CVIndependent

Thu04272017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Reviews

20 Apr 2017
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In The Fate of the Furious—easily the dumbest title in the Furious franchise, even dumber than Tokyo Drift—you get to see the most disgusting, stomach-churning moment in cinema so far this year. That would be Charlize Theron planting a big, sloppy kiss on Vin Diesel, the visual of which creates a “girl from Monster meets the Pillsbury Doughboy on steroids” nightmare. Five years ago, I made a list of five things I never wanted to see, and that came in at No. 3, right under “Donald Trump as President” and “Spiders in My Scrambled Eggs Being Served to Me by a Man With Weeping Hand Sores.” Somewhere along the way, the Furious franchise went completely bonkers and became less about cars racing around and more about dudes, with upper arms the size of a bull’s torso, who think hair on the top of their heads is total bullshit. It also…
13 Apr 2017
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I recently bitched about the Beauty and the Beast remake being unnecessary. However, the movie was enjoyable and sweet on some levels. Then came the Ghost in the Shell remake; while it was a letdown, it looked good and had decent performances. Now comes another remake, Going in Style—and there are no redeeming qualities: It’s a total disaster. The original “old guys rob a bank wearing rubber noses” comedy from back in 1979 starred George Burns and Art Carney. The original was directed by Martin Brest, the guy who would go on to direct Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run and, uh oh, Gigli. Martin Brest … where are you? Yes, Gigli sucked an awful lot, but you had a decent batting average until then. You haven’t done anything since bombing with Gigli, but that film didn’t kill Ben Affleck’s career, so why did it knock you off? Back on point…
06 Apr 2017
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The 1995 film Ghost in the Shell was a groundbreaking, subversive piece of Japanese anime—and now it’s gotten a live-action redo, with Scarlett Johansson sporting a form-fitting flesh suit, and the addition of a bunch of plot enhancers aimed at making the story more humanistic and straightforward. The results are always good to look at—but the puffed up plot and safe PG-13 rating keep the film from succeeding. It’s largely a boring, misguided affair. Johansson can’t be faulted for the film’s failures. She could’ve been a solid choice to play Major, a human brain inside a synthetic cyborg’s body who is policing the streets of a futuristic dystopia that makes the Blade Runner landscapes look like modern-day Lincoln, Neb., in comparison. As she has proven in Lucy and as the Black Widow, Johansson is a capable action hero. She also fares well as somebody placed in an artificial body, as…
30 Mar 2017
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Life, the new sci-fi/horror film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds, is an inconsistent but overall sturdy genre pic that looks great and ultimately delivers the goods, despite a few slow patches—and a couple of remarkably dumb moments. Credit director Daniel Espinosa for setting a grim tone and sticking with it through the very end. Too many big-budget films wimp out with their vision; Life does not. Gyllenhaal and Reynolds play astronauts pulling a long haul on the International Space Station. Gyllenhaal’s David Jordan is actually about to break the record for consecutive days in space, and generally prefers life among the stars to life back on our miserable planet. The crew is awaiting a space capsule containing samples from Mars, and these samples will lead to an amazing discovery: life beyond our planet. Ship scientist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) discovers a cell, wakes it up and marvels at its…
23 Mar 2017
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Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s wonderful animated musical from 1991, is the latest feature to get placed on the Disney Live Redo of a Beloved Animated Movie Assembly Line, with a big-budget effort starring Emma Watson as the iconic Belle, and Ewan McGregor as a CGI candelabra. You may be asking yourself, “Is this absolutely necessary?” The answer: No. No, it is not. Then, you may ask yourself, “OK, if it isn’t necessary, is it at least an enjoyable pastime, for I like enjoyable pastimes? They help distract me from all of this trivial shit in my head.” The answer: Why, yes, it is an enjoyable movie, even if it is completely unnecessary. The movie isn’t a shot-for-shot remake of the original like, say, Gus Van Sant’s time-wasting Psycho effort. However, it does follow a lot of the same plot points and incorporates enough of the musical numbers to give…
23 Mar 2017
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The Belko Experiment is a decent-enough yet schlocky horror offering that thinks it is deeper and cleverer than it actually is. Penned by James Gunn, this silly movie pits a bunch of office workers against one another after a voice comes over their intercom telling them to start killing each other off—or everybody dies. The building is sealed; the “experiment” is put into motion; and the likes of Tony Goldwyn and John C. McGinley start acting like homicidal assholes. Directed by Greg McLean, the film is fun on a very basic level. (If you like movies where lots of heads blow up, this one’s for you!) There’s a definite terror involved in not knowing whose head is going to blow up next, and the folks handling the gore factor do a pretty good job. However, when the big reveal comes at the end, there are no surprises, and the movie…
