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The Wails of August: "War Room," "We Are Your Friends," "The Diary of a Teenage Girl," and "No Escape" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 30 August 2015 11:01

Karen Abercrombie and Priscilla C. Shirer in War RoomFriday, August 28, 10 a.m.-ish: The day begins with the pro-faith drama War Room, in which a harried working mom is guided – or more accurately bullied – into surrendering to God’s will and forgiving her husband for his inattentive, verbally abusive, potentially adulterous ways. It’s kind of exactly the movie you expect. It’s also one of the most revolutionary movies of its type yet produced, because even a few years ago, it would’ve been unimaginable for a film skewing to America’s religious right to feature an African-American family at its core.

 
A Supposedly Fun Thing He’ll Never Do Again: "The End of the Tour," "Tangerine," and "The Tribe" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 23 August 2015 19:03

Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel in The End of the TourTHE END OF THE TOUR

An interviewer for Rolling Stone travels to Bloomington, Illinois, to meet his subject: an author embarking on the last leg of his book tour. They make small talk at the author’s house. They smoke incessantly. They gorge on junk food. They travel to Minnesota for a reading and radio segment. They visit the Mall of America. They catch a multiplex movie. They hang out with a couple of young women. They consume more junk food. They return to Bloomington. They part ways.

In broad outline, that is the entire plot of director James Ponsoldt’s and screenwriter Donald Margulies’ The End of the Tour. And with the possible exception of Mad Max: Fury Road, no other 2015 release, to date, has entertained, thrilled, and devastated me quite as much as this one. (The film is currently playing at Iowa City’s Marcus Sycamore Cinema.) I’ll concede that much of the reason for my enjoyment might be strictly personal, or at least intensely specific. But I also don’t think anyone needs to have been an interviewer, or an interviewee, to be dazzled by the film’s intelligence, emotional complexity, and deep empathy, or by the insight it demonstrates regarding the oddly fraught practice of the celebrity profile. You probably also don’t need to be an admirer of David Foster Wallace to find yourself frequently moved to tears, but if you are one, consider yourself warned.

 
Deputy Dogged: "Sinister 2," "Hitman: Agent 47," and "American Ultra" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Saturday, 22 August 2015 22:00

James Ransone in Sinister 2SINISTER 2

You know the feeling you get when you go to summer camp and make a great new friend, but he/she isn’t there the next summer, or the summer after that, and you end up forgetting about that friend until the next summer, when, all of a sudden, there he/she is? I don’t, because I never went to summer camp. But I’m betting that sensation is similar to what I felt in the first minutes of Sinister 2 once I recognized James Ransone, who played Ethan Hawke’s adorably dippy deputy pal in 2012’s Sinister. Although the actor has amassed a bunch of film and TV credits since then (albeit not in anything I’ve seen), I can’t say I’ve thought of him even once since the release of that low-budget horror hit. Yet the second Ransone’s character showed up in director Cirián Foy’s follow-up, with his chronic awkwardness and puppy-dog eyes and intense likability, it was like being reunited with a long-lost buddy whom you’re ashamed to have let slip away. Ransone’s presence here – as our romantic lead, no less! – was a hugely welcome surprise. That Sinister 2 didn’t at all suck might’ve been a bigger one.

 
Rap Sessions: "Straight Outta Compton" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 16 August 2015 19:22

Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown Jr.,  Jason Mitchell, O'Shea Jackson Jr., and Corey Hawkins in Straight Outta ComptonSTRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON

In the N.W.A. bio-pic Straight Outta Compton, long after the professional and personal flame-outs between Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr., playing his real-life father), the two rappers run into each other at a club, and Eazy, seeking reconciliation, tells Cube he saw him in Boyz n the Hood. Cube reminds his former friend that Eazy publicly called the movie “an after-school special,” and Eazy, knowing he’s caught, simply grins and says, “Man, you know I like after-school specials.” (As it must, this initially tense encounter ends in a hug.) Given the film’s expectedly harsh language, constant threats of violence, and poolisde and hotel-room debaucheries that only platinum-selling albums can buy, I was amazed to find its own resemblence to an after-school special the most surprising thing about director F. Gary Gray’s musical drama. But whatever – I, too, like after-school specials.

 
Septet-à-tête: "Shaun the Sheep Movie," "Ricki & the Flash," "Fantastic Four," "Irrational Man," "The Gift," "Infinitely Polar Bear," and "Amy" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 10 August 2015 07:53

Shaun the Sheep MovieYou can tell it’s August at the cineplex, not because the newly released movies are so terrible (though a couple of them definitely are), but because there are so many of them. This annual dumping-ground month for films generally considered too weak to score summer-blockbuster dollars and too insignificant to pass as autumnal prestige fare has also, in recent years, become the cinematic equivalent of a Sam’s Club or Costco: a little bit of everything, in bulk. And over four consecutive days, I caught up with seven of these debuting area titles – a collective experience that ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous ... and back to the sublime.

 
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