CVIndependent

Tue08112020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

10 Feb 2020
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A troubled artist (Elijah Wood) answers a letter from his long-last dad (Stephen McHattie) and goes to visit him at his oceanfront property. What starts out as a sweet get-together in the film Come to Daddy quickly devolves into a hellish experience during which Dad proves himself to be an even lousier father than first thought: Rather than being a supportive pop, he drinks a lot and declares his long-lost son to be full of shit. He’s also got a few things going on in the basement. Director Ant Timpson throws in twists aplenty, and Wood delivers good work—but the film ultimately doesn’t come together. It flirts with dark comedy early on, and seems to be on its way to being a terrific nasty laugher, but the film loses its way when it goes the cheap-thriller route. The second half is depressing rather than outlandish, and the writing doesn’t back…
04 Feb 2020
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Taylor Swift goes the Beyoncé route with her own Netflix special—and it’s a winner. While Taylor Swift: Miss Americana covers her whole life, it focuses mostly on the making of her last two albums and her recent decision to become more politically active. If you are looking for a lot of her music, this is not the movie for you. If you are looking for insight into how she writes her songs—and how she feels about a certain Tennessee senator and current U.S. president—you will certainly enjoy this. I like Taylor Swift. I like her melodious music and the fact that she allows her cat to eat at the dinner table with the humans (seated in a regular dinner chair, no less). She can be a little self-important and a tad whiny at times, but great talents have their eccentricities. In the end, Taylor Swift is a great entertainer, and…
28 Jan 2020
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Director Kevin Smith almost croaked a while back thanks to a widow-maker heart attack—so it’s no surprise that his first film since that setback, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, is a bit of a sap fest. Smith and buddy Jason Mewes reprise the title roles in a film that follows most of the plot points of Smith’s 2001 magnum opus, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. The results aren’t as funny as I was hoping, but this is the first film in which Smith does a decent job of handling mushy, lubby-dubby, sentimental stuff. Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, steps in as Jay’s love child with Justice (Shannon Elizabeth)—and she knocks the role out of the park. She’s actually the most consistently funny person in the movie, and she handles the emotional stuff well, too, proving she’s got major chops. The cameo list is long, including Matt Damon, Val Kilmer,…
20 Jan 2020
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Edward Norton directs, writes the screenplay and stars in Motherless Brooklyn, a decent-enough adaptation of the Jonathan Lethem novel of the same name. It’s an OK movie, but it isn’t going to change anybody’s lives. Norton certainly made a good-looking film here. Motherless Brooklyn is set in the ’50s, and the period details are impressive; the costuming is first-rate; and the camerawork is stellar. As for the story … there is a convoluted plot involving murder mysteries and real estate development. It doesn’t feel like anything new—except for the twist that Norton’s private detective has Tourette’s syndrome. Norton does a convincing job of exhibiting this affliction through a series of verbal and physical ticks, coupled with obsessive-compulsive behavior. No doubt: The most-interesting aspect of this movie is Norton’s character, Lionel. Norton assembles a strong cast, including Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Ethan Suplee (before he got ripped) and Cherry Jones. Everybody…
13 Jan 2020
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Jason Bateman stars in and directs the first two episodes of HBO’s The Outsider, the latest miniseries based on a Stephen King novel. Man, does King ever walk away from the keyboard? Terry Maitland (Bateman) is arrested by Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) while coaching a Little League game—and the charges against him are shocking: Terry has allegedly killed a small boy, with witnesses placing him at the scene of the crime. There’s also surveillance video and forensic evidence that seemingly confirm his guilt. Yet Terry proclaims his innocence and has a solid alibi, including witness accounts and video confirmation that he was many miles away when the crime occurred. The first two episodes of the 10-part series offer a good setup, with Bateman doing a nice job both behind and in front of the camera. There’s no question I will be tuning in for more as the story continues on…
07 Jan 2020
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Antonio Banderas delivers what may be his greatest performance as a director dealing with physical and emotional pains in Pain and Glory, a semi-autobiographical film from Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. Salvador (Banderas) is retired, struggling with migraines and back pain after major surgery, and unsure on whether or not he will continue in the art of filmmaking. He’s having bouts of nostalgia, leading him to be momentarily enthusiastic about an anniversary screening of one of his more beloved films. This brings him to the doorstep of Alberto (Asier Etxeandia), an actor with whom he’s been feuding. They happily discuss presenting the film together—while, in a very impromptu sort of way, getting Salvador started on a heroin habit. Flashbacks to Salvador’s childhood feature a fantastic Penélope Cruz as his mother, raising the precocious Salvador on little money in a cave-like dwelling. Banderas takes a reserved approach to the role that is…
