Jobs. Ashton Kutcher isn’t as resourceful an actor as, say, Leo DiCaprio, but one of the minor victories of his portrayal of Steve Jobs is that, the first time you see him, you don’t think Kelso is play-acting. He’s serious in the movie, and does seriously good work with a warts-and-all portrayal that’s as much about the Apple co-founder’s need to be loved and demanding temperament as it is his innovative business acumen. As a biopic, it follows a fairly predictable arc, but its period details and passion for its subject win you over. Three stars.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler. There are lots of historical characters in The Butler, too, and the appearances of some do merit a chuckle or two (Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower?). Indeed, one problem with the film is the spot-the-cameo game you inevitably play when a movie is as chock full of major actors in minor roles as this one. (For the record, Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda as the Reagans and John Cusack as Nixon acquit themselves the best.) But get beyond that reaction and you’ll enjoy this sweeping historical epic, tracing the civil rights movement from the position of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), a go-along-to-get-along servant in the White House for seven presidencies. The Butler may be this summer’s only important film, a hybrid of The Help, Forrest Gump and The Remains of the Day, where the central character is so repressed and cautious the meaning of humanity nearly gets by him. Nearly. Still, it’s the supporting players who steal the show, especially David Oyelowo and Elijah Kelley as Cecil’s sons and Oprah Winfrey as his flawed, beset wife. Director Lee Daniels and writer Danny Strong juggle familiar territory with a fresh perspective that’s funny, horrific and inspiring, sometimes simultaneously. Four stars.
Kick-Ass 2. 2010’s Kick-Ass was a foul-mouthed, hilarious pseudo- avenger meta-movie that did to superhero flicks what Scream did for slashers. I can’t say it begged for a sequel, but I’m glad they saw a market, if only so we could watch goofy superhottie Aaron Taylor-Johnson do shirtless pull-ups. This sequel delivers a satisfying mix of humor and violence with tons of gay subtext — a supervillain costumed in fetishistic leather? A new hero, openly gay The Insect, refuses to wear a mask cuz it’s too much like being in the closet? This is comic hero magic. Three stars.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 16, 2013.