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It Takes a Vile Witch to Raise a Child: "Mama," "Broken City," and "The Last Stand" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 20 January 2013 12:28

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jessica Chastain, Isabelle Nélisse, and Megan Charpentier in MamaMAMA

A new film titled Mama opened this past weekend, and it stars Jessica Chastain. Given the current Oscar nominee’s cinematic omnipresence over the past two years, you may be inclined to say, “Well, of course it does.” But I’m leading with that information because in addition to being almost insanely prolific, Chastain (whose recent résumé also boasts The Tree of Life, The Help, Take Shelter, and, of course, Zero Dark Thirty) is about as reliable an indicator of quality as this decade’s movies have provided. And against considerable odds, not the least being its unpromising January release date, director Andrés Muschietti’s outing is a supernatural fright flick of considerable quality – gripping and nerve-racking and sensationally well-made, and yet another showcase for Chastain’s stirring soulfulness and remarkable versatility.

 
The Needle in the Haystack: "Zero Dark Thirty," "Gangster Squad," "A Haunted House," and "Hitchcock" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 14 January 2013 12:45

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark ThirtyZERO DARK THIRTY

As an orchestrator of cinematic suspense, Kathryn Bigelow might currently be without peer in American movies. The sequences of Jeremy Renner dismantling explosives in the director’s Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker were miniature masterpieces of sustained excitement; despite our knowing, through much of the film, that it was too early for Renner’s Sergeant William James to be killed off, each masterfully shot and edited act of bomb disposal vibrated with legitimate threat. In Zero Dark Thirty – Bigelow’s and screenwriter Mark Boal’s fictionalized docu-drama about the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden – nearly every scene feels like a ticking time bomb. There is, of course, never any doubt about the narrative’s outcome, yet Bigelow’s gifts for composition and pacing ensure that you still watch the picture with rapt attention and dread. And blessedly, she’s also a spectacular entertainer. The movie is tough-minded and sometimes tough to watch, but even when Bigelow is fraying your nerves, she’s tickling your senses.

 
Vacation Daze: "The Impossible," "Promised Land," and "Texas Chainsaw" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 13:25

Naomi Watts and Tom Holland in The ImpossibleTHE IMPOSSIBLE

Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible, based on one family’s experiences in the wake of 2004’s horrific Asia tsunami, is a supremely well-designed, emotionally draining disaster tale, and its opening minutes filled me with great dread. If only that dread were caused by the approaching tsunami.

 
Vox Populi: "Les Misérables" and "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 31 December 2012 08:19

Isabelle Allen and Hugh Jackman in Les MiserablesLES MISÉRABLES

Director Tom Hooper’s take on the über-beloved musical Les Misérables is, in numerous regards, a maddeningly weak stage-to-screen transfer. Scenes have been bluntly presented with no discernible invention or style. The incessant employment of closeups creates stagnancy in sequences and numbers that beg for breathing room. The movie’s two most prominent actors are cast in roles for which they can’t nearly do vocal justice. And, so help me, I ravenously gobbled up every last, unsubtle, frequently disappointing morsel of the thing.

 
Mad About You: "Silver Linings Playbook," "Django Unchained," and "Parental Guidance" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 31 December 2012 08:13

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings PlaybookSILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook is a modern romantic comedy, which means that, in essence, its storyline would fit rather snugly alongside those of many offerings in the cinematic oeuvres of Katherine Heigl and Kate Hudson. But allow me to blow your minds with this little nugget of information: While its narrative arc may seem familiar, even insultingly so, almost nothing in the movie happens the way you think it will. Somehow, using author Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel as a blueprint, Russell has taken a tale involving two impossibly good-looking near-lovers, an emotionally distant family, and a big dance contest, and has ensured that you truly can’t predict whether the seemingly de rigueur unions and reconciliations and victories will actually transpire. What’s the deal with this Russell guy? Doesn’t he know that’s not the way things are done in Hollywood?

 
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