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Meatheads: "Pain & Gain" and "The Big Wedding" PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 28 April 2013 17:04

Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, and Anthony Mackie in Pain & GainPAIN & GAIN

In Pain & Gain, the witty, savvy, almost perfectly pitched new release by Michael Bay, Mark Wahlberg plays a dimwitted personal trainer who decides he’d rather steal than pursue the American dream, and – .

Yes, I just used “witty,” “savvy,” and “almost perfectly pitched” to describe a Michael Bay movie. Trust me, you’re not as shocked as I am.

 
“Pines” Soul: "The Place Beyond the Pines" and "Oblivion" PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 21 April 2013 21:15

Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes in The Place Beyond the PinesTHE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

You may not remember this if you’re 25 or younger, but between the mid-’70s and mid-’90s, we were sometimes treated to Very Special Episodes of long-running sitcoms. These episodes, which were usually twice as long as their shows’ 22-minute standard, found beloved characters momentarily wrestling with Weighty Themes and tackling Important Issues, and were frequently showered with critical praise and awards despite, or maybe because of, their general self-consciousness and bloat. (Michael J. Fox and Helen Hunt surely owe several of their Emmys to VSEs.) They’re mocked now, and they were kind of mocked then, and so it might seem like a particularly condescending insult to say that director Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines feels like nothing so much as a Very Special Episode of a gritty, edgy indie drama.

 
And Here's to You, Mr. Robinson: "42" and "Scary Movie 5" PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Saturday, 13 April 2013 14:58

Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman in 4242

42, writer/director Brian Helgeland’s dramatization of three years in the life of baseball trailblazer Jackie Robsinson, is an earnest, deliberately old-fashioned entertainment, an inspirational bio-pic made with professionalism and care but little in the way of emotional or thematic nuance – it’s the very definition of what-you-see-is-what-you-get filmmaking. In three specific scenes, though, this seemingly prototypical triumph-of-the-underdog sports flick also achieves a legitimate, rousing greatness, and it’s the sort of expansive and lingering greatness that makes you leave the picture feeling, with few reservations, that the movie as a whole was truly great.

 
The Enthusiast: On Roger Ebert PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 09 April 2013 12:54

Roger EbertIn 2010, at the age of 67, Roger Ebert reviewed The Human Centipede (First Sequence) — a horror flick that seems to exist primarily to make viewers vomit. As a professional movie critic for more than four decades, Ebert could have been forgiven for skipping it altogether. Curt dismissal was another perfectly reasonable option.

A charitable senior-citizen writer might have picked the movie apart on moral, narrative, or aesthetic grounds, or used it as a launching point for a screed against the depravity of contemporary culture or the torture-porn genre.

But Ebert turned in a no-star-rating review that begins with an earnest rumination on the path to mortality: “It’s not death itself that’s so bad. It’s what you might have to go through to get there.” And he says that within the writer/director, Tom Six, “there stirs the soul of a dark artist.”

Ebert was interested in the movie, curious about its method and meaning. Ultimately, he didn’t interpret or judge it — “It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine” — but it’s clear he thought this film that most people would find inherently repulsive or worthless deserved consideration.

And then there’s his marginally positive 1981 review of Tarzan, the Ape Man, in which Ebert is nakedly smitten with Bo Derek: “The Tarzan-Jane scenes strike a blow for noble savages, for innocent lust, for animal magnetism, and, indeed, for softcore porn, which is ever so much sexier than the hardcore variety. If you do not agree with me, you will probably think Bo’s banana scene is ridiculous. I prefer to think it was inevitable.”

I’m starting with these admittedly odd examples to remember Roger Ebert — who died on April 4 at age 70 — because I think they’re true. They reveal the man and the critic in a way that gets past the vagueness and overreaching of many obituaries and appreciations of him.

 
Worst Intervention Ever: "Evil Dead," "Olympus Has Fallen," and "Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor" PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 07 April 2013 11:49

Jane Levy in Evil DeadEVIL DEAD

While I like the movie just fine, I’m not enough of a fanatic for Sam Raimi’s 1981 splatter classic The Evil Dead to get in a twist about the existence of director Fede Alvarez’s new, definite-article-free remake Evil Dead. (It’s when Hollywood inevitably remakes Raimi’s priceless horror sequel Evil Dead II that we’re gonna have problems.) But despite being mostly entertained by Alvarez’s beyond-bloody outing, especially during its second half, I do have to question the decision to make it, for so much of its length, so bloody serious. This is a film, after all, in which a demon is released by a supernatural incantation, nail guns and electric carving knives are the weapons of choice, and one character escapes a (more-)dreadful fate by enacting a speedier version of 127 Hours. How are we not asked to laugh at all this?

 
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