Rated: R for disturbing violent content, language and some nudity
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams and Max Von Sydow
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
What it’s about: U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are called to Shutter Island, a mental institution for the criminally insane. They are there to help find a missing patient, but Daniels thinks there’s a greater evil happening on the island. He and Aule are stuck on Shutter Island when a hurricane hits the island, which gives them a chance to start their own investigation.
What I liked: Like any Scorsese film, Shutter Island is exceptionally well made. The strongest element is the atmosphere that he achieves, thanks in a large part to Robert Richardson’s crisp yet gritty cinematography and Robbie Robertson’s brilliant choices of music. This is probably Scorsese’s best atmospheric pieces since Cape Fear nearly two decades ago.
Additionally, this film is very well acted, with DiCaprio proving to be a great choice as Scorsese’s go-to guy, replacing Robert DeNiro’s title. Other creepily fine performances are given by Ben Kingsley and Max Von Sydow as the doctors running Shutter Island, as well as some great smaller performances by Jackie Earl Haley as a patient and Ted Levine as the hospital’s warden.
Overall, Shutter Island is worth a look, and it’s a strong film to have leading a weekend with no other major releases. Scorsese fans will eat it up, and it’s just mainstream enough to capture the interest of non-fans as well.
What I didn’t: The biggest problem that Shutter Island has is its own marketing campaign. Not only do the trailers reveal far too much of the story, including some pretty significant plot twists, but they also make the film look freaking phenomenal. It’s not, sadly. While a good film, Shutter Island simply isn’t freaking phenomenal.
This is because there’s a lot of predictability in the story, and not just because everything’s hinted at in the trailers. I’ve seen this story before, and it’s cool, but not terribly original.
Finally, Scorsese is a master director, but he gets a bit full of himself with the artistic dream sequences and flashbacks in this film, which come at often awkward moments and greatly overstay their welcome. As a rule, dream sequences are crutches in the moviemaking process, and these moments in the picture feel like Scorsese is trying to shoehorn some independent student films into his studio blockbuster.
Who is gonna like this movie: Scorsese fans and anyone who enjoys intense thrillers.
Rated: Not rated
What it’s about: All ten Oscar-nominated short films, both animated and live-action, are being released in theaters in limited engagements. The shorts include French Roast, The Lady and the Reaper, Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty, Logorama and Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death for the animated block. The live-action block includes The Door, The New Tenants, Kavi, Instead of Abracadabra and Miracle Fish.
What I liked: I’m a sucker for short films and animated movies, so I fell in love with the animation block. But even the live-action block of films in this year’s running are some of the more innovative and thought-provoking movies you’ll see this year. In fact, I’m extremely impressed with the quality of the contenders, and they are possibly better movies than the big nominees.
In the animated realm, it’s great to see a return of Wallace and Gromit to the big screen. This half-hour short is one of my favorites, second only to the touching and snappy The Lady and the Reaper, which pits death against a miracle doctor with a little old lady as the prize.
In the live-action block, my favorite is Miracle Fish, which has real potential as an extended feature film, though I suspect that the darkly humorous The New Tenants will probably take away the Oscar. Also notable in live-action is Instead of Abracadabra, which I can only describe as a Wes Anderson-ish Swedish version of Reed Rothchild’s failed magic career.
What I didn’t: There’s not a lot to dislike from these ten little films, unless you have a particular problem with a specific title. Overall, these are brilliant pieces and a rarity to see on the big screen. Seek these out for a nice diversion this weekend.
Who is gonna like this movie: Anyone who loves short films, and especially animation.