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Every now and then, Francis Ford Coppola goes back to his 1979 masterpiece, Apocalypse Now, and gives it another go.

In 2001, he did the Redux version, which featured the clumsy French plantation scene, and an additional scene with the Playboy playmates that should have remained on the cutting-room floor. There was also a scene in which Martin Sheen’s Willard steals the surfboard owned by Kilgore (Robert Duvall) … and subsequent scenes of Willard and his crew hiding from an angry Kilgore as he tried to find his board. The additional footage added up to 53 minutes, making the movie nearly 200 minutes long.

The new Final Cut keeps the surfboard stuff, but loses the playmates scene. Unfortunately, most of the plantation scene remains. (The dinner conversation is tedious, although the opium den is kind of cool.) The Final Cut clocks in at 181 minutes, keeping some of the interesting footage from Redux, but trimming the fat.

Yes, the version works better. It’s also fully restored visually and sonically, making this the best-looking and best-sounding version of Coppola’s masterpiece available on home video.

Apocalypse Now: Final Cut is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Writer-director Steve McQueen follows up his Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave with Widows, an above-average thriller made very watchable thanks to a terrific performance by Viola Davis.

Davis plays Veronica, the wife of lifetime criminal Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson). When Harry meets an untimely end, he leaves behind a nasty debt—and some nasty people want it paid back. Veronica hatches a plan to pull a heist, and she looks to the wives of Harry’s also-dead gang mates to help her out.

Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki are good as the other widows, while Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell steal scenes as father-and-son politicians. The plot is fairly standard, and you’ll see some of the “big twists” coming a mile away. That doesn’t keep the movie from being a sufficiently stylized, serviceable thriller that gives Davis her best vehicle in years.

Widows also costars Lukas Haas as a mysterious boyfriend, Daniel Kaluuya as a scary henchman and Carrie Coon in a throwaway role. This is not the sort of greatness one hopes for from McQueen, but it’s no mishap: It’s a good movie from a very good director.

Widows is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

As the Hollywood A-listers began arriving at Palm Springs Convention Center for the 26th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival's Awards Gala on Saturday, Jan. 3, hopes ran high among the fans gathered along the sidewalks across from the red-carpeted entryway.

Whether the fans were locals or visitors to the Coachella Valley, they all had favorites they were hoping to see.

Palm Springs resident Diana Doyle has joined the crowd for three years running. “I’m one of those people now,” she said. “I’m hooked!”

Has she had luck meeting celebrities in the past?

“Last year, I had a great picture taken with Bradley Cooper, and it went into the Los Angeles Times, and now it’s my screensaver,” she laughed. This year, her good luck continued as she got a chance to grab “selfies” with Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell.

For Connie Hale of Palm Desert, this was her eighth year of braving the crowd.

“We got her about 12 noon today,” she said. “I’ve met lots of celebrities over the years, and this is the spot to do it. I’ve met Brad Pitt and Robert Downey Jr. already, but this year, I’d like to meet any of the stars coming.”

At one point, Hale found herself face-to-face with Michael Keaton—but the moment passed without her getting the autograph she wanted.

KESQ/CBS Local 2 meteorologist Rob Bradley and fiancée Kristina Guckenberger were among the fortunate fans who obtained access to the grandstand seating area next to the red-carpet entrance.

“I’ve had to work in the studio the last two years doing weather updates during down time in our Awards Gala red-carpet live special coverage, so this is my first time being here at the event,” Bradley said.

Did they have any favorites they wanted to see up close this evening? “My mom said I should meet Robert Downey Jr. and Brad Pitt. And for my dad, Reese Witherspoon,” Guckenberger said. Unfortunately, neither Downey nor Pitt appeared out front to greet fans.

Still, the crowd’s mood remained festive as the almost-full moon rose and the temperature dropped, before the fans dispersed as the awards dinner got under way inside.

Scroll down to see some pictures from the red carpet.

Published in Snapshot

The thought of Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall starring together in a movie is, in a word, awesome.

So what did director David Dobkin do with this exciting scenario? He gave us The Judge, a cliché-ridden mess.

