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Take Shelter (2011)

One of the years’ more intense and engrossing features.  Michael Shannon plays Curtis, a man having horrifying nightmares and ominous visions.  Thunder storms, dog attacks, floating furniture.  He’s either falling prey to paranoid schizophrenia, his mother fell victim to its destructive effects when she was his age, or something much more doomsdayish is at hand.  Michael Shannon is a performer with few equals right now when it comes to portraying subtle and seering.  When his fuse ignites all bets are off.  On his performance alone Take Shelter establishes a constant sensation of pressure and dread few movies could sustain for a few minutes, much less an entire film.  It acutely portrays the seemingly senseless acts that people with deteriorating mental conditions perform, but it leaves a door open for other suggestions as to what’s transpiring.  Maybe Curtis is going nuts, maybe he’s not.  What you bring to the table will largely decide on how you feel about it when it’s over.


Ip Man (2008)

People don’t watch chop socky flicks for great plots or moving performances.  These movies range from arc and simplistic to outright senseless but that’s mainly because the audience is there to see fight scenes.  Kick ass fight choreography is as invigorating as two Oscar winners hamming it up when it’s done right.  It’s doubly refreshing to watch such well photographed physical skill in this age of constant CGI and/or jittery editing.  Ip Man sets the bar high with stunning fight sequences from front to back.  They feel fierce, sharp and powerful and remain just on the this side of conceivable.  Total cartoonishness can bring things down a notch if handled wrong.  There is precious little in the way of CGI assistance though some amount of wire work seems obvious.  Regardless, Ip Man works as quality kung-fu mayhem not only because of its top tier action but because the movie itself isn’t a complete joke.  You probably wouldn’t watch it sans fisticuffs but it’s a sturdy enough historical epic with a sympathetic lead in Donnie Yen.  He can actually act, unlike Jackie Chan, and looks to perform most of his own very impressive stunt work.  Action fans should see.


Tokyo Drifter (1966)

Colorful, disjointed and unorthodox, it’s like someone took a gangster movie, threw it in a blender, poured primary colored paint all over it, pumped the resulting mess full of caffeine and then threw it all in a movie projector.  Tokyo Drifter is a jazzy, blazing work from 60’s Japanese helmer Seijun Suzuki.  I have little doubt that Tarantino must worship this film as it’s candy colored fingerprints can be seen on the likes of Kill Bill.  It’s ostensibly about a gangster named Tetsu trying to leave behind Yakuza ways and go legit with his boss, there’s a despite about a debt and a building, a gangster in red wants Tetsu killed, on and on it goes for it’s swift 80 minutes.  But if you can’t quite follow what’s happening don’t fret.  Drifter has been made with an eye for style and atmosphere while it’s plot remains purposefully sketchy and haphazard.  Scenes feel like they are missing (intentionally?), characters move around as if time and space can be conquered with mere thought, logic is something to be dealt out sparingly.  Definitly not for everyone but fans of the deviant and singular will probably love it.


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