‘Jobs’ is technical, ‘Kick-Ass 2’ is maniacal and ‘Butler’ is substantial in theaters

Among the new movies that were released Friday, Aug. 16 in theaters throughout the Valley are a biographical drama in which Ashton Kutcher plays a computer genius, a sequel in which a bunch of everyday men and women play superheroes and another biographical drama in which Forest Whitaker plays a White House butler.

The Canyons

James Deen plays a calculating young movie producer who discovers that his actress girlfriend (Lindsay Lohan) has been hiding an affair with an actor from her past, leading the young Angelenos into a violent, sexually-charged tour through the dark side of human nature. Playing exclusively at Harkins Valley Art. (NR – 100 minutes)

Some of the best movies of all time have been adapted from Bret Easton Ellis’ novels, including “American Psycho” and “The Rules of Attraction.” Therefore, it is somewhat surprising that the author has not had the same success upon penning his own screenplays. 2009’s “The Informers” was exceptionally shallow; but at least it starred several skilled actors, which is more than one can say about “The Canyons” – an original feature from Ellis that is plastic, pretentious and unpleasant. The new cinematic castigation against Hollywood’s only claim to fame is casting Lindsay Lohan in a lead role, where she overdramatizes every line as if her parole depended on it. (Thumbs Down!)

Dealin’ with Idiots

Jeff Garlin plays a famous comedian who, faced with the absurd competitiveness surrounding his son’s youth league baseball team, decides to get to know the colorful parents and coaches of the team better in an attempt to find the inspiration for his next movie. Playing exclusively at Harkins Shea 14. (NR – 86 minutes)

Aside from a small handful of inspired moments that mirror the deadpan sense of humor of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Dealin’ with Idiots” is mostly unfunny and annoying. After all, the thing that makes “Curb Your Enthusiasm” work so well is its relatability. Yet writer/director/star Jeff Garlin instead injects this feature-length comedy with characters and situations that are so extreme that viewers cannot possibly identify with any of it. Everything is exaggerated even though the natural altitude of absurdity in circumstances surrounding so-called soccer moms and dads is already astonishing enough. (Thumbs Down!)

Jobs

Ashton Kutcher portrays Steve Jobs, the original innovator and ground-breaking entrepreneur who let nothing stand in the way of greatness, blazing a trail that changed technology – and the world – forever. (PG-13 – 102 minutes)

“Jobs” is an extraordinary story told in an extremely ordinary way. Star Ashton Kutcher turns in a fine performance portraying late Apple, Inc. Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO Steve Jobs, but the film itself is too fixated on the man’s company and not nearly enough on the man – which is ironic seeing as the same criticism could be said of Jobs himself. The end-result is a movie that is a tad too technical for anyone other than those viewers who not only can but choose to “build” their own computers but it is still worth seeing if only to witness how far we have come – and how we have come so far. (Thumbs Up!)

Kick-Ass 2

Aaron Taylor-Johnson reprises his role as a costumed high-school hero, who joins with a group of normal citizens that have been inspired to fight crime. Chloë Grace Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse also reprise their roles while Jim Carrey joins the cast. (R – 113 minutes)

“Kick-Ass 2” not only possesses exceptional entertainment value; it also possesses a surprisingly strong moral fiber. The new sequel – which, by the way, is even better than its action-packed predecessor – may at least look like just a bunch of violence and vigilantism but it is actually a shrewdly delivered cinematic message about using one’s pain as a force for good. As a result, it remains a fantastically fun and frenzied film while avoiding the trappings of tawdry motion pictures whose sole purpose is to amuse audiences. Moreover, the movie gives us actor Jim Carrey’s best role in years. (Thumbs Up!)

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Forest Whitaker portrays a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. Other stars include Robin Williams, John Cusack, Alan Rickman, James Marsden and Liev Schreiber. (PG-13 – 126 minutes)

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” not only takes its viewers on a historical tour de force; it also takes them on an incredibly inspiring journey through more life-affirming themes than you can count. Using light to drive out darkness, seizing each and every single solitary day and wearing multiple masks in order to survive are among the new biographical drama’s richest lessons. Throw in a plethora of au fait performances – the most transcendent of which are James Marsden as John F. Kennedy and Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan – and you have got a movie that is as meaningful as it is enjoyable. (Thumbs Up!)

Sole Survivor

Filmmaker Ky Dickens brings together four sole survivors of commercial aviation disasters to share their very complex, personal stories for the first time. They revisit the most harrowing moments of their lives in an effort to heal and overcome their most perplexing questions. Playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. (NR – 118 minutes)

When “Sole Survivor” focuses on the philosophical themes of loss, guilt and the immense pressure of feeling “spared,” filmmaker Ky Dickens’ new documentary bringing together four sole survivors of commercial aviation disasters is emotionally and psychologically arresting. After all, these are feelings that many of us feel experience at one time or another in our lives but never nearly to the extent of the people featured in this film. However, the attention too often turns toward the physical “why” and “how” – which, although compelling questions, are not nearly as absorbing as their abstract counterparts. (Thumbs Up!)

Joseph J. Airdo

Joseph J. Airdo is a film critic, producer and on-air personality for Breakthrough Entertainment, a talk radio show airing 10-11 a.m. Saturdays on KPHX 1480 AM and BreakRadioShow.com that shines a spotlight on the practical perspectives of the topics and themes explored in movies. He has a pet duck named Frozen who is as opinionated about movies as he is. E-mail him at joseph.airdo@gmail.com.

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