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Sat09222018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Originally planned for an April theatrical release, the third Cloverfield movie got a surprise release on Netflix immediately following the Super Bowl. While I’m a big fan of the first two installments in the Cloverfield series, J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company are kidding themselves by referring to The Cloverfield Paradox as a legitimate chapter in the Cloverfield universe.

The Cloverfield Paradox was originally a project called God Particle, a standalone science fiction film directed by Julius Onah. Somewhere during production, Bad Robot decided to make it a Cloverfield film. How is it a Cloverfield film? A few short, badly constructed scenes are shoehorned into the narrative, including a 10-second final shot that feels like a total cheat. They did this sort of last-minute tinkering when they made 10 Cloverfield Lane, and that resulted in a good movie. This one results in a muddled mess.

The plot involves a space station trying to create a free power source to revitalize a struggling Earth. The crew members (played by Daniel Bruhl, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ziyi Zhang and David Oyelowo) accidentally zap themselves into another dimension. While they struggle in the other dimension to find their way home, the dimension they left behind is dealing with a new problem.

The events happening back on Earth might’ve made for a better movie, because the one we get is an Event Horizon rip-off.

It’s no mystery why Bad Robot avoided a theatrical run for this: It stinks.

The Cloverfield Paradox is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

The cast and crew do admirable work in A Most Violent Year, but the script and pacing make the movie a near-miss.

Considering the talent on hand, that’s a shame.

The film is a shining example of art direction, and it boasts a firecracker cast with the likes of Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks and Jessica Chastain. It’s set in New York in 1981, and the look of the city is perfect. (I lived a half-hour outside of Manhattan at the time, so I know.) If only the storytelling had been done better.

Writer-director J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost) takes a slow-burn look at the life of Abel Morales (Isaac), a fuel-company owner trying to grow bigger in the face of lawsuits and constant criminal attacks on his drivers. The film opens with one particular driver (Elyes Gabel) getting hijacked outside of a New York City tollbooth; he suffers through a vicious beating. His story becomes one of the threads that run throughout the movie.

Meanwhile, an assistant district attorney (David Oyelowo) has informed him of impending charges that will threaten the life of his company. This puts Abel’s wife, Anna (Chastain), on edge: She’s the one keeping the books, and she claims everything is on the level. Abel’s business associate Andrew (Brooks) fears for the company’s business future while advocating that, perhaps, their drivers should arm themselves against attackers.

The plot seems to be going somewhere at first, but it never really does. Chandor gives his film the look of an early Coppola production (that toll-booth scene echoes Sonny’s execution in The Godfather), but a lack of depth, and inexplicable behavior by some characters, doom the film.

There are moments in the movie that, while dramatically impactful, don’t make sense. An example: When Anna puts three slugs in an injured deer, she fails to tell her husband before firing the shots. She just walks up right next to him, a few feet away, and fires a gun into the injured animal. This sort of thing would give a somebody a heart attack. Yes, Anna is a tough hombre, but this particular action seems far-fetched in a movie that’s supposed to be grounded in realism. Year has a bunch of moments like this. Meanwhile, Brooks’ character is present in the film for no apparent reason. His Andrew winds up providing little along the lines of plot development.

Much of this movie focuses on Isaac, talking really slowly, sitting at tables and trying to work out details for loans. It gets tedious. Isaac almost always fascinating, in any role, but he can’t save the movie.

It’s appropriate that a substantial aspect of A Most Violent Year involves the robbing of fuel trucks, because the movie is full of talented performers who have been robbed in the last few years. Isaac should’ve been Oscar-nominated for his performance in Inside Llewyn Davis, and his Year co-star Brooks was unbelievably passed over for Drive (also which happened to co-star Isaac). Oyelowo was perhaps this year’s biggest Oscar snub after he failed to garner a nod for his remarkable work in Selma. Chastain is the only one who has actually gotten Oscar nods in recent years (Zero Dark Thirty and The Help.)

I’ve watched the film twice, and it stands up even more poorly during a second viewing. Despite how real it looks, with some credible moments and performances, the film is dull and implausible.

You can do a lot worse than watching Isaac, Brooks and Chastain performing together. But that doesn’t make A Most Violent Year worth your time.

A Most Violent Year is now playing at the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews

David Oyelowo portrays Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, director Ava DuVernay’s stunning depiction of the civil rights march from Selma, Ala., in 1965.

In an attempt to gain equal voting rights, Martin Luther King, Jr. organized the march despite violent opposition from citizens and law enforcement officers. The film covers everything from MLK’s dealings with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to the bewildering, despicable actions of Alabama Gov. George Wallace (an evil Tim Roth). Oyelowo delivers a star-making performance as King, while Carmen Ejogo excels in the role of Coretta Scott King for a second time. (She played the role in the 2001 TV movie Boycott.) Wilkinson and Roth, both British, do well with their accents and create memorable characterizations.

This is one of those films everybody should see, and it should become mandatory viewing in schools. It’s a true accomplishment.

Selma opens Thursday, Jan. 8, at the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430) and the UltraStar Mary Pickford Stadium 14 (36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City; 760-328-7100).

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 film Selma is one of the most acclaimed movies heading into awards season. It’s nominated for four Golden Globes, including Best Drama, even though it doesn’t open in wide release until Jan. 9.

A week before that opening date, the film was the star attraction as the official opening night screening of the 26th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, at Palm Springs High School, on Friday, Jan. 2.

On the unusually crowded red carpet, director Ava DuVernay and two of the film’s actors, David Oyelowo and Common, graciously posed for photographers and spoke with news crews and reporters about the controversy stirred by the powerful film.

“We couldn’t have prepared for this. I’m just thankful that we made a truthful enough film that it is meeting this moment in a real and potent way,” said Oyelowo, who portrays Martin Luther King Jr. in the film, referring to current tension happening after the deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement officers in Ferguson, Mo., and many other areas across the nation.

“Seven years ago when I first read this script, I felt God tell me that I was going to play this role,” Oyelowo continued. “There were very frustrating moments along the road where the film just wouldn’t get made, so to look at this divine timing of it coming out now, for me, I don’t think it’s an accident at all. I just feel very honored and humbled to be at the center of it.”

Scroll down to see some photos from the red carpet.

Published in Snapshot