Archive for "Chiwetel Ejiofor"

Movie Review: “12 Years a Slave”

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, September 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm.

(Photo: Jaap Buitendijk/FOX Searchlight)

Summary: The true story of Solomon Northup, a free man who was kidnapped in 1841 and endured twelve years of slavery on plantations in New Orleans.

Review: 12 Years a Slave is the most difficult review I’ve written. I am still recovering from the two-hour and thirteen-minute epic — the brutality, gore and piercing screams are bouncing around in my mind a day later. The sobbing in the theater can only be compared to a funeral. 12 Years a Slave goes beyond film making — director Steve McQueen was a man possessed to tell the story of Solomon Northup. He held nothing back and every time you thought “It’s too much” you remember: This was a true story. No matter how extreme the violence, nothing could fully capture the ghastly horror of living as a slave. 12 Years is the closest we’ll get to slavery and I couldn’t handle being any closer. Welcome to American history…

The London-born director created a timeless film that will go down in history (or at least it should) as the seminal representation of the antebellum South. Based on the 1853 autobiography Twelve Years a Slave, the impeccable script was written by John Ridley, who wove together a complex tale of not only slavery, but the fearless fight for one’s soul. The film will sweep the Academy Awards and Golden Globes — and if the movie doesn’t due to those awkward Hollywood politics, it doesn’t matter. The Fox Searchlight film is more than potential awards and praise from the elite. 12 Years a Slave is a modern day masterpiece.

We begin with Solomon Northup as a free man in 1841 New York with his wife and two children. After being drugged and kidnapped, Northup is sold and “broken” into slavery — broken is an understatement.  Moved to several plantations, Northup never accepts the hopeless finality of being a slave. All he knew was freedom, he never knew slavery. McQueen drags viewers through the most gruesome and terrifying depiction of slavery Hollywood has ever seen. 12 Years makes Django and Amistad seem like Disney. Maybe it’s McQueen’s perspective… finally there is a Black director (with roots in the Caribbean) telling a story of the antebellum South — it’s about damn time.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup is the best performance by an actor that I have seen in my lifetime. Ejiofor went deeper than just acting; it was as if the spirit of Northup jumped into his bones. There was the deepest of sadness in his eyes as he breathed a unique life into slavery, which is too often deadpan, mocked or watered down on the big screen. Ejiofor brought the soul of slavery alive like no other actor before him. He gave a once in a lifetime performance that stands right next to Sidney Poitier in Lilies of the Field and Marlon Brando in The Godfather.

Another notable performance was from newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, who is originally from Kenya, as Patsey. She was terrorized with sexual and physical abuse by the master and head mistress, her character merging the grim reality of being not only Black — but a woman on a plantation. A 10-minute scene, shot with a single camera circling around her weak body tied to a whipping post is unbearable. Blood splashes from the whip with Nyong’o’s screaming in never-before-seen terror and pain. It was reported some audiences walked out of the film during this emotional moment, but this is the scene people need to see — the disgusting stain of barbaric racism is as American as apple pie.

Michael Fassbender as an insane plantation owner appeared to be in a manic trance. Viewers can expect nothing but excellence from the Golden Globe nominee, but the film is not the master’s story — thankfully, it is Solomon’s. Other notable appearances included Brad Pitt, Michael K. Williams, Quvenzhané Wallis, Adepero Oduye and the always-flawless Alfre Woodard.

The visionary Steve McQueen clearly had a goal with 12 Years a Slave — to finally show the relentless, unforgiving reality of the antebellum South and immortalize the life of Solomon Northup. Equally grisly and beautiful, 12 Years a Slave is the reason why films are made. A movie you must-see, no matter how gory or violent — this is American history. Murder, rape, suicide, the auction block and the emptying of the human soul is how African-Americans lived for hundreds of years in the “land of the free.” McQueen strangles the psychosis of racism, forcing the viewer to witness ugliness with no filter nor escape. As brutal and heartbreaking as the film is to watch — can you imagine living it?

12 Years a Slave opens in select cities October 18.

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Movie Review: Salt

Published by Clay Cane on Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 11:45 am.

