12 Years a Slave is based upon the memoirs of Solomon Northrup, a free man from Saratoga, N.Y. A family man and talented violinist by trade; he is duped into visiting Washington D.C. under the auspices of a large sum of easy money performing in a travelling show. From here he is abducted, sold into slavery and shipped south. In the ensuing two hours we witness the brutality, systematic violence, injustice and unimaginable desperation that he was subjected to for more than a decade. His story is a drop in the ocean, but it is an important one, and one that an audience must suffer with him.

During the deep freeze that hit North America last week I watched a news report on how the homeless men and women of Washington DC were handling the extreme cold. They huddled together, warming their hands on cups of tea given out by a local charity. One man, beaming a toothless smile, said “It’s the survival of the fittest, man!” As much as America is a land of opportunity and the American Dream remains a dream for the Jay Gatsby’s amongst us; for many it is a dog-eat-dog struggle. Whether this is a fight against the injustice of homelessness, the harshness of Mother Nature, the feds, the mob, or even yourself, it is about doing what you have to do to survive.

Captain Phillips opens with parallel scenes that show two men preparing for work. The first man is at home in Vermont. At his desk he checks a shipping itinerary, sorts through papers and packs his bag before driving to the airport with his wife to board a plane to Oman. The second man is asleep on a bare mattress on the floor of a hut in Eyl, a village situated on the coast of Somalia. He is awoken by the threatening, frenzied arrival of armed men who advise him, and others, to take to the sea to make money. The former is the captain of an American cargo ship and the latter is a modern day pirate.

Since the beginning of time men have been fighting for the women they love. Whether it be a caveman wielding a club or an unshaven, long-haired Matthew McConaughey with a .45, the principle is essentially the same. There are few things that a good man will not do to protect the honour and well-being of their cavewoman/wife/girlfriend. You’re welcome, ladies.

Mud is writer/director Jeff Nichols’ third film. And it is magnificent. The aforementioned Mr. McConaughey plays the eponymous lead character who is on a rescue mission to save Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) – the errant, unpredictable and unfaithful girl of his boyhood dreams – from the bad guys.

On a scale of 1 to 10, what do you think you are? And if you were told that you were a 3, how would you go about getting closer to double figures?

So begins The Way Way Back and a conversation between step-father Trent (Steve Carrell) and step-son Duncan (a tremendous Liam James). This early exchange is passed off as a rather blunt but nonetheless humorous and light-hearted tete-à-tete between two men who are forced into a station wagon on the road to the beach house for a summer getaway.

There are few films that I await with as much anticipation, and at times trepidation, as ‘the new Bond’. I say trepidation because the last decade has seen both Die Another Day (2002) and Quantum of Solace (2008). The former is arguably the worst Bond in the entire franchise due to its utter ridiculousness from start to finish and the latter a hugely disappointing follow-up to the triumph of Casino Royale (2006). Much like the tsunami that Pierce Brosnan rides in the climax to his last installment as 007, there have been a number of highs and lows for Bond fans over the past ten years and it was about time that we returned to the crest of the wave.

I recently lost my grandmother to cancer so this film hit home. The trailer portrays Unfinished Song as a light-hearted comedy that pokes fun at a grumpy old stick-in-the-mud named Arthur Harris (Terence Stamp). Whilst his wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) is seen to be unwell, the severity of her illness is withheld. You have been warned. That is not to say that Unfinished Song is overly morbid or depressing. It is a love film.

quebec
La ‘Belle Province’ de Quebec – they speak ‘French’ here – or so they claim…

When I first came to Canada in 2010 I proudly wrote on my shiny new ‘résumé’ that I was bilingual. Given that I have been learning French since I was 11, studied it for 4 years at university and lived in Grenoble for one of these; I thought it was reasonable for me to do so. I wasn’t being too arrogant, was I?

 

When, recently, I was discussing the career of one of Hollywood’s most revered and admired actors over coffee with a friend, I made the mistake of asking “When was the last time Kevin Spacey made a good film?” Please don’t get me wrong; as far as I am concerned, the great man can have a free pass for the rest of his life. He could ‘do a Nicolas Cage’ and make terrible films from now on out and would still be a legend.