Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Eliofor) was a New York musician before he was kidnapped and sold into slavery to the pre-abolition South. It took more than a decade for the truth to come out and this film is adapted from a memoir of his struggles. 12 Years A Slave is a harrowing picture that drove me to tears on more than one instance during my initial viewing. This is largely due to passionate performances from its cast, but credit is also due to Steve McQueen's expert direction and Hans Zimmer's emotive score. This film can be painful to watch, but it's an evocative example of cinema's ability to facilitate heartfelt storytelling.
An affluent couple (Michael Douglas & Kathleen Turner) are locked in a vicious divorce battle. Trapped in the crossfire is the lawyer (Director Danny DeVito), their housekeeper (Marianne Sagebrecht), and an impressive mansion. I laughed a few times over the course of this black comedy, but most of the jokes were badly telegraphed and they often landed with a thud. The two leads were two dimensional and their story was fraught with tonal shifts (Peaking with a nasty scene of sexual assault that's awkwardly played for laughs moments later). At the end of things, I wasn't entirely sure what this movie was trying to be.
A sleazy con artist (Christian Bale) and his partner (Amy Adams) are nabbed by an ambitious federal agent (Bradley Cooper). In exchange for leniency, they agree to help the FBI set up a sting against a popular mayor in New Jersey (Jeremy Renner). Things get out of hand when the game is infiltrated by the mafia, some crooked congressmen, and the con man's erratic wife (Jennifer Lawrence). American Hustle feels a lot like Goodfellas since it has a swift pace, extensive use of period music, lots of voiceover narration from characters, and even a cameo from Robert De Niro. This film doesn't give audiences anything they've never seen before, but it gets by thanks to some dynamic performances from its impressive cast.
A confused old man (Bruce Dern) is convinced that he's won a million dollar prize from one of those mail order rackets. His son (Will Forte) knows that it isn't so, but he decides to humor his old man and they venture out to the sweepstakes' headquarters. Things begin to get hairy when friends, acquaintances, and extended family catch wind of this alleged "prize" and believe that it's true. Nebraska's humor is dry, caustic, awkward, and found in its brevity. June Squibb gets most of the laughs as the family's cantankerous matriarch, but the film's message is best conveyed by the deliberate direction of Alexander Payne and an understated score by Mark Orton.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) loses her upscale lifestyle when her husband (Alec Baldwin) is arrested for fraud and all their assets are repossessed by the government. Forced to live with her working class sister (Sally Hawkins), Jasmine struggles to accept the pitfalls of her new life as her mind begins to unravel under the pressure. Blue Jasmine is frequently compared to A Streetcar Named Desire and it is definitely not hard to notice the parallels. Much of the film is carried by Blanchett's terrific performance and she certainly deserved the Oscar she won for it. The remainder of the cast, the pointed script, and sharp direction makes it a fine addition to Woody Allen's later catalog.