Tag Archives: Sarah Paulson

12 Years a Slave (2013) Review

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12 Years a Slave

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & sexual violence
Cast:
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup/Platt
Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps
Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey
Sarah Paulson as Mary Epps
Paul Dano as John Tibeats
Benedict Cumberbatch as William Ford
Alfre Woodard as Mistress Harriet Shaw
Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass
Director: Steve McQueen

In 1841, African American Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man, is kidnapped and forced into slavert, under the name ‘Platt’ for 12 years. He faces the hardships of being a slave under the hands of a few different slave owners. Through faith, will power, and courage, Northup must survive and endure those 12 years a slave.

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I had seen 12 Years a Slave many years ago for the first time, and it was quite impactful experience. Having rewatched some other Best Picture winning movies recently, I decided I should give this one a watch again, even though I knew it wouldn’t exactly be a pleasant viewing. 12 Years a Slave still holds up 7 years kater and is just as devastating as when I first watched it, a fantastic and harrowing movie that deserves all the acclaim it’s been receiving.

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Considering the subject matter, one could be forgiven for thinking that the movie might take a manipulative approach, especially considering most of the other movies about slavery, and all the awards that this movie won. However, that aspect was handled right, and I’ll get into some of those aspects a little later. This is first and foremost Solomon Northup’s real life story, and follows him throughout his years of being a slave. The story is handled as honest as possible, and never sensationalises any of it. Now from the title, you know that lead character doesn’t remain a slave for more than 12 years, but the experience isn’t any less harrowing. There are some incredibly impactful and emotional moments that are earned and never feel forced, but genuine.

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This cast is large and talented, and all of them perform excellently in their parts. Chiwetel Ejiofor is incredible in the lead role of Solomon Northup, conveying so much emotion and pain without having to say much, or even anything. This film is continuously following him from beginning to end, this is his movie, and he carries it all powerfully. The rest of the cast are supporting players in Solomon’s story, but they all play their parts well. There are two standouts among that supporting cast, the first is Michael Fassbender, giving one of his best performances as a slave owner. Fassbender really performs excellently, with his character representing pretty much the worst of humanity, he has such a captivating screen presence. The other standout is Lupita Nyong’o, who gives an incredibly emotional performance in her part. The rest of the cast are great and make the most of their scenes, with the likes of Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt. Michael Kenenth Williams, and Paul Giamatti.

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Good writing and acting aside, what 12 Years a Slave would live or die on is the direction. This film needed to be handled by the right person, or it could easily fail. Director Steve McQueen was very much the right person for this movie, and knew how to handle this very sensitive subject. The cinematography from Sean Bobbitt was stunning. Not only that, but McQueen’s use of the camera is effective, forcing the audience watch everything that happens on screen, and not allowing them a chance to look away. When it came to the violence and the aspects of slavery, it was handled in probably best way possible. It’s undeniably brutal and doesn’t shy away from that, and you feel every blow. At the same time, it doesn’t sensationalise or fetishize it, if anything it is uncomfortably casual, and was fitting for the movie. A perfect example of this is a standout moment that takes place a third of the way through, without revealing the context or what the scene is, it’s a few minutes long, full of unbroken shots, and it’s incredibly painful and quiet. Hans Zimmer’s score is great as to be expected, and fitted perfectly with the film.

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12 Years a Slave remains an outstanding and moving film, powerfully acted, excellently directed, and is all around masterful. It is incredibly hard to watch (and indeed the rewatch was just as painful as the first watch was) but is a monumental film and quite frankly essential viewing.

Glass (2019) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & content that may disturb
Cast:
James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Horde
Bruce Willis as David Dunn/The Overseer
Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr. Glass
Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple
Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke
Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph Dunn
Charlayne Woodard as Mrs. Price
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

From Unbreakable, Bruce Willis returns as David Dunn as does Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price, known also by his pseudonym Mr. Glass. Joining from Split are James McAvoy, reprising his role as Kevin Wendell Crumb and the multiple identities who reside within, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the only captive to survive an encounter with The Beast. Following the conclusion of Split, Glass finds Dunn pursuing Crumb’s superhuman figure of The Beast in a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.

