The Weekend Movie Recap: 12/16/11

posted by Rolocop

SHAME – Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, a New York businessman who is a closeted sex addict.  The movie is about how crippled he is by his addiction no matter how hard he may try to form a relationship with a female co-worker or to have any kind of kinship with his destructive sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan).  This movie is cold, bleak and depressing.  Yet, I was riveted throughout it’s entirety.  I don’t know what it is, but I just love films about loneliness and despair.  Fassbender is nothing short of amazing as Brandon. I would say he spends at least half of the movie acting with his face, without saying anything.  It’s a really hard thing to do, but he nails it.  The man has delivered a brave and commanding performance.  Carey Mulligan is also quite good as his burden of a sister, who just won’t move out of his place.  The movie is NC-17 and very graphic in terms of nudity.  But considering the subject matter, it’s very necessary.  There’s not much of a story here, but director Steve McQueen (no, a different one.  The legendary actor is dead, you know) is more interested in creating a dark and moody atmosphere to capture just who Brandon is.  There are many long unbroken takes, and sweeping steadicam shots that had me impressed.  If you need a more traditional structure in a movie, this might not be for you, but SHAME hit all the right chords for me.  Opens exclusively at The Uptown.  Rating:

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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL – I loved the first one.  I am a big Brian DePalma fan and I thought that he hit it out of the park.  Then John Woo destroyed the franchise with the second one, which was a big, PG-13 neutered mess.  But then J.J. Abrams rebooted the series with the third one, and it was a very intense and personal action movie.  Now, animation director Brad Bird (IRON GIANT, INCREDIBLES) makes his live-action debut with GHOST PROTOCOL.

The plot is a bit complicated, and I always have a tough time with story summaries anyway, but I will do my best.  Tom Cruise is Ethan Hunt once again, and the picture starts with him being rescued from a deep undercover assignment in a Russian (I think) prison.  He is now put on another mission to stop some nuclear warheads from getting in the wrong hands.  This time he has Jane (Paula Patton), computer jockey turned field agent Benji (a returning Simon Pegg), and an analyst played by Jeremy Renner.  Along the way there are twists and surprises as well as some rousing action set pieces.

Early buzz has been really high for this latest Mission Impossible.  Let me just say this:  It’s NOT the best one.  That would still be DePalma’s.  And this isn’t as emotionally involving and urgent as the third one, but it’s light years better than the second.  In fact, it’s a pretty fun movie.  The pre-title sequence is terrific, which has Cruse breaking out of prison while Sinatra’s “Ain’t that a kick in the head” plays in the background.  It’s a taut and precise action sequence not without it’s touches of humor.  I also really liked the scene in which Cruise scales a building with some electro-gripping gloves (seeing that in IMAX makes it even more dizzying).  The best set piece for me was the one that isn’t spoiled in the trailers: a fist fight set in a parking garage with moving floors and platforms.  That was awesome.

Brad Bird certainly knows how to handle action, and I’m delighted to see him direct in a more traditional way rather than use the shaky cam technique.  Even at 50, Cruise is still a believable action hero, though this is the first movie that has him taking the backseat for a few action scenes.  I would say Renner, Pegg and Patton all have equal screen time with Cruise.  This is the first of the franchise that is actually an ensemble piece, just like the original series was.  So it’s more than just “The Tom Cruise Show”.  Patton proves herself worthy as an action star and has some great bad ass moments.  Renner is good as usual, even injecting a bit of humor in his performance.  But I thought Simon Pegg was in this too much.  Yes, I get he’s the comic relief, but there were times that he got too goofy for the series.  It worked better in the third one when his time was limited.  But he doesn’t bring the whole ship down.

The movie does tend to get long in spots, and I thought the end prologue was not entirely necessary, but overall it’s strengths conquer it’s weaknesses.  Oh yeah, and Michael Gicacchino’s score is even better than his score in the third one.  It’s a fun popcorn movie for the holiday season that should satisfy the masses. Opens this weekend in Imax only.  It opens wide Release on 12/23.   Rating:

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TOMBOY – A French movie about a boyish looking girl named Laure whose family moves to a new neighborhood.  When she meets a friendly girl named Lisa, she tells her that her name is Michael.  Laure fools the neighborhood kids into thinking she’s a boy, but she gets in too deep when Lisa starts to develop feelings for Michael.  What I liked about this was how honest it was.  It’s not interested in typical storytelling conventions.  It doesn’t judge anyone.  It doesn’t even give you many character motivations (which may frustrate some viewers).  Instead, it simply just shows the viewer the situations that Laure creates and what she must deal with.  The performances from the kids are impressive and the direction is refreshingly organic.  My only complaint was that it’s too short (only 78min.).  I would have liked to see more of the consequences that Laure must face, but I still found this one to be interesting to watch.  And when things went wrong I found myself genuinely caring for Laure.  This opens at Landmark’s Edina.  Rating:

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Also opening this weekend:

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS – Even though it wasn’t really faithful to the original novels, I thoroughly enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s first adaptation of the famous sleuth.  So you can imagine my huge disappointment to discover that this sequel was loud, obnoxious and incoherent.  The actors were fine (though I couldn’t decide the reason for Noomi’s character), and there was one effective torture scene, but all of the charm and wit that was in the first one is replaced with twice as much action (and poorly directed, I might add) and a slapdash screenplay.  I liked Guy Ritchie better when he had something to prove, now he’s just jerking off.   Wide Release.  Rating:

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED – Wide Release.  I missed this screening because I went to the wrong theater.  My daughter was disappointed, but I wasn’t.  My father will take her, but I’ll probably skip this one since I didn’t like either of the other ones.

Thursday, December 15th, 2011 at 11:44 pm