The Weekend Movie Recap: 10/14/11

posted by Rolocop

TAKE SHELTER – Michael Shannon plays Curtis, a family man who lives with his wife and daughter in a small town in Ohio.  He’s got a respectable blue collar job and is well liked within the community.  But then he starts having unbearably intense dreams about severe storms, and possibly the apocalypse.  Are these just dreams, or are they visions?  Curtis is frightened and his instincts tell him to expand an old tornado shelter located in his backyard.  He takes out an expensive loan and takes extended leaves from work to build this shelter.  But he’s conflicted.  Part of him believes that a storm is coming, but another part of him tends to think he may be getting a mental illness, since his mom is schizophrenic.  He becomes so obsessed with his new mission, that he begins to alienate his friends and family.  He must choose what is more important in his life.

In recent years, I have not been the biggest fan of Michael Shannon, claiming that he acts weird and odd just for the sake of it.  But I’ll be damned if he didn’t blow me away in this excellent character study of a man slowly growing mad.  He doesn’t overact at  all (like I’ve accused him of in the past).  It’s a complexly layered performance, that hits all the perfect notes.  You see him as a lovable husband, a playful father, and a loyal protector.  And once he goes past the point of no return, Shannon’s performance is completely intense and engaging.  There’s a great moment when he gives a speech about the “great storm that is coming” while at a town function, that is uncomfortably haunting.  His character is also written in a very balanced way that it doesn’t feel like he’s just hitting one note.  He’s extremely conflicted, and that’s what makes you feel sympathy for him.  If Michael Shannon doesn’t get nominated this year, I’m going to be absolutely outraged.

Director Jeff Nichols brings a distinct style with a strong vision to the story.  This is only his second film (first being SHOTGUN STORIES, which I will now seek out), and already he represents a strong voice in the filmmaking world.  It’s a brave, bold film that can only be made by a fearless filmmaker.  The script is also fantastic.  The supporting cast is strong, especially Jessica Chastain as Curtis’ wife.  This is the fourth film I’ve seen her in this year, and probably her best performance (and that’s saying a lot).  She really wants to believe her husband, but he’s doing so many outrageous things that she just can’t.  It’s another complex character.  There are many memorable set pieces, specifically during the dream sequences.  There’s one dream with Curtis is in his house when the storm hits, and every object in the house floats up. Visually striking! And the film’s conclusion is immensely satisfying, and can be taken literally or figuratively.  Very cool!

For those of you who like to be shaken up at the movies, and walk in to the theater for an unforgettable experience, then TAKE SHELTER is the movie for you!  It opens at The Uptown Theater, and I highly recommend that you DO NOT MISS IT!  Easily one of the very best of the year!  Rating:


THE THING – John Carpenter’s THE THING is one of my favorite horror films of all time.  Love everything about it, and also made me scream (loudly) and jump the first time when I saw it (when I was 18!).  I was pretty skeptical when they announced this remake.  I hate the very ideas of remakes.  But, then I discovered while watching that this isn’t a remake, it’s a prequel!!!

Taking place in 1982 (when the first film was made), Norwegian scientists in Antarctica discover a flying saucer buried beneath the snow (which made for a pretty clever pre-title sequence.  Loved seeing a Snow Cat wedged between two glaciers).  They call in an American scientist (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, looking like an 80’s Pheobe Cates) who specializes in thawing out frozen specimens.  She arrives to discover that the Norwegians have found an alien being.  But, of course, it’s not dead.  It breaks loose and begins to terrorize the scientists.  Just like Carpenter’s film, the thing can imitate cells and absorb them.  Therefore it can transform into anyone of the humans, which makes it hard to trust anyone.

What I really liked about this was that it is not trying to top the original.  What it does try to do is pay it tremendous respect and that’s where this film succeeds.  The design of The Thing and the way it transforms is just like the original.  Human heads and stomachs opening up, serving as the mouth for The Thing.  I also liked that first time filmmaker Matthijs van Heigningen Jr. kept the original’s slow pace, and stayed very close to Carpenter’s simplistic direction.  In many ways, it feels like a Carpenter film.  They even use the “John Carpenter” font for the movie’s credits, and incorporate Ennio Morricone’s theme from the first one into the music score.  Very cool!

The acting is solid all around by everyone, though Joel Edgerton doesn’t really have a whole lot to do.  But he’s good with what he’s got.  My only real complaint and the reason why it doesn’t reach the same level of awesomeness as the original is that the characters are just okay.  There’s nothing wrong with them, and they’re not even poorly written.  But in the original, every single character is memorable and there are so many quotable lines from that film.  Not so much in this one, but that’s because it doesn’t have Kurt Russell or the amazing Keith David.

That’s not to say that there are no good scenes.  There are many great ones.  The action set pieces are very well thought out and shot.  Creepy, suspenseful, and the most important thing is that they’re very fun!  The finale even brings the scope of the film to new heights.  The visual effects are surprisingly good.  Surprising to me because I hate CGI so much.  But they are integrated very well here, and it seems like a lot of time and care went in to make sure that it looked incredibly close to the makeup effects of the original. Also, make sure to stay during the closing credits as this new film completes it’s circle with the original.  Awesome!

