Take Shelter is a provocative original from writer-director Jeff Nichols, built on the foundation of a searing performance by Michael Shannon. It’s a film I respect, even though I found it very tough to sit through. That’s because Nichols creates a palpable sense of unease—which is exactly what he sets out to do.
Shannon, who’s so good playing creepy characters like the wacko in Revolutionary Road (which earned him an Oscar nomination), and the uptight Federal agent in Boardwalk Empire, is completely convincing here as an—
Sometimes a film seems to have everything going for it and still comes up short; such is the case with The Debt. Its credentials are impeccable: a fine cast headed by Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, and Jessica Chastain, just for starters, directed by John Madden, and written by three talented Brits, Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, and Peter Straughan.
This is a retread of an Israeli film, Ha-Hov, so presumably the English-language team had a solid blueprint to follow. Yet, as we’ve seen time and time again, the strength of —
Any time a book strikes a chord with a vast number of people, as Kathryn Stockett’s The Help did, there is a mixture of anticipation and trepidation about its transition to the screen. Overall, I think writer-director Tate Taylor has done a good job bringing the book and its characters to life, in concert with an exceptional cast. And, crucially, he has managed to recreate the look and feel of a Southern town in the 1960s, with its separate but unequal citizenry: the well-to-do white folks and their black servants.
If you lived through that time, it is incredible to contemplate how much has changed (and how much hasn’t) over the years, not only in race relations but in attitudes toward women. That’s part of the fascination of watching The Help, which captures so many telling details of—
Far be it for me to contradict the Cannes Film Festival jury, or some critics who saw The Tree of Life there and sang its praises to the skies, but I respectfully disagree. I would never dismiss the film out of hand—it has too many beautiful passages, conveying the conflicting emotions of childhood—but I think its reach exceeds its grasp. One can applaud Terrence Malick for attempting something as bold as a picture that ruminates on the place of mankind in nature and the history of the universe. But even an ambitious artist has to be judged on results, not intentions. I couldn’t connect the “big bang,” or the interaction of dinosaurs, with the life of a family in 1950s Texas, and frankly, I found the shots of protozoa, flowing water, and the cosmos itself to be beautiful but—
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