CVIndependent

Fri05242019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

20 May 2019
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Mary Harron, director of American Psycho, helms Charlie Says, a film about real-life psycho Charles Manson (Matt Smith) and three female members of his “family”: Leslie Van Houten (Hannah Murray), Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendón) and Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon). Harron and longtime screenwriting partner Guinevere Turner try to take an insightful look at the three women during the early portion of their prison sentences, while utilizing flashbacks to show the buildup to the crimes that got them there. Unfortunately, the film makes the mistake of trying to portray the three women as brainwashed victims, with every line delivery accompanied by that patented Manson Family smile. The film works fairly well when showing life on the ranch with Manson, and the ways in which he manipulated those around him; the brief depiction of the murders is chilling. As for the prison scenes, during which the three women are going through a…
16 May 2019
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Writer, director and certified nutball Gaspar Noé (Enter the Void, Irreversible) makes another technically impressive movie with Climax—but this one comes up short in the narrative category. The film chronicles a crazed night for a dance troupe that winds up drinking a bowl full of sangria spiked with LSD. Rather than exploring the comedic aspects of a dance troupe freaking out, Noe goes for straight-up violent horror, and the movie doesn’t come together in the end. The audience has no emotional investment in any of these characters, so when they go from vivid (and impressive) dancing to nasty behavior, it feels hollow. Noé is interested in impressive technical feats, with numerous scenes strung together in one shot. The camera trickery is awesome, for sure, but here, it’s at the service of a generally flat, unimaginative story. Only the numerous dance scenes really pop. The setup could have elicited prime Noé…
06 May 2019
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Director Joe Berlinger is no stranger to dark subjects. He directed the documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, a movie that arguably helped release three innocent men from prison. Earlier this year, he directed Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, a four-part documentary series on the infamous serial killer. Now comes this, a narrative film about Bundy’s life, focusing on the years in which he was killing women while having a relationship with Liz Kendall (Lily Collins), a single parent he met in a bar. Zac Efron steps into the role of Bundy in a way that is downright frightening. If you mess with Efron’s hair a bit, he’s a dead-ringer for Bundy, but his work here goes well beyond physical resemblance. There was plenty of footage of Bundy for Efron to study (his murder trial was televised, a first in American history), and…
29 Apr 2019
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After his plane has crashed, Overgard (Mads Mikkelsen) must fend for himself in the Arctic—with little chance of survival. Writer-director Joe Penna makes a nice feature debut with Arctic, this man-against-nature story. This could’ve been just another plane-crash aftermath movie, but Mikkelsen makes it all work with a mostly silent performance. Overgard has a nice array of expressions, like the one he makes when he catches a giant fish, or the one he makes when he crunches on some dried oatmeal—something other than fish for the first time in many days. The plot brings in another person (Maria Thelma Smaradottir) later in the movie, but she doesn’t offer much to the goings-on. This is Mikkelsen’s movie—and that face will stick with you long after the film is over. Arctic is available on DVD and Blu-ray as of April 30; it’s also available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.
16 Apr 2019
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A film starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly used to be an event. Alas, things have changed … and I found myself—like much of the rest of the world—waiting to see Holmes and Watson on home video, because I wanted to put off what looked like a supreme letdown. Well, it’s out on home video now … and it’s indeed an extreme letdown. Ferrell is painfully unfunny as Sherlock Holmes, while Reilly fares a little better as his sidekick, Watson. Ferrell adapts a vocal affectation that more or less guarantees this period-piece comedy will be a total drag; in fact, it’s almost completely devoid of laughter. There are a couple of good jokes involving not-yet-illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin, and a gag involving a poorly placed nest of killer bees got a chortle out of me—but that’s it. Ferrell can’t get a good movie to save his life…
09 Apr 2019
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Clint Eastwood, approaching 90, directs and stars in The Mule, a messy movie done in by cutesy racism. Eastwood plays Earle, a horticulturalist and crappy family man who loses his business when people figure out they can buy flowers on the internet. He winds up running drugs in his truck for a Mexican cartel—although he does a few runs before he actually learns what his cargo is. He takes the drug money and tries to resurrect some local businesses and his family life before it all starts to fall apart. Eastwood plays the character as if his racist Gran Torino character survived, mellowed out a bit and became a drug mule. There are moments in the movie filled with racism which Eastwood strains to make funny—but they fall flat and leave a bad taste. Bradley Cooper has a smallish part as a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, and he’s easily the…
