The Iceman (2012)

The Iceman
Director: Ariel Vromen
Writer: Morgan Land, Ariel Vromen
Based on: Anthony Bruno’s book of the same name about Richard Kuklinski
Cast: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, Danny A. Abeckaser, John Ventimiglia, Ryan O’Nan, McKaley Miller, Megan Sherrill, James Franco, Stephen Dorff
Seen on: 30.4.2017

Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) works behind the scenes in the porn industry, a job that brings him in contact with Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) who sees potential in Richard and promptly hires him as a contract killer. Richard takes to this new job with a sense of professionalism that includes keeping it very far away from his wife Deborah (Winona Ryder) and kids. But mob politics aren’t easy to navigate and Richard can’t make everybody happy at all times.

I didn’t expect much from this film, but despite a lengthy second half and some seriously atrocious 70s hair, it drew me in, mostly thanks to a magnetic Michael Shannon.

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Complete Unknown (2016)

Complete Unknown
Director: Joshua Marston
Writer: Joshua Marston, Julian Sheppard
Cast: Rachel WeiszMichael ShannonAzita GhanizadaKathy BatesDanny GloverMichael ChernusChris Lowell
Seen on: 26.4.2017

Tom (Michael Shannon) and his wife Ramina (Azita Ghanizada) expect guests for dinner. Ramina is a jewelry designer who has recently been accepted into a design program across the country. Tom is ambivalent about moving and leaving his work behind. But before they can fight about this (again), their guests arrive and interrupt. Among them is Tom’s co-worker Clyde (Michael Chernus) who brought a date – the lovely Alice (Rachel Weisz). Michael is sure he knows Alice, but refers to her as Jenny. Her sudden re-appearance in Tom’s life throws him for a loop.

From the description I expected Complete Unknown to be an entirely different film, a thriller, something dramatic, dark and tension-filled. Instead I got a dialogue-driven rumination on identity. It wasn’t bad by a long-shot, but I did feel a little disappointed by that as the turn to darkness never came. Fortunately not for long, though.

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Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Nocturnal Animals
Director: Tom Ford
Writer: Tom Ford
Based on: Austin Wright‘s novel Tony and Susan
Cast: Amy AdamsJake GyllenhaalMichael ShannonAaron Taylor-JohnsonIsla FisherEllie BamberArmie HammerKarl GlusmanRobert AramayoLaura LinneyAndrea RiseboroughMichael Sheen
Seen on: 29.12.2016

Art gallery owner Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) receives a package in the mail. It contains the draft of her ex-husband Edward Sheffield’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) new novel and the information that he is in town and would like to meet her. Susan hasn’t spoken to him in almost 20 years and she is surprised by the novel and the meeting, but she starts to read the novel that was apparently inspired by her. It tells the story of Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) who goes on a roadtrip with his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) and daughter India (Ellie Bamber) – a roadtrip that turns violent when they get into trouble with another car and its passengers.

Nocturnal Animals is a highly polished film that tells a story that goes under the skin. It’s definitely not a film that lets go of you easily, even if not everything about it works without a hitch.

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Midnight Special (2016)

Midnight Special
Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Jaeden LieberherMichael ShannonJoel EdgertonKirsten DunstAdam DriverBill CampScott HazeSam Shepard
Seen on: 19.4.2016

Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) are on the run with a boy, Alton (Jaeden Lieberherr). They are running from a cult and from the government, obviously intent to not be stopped, but to what ends isn’t obvious. What is obvious though is that this isn’t simply a kidnapping and Alton isn’t simply a kid. He has powers that defy understanding, even his own.

Midnight Special is a weird animal. Over long stretches I enjoyed it, although it does have lengths, but then it becomes so increasingly Christian in its imagery that I was a bit taken aback by it more and more.


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Freeheld (2015)

Director: Peter Sollett
Writer: Ron Nyswaner
Based on: Laurel Hester‘s life and the documentary about that
Cast: Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Michael Shannon, Steve Carell, Luke Grimes, Josh Charles
Seen on: 14.4.2016

Laurel (Julianne Moore) falls in love with Stacie (Ellen Page) and vice versa. The two build their life together, a life that Laurel carefully shields from her job as a cop and even her partner Dane (Michael Shannon). But then she is diagnosed with cancer and things are not looking good. As Laurel realizes that she’ll probably not survive, she knows that she has to fight to have Stacie and her (civil) partnership with her recogniced by the city council to make sure that Stacie will get the spousal pension after Laurel’s death. But the council is not willing to make that happen.

Freeheld is a conservatively made film about a progressive topic: while the filmmaking here is not revolutionary, the fight for queer rights is and as we keep seeing over and over again, it’s unfortunately far from won. So keep the films on coming and if they push every emotional button in the most obvious way, it’s even better: people obviously still need the basic lessons.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Based on: Bob Kane‘s and Bill Finger‘s comics character; and Jerry Siegel‘s and Joe Shuster‘s comics chararcter
Sequel to: Man of Steel
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy, Callan Mulvey, Tao Okamoto, Michael Shannon, Harry Lennix, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carla Gugino, Kevin Costner, Anderson Cooper, Patrick Wilson, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Joe Morton
Part of: DC movies
Seen on: 1.4.2016

The world loves Superman (Henry Cavill), if not to say that they actually worship him. With his superhuman powers, he is a tremendous hero, of course – but should he ever stop to help humanity, who could possibly put up a fight against him? That’s the question Bruce Wayne, aka Batman (Ben Affleck), asks himself. He has watched everything else around him fall, so it seems only a question of time until Superman falls, too. So Bruce starts to devise a plan with which he might be able to stop Superman, should it ever become necessary. And there are signs that it will.

