CVIndependent

Mon02272017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Reviews

23 Feb 2017
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Something in the neighborhood of $17 bazillion zillion got thrown at this movie thing called The Great Wall, a mash up of American stars and kick-ass Asian directors. That’s $17 bazillion zillion somebody would’ve been better off spending on masking tape and gummi bears. Matt Damon stars in this mess, and this may very well represent the low point of his career, a career that has included the atrocious Jason Bourne and Hereafter. He probably thought he was in safe hands, because The Great Wall is helmed by director Zhang Yimou, maker of such masterpieces as Hero, House of Flying Daggers and—one of my very favorite movies—The Road Home. Damon was probably all like, “Hey, Yimou is calling the shots. If anything, I’m going to look good in this pic!” Then … he saw his wardrobe. It begins with big furry wigs and beards, and then declines into a sad…
16 Feb 2017
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Let’s face it: The Dark Knight has been really living up to the word “dark” since Tim Burton’s Batman came out 28 years ago. He can certainly be a morose sourpuss. Wait a minute … has it really been 28 years since Burton’s Batman came out? Holy crap! I just totally freaked myself out. Hang on … I need to catch my breath and gather my thoughts. It’s been nearly three freaking decades since Nicholson played The Joker? I need to drink five beers. All right … OK, I am back. As I was saying, Batman has been a downer at the cinemas. Even when he wasn’t being quite so dour, he was just plain sucking in the Joel Schumacher Batman movies that started coming out 22 years ago. Wait a minute … did Kilmer really do Batman more than two decades ago? I think I’m having a panic attack.…
16 Feb 2017
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A whole lot of people get shot in the face in John Wick: Chapter 2, a worthy sequel to the 2014 breakout hit. A totally bummed-out Keanu Reeves returns as the lone assassin, originally brought out of retirement after somebody killed his dog and stole his car. Many deaths later, Wick is back in his stylish home, with a new (and unnamed) dog, intent upon burying his guns and taking a long break. No such luck: A man from the past shows up with a marker, giving him a killing assignment that will take him to Italy and have him face off with Common. (It turns out Common is built like The Terminator and makes a good villain. Oh, wait … he’s sort of the good guy. Wick is actually a villain.) Balletic violence begins—and never ends. This time out, Wick is wearing some sort of bulletproof lining under his…
09 Feb 2017
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After seeing Ouija: Origin of Evil last year, and being blown away by the horror sequel (which was far superior to its awful predecessor), I had newborn faith in the ability of horror sequels to entertain me when I traipsed into my local cinema to see Rings. For those of you getting your American remakes of Japanese horror classics mixed up: The Ring (remake of Ringu) back in 2002 was the one with the scary, contorted girl in a well, plus Naomi Watts. A quick scan of this sequel’s cast reveals Vincent D’Onofrio has a role in it. That’s good, right? It also has Johnny Galecki of The Big Bang Theory. Not too shabby if you like unfunny, overrated TV shows, right? So … there’s enough to think the film, directed by F. Javier Gutiérrez, has a fighting chance of being reasonably good. Then, the movie starts, and that fighting…
02 Feb 2017
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Robert De Niro delivers a good performance in The Comedian, a film from director Taylor Hackford that doesn’t match the great actor’s prowess. De Niro plays Jackie Burke, an aging standup comedian dealing with a TV-sitcom past he isn’t too proud of. De Niro does a nice job playing a Don Rickles-type old-school comedian. He’s not entirely hilarious, but he’s convincing in his standup sequences. He’s also good when Jackie is off stage being an ornery bastard. The film lets him down in its handling of modern-day things like viral videos and reality TV. Hackford’s take on modern media is woefully out of touch, and De Niro finds himself stranded in some rather ridiculous, tone-deaf scenes. Leslie Mann is her usual great self as a younger woman Jackie winds up trying to romance; the two actually make a convincing almost-but-not-quite couple. Harvey Keitel is a little overbearing as Mann’s dad,…
02 Feb 2017
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You have to give Matthew McConaughey an “A” for effort for Gold, which is “loosely based on a true story.” McConaughey not only stars as wannabe gold magnate Kenny Wells; he also co-produced the movie, thinned his hair, put in some weird teeth and gained weight for the role. Sadly, maximum effort doesn’t result in an optimized return for Gold. The movie is an uneven, confused endeavor, and McConaughey winds up looking like a guy, normally in really good shape, who messed himself up for a few months to shoot a movie. He doesn’t look real, like Robert De Niro did when he destroyed his physicality for Raging Bull. He just looks slightly out of shape and made up. Even if McConaughey looked truly messed up, Gold would still be a mess—albeit a sometimes entertaining mess. Wells is a fictional character, and the film is based loosely upon the Bre-X…
26 Jan 2017
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Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup shine in 20th Century Women, Mike Mills’ ode to his unusual mother, who raised him in the late 1970s and tried to like punk music as much as she could. Bening is terrific as Dorothea. She represents the prototypical late-1970s woman—still cool, but perhaps slowing down a bit due to too many cigarettes and a general disillusionment with the changing culture. Mills uses Dorothea as a sort of narrator from the future who talks about the events of the film while observing from a perch in years ahead. It’s an interesting technique, and Bening’s performance is a career milestone. Gerwig and Fanning are great as two different women who hang around Dorothea’s apartment, both with their own highly interesting subplots. Cruddup chimes in capably as a local handyman who will sleep with you if you ask him to. I love the…
26 Jan 2017
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Michael Keaton is fantastic in The Founder as Ray Kroc, the sorta-kinda founder of McDonald’s. Director John Lee Hancock’s film tells his story, from Kroc selling milkshake mixers door-to-door, through his wife-stealing days as the head of the McDonald’s corporation. Hancock’s movie desperately wants us to like Kroc … but maybe we shouldn’t? After all, he swept in and took the name of McDonald’s from the McDonald brothers (played by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch), effectively cutting them out of most profits and leaving them in his dust. The film is at its best when it is in old-time, Americana mode. It’s a beautiful-looking movie that captures the essence of those old-timey fast-food joints that replaced the traditional drive-in diners. It slows down and gets a little muddled when it tries to depict Kroc as some sort of commerce hero. Hmm … I suppose if they went into details…
26 Jan 2017
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The key to M. Night Shyamalan’s recent success seems to be a limit on the amount of money he’s allowed to throw around. After working with sizable budgets on big projects like The Last Airbender, After Earth, The Happening, Lady in the Water and The Village—all of which sucked major ass—Shyamalan almost made a good movie for $5 million with The Visit. Now he’s finally made his first good movie since Signs back in 2002 with Split, a down-to-the-basics, creepy thriller propelled by excellent performances from James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy. The film—with a $10 million budget, according to IMDb—reminds us that Shyamalan can be quite the capable director (and writer) when he isn’t getting too carried away. Taylor-Joy, so good in recent horror masterpiece The Witch, plays Casey, an introverted, outcast high school student attending a birthday party for Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) simply because she got a “mercy…
25 Jan 2017
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While the film Christine has its inconsistencies, Rebecca Hall delivers an electrifyingly good performance as the title character. No, this isn’t a remake of the John Carpenter film with a killer car. This is about Christine Chubbuck, the infamous news reporter who shot herself on live television in the 1970s. Hall depicts Chubbuck as bright but, obviously, troubled. Doing small feature stories on a Florida TV station and looking to move ahead, her ideas are a little too out there for her station manager, Michael (the incomparable Tracy Letts). On top of that, she’s trying to date station anchor George (Michael C. Hall) with little success. While director Antonio Campos’ film feels a little flat, the two Halls and Letts usually breathe life back into it. Rebecca Hall would probably have gotten serious Oscar buzz if the film felt fully realized rather than moderately good. It’s worth seeing for Hall,…
19 Jan 2017
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Director Ben Affleck’s Live by Night is a period piece/costume drama that looks like a lot of work went into it, although it never feels like a cohesive picture. Affleck stars as Joe Coughlin, one of those gangsters you just gotta love, fighting the gangster fight during Prohibition in sunny Florida. Joe rises to the top of the gangster field, despite being the son of a cop (Brendan Gleeson), and despite basically being an all-around good guy. The problem is that Affleck fails to give his central character a true identity and emotional toolbox. The character feels stilted, and the movie around him feels like a costume party. It’s as if Affleck was afraid to make Joe the truly bad guy he should be. The fedoras and sweet suits all look good, but it’s in the service of a story that has been told before—in far more powerful ways. Sienna…
19 Jan 2017
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Adam Driver plays the title character, a bus driver with a penchant for poetry, in Paterson, writer-director Jim Jarmusch’s latest. Not only is his name Paterson; he lives in Paterson, N.J., and he sets his folded clothes out every night so he’s good to go in the morning. His wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), aspires to be a country music singer, and eagerly awaits a new guitar the couple can barely afford. (Sadly, she can’t play the guitar.) The film offers no substantial plot; it’s simply a snapshot of a normal, pleasant life being led by two people who aspire to create art in their spare time. Jarmusch always does well with these sort of observational stories, and this is no exception. Driver is terrific here, capping a great year that included Midnight Special and a great performance in the muddled Silence. It’s a funny, sweet performance without him really trying…

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