CVIndependent

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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Reviews

18 Jul 2018
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Ben Foster—currently tied with Ethan Hawke for the title of World’s Most Improved Actor—is phenomenal in Leave No Trace as Will, a homeless vet living in an Oregon park with his daughter, Tom (an incredible Thomasin McKenzie). Will trains his daughter to live off the land—and how not to be seen. When a jogger sees and reports them, the two wind up in the social-services system, undergoing a barrage of tests and eventually being relocated to a work commune. While Will simply can’t adjust, Tom starts liking being indoors. When Will takes them back into the forest, their two worlds start to truly separate. Directed and co-written by Debra Granik, the movie poses some serious questions about PTSD should be handled, and what freedom really is in America. Foster is tragically sad as Will, a man we know very little about, although we know something has really messed him up.…
12 Jul 2018
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Ant-Man and the Wasp is a fun continuation of what returning director Peyton Reed started with Ant-Man three years ago. I whined a bit about the decent original; I wanted it to be more subversive, knowing that Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) was originally supposed to direct it. I’m over it: Reed is kicking some Marvel ass, and his sequel is actually better than the first. After the well-done but gloomy Avengers: Infinity War earlier this year, Ant-Man and the Wasp joins the likes of Thor: Ragnarok as a fun, slightly eccentric diversion from the serious Marvel shit. This one, for the most part, just wants to have a good time, and it succeeds. As the title implies, this is no longer a one-man show for the always-entertaining Paul Rudd as Ant-Man. Evangeline Lilly returns as Hope Van Dyne and gets a bigger part of the limelight as the…
05 Jul 2018
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Maybe it was because Emily Blunt opted to make A Quiet Place. Or perhaps it was because she agreed to star in the new Mary Poppins movie. Whatever it was that kept her from saying yes to a Sicario sequel, her refusal should’ve made producers say, “Oh, well. Maybe later, when Blunt frees up?” After all, she was the main reason to watch the original. Nope. They went for it anyway, and the result is Sicario: Day of the Soldado, an excuse to trot out Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin in a nasty film that’s plotted in such a way as to assure it will give Sean Hannity and his ilk monster boners—ginormous, Fox News red boners right there in the middle of the theater. The timing of this movie is … shall we say, interesting. As real-life tensions build along the Mexican border, with families being separated, along…
28 Jun 2018
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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a big, dummy dino joke of a movie. It’s nothing but a brainless, sloppy rehash of Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park sequel, The Lost World, with a lame militaristic angle thrown in again. Yes, the dinosaurs look cool, and things get off to an awesome start with an underwater visit to the skeleton of the genetically engineered dinosaur, Indominus rex, that died hard at the end of Jurassic World. The prologue is scary; it looks great, is well-directed, and seems to be setting the tone for a film that recalls the grim tone the excellent Michael Crichton novel that spawned the film franchise. Sadly, things degenerate—badly—after the title credits pop up, as the film becomes an island adventure in one half, with dinosaurs rampaging on the mainland in the other half. The crazed fun that was the original Jurassic World is lost, replaced by conveyer-belt,…
21 Jun 2018
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After a 14-year hiatus, the Parr family is finally back for more superhero shenanigans in Pixar’s Incredibles 2, a sequel that retains the zippy, funny spirit of the original. It’s not as good as the first, but it is still Pixar’s best “sequel” since Toy Story 3. The film picks up where the last one left off, with a criminal named Underminer (the voice of the ever-Pixar-present John Ratzenberger) looking to cause some trouble—just as teen Violet Parr (Sarah Vowell) is meeting a boy. Superheroes remain in hiding, but rich tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) is looking to change that. Winston has a plan to get superheroes back in the limelight, and that plan involves Elastigirl/Helen (Holly Hunter) fighting crime and gaining publicity on a crazy new motorbike. While she’s out getting her superhero groove on, Mr. Incredible/Bob (Craig T. Nelson) must stay at home and take care of the…
21 Jun 2018
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American Animals is a heist movie based on a true story—and the film has an original twist. Writer-director Bart Layton has made a narrative film based on the real-life robbery of treasured collectibles by four young men. Layton casts the four with the great talents of Evan Peters, Blake Jenner, Barry Keoghan and Jared Abrahamson, resulting in an exciting and funny retelling of the heist, which had some normal guys dressing like old men to steal paintings and Darwin books from a kindly librarian (Ann Dowd). The twist: Layton also gets the real-life people to tell their accounts of what actually happened, so the film has a true documentary element. Rather than playing like some campy criminal re-enactment TV show, the film comes together in a way in which the real guys are right at home in the proceedings. It’s a genius move that gives the movie some real-life heft—without…
18 Jun 2018
