Midweek Break: Other Cool Stuff

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This may or may not become a (semi-) regular feature, depending on whether enough things pop up to warrant my interest. I’ll try to share  some cool movie-related items from the internet (and beyond!) that I think others might have fun with, as well as maybe a new trailer or opening I’m particularly excited about. Let’s do it!

I have long been a fan of Tom & Lorenzo, a couple who write primarily about celebrity fashion. They delve a bit into movie/television reviews as well, and are perhaps best-known for writing a series of posts analyzing the costumes on Mad Men. Today, however, I really want to plug an incredible series of posts they did recently called “Redefining the Hero,” about the costuming decisions for some of the big blockbusters of the past couple of years: Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Force Awakens/The Last Jedi, and Black Panther. See anything in common there? Yeah. You want to check these posts out. They’re amazing.

Do you like podcasts? I am not the biggest fan out there, but I have one podcast that I follow religiously. It’s called You Must Remember This, and the tagline is ” The podcast about the secret and/or forgotten history of Hollywood’s first century.” The host, Karina Longworth, is a Hollywood historian who uses recent scholarship and technology to delve into stories (sometimes salacious, sometimes not) of Hollywood and Hollywood-related people. It’s a really fascinating look at the industry and the people; Longworth does a good job of keeping things academic as opposed to merely gossip-y, and has a tendancy to look at things through a feminist lens that I personally appreciate. The current season (there are three, I think?) is called “Fake News: Fact-Checking Hollywood Babylon” and it promises to be just as engaging as past seasons.

I suppose I should mention the trailer for Life Itselfan ensemble cast drama from Dan Fogelberg (This is Us). It doesn’t really look like my kind of thing, but the cast is worthy of attention: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening and Mandy Patinkin star. Opens September 21.

The Spy Who Dumped Me opens on August 3, and I’m thinking (pending reviews) about making it my next “Female-Driven Ladies’ Movie Night” outing. Co-written and directed by Susanna Fogel and starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon. Looks like it could be fun!

I’d love to hear what you think of these suggestions or if you have any of your own!

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Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

After the dramatic and awesome one-two punch of Black Panther and Infinity War, it was hard not to feel skeptical about Marvel’s decision to release the second Ant-Man movie in the middle of the summer blockbuster season. Do we still care about the little guy? Do we  (okay, I) need a break from all these superhero goings-on?  Maybe. But, as you might expect, it turns out Kevin Feige and the gang knows exactly what they’re doing, and I was wrong, once again, to doubt them.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a perfect summer popcorn flick. If it existed in a world without the likes of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, we’d still be blown away by it. I said of the first Ant-Man (2015) that it was a “surprisingly enjoyable little action flick,” with a stellar cast and solid execution. As such, director Peyton Reed didn’t mess with his formula too much: he added a few more excellent additions to the cast (Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, and Hannah John Kamen, amongst others), kept the winning combo of action, humor, and heart … boom. Box-office gold.

I’ve been asked a couple of times if it is necessary to be caught up on the MCU in order to watch Ant-Man and the Wasp, and by and large the answer is no. The action picks up immediately following the events of Civil War, but those events are not relevant beyond the fact that we find Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) on house arrest for his involvement. Hank Pym and his daughter, Hope van Dyne (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly) are on the run from the Feds as well, but are working on a quantum tunnel which will theoretically allow them to find Hope’s mom, Janet (Pfeiffer), who has been lost/presumed dead in the quantum realm for decades.  Naturally, the three are forced to team up again in order to achieve their goal, and of course, a bunch of other people are trying to stop them. They include Randall Park as the FBI agent assigned to Lang, Walton Goggins as a sleazy businessman who wants to get into quantum tech, and Ghost (John-Kamen), who joins the ranks of the new type of Marvel villain who is not so much evil as misunderstood.

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Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd as the Wasp and Ant-Man

One of the most impressive aspects of the movie is that it manages to juggle all those people and interweave their various storylines into a cohesive unit. The pace is quick but comfortable, and there’s plenty of time for humor and heartfelt moments. The film almost feels like an homage to Ferris Bueller: Lang’s out having adventures but also has to make sure he doesn’t get caught out of the house.  The jokes strike just the right balance and the running gags, mostly courtesy of Michael Pena, TI Harris, and David Dastmalchian as Scott’s trio of business associates, never get old. The characters and their relationships were so well-defined in the first movie that we can spend more time catching up with the characters, rather than learning more about who they are and where they’re at with each other.

