By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood December 2, 2011 at 12:40PM
Forget feel-good holiday movies: themes of sex and power dominate this weekend's newcomers. Feast on the dark side before more heartwarming Christmas fare hits multiplexes--"War Horse" will loosen your tear ducts and we can assume 9/11 drama "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" will do the same. (Then there's that "feel bad movie" of Christmas, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.")
For now, consider the following: Steve McQueen's must-see sex-addiction drama "Shame" (for those of you over 17), starring the raw and ravishing Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. But don't expect it to be either sexy or seductive. There's also Julia Leigh's controversial "Sleeping Beauty" (sex as weapon of oppression?) and Ralph Fiennes' brainy and robust Shakespeare retelling "Coriolanus" (power and magnificent mom Vanessa Redgrave) as well as superbly-reviewed "Outrage" from Japan's Takeshi Kitano. Timely, with Hillary Clinton in Burma, is Luc Besson's well-intentioned biopic "The Lady" (government abuse of power), fueled by tender performances from Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis in a film that is more love story than call to arms for the Burmese conflict. Check out the trailers, reviews and details for these films below:
"Shame," Fox Searchlight, UK | Director: Steve McQueen; Cast: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie | David Gritten Reviews at Venice Premiere | TOH! Interviews Fassbender | Oscar Talk: Shame | McQueen at THR Directors Roundtable | Video: Fassbender & McQueen at NYFF | Shame Embraces NC-17 | 84% Tomatometer | James Berardinelli: "This is sex without emotion, nudity without titillation, and climaxes without satisfaction." | Roger Moore: "Rarely has a movie been so sexual without being remotely sexy." | Andrew O'Hehir: "it’s first and foremost a visual and sonic symphony, and a Dante-esque journey through a New York nightworld where words are mostly useless or worse."
"Coriolanus," Weinstein Co., UK | Director: Ralph Fiennes; Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, James Nesbitt | 100% Tomatometer | TOH! Review | Variety: "As directing debuts go, 'Coriolanus' could easily pass for the work of an accomplished master, and though the storytelling lends itself to easy confusion (owing more to the source material than to the execution), the emotional impact reads loud and clear." | Oscar Watch on Fiennes & Redgrave |
"The Lady," CMG, FR/UK | Director: Luc Besson; Cast: Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, William Hope, Sahajak Boonthanaki | David Rooney: "[A] well-intentioned but pedestrian retelling of a stirring true story." | TOH! Interviews Yeoh & Besson at TIFF |
"Sleeping Beauty," Sundance Selects, AUS | Director: Julia Leigh; Cast: Emily Browning, Rachel Blake, Ewen Leslie, Peter Carroll | 49% Tomatometer | New Yorker: "The politics of “Sleeping Beauty” are not difficult to read; if 'Shame' treats the libido as little more than a lonely subset of fluid mechanics, Leigh’s work deconstructs it as a weapon in the armory of patriarchal oppression, and the voyeurs who prey upon Lucy, with hand, tongue, and eye, are themselves repugnant to observe."
"Outrage," Magnet Releasing, JAP | Director: Takeshi Kitano; Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Jun Kunimura, Tomokazu Miura, Ryo Kase | 100% Tomatometer | Variety: "While erstwhile king of yakuza epics Takeshi Kitano doesn't try to do much new in 'Outrage,' the Japanese multihyphenate's first such nihilistic bloodbath in the decade since 'Brother,' the results are so visually stunning, why quibble? Focusing on the absurdly ultraviolent tit-for-tat tussles among a trio of Tokyo crime families, the film is a beautifully staged marvel that confidently reasserts Kitano's considerable cinematic gifts."