Batman v Superman is not a good film. That wasn’t to be expected. But it is actually so bad at times, it becomes grotesque. Since I’m late to the party and Ben Dreyfuss already put it beautifully, I’ll give you the perfect quote about the film, before imperfectly listing my own thoughts:

It is incomprehensible! Nothing makes any sense! We all understand that plots in these movies don’t make sense. Of course they don’t. That’s standard. But in this movie nothing makes sense on a scene level. In a lot of movies that make no sense on a plot level, the person will say, “I am going to rob this fruit store,” and you can quibble about why a person would rob a fruit store, but the characters in the movie accept it and go about robbing the fruit store and we go along with it. They have conviction and authenticity and they really try to rob that fruit store good, even if we in the audience think they are being ridiculous for robbing a fruit store, because when it really works, it doesn’t matter. In Batman v Superman the characters say, “I am going to rob this fruit store,” and then go into the fruit store, throw fruit in the air, paint the walls with fruit, pay for the fruit, use the fruit as puppets in improv comedy, have a dance party with the fruit, build a home in the fruit store, burn the fruit store down, exit the smoldering husk of the fruit store and announce, “I robbed the vegetable store.”


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99 Homes (2014)

99 Homes
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Writer: Ramin Bahrani, Amir Naderi
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, Clancy Brown, Tim Guinee, Noah Lomax
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 2.11.2015
[Review by cornholio.]

Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) is trying his best to keep the family home together where he lives with his mother Lynn (Laura Dern) and his son Connor (Noah Lomax). But work has been sparse and now they are threatened with foreclosure. After a last attempt at court, Dennis finds the police and bank representative Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) in front of his house, putting him and his family on the street. Dennis is at a complete loss, but by chance he actually finds a job with Rick who doesn’t exactly work above the line in all places and rakes in quite a profit.

99 Homes is a well made film that is quite clear in its criticism of capitalism – which is much appreciated. But it’s also a film that is a little too hopeless for my taste.

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She’s Funny That Way (2014)

She’s Funny That Way
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Writer: Peter Bogdanovich, Louise Stratten
Cast: Imogen PootsOwen WilsonKathryn HahnRhys Ifans, Jennifer AnistonWill Forte, Jennifer Esposito, Michael Shannon, Lucy Punch, Illeana Douglas, Cybill ShepherdRichard Lewis, Austin Pendleton, Tatum O’Neal , Joanna Lumley, Quentin Tarantino
Seen on: 2.9.2015

Isabella (Imogen Poots) is a rising star and as such, she gives an interview about how she made it big: how she met director Arnold (Owen Wilson) when she was working as a call girl, how he offered her a lot of money that she may be able to follow her dreams and stop working as a call girl; how they ran into each other at an audition the very next day; how Arnold’s wife and lead actress Delta (Kathryn Hahn), her co-star Seth (Rhys Ifans) and writer Joshua (Will Forte) were immediately taken by her acting talent; and how she got the job, including the ensuing awkwardness.

She’s Funny That Way could have been a charming, old-school screwball comedy, but unfortunately it was a little too boring to really be charming or funny.

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Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: David S. Goyer
Based on: Jerry Siegel‘s and Joe Shuster‘s comics chararcter
Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, Christopher Meloni, Kevin Costner, Ayelet Zurer, Laurence Fishburne, Tahmoh Penikett (for about five seconds)
Part of: DC movies

The planet Krypton is dying. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) tries to convince their leaders to save their race by exploring space, when Zod (Michael Shannon) stages a coup. In desperation, Jor-El and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) send their son Kal-El towards Earth on his own, just with a data stick that contains the most important info about their people. Kal-El manages the voyage, while Zod’s rebellion is subdued and they are sentenced to imprisonment just before Krypton is finally destroyed.
Kal-El grows up to be Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), son of Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) who happens to have superpowers on Earth. But Jonathan cautions him to keep that side of him hidden for fear of what humanity will do to him. And Clark does, until Zod catches up with him.

When the trailers for this film came out, I started to become cautiously optimistic that maybe we’d get a Superman movie that doesn’t suck (the first since the Christopher Reeve movies started to spin out of control [don’t worry, babies, I love you anyway]). I shouldn’t have bothered getting my hopes up.


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Take Shelter (2011)

Take Shelter
Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Wigham, Tova Stewart
Part of: Viennale

Curtis (Michael Shannon) would have a pretty good life together with his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and Hannah (Tova Stewart), if it wasn’t for his nights, when he is frequently haunted by apocalyptic visions and nightmares. Fueled by these, Curtis starts to build a storm shelter for his family and himself. But what will turn out to be the storm hitting the family?

Take Shelter is a beautiful, well-acted film with a frustrating ending and a few lengths. There are definitely worse films out there.


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