The biggest, and most important, change is that Hope has taken on the mantle of The Wasp. She’s the first female superhero in the MCU to receive title credit! Evangeline Lilly steps into full superhero mode like she was born to it, and matches Paul Rudd beat-for-beat. In a way, The Wasp is a more stereotypical hero than Ant-Man. Part of what makes Rudd so likable in the role (aside from his endless charisma) is his Everyman persona; while he has certain skills, he’s not a genius (which is frequently played to great comedic effect). He’s not supremely noble like Cap or endowed with any superhuman qualities, whereas in addition to being a skilled fighter, Hope is a brilliant scientist in her own right and has a laser-like focus on obtaining her goals. They balance each other wonderfully and make a great team.

One of the things that makes the MCU so compelling is the mix of epic and personal storytelling. After a world-shattering event like Infinity War, scaling things back to the lives and experiences of a few individuals was definitely the right choice. When they’re done well, these small-scale pieces are no less compelling than the grand ensemble films. Other reviewers have pointed to Spiderman: Homecoming as the best example of a stand-alone episode that loses nothing in enjoyment despite its lack of global consequence. Ant-Man and the Wasp is another great instance of this. The stakes are truly confined to Scott Lang, the Pym/van Dyne family, and a few others, and that intimacy allows for more of a connection with the characters and makes their stories more personal.

That Marvel can combine that kind of storytelling with blockbuster action and effects is a testament to what they’ve built in the MCU, and it’s what keeps viewers coming back for more. If you’re caught up, the second Ant-Man installment is a palate-cleanser; you’ll have fun and feel refreshed before we return to more bombast next year (CAPTAIN MARVEL YOU GUYS!!). If you’ve been sporadic in watching the MCU, you’ll still have a blast watching this movie and my only suggestion would be to skip the mid- and post-credit sequences. Either way, Ant-Man and the Wasp is the perfect way to spend a few hours this summer; air-conditioning will feel like a bonus.

 

Ranking the MCU

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One of the things that struck me when I revisited this blog was just how much of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) had come and gone in the past 5 years. It is still surprising to me that they keep churning out more movies, and that most of them are really pretty good. Back in January, we started a full rewatch in order to be ready for Infinity War when it came out in May, and it was fun to revisit and catch up with the characters I have (mostly) come to love. Since it would be a lot of work to go back and talk more specifically about all the films since I last blogged, I’m going to offer up my ranking of the MCU. Obviously such a list is highly personal  –  nobody’s are going to look exactly alike. I’ll give some justification for my choices, but of course you are welcome to disagree. I’d love to hear your take; I could talk about these guys all the time.

1. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) : It was no small feat when Joss Whedon pulled all the big guns together and produced a fun blockbuster with enough heart and character development to go around. I personally believe much of the continued success of the entire universe is owed to that first group outing. Some of the others may have more strengths, but this was the moment we knew it was gonna work.
2. Black Panther (2018) : Much was riding on Black Panther, and it delivered. Not only was it historic in its production, but it’s just a damn good movie – that also happens to be a superhero flick. It has some of the best characterizations and EASILY represents the best treatment of female characters in the entire universe so far. (Dear Captain Marvel, please be awesome.)
3. Thor: Ragnarok (2017) : The characterization took some time to gel, but finally someone realized the astonishing truth: Chris Hemsworth is really, really funny. Add in the godlike powers of Cate Blanchett, continue to develop the Thor/Loki relationship (best in the MCU) and you’ve got a winner.
4. Iron Man (2008) : Sine qua non. Had Robert Downey, Jr. not created the genius playboy with a heart of gold, none of us would be here. Sure, the third act is really weak and Jeff Bridges kicked off the trend of wasting major talent on one-off villains, but Iron Man set the tone and remains a singular achievement in a field littered with them.
5. Avengers: Infinity War (2018): It might still be too soon to talk about this movie, but once again, Marvel took a zillion characters and somehow gave all of them their due in a monster undertaking. The usual criticisms are in play here ( shaky pacing, under-served female characters) and for some of us the emotional punch is tempered by our understanding of the film industry, but you’ve got to give credit to the successful culmination of a long-term project like this.
6. Iron Man 3 (2013) : If you haven’t seen Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, I suppose you won’t agree with this. But I love that movie and Shane Black did it again with Iron Man 3. Tony Stark is my favorite character and he’s had the best arc of all – I loved rewatching these movies and realizing what a good character he is and has always been. Taking him out of the suit for this installment reminded us all of what a great and charismatic talent RDJ is, and that Tony Stark’s greatest weapon has always been his mind.

7. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) : The second time around I realized that the first Cap installment really did an impressive job of stretching the time period covered by the MCU. The technology used to make Chris Evans look like a 90-pound weakling is still kind of weird, but the intro to Steve Rogers is perfect in laying out exactly who he is and how important Captain America is to the world.
8. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) : Nobody knew what to make of GotG. “There’s a tree, and a raccoon. How can this possibly be good?” Turns out it was crazy (and good!) fun, and gave audiences something they hadn’t seen before. Even if you don’t love some of the individual characters (I am NOT a Peter Quill fan) you still have to root for the team.
9. Captain America: Civil War (2016) : Here we come to perhaps my least-popular decision. I really disliked Civil War. It’s as good a movie as any of the rest of them, but for me personally, the decisions made by Cap are incredibly problematic and ultimately the movie seemed like a bunch of grown white men beating each other up instead of acknowledging their feelings and taking responsibility for their actions. Notable primarily as our (awesome) introduction to T’Challa, for whom I swoon.
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) : Another one I might need to apologize for, but y’all, I thought Winter Soldier was booooring. The pacing is SO slow and as much as I think Black Widow is the unsung hero of the team, you can only get so far on banter. People like to refer to this as a great Cold War spy thriller and to them, I respectfully suggest watching The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and then getting back to me.
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) : I personally enjoyed this one but I can acknowledge that it’s not as great as the first Avengers. I didn’t have a problem with the Nat/Bruce pairing (it’s been telegraphed all along), was thrilled to see Paul Bettany in the flesh finally, and my biggest gripe is that I really wanted more of Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver. 

12. Thor (2011) : I have enjoyed all of the Thor movies, but then I am a literature nerd with a taste for Shakespeare. In rewatching these, it became clear that the high-flying heroism never sat particularly well with Hemsworth, but the visuals were stunning and Kenneth Branagh did a good job of moving along an origin story with lots of details.
13. Ant-Man (2015) : Crammed in amongst all the heavy-hitters, Ant-Man is a surprisingly enjoyable little action flick. The cast is fantastic and the structure is standard but well-executed. I am actually really excited for Ant-Man & the Wasp, which opens in a couple of weeks.
14. Spiderman: Homecoming (2017) : Another unpopular decision. I have a friend who gets mad at me for this, but I was pretty much just whelmed by the newest iteration of Spidey. I don’t see why we needed YET ANOTHER one, first of all, and while Tom Holland is a fun presence, I thought the movie itself was very predictable.
15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) : There are things I loved about this movie, but overall when I watched it again it felt a little forgettable.  The ‘twist’ on a villain was fun, but the movie started to drag after a bit. Great emotional content, and I definitely hope to see Elizabeth Debicki’s Ayesha return at some point.
16. Doctor Strange (2016) : Most of these movies follow a formula, and their success tends to be relative to how well they navigate within that formula. Doctor Strange benefits from being able to use a lot of great visual effects, but the characters weren’t well-developed (or felt like retreads) and I didn’t personally feel that Benedict Cumberbatch gave me a character I could root for. He was much better as a supporting player in Ragnarok and Infinity War.
17. Thor 2: The Dark World (2013) : The second Thor installment might be the most egregious example of a wasted villain. Not only was Christopher Eccleston unrecognizable, he didn’t have anything to do. As was previously mentioned, Hemsworth does better with less serious dialogue. The Dark World just wasn’t very fun.
18. Iron Man 2 (2010) :  Sophomore slump? On paper this one ought to have been good but somehow it never seemed to find its footing. I am extremely #TeamCheadle so I was happy with the new Rhodes, and we got our introduction to Black Widow, but other than that … meh. Sam Rockwell deserved better.
19. The Incredible Hulk (2008) : Poor Hulk. It’s so disappointing that they couldn’t get the character right until Mark Ruffalo came along. Edward Norton seemed like good casting, but he didn’t find the balance or the sympathy in the character. The effects were not good, and for me personally, this movie had a much different feel that made it an awkward fit for the overall universe. I almost wish we could go back and have a Ruffalo stand-alone, but it definitely feels like that ship has sailed, and he might be better in a supporting role as well. 

