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The "Road" Always Traveled: "Glory Road," "Hostel," and "Casanova" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 17 January 2006 18:00

Josh Lucas in Glory RoadGLORY ROAD

Is it just a coincidence, or do you think there’s an annual meeting wherein Disney shareholders tell the studio’s executives, “Bring us this year’s feel-good, triumph-of-the-underdog sports flick, and if you can find one that’s more formulaic, clichéd, and shameless than last year’s, all the better!” A couple of years back, we endured Kurt Russell guiding a bunch of interchangeable skaters to Olympic victory in the hockey drama Miracle, and my head is still reeling from the moribund sentimentality – and beyond-obnoxious miniature caddie – of The Greatest Game Ever Played, which managed to make golf look about five times less exciting than the sport’s reputation would suggest.

 
Western Union: "Brokeback Mountain" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 10 January 2006 18:00

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback MountainBROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

In Ang Lee’s agonizingly fine romantic western Brokeback Mountain, two taciturn young men – Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) – are hired, in the summer of 1963, to tend flocks of sheep on a Wyoming expanse. During the early days of their tenure, the men barely speak. Yet as the months pass, they form a solid friendship, and on one particularly cold night atop the mountain, Ennis and Jack share a bottle of whiskey and a sleeping bag, and – experiencing wordless, nearly aggressive desire – have sex. Despite the inevitability of the encounter, the sheer, naked hunger of the scene is startling, but a greater surprise comes some 20 minutes (and four years of screen time) later, in a scene so powerfully, emotionally true that – like much of Lee’s transcendently moving work – it hits like a slap in the face.

 
"Grizzly Man" Explores Nature Versus Human Nature PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 03 January 2006 18:00

Timothy Treadwell in Grizzly ManGRIZZLY MAN

When March of the Penguins became a sleeper sensation this past summer, I was pretty thrilled, and not merely because the film itself is wonderful. Documentary hounds like myself often spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to convince people that, strictly as an entertainment option, a well-made doc can be preferable – more surprising, more emotionally engaging – than most Hollywood releases, and so the emergence of this little-penguins-that-could tale as a box-office bonanza was, for many of us, cause for celebration.My hope is that those who missed March of the Penguins during its summer run will now be catching up with the film on DVD, and may even be moved to seek out other docs they’d heard of yet were unable to see theatrically. (And if this applies to you – and I promise to stop pressing this issue soon – get your hands on Murderball as soon as humanly possible.)

 
Coal in a Critic’s Christmas Stocking: "The Producers," "Fun with Dick & Jane," "Rumor Has It," "The Ringer," and "Memoirs of a Geisha" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 03 January 2006 18:00

Matthew Broderick, Will Ferrell, and Nathan Lane in The ProducersTHE PRODUCERS

Devotees of the theatre had plenty of reason to be excited about The Producers, the movie version of Mel Brooks’ stage work based on his 1968 movie. (Got that?) This tale of two Broadway crooks who plan to make a fortune on the worst musical ever conceived has been brought to the screen by the Broadway production’s director/choreographer, Susan Stroman, with all of Brooks’ musical-comedy numbers intact, and the show’s original stars, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, reprise their roles as Bialystock and Bloom. It’s enough to make a theatre fan nearly giddy with anticipation.Yet after more than two hours spent with this theatrical adaptation, I wanted nothing more than to get my ass to a movie.

 
Spielberg Takes a Riveting Trip to "Munich": Also, "The Family Stone" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 27 December 2005 18:00

Eric Bana and Geoffrey Rush in MunichMUNICH

He may be revered – and often reviled – for his sense of childlike wonder, but no Hollywood director shoots scenes of violence with the no-frills grimness of Steven Spielberg. In the helmer’s taut, ambitious Munich – which focuses on Israeli retribution for the murders of nine of their athletes at the 1972 Olympics – Spielberg, as he did in Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, doesn’t distance himself from the carnage on the screen, and doesn’t let us distance ourselves, either. There’s nothing self-consciously “artistic” about the numerous killings we’re shown here; bullets tear through flesh with terrifying force, bombs rip limbs apart, and most of these atrocities are portrayed with an almost shocking matter-of-factness – we recoil from the violence because Spielberg’s presentation of it is so intentionally artless. (The murders in Munich come off as almost painfully realistic.) Yet although Munich is a brutal work, it isn’t brutalizing; Spielberg is too much of a natural showman – and natural entertainer – for that. The film is a riveting and intelligent political thriller, and although the director can’t fully rein in his expectedly sentimental impulses, Munich is probably Spielberg’s strongest directorial accomplishment in more than a decade. It’s a gripping and, for Spielberg especially, refreshingly tough-minded piece of work.

 
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