CVIndependent

Sun08192018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Reviews

03 May 2018
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The Avengers team takes a swift kick to their (remarkably muscular) collective ass from a super-baddie named Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, the best blockbuster you will see at the movies this year. While Marvel has been on a nice roll lately (Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Captain America: Civil War), the last “Avengers” movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, was a misguided, boring dud. This third installment (the first of a two-parter, with the second being released next summer) lets it all hang out with a massive collection of characters and a true, scary sense of impending doom. There are many, many storylines at play servicing so many superheroes and villains. Infinity War feels like the Magnolia of Marvel movies in that it takes all of those storylines and balances them in a cohesive, entertaining manner. The film is 2 1/2 hours long, but it’s never close to boring. The balancing…
26 Apr 2018
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Writer-director Stanley Tucci asks the question, “When is a piece of art truly done?” with Final Portrait, an acting workshop for Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer. The film is based upon the memoir A Giacometti Portrait by James Lord, an American author who sat for a portrait by famed artist Alberto Giacometti in the 1960s, shortly before the artist died in 1966. Lord is played by Hammer, hot off his acclaimed performance in Call Me by Your Name, with Rush embodying the craggy, difficult and just-a-little-bit-crazy Giacometti. Much of the movie simply consists of these two fine actors bantering back and forth as Rush fiddles with painting paraphernalia, and Hammer keeps still in a chair. Does that sound boring? If the idea of watching an artist neurotically working through his painting process sounds horrifying, then yes, you will find this boring, and you should probably stay away. I found myself…
19 Apr 2018
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If you’ve been sitting around waiting for a Wes Anderson film featuring a stop-motion cast of animated dogs, influenced by Akira Kurosawa and the guys who made Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer … your wait is over! Isle of Dogs is one of the strangest—and coolest—experiences you will have in a theater this year. Anderson’s second foray into stop-motion animation (after 2009’s excellent Fantastic Mr. Fox) is another visual masterpiece, and while the story goes a little flat for stretches, the film is visual splendor during its entire running time. Two decades in the future, Megasaki, a fictional Japanese city, is ruled by the evil Mayor Kobayashi (the voice of Kunichi Nomura). Kobayashi is a cat person, and after the nation’s dogs come down with a strange strain of dog flu, all canines are banned to Trash Island to live out their days, scavenging through garbage and rumbling in the junkyards.…
16 Apr 2018
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The legendary rivalry between tennis players Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) was insane while it was happening. I’m old enough to remember it—and Janus Metz’s Borg vs McEnroe does a pretty good job of reliving it. The film does suffer due to the fact that Björn Borg was a pretty boring figure, as opposed to the fiery McEnroe. Since much of this film deals with Borg’s side of the story, a good chunk of the film winds up being … well, boring. Such is not the case with the McEnroe side: LaBeouf turns in his best performance yet as the temper-tantrum-throwing American sports star who came rolling into Wimbledon to face off against four-time champion Borg. LaBeouf takes an historical figure in McEnroe and avoids caricature in a role that could so easily become cartoonish. He finds the human competitor at the core of McEnroe, and…
12 Apr 2018
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Noise-intolerant neighbors are taken to all-new levels in A Quiet Place, a new horror film from director John Krasinski. Krasinski also stars as Lee, a father trying to protect his family in a post-apocalyptic world besieged by horrific aliens who will tear you apart if you make so much as a peep. The opening sequence shows Lee, wife Evelyn (Krasinski’s real-life wife, Emily Blunt, aka the next Mary Poppins) and three children taking a very quiet walk home from a drug store. One of them makes a sudden noise—and the results are pretty scary for a PG-13 movie. The aliens are blind, so they hunt by sound—not, say, the sound of a river running or a bird chirping, but sounds that are more “interruptive,” like fireworks, a person screaming after stepping on a nail, etc. The gimmick lends itself to some faulty logic at times, but it does provide an…
12 Apr 2018
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A trio of deranged parents (Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz) discovers a pact by their three daughters to lose their virginity on prom night, so they stalk them on their special evening in Blockers. This sounds like the basis for a crap movie, but as things turn out, it’s one of the year’s funniest. Directed by Kay Cannon, the movie pushes the boundaries, pouring it on thick with (very funny) profanity and frank talk about high school seniors heading into sexual activity (not to mention drug experimentation and drinking). It handles its subjects in a surprisingly mature and even sweet way in the end, with the teenage daughters (Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Adlon) having their acts together far more than their bumbling parents. The always-reliable Mann gets a chance to really shine here; she is one of the best comic actresses in the game. Barinholtz gets…
05 Apr 2018
