CVIndependent

Tue09222020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

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…
18 Aug 2020
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I’m a major Ren and Stimpy Show fan. Love the first two seasons to death. Not crazy about what happened after its creator, John Kricfalusi, left the series; he didn’t make it past the second season. The quality dropped off in a big way. Also, I’m not at all happy that it turns out John K. was a pedophile—a story that came out two years ago. This new documentary, Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren and Stimpy Story, which includes John K.’s participation, wouldn’t delve into his issues with underage girls, right? That would be crazy. Surely John K. would avoid any film that paints him as the sicko that he apparently is. Right? For a large part of the 104-minute running time, it seems as if the subject won’t be breached. Directors Ron Cicero and Kimo Easterwood interview John K. and his colleagues about his rise and fall in…
10 Aug 2020
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I’ve been bitching about the Go-Go’s not being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for years. They should’ve been first-ballot inductees, but nope; Bon Jovi is in there instead. Now that I’ve ranted, let me tell you about The Go-Go’s, a super-fine documentary from director Alison Ellwood that covers the band from its punk-rock days up until the present. Yes, the group only made four albums, but when you are talking about trailblazers, you have to put the Go-Go’s at the forefront of rock ’n’ roll history. The first all-female band that played their own instruments to have a No. 1 album (the classic Beauty and the Beat) started in the Los Angeles punk-rock scene—and they were one sloppy band. Belinda Carlisle and Jane Wiedlin were part of the original group, with Charlotte Caffey (guitar/keyboards), bassist Kathy Valentine and drummer Gina Schock joining soon thereafter. After witnessing a…
03 Aug 2020
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The new Disney+ series Muppets Now—the umpteenth incarnation of the Muppets on TV—proves to be a good one, with Kermit and pals assimilating into the world of Zoom and cooking-competition shows. The premise is simple: Kermit presides over a different kind of show, one in which he remains the emcee, and Scooter continues as a stage manager, of sorts. But this time, Kermit is hosting things on a Zoom-like platform, while Scooter labors away trying to upload show elements on time to the satisfaction of Miss Piggy, Gonzo, etc. It may sound trite and unoriginal, but the writing and flow turn out to be perfect fits for Muppet sensibilities. I’m four episodes in—the show is being released to the public in weekly installments, and the first of six first-season episodes was released July 31—and they get progressively funnier. Human guests such as Linda Cardellini and Taye Diggs are fun, but…
27 Jul 2020
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Dave Franco, brother of James, makes his directorial debut (and also co-wrote the screenplay) with The Rental, a serviceable slasher film that proves the newbie director can successfully create a creepy vibe. The film isn’t all that original, and you won’t feel any major sense of surprise when the story ends. You might, however, refrain from renting a vacation home on the Oregon coast anytime soon. Charlie and Michelle (Dan Stevens and Alison Brie) are looking to get away for the weekend. They rent a fancy house and bring along Charlie’s brother, Josh (Jeremy Allen White), and Josh’s girlfriend, Mina (Sheila Vand), for company. After an awkward meeting with the caretaker (Toby Huss, amassing a nice horror-film resume with this and the recent Halloween), the weekend gets off to a pleasant-enough start. Then the drugs come out … and bad things happen. When Mina discovers a camera in the shower,…
21 Jul 2020
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When Apple bought the distribution rights to Greyhound, the new Tom Hanks movie, and announced the film would be released via Apple TV+, my first thought was: “It must suck!” This knee-jerk reaction was due in part to the utter disaster that is Artemis Fowl, the big-budget shitshow that Disney+ “gifted” to us as a streaming choice during the pandemic. That happened because the film was clearly terrible, and sending it to the streaming service had the appearance of a grand gesture during “these unprecedented times.” (Ugh … I’m getting really tired of those three words.) Fortunately, Greyhound, with the screenplay penned by Hanks himself, is a solid World War II thriller that actually seems better-suited for home viewing: It’s not a grand-enough spectacle to cut it as a blockbuster, but it is a solid 91 minutes spent in close quarters with the most famous person yet to catch the…
14 Jul 2020
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The Outpost—based on a real-life battle that took place at an American base poorly placed in the middle of a mountainous Afghanistan—is a harrowing and frustrating experience. The frustration is not the result of bad filmmaking—quite the contrary, because the film is superbly directed by Rod Lurie. It’s frustrating because you know American soldiers were dropped into a situation in which they would surely be ambushed—a modern-day Little Bighorn. The battle they had to fight occurred under appalling circumstances that should’ve been avoided. Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha (Scott Eastwood, son of Clint) and his fellow soldiers are hunkered down at Combat Outpost Keating, a base located at the bottom of mountains in Kamdesh, Afghanistan. In a frightening, foreshadowing moment, an American soldier looks at the camp through the sights of his rifle while on patrol in the mountains above, and accurately narrates the sort of attack Taliban soldiers will mount…
13 Jul 2020
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Will Ferrell used to be a sure-fire comedy guarantee: There was a stretch when it seemed he could do no wrong. Alas, that stretch is long behind him now, and Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga continues his recent streak of lousy-to-mediocre films. This one falls somewhere in the realm of mediocre. On the eve of the infamous Eurovision contest—the song competition that birthed the career of ABBA in real life—Lars (Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), lifelong friends and members of the rock-duo Fire Saga, are taking one last bid at fame. However, they are terrible, and are hated by most of the people in their Icelandic hometown, including Lars’ father (Pierce Brosnan). A tragic boating accident thrusts them into the competition in which they represent their country—and many unfunny musical sequences ensue. Ferrell’s wigged schtick grows tired early on—and since the film is two-plus hours long, we…
07 Jul 2020
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A confession: I didn’t like Hamilton the first time I watched it on Disney+. The music felt unoriginal; Lin-Manuel Miranda’s face and voice were annoying me; and I had problems following the plot. But … I loved the ending, and really liked the women in the show, especially Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton. I liked those so much that it made me ponder whether I had made some sort of mistake. So, I waited a couple of days and watched it again. During that second viewing, I loved Hamilton from start to finish—and Miranda grew on me to the point that I found him adorable. I am not sure what happened the first time; perhaps I was distracted, or perhaps I was just grouchy. (These are tough times, after all.) This sort of thing has happened to me only a couple of times over 25 years of film reviewing. (I…

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