Everybody loves 12 Years a Slave. Well, almost everybody. Look, I know what you're thinking. "Oh, Marks is just a contrarian from the School of Armond White. Of course he's not going to like a masterpiece like this. He'd much rather muck about with derivative crap like Last Vegas."
And of course, you're right about that. But there ought to be some interest, I think, in dissenting voices — you know, as long as those voices are not just trolling for lulz. And Scott Marks does not troll for lulz. Scott Marks, film critic, did not especially love 12 Years a Slave. Why not? And despite his heartbreak over the fact that De Niro's reputation is now more battered than Jake LaMotta's mug after a prizefight, he really did find some things to enjoy about Last Vegas. Why? Go thou and read.
Let the Fire Burn
My vote for racially charged drama this week goes to Let the Fire Burn, which provides a master class in documenting recent history as well as presenting complicated moral issues in a way that gives the viewer room to think even as he is gripped and horrified.
And you could do a whole lot worse on the big-budget special-effects extravaganza end of the spectrum than to go and see Ender's Game. All the action manages to serve the story, instead of the other way 'round. You might even find something to talk about afterwards.
If you enjoyed talking to your children about the morality of killing animals after Bambi, you're really gonna love Free Birds, a film about turkeys who try to get their species dissociated from the ritual slaughter and consumption visited upon them by us at Thanksgiving.
And if you enjoyed the do-it-over-until-you-do-it-right motif in Groundhog Day but wished it involved more loveyness and Rachel McAdams, then by all means, go see About Time. Maybe you'll see Scott there, taking notes and grumbling about high-concept rom-coms.
And if you enjoyed The Diary of Anne Frank but wished it involved more loveyness and barns instead of family and attics, maybe check out The Pin.