Pain, truth and transcendence in Shame

Unlike my experience with The Artist, I did not walk into a full theatre either time I saw Steve McQueen’s new film, Shame.  It was rather like a men’s restroom or a public bus with few passengers: everyone silently agreed not to sit near anyone else. We were all watching the film together, but each of us watching it alone.  The physical setup of the cinema space proved to be perfect for the film, whose protagonist Brandon (Michael Fassbender) wakes up to find himself utterly alone in the most populous city in the world. Continue reading

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Character trumps mindless action in The Grey

The Grey star Liam Neeson and director Joe Carnahan have both been living it up in Hollywood productions for the last several years.  Neeson continues to pop up as some grizzled badass who will kill your childhood puppy, and Carnahan has been making zany slick action flicks like Smokin’ Aces and A-Team after making a big splash in 2002 with his gritty cop drama Narc (Ray Liotta, Jason Patric).  With The Grey, Carnahan and Neeson both return with less pomp and more dramatic flavor. Continue reading

Haywire shames other female “action stars”

On the screen is a 100 lb. blond girl who dreams of her head reaching the 5’2″ line on the tape measure.  Yet Ms. Twigs-for-Arms is able to throw a 200 lb. muscled man across the room, because she knows kung fu or is special in some supernatural way.  This is the sin of “Waif Fu“, which allows girl characters to kick some ass without bypassing the strict aesthetic of emaciated female tv/film actresses.  Haywire blows this trope out of the water, finally delivering a female action star that looks like she can take a beating equal to the one she dishes out. Continue reading

The Artist: The silent film you never heard coming

Am I dreaming? I just walked out of a movie theater that had more people in attendance than any I’ve been in all year (save Harry Potter at midnight). The audience refused to talk throughout the 100-minute-long picture.  We hesitantly munched our popcorn, or opened our candy, afraid to disturb the tranquil silence which had descended upon us. We laughed in unison, gasped together, and when the lights came back up, all of us, and I mean all, applauded.  I just saw a silent film with more than a hundred people and all of them loved it more than I’ve ever seen an audience love any movie, including the final installment to the largest franchise in movie history.  I just saw The Artist. Continue reading

Attack the Block will rock your socks

Around the same time J.J. Abrams was showcasing his ode to Spielberg, Super 8, Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block was in limited release and getting none of the attention it deserved.  In contrast to Spielberg and Abrams’ penchant for quaint middle-American childhoods, Attack the Block is all about urban hoodlums putting their life of hard knocks to use when they have to fight an alien invasion.  They aren’t going to share Reese’s pieces or heartwarming moments with the invaders – they’re going to fuck ’em up. Continue reading

Mission Impossible 4: Amazing fun without costing brain cells

Numerous films barely remain lively after their sequels, much less reach their fourth installment without going straight to DVD.  Seeing Tom Cruise, closing in on fifty, return to the screen as super spy Ethan Hunt hardly seems a selling point, but The Incredibles director Brad Bird brings us a film that hearkens back to when action films produced real stunts and real thrills.  In the words of James Lipton, it’s a delight. Continue reading

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fails to live up to feminist roots

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is David Fincher’s second film featuring computer wizards emotionally remote, and both narratives leave one feeling similarly disconnected when the credits roll.

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