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Ridley’s Believe It or Not: "The Martian" and "Sicario" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Schulz   
Saturday, 03 October 2015 16:01

Matt Damon in The MartianTHE MARTIAN

If you, too, are a devotee of Ridley Scott’s Alien, you’ll no doubt remember how its title came into view during the opening credits: as a series of vertical, diagonal, and horizontal white lines that slowly appeared, beginning with the “I,” one or two at a time until the capitalized “ALIEN” was wholly spelled out. Thirty-six years later, the title for Scott’s sci-fi tale The Martian is revealed in the exact opposite manner: as a full, capitalized “THE MARTIAN” that gradually fades away, one portion at a time, until only the “I” remains.

Obviously, that disappearing act is a decidedly minor touch, especially in a film that runs just shy of two-and-a-half hours. But it might also be Scott’s most quietly clever touch, and not merely because The Martian’s chief narrative concerns an “I” that winds up left all alone. By offering a literal reverse of his 1979 achievement’s opener, Scott seems to be suggesting, with an wink, that his new endeavor will be 180 degrees removed from the claustrophobic, stomach-bursting horror of Alien, and that proves decidedly to be the case. While this adaptation of Andy Weir’s bestseller (with its script by Drew Goddard) does share some of Alien’s themes, principally the life-and-death imperatives behind deep-space problem-solving, Scott’s latest is expansive instead of spare, chatty instead of terse, heartening instead of nihilistic. It’s also, far and away, and from beginning to end, the most sheerly likable movie Ridley Scott has yet made – an exciting, moving, and altogether glorious sci-fi bear hug that leaves you feeling almost ridiculously happy. Given a career that’s found him exploring every conceivable shade of dark, it turns out that Scott looks pretty great in the light.

Mime on Wire: "The Walk," "Tiny Giants 3D," and "Hell & Back" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Schulz   
Saturday, 03 October 2015 15:55

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The WalkTHE WALK

There have been verified reports of patrons vomiting during the last half hour of The Walk, director Robert Zemeckis’ big-budget take on Philippe Petit’s famed 1974 high-wire trek between Manhattan’s Twin Towers, a tale previously recounted in James Marsh’s Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire. The response of those patrons is understandable; as a lifelong sufferer of vertigo – especially when those vertiginous heights are around 1,368 feet above street level – I did have to look at the cineplex floor a few times to steady my nerves. But in the end, my senses of profound terror, anxiety, and euphoria at Zemeckis’ cinematic feat proved worth the discomfort. I only wish I could say the same for the movie’s first 90 minutes, which could easily provoke vomiting among those, like myself, who gag at the mere thought of revisiting Amélie.

Now Playing: Friday, October 2, through Thursday, October 8 PDF Print E-mail
Now Playing
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 07:30

The MartianFor show schedule information, visit:

61 Drive-in Theatre, Delmar

Blue Grass Drive-in, Blue Grass

FilmScene, Iowa City

Marcus Sycamore Cinema, Iowa City

Putnam Museum, Davenport

Rave Cinemas Davenport 53rd 18 + IMAX, Davenport

Regal Moline Stadium 14, Moline


(Hyperlinked titles take you to Mike Schulz's full reviews; the IMDb hyperlinks take you to the films' Internet Movie Database pages.)

Driving Miss Dizzy: "The Intern," "The Green Inferno," and "Hotel Transylvania 2" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 27 September 2015 14:33

Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway in The InternTHE INTERN

Older audiences deserve comforting, pandering crap as much as everyone else, so I probably shouldn’t be too hard on The Intern, especially because, with Nora Ephron’s passing, writer/director Nancy Meyers is pretty much carrying the torch for Hollywood’s all-too-rare female-centric dramedies detailing the personal costs of Having It All. But I’m going to be hard on it anyway, given that Meyers’ mildly insulting sitcoms about strong, successful career women who are only truly fulfilled after Finding the Right Man are usually buoyed by ace performances (Something’s Gotta Give’s Diane Kaeaton and Jack Nicholson; It’s Complicated’s Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin), and this film just doesn’t have ’em.

Johnny B. Bad: "Black Mass" and "Grandma" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Schulz   
Saturday, 19 September 2015 19:40

Johnny Depp in Black MassBLACK MASS

There’s a scene in the gangster thriller Black Mass that should sound bells of recognition for all fans of the genre. In it, legendary crime lord James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) and some friends are enjoying a dinner prepared by one of Bulger’s associates: FBI agent John Morris (David Harbour). Bulger compliments Morris on their steaks and asks what seasoning was used, to which the agent replies that it’s a secret family recipe whose ingredients, upon further pressing, he genially reveals. That’s when Bulger seems to snap.

His smile curls into a frown, his eyes go deader than usual, and he calmly inquires of Morris that if the agent is willing to share this “family secret” so quickly, what other secrets – perhaps secrets about Bulger – might he have shared? During the unbearably thick silence that follows, Morris and his tablemates appear nearly frozen with panic. Bulger, meanwhile, stares and stares, and we in the audience prepare for an inevitable, horrific burst of violence. And then ... Bulger laughs. A lot. Exclaiming “You should see your face!”, he insists he was just busting Morris’ balls. Very slowly, the others begin to smile, and then they, too, laugh. And as this sensationally tense sequence ends on a note of cautious cheer, it’s impossible to ignore the suggestion of what we just witnessed: GoodFellas with Johnny Depp in the Joe Pesci role. All that was missing was the psychotic query “I’m funny how?!"

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