Nightmare of slavery depicted in fierce, mesmerizing '12 Years A Slave'
If your idea of slavery in the American South is Mammy in Gone With the Wind fiercely protecting her white "fambly" from the evil Yankees, it's time for a reality check. The blistering 12 Years A Slave, directed by London-born filmmaker Steve McQueen, offers up a fearless, unexpurgated portrait of what slavery was really like in the only way that could make sense to modern viewers—by plunging a free man into the depths and degradation of the institution from which he is made to realize time and again there is no possible escape.
Redford powers through solo screen voyage in 'All Is Lost'
Actors don't get much more iconic than Robert Redford. A Hollywood superstar since the 1970s, he founded the Sundance Film Festival, Institute, and cable TV channel in support of emerging filmmakers, and has been a tireless activist for the environment. His one-man seagoing thriller, All Is Lost, is a gift to fans who want to see Redford in action. But it also feels like a gift from a grateful industry to Redford, a harrowing physical workout of a film that shows off what his 77-year-old body is capable of, while proving that Redford can still command the screen for 100 minutes all by himself.
Hitmaking funk studio celebrated in rousing music doc ‘Muscle Shoals’
Musical heroes don’t come much more unsung than the so-called Muscle Shoals Swampers. A handful of young, white hometown boys, session musicians at the FAME recording studio in backwoods Muscle Shoals, Ala., they were responsible for laying down some of the funkiest R&B and soul tracks to come out of the 1960s and ‘70s, behind such stellar artists as Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge and Wilson Pickett. Pretty much unknown to the public, they finally get the recognition they deserve in Muscle Shoals, Greg “Freddy” Camalier’s raucous musical documentary on the founding of FAME studio and the distinctive brand of funk produced there.
Gripping, intense, emotional ‘Gravity’ will put you in orbit
It’s the perfect set-up. A couple of astronauts on a routine mission outside their spacecraft for repairs suddenly find themselves adrift in space, tethered to each other, and no longer in contact with mission control. Where can they go? What can they possibly do?
Romantic, parental relationships at heart of engaging 'Enough Said'
In her last two films, writer-director Nicole Holofcener's sensibility was way off the mark. The characters in Holofcener's Friends With Money and Please Give were distinguished by their fuzzy motivations, unconvincing friendships, and often baffling behavior. But the filmmaker is back on track with Enough Said; her focus is sharper and the results far more rewarding in this wry, engaging, life-sized modern comedy about refreshingly real people. And it doesn't hurt that Holofcener had the wit to cast the late, beloved James Gandolfini in a rare romantic role.