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Tag Archives: Brad Pitt

Twelve Years a Slave

In 1841, Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) has a very happy life in Saratoga, New York. He loves music and playing his violin. But more than this he adores his beautiful wife Anne (by Kelsey Scott) and his children Michelle (by Quvenzhané Wallis) and Alonzo (by Cameron Zeigler). They live a very comfortable and successful life, with well-balanced settled children and a blissful marriage. One day, Solomon is befriended by two tricksters and ends up being transported into slavery in the American south. He endures the humiliation of being sold by a heartless and greedy Slaver, Mr Freeman (by Paul Giamatti), then relentless horror as the “purchased property” of several brutal landowners and their staff, including Ford (by Benedict Cummerbatch), Tibeat (by Paul Danos) and Epps (by Michael Fassbender). For twelve years he and his fellow slaves suffer at the utterly cruel and hateful hands of their “masters”, which bears heavily on them all, until a Canadian abolitionist, Bass (by Brad Pitt) provides Solomon with a chance of freedom.

This jaw-dropping movie is based on the biography “Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northrup. The unwavering hateful attitudes of the “owners” towards their “property” is eye boggling, as is the total brutality meted out to them daily as a result of their he’s my property, I can do what I like to him” point of view. As Solomon Northup, Chiwetel Ejiofor puts in a remarkable performance and his worldwide nominations as Best Actor are totally deserved. Another stunning performance is from Michael Fassbender, as Landowner Epps. He must have been totally exhausted throughout the making of the movie as every one of his scenes is aggressive, physical, emotionally fraught and must have been utterly draining. As Freeman, Paul Giamatti’s role is small but very important and he is marvellous. Same goes for Paul Danos and Brad Pitt – very good. Another wonderful performance is by Lupita Nyong’o as slave Patsey. She is strong, fearless and incredible – she well deserves her Screen Actors Guild Award and her nomination for an Academy Award (Oscar). The movie has already been recognised with 2014 Best Movie Golden Globe, BAFTA and AFI Awards and it has been nominated for several Academy Awards (Oscars) for Best Picture, Actor in Leading Role (Ejiofor), Actor in Supporting Role (Fassbender), Actress in Supporting Role (Nyong’o), Costumes, Directing, Film Editing, Production Design and Writing (Adapted Screenplay). It’s probably a little too drawn-out in the telling so it seems long, but its honesty is to be seen to be believed. Well done.

Made in 2013. Directed by Steve McQueen

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Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Movies

 

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Killing Them Softly

In New Orleans in 2008, amidst the economic hard times Markie Trattam (performed by Ray Liotta) runs a card game. He’s done it for years, but has lost a bit of street cred lately since he arranged a hold-up of his own game to pocket all the cash. Johnny Amato (by Vincent Curatola) decides he wants to turn over Markie’s game again and leave Markie squarely in the frame for it – a fool-proof plan! He hires two-bit crook Frankie (by Scoot McNairy) and his dodgy Aussie mate Russell (by Ben Mendelsohn) to do it. The job comes off okay and the boys are home free … but big boss, Dillon (by Sam Shepherd) smells a rat so he hires hit-man Jackie (by Brad Pitt) to sort it out and restore Dillon as top dog. Jackie, in turn, calls on out-of-towner Mikey (by James Gandolfini) to do the job anonymously, but Mikey isn’t the man he once was, so he’s unreliable. Jackie will need to do this himself, so he wants his full whack for the jobs and drives a hard bargain with Dillon’s man (by Richard Jenkins) to get a fair fee. Can Jackie sort this out without the cops crawling all over him?

This is an entertaining crime action thriller. The mood is sepia and dark as a result of the excellent cinematography – there’s no chaos but the violence is deliberate, just the way the characters play it. Brad Pitt owns his role as cool hit-man Jackie, who likes to carry out his hits by killing them “softly”. He wants all the loose ends tied up so his quietly spoken manner is deliberate and clear in its delivery. Mikey is a role that’s classic for James Gandolfini and he fits it like a glove … a cruel, cold-hearted crook with serious weaknesses and little self-awareness. Ray Liotta is strong as Markie and Richard Jenkins is as good as ever here too (in his usual understated way) as Dillon’s man. It’s peppered with great performances and a standout is Australian Ben Mendelson’s fabulous and authentic portrayal of drug-addled Russell – supported by marvellous camerawork, his scenes are great. The movie is based on the book “Cogan’s Trade” by George V. Higgins and was nominated for the coveted Palme d’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival – no surprise there. If you enjoyed “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Get Shorty” or “Jackie Brown” you’ll like this one. Well done everyone.

Made in 2011. Directed by Andrew Dominik

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2013 in Movies

 

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Babel

In Morocco, American Richard Jones (played by Brad Pitt) is on holiday with his wife, Susan (by Cate Blanchett). In Tokyo, a young teenage girl, Chieko Wataya (by Rinko Kikuchi) is facing the challenges of adolescence, while she deals with the sudden death of her mother. In San Diego, Mexican housekeeper Amelia (by Adriana Barraza) is busy caring for two young children Debbie (by Elle Fanning) and Mike (by Nathan Gamble), while her son’s wedding approaches and she hopes to find someone to care for them while she attends back in Mexico. In a poor mountainous war-torn region, two mischievous young shepherd boys Yussef (by Boubker Ait El Caid) and Ahmed (by Said Tarchani) are playing near their home as they tend their herd of goats. These four totally independent stories explore a range of emotions, challenges and decisions in the lives of their participants. In every case, trivial or insignificant decisions and actions brought about by fate cause high impact outcomes that are emotionally charged, difficult and life-changing. As the drama progresses, we learn how the stories are actually strongly interlinked and there are marked parallels in them all.

