Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

12 Years a Slave is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man living in upstate New York before the Civil War who was abducted and sold into slavery. This latest effort from director Steve McQueen is a towering achievement—one of the year’s bravest and most-uncompromising films.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is a lock for an Oscar nomination as Northup, who is forced to work on cotton plantations, one of them run by the despicable Edwin Epps, played by Michael Fassbender in a vicious and brilliant performance. McQueen shows slavery as the horror it was, and Ejiofor puts a character on the screen that you will never forget.

If you were one of the few people who saw 2011’s Pariah, you know that Adepero Oduye is a stellar actress, as she further proves here as Eliza, a woman sold into slavery and taken from her children. Relative newcomer Lupita Nyong’o is equally heartbreaking as Patsey, a victim of Epps’s sick abuse.

The movie is shocking, violent and unrelenting in its mission to show this country in its most shameful days. It’s about time somebody had the guts to make a movie like this.

12 Years a Slave is playing at the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 760-770-1615); the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565); and Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews

You would think a movie written by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, The Road) and directed by Ridley Scott (Alien) would be amazing. That is not the case with this bore-fest.

In The Counselor, Michael Fassbender—so good in Scott’s Prometheus—plays a character simply named Counselor, a lawyer who gets involved in drug-trafficking and puts himself and others in jeopardy. Cameron Diaz plays the girlfriend of his partner in crime (a wild-haired Javier Bardem)—and her acting is terrible in this movie. She’s required to be bad, and you can feel her trying so hard at every turn. Let’s just say she’s very bad at being bad.

Scott puts together some intense, violent scenes that feel like they belong in a movie in which the actors aren’t required to deliver long, boring, unrealistic monologues. Brad Pitt is OK as some sort of drug-deal sage, but he’s starting to look a lot like Mickey Rourke. (He actually references him during one of his speeches.)

Scott almost manages a good movie out of this mess, but Diaz and the preachy script prevail.

The Counselor is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

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