In "Shame" (Fox Searchlight), employed and responsible NYC exec Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is an insatiable satyromaniac. For Brandon, sex is everywhere: in his bed (mainly with hookers), on the subway, in the windows of hotel rooms, on the street, in bars, on his laptop, in a men's room stall (alone) at the office. According to his boss David (James Badge Dale), Brandon's work computer hard drive is "filthy" with a variety of porn. An exhibitionist with a stunning endowment, Brandon simply can't get enough.
The one thing he can get enough of is his scarred and self-destructive, bleached-blonde, nightclub-singer younger sister Cissy (Carey Mulligan). Their dysfunctional relationship, which includes Brandon's disregard of Cissy's desperate answering machine messages, has a whiff of a sexual dynamic. Like Brandon, Cissy places little value on the feelings of others, except when it comes to her brother. But even that is short-lived when she crashes at his place and invades his carefully crafted world.
Brandon's struggle with his unquenchable desires reaches a fever pitch when he isn't able to perform with co-worker Marianne (Nicole Beharie), a woman in whom he could actually take an interest. But he washes away that experience with a string of encounters, including one, surprisingly, in the backroom of a gay bar (didn't see that one coming, so to speak). Hanging over all of it is suicidal Cissy's disappearance after he kicks her out of his place.
"Shame"'s shock value and its NC17 rating may be more than some audience members can handle. Of course, gay audiences are familiar with the depiction of graphic sex on-screen, especially those of a certain generation who saw the groundbreaking "Taxi Zum Klo" 30 plus (!) years ago. Still, "Shame"'s well worth a look (or peep). Bonus features on the Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy edition include featurettes such as "Focus on Michael Fassbender" and "The Story of Shame," among others.
Woody Harrelson has been on a roll since his Oscar-nominated performance in Oren Moverman's "The Messenger." He can also count an outstanding and memorable performance in "Zombieland," as well as a scene-stealing turn as a gay sports editor in "Friends With Benefits," to his recent film credit.
Teaming up again with Moverman (as well as his "The Messenger" co-star Ben Foster), Harrelson plays corrupt LAPD officer and Vietnam vet Dave Brown in "Rampart" (Millennium). Set in 1999 Los Angeles, in the midst of a scandal at the Rampart Community Police Station, "Rampart" focuses on Brown, a borderline chain-smoker, sexual compulsive, violent, socially conservative, racist, homophobic cop, who insists on playing by his own rules.
Busy passing judgment on others, from his fellow police officers to the District Attorney, politicians and Internal Affairs officers, Brown has an unconventional personal life. He remains sexually active with his ex-wives, sisters Barbara (Cynthia Nixon) and Catherine (Anne Heche), who are the mothers of his daughters, young Margaret (Sammy Boyarsy) and teen lesbian Helen (Brie Larson). Even the associations that could potentially be meaningful in his life, that with lawyer Linda (Robin Wright) and retired cop Hartshorn (Ned Beatty), go sour. His most fulfilling interpersonal relationship is with a strung out homeless vet whom Dave calls General (Foster).
Not surprisingly, everything around Dave's unstable life begins to crumble and his downward spiral is rapid. Neither Barbara nor Catherine wants him around anymore. Helen and Margaret don't know what to make of their father. The future of his career is increasingly uncertain. His relationship with Linda grows more volatile. To add insult to injury, Hartshorn betrays him. So when Dave finds himself in a hotel room contemplating suicide it's not all that surprising.
"Rampart" is a relentlessly bleak movie. And even though Dave ranks as one of the most unlikable screen characters in recent memory, Harrelson has found a way to tap into him and allow a dim ray of humanity to shine through. It's an exceptional performance and for that he deserves a shiny merit badge. Special features on the DVD/digital copy version of "Rampart" include Moverman's commentary, interviews with the cast and crew and more.