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Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons are a winning, inspiring father-daughter team in Hearts Beat Loud, a musically infused cinematic gem that will stand as one of this summer’s under-the-radar greats. Frank (Offerman), a record-store owner (he sells mostly vinyl) with a gruff attitude, is dealing with tough economic times—which is not good, considering his daughter, Sam (Clemons), is about to leave for medical school. He informs his landlord, Leslie (Toni Collette, having a great year), that the store will be closing. Frank finds himself at a sort of spiritual crossroads. He takes solace in his mandatory musical jam sessions with his kid. Both of them are decent-enough musicians; in fact, Sam is actually pretty damn good. She has a knack for songwriting but doubts her talents. Frank pushes her to create, marvels in what she’s able to come up with, and suggests they form a real band. Sam pushes back,…
14 Jun 2018
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A family gets its proverbial ass viciously kicked in Hereditary, writer-director Ari Aster’s more-than-impressive feature debut. This is a horror movie that will bruise your brain, make your blood run cold, and stay in your system well after you’ve left the theater. Annie (an incredible Toni Collette) has just lost her controlling, creepy mother. Annie has some control issues of her own, which sometimes manifests itself in her creation of miniature models—often depicting her home life with husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne, doing his best work in years), son Peter (an impressive Alex Wolff) and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro, who will break your heart). While every member of the family seems to be earnest and decent, they are also dysfunctional—with a capital “D.” The loss of her mom, the pressure of an upcoming show of her miniatures, and the demands of parenthood have Annie on edge, to the point where she…
07 Jun 2018
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Something has gone terribly wrong in Jackass-land since Bad Grandpa. While Bad Grandpa wasn’t technically a Jackass movie, it was a “Jackass Presents” movie, and it had the usual Jackass movie director, Jeff Tremaine. The results were the kind of fun we expect from a Jackass movie—with a little more of a narrative plot, but with the emphasis remaining on the killer stunts. Now comes Action Point—which is a stinky pile of shit. The Jackass label and director are gone, with only stars Johnny Knoxville and Chris Pontius representing the former crew. The slant goes much more toward the narrative—a boring narrative—with only a few OK stunts thrown in. It’s an uneven, embarrassing, unfunny mess. That’s a shame, because Knoxville proves he’s certainly still game to get his ass kicked for cinematic glory (although he’s looking a little beat up these days), and the “true” story at the center of…
07 Jun 2018
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Some well-choreographed action scenes can’t help low-budget sci-fi thriller Upgrade, well, make the grade. Logan Marshall-Green stars as Grey, a muscle-car-loving geek who fixes classic autos for rich people in the future. After he and his girlfriend (Betty Gabriel) have an accident in her self-driving car (I don’t know how I will ever be able to get into one of those things), Grey is left paralyzed and hungry for revenge. One of Grey’s clients, a tech giant named Eron (Harrison Gilbertson), has a solution: an implant called Stem that will bridge the gap between his brain and severed spinal cord. What he doesn’t tell Grey is that Stem will internally speak to him with a voice like that of Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that when Stem takes over his body, he will have ninja skills. This sounds fun, but many of the performers in this movie seem…
31 May 2018
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After one of the more tumultuous productions in recent film history, Solo: A Star Wars Story has made it to the big screen—completed by a different director than the ones who started the gig. About a year ago, director Ron Howard took over for the directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street) after producer Kathleen Kennedy showed them the door. Howard took the reins when principal photography was near completion—but then wound up re-shooting 70 percent of the movie. The film definitely feels like more than one director had their hands in the pot. It’s sloppy; it’s tonally challenged; and scenes crash into each other at times, killing an otherwise brisk and fun pace. There are moments in this movie that feel like they were shoehorned in to fix a story problem. Yeah, there are some definite negatives at play here—but there are…
24 May 2018
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The happily profane superhero party continues with Deadpool 2, a sequel that brings the anarchistic spirit of the original—although it doesn’t blaze any new trails. Ryan Reynolds, who has experienced a career explosion thanks to this franchise (and, of course, his undeniable talents), continues to break the fourth wall, Ferris Bueller-style. While the gimmick definitely leads to some good laughs, it does get to a point where it feels a little too cute and repetitive. He winks at the audience so much that he must have some severe eyelid-muscle strains. He’s gonna have an eyeball pop out. The film starts with Deadpool dejectedly blowing himself up, complete with a severed arm giving the finger; the film then goes into flashback mode as Wade Wilson cleverly and smarmily tells us why he did such a thing. We also get a repeat of the “Wiseass Opening Credits” gag that got the original…

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