Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

16 Nov 2020
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Anya Taylor-Joy is as powerful as rocket fuel in The Queen’s Gambit, an incredibly good Netflix miniseries—essentially a 400-minute movie that makes chess the coolest thing on the planet. Joy plays Beth Harmon, a young orphan in the 1950s and ’60s (well-played by Isla Johnston before Beth grows up) who takes to playing chess with the janitor at her school (Bill Camp … man, I just love Bill Camp). The diversion turns into an obsession—one that leads Beth to world chess championships. Chess films have been compelling—but never quite like this. Each of Gambit’s seven episodes mixes masterful drama—Beth has her share of issues, including drug and drinking problems—with the stellar staging of chess matches. The movie will make you want to run to your nearest store (or Amazon) to get yourself a chess set. The miniseries—besides being a powerful showcase for Joy and the game—stands as a wonderful testament…
10 Nov 2020
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A couple of years ago, an actor/writer/director named Jim Cummings blew me away with his Thunder Road, one of the best films of 2018. In it, Cummings played a troubled cop whose life goes to shit after the death of his mother. Now comes The Wolf of Snow Hollow, a solid follow-up that doesn’t quite rise to the heights of Thunder Road—but it does show that Cummings has some good ideas left to share onscreen. The film (which he again writes, directs and stars in) takes on the horror genre from one of its more inconsistent angles: the werewolf movie. There are not a lot of great werewolf movies out there, so this one finishes in the top half of the Werewolf Movie Genre List quite easily. Cummings plays a sheriff dealing with deteriorating relationships, a dying father (the great Robert Forster, in one of his final roles) and substance…
02 Nov 2020
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Given the year we are all having, it’s a fantastic time to watch a movie in which a deranged reporter from Kazakhstan offers up his young daughter as a gift to Mike Pence while wearing a Trump costume. Why? It’s a shitshow that encapsulates the madness we continue to endure deep into 2020. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a fine continuation of the madness Sacha Baron Cohen unleashed on the world with his original film 14 years ago. (That’s right … 14 YEARS AGO. Can you believe it?) This time out, instead of driving an ice cream truck with a big hairy guy and a bear, Borat is trekking across the country with his 15-year-old daughter (a very funny Maria Bakalova) in tow. This, of course, presents an entirely different dynamic. Borat doesn’t know his “not a son” well, and he has difficulty treating her with respect—like allowing her to live…
27 Oct 2020
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Yes, the pandemic has been awful for cinema. A lot of big movies have been pushed off into Whatever Land as far as their release dates—and here in Riverside County, indoor theaters are closed again due to increasing COVID-19 cases, after being open for just a few weeks. But even before this all started, there was a significant push for smaller, artier films to find their way to streaming services, rather than going all-in on a theatrical release. That trend has continued over the last year, with Amazon, Netflix, Apple TV, and Disney+ either streaming films exclusively, or streaming them along with limited theatrical releases. The latest example of this is On the Rocks, which enjoyed a limited theatrical release before quickly making its way to Apple TV+. The film has Bill Murray and writer/director Sofia Coppola joining forces again—which raises expectations, because their Lost in Translation is one of…
20 Oct 2020
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After a long period that once included Steven Spielberg announced as its director, The Trial of the Chicago 7 has finally seen the light of day, with writer Aaron Sorkin also directing, and a decent cast including Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance. Unfortunately, the cast can’t overcome a rote script. The 1968 Democratic Convention was a real mess. Police clashed with protestors in Chicago, and seven people—including Abbie Hoffman (Cohen), Tom Hayden (Redmayne), Black Panther leader Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong)—ended up on trial for allegedly masterminding the madness. Sorkin’s film re-creates the trial with a particularly strong performance by Rylance as defense attorney William Kunstler, going against prosecutor Richard Schultz, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Frank Langella plays prickly Judge Julius Hoffman—and the whole thing winds up being a standard courtroom drama, with some pretty bad wigs. The riots are shown in…
12 Oct 2020
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Good news, Sandler fans! You can file his latest “stupid” movie in the file “Stupid Sandler Films That Are Fun and Not Torturous!” It’ll go in that file with the likes of Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison and, my personal fave, Little Nicky. (Nothing in Sandler comedies beats Henry Winkler covered in bees … nothing!) Hubie Halloween was directed by Steven Brill, who also directed Nicky and Mr. Deeds. Is it one of the best dumb Sandler movies? Well, no. It’s somewhere in the middle—not as good as Gilmore; just as good as The Waterboy; and definitely better than painful shit like The Ridiculous 6 and Jack and Jill. Sandler plays Hubie, a safety-obsessed, Halloween-loving town resident with a speech pattern similar to the one he fashioned for The Waterboy. Halloween is coming; Hubie wants to help keep things safe with his super-Thermos—and he has eyes for Violet Valentine. Considering that…