Review: Ocean’s 8 (2018)

When I came back to the blog recently, it was interesting for me to note that my last post (five years ago) had been about women in movies. These days “women in movies” is a hot topic. Women are coming forward about sexism and sexual harassment in Hollywood, pay disparities are being highlighted (and sometimes corrected), more women are being put behind the camera, and so on. Obviously things have a long way to go before we can declare Hollywood (or anywhere) a truly equitable industry, but the conversations are important in and of themselves. On-screen, too, there’s been movement toward female-led ensemble casts, from Bridesmaids to a Ghostbusters reboot, and now, Ocean’s 8.

I’m not going to go into the premise too much. The original Ocean’s 11 (1960) was a Rat Pack vehicle set in Vegas. The updated Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and its sequels featured an all-star cast led by George Clooney engaging in heists and shenanigans. Nothing too fancy, just solid entertainment. Ocean’s 8 finds us following a complex plan concocted by Danny Ocean (Clooney)’s little sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) to steal a 6-pound diamond necklace off the neck of a starlet (Anne Hathaway) at the Met Gala. Naturally, she invites a gang of friends along to assist, hijinks ensue, we get a few twists along the way… Nothing too fancy, just solid entertainment. With an all-star, all-FEMALE cast!

Ocean’s 8 is a fun, entertaining movie. The cast (including Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, and Awkwafina) boasts an absurd amount of talent, and everyone delivers. While the script is not quite as zingy as one might like, there are still plenty of great moments and inside jokes. The formula follows that of the earlier Ocean’s movies with a few winks and nods to fans, including cameos by two of the original gang. There are also a number of fun details for fans of both the fashion and film industries; Anna Wintour being interrupted watching a Roger Federer match, Katie Holmes & Zac Posen seated together at the Gala, the requisite cameos of famous Gala attendees, Sandra Bullock getting to employ her fluency in German. And of course, everyone is wearing fabulous clothes (I personally would very much like to have Blanchett’s entire wardrobe). The movie ticks off all the boxes you’d expect from a summer blockbuster, but with a little something extra.

While there may be complaints like “Why do the girls have to rob the Met Gala?” and “How does Sandra Bullock’s hair look so great in prison?”, the movie is really very aware of itself and the different world its characters occupy by virtue of their sex. Anne Hathaway has been rightfully acknowledged as a stand-out for her slyly funny take on a seemingly stereotypically ditzy, self-obsessed starlet. She’s more than she seems, of course, and Hathaway’s portrayal is clearly designed to acknowledge that as an actress, she herself has been viewed through the lens she’s portraying. Bullock delivers a great line at one point about how she wants the team to be women because women are so often ignored, and that’s what is needed for the plan to work. And there’s no love interest! There’s an oily ex (Richard Armitage) in need of comeuppance, but his place in the proceedings is that of a pawn, rather than a prize to be won.

It is often the case that movies with women need to be doubly good to be successful,  and that they are often more harshly criticized when they fail to live up to the standards set by a more conventional (male-dominated) film. When we think about true equality in movies, what we’re really talking about is the ability for women to star in a mediocre film that is nonetheless successful and is viewed as a working formula. Too much time has likely been spent comparing Ocean’s 8 to Ocean’s Eleven, which doesn’t help anyone. But, if we insist on thinking about it in those terms, it is perhaps not as good as Eleven, but is much better than Twelve –  which means, if we can hope that Hollywood will be consistent in how they bankroll projects –  I look forward to seeing Ocean’s 9 in theaters sometime in the next couple of years.

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Sarah Paulson, Sandra Bullock, Rihanna in Ocean’s 8 (2018)

 

Is This Thing On?

After a mini-rant about Justice League (they just don’t love their characters enough) this afternoon, a friend looked at me and said “You should’ve been a film critic,” and I said “Well…” and started thinking about my old friend, this blog. I still love the movie business and talk about it all the time, and while I don’t watch as many movies as I once did, I’d like to get back into a more regular habit of it. Thus, we’re back? Maybe? No promises.

