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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.

 
You Say You Want a Retribution: “The Debt,” “Apollo 18,” and “Shark Night 3D” PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 04 September 2011 08:51

Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain in The DebtTHE DEBT

After her moving, memorable performances in The Tree of Life, The Help, and the current John Madden thriller The Debt, I’m beginning to think that Jessica Chastain can do almost anything. As evidenced by the actress’ latest (though not last) 2011 release, however, one thing she cannot do is pass for a younger version of Helen Mirren, or at least Mirren as she appears here; beyond their ill-matching features, Chastain’s empathetic soulfulness and emotional accessibility bear little relation to the detached calm and haunted inscrutability of her more seasoned counterpart.

Having said that, if one of your few complaints about a movie lies in the casting of Jessica Chastain and/or Helen Mirren, obviously you have very little to bitch about.

 
Hide and Speak: "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," "Our Idiot Brother," and "Sharks 3D" PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 28 August 2011 17:41

Katie Holmes and Bailee Madison in Don't Be Afraid of the DarkDON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

When a horror movie is really working, you tend to feel a tightening in the gut – a means of preventing you from audibly reacting to the intensity. When a horror movie is really not working, at least at the cineplex, you also tend to feel this clenching of the stomach muscles, but not because you’re trying to avoid screaming. It’s because you’re trying to avoid laughing.

 
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