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Steven Spielberg goes for broke but leaves viewers bleary-eyed in a bad way with Ready Player One, based on the popular Ernest Cline novel. The film is so full of pop-culture references that it doesn’t so much deliver them as visually vomit them into one’s face. Rather than relishing the opportunity for ’80s nostalgia, Spielberg opts for whiplash pacing; he doesn’t allow any of the fun elements to really sink in. They pass by so fast that the film comes off as more of a speed-trivia exercise than an attempt at a true narrative. The futuristic storyline involves something called the OASIS, a virtual-reality world that is not only a pastime, but a total escape from real-world poverty and pollution. Wade (Tye Sheridan) lives in a place called the Stacks—basically manufactured homes piled on top of each other, and he whiles away many hours in the OASIS as his alter…
29 Mar 2018
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The original Pacific Rim, from 2013, had some definite problems, and its sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising is much worse—a big, stupid, worthless waste of time. Uprising takes an original idea (big Kaiju monsters fighting manmade robots) from director/creator Guillermo del Toro—an idea that resulted in an OK first movie with great elements but troublesome issues (robots/monsters good … people bad?)—and turns it into something perhaps even worse than your average Transformers movie. It’s a watered-down, cheap joke of a film that obliterates anything good del Toro started. Without del Toro directing (he dumped out a few years back to assume a producer’s role), the film loses all sense of style and artistic direction. Steven S. DeKnight, who has directed episodes of TV shows such as Smallville and Daredevil, makes his feature-film directing debut with something that screams, “Maybe I should’ve stuck with the TV gigs; movies too big for me.”…
22 Mar 2018
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Nick Robinson delivers a breakthrough performance as the title character in Love, Simon, a sweet throwback high-school comedy about a gay teen who—thanks to email and social networking—may need to come out sooner than expected. The film leans towards the formulaic, with a lot of similarities to the works of John Hughes (The Breakfast Club), thanks to some typical characters and a synth-heavy soundtrack. While the Hughes and Clueless comparisons are part of its charms, the film does feel a bit generic at times—but by the time the movie plays out, the formulaic plot mechanics are mostly forgivable, because, well, this movie is pretty damned adorable. Based on the Becky Albertalli novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (which would’ve been a much better movie title), the screenplay by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker has enough original and sincere notes to earn smiles and tears. Simon finds out that somebody…
15 Mar 2018
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A beloved novel gets absolutely slaughtered with A Wrinkle in Time, one of 2018’s worst movies—and an embarrassment for the great talents involved. Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel was adapted by Disney once before with an also-lousy direct-to-video release back in 2003. The book has been bouncing around Hollywood for decades, with many attempts to bring it to the big screen being aborted. It’s a sad, sad thing that Disney finally took the plunge, dropped a lot of money (more than $100 million)—and came up with this mess. Compounding the sadness would be that it is directed by Ava DuVernay, who made the excellent Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma. While that film had a cohesive vision, excellent technical credits and powerhouse acting all around, her new film has none of these things. It’s total chaos. Crackpot dreamy scientist Mr. Murry (Chris Pine) is obsessed with interstellar travel, and believes that…
08 Mar 2018
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Bruce Willis sleepwalks through Death Wish, a listless remake of the Charles Bronson vigilante movie that made a bunch money back in the 1970s, one year before Jaws was released. (I measure most things in the ’70s by the year Jaws was released. It’s a thing.) On paper, this looked like a potentially nasty fun project, considering Eli Roth was at the helm, and Willis was in the Bronson role. Sylvester Stallone gave the remake possibility some steam years ago, but subsequently chickened out. Then John McClane himself stepped into the role—and the remake started to take shape. Sadly, Willis is phoning it in here—and too many horribly acted scenes reveal that Willis and Roth probably didn’t gel as an actor/director combo. Willis seems tone deaf in some of the movie’s more dramatic scenes, and just plain bored in the remainder. When Willis gives a shit about the movie he’s…
01 Mar 2018
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Annihilation, director Alex Garland’s film starring Natalie Portman, bills itself as a science-fiction/fantasy flick. It is indeed sci-fi/fantasy—but on top of that, it is one of the scariest movies you will see this year. It’s also a legitimate horror film. This alien-invasion movie, loosely based on Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, explores themes of self-identity and love (as did Garland’s 2014 debut Ex Machina) while mixing in environmental terror involving nightmarish creatures and transforming landscapes. It also features a startlingly brutal take on the ravages of infidelity. And did I mention it’s freaking scary? There’s a lot going on in this movie—yet Garland and company balance it all out to make it a stunning piece of brainy entertainment. In an opening sequence reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing, an object enters Earth’s atmosphere and crashes to the planet. The zone surrounding the crash site becomes something known as The Shimmer, an environmental…