CVIndependent

Tue03192019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

17 Jan 2019
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If Beale Street Could Talk is one of the last year’s most beautiful, most well-rounded, and most enriching cinematic experiences—and it begs to be seen on a big movie screen. Based on the James Baldwin novel, and directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), it’s a stirring family drama focusing on young black couple Alonzo, aka Fonny, and Tish (played by Stephan James and KiKi Layne), in the 1970s. Within the first few minutes, we learn that Tish is pregnant, and Alonzo is incarcerated. He’s jailed for a sexual assault against a woman—a crime he vehemently denies. While he awaits trail, Tish remains loyal, and must inform her family of her pregnancy. The extended scene during which Tish tells her parents and, subsequently, Fonny’s family that she is pregnant hits all kind of notes. It runs the gamut of emotions, setting up the rest of the movie. It’s also where Regina King…
02 Jan 2019
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Director Nick Frangione had a troubled upbringing in rural Pennsylvania—but he used those experiences to inspire Buck Run, a film that will premiere as part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. The film follows 15-year-old Shaw (played by Nolan Lyons), who is reunited with his alcoholic father as he’s coping with his mother’s death. “It’s very, very similar to my childhood, but it’s not exact,” Frangione said during a recent interview. “I did grow up in rural Pennsylvania; my mother passed away when I was a teenager, and my father and I had to renegotiate our relationship. It’s very similar, but there are slight differences. My father wasn’t a hunter, for example, and we didn’t live in a hunting cabin. I also was out of place in my town, and I didn’t really fit very well.” In the film, the funeral for the mother provides a major plot point.…
30 Dec 2018
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The latest DC effort, Aquaman, is middling fun for about 20 minutes—and then it becomes one of the worst films of 2018. It’s the typical DC garbage can of a film—proof that Warner Bros. has learned almost nothing about making a good comic-book movie since Christian Bale took off the cowl. (Yes, Wonder Woman was good—but it’s the lone exception.) Jason Momoa returns as big, tattooed, beefy Arthur, the dreamy son of a Lost City of Atlantis queen (Nicole Kidman) and a lowly lighthouse-keeper (Temuera Morrison). He finds the queen washed up on the rocks and takes her home, where she promptly eats his goldfish. (Baahahaha! What a laugh riot! She ate his pet fish!) She gives birth to Arthur, and the origin story part of the movie is well on the way. We see a few more moments in the young fish-man’s life, including a moment when Arthur is…
27 Dec 2018
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Casting Emily Blunt as the iconic title character in Mary Poppins Returns, a sequel 54 years in the making, proves to be a stroke of genius. Casting Lin-Manuel Miranda in the role of Jack, a character modeled after Dick Van Dyke’s Bert in the original classic … well, not so much. Blunt plays the role with her own, sensible spin—not by any means copying what the great Julie Andrews did more than a half-century ago, but offering a practically perfect variation on the infamous nanny. Miranda sports the same cockney accent (though it’s not nearly as gloriously, wonderfully bad as Van Dyke’s) and plays a lamplighter in London instead of a chimney sweep. His part of the film feels like a giant missed opportunity, because while he can sing and dance up a storm, he isn’t funny. Van Dyke was funny. The result is a movie that has a lot…
20 Dec 2018
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While Tom Holland’s live-action Spider-Man character remains in limbo due to that infamous Thanos finger snap (even though we know another Spider-Man film starring Holland is being released next year, which is a bit of a giveaway), Sony Pictures has upped the ante on the Spidey franchise with the eye-popping, all-around-ingenious Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, one of 2018’s greatest cinematic surprises. While there have been awesome superhero movies, and terrific movies based on comic books, this might be the best “comic-book movie” ever made. No movie has ever captured the rush of reading a great comic book like this blast from directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman. They go for broke with a mixture of visual styles—hand-drawn and computer-animated—that magically splash across the scene. The story is pretty great, too. Miles Morales (the voice of Shameik Moore) is trying to adjust to a new, upscale school after winning…
13 Dec 2018
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Five years after his Oscar-winning Gravity, director Alfonso Cuarón returns with a decidedly different film in Roma. On a smaller—but no less effective—scale, Roma is a moving tribute to the female servant Cuarón grew up with during the early 1970s in the Mexico City suburb of Roma. Cuarón, who claims 90 percent of the movie is based on his childhood memories, tells the story from the female servant’s point of view. Renamed Cleo and played by Yalitza Aparicio in an astonishing, heartbreaking performance, Cleo is the glue holding the family together as their philandering patriarch, Antonio (Fernando Grediaga), abandons them. The remaining family consists of four children, mother Sofia (Marina de Tavira) and grandmother Teresa (Verónica Garcia). They rely heavily upon Cleo, who responds with a dedicated, steadfast grace—no matter how tense the situation gets. The situation worsens when Cleo becomes pregnant by Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), a martial-arts-obsessed, criminally…