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Glass was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. While M. Night Shyamalan has the reputation of being a polarising and hit or miss director, his work on Split was great and one of the most stand out aspects about it was the twist at the very end which indicated that the movie was set in the same universe as Unbreakable. Unbreakable is often hailed as one of Shyamalan’s best films, and seeing him expand on that universe was exciting. Naturally the third and final film of this trilogy had a lot of anticipation behind it, and upon its release, it has been receiving very divided reactions. Having seen it myself though, I’m on the side that loves it, and it just gets better the more I think about it.

While I guess you could watch Glass without watching the other movies, you’ll really only get the full experience if you watch both Unbreakable and Split. If you’re not that interested in these movies, I don’t think you’ll be as invested in Glass as others. Something that should be noted is that this is not a superhero movie. While Unbreakable is sort of a superhero origin story and Split is sort of a supervillain origin story, this trilogy is meant to be a take on superheroes, not necessarily meant to be superhero movies. Because of that, it tends to subvert and play around with a lot of superhero movie tropes, and I really liked that. Glass’s genre and tone is a mix of Unbreakable and Split, but it leans more towards the Unbreakable side. There are a few thrilling scenes but most of the movie is slow paced and smaller scale like Unbreakable, and I loved Unbreakable. There is a lot of dialogue in the movie and going into it knowing that, I really thought it was good and I was invested in the conversations. The movie also doesn’t get as big as some may think. The trailers do oversell the scale of the movie, it really is a small scale and enclosed movie, and I’m glad that it doesn’t get absurdly over the top. There will be some things in the third act that are going to divide some people, I personally really liked where he took it, even if I really wasn’t expecting that at all. It is clear whatever the case however that the direction that Shyamalan took the plot was his plan, it’s not a studio mandated decision or anything, this is what he wanted to do with the story. As for the writing itself I really liked it. It does have the typical writing of Shyamalan, both the good and bad. By the bad I mean that there’s some occasional lines of dialogue which don’t sound human at all, but I’ve become used to seeing that from Shyamalan. In terms of problems I had, the first thing that came to mind was that the second act at times could drag. I wasn’t necessarily bored and I was invested throughout, but I did feel it slow down a little too much. With that said, Unbreakable had more pacing problems than Glass. I feel like I’ll need to watch Glass again to be sure how I feel about it, however my instant reaction after watching it was loving it.

Much of the returning cast from Unbreakable and Split are back and they all do great jobs. Bruce Willis reprises his role as David Dunn from Unbreakable but he wasn’t as prominent as I thought he would be. He was sort of in the forefront earlier on and then gets less screen time over time. With that said it worked for the movie, he was still present in the plot and it was nice to see him again. It’s also the best performance that Willis has given since Looper, he really does seem committed to the role. Also returning is Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr Glass. It was surprising that despite his name being the title of the movie, for a while he doesn’t do much. Even when he showed up in the first half, he was just there, not even saying a single word. It’s really the second half where he is more in the forefront and Jackson absolutely kills it. It’s been 19 years since we’ve seen him in this role and he is back with the same level of dedication and still feels very much like the same character, albeit more certain in his beliefs about superheroes. James McAvoy as Kevin Wendall Crumb/The Horde however was the standout of the entire movie, no surprise really. While David Dunn is in the forefront in the first half while Elijah Price is in the background, as well as vice versa for the second half, Crumb and his other personalities were consistently present throughout. McAvoy was fantastic in Split but he’s even better here. While his character’s split personality wasn’t necessarily a gimmick in that movie, it was quite reliant on it. In Glass it feels like his characters are even more fleshed out and McAvoy just transforms into each of them with ease (sometimes jumping between them in the same shot), convincingly making them feel like distinctly different people. While the personalities we see most are Hedwig, Patricia, Dennis and The Beast, we do see appearances from the personalities in Split, as well as a bunch more new personalities. I’m not sure how you’ll feel about the overall movie but I’m pretty sure that everyone will be able to say that James McAvoy did a phenomenal job, because he really did. An addition to the movie is Sarah Paulson in the role of a psychiatrist trying to convince the main 3 characters that they aren’t superheroes. Paulson is a very talented actress but was often underutilised in some movies, often in minor supporting roles. In Glass she is in a supporting role but she really shines in her role and has a lot to work with. Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark and Charlayne Woodard return as their characters, with Anya as Casey Cooke (the surviving kidnapped girl from Split), Spencer as David’s son, and Charlayne as Elijah’s mother. They aren’t in the forefront and maybe weren’t super essential to be in the movie but they fit well in the story and played their parts well.

