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Darling, I Love You, but Give Me Park Avenue: "Blue Jasmine," "The World’s End," and "You’re Next" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 25 August 2013 17:41

Cate Blanchett in Blue JasmineBLUE JASMINE

Woody Allen’s new drama Blue Jasmine is modeled, both loosely and very specifically, on Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, and if you’re familiar with that stage classic – or, really, with Williams’ oeuvre in general – you can correctly presume that the movie will not end on a note of cheer. Yet for the life of me, I couldn’t convince my face of that, because Cate Blanchett’s almost impossibly fine performance in the writer/director’s latest left me smiling so contentedly you would’ve thought the screening came with an open bar and complimentary full-body massage. Catching up with me on the way out of the auditorium, a friend, regarding Blanchett’s portrayal, said, “I think I’m gonna be high for a week.” I’m pretty sure I vocalized my agreement but was feeling too high to be certain.

 
Serving in Silence: "Lee Daniels' The Butler," "Jobs," and "Kick-Ass 2" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 19 August 2013 03:06

Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker in Lee Daniels' The ButlerLEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER

While raving to him about Lee Daniels’ The Butler – the glorious, heart-rending, hugely entertaining Civil Rights saga that may showcase the finest performance yet by star Forest Whitaker – a friend asked if it was the sort of movie that needed to be seen at the movies, or if it was something that could wait until home video. I replied that, as much as I think great films should always be seen first in as grandly scaled a format as possible, it was probably a work that wouldn’t lose much in the transition from big to smaller screen. Although director Daniels’ effort covers some 75 years of American history, with Whitaker portraying an eight-term White House servant over more than 50 of them, it’s still a rather intimate epic boasting a mostly understated visual style, and will no doubt play just fine in home-theater settings. (Actually, after the film’s “For Your Consideration” screeners are eventually sent out, I think it’s going to play awfully fine in the home-theater settings of Oscar voters. My first thought on the drive home was that even though it’s only August, this year’s Best Picture, Director, and Actor races were already all sewn up.)

 
Wheel in the Sky Keeps on Turnin’: "Elysium" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 11 August 2013 13:45

Matt Damon in ElysiumELYSIUM

In Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, the sophomore sci-fi effort from the writer/director of District 9, the Earth of 2154 is a poverty-infested hell-hole that the richest of humans have evacuated for the gleaming, rotating space habitat of the film’s title. An orbiting gated community of luxury, privilege, and (from what we can tell) almost universally white people, it’s the utopia that our hero, Matt Damon’s steelworker Max, longs to escape to, particularly after a fatal dose of radiation limits his time left on Earth to five days. (Medical advances on Elysium have eradicated disease completely; after one cycle through a futuristic CAT-scan machine, even cancer cells are killed.) The unaddressed joke of Blomkamp’s film, however, is that Elysium – with its sterile mansions and perfectly mowed lawns and vacuous non-entities sipping champagne from crystal flutes – looks like a dismally dull place to be compared to the lively, recognizably human Earth, even in its decimated state. What’s less of a joke is that Elysium itself, once we land on the titular site in its last half hour, is also dismally dull – or at least, dishearteningly formulaic – compared to the Earth-set goings-on of the film’s first 70 minutes.

 
Air, Sea, and Land Travels: "Planes," "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," and "We’re the Millers" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 11 August 2013 13:41

PlanesPLANES and PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS

From a grown-up’s perspective, I guess that as far as family entertainment at the cineplex goes, Disney’s animated Planes and the mythology adventure Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters could both be considered “harmless.” But can you really apply that adjective when something, in both movies, is indeed being killed – namely, your time?

 
Blues 2 Men: "The Smurfs 2" and "2 Guns" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 05 August 2013 04:09

Hank Azaria in The Smurfs 2THE SMURFS 2

Upon returning from my screening of The Smurfs 2, a buddy asked what I thought of the film, and I told him that Hank Azaria – the comic genius who plays the nefarious, Smurf-loathing wizard Gargamel – was awfully funny in it. My friend asked, “When isn’t he?”, and beyond the TV-movie tearjerker Tuesdays with Morrie, I couldn’t provide an example. (And in truth, at appropriate moments in his Emmy-winning dramatic turn, the actor is awfully funny in Tuesdays with Morrie.) Consequently, as he’s nearly always this inspired on-screen, Azaria’s hilariously outlandish performance probably isn’t reason enough to see director Raja Gosnell’s blue-hued sequel, at least if you don’t have small children pressuring you to do so.

If, however, you’re a childless adult who chooses to attend The Smurfs 2 anyway, your secret’s totally safe with me, because Azaria actually does make this kiddie comedy worth sitting through – though perhaps only if you catch it during bargain-matinée hours, or have a cineplex gift card that you were just gonna throw out otherwise.

 
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