Downey plays Hank Palmer, a typical movie lawyer who gets bad guys off the hook while pissing, literally and figuratively, on lawyers trying to put bad guys in jail. Just before he gets another criminal off the hook in Chicago, a call comes in from home: His mom died while tending to her flowers. Therefore, Hank is off to the funeral in his hometown, where his dad, Joseph (Duvall), is the town judge—and a major-league prick.

Of course, Hank’s hometown is the absolute opposite of Chicago: It’s a rural, country paradise that Hank despises, although we, the viewers, can see it’s a pretty darned nice place, especially if you like fishing trips, bike rides and hot bartenders who are willing to sleep with you.

Hank hates his dad—boy, does he hate him. Joseph hates his son, too. The reasons for their mutual hatred are slowly revealed, and not one of those reasons comes as a surprise.

After the funeral, Hank is ready to bolt and go deal with his developing divorce when he gets a call: It turns out dad’s Cadillac, and consequently his dad, are being investigated in a possible intentional vehicular homicide.

You know what this means? Court drama! A long court drama. By god, at 141 freaking minutes, is it ever so horribly long.

Billy Bob Thornton plays the evil lawyer Hank must face while defending his dad. We know he is evil, because he has a steel, collapsible cup out of which he drinks water—a cup he snaps open and shut with a vengeance. Other clichéd characters include the autistic brother who likes to film things, and the “Coulda Been Somebody!” brother (Vincent D’Onofrio) who lost a chance to be a baseball star when Hank got them into a car accident while they were teens.

The highlight of this movie would be the scene in which a sick Joseph shits himself in a futile attempt to make it to the toilet in time. Hank comes to his rescue, and we are treated to a scene in which we not only see Robert Duvall covered in shit, but the gruesome aftermath of Hank cleaning him off in the shower. Dobkin adds a little humor to the crap-shower scene, with Hank’s daughter outside the door doing a knock-knock joke. It’s funny, because the kid doesn’t know that behind the door is her dad and granddad, standing in a shower, covered with shit. Those are some major hijinks right there.

So … this is a courtroom drama involving Billy Bob Thornton and his stupid cup; a disease-of-the-week movie involving rampant shitting; a romance involving Hank getting it on with an ex (Vera Farmiga); a fish-out-of-water dramedy; a mystery about who done run somebody over; and a little bit Rain Man, due to the autistic-brother angle. 

It’s really unbelievable that so much talent threw down for The Judge. Downey was on Howard Stern recently, and he claimed that Duvall was a bit of a holdout, and didn’t really want to make the movie. I’m guessing the opportunity to crap himself onscreen and then get a nice shower from Iron Man must’ve sold him on the gig.

The Judge is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Skip Tom Cruise’s latest offering in theaters, the so-so Oblivion, and watch him kick mortal ass as the title character in Jack Reacher, the adaptation of Lee Child’s popular novel One Shot.

There was a lot of griping that Cruise didn’t fit the physical mold of the character of Jack Reacher, who is 6 1/2 feet tall in the novels. No problem; Cruise brings a sinister, evil edge to Reacher, a super-intelligent former armed forces cop who finds himself investigating a mass shooting in Pittsburgh. Hey, Cruise might be less than 6 feet tall, but he will most certainly kick your ass if provoked. (Well, he will in the movies, at least.)

The ridiculously pretty Rosamund Pike is on hand as the lawyer who joins forces with Reacher in a search for THE TRUTH. She’s good here, as are Richard Jenkins as her district-attorney dad, Robert Duvall as a very helpful gun-range operator, and Werner Herzog as a super-creep.

To attain super-creepiness, Herzog basically talks in his normal voice, which is indeed creepy, and wears a cloudy contact lens to make it look like one of his eyeballs is messed up. When I read that Herzog would be playing a villain, I thought it was weird. Then I saw the movie. Good casting.

There’s a decent mystery at the center of the film, one that kept me guessing until everything was revealed.

As for Tom Cruise films, it falls somewhere safely in the middle—all of the Mission: Impossible movies are better than this one, while this one is better than Top Gun and Days of Thunder. It is certainly worth a rental. This comes out on home video Tuesday, May 7.

Special Features: A Tom Cruise commentary with director Christopher McQuarrie is pretty damned cool, as is the featurette “When the Man Comes Around,” detailing how Cruise got involved with the film. You also get a composer commentary, a look at the action sequences and an interview with Lee Child. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing