Movie Review – The Selfish Giant

The Selfish Giant (2013)
Written & Directed by Clio Barnard

In a rundown northern England city, young teenagers Arbor and Swifty consistently find ways to get trouble whether it’s getting into fights at school or cursing out a parent. They cross a new line when they start stealing copper wire from local utilities and sell it to scrap dealer Kitten. Swifty finds himself drawn to the horses and Kitten owns and the scrap dealer can see the young man’s skill with the animals. Arbor feels the distance growing between him and Swifty, with the latter moving towards a better future than the deeply emotionally trouble Arbor seems capable of having.

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Movie Review – The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty (2013)
Written by Paolo Sorrentino & Umberto Contarello
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino

Jep Gambardella has just turned sixty-five and has spent decades in Rome as a journalist, mingling with an aging crowd of partygoers, washed-up celebrities, and wannabe artists. He’s suddenly forced to face reality when he learns that his first love, a slightly older woman he met as a teenager has died. Jep begins to reevaluate his idea of beauty and becomes lost in nostalgia for a time that may have never been at all. Along the way, he encounters the wealthy, and the holy all seem unable to answer his question or give him meaningful guidance.

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Movie Review – Fruitvale Station

Fruitvale Station (2013)
Written & Directed by Ryan Coogler

On New Year’s Day 2009, Oscar Grant was on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train with his girlfriend and their friends returning home to Oakland after an evening of celebration. A prisoner who served time with Grant recognized him on the train, and a fight broke out. The train was stopped and Grant and several other men, but not the prison acquaintance, was pulled off. A tense argument ensued with the transit police which escalated to Grant being pinned to the floor, a knee driven into the back of his neck. As he was pinned an officer pulled his firearm and shot Grant in the back. The wounded man would be taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead later that morning. The officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, sentenced to two years, but was released after less than a year served.

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Movie Review – Upstream Color

Upstream Color (2013)
Written & Directed by Shane Carruth

We follow a man who harvests a strange larva from plants with a blue-glittery powder on their leaves. He ends up stalking a club, waiting for someone wandering past by themselves. This comes in the form of Kris, a young woman. After being tased, she wakes as this nameless man forces her to ingest one of the larvae, immediately making her easily susceptible to his suggestions. Kris brings him to her house where he goes about making her empty her bank accounts and liquidating her home equity. He leaves her once he has all this money and she finds wormlike creatures are wiggling around under her skin. The subsonic speakers of another man lure Kris into a field where he helps remove the worms and places them in a pig. Kris attempts to go on with her life until she meets Jeff. Some mysterious force draws them together, and they slowly realize they have been victims of something new and frightening.

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Movie Review – 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave (2013)
Written by John Ridley
Directed by Steve McQueen

In 1841, freeman Solomon Northrup, a resident of Saratoga Springs, New York was tricked by two white men into joining them as a traveling violinist. With his wife and children away for work for three weeks, Northrup sees an excellent opportunity to make a little money on the side and travel. Instead, his companions drug the man and sell him to a slave ring. A journey begins that brings Northrup to New Orleans and into the ownership of a plantation owner where our protagonist experiences just a taste of the hell that his life will become. From there he ends up at the cotton plantation of Epps, a drunkard and a brute who sexually abuses one slave in particular, Patsey. Northrup tries to keep his hope alive while watching those around him become brutalized and eventually murdered in some instances. Eventually, he will be free again but forever changed, terrors and evils scarred into his mind that he will never forget.

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Movie Review – Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)
Written & Directed by David Lowry

Ruth tells Bob she’s pregnant and he couldn’t be more excited. Bob needs to pull off one more robbery, and they’ll be set, able to escape their small Texas town and start over somewhere else. However, things don’t go as planned; a shoot out ensues with an officer wounded and Bob taken into custody. Ruth is taken in by her father figure Skerritt and raises her daughter as a single mother. Patrick, the officer, wounded in the shoot out, begins coming around to Ruth’s place to help her out and they slowly develop feelings for each other. Meanwhile, Bob escapes prison and starts making his way to Ruth, to take her and their daughter away to a better place.

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Movie Review – Stranger by the Lake

Stranger by the Lake (2013)
Written & Directed by Alain Guiraudie

Franck frequents a nude beach that doubles as a favorite spot for gay men to cruise and hook up. He befriends Henri, an older man recently broken up with his girlfriend. The two chat for a while every time Franck arrives, and he learns Henri appreciates the quiet of this side of the lake. Later, Franck sets his eyes on Michel, an incredibly handsome man who already appears to be attached. On his way home, after a late afternoon tryst with another beachgoer, Franck stumbles upon a strange scene. From his vantage point, he witnesses what appears to be a murder and Franck believes he knows the murderer. The police begin asking questions as Franck and Michel’s relationship blossoms and the beach starts to lose the splendor it once possessed for our protagonist.

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Movie Review – Ida

Ida (2013)
Written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz & Pawel Pawlikowski
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

Ida is about to take her vows as a nun when the prioress informs her they received word from her Aunt Wanda. This comes as a surprise as Ida is an orphan, raised in the church since she was an infant. She travels to her aunt’s home and learns Wanda is a judge living her days out drunk and in promiscuous encounters with random men. Wanda also divulges that she is a Jew, that her parents were killed when the Germans invaded during the war. The two women set out so that Ida may find her parents’ graves and have some closure with her now uncovered past. What they learn profoundly unsettles them, encounter anti-Semitic resistance and ultimately learning how Ida’s mother and father were murdered. Ida also finds herself tempted by the world outside the church, a place she has no experience with.

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Movie Review – American Hustle

American Hustle (2013)
Written by Eric Warner Singer and David O. Russell
Directed by David O. Russell

Inspired by the FBI’s Abscam operation to take down organized crime and later public corruption, American Hustle shakes off the procedural to tell a more stylistic and fictionalized version of the events. Irving Rosenfeld is a con artist in New Jersey who has found a soulmate and partner in Sydney Prosser. The two are running an art scam, and some loan sharking but get caught by FBI agent Richie DiMaso who coerces them into using their skills and connections to start taking down bigger fish. Irving’s life is complicated by his irresponsible wife Rosalyn whose son he has adopted which causes him to refuse to leave her. DiMaso gets the pair embroiled with the mayor of Camden, New Jersey and on the ground floor of the mob-led rebuilding of Atlantic City. As expected the stakes crank up to a frenetic level and Irving finds himself deeper and more threatened than he ever wanted to be.

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Movie Review – Short Term 12

Short Term 12 (2013)
Written & Directed by Destin Daniel Critton

Short Term 12 is a group home for troubled and emotionally-challenged teenagers. The film focuses on Grace, a young supervisor who is in a relationship with coworker Mason. Grace discovers she’s pregnant early on in the picture and spends the rest of the film contemplating if she is capable of being a good parent. Her day to day life puts her right in front of some of the most challenging issues young people face. The children she sees are victims of predatory adults who have used these kids up and spit them out. Grace also has her past as the child of an abuser hanging over her like a dark cloud. A new resident comes to Short Term 12, Jayden, a girl that puts up a cold front to avoid creating personal connections. In Jayden, Grace begins to see her pains and may spiral out of control on a crusade to save Jayden’s life.

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