Zero Dark Thirty, the new film by "Hurt Locker" Director Kathryn Bigelow is about the hunt for and assassination of Osama bin Laden. Coming into this film not knowing anything about the story or the politics behind it didn't help me to understand the proceedings too well. There were parts where I felt they had left stuff out because it was common knowledge, leaving me confused. But nevertheless, the film is gripping, suspenseful, and beautifully acted by the entire cast, especially Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Ehle and Mark Strong. The script is brilliantly written by Mark Boal, a former Journalist. Cinematography by Grieg Fraser is often stunning, bringing out colours and a beautiful palette in the desolate deserts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Definitely one of the better films of the year.
With a rousing opening, a confusing and lacklustre middle, and a moving, satisfying conclusion, Les Miserables is a commendable effort to put the musical on the big screen. Using live singing instead of pre-recorded songs, the actors can bring fresh emotion and meaning to the lyrics which has a surprisingly good effect. Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman give stunning performances, as well as the rest of the distinguished cast. The set pieces, production design and costumes are impeccable as well. All the songs are shot in close ups and in single shots, and sometimes I felt it was getting too in my face, and didn't let me get totally immersed in the world. Tom Hooper's Les Miserables is occasionally boring, bombastic and over the top, but it is also emotional, gorgeous and features great singing and acting across the board.
Boasting splendid production design, gorgeous set pieces, stunning cinematography and a wonderfully immersive score, Anna Karenina is mostly an art piece, with a love story at it's heart. The only thing about this love story is that it's too drawn out and slow moving as is the story, to really keep the audiences attention. There are some electric scenes that are stunning and elaborate technical showpieces, and there is some fantastic acting by Keira Knightley and Jude Law, but overall Joe Wright's Anna Karenina is somewhat of a bore, but made watchable by the performances, elaborate production design, music, costumes and cinematography. Expect lots of oscar nominations in the technical categories.
Quentin Tarantino's unnecessarily bloody, bold and hilarious western Django Unchained is fantastic. Featuring outstanding performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson as well as Christoph Waltz and Kerry Washington, stunning cinematography, and odd but fitting music choices, this western is probably the most fun film of the year, as well as the most violent. Well worth your time and money though.
Walking a thematic tight-rope, Silver Linings Playbook largely succeeds due to the plethora of stunning performances from the whole case. Bradley Cooper stunned me with his ability for dramatic, emotional acting and Jennifer Lawrence was amazing as usual. Both got completely enveloped in their roles; they weren't actors, they became their characters. Robert De Niro gives his best performance in a long time, and Jacki Weaver blew me away. David O. Russell has crafted a masterpiece that is simply one of, if not the best, film of the year!