06 Dec 2018
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One of the directors of Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary goes solo for Green Book, his first “serious” feature effort. Director Peter Farrelly, sans little brother Bobby, gives us a film that’s essentially a remake of Driving Miss Daisy with the roles reversed, starring Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and the Academy Award-winning actor from Moonlight (Mahershala Ali). It’s a feel-good movie about race relations that goes light on the grit and heavy on the sentiment. The film is based on a true story. Mortensen plays Tony Lip, an Italian bouncer at the Copacabana who finds himself temporarily without a job as the club is getting renovated. His next gig installs him as a driver and bodyguard for Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), an African-American classical pianist who is touring with a jazz trio in the early 1960s deep South. This is a road movie, with Tony driving and Don…
06 Dec 2018
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Lucas Hedges continues to establish himself as one of his generation’s best actors as a young gay man forced into conversion therapy by his Baptist parents (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman) in Boy Erased, an adaptation of Garrard Conley’s memoir. Hedges plays Jared (a character based on Conley), a college student who, after a horrible event on campus, reveals to his parents that he “thinks about men.” This sends his parents into a religious panic, and they send him to a facility where a shifty preacher/counselor (Joel Edgerton, who also directs and wrote the screenplay) tries to convince him that homosexuality is a sin and the wrong choice. Jared is forced to withstand psychological torture and gradually realizes that, despite his upbringing and the wishes of his parents, he’s gay—and no amount of bullshit preaching is going to change that. Edgerton does a respectable job of keeping all of the…
29 Nov 2018
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I’ve always hated Rocky IV. I’m pretty sure my life as a movie critic started in 1985 when my heart sank as I watched it in a crowded, overly enthusiastic theater with a bunch of friends. Walking out of the theater, my friends were all hyped after American Rocky Balboa vanquished the evil Russian Ivan Drago. I, on the other hand, thought the damn thing was ridiculous and hokey, especially when Rocky climbed a snowy, treacherous mountain with nothing but his beard and a dream. My sour attitude rendered me unpopular at the after-movie get-together at the diner. I don’t think I touched my pie. Now, 33 years later, the franchise says hello again to Drago (a weathered Dolph Lundgren) and his boxing son, Viktor, with Creed II, the follow up to Ryan Coogler’s excellent Creed. Coogler has not returned; he’s replaced by Steven Caple Jr. in the director’s chair.…
29 Nov 2018
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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…
22 Nov 2018
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Fine performances bolster Wildlife, Paul Dano’s excellent directorial debut. The movie, about a family falling apart in the early 1960s, is sometimes uncomfortable—just as it’s supposed to be, considering the subject matter. Young Joe (Ed Oxenbould) is living a typical life in Montana. Mom, Jeanette (Carey Mulligan), stays at home while dad, Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal), works a low-paying job at the local country club. Jerry urges Joe to try out for football, while Mom helps him with his studies. It’s not an ideal life; money clearly could be an issue if life takes a wrong turn. Then comes that wrong turn. When Jerry loses his job, a family meltdown takes place. Jerry becomes despondent, while Jeanette takes a job teaching swimming. Joe gets a part-time gig at a photography shop taking pictures, while Dad spirals further into depression. When Jerry announces that he will be joining a firefighting team—despite almost…
15 Nov 2018
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American soldiers get up close and personal with mutant Nazi soldiers in Overlord, one of the weirder films to make it to the big screen in 2018. J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot company have come up with something peculiar here. While initial reports had this one as a Cloverfield movie, it is not: It’s a standalone film … a weird, freaky standalone. World War II American paratrooper soldiers—led by Kurt Russell’s lookalike/soundalike son, Wyatt, as demolition expert Ford—land on the eve of D-Day in a Nazi-occupied French town, intent upon destroying a Nazi communication tower. Director Julius Avery’s flick starts off as an effective war movie as those paratroopers, including Jovan Adepo as Boyce and John Magaro as Tibbet, must escape a crashing plane and then evade Nazis on the ground. Soon after meeting up with Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), the soldiers find themselves in a safehouse. It’s a typical…