“Take Shelter” – 2011 Dir. Jeff Nichols

With Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart, Shea Whigham and Kathy Baker

“Is anyone seeing this?”

    “Take Shelter” seemed to follow the trend of the 2011 spectacle films like “The Tree of Life”, “Melancholia”, and Abel Ferrera’s “444: Last Day on Earth”. I missed this movie in theaters and I was really excited to rent this movie, considering it currently trends with a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and much critical appraise for Michael Shannon.


    I did not dig this movie. While the premise of this film, Curtis (Shannon) having premonitions of an apocalypse, and we can’t decide weather (get the pun?) or not they are actual foreshadowings, or if it is a hereditary mental illness (his mother, played briefly by Kathy Baker, is held up in an assisted living place because she’s mentally ill).

    The first act of this film builds really nicely, and Curtis is a very complex character. He has a loving and beautiful wife, played by the remarkable Jessica Chastian, and an adorable as well as deaf daughter. Curtis takes out a loan, borrows construction equipment from his work to construct a very big storm shelter in his back yard. The dreams that Curtis has are very frightening, but by the time unwinds, and then spins to a “gotcha” ending, I could have cared less about Curtis, or his family or especially the movie.

    Michael Shannon was good in the movie, but he wasn’t anything remarkable, and wasn’t anything that you wouldn’t have expected him to be. He essentially plays the same character he plays in “Revolutionary Road” and “My Son, My Son What Have Ye Done?”. I don’t mean to take away from Shannon’s performance, it was very good, but a lot of bloggers and Oscar Sayers keep sighting his performance as the biggest Oscar snub since (insert name here).


    It’s really not. Albert Brooks not getting nominated for “Drive” is the biggest Oscar snub since (insert name here).

    After the film closes with its “gotcha” ending, it just didn’t make much sense to me, not that I didn’t understand the ending of the movie, it’s obvious, but the events and dreams Curtis’ had had leading up the ending that just don’t make a lot of sense, it really doesn’t add up.

    “Take Shelter” is a very good effort by writer/director Jeff Nichols, but it comes up very short, and it isn’t daring, or anything particularly special, it’s just rather bland.

Rating: 6/10

    

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“Revolutionary Road” – 2008. Dir. Sam Mendes

With Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Dylan Baker, and Michael Shannon.

“How do I know you didn’t try to flush our entire fucking family down the toilet?”

  • Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio)

The first ten minutes of “Revolutionary Road” are nice, it’s pleasant. It’s a nice little period piece (set in the 1950’s) where two young people meet, and fall madly in love. After that ten minute mark, the film takes a nose dive, and imbeds itself into your soul and will not let go of it.

The story is of a young couple who flea New York City and move into a middle class suburb where they buy a home on Revolutionary Road (amazing name) where they try to achieve the American Dream. They are miserably unhappy; they have nothing positive to look forward too. The children they have are only really seen as setbacks; an embargo that prevents them for living their lives to the fullest.

Leonardo DiCaprio is a shallow dreamer who aspires of having better things, who zigzags his way through life pretending to be something that he’s not – an idealist and refusing to see that he’s ordinary. Kate Winslet is his wife, on the outside she has the sheen of the “All American Girl”, the picture perfect housewife who takes out the garbage, who cooks, who cleans, and who caters to her husband. Inside she’s just as shallow and pathetic as she reaps the harvest she has sewn.

Kathy Bates is remarkable (something I never thought I would utter) as a real estate agent who sold this bright young couple their home, she’s also their neighbor and the veteran suburban housewife. It’s hard to put into words the emotions this film streams into our consciousness. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this – aside from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf”. The film reminds me much of a scene from Mendes’ earlier film “Road to Perdition”. Remember when Tom Hanks goes to deliver the man in the speakeasy a sealed note from Daniel Craig’s character? The jazz music is pounding, we can’t hear ourselves think. Everything in that small shitty office is vibrating to the music. No words are spoken. When the man opens the note and is the only one who sees the contents inside; the suspense builds tremendously between his eye contact with Hanks, we’re left squirming in our seat – that is how I felt the entire time while watching this film.

