Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Feb. 15 | Film Clips | Creative Loafing Charlotte

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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Feb. 15

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SHAME Michael Fassbender went all James Brown on us in 2011, as the hardest working man in show business — or at least in film — appeared in leading roles in no less than four motion pictures. Fassbender was compelling as Rochester in Jane Eyre, as Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method and especially as Magneto in X-Men: First Class, but it was his role in Shame that allowed him to most fully expose himself, in more ways than one. Shame, the first collaboration between Fassbender and director Steve McQueen since 2008's Hunger, focuses on the travails of a sex addict, a story that could only be adequately told in a film carrying the dreaded NC-17 rating. Certainly, this isn't one for the kiddies, and, I'd venture to say, it's not for most adults, either. Fassbender stars as Brandon, a New Yorker who's obsessed with sex. "You masturbate more than anybody on the planet," Chris Rock's Rufus tells Jason Mewes' Jay (of Jay and Silent Bob fame) in Kevin Smith's Dogma, but this film lays waste to that statement: Brandon jerks off in front of his computer, in his bathroom at home, in the bathroom stall at work, and seemingly anywhere short of a church pew. Yet his horndog activity isn't always a solo one: He's charming enough to pick up women at bars and, failing that, he can always rely on his stable of hookers. It's not surprising, then, that he finds it a nuisance when his emotionally fragile sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) unexpectedly appears on his doorstep, looking for a place to crash. And when a co-worker (the bright Nicole Beharie) shows interest in a real relationship, he's forced to reevaluate his lifestyle. McQueen's direction is occasionally languid to a fault, and his script (co-written by Abi Morgan) manages to be both admirable and irritating in its pronounced vagueness ("We're not bad people," Sissy states at one point. "We just come from a bad place."). Yet while the movie might sport problems on the conceptual level, the haunting, tortured performance by Fassbender is an absolute knockout — to miss it would be a real, uh, shame. ***

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS If I wanted to see a movie featuring Indiana Jones, I would watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. If I wanted to see a movie featuring James Bond, I would watch Goldfinger. If I wanted to see a movie featuring Sherlock Holmes, I would watch — well, certainly not Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which might as well be a period Expendables prequel for all the reverence given to the legendary sleuth. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Baker Street brainiac remains one of literature's greatest detectives, but because actions always count more than words in today's Hollywood, 2009's Sherlock Holmes reinvented the character as a kick-ass macho man, more Rambo than Miss Marple. Nevertheless, the freshness of Robert Downey Jr.'s exuberant portrayal as Holmes and the measured counterpoint provided by Jude Law as Dr. Watson managed to overpower Guy Ritchie's hyperkinetic direction. Not this time. Ritchie's showoff stylistics are often embarrassing to behold — this is particularly true in the action sequences, of which there are countless. As he battles his deadly nemesis Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) and his minions, Holmes most often applies his formidable smarts not to uncovering clues but to enhancing his advantage in hand-to-hand skirmishes. Is this Sherlock Holmes or Muhammad Ali? Some silly asides, such as Holmes' camouflage coat, are best forgotten, but the steady bickering between Holmes and Watson has yet to reach the straining point (thank the ingratiating actors for that). And while Rooney Mara adopts the Lisbeth Salander role for the Yank version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the original's Lisbeth, Noomi Rapace, turns up here as a gypsy fortune teller. Her character's services aren't required to predict that Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows will emerge as an international blockbuster, with audiences flocking to see a dizzying swirl of furious fisticuffs, blazing gunfights, and theater-rocking explosions. Me, I'll be home watching my Columbo box sets. **


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