16 Mar 2017
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The King Kong cinematic machine is cranking again with Kong: Skull Island, an entertaining-enough new take on the big ape that delivers action, but lags a bit when the titular gorilla isn’t onscreen smashing things up. Of the Kong incarnations, this one has the most in common with the 1976 take on the classic story, basically because it’s set just a few years before, in ’73. While there is a beautiful girl on whom the big guy gets a small crush (Brie Larson as a photographer), the story eschews the usual “beauty and the beast” Kong angle for more straight-up monster vs. monster action. Unlike the past American Kong films, this one never makes it to Manhattan, and instead stays on Kong’s island—thus the title of the film. Kong himself is portrayed by motion-capture CGI, and he’s a badass. He’s also tall enough to be a formidable foe for Godzilla,…
16 Mar 2017
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Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee (from Denmark) Land of Mine tells a complicated and difficult story—but writer-director Martin Zandvliet more than succeeds. It’s post-World War II in Denmark, and a group of Nazi youth prisoners of war is tasked with clearing a beach of thousands of mines. Their commander, a Danish sergeant (an excellent Roland Moller), views his crew with contempt at first, treating them harshly. Over time, however, the fact that they are just young boys begins to wear on him, especially when some of them meet their deaths. The cast is beyond good here, delivering a story that has echoes of All Quiet on the Western Front. It’s a difficult film in that it portrays wartime German soldiers in a sympathetic way; the film will justifiably irritate some. In the end, it’s about the horrors of war, its aftermath, and coping with the hatred and bitterness that follows.…
09 Mar 2017
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And now for something completely different … Hugh Jackman (allegedly) is saying goodbye to Wolverine with Logan, a total shocker of a superhero movie that lays waste to the X-Men and stand-alone Wolverine movies that came before it. Director James Mangold, who piloted the decent The Wolverine, revamps the character’s mythos, and pulls in Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) for the gritty, bloody, nasty, awesome ride. It’s the future, and the X-Men are gone. A mutant hasn’t been born in a quarter-century, and Logan isn’t looking too hot. He’s driving a limo to make ends meet, coughing up blood and not aging well. However, he’s doing a lot better than Xavier (the mutant formally known as Professor X), who is prone to seizures and suffering from some sort of degenerative brain disease. Logan has to keep him in a big, empty tank to shield the world from his spells, which can…
02 Mar 2017
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Ines (Sandra Huller), a terse, corporate type, is busy trying to conduct international relations involving big dollars when her dad, Winfried (Peter Simonischek), shows up with a goofy wig and fake teeth as Toni Erdmann, corporate coach. He throws a wrench in the works with his prankster ways, and Ines must learn to lighten up—or reject her dad. The results of Toni Erdmann, while a little predictable (and long-winded), are fairly interesting, thanks mainly to Huller, who anchors the sometimes-silly film with a true sense of realism. Her performance is top-notch, and makes the film worth seeing. She also spends a good chunk of the film’s final act—which takes a major satirical turn—naked, which is pretty daring. Simonischek is fun in the dad role, although his antics are sometimes a little too outrageous to buy in what is basically a serious movie about father-daughter relationships and coping in a cold…
02 Mar 2017
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Writer-director Jordan Peele, the comedic performer from TV’s Key and Peele and the adorable/funny cat movie Keanu, delivers a huge cinematic surprise with Get Out, a twisted, darkly satirical horror film that pulls no punches when it comes to race relations and dating. Peele has cited Night of the Living Dead and The Stepford Wives as inspirations for this journey to the dark side of his creative soul. Those films’ influences are detectable; you could also throw in a pinch of Rosemary’s Baby and a side of Being John Malkovich. Two of the hardest things to accomplish with a movie are making people laugh, and getting them legitimately scared. Get Out manages to do both throughout its running time. Peele takes taboo subjects and stereotypes, and doesn’t let his pen get restricted by a fear of offending anybody. This is an appropriately evil, scabrous movie. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young…
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…

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