CVIndependent

Mon10152018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

30 Jan 2014
by  - 
When I took a look at January’s movie-release list, I found one date particularly disturbing and foreboding. That would have been Jan. 24, the release date for I, Frankenstein. I feared that date like an ardent Coke-drinker with a saltwater-taffy addiction and a taste for meth would fear a dental appointment. That fear was justified: I, Frankenstein is a movie so bad that it will affect your body chemically in a negative way, as if you ingested a chainsaw. A viewing of this film could have an adverse affect on your sphincter, your thyroid, your epiglottis, your self-esteem and your ability to process mathematics. Seeing I, Frankenstein, even for a few minutes, could diminish your sperm count, cause irreversible eye fungus and make you inconsolably sad. Aaron Eckhart—in a career move as terrible as the time Halle Berry said, “Sure, I’ll play Catwoman. What’s the worst that could happen?”—plays Adam…
23 Jan 2014
by  - 
I can’t deny the wonderful acting work by the likes of Bruce Dern, Will Forte, Bob Odenkirk and especially June Squibb in Nebraska; they are all wonderful in this movie. What I can bemoan is the stupid, stupid story propelling that acting. Dern plays an old codger who becomes convinced that he’s won a million dollars because of a magazine-subscription letter saying he’s a winner. Therefore, he starts walking from Montana to Nebraska; his son (Forte) eventually helps him on his quest with an automobile. It’s a dumb idea, and the premise is too improbable for a serious comedy movie. Still, it does lay the groundwork for a decent father-son dynamic between Dern and Forte; Odenkirk shows up as another son and knocks the part out of the park. Of the six Oscar nominations this film earned, I would call Squibb the most deserving for her work as Dern’s droll…
16 Jan 2014
by  - 
Spike Jonze (who also had an awesome cameo in The Wolf of Wall Street) wrote and directed this beautiful love story about a man who is smitten with his computer’s operating system (voiced by a lovely Scarlett Johansson). Johansson does mesmerizing voice work as Samantha, an advanced Siri-like voice-operating system that is so charming, her new owner (Joaquin Phoenix) finds her far more interesting than actual humans. She makes you believe a man could fall in love with his computer. Jonze, who wrote the screenplay, has made a movie that looks and feels realistic, creating a future in which it’s perfectly OK to date your computer. He approaches the topic seriously, and somehow manages to make it all work. The movie not only looks beautiful, as Jonze films often do; it sounds great, thanks to a soundtrack from Arcade Fire. Let it also be said that Phoenix turns in some…
17 Jan 2014
by  - 
Tracy Letts’ play has come to the big screen with a big cast, including Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper and others. After a family tragedy, a group of sisters, accompanied by their husbands/boyfriends, return home to Texas and their dying mother (played by Streep). Mother was mean when they were growing up—and she remains mean in her dying days, much to the annoyance of daughter Barbara (Roberts), who is doing her best not to follow in mother’s footsteps. The cast is strong, with most of them turning in great work—including Juliette Lewis, who turns in her first strong performance a long while. The lone exception: Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays a slow member of the family. He’s just all wrong for the part. The movie is super dark and ugly, and full of people acting like true jerks. While the story isn’t anything new, the cast makes it…
09 Jan 2014
by  - 
Lone Survivor, an explosive passion project from writer-director Peter Berg, takes an unrelentingly gruesome look at Operation Red Wings, the failed 2005 mission in Afghanistan that claimed the lives of 19 American soldiers. Autopsies and first-hand witness accounts have revealed that three Navy SEALs were brutally killed by bullets and the rugged countryside tearing them apart. As for the other 16 soldiers killed, they died when a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade struck their helicopter and sent them crashing into a cliff. Most of the movie centers on the four Navy SEALs dropped into hostile territory, and how an unfortunate civilian encounter and communications problems led to a massive gun battle with insurmountable odds. In a performance that stands among his best, Mark Wahlberg plays Marcus Luttrell, the Navy SEAL who co-wrote the book upon which this movie is based. (The real Luttrell actually has a cameo early in the film; he…
07 Jan 2014
by  - 
A semi-local film made its world debut on Saturday, Jan. 4, as part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival—and 3 Nights in the Desert may very well go beyond the festival circuit, thanks in large part to its strong cast. Three friends—Travis (Wes Bentley, The Hunger Games), Anna (Amber Tamblyn, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and Barry (Vincent Piazza, Boardwalk Empire)—were once in a band together. Their birthdays are all within three days, and after not seeing each other for years, they decide to meet in the desert at Travis' home for their 30th birthdays. Travis meets Barry at the train station; on the drive to Travis’ home, Barry expresses discomfort about the fact that Anna will be coming. Anna and Barry seem to have moved on after the band’s breakup. Barry is married and a tax attorney in Seattle; Anna is enjoying a successful music career as a…
07 Jan 2014
by  - 
