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Kitten Caboodle: "Keanu," "Ratchet & Clank," and "Mother’s Day" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 01 May 2016 09:42

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele in KeanuKEANU

One of the most revered sketches from Comedy Central’s Key & Peele – the sublime Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele series that ended its five-year run in September – is titled “Phone Call.” In it, Key stands at a street corner talking with his wife on his phone, sweetly promising to take her to the theatre. Out of a nearby building walks Peele in a black jacket and baggy jeans, dialing his own cell as he approaches the crosswalk. The men make fleeting, wary eye contact, and after they do, Key’s yuppie, assuming the role of street tough, resumes his conversation substituting “dem” for “them” and “dat” for “that,” and telling his wife, “I’mo’ pick yo’ ass up at 6:30, den!” Peele, who began his own phone convo with “’Sup, dawg?”, gives Key a nod of recognition and crosses the street. But the instant Key is out of earshot, Peele’s own tough-guy façade crumbles with his phone friend. “Oh my God, Christian,” he says with swishy panic, “I almost totally just got mugged right now!”

In many ways, Keanu, the first movie to boast Key and Peele as headliners, is like a feature-length, action-comedy take on that classic sketch – a tale of two mild-mannered suburbanites forced to adopt “street” poses and lingo to placate the sensibilities, or survive the wrath, of other blacks. The bitingly funny, incisive joke of “Phone Call,” however, took 47 seconds to tell, punchline and all. Keanu, by contrast, lasts just over an hour and a half, and both the joke and its capper are pretty much old news after the first 15 minutes. Without question, there are plenty of hilarious moments throughout, and the sharp-witted leads exude spectacular confidence and charisma. (I’m sure I’ll regret saying this someday, but at present, it’s unimaginable that any Key and Peele showcase wouldn’t be at least slightly worth viewing.) Yet you can have a pretty good time at director Peter Atencio’s big-screen debut and still wish – despite its stars, its concept, and the cutest damned kitten you’ve ever seen – that you were having a much better one.

A Song of Ice and Mire: "The Huntsman: Winter's War" and "Elvis & Nixon" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 24 April 2016 16:19

Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain in The Huntsman: Winter's WarTHE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR

Imagine a live-action version of Disney’s Frozen minus the songs and charm, and designed by the production team behind HBO’s Game of Thrones. That’s The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Now stop imagining that, because it’ll give you nightmares – though probably more coherent ones than the nightmare that is this tonally baffling hodgepodge of suffocating seriousness, incoherently staged combat, and baggy-pants comedy.

PETA Principle: "The Jungle Book," "Barbershop: The Next Cut," and "Criminal" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 18 April 2016 14:40


Nearly all action movies, even those in which the action is determinedly family-friendly, live or die by their villains, and director Jon Favreau’s remake of Disney’s The Jungle Book has a phenomenal one: the Bengal tiger Shere Khan, voiced by Idris Elba. Scarred from a murderous tussle with a human and left with only one functional eye, this creature – created, as all the film’s animals and landscapes are, via the magic of CGI – prowls his kingdom with lithe, dangerous authority, and manages to one-up even Jeremy Irons’ Lion King meanie in terms of fierceness and frightening malevolence. Yet Shere Khan’s visage and movements aren’t half as scary as Elba’s maliciously insinuating vocals that fall somewhere between a purr and a growl, and while listening to these deliciously evil readings, I had a perhaps heretical thought regarding this movie and its reported $175-million budget: Wouldn’t all this have worked much better as a radio play?

Half-Baked Goods: "The Boss," "Demolition," and "Hardcore Henry" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 10 April 2016 17:00

Kristen Bell and Melissa McCarthy in The BossTHE BOSS

As far as her recent movies are concerned, only one thing separates a good Melissa McCarthy comedy from a bad one, and that thing is Paul Feig. (Those awkwardly unfunny previews for Feig’s forthcoming Ghostbusters reboot, however, make me wonder how long that’ll be the case.) In the director’s Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy, McCarthy has been a blistering and wonderfully human riot, but the films themselves are so solidly constructed that you know they would’ve worked even with someone less naturally gifted in her roles. Yet the same can’t be said for the dismal Identity Thief, or the tonally nuts Tammy, or the debuting The Boss, which finds McCarthy’s ex-con entrepreneur Michelle Darnell seeking redemption through a makeshift Girl Scout troop, homemade brownies, and excessive bullying techniques. In each one, when she isn’t being humiliated, McCarthy is the best thing in it. In each one, that’s hardly saying much.

Drones: "Eye in the Sky" and "Hello, My Name Is Doris" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 03 April 2016 16:08

Helen Mirren in Eye in the SkyEYE IN THE SKY

Eye in the Sky concerns an impending act of drone warfare on a seemingly peaceful village in Kenya, and it’s one of the few films of its type released since 1964’s Fail-Safe: a pulse-pounding, nerve-racking inaction thriller. One scene after another finds individuals or cloistered rooms of military officials doing little more than staring at screens – in governmental war rooms, in flight simulators, on iPhones – and awaiting orders from higher-ups before they themselves can make any decisive moves. Yet the experience of director Gavin Hood’s thoughtful nail-biter is nonetheless spellbinding. The seconds feel as though they last many minutes (in the best way), and the cumulative 100 minutes feel like they’re over in a flash.

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