I’d go so far as to say that this might be the best directed film by M. Night Shyamalan, he does some great things here. The cinematography is immaculate and the visuals are great, particularly the use of colour. This is not an action movie but there are a few action scenes. It’s nothing great but it was more than I was expecting from the movie, and worked quite well. The music by West Dylan Thordson (who made the score for Split) was great. There are also callbacks to themes from Unbreakable and Split and they are very effective.

Glass isn’t going to work for everyone, as evidence from the very polarising reaction from both critics and audiences. If you’re not invested in the Unbreakable/Split stories in the slightest, there’s probably not going to be much point watching Glass. However I personally loved what M. Night Shyamalan did with this film. His direction of the movie is his best work yet, the performances are great (particularly James McAvoy) and as unexpected as it was, I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to what Shyamalan started with Unbreakable. I think I will need to rewatch it at some point as there was a lot to take in, and my opinion on it could change. However the more I think about it, the more I loved it.

Ocean’s 8 (2018) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean
Cate Blanchett as Lou Miller
Anne Hathaway as Daphne Kluger
Mindy Kaling as Amita
Sarah Paulson as Tammy
Awkwafina as Constance
Rihanna as Nine Ball
Helena Bonham Carter as Rose Weil
Richard Armitage as Claude Becker
James Corden as John Frazier
Director: Gary Ross

Five years, eight months, 12 days and counting — that’s how long Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) has been devising the biggest heist of her life. She knows what it’s going to take — a team of the best people in the field, starting with her partner-in-crime Lou Miller (Cate Blanchett). Together, they recruit a crew of specialists, including jeweler Amita (Mindy Kaling), street con Constance (Awkwafina), suburban mom Tammy (Sarah Paulson), hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), and fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter). Their target — a necklace that’s worth more than $150 million.

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I was a little sceptical about Ocean’s Eight. It had a lot of potential, with it being a spinoff of the famous Ocean’s series directed by Steven Soderbergh and having a huge and talented cast including Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway. At the same time the advertising for the movie made it look just okay and I was unfortunately not as excited for the movie as I feel I should be considering all the talent involved. Nonetheless I was curious enough to check it out and I’m glad I did. Ocean’s Eight was actually quite a bit of fun with the cast and was yet another reasonably well done heist movie. It does have some faults but its easy to overlook most of them.

I watched the Ocean’s trilogy many years ago and I don’t have the best memory of it but I do remember liking it. Ocean’s Eight does similar things that other heist movies have done (like the original Ocean’s trilogy), it has a similar structure, and it has some similar sequences like the team recruiting montages and the twist montages where it reveals everything that happened. It doesn’t really do anything new but it does everything rather well. The first two acts do have moments where it drags and you aren’t as entertained or interested but it does pick up again within a few scenes later. Generally however, it is entertaining, and I was consistently entertained in the 3rd act.

