CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

20 Sep 2018
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Well, that does it: After decades of trying, it’s become evident that nobody knows how to make a decent Predator sequel. It’s not like the first film was a masterpiece. It was a goofy adventure pic featuring a superstar on the rise—who has been mysteriously absent from the sequels. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in fact, turned down a cameo in the new The Predator, a movie that simply needed to be just OK to keep pace with the 1987 original. Well, it’s not. The Predator—technically the fourth Predator film (not including those Alien vs. Predator movies, which should be washed away from our collective memories)—had elements that were worthy of excitement. Shane Black, who actually played the first character to get killed in this franchise 31 years ago, is its director. This is the man responsible for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys and Iron Man 3. That Iron Man 3…
13 Sep 2018
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The Wife is one of those movies that strikes me as something that would’ve worked better as a play. I enjoyed it on some levels, and some of the performances are quite good, especially Glenn Close as the title character. However, other performances feel like they are being played for an audience on a stage rather than on camera. I’ve read that members of the cast rehearsed for weeks before cameras rolled, and The Wife displays evidence that sometimes you can be a little too polished—and come off as too melodramatic for a movie. That melodrama could play well in an Off Broadway play, but for a movie like this? It’s a little too forced. Close plays Joan Castleman, wife of the newly christened Nobel Prize for Literature winner Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce or, as I like to call him, Sam Lowry). The first hint of the golden work Close…
06 Sep 2018
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The hunt for Holocaust architect Adolph Eichmann is chronicled rather blandly in Operation Finale, director Chris Weitz’s lost movie starring Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley and Mélanie Laurent. When Eichmann (Kingsley) is discovered in Buenos Aires living a modest life and working at an automobile plant, secret agents led by Peter Malkin (Isaac) and Hanna Elian (Laurent) set up shop where he resides. They hatch a plot to grab Eichmann and return him to Israel to stand trial for his war crimes. Up until the moment where they grab Eichmann, the movie is pretty good—but when the movie becomes about Malkin and Eichmann chatting in a dark bedroom, it loses its sting. A better movie would’ve had Eichmann standing trial for his crimes, thus educating those of us who haven’t seen his trial. Too much of this film is spent showing Eichmann trying to persuade Malkin that he was just a…
06 Sep 2018
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Regular readers know that I can’t stand most found-footage films. I also bitch a lot about movies where the whole damn thing happens on a computer screen, with the director finding cute ways to never cut away from Skype, FaceTime, Words With Friends, etc., while the plot unfolds. Well, Searching is strange, because I actually almost like the way director Aneesh Chaganty utilizes computer screens, apps and news reports to tell his story. I also really like the central performance by John Cho as David Kim, a slightly annoying parent who discovers through a break in technological communication that his daughter, Margot (Michelle La), has gone missing. What I can’t forgive is the terrible detour the mystery takes into ridiculous, convenient and unimaginative territory. The screenplay really blows it in the end, and is further hindered by a stiff and strange performance from Debra Messing as a cop assigned to…
30 Aug 2018
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It’s tough being a puppet these days. After what seemed like a return to puppet glory with The Muppets in 2011, the cinematic Muppet momentum ended three years later with Muppets Most Wanted—and then the 2015 TV series tanked. Considering this stalling of The Muppets franchise, it seemed like a good time for a former Muppet stalwart, Brian Henson (son of Muppet founder Jim), to take puppets in a more-adult direction. After all, Jim Henson had a more-adult incarnation for The Muppets in mind way back in the 1970s when they appeared on the first season of Saturday Night Live. (It’s true!) A raunchier band of puppets would be a fine addition to the Henson legacy. That is, it would be a fine addition had Henson Alternative—an “adult” branch of the Jim Henson Company—made something better than The Happytime Murders, a listless, joyless, humorless exercise in how not to make…
23 Aug 2018
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Alpha, a story about the first personal interaction between man and dog, is a winner if 1) you are a dog person, and 2) you can watch a movie taking place 20,000 years ago and believe that the inhabitants could have such stylish leather jackets. The jackets really are pretty cool—made of buffalo hide, I presume, with lovely fur collars. I think I would buy one if I saw it on Amazon (with fake fur and leather, of course). There’s no way somebody could’ve put these things together way back then, without a sewing machine. If so, that person was the Versace of the day. Directed by Albert Hughes (From Hell, Menace II Society), this is a sweet hypothetical story about a boy, lost in the wilderness after a hunting trip gone awry, befriending a wolf. It’s not a syrupy-sweet story; the two go through hell trying to find the…