30 Dec 2019
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Bill Cosby is rotting in prison after being revealed as a rapist, and no standup comedians have been doing shows with kids lately. John Mulaney to the rescue! John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch, on Netflix, is sharply written, with a fun, darkly sarcastic tweak that should have both kids and adults chuckling. The joy of the show is that it isn’t dumbed down for kids. The kids are funny as all hell, and they even upstage the hilarious Mulaney on occasion. The music numbers are cute/funny, and the sketches all offer up solid laughs. Guest stars include Richard Kind, David Byrne and Jake Gyllenhaal—proving he’s one of the funniest people on the planet, as a guy trying to create music without instruments. Bumper interviews with the kids provide funny revelations, including one from a girl who is afraid of pigeons. Standout musical numbers include one with a very…
29 Dec 2019
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In Fabric is one of 2019’s wackier movies. An unofficial homage to director Dario Argento by Peter Strickland, it follows a killer dress as the garment takes out victims during a busy shopping season. It has the weird score, the strange-looking fake blood that’s too brightly colored, and the sort of pacing that has made Argento a cult favorite. Marianne Jean-Baptiste stars as a mom looking to get back on the dating scene after her husband leaves her … so she buys a dress. The dress burns her when she wears it and sometimes jumps on people after hanging around on the ceiling. Strickland somehow makes this sort of beautiful and silly, rather than just silly. Later in the film, the story shifts to a soon-to-be-wed machine repairman (Steve Oram) who is also victimized by the strange garment. Fatma Mohamed takes the award for Weirdest Entity in a Weird Movie…
16 Dec 2019
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Michael Bay is back! That phrase used to leave me truly stricken with terror—afraid to approach a movie theater. However, things have changed a bit. First off, 6 Underground has gone straight to Netflix, so I can do stuff like pet my dog to calm down when the editing gets too frantic. Second, Bay seems to understand that he’s totally ridiculous by now. As with Bad Boys II, with which he seemed to be parodying himself, this one is so over the top that it actually winds up being a little on the fun side. Ryan Reynolds stars as a tycoon who becomes a “ghost”—in that he has faked his own death in order to seek vengeance on bad people. He puts together a team of death-fakers, including characters played by Mélanie Laurent, Adria Arjona and Dave Franco. They go after bad people in a series of car-chasing, building-scaling sequences…
10 Dec 2019
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Adam Driver busts out a spontaneous piano-bar rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “Being Alive” in Marriage Story. That alone justifies taking the time to watch the film, now streaming on Netflix. Fortunately, there are other reasons besides Driver’s surprisingly amazing voice to see the movie … actually, a lot more. Driver and Scarlett Johansson are incredible in writer/director Noah Baumbach’s best movie yet—an alternately searing, touching and hilarious look at a marriage’s end times. Nicole and Charlie Barber work together in a theater company; she’s a performer, while he’s the director. The movie starts with them deciding to go through a divorce; they promise each other things will remain amicable, and lawyers won’t get involved. Nicole will go to Los Angeles and pursue film acting, while Charlie stays in New York to work on his latest play getting to Broadway. They are determined to share custody of their young son. This…
02 Dec 2019
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One man puts it all on the line to expose the CIA’s torture tactics post-Sept. 11 in The Report, a film—based on real life—from writer-director Scott Z. Burns. Adam Driver acts his heart out as Daniel Jones, a U.S. Senate staffer tasked by, among others, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (a droll Annette Bening) to get to the truth about the CIA’s use of extreme interrogation tactics, mainly waterboarding, on suspected terrorist prisoners. Jones (a real guy) basically proved the U.S. was breaking international law, and the film shows how high members of the government and the CIA tried to prevent him from exposing this fact. While the movie is a decent history lesson, and Driver is good, the film is a bit drab and unintentionally funny at times. Burns doesn’t quite have a grasp on the material here, and the resulting movie should be far more shocking and disarming than it…
26 Nov 2019
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The Peanut Butter Falcon is one of this year’s better directorial debuts. Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz deliver a real winner with a terrific cast. It’s a strange and funny Southern odyssey with a whole lot of peanut butter, moonshine, epiphanies and—last but not least—wrestling. Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome, is basically a prisoner in a retirement home, abandoned by his family. Zak has aspirations to be a wrestler—and he breaks out one night on his quest, wearing nothing but underwear. He comes across Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a troubled but goodhearted fisherman who creates a situation for himself after which he must hit the road. The two form a bond and start heading south toward Florida, where Zak’s wrestling school awaits. LaBeouf, who continues to shine after his career hit a bump, is at his best here opposite Gottsagen, an actor who actually has Down syndrome—and…