CVIndependent

Tue07262016

Last updateSun, 30 Aug 2015 2pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

26 Jul 2016
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There’s a truly weird story behind the real picture of Elvis Presley shaking Richard Nixon’s hand in the Oval Office—and director Liza Johnson does a funny job of telling it. One morning in December 1970, Elvis (Michael Shannon) showed up, uninvited, on the White House lawn seeking a meeting with the president. Elvis was determined to become some sort of undercover narcotics agent—prepared to bust fellow rock stars for drugs and make the entertainment world a safer place. Nixon (Kevin Spacey) begrudgingly let him in, because his kid wanted an autograph. It’s impossible to say how much of this movie is really factual, but Spacey is awesome as Nixon, while Shannon makes for a nutty, soft-spoken Elvis. The two are great in their scenes together, and the movie works as a biography for both figures. They give the icons some nice dimension within the movie’s 86-minute running time. Special Features:…
18 Jul 2016
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Writer-director John Carney, who made Once and Begin Again, has turned in another fine movie about music and relationships with Sing Street, an ’80s period piece featuring high school students forming a band. The movie is set in Dublin, where Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) has just transferred schools and is trying to fit in. Soon thereafter, he meets the beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton) and promptly asks her to be in his band’s music video. One problem: He doesn’t actually have a band. He’s forced to form one, and creates a musical unit consisting of other misfits—who join together to make some decent music. Walsh-Peelo does his own playing and singing in the film, and he’s actually pretty good. He also has a slight resemblance to Paul McCartney. The romance between Cosmo and Raphina is sweet, and the musical elements of the film feel authentic. I wouldn’t be surprised if the formation…
13 Jul 2016
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The late Anton Yelchin got one of the best roles of his career as Pat in Green Room, the nerve-shredding horror film from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin). Pat is a member of a punk band on the tail end of a lousy tour playing dive bars—and, ultimately, a skinhead bar—in the hopes of making enough money to get back home. That skinhead-bar gig pays the band members enough, but as they are heading out the door, they see something they shouldn’t—and mighty bad things happen. Confined to the green room, the band ultimately confronts Darcy (Patrick Stewart), a tired, quiet, dangerous bar owner who can’t let the band go, even though they turned in a pretty good set. The confrontation that ensues is terrifying, bloody stuff. Yelchin is his usual great self here, a fine role near the end of his fine career. Imogen Poots, Joe Cole and Alia…
01 Jul 2016
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Two Icelandic sheepherding brothers who haven’t spoken in four decades face tragedy when their neighboring herds become infected and must be slaughtered in the fantastic film Rams. Gummi (Sigurour Sigurjonsson) and Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson) have developed a rivalry over the years, with Kiddi winning local “best sheep” competitions. A jealous Gummi reports that his brother’s sheep might be ill—and the report winds up ringing true. Doctors recommend that all of the sheep in the valley be destroyed—wreaking havoc on their lives. Gummi comes up with a strange plan to salvage some of the herd, forcing Kiddi to join him on a mission to save the sheep. Writer-director Grimur Hakonarson’s hauntingly beautiful movie is a fine story of sibling rivalry. We never really find out what has caused the brotherly rift, and we don’t really need to know. The two actors (forgive me … I just don’t want to retype those…
20 Jun 2016
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After seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark, 12 year-old Eric Zala got the idea to remake the movie, shot for shot, as an experiment with his buddies. Over the course of the next six years, they did just that, doing a remarkable job of re-creating the legendary Spielberg film note for note. Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made captures the creative team as they set out to film the one shot they never got: the massive airplane explosion after the fight with the big, bald Nazi. There’s a lot of fun stuff about the making of the movie, including the time the boys almost burned a house down. They also almost burned one of the actors, and nearly suffocated another with a plaster mold on his face. Another amusing fact: They used a little puppy instead of a monkey for the infamous Nazi-salute monkey scene. The…
14 Jun 2016
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Remember when a Stephen King movie was an event? Remember when a John Cusack movie was an event? Remember 1408, the John Cusack/Stephen King movie in 2007 that was pretty badass? Well, it’s 2016 now, and Cell, the latest Cusack/King vehicle, is getting an on-demand release shortly before a limited theatrical run. Produced three years ago, this film was better off staying on the shelf: It is easily one of the worst adaptations ever of a King story. Cusack, re-teamed with his 1408 co-star Samuel L. Jackson, plays Clay, a graphic artist estranged from his wife and son. Shortly after placing a call to them on an airport payphone, Clay watches as cell-phone users spazz out and get transformed into a zombie-like state as the result of some sort of pulse sent through the phones. Director Tod Williams is utterly lost; he makes this a humorless piece of horror-satire wrought…
