25 October 2011

Take Shelter


Hey look, it’s another one of those movies no one has ever heard of!

However, you may have heard of the now not-so-new HBO series Boardwalk Empire, and if you’ve seen it then you know Michael Shannon, and you also know that Michael Shannon is a g’damn monolith of an actor. That should be enough to make you want to see this movie. Add in a bit of psychological and familial turmoil, a dash of the supernatural, and you’ve got a guaranteed box-office failure of an Oscar film. Of course it’s not really showing on a huge number of screens so it was never going to make much money anyway.

Michael Shannon is a good, loving father to a cute little deaf girl, and a good, loving husband to that beautiful woman from The Tree of Life. He’s got a solid job and good friends (one of which happens to be another guy from Boardwalk Empire). Life is good. Then the movie starts. He’s plagued by intensely real dreams of a dreadful storm that changes people and destroys everything he knows; the dreams begin to affect his waking life, and he starts taking drastic measures not very unlike those in a certain story-arc from Six Feet Under. The film follows him as he grapples with the very high possibility that he’s becoming schizophrenic and the irresistible urge to prepare for destruction, all while trying to preserve and protect his all-important family.

While it is a very slow movie, there are several moments of great intensity that mirror (to a less violent extent) the explosive scenes in Drive. Lots of great, languid shots of storm clouds and swarming bird flocks help to convey the doom descending on Shannon’s mind. A very large component of the film is the family aspect though; this guy really wants to be a good parent and hates what his mind is doing to his ability to do it.

Of course, we never really know if he’s really going crazy or if he’s a prophet. The final scene leaves it open for interpretation, much like Inception. I’m not sure what I think. I tend to like more superhuman/natural stuff so I guess I lean toward the latter, but it really could go either way.

I wasn’t quite as impressed with Shannon’s performance as I have been with his work in Boardwalk Empire. He’s much more human here. Still, it’s being lauded as one of the greatest of the year, and I can’t really argue with that given what I’ve seen. It’s a very good movie, just a bit slow.

17 October 2011



Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a pretty rad dude. He and James Franco are two of the best young-ish male actors around right now, methinks. Seth Rogen can be cool sometimes too I guess, and this movie really uses him correctly. I suppose it helps that he’s really playing himself in more ways than one, as he basically lived his own part in real life as a friend of the writer, Will Reiser, who wrote the screenplay based on his own experience with cancer. I haven’t seen that many movies about this sort of thing, but I can’t imagine the majority of them are this enjoyable.

JGL is a young dude with plenty of life to live, when suddenly an aching back leads to the discovery of tumor with a highly poly-syllabic name. He then goes through all the normal things a cancer patient goes through, calmly then a bit less calmly, dealing with the support of his neglected and overly-caring mother, his seemingly self-focused best friend, and a girlfriend whose earnestness may be masking her other emotions. It may sound like a dire tale, and it is; cancer is no joke and this movie makes no joke of it. It does, however, serve up plenty of humor along the way. As I said before the film makes great use of Seth Rogen’s talents, but more importantly keeps his annoying laughter to a minimum. Both he and JGL are extremely likable dudes, Anna Kendrick is beautifully awkward and everyone else just fills their roles really well.

It’s an emotional journey without relying too heavily on drama, which is great. I think too often this subject is made unapproachable in its doominess. This is more of a story about a guy who happens to be dying and his realization that people actually love him a lot more than he thought they did.

11 October 2011

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil


Another VOD viewing because good movies don’t get wide enough releases to be convenient. Blah. Not that big of a deal though, it was just seven bucks and HD, so it was a pretty fine viewing experience anyway. Certainly worth the money.

I have to admit the biggest attraction for me to this movie was Alan Tudyk in a lead role. He just doesn’t get enough of those. I’ve also seen the other guy, Tyler Labine, as something of a charming idiot/asshole character named Sock on the deceased show Reaper, which I enjoyed mostly. Up until now I thought the girl was Amber Heard but apparently she’s Katrina Bowden. They look much alike in their blondness.

The actors are far from the only things going for this though. At first glance the film appears to be your average slasher flick with a couple of Deliverance-style hillbillies hacking up a bunch stupid college kids. While the kids are indeed stupid for the most part, it turns out they’re the ones who are inadvertently causing all of the mayhem. Most of them mean well, they’re just incredibly bad at staying alive. Tucker and Dale, a misunderstood pair of kind-hearted West-Virginians who just want to go fishing and learn how to talk to ladies, hopelessly watch as the carnage piles up around them while trying to enjoy their new vacation home in the woods.

It doesn’t work quite as well as I’d hoped; the ways in which some of the kids die just seems a bit far-fetched, and every mishap requires so many things to happen just so in order to actually happen. Sure, they’re all quite funny, but the level of stupid required in these situations is just a bit staggering.

The characters are good though, and Tyler Labine actually comes out at the top (he’s pretty much the main character I guess, so that makes sense.) The gore isn’t too horrible to watch and Katrina Bowden is incredibly gorgeous, so it’s a very entertaining viewing, and I recommend it.