CVIndependent

Sat11172018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

29 Mar 2018
by  - 
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
by  - 
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
by  - 
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
by  - 
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
by  - 
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…
01 Mar 2018
by  - 
Give co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein a lot of credit for making a movie about friends gathering for a game night—a premise that sounds kind of stupid—and turning Game Night into one of the funnier dark comedies in recent memory. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams play Max and Annie, a married couple with a love of board games and arcades. They host weekly game nights with their friends, but the latest one could be a bit annoying for Max, because it involves his highly successful brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler). Brooks asks to take over game night; Max concedes; and what follows is a great and funny series of surprising, twisted and often super-bloody events. I don’t want to give away the big twists; I’ll just say the film managed to trick me on numerous occasions—while making me laugh hard. Bateman and McAdams turn in some of the funniest…
22 Feb 2018
by  - 
Selecting Ryan Coogler to helm Black Panther is a major triumph: His entry into the Marvel universe is a majestic, full-bodied, exhilarating treatment of the African-king title character (Chadwick Boseman) with the crazy-cool suit. Marvel has yet another big success with a grand future. Coogler has three feature films to his credit now—one masterpiece (Fruitvale Station) and two very good movies (Black Panther and Creed). He’s officially one of the best directors currently calling the shots. This is also his third collaboration with actor Michael B. Jordan, who brings a fleshed-out, complicated villain to the screen in Erik Killmonger. Man, you need to be bad with that last name. The pre-opening-credit scenes involves Black Panther’s dad and predecessor having a confrontation in 1992, in Oakland, Calif. A major event takes place as some kids playing basketball look on. It turns out to be one of the more brilliant and heart-wrenching…
15 Feb 2018
by  - 
I went to see Fifty Shades Freed—the third, supposedly final and treacherously terrible entry in the Fifty Shades franchise—on a Sunday morning, hoping to keep a low profile. I was the only single guy sitting in the dark theater, along with couples of varying ages, primed for groping and sloppy in-theater fellatio. (Hey, we all know what happens at these damn Fifty Shades screenings!) So … this is the one in which Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) get married, creating an eternal bond for their patented strain of lovemaking that involves whips, handcuffs and shitty dialogue. When I sat down to take in this fart to the face, I was thinking, “Say, you know what I want with my miserable, dick-killing soft-core porn? Give me some car chases and kidnapping drama!” And that is what I got … but I wasn’t really thinking that. I was…
08 Feb 2018
by  - 
Toward the end of Winchester—the new haunted house movie starring Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke—a character has a moment when she says the words, “I am not afraid,” repeatedly. My sentiments exactly. Mirren and Clarke head a decent cast in what proves to be a movie without any real scares, personality or real reason to sit down and watch it. The acting is terrible; the editing is sloppy; and the special effects are third-rate. This level of failure is very surprising, considering it was directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, the brothers who put together the inventive science-fiction thriller Predestination. Clarke plays Eric Price, a doctor addicted to drugs and alcohol. His wife died due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound via a Winchester rifle, a rifle from which he also took a bullet, although he survived. (The script alludes to him being dead for three minutes before being brought back…
01 Feb 2018
by  - 
Director Scott Cooper’s Hostiles is an uncompromising, brutal Western. It makes Clint Eastwood’s classic, somber Unforgiven look like Mary Poppins. Christian Bale turns in another spellbinding performance as Capt. Joseph J. Blocker. Joe—a quiet, tired, jaded soldier—is spending the closing days of his military career in 1892 capturing and imprisoning Native Americans. He has fought many battles, seen many atrocities, and committed many of his own. When aging and terminally ill Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) is granted freedom by the president of the United States, somebody who knows his dialect must be chosen to escort him and his family back to Montana. Joe is the best candidate for the job … but it’s a job he doesn’t want: Joe fought against Yellow Hawk and witnessed him murdering his friend many years ago. The idea of leading a man he sees as the worst of murderers to a graceful…
25 Jan 2018
by  - 
The latest film from Paul Thomas Anderson finally did in actor Daniel Day-Lewis: He announced his retirement from acting before Phantom Thread made it to movie screens late last year—just in time for awards season. Timing is everything: The film nabbed six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and a Best Actor nom for Day-Lewis. Day-Lewis tends to kick his own ass when he plays roles. A notorious method actor, he stayed in the role of Abe Lincoln for the Spielberg biopic when cameras weren’t rolling, and word has it that he did heavy research for his role as a 1950s dress-maker and fashion maverick in Phantom Thread. That crazy research and attention to detail most contributes to Day-Lewis’s tendency to inhabit a role like no other. I maintain that the greatest single performance by any actor, anywhere, ever, is his portrayal of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood—Day-Lewis’s first,…
25 Jan 2018
by  - 
Call Me by Your Name is one of 2017’s better love stories—a sumptuously filmed romance set in Italy that is a thing of beauty. Lush settings, stunning locations and two adorable leads in Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet contribute to a sweet, and heartbreaking, story by André Aciman (who wrote the novel), with a screenplay by James Ivory. In an Oscar-nominated performance, Chalamet plays Elio, an American living in Italy with his professor father (Michael Stuhlbarg). When his father takes an assistant in the form of Oliver (Hammer), Elio is smitten—and so is the older Oliver. They wind up having a fling that carries deep meaning for them, and for those who know them. Chalamet (who was also terrific in Lady Bird) makes Elio so much more than a confused teen in love; this guy is really in love in a way that will affect his entire life, and the…