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Rapid Fire: Shame, Young Adult, Looper, Zero Dark Thirty, Take This Waltz


It’s been a while since I posted, but I haven’t stopped watching movies. Instead of trying to give full reviews for those movies, I’ve decided to provide rapid fire, (relatively) quick hits for the main films I viewed in the last few weeks. My schedule is opening up so I’m hoping to get back to regular posting soon. Also, I have decided to not give hard grades for these films, as many of them left me with mixed feelings that would make grading difficult. Instead, the distinction will be “Worth Your Time” or “Not Worth Your Time.”

Shame poster

Shame

Apart from the hype over seeing plenty of Michael’s “Dirty Fassbender,” I expected to see an insightful look into a world of sexual perversion hidden underneath a taut business exterior*. Instead, Shame leaves you with more questions than answers. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are excellent as disturbed siblings dealing with traumas from their past. Yet, these traumas are never explained, so viewing them as troubled adults with emotional deficiencies becomes a confusing endeavor. Fassbender is as emotive as ever, but Shame leaves you wanting. Maybe Steve McQueen’s objective is to show the unrelenting emptiness of a life driven towards a reliance on sex for relief. I tend to think this is an exaggerated existential view of the film. The potential was there, but sadly unachieved.

*Yes, I am cognizant of the odd nature of that statement.

Trailer here

Verdict: Not Worth Your Time

young adult poster

Young Adult

Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody’s other collaboration was Juno, so the type of humor should be evident when discussing Young Adult, except add some more darkness and depression. That ends up defining the movie more than anything, actually. Charlize Theorn plays fiction writer Mavis Gray who returns to her hometown in order to win back her high school boyfriend, Buddy (Patrick Wilson), who is now-happily married and a father. Yes, the entire movie is as sad as that plotline sounds. Mavis is an anti-heroine you never support. She is miserable and unabashedly makes the film somewhat hard to watch. Meanwhile, Patton Oswalt steals the show as Matt, a man still bitter over the beating he received in high school that left him crippled—emotionally and physically. Like Shame, I had higher expectations for the depth of Young Adult, but some movies have characters that are too depressing and pathetic to really embrace.

Trailer here

Verdict: Not Worth Your Time

looper poster

Looper

I won’t try to explain the plot to Looper in this abbreviated review, but I will say that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt should be in every movie. Due to the time travel plotline, I know I am not alone when I say that something about Looper prevented me from loving it. Rian Johnson’s noir homage Brick really impressed me, but Looper ended up just being really entertaining. The story is captivating and the effects are interesting. I am inclined to say the media attention and my procrastination in seeing the film did affect my opinion. Yet, something inherently felt off about the film and I have been unable to truly place it. Was it a subtle plothole? A stretch in plausibility? Who’s to say, but I would still recommend Looper because it is better than most action films released. I will be seeking a second viewing when I get the chance.

Trailer here

Verdict: Worth Your Time

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Zero Dark Thirty

Here’s where I may take a slight beating. Zero Dark Thirty is a good movie; I am not denying this. However, in my humble opinion, it is not worth the incessant accolades being afforded to it. First, the timeline is disjointed and hard to follow. Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal alert you of the years and locations, but the times between these cut screens are so substantial, you often forget how much time is supposedly passing and the sequence of events becomes jumbled. Ultimately, this is slightly irrelevant as we all know the ending, but if the CIA is investigating the release of evidence, then there must be some grain of truth to the timeline and I’d like to understand it better.

Second, I find it unfathomable that the CIA—or any government organization, for that matter— would send an agent, analyst, or operative to a location like the Middle East without a linguistic foundation in the predominant language. Jessica Chastain’s Maya needs an interpreter during interviews and interrogations. I may be alone in this, but it took me out of the movie for a bit.

 Zero dark thirty

No one is making fictional films on war as well as these two; that much is evident.  They have an incredible view on war and its residual effects at their manifestation. The cinematography of the final sequence is amazing and keeps you more riveted than the actual scene with “how did they do that?!” moments. With regards to “pulse-pounding suspense,” I never reached any sort of anxiety resembling the heart-gripping nerves sustained from The Hurt Locker.

What should be taken away from Zero is the rise of women in covert operations. 2012 was a big year for women in many ways, and Zero Dark Thirty continues that trend by focusing on a character that is not even remotely motivated by romance, men, or any other cinematic trope associated with women. Some will say her reactions to the torture display “feminine attitudes,” but the reactions are essentially human, nothing more. The progress made by a female director choosing a female lead is worthy of the accolades.

Trailer here

Verdict: Worth Your Time

take this waltz poster 

Take This Waltz

An amazing feature of watching movies on Netflix Instant Watch is knowing exactly how much time is left in a movie. Therefore, I can tell you Take This Waltz should have ended 20 minutes and 23 seconds sooner, even if that would have resulted in a typical Hollywood ending. Take This Waltz follows Lou (Seth Rogen) and his wife, Margot (Michelle Williams), a happily married woman, who falls for Daniel (Luke Kirby).

Take This Waltz is confusing, to say the least. The plot is pretty standard. The confusing aspect is Margot. She has emotional fears that prevent her from seemingly normal interactions. At no point is her condition explained or even mentioned, she is simply portrayed as emotionally unstable and weird. Michelle Williams is so likable that she makes Margot less detestable than her character really is. One of the main things taken from Take This Waltz is that Williams can portray extremely happy and miserable within moments of one another. Impressive, and beautiful.

 take this waltz 1

Equally impressive is Seth Rogen’s performance. He knows his limits as an actor and the movie tailors to his talents. When his character is required to be solemn and serious, he is, but only long enough to let the emotion stick. His world is crumbling around him with his wife falling for another man and his sister (Sarah Silverman) struggling with alcoholism, but he maintains an optimism that we can admire.

Meanwhile, Daniel and Margot continue their whimsical courtship almost without shame until the very last second when they are reminded each time of the ring on Margot’s finger. The film devolves into an awkward sexual fantasy of threesomes and fetishes at the aforementioned twenty-minute mark. From there, all hell breaks loose and the end comes mercifully. If it weren’t for Michelle Williams’ smile and Seth Rogen’s logical Lou, I would not have made it through to the end.

Trailer here

Verdict: Really? Did you not just read that? Not Worth Your Time

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  1. I have had to do a review round up’s like this too when I get behind on reviews. Its hard to set aside the time to thoroughly cover your thoughts on a movie so sometimes you have to resort to these short speed reviews. I am completely with you on Zero Dark Thirty by the way. Not nearly as good as everyone seems to make it out to be. At least to me anyway. I must say I miss the letter grade you usually do.

    • I’m glad I’m not alone – for the short reviews and Zero Dark Thirty. Don’t worry, the grades will be back in full force when I start reviewing more frequently again. I’m happy someone appreciates them!!

      • Yeah man no problem. I may not get a chance to like or comment on most your posts but I always read them in my email. Keep up the good work!

    • DLH
    • January 31st, 2013

    Thanks — but that was like drinking from a firehose

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