As if this film isn’t emotional exhausting enough, enter Michael Shannon who is Kathy Bates’ eccentric, brilliant and prophet of a son who can see only the truth, and sees what a complete joke this “American Dream” has become, he sees through its façade and sees all the pathetic weakness that everyone is feeling. I’ve known little of Michael Shannon and have only seen him in a few films, but he steals this film. Shannon is brilliant, he has a PhD in mathematics, well groomed and is one of the most threatening characters to the “American Dream” I have ever seen on screen. Michael Shannon could have played The Joker.

While watching the film, I couldn’t help but think of what a torturous undertaking it would be for Sam Mendes to direct his then wife Kate Winslet in such a psychologically painful film where you can’t figure out who the most despicable and heinous person is: DiCaprio or Winslet. Winslet gives one of her very best performances in this film, and DiCaprio gives his career finest. I also watched this thinking of all the “Titanic” fans, rushing to the theaters to see the new love story staring DiCaprio and Winslet with so much anticipation; Haha fuckers! Better luck next time.

With all this emotionally painful drama, and the beautiful shattering of the nostalgic “American Dream” which has been ram rodded down our throats since we were young, I found this movie to be boring at times, finding myself becoming emotionally dethatched from the characters, and checking to see how much time was left. This film shows us that our dreams and the achievement of happiness is like chasing a butterfly. You can run as fast as you can, be as strategic as possible and you’ll probably never catch it, but if you do catch that butterfly – it’s just a butterfly after all.

Review 7.5/10

“The Runaways” – 2010. Dir. Floria Sigismondi.

With Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Tatum O’Neal and Michael Shannon.

“How old are you?”

“Just turned 15.”

“Jail fucking bait! Jack fucking pot!”

“The Runaways” was essentially the first all girl rock band with front-woman Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and backed up by Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart). The band was formed by sleazy record producer Kim Fowley (the excellent Michael Shannon). The film opens up with Currie and her older sister walking down the street, and Currie gets her first period.

The scene was pretty blunt – very blunt as a matter of fact, and so is the rest of the film. It was funny; it was just I and my friend Peyton and some older man in the theater. When the opening scene unraveled with Currie stuffing toilet paper up her skirt, the man checked his ticket stub, and got up and left – obviously he was in the wrong theater.

The film starts out excellent, the pacing is quick and the scenes mash together perfectly. We’re introduced to the two main characters, Currie and Jett and we see how they’re different, how they’re unique and meant for something more then what they have.

Cherie Currie (Fanning) and Joan Jett (Stewart)

It isn’t until Jett is standing outside a club and see’s Kim Fowley and approaches him. He likes her style and her aura and introduces her to a female drummer – hence the creation of The Runaways. They practice in a trailer all day and all night, being constantly screamed at by Fowley where he proceeds to degrade and belittle them (at the risk of offending anyone, I won’t quote Shannon but it is wickedly good dialogue).

Fowley knows he’s onto something, but he’s missing one final piece to the puzzle, a front-woman. Fowley begins to scan the underground counterculture scene and he finds Currie, sitting alone drinking a Mountain Dew and seduces her into the rock band. Shannon is excellent in his David Bowieish make-up and clothing, giving this vibe of eccentric sexuality.

What follows is an ensuing tale of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. For the first 45 – 60 minutes the film is near perfection, but towards the middle to the end of the film it begins to drag heavily at certain points but the performance by Stewart as Joan Jett more than makes up for it. I was also impressed with Fanning, taking on the role of Currie completely shattered her typecast as a young, sweet, and naïve girl. The only problem that lies with Fanning’s performance is that she’s hit or miss – some scenes she’s pretty damn good, and in others she’s flat.

The real treat of the film is Michael Shannon. He’s just so fucking strange. He’s a genius and a pervert all wrapped into one. He steals every scene in the movie that he’s in, dominating your attention. The scene where he’s prowling the bar in search for another member (eventually finding Currie) is just excellent, the look that Shannon holds on his face is that of a dangerous predator, looking to strike and sink his teeth into his prey.

Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley in the best performance of 2010 (thus far).

This is a pretty solid film that would have been better if the structure of the narrative was a little tighter. As far as a music biopic goes, it captivates the brutality of the music industry and of the shitty people you have to deal with. The only thing the film leaves me wanting more of is Michael Shannon.

Review: 7.5/10