Shame (2011)

shame_4Starring Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie, Lucy Walters, Alex Manette, Hannah Ware

Directed by Steve McQueen

Expectations: Fairly high.

twohalfstar


Shame is the type of movie that is supposed to make you think, where the ending is more ambiguous than conclusive, demanding a good after-film discussion so that you can wrap your brain around what you just saw. I say “supposed to” because while it was clearly the intent of director Steve McQueen, it definitely did not have that effect on me while I was watching. Well, I did think about why so many people seem to regard this film so highly, but I don’t think that counts. 🙂

Shame is about sex addiction and the shame that surrounds it. Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a sex addict, and he has no intention of doing anything about it. In the first few minutes of the film we see that his life is largely composed of consuming porn, masturbating and having anonymous sex wherever he can get it. But one day he returns home to find his sister (Carey Mulligan) in his shower, hoping to stay awhile with him. This definitely wasn’t in his plans, but he allows her to stay.

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Iron Man 3 (2013)

ironman3_3Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Stephanie Szostak, Paul Bettany, William Sadler, Dale Dickey, Ty Simpkins, Miguel Ferrer

Directed by Shane Black

Expectations: Moderate. I do like these Marvel movies, but I’ve heard mixed things.

threehalfstar


It’s always good to see a movie for yourself to form your own opinion. If I had believed the majority of what I’d heard about Iron Man 3, I might have passed on it. Of course, I’m much too invested in Marvel’s cinematic universe experiment to quit now, but to illustrate a point let’s just say that I might have skipped it. In doing so, I would’ve skipped my favorite of the Iron Man films. Iron Man 3 is entertaining from start to finish, filled with humor and excitement and growth for the on-screen Tony Stark character that excites and satisfies completely. This is exactly what the Iron Man films needed after the fun, but ultimately forgettable Iron Man 2.

In the aftermath of the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark is shaken and unable to focus on anything but his work. He’s dealing with anxiety issues that he’s never had to contend with before and it frightens him. Meanwhile, a mysterious terrorist calling himself The Mandarin has arisen, giving Tony Stark a threat unlike anything he’s yet faced. For a summer blockbuster, it’s also strangely set at Christmas, but it isn’t just “colored lights in the window,” as this backdrop provides a depth that enhances the story’s resonance.

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The Grey (2012)

Starring Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie, James Badge Dale, Ben Bray, Anne Openshaw

Directed by Joe Carnahan

Expectations: Fairly high.


The Grey is not a film that will rock your world, but it might make you thankful for that roof over your head and the problems you do have. No one wants to be in a plane crash, but to survive one and then be stuck in the Alaskan wilderness… man, that’s a hard argument whether the ones that died in the crash had the better way out. The Grey is this year’s early-year Liam Neeson film and it’s actually quite good. I get the feeling that Neeson will make most anything these days, but here is a film that he will most likely look back on as one of the good ones.

The Grey isn’t so much about story as it is moment-to-moment survival. There’s a slight back story with Neeson’s character that runs through the entire film, but all the other men are fairly shallow. They seem like they have lives behind their gruff exteriors, and a scene late in the film punctuates that, but for the most part they’re just dudes yelling at each other over the specifics of a given moment. This works well enough, but I think the film misses something of an opportunity in not exploring any character other than Neeson’s. Do we need that? Not really, but I think I would have liked it better if it had. The way it is, I was identifying characters by “the guy with the hat that looks like Marc Maron” and “the asshole guy”, so obviously that could have been improved upon.

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