Summary: Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is an undercover CIA goddess but suddenly accused of being a Russian spy with plans to overthrow the government. Salt insists she is innocent, wreaking havoc and rocking new wigs from DC to New York City with the audience never knowing if she is on the side of the Russians or Americans.

Review: Angelina Jolie is one of those rare actresses that can be taken seriously in a dramatic role yet blaze up the screen in an action thriller – Salt is no exception. Easily the best action movie of 2010, which may not say a lot, but it’s hard not to enjoy the explosive special effects, vicious stunts, sincere acting moments from Jolie and a wig collection that would make Raquel Welch and Wendy Williams applaud.

Sure, some will whine about the implausibility of the plot and the action that makes Evelyn Salt seem more like the Bionic Woman than an undercover spy.  But, leave the unrealistic complaints for films that take itself too seriously like Inception or Clash of the Titans.  For every eyebrow raising plot twist, there are enough redemptive moments like the  hardcore fighting scenes and stunts that deserve a standing ovation. Furthermore, Jolie’s presence on screen is impossible to ignore. She knows how to be a slinky seductress and then a vigilante Ms. MacGyver within one scene.

The cast also includes Liev Schreiber and the eternally stellar Chiwetel Ejiofor. I hope someone gives Ejiofor a starring role in a movie soon. The English actor is the next Morgan Freeman and whether he has one line or 20, he works a character with every fragment of his body.

In the end, Salt has no heavy agenda or political motivation; it’s only coincidence that Russian spies are all the rage now. Yes, it is formulaic, but it does the formula right.

Salt is in theaters nationwide tomorrow.

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Antoine Fuqua To Direct 2Pac Biopic

Published by Clay Cane on Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 12:41 am.

2pacIt was bound to happen, especially after 2009’s Notorious, a 2Pac biopic will officially start filming in September.  According to DigitalSpy.com, the film will be produced through Morgan Creek and directed by Antoine Fuqua, who is known for films like Training Day and Brooklyn’s Finest.

The big question is who will play 2Pac, and Fuqua says he wants an unknown. “That’s the goal, I want to discover someone new,” he explained. “I want to discover a lot of new people if I can. Obviously I’m going to have to put some people in it that you know, just because actors have different skills. I want to go to the streets and find him anywhere he might be in the world.”

I love the idea of giving an unknown actor a chance, but in the event an unknown wouldn’t work, I would like to see Anthony Mackie or Chiwetel Ejofor.

Check out the 2Pac interview below with Ed Gordon.



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Gangsta Angelina Returns in “Salt”

Published by Clay Cane on Monday, April 5, 2010 at 12:00 am.

salt-movie-posterAngelina Jolie is an amazing actress but I sure have grown tired of her earthy, save-the-world roles. With the exception of Wanted, the past few years Jolie has been on that classy actress path — I miss the days when she was killing it in those bad girl roles.

Well now, Jolie is back this summer with a flick that looks like it’s going to be an endless thriller, Salt. Also, the movie includes one of my favorite actors, Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Check out the trailer below!

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Movie Review: ‘2012′

Published by Clay Cane on Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at 12:00 am.

2012Summary: The Mayans predict the world is ending on December 21st, 2012. The government hides the end of days and once the secret is out, it’s a mad race to survival headquarters.

Review: I had no idea 2012 included an all-star cast: Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover and Chiwetel Ejiofor.  Newton, Glover and Ejiofor are missing from the trailers and seem to be doing no press.  I thought John Cusack was the only headliner.

It’s clear, 2012 is no Independence Day or The Day After Tomorrow, two films that were directed by Roland Emmerich, who also directed this film. 2012 is another tale of global destruction that we have all witnessed before, but this time it’s padded with Sony PSP-like special effects, not-even-bad-enough-to-be-camp dialogue and a nap-inducing running time of 158 minutes.  2012 is a gargantuan mess.

