a shy teenager who uses her telekinetic powers to exact revenge on the classmates who teased her at the senior prom. With Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday and Gabriella Wilde.
Escape Plan (R for violence and pervasive profanity) Action thriller starring Sly Stallone as a wrongfully-imprisoned structural engineer who, with the help of an industrious cellmate (Arnold Schwarzenegger), orchestrates a jailbreak from a high-security facility he designed. Featuring 50 Cent, Vinnie Jones, Jim Caviezel, Amy Ryan, Vincent D’Onofrio and Sam Neill.
The Fifth Estate (R for profanity and violence) Espionage thriller retracing the formation of WikiLeaks on a shoestring budget by co-founders Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl), as well as the organization’s quest to expose political corruption with the help of whistleblowers.
All Is Lost (PG-13 for brief profanity) Robert Redford stars in this seafaring adventure revolving around an ancient mariner’s solo voyage across theIndian Ocean which turns into a desperate struggle for survival when his yacht collides with a shipping container adrift on the high seas.
Big Ass Spider (PG-13 for violence and gore) Sci-fi horror flick about an exterminator (Greg Grunberg) who joins forces with a team of scientists to subdue a giant alien spider rampaging aroundLos Angeles. With Lin Shaye, Ray Wise and Lloyd Kaufman.
Camille Claudel 1915 (Unrated) Bittersweet biopic highlighting the life of the reclusive sculptor (Juliette Binoche), a lover and protégé of Auguste Rodin who was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital in the South of France by her brother (Jean-Luc Vincent) after developing schizophrenia. With Emmanuel Kauffman, Marion Keller and Robert Leroy. (In French with subtitles)
Haunter (PG-13 for brief profanity) Harrowing horror flick about a girl’s ghost (Abigail Breslin) attempt to warn another teenager (Eleanor Zichy) before she becomes a serial killer’s (Stephen McHattie) next victim. With David Hewlett, Sarah Manninen and Michelle Nolden.
Kill Your Darlings (R for sexuality, profanity, drug use and brief violence) Murder mystery which draws together three legendary Beat Generation poets: Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe). With Elizabeth Olsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kyra Sedgwick.
Paradise (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, substance abuse and mature themes) Crisis in faith dramedy about a devout Christian (Julianne Hough) who publicly renounces God after being severely burned in a plane crash before heading to Las Vegas to indulge in worldly pleasures. With Russell Brand, Holly Hunter, Nick Offerman and Octavia Spencer.
You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Unrated) Otherworldly drama revolving around a deceased playwright (Denis Podalydes) who miraculously casts and stages one of his celebrated works from beyond the grave. Starring Mathieu Amalric, Pierre Arditi and Sabine Azema. (In French with subtitles)