This is a stunning film filled with compelling drama, authentic characters, deep emotions and excellent performances. In every of the four scenarios, everything is very real – in some cases very hard to watch. The decisions made by the people – innocuous at the time but with significant results, are just jaw-dropping. On the one hand, the scenarios are mysterious and the viewer is drawn into them, mostly to find out what will happen – but on the other hand, the viewer also watches with detachment (sometimes utter disbelief) at the actions of the characters. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett don’t play “big, blockbuster, movie star” roles here, they are simply part of the magnificent ensemble cast. The cinematography is very well done and brings the landscape and environment to the audience very graphically, while the music brings the raw emotion in each scenario into stunning focus. In 2007 at the Academy Awards (Oscar) presentation, this movie won the award for Best Music Original Score – it was also nominated for several other awards. By necessaity, this is a multi-lingual movie, so several scenarios are presented with English subtitles. It’s a really great movie. 

Made in 2006. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Movies

 

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The Tree of Life

Jack (played by Hunter McCracken) is the eldest of three boys growing up in Texas in the 1950’s. His is a traumatic and difficult life – his father (by Brad Pitt) is deeply religious, distant and cruel, and although his mother (by Jessica Chastain) is loving and sensitive, she is constrained in demonstrating her love for her boys by the strict, pious life her husband insists the family leads. We mostly observe the boys’ life through the eyes of childhood Jack. We also meet Jack as an adult (by Sean Penn) who is deeply scarred by his life experiences and struggles to keep a grasp on reality.

When a movie boasts the Hollywood royalty of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in its cast, it’s natural that the audience would have an expectation that it has much to offer. This movie does offer a lot … but I am sure its offerings will be interpreted differently by every viewer. For me, the movie demonstrates Malick’s impression of a person in adulthood still going through deep trauma, conflicting emotions and mental illness due to their experiences decades before. It presents endless images with little dialogue or structure and the viewer must interpret as they go. It is beautifully crafted – the vision is stunning and the score complements this marvellously. However, where it does appear, the dialogue is difficult and sometimes inaudible. I am not really sure what I watched – so this ambitious movie is sure to polarize the audience.

Made in 2011. Directed by Terrence Malick

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Movies

 

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Burn After Reading

In Washington, Osborne Cox (by John Malkovich) is a CIA analyst expert on the Balkans who is suddenly fired from his job due to his drinking problem. He is bitter and throws wild accusations at the CIA, then starts a tell-all memoir about his work and the Agency. He saves all his evidence and background work on a CD, but then he mislays it. At the same time, his wife Katie (by Tilda Swinton) is having an affair with Federal Marshal Harry Pfarrer (by George Clooney). In another part of town, Linda Litzke (by Frances McDormand) is at work at a fitness centre – “Hard Bodies”, but she is so distracted about her looks and determination to get some plastic surgery that she doesn’t realise her boss Ted (by Richard Jenkins) fancies her like mad. Then another “Hard Bodies” fitness instructor, Chad (by Brad Pitt), who is a little slow on the uptake, finds the computer disk belonging to Ossie and views it, He sees what looks like CIA state secrets and when he tells Linda, they decide to run a blackmail scam – then Linda will finally have the money to get her face lift – but things don’t quite go according to plan …

I find the Coen Brothers’ movies are either great or awful.  This one is great – it has a fabulous and well-balanced mix between comedy and thriller.  All the characters work well in this madcap story and it’s very entertaining.  From the outset, John Malkovich’s Ossie is totally unlikeable – he is superb in this bitter and angry role. As Linda, you just want to shake Frances McDormand and get some reality back into her head … George Clooney is perfect as the suave but totally hapless Harry Pfarrer, he and Tilda Swinton are magic together … and Brad Pitt … what can I say? in roles like this he is just too funny … very good and he totally and delightfully inhabits Chad.  It’s really good – one of their best, well done.

Made 2008: Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Movies

 

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Moneyball

Before I saw this movie I knew nothing about US major league baseball. This is a true story – Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, an ex-ball player who now manages the Oakland Athletics baseball team. It’s 2001 and Billy is trying to compete with the huge budgets of other much larger more high profile teams (like the Boston Red Sox), when his budget is only a third of theirs. They almost reach the Grand Final, but fail at the last hurdle.  In the new sports year, he recruits a crack young analyst, Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill) and together they slowly build a competitive team, with resistance from even within his own club at every turn. The football manager (coach) is not a supporter and is very well portrayed (by Philip Seymour Hoffman). The result of Beane’s work with Hill is told in this drama.  I loved this movie – those with knowledge of the actual situation will get much more out if it, no doubt. It’s very good – even if you are not a sports or baseball nut, you will get something from the story I’m sure.  Brad Pitt is very good – there’s something distinctly “Redford-ish” about him in this. It got me in quickly and although it is long (133 mins) it kept me engaged, no time is wasted. Well done.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Movies

 

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