The Bad  -  2012’s desire to inject poorly written emotionality into a typical disaster flick is the mostly costly error. There are too many random characters for you to care: a scientist, a jazz musician, the president, a novelist, a radio host, a rich Russian and the list goes on. Their high school drama monologues matched with fantastical scenarios detonates the possibility of a fun popcorn flick. With each minute, 2012’s script crumbles right at the core.

The Almost Good  -  There are some suspensions of disbelief that you must take in a disaster movie. Characters always have perfect timing — in 2012 they expertly dodge falling buildings, escape the ground vanishing beneath them and learn how to fly a plane as easily as riding a bike. Regardless, there are some suspenseful scenes and the film succeeds when it focuses solely on the action. It’s a hoot to watch the Eiffel Tower, Washington Monument and Vatican City get destroyed (New York was left alone this time around!). In moments, there is a decent plot under the rubble of melodrama — 2012 just never quite gets to it.

2012 is in theaters this Friday, November 13th.

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Jimi Hendrix Biopic

Published by Clay Cane on Monday, September 7, 2009 at 12:00 am.

jimi-hendrix-posterJimi Hendrix is one of the greatest rock artists of all time and considered one of the best guitarists to have ever lived. With biopics about Jim Morrison, Ray Charles and  — it seems strange that the Jimi Hendrix biopic has never made it to the big screen.

Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle, Washington November 27, 1942. Hendrix performed with artists like Tina Turner and Little Richard. He achieved success in Europe but it was his performance at the 1967 Montrey Pop Festival that gave him success in the United States. Struggling with drugs, Hendrix died of an overdose on September 18, 1970. Now Variety is reporting the biopic might actually come to life:

With the Woodstock 40th anni in the spotlight this year, Legendary Pictures is mounting a feature film about Jimi Hendrix, whose perf of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was a seminal moment of the original 1969 fest.

Legendary hopes to crack the rights issues that have prevented previous Hendrix projects from getting out of the gate. The company’s plan is to develop the project first, then try to win the cooperation of the estate.

There have been numerous attempts to develop a Hendrix film in recent years, with such musician-actors as Lenny Kravitz and Outkast’s Andre Benjamin floated as possible stars. But no one has locked down rights with Experience Hendrix, the gatekeeper to the musician’s estate, which is run by his stepsister, Janie Hendrix.

Legendary has been in loose discussions with the estate, but there is as yet no firm rights deal, which would be needed to access Hendrix’s singular sound and guitar wizardry.

I hope the biopic gets locked down.  I could easily see Chiwetel Ejiofor in this role!

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Run DMC biopic in the works

Published by Clay Cane on Monday, February 2, 2009 at 12:40 am.

The same screenwriter for Notorious, Cheo Hodari Coker, is currently in the works to adapt Bill Adler’s “Tougher Than Leather: The Rise of Run-DMC – The Authorized Biography” for the big screen.

According to the Hollywoowd Reporter:

“DJ Classicz president Dallas Jackson optioned the book recently and will produce with production partner John Davis.

Adler, the group’s former publicist, will executive produce.

While Fox Searchlight’s ‘Notorious,’ released two weeks ago, outlines the life and premature death of Christopher Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G., ‘Tougher’ will explore the history of hip-hop’s first superstars: Joseph ‘Run’ Simmons, Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels and Jason ‘Jam Master Jay’ Mizell, who was shot to death in his Queens studio in 2002.

With such hits as ‘It’s Like That,’ ‘It’s Tricky,’ ‘My Adidas’ and ‘Walk This Way,’ Run-DMC exploded from the Queens neighborhood of Hollis onto the international stage with the help of future mogul Russell Simmons. An early MTV staple and platinum-selling act, the group influenced much of rap’s future royalty. Retired since Mizell’s death, Run-DMC will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 4.

‘It’s an extraordinary rags-to-riches journey that I’m eager to bring to the screen,” Jackson said. ‘And I’m hoping to have Run, DMC and Russell Simmons‘ involvement. This will be a big movie about the 1980s hip-hop movement that took over the world.’”

While there is no word on casting choice, I hope they focus more on actors versus rappers. I can see Laz Alonso, Pooch Hall from The Game and especially the highly underrated Chiwetel Ejiofor as good options for the leads.

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