Flick Of The Week: Shame

Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a sex addict. He is emotionally dead. He walks naked through his apartment—a sleek, sterile, soulless environment that reflects his empty character. Audiences get an eyeful of Fassbender—his flaccid penis, his muscular ass, his wiry body. But there is nothing else to him. Like the film, he is skin deep. Brandon has a lot of sex in Shame. He masturbates frequently; has sex with women of different ethnicities; with two women at once; and even gets a guy to suck him off. While Brandon has trouble with emotional intimacy, his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) is emotionally needy. There’s a hint of incest, but it’s not developed enough, nor is it an excuse for his behavior—or hers. Shame does get interesting when Brandon goes out on an awkward date with Marianne (Beharie) a comely co-worker. Brandon’s inability to connect with Marianne leads to him debasing himself. Alas, Brandon’s downward spiral hardly seems compelling—perhaps because Fassbender plays him as a tightly wound cipher. Shame is all about getting Brandon to feel something. But despite the actors going at it with bed-crunching gusto, there is no emotional connection. It’s both clinical and boring. Despite its many flaws, however, Shame still deserves a look.

The Sitter Would you trust your kids with Jonah Hill? Or should Jonah Hill trust your kids?

Tomboy A savvy French film about a young girl who poses as a boy when she moves to a new neighborhood.

A Warrior’s Heart Kellan Lutz plays a warrior’s heartthrob in this drama about a teenage lacrosse player coping with the death of his dad.

Young Goethe in Love A romantic period costume comedy-drama about the German writer’s relationship that spurned him to write his celebrated The Sorrows of Young Werther.

New Year’s Eve Hoping for a magical night, full of romance, New Year’s Eve doesn’t give viewers over the age of 12 enough to celebrate. It’s actually pretty depressing watching Robert DeNiro as a dying man wishing to see the Times Square ball drop one last time. His story—one of the film’s several uninspired narrative thread—competes for bottom of the barrel. It’s right down there with single New Year’s Eve hater Randy (Ashton Kutcher) getting stuck in an elevator with single singer Elise (Lea Michele)—guess what happens? The comedy is also slapstuck as Tess (Jessica Biel) and Griffin (Seth Meyers) compete with Grace (Sarah Paulson) and James (Til Schweiger) over who is going to win $25,000 for having the first New Year’s Day baby. (In one of the film’s few surprises, it’s neither a tie, nor does anyone have twins). And there is very little dramatic tension surrounding Claire Morgan’s (Hilary Swank) problem of the Times Square ball getting stuck. Perhaps it’s damning with faint praise to say that New Year’s Eve’s best storyline features Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer), a frustrated woman with a bucket list of resolutions. Pfeiffer gives a surprisingly committed performance being amused and amazed by Paul (Zac Efron), who whisks her around New York City on his motorcycle teaching her to take chances. Alas, most of this contrived film plays things safe and boring—from Sam (Josh Duhamel) getting stranded when his GPS doesn’t recognize New York City, to Kim (Sarah Jessica Parker) trying to protect her 15-year old daughter (Abigail Breslin) from the Times Square chaos. And it’s a shame that both Halle Berry is wasted as De Niro’s nurse, and that Sofía Vergara is saddled with a stereotypical Latino spitfire part in a  dumb storyline about singer Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi) trying to patch things up with caterer Laura (Katherine Heigl). With a couple of songs and poignant speeches, New Year’s Eve tries hard to please, but this unremarkable, undemanding film hits its stride only during the outtakes that play out over the end credits.

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Gary Kramer

Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based film critic who thinks Sandra Bullock mambos. He likes eating ethnic food and watching ethnic movies—though not necessarily both at the same time or from the same country.

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