CVIndependent

Tue01222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

20 Feb 2014
by  - 
Don’t disregard this film as just another unnecessary remake of an ’80s film: Kevin Hart and company make the latest adaptation of David Mamet’s play Sexual Perversity in Chicago a wildly entertaining endeavor. Hart—who lights up any film he shows up in, even when the movie stinks—plays Bernie, a player who finds himself in a relationship with the fiery Joan (Regina Hall). While Bernie and Joan experience a wild roller-coaster ride of sex and spats, Bernie’s best bud, Danny (Michael Ealy), winds up dating Joan’s best friend, Debbie (Joy Bryant). The two have a one-night stand that turns into a long-term relationship replete with all the problems of a relationship that started up way too fast. The main reasons to see the film is Hart and Hall, who are a crack-up under the direction of Steve Pink (Hot Tub Time Machine). However, Ealy and Bryant make an appealing and intriguing…
20 Feb 2014
by  - 
A slew of 1980s remakes are getting thrown at us right now. For example, Endless Love and About Last Night both got re-dos, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Also released on that day of candy and heart-shaped cards: a remake of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 ultra-violent satiric masterpiece, RoboCop. The idea to reboot RoboCop has been around for years. The last RoboCop film, the remarkably awful RoboCop 3, came out more than 20 years ago. At one point, director Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream) was attached, and that gave geeks and fanboys a reason to rejoice. Alas, Aronofsky dropped out to make Black Swan instead. A chance for legendary coolness was squandered. In stepped Brazilian director José Padilha (Elite Squad), who received a mandate to produce a PG-13 RoboCop (as opposed to the hard-R original), so that more money could be made. After a tumultuous production, we…
13 Feb 2014
by  - 
Director George Clooney’s war epic about historians racing to save art from the Nazis looks and feels like it was just taken out of a time capsule buried in 1958. The Monuments Men is quite breezy for a war movie, peppered with laughs provided by a strong cast, including Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and John Goodman. They all play men trying to thwart Hitler’s plan for a giant museum. The film has one of those whistle-infused soundtracks, and it doesn’t hurt that Clooney and Dujardin look like Errol Flynn and Gene Kelly. The movie moves briskly, and is perhaps a bit too weightless for a movie with such a heavy subject at its heart. It also has a useless subplot involving Damon and Cate Blanchett that is deserving of the cutting-room floor. Still, Clooney has great command of the camera here; the ensemble shines (especially…
13 Feb 2014
by  - 
The Lego Movie is a most welcome surprise. Fast-paced, frequently hilarious and visually fun, this is the sort of movie we’ve come to expect from Pixar—one that appeals to both kids and adults on many levels. However, this isn’t a Pixar film; instead, it’s a product of the formidable but inconsistent Warner Bros. animation wing. Sure, it’s a big commercial for Lego toys, but the product placement is more of a sly wink than a hammer over the head. I’m more offended by, say, frequently placed Subway sandwiches in an Adam Sandler movie than the constant presence of Legos in this one. Lego has developed its own universe over the years, especially with its video games, so I never felt like I was watching a commercial. Instead, we get a movie that hurls jokes at breakneck speed, to go along with its super-kinetic visuals. The voice talent is a who’s-who…
06 Feb 2014
by  - 
That Awkward Moment, a romantic comedy starring Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan, gets off to a promising start. It plays like a cool throwback to the romantic/sex comedies of the 1980s. All’s well until somewhere around the midpoint of the movie—when things take a dramatic downward turn. Efron, Teller and Jordan (all decent to great actors) respectively play Jason, Daniel and Mikey, New York City 20-somethings dealing with romance in a time of Facebook, texting and infidelity. When Mikey finds out his wife is cheating, he heads for divorce, and the other two join him in a pact to avoid relationships and stay single. It’s dating and debauchery for the three—with no commitments allowed. Is there a distinct moment in which the film goes tragically bad? I’m not sure, but it could be the moment when Efron shows up dressed as “Rock Out With Your Cock Out!”…
30 Jan 2014
by  - 
There was a time when The Invisible Woman—a movie that takes a speculative look at an affair Charles Dickens had toward the end of his life—would’ve had “Oscar” written all over it. Ralph Fiennes directs himself as Dickens, and he presents the author as the John Lennon or Elvis Presley of his day. (Dickens was indeed a literary rock star, and one of the first to deal with print-media scrutiny and hordes of fans when he tried to take a walk or go to the theater.) The married Dickens also created quite a bit of controversy by having an affair with a young actress named Nelly (played here by Felicity Jones), whose full name was Ellen Ternan. Jones, the stunning actress who broke through with an amazing performance in Like Crazy, is this film’s best asset. As Nelly—an aspiring actress with questionable talent who displayed big fan crush on Dickens—Jones…
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…