This Tuesday is light on new home viewing releases, but two noteworthy films (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Shame) do hit store shelves. Some obvious advice: If you like blockbusters, stick with the former; if you like art films that deal with tough subjects, go with the latter. Or do the opposite and risk the consequences of artistic discovery. Here are capsule reviews from our team:
The fourth Mission: Impossible installment doesn’t go bigger, it goes higher. In an already iconic scene that sees Tom Cruise’s superspy dangling from Burj Khalifa, director Brad Bird unleashes the kind of stunningly composed and daringly suspenseful action sequence that actually clears the bar set by several decades of blockbuster movies aiming for that perfect trailer moment. Unfortunately, the remainder of the picture is merely pretty good, a predictable actioneer with just enough clever flourishes to be interesting.
Here, Ethan Hunt and company are tasked with stopping a madman (Michael Nyqvist) from starting World War III (how long did it take the writers to come up with that gem?). The supporting cast (including Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Paula Patton) are apt players in the spy game, but stepping down rumors be damned, it’s Cruise’s show. Cruise’s trademark intensity imbues the exciting moments with an even greater energy and makes the slower moments a bit less of a drag. Of course, that scene, and Cruise’s willingness to dangle from a cord outside of a skyscraper in the name of mass market art, doesn’t hurt. B –James Frazier (Buy/Rent on Amazon)
One wonders if Oscar voters had something against Michaels last year, because it was the name of the Academy’s two most egregious snubs: Michael Shannon of Take Shelter and Michael Fassbender of Shame, new on DVD this week. In a role that seemed built for controversy–a Manhattan sex addict, who spends most hours either surfing Internet porn or picking up women–Fassbender managed a performance of great restraint, against the odds. (As much restraint as one could possibly lend to a character who appears full-frontal, that is.) His torture is the audience’s torture, perfectly capturing the way his character’s humanity has been compromised by his compulsion. Director Steve McQueen, whose overrated debut Hunger used uninterrupted long takes as a gimmick, here employs the technique to great success — they emphasize Fassbender’s stagnation, entrapment. Sean Bobbit’s widescreen cinematography was also snubbed by Oscar, with a tracking shot for the ages. Carey Mulligan co-stars. A- -Danny Baldwin (Buy/Rent on Amazon)