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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.

 
Monkey Shines: "King Kong" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 20 December 2005 18:00

Naomi Watts and King KongKING KONG

The most telling detail in Peter Jackson’s grand, overlong, monstrously enjoyable King Kong remake is, considering the scope of this production, a relatively minor one. Having been captured by the natives of Skull Island, the ingénue Ann (Naomi Watts) is presented – tied and shrieking – as a sacrifice/gift to the enormous ape, who emerges from the jungle, frees Ann from her bindings, and grasps her in his giant paw. (Kong doesn’t grace the scene until roughly an hour into the movie, and the moments leading up to his arrival are a miracle of sound design and visual suggestion; Kong’s appearance is absolutely worth waiting for.) Like a petulant toddler who doesn’t want to share his toy, Kong quickly races back to his jungle retreat with his new plaything in hand, and the force and velocity of the ape’s movements make Ann resemble nothing so much as a human rag doll, her body limp and her limbs flailing.

 
The Perils of Art Films and the DVD Experience: "Yes," "Palindromes," and "The Ballad of Jack & Rose" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 20 December 2005 18:00

Joan Allen in YesLast week, I received an e-mail from a reader asking whether I thought Ang Lee’s wildly acclaimed Brokeback Mountain would be playing in the area any time soon. She also referenced Capote and The Squid & the Whale – two other small-scale, independently financed films with a whole slew of end-of-the-year accolades and no current release date set for Quad Cities venues – and concluded her correspondence with a cry often heard from we Midwestern art-film fans: “Are we not grown-up enough to see these films?”

 
For the Children, or Merely Childish?: "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe" and "Syriana" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Tuesday, 13 December 2005 18:00

Tilda Swinton and Skandar Keynes in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, & the WardrobeTHE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, & THE WARDROBE

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe, director Andrew Adamson’s imagining of the first book in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series, is almost childishly clunky, but it’s nearly impossible to dislike. Geared, as it appears, toward a very young audience – I’d say seven or eight – the movie is sweet, and it’s sincere, and it displays a welcome touch of fairy-tale simplicity. Despite the rather prosaic nature of its presentation, Narnia is one of those movies that, if it catches children at the right age, might linger in their memories for some time to come; it’s just magical enough to suggest how magical it should have been. For kids who are finally seeing their beloved Narnia novel translated to the big screen, Adamson’s Narnia will be good enough. It just doesn’t have much to offer the rest of us. Adamson is co-director of the Shrek movies, and he does a fair enough job with the movie’s CGI wonders; the lion Messiah Aslan (voiced, to the surprise of no one, by Liam Neeson) moves with regal grace, and the beavers who accompany the Pevensie children on their quest seem to be, for kids in the audience, enjoyably frisky characters. But all throughout the film, I had the nagging feeling that, if he was allowed, Adamson would have happily computer-generated his humans, too.

 
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