Two eleven-year old boys get into an altercation. One swings a stick at the other and knocks out a couple of teeth. The two sets of parents get together and try to smooth things over in a polite and civilized manner. The stage is now set (literally--the film is adapted from a stage play) for some delicious dark humor, and some not so appetizing cobbler dessert, in Roman Polanski's Carnage.
Jodie Foster and John C.. Reilly play the odd couple--Michael and Penelope. She's a liberal minded writer. He's in the household supply business, and something of a hamster hating sociopath. Christopher Waltz and Kate Winslet are the upscale pair--Alan and Nancy. He's a corporate attorney, and she's an investment broker.
Initially, everyone is polite. Then, accusation and counter accusation begin to fly in an escalating manner. Booze is poured. We are treated to the spectacle of Nancy tossing her cookies (actually, the aforementioned apple cobbler) all over her husband and Penelope's precious coffee table books. There are great lines like: Their son is a threat to national security! Then, when the spouses turn their rancor upon each other: If you ask me, the couple is the worst ordeal God has ever inflicted on us.
This is a heavyweight cast, and each of the four turns in a bravura performance. But Jodie Foster's tightly wound Penelope--ready to snap at any moment--is something to behold.
Other than the opening setup and the closing shot, Carnage takes place entirely inside Michael and Penelope's Brooklyn apartment. The intimate, close-range aspect of it is reminiscent of My Dinner With Andre, but with decidedly less civil overtones.
TAKE SHELTER (2011)
Michael Shannon stars as a normal family man who begins having visions of impending disaster, and starts building an underground bomb shelter in his back yard. His wife (Jessica Chastain) thinks he's going schizo. Is he? Pony up some scratch to see it and find out.
There is a building sense of foreboding in Take Shelter (sort of like the way I feel about the upcoming presidential election). It all leads to an understated, yet potent and portentous ending. Some may be disappointed with it, but those are the folks who need to have everything spelled out for them. Anyway, it all fits into the groove of what is in the back of the minds of a lot of people as the countdown to December 21st, 2012 continues. If anybody is crazy, let's hope it's the Mayans. (Those knuckleheads!)
Take Shelter was on a lot of top ten lists of 2011. It misses mine, but not by a whole lot.
Grade: B +
IN TIME (2011)
Time is money, that's how the saying goes. In the world of the future, that is literally true. People are genetically programmed to stop aging at 25. Then, an electronic digital clock implanted in your wrist begins to count down the days, hours, and minutes until you reach 26. You've got one year, and it's up to you to beg, borrow, or steal more time--otherwise you'll drop stone cold dead. (Hell of a birthday present, eh?)
Yep, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Those who are short on time live in ghettos and scramble to stay alive day to day. The rich, who have hundreds of years in the bank, live in their own segregated world. Just like now. The currency medium is the only thing that has changed. (The way it works is you drive up to a toll booth, for example, and stick your arm out and the attendant collects a few minutes off your life...yes, you can LITERALLY be nickled and dimed to death!)
Justin Timberlake stars as Will Salas, a poor dude who is bequeathed a hundred years by a guy who no longer wants to live. But Salas is accused of the man's murder, and he's on the run. He's pissed-off about the inherent unfairness of the system, (like the Occupy Wall Street gang) so he buys himself some threads and decides to crash the rich folks' party. There he meets the super hot daughter (Amanda Seyfried) of an extremely wealthy man. She's intrigued by him, and they both end up on the lam, running from the "timekeepers" who are out to bring them in. And that's where In Time kicks into another gear.
The movie opened to mostly lackluster reviews, but I was surprised by how much it grew on me
as it sped toward its climax. (You only want to do that in the movies, of course.)