12 Years a Slave 2013

October in Reviews

November 10, 2013Ben MK

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Now that I'm in the midst of writing a constant stream of reviews for November, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at the month that was October 2013 and encapsulate my thoughts on that month's films in a nice, bite-sized format. Links to the full reviews are embedded in the film titles and images below.

Machete Kills  (Reviewed on October 11th)
Review Score: ★★★½
This one seems to have come and gone from theaters fairly quickly. Robert Rodriguez's second attempt at directing a full-tilt Grindhouse movie (his first being Planet Terror) was even more over-the-top than I could ever have imagined. It functions purely as popcorn entertainment in every sense of the word, with more jokes, visual gags and insanely imaginative action than you can shake a stick at. As I wrote in my review: If you're looking for a realistic action pic, look elsewhere. But if you're looking for a film as self-aware of its ridiculousness as it is unafraid to throw logic completely out the window -- all in the name of a good time -- then I defy you not to like this film. Recommended.
12 Years a Slave  (Reviewed on October 18th)
Review Score: ★★★★½
Steve McQueen's third film is one that I would compare to works like Schindler's List, in that its importance as a powerful account of historical events cannot be overstated. The caliber of actors in this film truly is phenomenal, even if most of the roles are fairly brief. McQueen has undoubtedly crafted a film that will be relevant for generations to come. As I wrote in my review: The film is more than a document of some of the darkest times in American history; it's a testament to the strength of the human spirit. Although it can be difficult to watch at times, it's ultimately an inspirational tale of survival -- and something that everyone should make a point of seeing. Not to be missed.
The Fifth Estate  (Reviewed on October 18th)
Review Score: ★★★★
The generally mixed-to-negative reaction this film received surprised me, because I genuinely enjoyed it and found it to be quite intriguing. Benedict Cumberbatch seems to be this year's most in-demand actor, but even his rising star couldn't save this film at the box office. I went into it thinking it would be a combination of The Social Network and The Bourne franchise, and that's exactly what I felt I got out of it. It also raises questions about the ethical implications and morality of Assange's endeavour. As I wrote in my review: [The film] presents viewers with an intriguing, engaging and thrilling study of the rise (and fall) of WikiLeaks and its founder. Now it's up to you to decide for yourself. Highly recommended.
Escape Plan  (Reviewed on October 18th)
Review Score: ★★★
This was a film that had a lot of potential as an action showcase -- seeing as how it stars two of the biggest titans in the genre -- but ended up dwelling too long on the set-up rather than getting to the choppa payoff. That's not to say it isn't entertaining to see Stallone and Schwarzenegger verbally spar; it's just that a little more physical brawling should have been in order. As I wrote in my review:  Stallone and Schwarzenegger exude enough charm to make the film entertaining enough; so if that's what you're up for, then you're in luck. It's not an all-out action-fest like The Expendables films, but it's a decent enough diversion for an afternoon matinee. Worth a rental.
Bleeder  (Reviewed on October 22nd)
Retro Grade: B
This was the only non new-release film I reviewed in October, done as part of a Nicolas Winding Refn retrospective put on by the Toronto International Film Festival. I'm a fan of Winding Refn's recent films (even the extremely polarizing Only God Forgives), and this film introduced me to his earlier work. I compare it to Christopher Nolan's Following, as these are both prime examples of the directors' fledgling styles. As I wrote in my review: For those looking for a different kind of Nicolas Winding Refn film, Bleeder is a good place to start. It's raw, funny, sad and violent -- and also very different from his current work. And in that sense, it's also far more accessible than anything else he's made recently. Recommended.
Bad Grandpa  (Reviewed on October 25th)
Review Score: ★★½
I capped off the month with this new entry in MTV's Jackass franchise. This isn't really a traditional film, but it isn't a traditional Jackass feature either. Because it tries to be two things at once, it ends up falling somewhere in the middle and doesn't excel at either of them. It tries to have heart, but only succeeds to a certain degree (which is suprising enough for a Jackass film); but it's also not shocking enough compared to what I'm used to seeing from Knoxville and Co. As I wrote in my review: It'll keep you chuckling throughout -- that's for sure -- but it probably won't leave you breathless from laughter. You may still enjoy it if you're a Jackass fan, but you'll have a better time with the earlier films. Proceed with caution.

Hands down, my pick for best film of October 2013 is 12 Years a Slave. I have no doubt that this will be near (if not at) the top of my list for best of the year as well. Thanks for reading, and look for my recap of November's film reviews in roughly 30 days time!

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