As previously mentioned, Ocean’s Eight has a great cast, with Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Anne Hathaway and more and they play their roles well. Some give better performances than others, and they aren’t giving some of the best performances of their careers but they are good here. They have great chemistry and play off each other really well. The two standouts for me though were Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway, they really were highlights of the film. The weakest performance of the movie was James Corden, he doesn’t have a massive amount of screentime and he’s not bad, not even annoying or anything. But he is very distracting and feels miscast in the role, he plays it like he’s James Corden and not a character.

Gary Ross directs this movie well enough but you do feel the lack of Steven Soderbergh. It does have some stylistic moments and it’s fine and all but it’s missing something. I’m not saying that Steven Soderbergh himself needed to be directing this movie, and Ross’s direction isn’t bad but I think Ocean’s Eight would’ve benefited from better direction.

Ocean’s Eight was a lot of fun. Even if you haven’t watched the original Ocean’s trilogy, that won’t negatively affect your experience of the movie. The cast was great and it was entertaining watching them come together to pull off a heist. It does have some issues but it’s not enough to take away from the overall experience. I do hope that we get at least a couple more movies with these characters, it definitely has potential.

The Post (2017) Review

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language
Cast
Meryl Streep as Kay Graham
Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee
Sarah Paulson as Antoinette “Tony” Pinchot Bradlee
Bob Odenkirk as Ben Bagdikian
Tracy Letts as Fritz Beebe
Bradley Whitford as Arthur Parsons
Bruce Greenwood as Robert McNamara
Matthew Rhys as Daniel Ellsberg
Director: Steven Spielberg

Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) is the first female publisher of a major American newspaper — The Washington Post. With help from editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), Graham races to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spans three decades and four U.S. presidents. Together, they must overcome their differences as they risk their careers — and very freedom — to help bring long-buried truths to light.

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There is an undeniable amount of talent and potential involved when it came The Post. With it being about The Pentagon Papers, with a cast which features actors such as Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks and being directed Steven Spielberg, it showed some signs of it being really something. However, I wasn’t as excited about it as I wanted to be leading up to its release. The Post is by no means a bad or even average movie, it’s decent enough and has some good aspects to it. However it is missing some aspects that would’ve otherwise made for a consistently riveting movie.

It takes quite a while for the movie to pick up. Focussing a movie about The Washington Post on The Pentagon Papers definitely has some potential, the problem is that it’s a bit of a wait before The Washington Post even get The Pentagon Papers. There are multiple things going on during the movie, not just The Pentagon Papers. One of the aspects is Meryl Streep’s character of Katharine Graham and her running of The Washington Post. I should be interested because it’s an important part of the movie and she is the primary protagonist but I just wasn’t that invested. I was a little more interested in The Pentagon Papers aspect. It does pick up a bit as it goes along, especially after the halfway point and it gets better from there. One problem for me is that I never felt that concerned or worried for what was happening, you don’t feel like you’re necessarily with these people as the events are going on. Of course we know the end results but there are plenty of movies based on real life where you are really wrapped up and riveted in what’s going on. The Post on the other hand just seemed to be showing events, for as hard as the decisions that Katharine Graham has to make, you don’t really feel the weight of the decisions, even if you know why these decisions are difficult for her. The Post isn’t that long at just under 2 hours long and while it can drag at points, the length wasn’t a problem. A lot of people have already called The Post and Oscar Bait movie and I can say that there are some moments where it definitely feels like it, especially with it being directed by Steven Spielberg. It’s also meant to be topical for today and while it is relevant for today, only time will tell whether it will stand the test of time with movies like All the Presidents Men.

The Post has a pretty talented cast with Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood and more. They all give commendable performances in this movie but it’s really only Tom Hanks who stood out to me. Honestly the characters aren’t that well fleshed out, so I really wasn’t that invested in them. Meryl Streep is fine, but she’s not even close to being one of the best performances in the film, I can’t tell whether its her acting or the writing she was given but for such a talented actress I was pretty underwhelmed by the performance. There are also some actors that are underused, like Michael Stuhlbarg and Sarah Paulson to a degree.

