Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Fassbender & Mulligan in Shame

Hollywood Reporter
Shame, the NC-17, sex-heavy film from director Steve McQueen stars Michael Fassbender as a New Yorker driven only by his addiction to emotionless sex. His unstable sister (Carey Mulligan) moves in and proceeds to disrupt his sequestered and unraveling world.

Fassbender gives an unnerving and agonizing performance, putting a disturbing face on sexual addiction, from his piercing stares at random conquests to the fa├žade he barely manages to maintain in his professional life. Mulligan was phenomenal as his sister, completely fragile and unhinged, and we get to see her vulnerability and brokenness in one of the most emotionally-charged scenes of the film - Mulligan’s haunting rendition of 'New York, New York'. Hinting but never fully acknowledging an unusual childhood relationship between the two, she says, “We’re not bad people, Brandon. We just come from a bad place”.

Shame was unapologetically explicit, hard, and definitely unsettling. But beautiful. Exquisitely beautiful.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Season 2 of HBO's How to Make it in America - Finally Makin' It

To give them some credit, the cast and crew of How to Make it in America had some serious hype to live up to from the beginning. A show about a group of guys hustling to 'make it' big, backed by Mark Wahlberg - everyone kind of assumed it'd be like the next Entourage. Of course it wasn't like Entourage at all, and it wasn't very good either. Last season, How to Make it in America suffered from that, 'trying too hard to be hip', problem that's spread across North America like a virus. It was all about being underground, ultra-exclusive and going to the 'coolest' parties, but pretending like it was no big deal.

I've got to hand it to them though, because, this season was a vast improvement. The Rene storyline wasn't as isolated as last year, and they managed to get some pretty alluring guest stars, like Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano (Ralphie from The Sopranos!) and even Pharrell. They got rid of characters that no one gave a shit about, like Gingy (sorry Shannyn Sossamon), Rachel's hotelier boyfriend and ex-boss (Martha Plimpton has a better gig anyway, on Raising Hope). Plus, those Neanderthal hipsters are hilarious! Like, hey, I grow my own self-sustaining garden, let's bicycle around Bushwick at night for no reason and do shrooms cuz, well, why the hell not?! Oh, hipsters.

The improvements may be too little, too late though, because the way-too-short season 2's over and there's been no word from HBO on giving the boys (+ Lake Bell) a round 3. Finger's crossed. It's not the greatest show on earth, but I'd hate to see Bryan Greenberg and Victor Rasuk go out without actually 'makin it'.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

From Mean Streets to Hugo: Martin Scorsese's Films by Genre

We may know him as a crime film genius, but Martin Scorsese has made contributions to more genres than you may think. In fact, some of his most memorable and iconic characters aren't even gangsters. Alright, they're definitely not as memorable as, say Tommy DeVito, but still. His latest movie, Hugo, is out now and, perhaps he's following Francis Ford Coppola's lead because it's quite the departure for good-ol' Marty. Yup, the man known the world over for his gritty and violent portrayal of crime, has made a 3D kids movie. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: The Descendants
George Clooney, the suave charmer we’ve come to love, does his best to portray a man completely detached from his life and family in this comedy-drama. He hardly knows his daughters and has neglected his wife who now lays comatose after a boating accident. The accident forces him to move from “backup parent”, as he refers to himself, to the only parent, to his two broken and foul-mouthed daughters who are, in fact, quite a handful. When he finds out his wife had been cheating on him and was planning to leave him, he sets out with both daughters and the older one’s stoner-boy friend, to find the guy who was sleeping with his wife.

Playing Clooney’s eldest daughter, Shailene Woodley unexpectedly shines, as an emotionally conflicted and angst-filled teen, who has a hard time letting go of the anger she holds towards her mother, even as she lays dying. And maybe it was all those Hawaiian shirts, the goofy hair, and constant look of desperation, but, I for one, forgot it was swoon-worthy George Clooney on the screen.

The Descendants sits somewhere between a heartbreaking drama and comedy, centered on a family dealing with the loss of a loved one, and the regret, heartache and, ‘could’ve, would’ve, should’ves’ that come along with unexpected death and infidelity. The lesson is that humans are imperfect and families are dysfunctional at best, but that doesn’t have to be the the end of it all, you can try and make up for your mistakes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Last night I went to a screening for Shame and even though I was 45 minutes early, the screening was obviously way-overbooked and I didn’t get a seat. But since I was there, and I hadn’t yet seen Martha Marcy May Marlene, I thought why not, I’ve already paid for parking. On a side note, this was the first time I watched a movie in the theatre, by myself. Yup, that’s right, I walked right up to the ticket-selling-man, and sheepishly requested, “one for Martha Marcy May Marlene, please”. And his response was, “WOW, the whole thing?”, which left me a bit confused, wondering if that was some sort of remark at my being at a movie all by my lonesome. But apparently what he meant was, ‘no one who’s bought a ticket for this has said the whole name of the film’. It's true - the title is quite a mouthful, and then some.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a gut-wrenching film about a cult, something that we, as humans seem to be fascinated with. We first meet a twenty-something Martha/Marcy Mae/Marlene (who we all know as the other Olsen sister, Elizabeth Olsen) as she’s making her escape from the cult she has been living at, a place where the men eat first and the ragged women watch on in a sort-of trance, silently awaiting their turn. What we see doesn’t seem blatantly wrong or suspect, but feels weird, like things aren’t as they should be. Martha finds refuge at the home of her sister and her husband and the story cuts back and forth between present and past, as Martha goes in and out her depressive and damaged state, reliving the events of her ‘programming’, the rape she was subjected to, and her terrifying, but captivating ‘leader’ (John Hawkes).

The film was dark, beautifully shot and haunting, with Elizabeth Olsen convincingly and beautifully portraying a damaged and fragile woman coping with a trauma that she may never completely heal from.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Happy 39th Birthday to HBO!

To the people that brought us True Blood, Six Feet Under, and the GREATEST piece of television of all time, The Sopranos... Happy Birthday.