My last post here was in 2013. It seems like an awful lot has happened in the world of movies since then, for sure. That ought to mean that I could find plenty to chat about, if I put my mind to it. The Marvel Cinematic Universe! New Star Wars movies! Strides in film representation! The #MeToo era, additions and subtractions to favorites lists, new things to love and complain about. I even try to watch a little television these days (I will talk to you about Legion all. day. long.)

So like I said, no promises. I’m planning to catch Ocean’s 8 this weekend so maybe we’ll start there. Or, if there’s something in particular you actually want my two cents’ worth on, give me a shout! My Top Five list needs updating, so stay tuned and we’ll see what transpires.

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Look at all these fabulous women. Can’t wait!

Reviews: Women in film edition

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There’s been a lot of Internet talk lately on the subject of women in film. Rather, there is long-term discussion about how there aren’t enough great roles for women, or there aren’t enough movies starring women, and so on. I had originally planned a long post on this subject, but the more I thought about it and looked into it, I decided I really didn’t have that much to say. Are women underrepresented and undervalued in movies? Very probably. But who is responsible for that? Bigwig producers? Movie moguls? Screenwriters, or directors? Nope. It’s us. Society is at fault, for a variety of reasons. We place more value on a woman’s looks than on her intelligence or strength. We hold women to a very different standard than we do men. Films about women are somehow more demographic-specific as well, which again points to society’s focus. While women will often go and see movies about men, it is less common for men to want to watch movies about women. That seems to me to be the crux of the problem: we don’t pay to see movies that focus on women. There are actually plenty of movies out there that feature and focus on female characters, but I think that if you looked at box office numbers, you’d find that they simply don’t match up with their male-centric counterparts. And so, my bottom line is that we can complain all we want, but if we don’t put our money where our mouths are, we can’t expect change. Am I suggesting we all should have gone to the theater and seen The Heat, this summer’s lone representative of women in movies? Not necessarily, but that’s part of my point. As audiences, we are simply more excited to see a movie in which Bruce Willis beats someone up than one in which Julia Roberts has a mid-life crisis. I’m not excusing myself from that, necessarily (although I did go see Eat Pray Love in the theater); I’m merely pointing it out. Hollywood makes movies that they think will make lots of money. If we, as consumers, are not displaying an interest in a certain type of movie, it will therefore not make money, and ultimately, studios will not want to make more of a similar type of movie.

Having said all that, I’d now like to shift gears, and look at a couple of older, “classic” movies that do feature women. One is perhaps the uber-romantic comedy, in which the heroine stands equal to her hero; in the other, while men are a constant subject of conversation, there is actually not a single one to be found onscreen. I’ll just point out that the latter, The Women, was actually remade a few years ago. It turned a modest profit.

It Happened One Night (1934)

Do you ever sit down to watch a movie that’s wildly successful and worry that you won’t appreciate it? It’s critically acclaimed, say, and it won a bunch of awards, and you’re afraid that you just won’t get it? I’ve felt that way about a lot of things; some of the time I’m right, and sometimes, a movie (or a performer: Chaplin, for instance) is really as great as advertised, and you don’t have to be anyone special to understand. It Happened One Night is such a movie. It’s a screwball, romantic comedy, yet it was the first film to win all four of the major Academy Awards (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress). [Trivia time: name the other two!] It was directed by Frank Capra, and stars Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. And it is absolutely hilarious.

Ellie Andrews (Colbert) has just married aviator King Westley (Jameson Thomas) against the wishes of her father (Walter Connolly), who in turn essentially kidnaps her and holds her hostage on his yacht in order to talk her out of the marriage. Determined to have her own way, Ellie literally jumps ship somewhere off the coast of Florida and attempts to make the journey back to her husband in New York. Along the way, she encounters out-of-work reporter Peter Warne (Gable), who blackmails her into letting him assist her in return for a scoop. Naturally, they both get more than they bargained for.

As a strictly amateur “student” of film, I found It Happened One Night to be a fascinating, and highly entertaining, movie. It has the smart and snappy dialogue of later comedies like His Girl Friday, but the characters are more developed and nuanced than is often the case. It’s beautifully shot, with wide angles and impeccable detail.