30 May 2016
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The second of four films in the Adam Sandler Netflix era after the horrible The Ridiculous 6 is still pretty bad moviemaking, but The Do-Over is a step in the right direction. Director Steven Brill made two of the better Sandler vehicles in Little Nicky and Mr. Deeds, and their third pairing has its moments. That’s thanks in large part to the pairing of Sandler and an effective David Spade, who is cast against type as Charlie, a nebbish nerd looking for new start on life. Sandler plays Max, who shows up at their high school reunion, takes pity on Charlie and fakes both of their deaths so they can smoke joints and drink for the rest of their lives. The plot isn’t that simple; the two wind up being pursued by a killer in a fairly funny homage to Die Hard. The film is put together better than most…
24 May 2016
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Jason Bateman follows up his strong directorial debut, Bad Words, with The Family Fang, a loopy tale about a quirky, dysfunctional family. Unfortunately, the movie never really finds its way. The film gets off to a good start as Bateman plays Baxter Fang, a down-and-out writer trying to put together his next novel who is taking odd writing jobs in the meantime. He winds up doing a feature on potato guns, and eventually gets shot in the head by one. Enter Annie Fang (Nicole Kidman), his actress sister; she used to be an indie-film queen, but she’s reached that stage in her career where taking off her clothes is mandatory. She comes home to assist Baxter, which gets them ruminating on their childhoods. Their parents, Caleb and Camille (played in their older versions by Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett), were infamous pranksters. They would stage bank robberies and other public…
16 May 2016
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Critics got all excited about The Witch, focusing on a New England family leaving a 17th century settlement to live in the woods on their own. We tend to perk up when movies are nearly perfect. As for mass audiences, not only did they stay away; I saw some pissed-off, freaked-out people walking out during screenings. Now that The Witch is out on Blu-ray and available to stream, you’ll get a new chance to be spooked by strange goats, creepy kids, way-too-religious parents and baby-mulching ghosts. In what stands as the performance of the year thus far, Anya Taylor-Joy is terrific as Thomasin, the eldest daughter of William and Katherine (Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie). She and her four siblings—eldest son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), a pair of boy and girl twins, and a toddler boy—are making do in their new surroundings. Not even 10 minutes into the movie, Thomasin loses…
09 May 2016
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Director Ben Wheatley, who made a couple of weird films with A Field in England and the brilliant horror-comedy Sightseers, gets even weirder with High-Rise, an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel about class warfare inside a high-rise building. Tom Hiddleston is Robert, a doctor who moves into the building to get a new start on life. He has an affair with the beautiful woman downstairs (Sienna Miller), makes himself some new friends, and even gets to know the building’s eccentric architect, Royal (Jeremy Irons). Things are going relatively well, other than a couple of control panels and elevators breaking in the building, when an occupant falls to his death. That sets off a chain reaction during which the tenants fall into an anarchic state. They rape; they pillage; and they paint their own apartments with no authority to do so. Wheatley’s movie has echoes of Gilliam and Kubrick, although…
03 May 2016
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Tale of Tales is one oddball movie. Imagine if David Lynch had made The Princess Bride instead of Rob Reiner. Italian director Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah, Reality) adapts three fairy tales and sort of mixes them together, creating one semi-consistent and relatively cohesive narrative. In one of the stories, John C. Reilly plays a king (he actually looks like the Burger King) who must stalk a sea monster and get its heart so that his queen (Salma Hayek) can devour it and become pregnant. In another, Toby Jones plays another king who becomes fascinated with a flea, feeding it blood and steak until it grows to the size of a large sow. In yet another, Vincent Cassel is a king who falls in love with the voice of what he thinks is a fair maiden, but it turns out to be an old lady. All of these characters share the same…
28 Apr 2016
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The Revenant didn’t win the Best Picture Oscar, but it damn well should have. Leonardo DiCaprio won a much-deserved Oscar for playing the legendary Hugh Glass, a real man who actually survived a bear attack and sought revenge from the men who left him to die. Director Alejandro G. Inarritu (winner of the Best Director Oscar two years in a row) made a film that doesn’t stick to Glass’s actual storyline all that much. (The real life guy was actually too tired to do anything to the guys when he eventually found them.) His script works in a Native American son (Forrest Goodluck) and a deranged trapper (Tom Hardy, also nominated) along with Glass’ insatiable revenge lust. DiCaprio doesn’t say much with his mouth in the movie, but he says an awful lot with those eyes. His performance is a masterwork. Equally good is Hardy, who portrays John Fitzgerald as…

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