02 Apr 2019
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Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson star in Netflix film The Highwaymen as Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, two former Texas marshals who come out of retirement to help hunt the infamous Bonnie and Clyde. John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) directs from a script by John Fusco that’s a road movie, more or less, as Hamer and Gault deal with each other’s aging foibles while they hunt down two of the most notorious criminals in American history. As road movies go, it’s pretty good, with Costner playing the crustier guy to Harrelson’s quirkier guy. The movie stands as a decent companion piece to the ’67 Arthur Penn classic Bonnie and Clyde, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. In fact, I watched that one directly after this, and they fit together quite nicely. Bonnie and Clyde make brief but memorable appearances here, with Costner and Harrelson getting the vast majority of…
26 Mar 2019
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Jeff Tremaine, director of the Jackass films, tries to deliver an actual narrative movie—and bombs miserably with The Dirt, a lame Netflix biopic on Mötley Crüe. Based on the book that was written by members of the band, the film covers Mötley Crüe from its formation … and makes a mess of the whole thing. For starters, Tommy Lee lookalike Machine Gun Kelly delivers a bad performance as the iconic drummer, making him into more of a cartoon than he already is. Daniel Webber is an annoying prick as lead singer Vince Neil … but Neil is an annoying prick in real life, too, so I guess he gets a pass. Douglas Booth renders bassist Nikki Sixx boring, while Iwan Rheon is the closest thing to any fun as old, grumpy guitarist Mick Mars. I’ll confess: I’ve never liked the band. I find the music amateurish and shitty, so it…
19 Mar 2019
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Emile Hirsch and John Cusack, two actors whose careers have seen better times, star in Never Grow Old, a dark Western about a religious town visited by the devil. The devil would be Dutch Albert (Cusack), a sleazy gunslinger businessman who arrives in an old frontier town that has outlawed liquor; he promptly opens a saloon. The mayhem that follows him has a body count, and the local undertaker, Patrick (Hirsch), starts making a fine profit off all the kills. Torn between all the extra money for his family and the fact that a lot of people, including friends, are dying, Patrick starts having thoughts about rising up against Dutch—but many more will die before Patrick works up the gumption to make a move. Both actors are very good, with Cusack delivering his best work since his excellent turn in Love and Mercy. He’s played bad guys before, but this…
12 Mar 2019
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While Instant Family might have the look of a routine family comedy, it is anything but: This movie is funny from start to finish, and it packs a couple of emotional punches, too. Couple Pete and Ellie (Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne), might, just might, want kids, so they decide to look into adoption. Their quest lands them a 15-year-old foster child named Lizzy (the excellent Isabela Moner) and her two younger siblings, Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz). Everything goes just fine … until one hilariously apocalyptic scene, when Pete and Ellie are given a nice dose of parenting reality, and realize they have much to learn. Turns out Lizzy is a bit of a rebel; Lita is a screamer; and Juan is a sensitive, accident-prone little chap. Will they be willing to adopt the kids in the end? Wahlberg excels in this sort of comedy—he and director…
06 Mar 2019
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Childhood innocence, my ass. Michael Jackson was a certified creep, a sick dude with a strange agenda when it came to spending way too much time with other people’s young, impressionable children. I already felt that way about MJ going into Leaving Neverland, a two-part, four-hour documentary featuring interviews with Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, two men who knew Jackson when they were young boys—and who now both claim Jackson molested them, after years of public denials. The two men share explicit details about their nights with Jackson at his Neverland Ranch and other properties. Also featured are their mothers—two dummies who allowed their kids to sleep in the same bed as a grown man, a man who prohibited each of these women from sleeping in the same room as their child when they all stayed over. Yeah, there was nothing going on. It was all innocent. Look … there…
12 Feb 2019
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The title of The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot implies campy fun, right? The fact that it stars Sam Elliott leads to the impression that tongue-in-cheek, cult-classic adventure may be in the making, perhaps? Well, no. I’m all for a movie deviating from expectations—bring it on—but this one has no idea what it is trying to accomplish. Elliott plays an old soldier drinking his life away. Through flashbacks, we see that he was part of some covert operation to kill Hitler. That part of the movie is handled in a couple of quick, unimaginative scenes. Then … his character is approached by the government to go kill Bigfoot, because Bigfoot is spreading a disease in Canada that could wipe out the entire planet. This part of the film is also handled in a couple of scenes—flimsy ones—including Bigfoot vomiting all over Elliott. The movie actually takes itself…

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