CVIndependent

Thu04272017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

17 Apr 2017
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Adam Sandler’s third movie with Netflix is the very definition of overindulgence. There’s a decent movie in here from director Steven Brill, who worked with Sandler previously on Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds and The Do-Over—but Sandy Wexler is a mess obscured by too many subplots. Sandler stars as the title character, a talent manager trying to find new clients in the 1990s. After working with low-level comedians and daredevils, Sandy finds Courtney Clarke (Jennifer Hudson), an amusement-park performer with a stunning voice. Sandy takes charge of her career, and sends her on a superstar trajectory. Of course, Sandler creates one of his weirdo characterizations, with a goofy voice and strange mannerisms. While some of the 1990s jokes involving Fruitopia, Arsenio Hall and the Atkins Diet are funny, Sandler and Brill take the movie off into a strange, unlikely romance realm that destroys all of the fun. The movie is supremely…
11 Apr 2017
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The Void is a throwback to John Carpenter/Clive Barker horror films that’s completely insane, horribly acted—and a whole lot of fun for anybody who likes their horror served up with a side of cheese. A brash policeman (Aaron Poole) picks up a stranger on the side of the road and takes him to a sparsely populated hospital (shades of Halloween 2). While there, a possessed nurse (shades of Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness) murders a patient, then promptly turns into a messed-up monster (shades of Carpenter’s The Thing) while the hospital is besieged by a zombie-like throng of people dressed in white cloaks (shades of Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13). Shortly thereafter, the head doctor dies, but comes back, promptly skins himself and unleashes a world down below filled with mutants (shades of Barker’s Hellraiser). That’s just some of the homages, and they all come together … to make little or…
03 Apr 2017
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Dave Chappelle returned to the spotlight a few months back when he hosted Saturday Night Live—and reminded us all that he’s one of the greatest comics working today. His monologue was a thing of beauty. With his two new standup specials currently streaming on Netflix, Chappelle proves he is actually one of the best comics to ever pick up a microphone: These are two solid gigs packed with nasty, hard hitting, brilliant humor. The two specials have similar feels, so you are safe watching them back to back and treating them as one. Chappelle shames the likes of Bill Cosby and O.J. Simpson in ways they truly deserve, while his takes on marriage and some of his own wild public moments are side-splittingly hilarious. These shows represent a man at the top of his craft. Chappelle joins the ranks of George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks and Louis C.K. in…
27 Mar 2017
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Writer-director Sean Byrne follows up his very good horror debut, The Loved Ones, with The Devil’s Candy, a piece of heavy-metal nastiness. Jesse (an unrecognizable Ethan Embry), a starving artist, and his wife, Astrid (Shiri Appleby), are moving into a new house, bought for a dirt-cheap price, with daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco). However, they soon find out that the couple who lived there before died in some sort of accident. After moving in, a super-creepy guy (Pruitt Taylor Vince), a former inhabitant of the house, shows up on the doorstep looking to move back in. Naturally, Jesse says no—and, of course, creepy guy doesn’t give up. Byrne sets his story to heavy-metal music, with Jesse’s family being devout followers of Metallica; Vance’s creepy guy also needs to play metal at night on his guitar to drown out the voice of the devil. If devil movies give you enjoyable heebie-jeebies (like,…
20 Mar 2017
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Moonlight is the little film that could. It basically came out of nowhere to upset La La Land at this year’s Oscars and take the Best Picture award. Did Moonlight deserve it? Well, no. It’s a very good movie, but La La Land, Manchester by the Sea and even The Witch were better films. That’s not to say it wasn’t deserving of the nominations for Best Picture and in some acting categories. The sophomore feature from director Barry Jenkins is indeed a thing of beauty. A young boy grows into a man in the film’s three parts, and Jenkins cast the roles perfectly. Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes all play the central character at different ages, and they are all spectacular. The movie had one of 2016’s best ensemble casts. It’s also a very good-looking movie, beautifully shot and edited. Mahershala Ali, the Oscar winner for Best…
14 Mar 2017
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If you missed the first season of Love, an excellent romantic comedy series on Netflix, get on it. It’s a true gem. Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust are back for a second season as Mickey and Gus, one of the most realistically clumsy couples ever depicted on film. Mickey is a drug and sex addict, while Gus is a nebbish nerd tutoring movie stars. They look like a strange, impossible couple, and they pretty much are—but they are also sweet together in a dysfunctional way, with Jacobs and Rust setting off constant comedy fireworks. Claudia O’Doherty is consistently hilarious as Mickey’s roomie, Bernie. This has the feel of some of the better movies by Judd Apatow, who is a co-creator of the show—yet it just keeps on going and going. Season 2 is already up on Netflix, available for binge watching, while Season 3 has already been announced. The ballad…