Claudette Colbert plays a real heroine: while Ellie Andrews appears, at first glance, to be nothing more than a clueless rich girl, she is also gutsy, clever, and independent. She’s hounded by her father and by Warne (her husband is pretty much a non-entity), but she gives as good as she gets much of the time, and ultimately she is an equal partner in her life’s story, rather than a passive commodity. Knowing nothing of Clark Gable beyond Gone with the Wind, I was surprised to find him genuinely funny and likeable. He obviously made a career out of playing the gruff type, but Peter Warne is a lot more than he initially seems to be.

In the case of both characters, lesser performers would not have proven to the audience that here are two people worth falling in love with who belong together. That’s often a tall order for a romantic comedy, but It Happened One Night proves itself to be something beyond a standard rom-com, although I’m not sure what we should call it. It’s strong in both the comedic and the romantic aspects, and that’s what makes it a great film, all around.

The Women (1939)

Based upon a successful stage play by Clare Booth Luce, The Women focuses on the lives of various Manhattan socialites. While their relationships with men are a central subject, it is the relationships between the women that are really in the spotlight. Additionally, the story looks at various stereotypes of women, from the homemaker to the homewrecker. It’s a pretty skewering satire of society and relationships that, surprisingly, isn’t all that complimentary to women, despite their being the focus.

George Cukor directs an excellent cast here. Norma Shearer plays Mary, who seemingly has the perfect life but whose husband is actually seeing shopgirl Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford) on the side. Mary’s friend Sylvia (Rosalind Russell) loves to gossip about (and add to) everyone else’s troubles, Peggy (Joan Fontaine) is struggling to find a balance in her relationship, and all of this is under the microscope of the society papers. All of the performances are excellent, with each actress fully committing to her role, even as many of them serve to negatively stereotype women. In terms of the look of the film, I was particularly struck with the opening sequences, which take the viewer through a day spa where the women seem to spend their day in beautifying themselves and gossiping about their neighbors. Naturally, the costuming is excellent, and in fact, there’s a full-on fashion show about halfway through.

Ultimately, I found the film to be somewhat inconsistent, although I can’t pinpoint anything specific that gives that impression. It is less a comedy than one expects, and more a true satire. While there are some “good” characters, it’s really every woman for herself, and it’s fascinating to see how allegiances and relationships change. Despite a somewhat happy ending, The Women doesn’t pull any punches, and that’s a rare thing. For the most part, things are messier at the end than in the beginning, and perhaps that colors one’s overall perception of the film.

Have you heard about…

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Twelve Years a Slave?

Not to disparage you, dear reader, but I often forget that everyone does not check in daily with IMDb the way I do, and so I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you about a movie I’m eagerly anticipating. “This opportunity” being the birthday of Chiwetel Ejiofor, the film’s lead. He’s a really good actor; you may have seen him in Serenity, Children of Men, American Gangster, or Salt. I’m excited about Twelve Years for many reasons, but the main one is that I hope it garners some well-deserved recognition (of the award season variety) for Mr. Ejiofor. If nothing else, we all get to laugh at everyone who has to try pronouncing his name. Anyway, happy birthday to him! Now, about this movie…

Twelve Years a Slave is a true story, based upon the memoir of Solomon Northup (Ejiofor), a black man who was born free in New York, then kidnapped and sold into slavery prior to the American Civil War. The story follows his experiences in slavery, and was a best-seller after its release in 1853. The film is directed by Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame), and boasts a really impressive cast which includes Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, and Alfre Woodard.

So, McQueen is fairly acclaimed for his two films, Hunger and Shame, both of which star Michael Fassbender, and there’s a lot of positive buzz surrounding Twelve Years, which has the potential to be a more mainstream hit for the director. The support and participation of Brad Pitt (whose production company, Plan B, has a credit as well) lends the film a bit of class and star appeal, and the cast is seriously first-rate. Originally slated for a late December release, there has been talk of the film getting a bump to October, based on strong test-screenings. While there’s no trailer yet, you can see some stills from the movie here.

In short, I think that this movie has great potential. Excellent cast, acclaimed director, good story. I’m excited to see it, which isn’t always the case with heavy material. How about you? Does this brief primer whet your interest at all? I know a lot of folks out there are big fans of Cumberbatch and of Fassbender (myself included) so I’m hoping their involvement will draw in some audiences. I’ll be keeping an eye on the reviews for sure, and I’ll be crossing my fingers for favorable reports; hopefully I’ll make it out to the theater myself. Stay tuned!