16 Aug 2018
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Kelly Macdonald is terrific in Puzzle as Agnes, a mother of two and wife to Louie (an also-excellent David Denman). Agnes is loved by her family, but they tend to not pay attention to her at times—and she’s beginning to lose interest in their mundane routines. She finds solace in jigsaw puzzles, and realizes she has a talent for putting them together fast. She sees a posting for a person looking to find a “puzzle partner,” gives him a call, and strikes up a friendship with Robert (Irrfan Khan), an eccentric millionaire with a shared fascination for puzzles. As the two meet twice a week to train for a puzzle competition, things go beyond friendship, and Agnes is forced to make some decisions about her home life. Marc Turtletaub’s minimalist direction is perfect for this story, which plays a lot better than it sounds. Macdonald is first-rate during every second…
15 Aug 2018
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The great Spike Lee has returned with BlacKkKlansmen, his best film since Malcolm X came out 26 years ago. Based on a true story—with some significant tweaking—it centers on Ron Stallworth (John David Washington, son of Denzel), a black police officer in Colorado who, on a whim, decided to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan by posing as a redneck. It wound up being a two-man sting, with Stallworth pretending to be a white man on the phone while sending in a white partner (depicted here by Adam Driver) to do the face-to-face work. Stallworth’s investigation eventually leads to him being named the head of a local chapter of the KKK, and direct dealings with David Duke (Topher Grace), Grand Wizard of the KKK and major asshole. The movie is as crazy as the story was, with Spike perfectly balancing intense drama and humor. Washington is fantastic, and Driver continues to…
16 Aug 2018
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It’s been more than two decades since author Steve Alten released his big shark story Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, the first of many Meg books. From the moment the book hit stands, producers have been attempting to make a movie out of it. Many directors have flirted with the movie, including Jan de Bont, Guillermo del Toro and, as recently as 2015, Eli Roth. It eventually ended up under the directorial guidance of Jon Turtletaub, the guy who made Cool Runnings, the National Treasure movies and 3 Ninjas. The result? A movie as misguided, sloppy and boring as you would expect from the guy who directed 3 Ninjas. Let’s get the obvious problem out of the way: The Meg is rated PG-13, and as it was made, it probably could’ve pulled a PG. This is not a horror film; it’s an undersea adventure with a big, messy CGI…
09 Aug 2018
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A young man shows up for his first year at college—and gets greeted as if he’s been there before. Eventually, someone figures out he’s the identical twin of a former student; this brings about a reunion of the two siblings. It becomes a big story in the newspaper, and then another young man sees the boys and instantly notices a resemblance. Boom … the three identical brothers, all adopted by different families, find each other as young adults in New York. This is the fascinating tale behind documentary Three Identical Strangers. I lived in Long Island, N.Y., when the story broke about these guys. They became a sensation, showing up on talk shows and even opening their own restaurant. Sadly, as Tim Wardle’s documentary shows, when the boys found out the real reason for their separation at birth, things took a sad and ultimately tragic turn. The documentary is set…
09 Aug 2018
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Every decade, it seems like one great movie is made about growing up. In the 1970s, it was The Bad News Bears. In the ’80s … The Breakfast Club. In the ’90s, I’ll go with Rushmore. The ’00s, it was probably Superbad. Here in the ’10s, or whatever the hell you call this decade, we now have Bo Burnham’s incredibly awesome feature-writing and feature-directing debut, Eighth Grade. This movie is a masterpiece in so many ways, from its perfect casting, to its crafty camerawork, to its immersive electronic score by Anna Meredith. But most of all, this movie is fantastic due to its central performances from Elsie Fisher as Kayla, and Josh Hamilton as her dad. Going into this movie, I didn’t realize Fisher was already a cinematic hero of mine: It turns out she’s the voice of Agnes from the first two Despicable Me movies. (Agnes is the “It’s…
02 Aug 2018
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Tom Cruise is his maniac self in Mission: Impossible—Fallout, the sixth installment in the steady franchise—and proof that Cruise is certifiably insane. The movie is one “Wow!” moment after another, and the guy shows no signs of slowing down, even though he’s now 56 years old. The movie stacks stunt after stunt, featuring Cruise doing everything from jumping out of airplanes, to scaling cliffs, to piloting his own helicopter. It also shows Cruise leaping from one rooftop to another and breaking his ankle against a building—a stunt that shut down production for weeks, but remains in the film, in all its bone-breaking glory. Do we really care about the plot when some of the best stunts and action scenes ever are here? Thankfully, the plot is a fun, twisted story, so you’ll be interested even when Cruise isn’t risking his life. Yes, there are a lot of, “Hey, haven’t I…

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