Through a partnership of Palestinian director Sameh Zoabi and Search for Common Ground founder John Marks comes Under the Same Sun, set in the near future in Israel and Palestine. The Palm Springs International Film Festival was the site of the film’s West Coast premiere on Saturday, Jan. 4, with both Marks and Zoabi on hand for a discussion of the movie. Before the film started, Marks addressed the audience. “You might find this film to be a fantasy, but the idea is to understand this could happen with the right leadership,” said the founder of the nonprofit organization that seeks to end violent conflict. A Palestinian businessman, Nizar (Ali Suliman), and an Israeli businessman, Shaul (Yossi Marshek), have a secret business meeting in France. Shaul owns a solar-power company and is pitching the idea of selling solar panels to Palestinians, due to the actual facts that Palestinians get the…
03 Jan 2014
by  - 
Keanu Reeves drones his way through this disgustingly bad samurai movie—an expensive exercise in excess that should result in some people over at Universal losing their jobs. Who green-lit this thing? Reeves never seems to string more than five words together as Kai, a “half-breed” who is part human, and possibly part demon, or something like that. He can’t really hang with the samurai warriors, so he mopes about looking all sad and bowing to his masters—until somebody is being attacked by something or other, in which case he is compelled to fight for their honor … or something. This is a meandering, listless mess—a clear sign that Keanu has worn out his welcome in blockbuster action films. It’s no wonder he’s pushing for a new Bill and Ted movie; the dude is no longer fun when he’s springing into action. This film is funny for all of the wrong…
03 Jan 2014
by  - 
Grudge Match should’ve been really fun. Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro—riffing on their iconic boxing characters Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta—have one last boxing match. It’s a setup for something great, nostalgic and even funny. Instead, director Peter Segal manages to make this undertaking a morose, unfunny slog. Stallone plays a generally unhappy character, while De Niro plays a total asshole. Their characters wind up in a scenario that gets their near-70-year-old bodies into the ring for a rematch 30 years after their last fight. The fight itself is OK, with both men looking pretty fit for their age. However, everything leading up to the fight is oddly paced, and sometimes painful to watch, especially when Kim Basinger is onscreen as a confused love interest. Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart are wasted in supporting roles. This seemed like a sure thing, but Segal blew it. The film takes itself…
02 Jan 2014
by  - 
The dream world and reality blend beautifully in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the latest from director/star Ben Stiller. Stiller uses the short story by James Thurber—about a man prone to elaborate daydreams—as a springboard to something altogether new, and surprisingly intimate. This is essentially a $90 million art film that maintains a nice, indie sensibility to go along with moments of grand spectacle. Stiller, in one of his best performances, plays the title character, an introverted man who handles photo negatives for Life magazine. After a vivid daydream in which he saves a cat from a building moments before it explodes, he wanders into Life’s lobby—and finds out the magazine will be going online-only. (This actually happened a while back in the real world. Life has been publishing only occasional special issues for years, and doesn’t even exist as its own full website anymore). In other words, Walter,…
31 Dec 2013
by  - 
The Coen Brothers have made films raging from dark-comedy works to Westerns—yet they all have a distinctive, specific Coen Brothers feel. Their latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, is loosely based on Dave Von Ronk, a Greenwich Village folk singer who tried—and failed—to captivate audiences in the early ‘60s. The story begins in a café. After performing, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is told by the owner that a “friend” is waiting for him outside. When he steps outside, he’s beaten up by a stranger. The struggling musician—his new record isn’t selling—sleeps on the couches of his friends, and he’s trying to come to terms with the suicide of a former collaborator and friend. He ponders returning to the Merchant Marines. Inside Llewyn Davis has some of the dark humor typical in a Coen Brothers film, and the comedy relief is always perfectly timed to break the moments of intense heartbreak you feel…
26 Dec 2013
by  - 
Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are charming as Walt Disney and Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in this obviously whitewashed look at Disney’s effort to get Travers’ approval to make a movie out of her book. Of course, most of us know he succeeded, but many don’t know that Travers was quite the holdout. The movie splits time between the Disney/Travers business and Travers’ childhood, where we find out that much of Mary Poppins was based on her troubled father (Colin Farrell) and actual nanny. B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman are wonderful as the Sherman brothers, who made Mary into a musical, much to the chagrin of Travers. The movie takes a lot of artistic license with the situation. Even though Travers is depicted as difficult here, she was far more adversarial in real life—and never approved of the movie. (Those animated penguins!) Still, the film is fun to watch,…