Steven Spielberg directs this movie competently enough, it’s well pieced together and edited very well. It also does well at setting itself in the 1960s. Really in terms of direction I’ve got no problems with it, it’s at the level that it needs to be, it doesn’t overshadow the plot or actors and is at a pretty high level.

The Post has some good moments, some interesting aspects, pretty good performances and commendable direction from Steven Spielberg but it seems to be lacking some things. It takes for the second half for the movie to pick up and it really didn’t consistently have my interest, though it still had my attention. If The Post interests you, I do recommend checking it out. Everyone else who isn’t interested I still recommend checking it out, but you don’t need to rush out and see it, it’s not one of Steven Spielberg’s better movies.

Carol (2015) Review

ROONEY MARA and CATE BLANCHETT star in CAROL

Carol

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex Scenes, Offensive Language and Nudity
Cast:
Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird
Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet
Sarah Paulson as Abby Gerhard
Kyle Chandler as Harge Aird
Jake Lacy as Richard Semco
Director: Todd Haynes

Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) spots the beautiful, elegant Carol (Cate Blanchett) perusing the doll displays in a 1950s Manhattan department store. The two women develop a fast bond that becomes a love with complicated consequences.

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Carol already had my attention when I heard that my two favourite actresses, Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett, were both going to be in the same movie. It had a lot of hype, despite it not winning many of the awards that it was nominated for. After finally seeing Carol I have to say that it is truly one of the best movies of 2015. Todd Haynes’s excellent direction and attention to detail mixed with the great performances from Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett makes this an incredible movie.

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One thing I heard about this movie before going into it is that the romance is much more subtle than in other movies. That’s definitely the case and I thought it was extremely well done, however it wasn’t just the romance that was subtle. The acting and direction allows you to clearly see how the characters are feeling, without too much dialogue needed to get their emotions across. Also you might initially think from the plot summary that a big part of the movie is focussed on how gay people weren’t exactly able to see each other in the 1950s but it smartly focussed more on the actual romance between Carol and Therese, which helped us get pulled even more into the story, if that aspect was included it could’ve taken away the immersement of the love story. This is the first film I’ve seen from Todd Haynes, and after seeing Carol, I really want to see his other movies.

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The acting is excellent from everyone. Cate Blanchett is as usual excellent in one of her best performances yet, and that’s saying a lot considering her performances like in Elizabeth and Blue Jasmine. Another great performance which is often overlooked in this movie is by Rooney Mara. Despite Mara being placed often in Best Supporting Actress in many award ceremonies, the movie is really Therese’s story. She arguably has the hardest job of any of the actors in this movie, a lot of her emotions you get from her eyes, which really is the sign of a great actor. Both of them share great chemistry, there was no moment where I doubted the love between Carol and Therese. The supporting actors also added quite a bit with actors like Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler but its Mara and Blanchett’s film.

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Usually with period piece movies, there’s some aspect that doesn’t feel natural with the time period and kind of takes me out of the movie. In the case of Carol however, it puts you right into the 50s with the excellent production design and costumes, which are both things that I don’t usually notice in most films. Todd Haynes’s attention to detail is great and can be clearly seen here. The soundtrack from Carter Burwell was great as well, and helps fit in with the tone that they were going for. By that I noticed that this film almost had some sort of hypnotising effect, and it helped as this movie really felt like a journey with these characters.

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Carol is one of the best movies of 2015, it’s such a shame that it didn’t get as much recognition as it should have. Its excellent performances, the great love story and the production value makes this an amazing movie. I’m not sure if it’s my number 1 favourite movie of the year but I’ll just say that the other movies I gave a 10/10 this year at least had some sort of flaw. With Carol though, I can’t find anything wrong with this movie, everything felt complete and I loved it. Check this movie out as soon as possible.