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Primary Concern: "The Ides of March," "Real Steel," and "Courageous" PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 09 October 2011 15:02

Philip Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney in The Ides of MarchTHE IDES OF MARCH

Audiences demanding insight, or even much depth, from director George Clooney’s The Ides of March will no doubt leave the film disappointed – unless, that is, the revelation that political candidates and their staffers routinely lie and spin and backstab strikes any of those viewers as a newsflash. Yet if you enter this tale of Machiavellian (and, as its title suggests, Shakespearean) intrigue not expecting trenchant analysis so much as a good, gripping yarn supremely well-told, you’re in for a major treat. Smart and fast and gratifyingly vicious, Clooney’s latest is a drama that plays like a thriller, and it’s full-to-brimming with sequences you want to watch over and over again; for those conversant in West Wing-ese, the movie suggests a juicy episode of Aaron Sorkin’s TV series if every character in it was played by Ron Silver.

 
Given Half a Chance: “50/50,” “What’s Your Number?”, “Dream House,” and “Dolphin Tale” PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 02 October 2011 13:17

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen in 50/5050/50

Director Jonathan Levine’s 50/50 casts Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man afflicted with a rare form of spinal cancer, and Seth Rogen as his loud, loutish, perpetually stoned best friend. Consequently, I expected the film’s title and my chances of actually enjoying the movie to be one and the same. It’s always great seeing Gordon-Levitt onscreen, but is there anyone left who isn’t longing for a break from Rogen’s braying, one-note shtick, even if, as he is here, the man isn’t just presumably but damn near literally playing himself? (50/50’s script is loosely autobiographical, and Rogen and author Will Reiser are real-life pals and frequent writing partners.)

 
Contract Highs: "Moneyball," "Killer Elite," and "Abduction" PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 25 September 2011 11:32

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in MoneyballMONEYBALL

On paper, the casting of Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane in Moneyball must have seemed inspired. On screen, it’s so, so much better than that. Pitt has, of course, given many wonderful performances over the past two decades (and just as many blandly acceptable or downright dreary ones). But to my mind, his Billy Beane – driven, hopeful, cocky, incensed, funny, tender, and smart as hell – is the actor’s first chance to employ all of his gifts in the service of an emotionally expansive, fully shaped character, and Pitt’s beautiful and generous work here is truly a sight to behold. Director Bennett Miller’s last feature film was his 2005 debut Capote, which netted Philip Seymour Hoffman a Best Actor Oscar. With Moneyball, Miller might find himself batting 2-for-2 for his stars in that category.

 
Near-Perfect Getaway: “Drive,” “Straw Dogs,” and “I Don’t Know How She Does It” PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 18 September 2011 20:29

Ryan Gosling in DriveDRIVE

Drive is the first action thriller I’ve seen in ages in which the chases and threats and killings actually matter. Yet it’s also the first movie I’ve seen in ages, in any genre, in which a kiss actually matters, which is a far greater surprise. Directed by Danish helmer Nicolas Winding Refn, whose work here earned him Best Director laurels at this past spring’s Cannes Film Festival, the film is a sleek, exciting, and unexpectedly affecting tour de force of mood, like what you’d get if the Michael Mann of Manhunter and the David Lynch of Blue Velvet collaborated on a scrappy, grubby B-picture for drive-in audiences. I couldn’t possibly mean that as a higher compliment.

 
The Cough Heard 'round the World: "Contagion" and "Warrior" PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 12 September 2011 12:11

Jude Law in ContagionCONTAGION

I’m presuming, and hoping, that a bunch of you spent your weekend’s cineplex allowances on Contagion, director Steven Soderbergh’s bleak, elegant, deeply disturbing thriller about the planet’s decimation by a new strain of flu-like virus. I’m also praying that none of you saw it while on a date, because I can barely imagine how awkward the drive home must’ve been. One cough or casual touch from your movie-going companion and you’d be frantically ransacking the car for hand sanitizer and a surgeon’s mask.

 
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