05 Oct 2020
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Millie Bobby Brown shines as the title character in Enola Holmes, a bubbly, fun detective yarn that gives the little sister of Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) her own vehicle. Let’s hope it’s the first of many such mysteries. Brown, who has been gloomy in most of her biggest roles thus far (Stranger Things, Godzilla: King of the Monsters), gets to show she’s a full-force movie star with complete control of the camera. The movie has her talking to the camera, à la Ferris Bueller, at many turns, and it works like a charm. The film’s mysteries, involving Enola’s missing mother (Helena Bonham Carter) and a runaway boy (Louis Partridge), are fine as starters, but the film is more of a place-setter for future installments than anything else. Cavill adds class as Sherlock, imbibing his few scenes with plenty of oomph, but never stealing them from the movie’s true star. Brown—who…
22 Sep 2020
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Some movies are made to make viewers miserable. It’s what they set out to do, and if done well, cinema geeks such as myself will tip our hats to them. The Devil All the Time is one of those movies. It’s an ugly film—and it’s supposed to be. I understand that a lot of people do not need this sort of movie in their lives right now. I, for one, found it a mildly rewarding viewing experience, even though I had to take two showers afterward. The film starts in World War II, where soldier Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgard) makes a discovery that will pretty much fuck him up for the rest of his life. Upon returning stateside, he tries to live the American life: He gets married to Charlotte (Haley Bennett) and has a boy named Arvin (Tom Holland, when the character grows up). Try as Willard might to…
16 Sep 2020
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5 out of 5 stars Charlie Kaufman (writer of Being John Malkovich) directs and writes the adapted screenplay for I’m Thinking of Ending Things, a nice puzzler of a movie that will have you debating its plotline with friends for days. On the heels of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet—which is not yet out in the Coachella Valley, but it will be … I promise—September is proving to be a fine month for moviegoers who like their films intelligently convoluted and crazy. Young Woman (the amazing Jessie Buckley) is going on a strange date with her strange boyfriend, Jake (the equally amazing Jesse Plemons). They take a road trip in a snowstorm to meet Jake’s parents, even though Young Woman—as the title of the film suggests—is apparently thinking of ending things with Jake. They have bizarre conversations during which their moods change in a snap, and their visit with the parents (Toni…
07 Sep 2020
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(4 1/2 of 5 stars) While the trailer for Ted Lasso makes it look like a lame coach comedy à la The Mighty Ducks or Kicking and Screaming, this new Apple TV+ series is so much more. That’s mainly because it has Saturday Night Live alum Jason Sudeikis at its center as the title character. He’s an American college football coach hired by Rebecca (the amazing Hannah Waddingham), a scheming English soccer-team owner, to coach a game he knows nothing about. Her plan is to sabotage the team, beloved by her ex-husband, by putting it into the hands of a doofus. Ted proves to be anything but. There’s a never-ending joy to Sudeikis and his Ted, and it’s never one-note. Ted, in England and out of his element, is going through marital problems back home and is terrified of many things under the surface. His performance is multi-dimensional, as is…
31 Aug 2020
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It’s been nearly 30 years since Bill and Ted of San Dimas, Calif., went to hell, played Twister with Death, and supposedly saved the world with a sorta-crappy song that was actually performed by Kiss. Now, after many failed attempts, we’ve finally gotten a third Bill and Ted film, in which the middle-aged dudes are grappling with parenthood, marital troubles and a killer robot. Was it worth the wait? Yeah, sure. If that doesn’t seem like a resounding endorsement, that’s because it isn’t. This film sometimes feels flat, with Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) at the helm, and the writers of the first two films returning for a third go. Alex Winter is back as Bill, and he basically steals the film from Keanu Reeves as Ted, who doesn’t seem to be feeling the joy this time out. I thought they’d saved the world with “God Gave Rock and Roll to…
25 Aug 2020
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I’m two episodes into HBO’s Lovecraft Country, and I’m not entirely sure what’s going on yet with this nutty show—but I sure do like it. From the creative minds of Misha Green and Jordan Peele comes this twisty, screwy and scary series that mixes 1950s racism in America with H.P. Lovecraft-style horror. Atticus (Jonathan Majors), a Black veteran returning from war, goes on a search for his missing father with his uncle (Courtney B. Vance) and childhood friend (Jurnee Smollett, my new favorite actress). Their search leads them to Lovecraft Country, a Southern region rife with racism (as was H.P. Lovecraft himself) and, as you find out at the end of Episode 1, crazy beasts right out of a Lovecraft story. It’s an insane mix; one moment, people are dancing to the blues in a crowded Southern street. In the next, they are fighting crazed vampire-like monsters in a secluded…

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