22 Feb 2017
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Four women write and direct short films in horror anthology XX. Most notably, Annie Clark of the band St. Vincent (My hero!) makes her film-directorial debut with a segment called The Birthday Party, in which a frantic mom (Melanie Lynskey) panics when she finds a corpse just before her child’s birthday celebration. The segment looks great, is acted well, and features some great sound—including St. Vincent music. As a piece of horror, it’s a bit of a failure (it’s more jokey than horror), but the segment does show that Clark can direct performances and pull together the technical parts. It’s just not all that scary. Things get creepier in an Evil Dead sort of way with Don’t Fall, in which desert campers come into contact with demonic forces after seeing some sketches on a stone wall. There isn’t much of a story to the segment, but the scares come fast…
07 Feb 2017
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Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet begins with Sheila (Drew Barrymore)—a real estate agent along with her husband, Joel (Timothy Olyphant)—getting a little stomachache. That’s followed by some major projectile vomiting during a house showing. She’s having diet problems … and, as things turn out, she’s craving human flesh. And that human flesh needs to be fresh. Basically, she’s a zombie, and Joel is doing his best to be understanding about the whole thing. When Sheila eats one of their co-workers, however, things get a little intense. Barrymore and Olyphant make for a funny, bizarre couple. Olyphant seems a little out of place in the first episode or two, but he finds his footing and hits his stride. Liv Hewson is a good find as their daughter, Abby, while Skyler Gisondo adds a nice geek element as the helpful neighbor who knows all about zombies from his comic books. The show is…
01 Feb 2017
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While Giovanni Ribisi capably stars as the title character in the new Amazon series Sneaky Pete, the reason you will probably turn this one on is the return of Bryan Cranston to TV. Cranston is a co-creator and supporting actor in this funny, original story about a con man (Ribisi) who assumes the identity of his cellmate and goes to live with the cellmate’s family upon his release from prison. He finds himself involved in the family’s bail-bond company, while trying to elude a crime lord (the always-awesome Cranston) to whom he owes money. The pilot is good, but the show really takes off in the following couple of episodes. Cranston has a flashback scene that rivals the great work he did on Breaking Bad. It’s that good. Ribisi makes for a great central character, but the show goes into the stratosphere when Cranston shows up. The first, 10-episode season…
17 Jan 2017
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Neil Patrick Harris triumphs as the evil Count Olaf in Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, the latest adaptation of the darkly comic children’s books (previously made into a movie starring Jim Carrey in the Olaf role). The film was good, but this show is better, with the first two episodes directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, former cameraman for the Coen brothers and director of Men in Black and The Addams Family. The TV version is far more twisted, and Harris’ Olaf is a dastardly villain. He’s also really, really funny. The plot involves the truly sad and depressing story of orphaned children forced to live with Olaf as he tries to steal their inheritance. Patrick Warburton is a deadpan delight as Lemony Snicket, alleged writer of the “true” story and the narrator. The kids, led by Malina Weissman as Violet and Louis Hynes as Klaus, are perfect. Baby Sunny, played…
10 Jan 2017
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Tower, a documentary about the 1966 tower shooting at the University of Texas, takes a unique approach by using rotoscope-type animation and performers, combined with archival footage and interviews. The words said by the performers are actual words taken from interviews with real survivors—who are also featured in the movie, non-animated. It’s a fascinating approach by director Keith Maitland, and it’s very effective. The lone Texas gunman took the lives of 16 people (plus an unborn child), while injuring many others. The film goes into great detail about the events of that day, as well as the aftermath. Unfortunately, this horrible incident at the University of Texas proved to be just the start of a horrible, continuing trend: In the 50 years since this happened, many more mass shootings have occurred on American campuses. The movie is one of the 2016’s best documentaries. Tower is available via online sources including…
02 Jan 2017
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Barry is the second film released in 2016 to depict a young Barack Obama—and it’s not nearly as good as the first (Southside With You). Devon Terrell makes his screen debut as Barry (Barack) Obama, a young man introducing himself to New York City and Columbia University back in 1981. Director Vikram Gandhi shows the young Barry smoking a lot, drinking bad beer and sharing his weed. (We don’t actually see him smoking weed, although a friend takes one of his joints out of an ashtray.) The movie establishes Barry as a normal college kid trying to fit in. One of the film’s main subplots is his romance with a fellow student named Charlotte (Anya Taylor-Joy). All this subplot does is make young Barry look like a total douchebag, as he leads on a perfectly nice girl who loved him, and leaves her stranded at a family wedding. It would…

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