It’s not a classic like the original, and if you go in thinking that was the goal of the filmmakers, then you’re most likely setting yourself up not to like it.  However, I think it’s a decent companion piece to Carpenter’s film, and if you have an open mind you should agree with me.  A fun monster movie!  Wide Release  Rating:


BLACKTHORN – Love westerns!  That’s all there is to it.  Sam Shepard plays Butch Cassidy, who is going under the name James Blackthorn.  You see, he really didn’t die in a showdown with the Bolivian army in the early 1900’s.  He survived and has been living on an isolated ranch in Bolivia for 20 years.  He decides to travel back to the U.S. to visit his nephew (possibly Sundance’s kid), and on the way meets a young man (Eduardo Noriega) who robbed an enormous amount of money from some miners. He claims it’s because it was his money.  He asks the legend to help him get away from his pursuers.  At first Butch hates him, but it doesn’t take long for the two to form a bond as they travel together.  It’s not a smooth journey though as they encounter bad guys and lawmen along the way.

This film reminded me of the revisionist westerns that were seen very often in the 70’s, like THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN and THE HIRED HAND.  It has a very realistic approach, and is quite effective for the story.  It’s nice to see Sam Shepard in a meaty role again (it’s been far too long) as the grizzled Butch Cassidy.  He dominates every frame he’s in.  Noriega holds his own with Shepard.  I also really enjoyed Stephen Rea as the lawmen McGinley who has been tracking down Butch for most of his career, and is now an eccentric drunk.

The direction is kept simple, as is the script, which occasionally flashes back to a younger Butch and Sundance to explain a few things.  The film didn’t blow me away, but kept me interested throughout.  It starts out a little slow, but I eventually became involved well before the halfway point.  Folks who enjoy a good old fashioned western will definitely get a kick out of this one.  It’s not the best the genre has to offer, but Shepard makes it more than worth your time.  At the Lagoon.  Rating:


FOOTLOOSE – Gah!  Another remake?!?  Boo!  I sure hate remakes!  And what the heck is Craig Brewer (director of HUSTLE & FLOW, BLACK SNAKE MOAN) doing helming this movie that no one asked for?  I liked the original Kevin Bacon movie, though it’s not my favorite 80’s film.  It’s a fun movie, nothing really more than that.  But it surely didn’t need to be made again.  Sheesh!

Just like the original, it’s about a dude named Ren who moves to a small town that doesn’t allow dancing.  He becomes friends with the preacher’s daughter and rebels against the system.  That’s about it.  Buuuttt………. you know what?  It’s actually pretty good.  The film opens with a bunch of kids dancing to Kenny Loggins’ Footloose, which is a pretty fun and energetic sequence.  And then… BOOM!  A car smashes right into a truck killing everyone.  Definitely a bold way to start a breezy Hollywood film, right?  You see, director Brewer is a brave filmmaker.  You’d know that if you’ve seen his first two films.  And while this one isn’t quite up to that level, at least he infuses his rawness and reality into this remake.  He co-wrote the script, and that helps.  This version follows the same beats as the original (Ren being accused of taking a joint, the chicken sequence is now a school bus race, Ren’s angry dance, and teaching a rhythm-less hick to dance), but has a slightly different take on them.  I also like that the movie has a very diverse soundtrack.  All of the 80’s songs from the original are in flick in one form or another.  But also, there is country, hip hop, rock, and even some grunge.  I loved the use of Smashing Pumpkins’ Window Paine (from Gish!!!) in a pretty intense scene.

The acting is fine.  A little cheesy on occasion, but hey, so was the original.  Kenny Wormald as Ren is fine, though I’m not sure what’s up with his mid-90’s hairdo and wardrobe.  He’s supposed to be from a big city, so he should have better fashion sense.  But I found that amusing.  Dancing with the Stars Julianne Hough has the right amount of attitude and can even do a decent job during emotional scenes.  Dennis Quaid as the preacher is more cornball from the actor, and that’s okay with me.  Miles Teller did a great job as the Chris Penn character too.

It’s a cheesy feel good flick, just like the original.  It has a nice updated flavor, but gives the appropriate amount of respect to the first one.  I would say that this movie definitely eclipses recent dance films like the STEP UP series, STOMP THE YARD, and YOU’VE GOT SERVED.  This is a fun movie that was actually made by talented people.  The trailers for me, looked horrible, so I was pleasantly surprised that this remake is fairly entertaining.  Don’t write it off until you see it folks!  Wide Release.  Rating:


Also opening this weekend:

PUNCTURE – It was nice to see Chris Evans taking his time off from being a superhero to do this low budget independent about 2 hot shot lawyers trying to win a gigantic lawsuit case.  Evans gives a bravely raw performance as a young drug addicted lawyer, but his co-star is also the film’s director and he sticks out like a sore thumb.  I could see that they were trying to cut the film’s cost by not hiring another star, but Mark Kassen doesn’t have the acting chops to hold his own with more experienced actors.  Too bad, cause the film isn’t terrible.  At the Lagoon.  Rating:

THE BIG YEAR – The trailers make it look like this huge slapstick comedy.  What they don’t tell you is that it’s a movie about competitive bird watching without hardly any comedy.  Which would be fine, but there is nothing really compelling here.  It’s not a serious drama nor a straight comedy.  It’s in that safe middle ground, like a mediocre sitcom.  Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson are nicely subdued, and it was nice to see Brian Dennehy, but the movie didn’t take itself seriously enough for me.  I think there’s a real interesting movie here, but it needs to have a more naturalistic approach (like INTO THE WILD) for it to be fully engaging.  Instead it was pretty boring.  Wide Release. Rating:

THE WAY– I love Martin Sheen, but this (lousy) sitcom-like approach to serious material is embarrassing to watch.  Very disappointing entry from Emilio Estevez.  It felt more like it was written by hack Nia Vardalos.  Every supporting character was a contrived, cookie-cutter caricature.  Hated this one!  Rating:

TOAST – At the Edina.

PUTTY HILL – St. Anthony Main

Friday, October 14th, 2011 at 12:03 am