CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

19 Jul 2013
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Ryan Gosling has recently re-teamed with two directors who came up aces for him on their last films. Earlier this year, Gosling gave a magnetic performance in The Place Beyond the Pines for director Derek Cianfrance, maker of the excellent Blue Valentine. Pines is one of the year’s best pictures so far, a movie worth revisiting. Now comes Only God Forgives from Nicolas Winding Refn, who made the masterpiece Drive. While Drive cemented Gosling as one of the better young actors on screens today, Forgives winds up being a complete nonevent. This movie has virtually nothing to offer. Gosling plays Julian, a Bangkok drug-smuggler whose brother is killed by a local cop. At the urging of his foul-mouthed mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), he seeks revenge on his brother’s killer, resulting in a fight in which he gets his ass supremely kicked. That’s it. That’s the movie: Gosling gets his ass…
18 Jul 2013
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Adam Sandler has done it again: He has made the worst movie of his career. How do his films keep topping themselves in horribleness? Grown Ups 2—a sequel to the Dennis Dugan disaster that joined David Spade, Chris Rock and Kevin James—is twice as bad as the original. Considering how awful the original was, I didn’t think such a feat was possible. The plot involves Sandler moving back to his hometown, where a deer enters his house and promptly urinates on him. Then he goes shopping with his friends who fart and burp a lot. Then he has a big party where everybody dresses up as people from the ’80s (Pat Benatar, Bruce Springsteen, The Terminator). Then somebody farts again, and then the movie is over. I sat in a theater in which people were laughing their asses off every time somebody farted. It was one of the most-depressing experiences…
18 Jul 2013
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Gigantic alien beasts get their asses handed to them by robots that don’t turn into trucks and cars in Guillermo del Toro’s alternately exhilarating and stale Pacific Rim. This movie is full-on crazy, often in a way that’s rather fun. This is del Toro’s first directorial project after abandoning The Hobbit—and he made a good call. I had a hard time staying awake during The Hobbit. Such was not the case here. It’s the near future, and freaky beasts called kaiju are rising from the ocean depths and tearing cities to shreds. Do we nuke them? No. That would be too easy. Instead, we spend kazillions to build a bunch of hard-core robots that are driven by pilots melding their minds together. It makes absolutely no sense, and I don’t care—because it’s fun. Nearly all of these battles take place in the dark, in the rain or in the ocean.…
11 Jul 2013
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At one point during its journey to the screen, Disney halted production on The Lone Ranger because it was costing too much, and the studio was not sure a Western-themed summer tent-pole movie was a good idea. Eventually, they caved in to Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski, producing it for a reported $225 million. This will now go down as a huge, massive, unthinkable, crazy, job-killing blunder. The people who had the good sense to initially halt production should’ve stuck to their guns. What a misguided, uncomfortable movie this is. Johnny Depp appearing as Tonto, with his face painted to mask the fact that he isn’t Native American, is a travesty. His movies have been mediocre at best lately, but this bad career choice goes well beyond the likes of The Tourist: This is the kind of stuff that cuts future paydays in half. The film is an odd…
04 Jul 2013
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The Bard gets stripped down by one of the most unlikely candidates: Joss Whedon, recently the maker of massively expensive geek-boy extravaganzas. The man who gave us The Avengers got his buddies together at his house to shoot a rather pleasant black-and-white take on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, just to show that things don’t have to explode all the time in his cinematic forays. The result is intimate, funny and even unique, considering the play that has been adapted many, many times. The film was shot in less than two weeks, an extension of parties Whedon hosted with friends and colleagues that featured Shakespeare readings. Consequently, it has the look of a quaint dinner party, with women in sundresses and men in tailored suits. It’s a breezy experiment that works for most of its running time. After impressing Whedon at one of his shindigs, Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof…
05 Jul 2013
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Director Roland Emmerich has made fun trash before (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012). He’s a modern-day Irwin Allen, and I often get a kick out of his silly disaster movies. But White House Down, starring Channing Tatum as a lawman who happens to be touring the White House when terrorists take over, is a complete bust. It’s too stupid to be fun, and it doesn’t offer enough cool special effects to offset the moronic storytelling. (The Capitol getting destroyed is the only memorable moment of carnage.) Jamie Foxx plays the president as sort of an Obama clone; he’s taken hostage in a homeland-terrorist scheme that is beyond impossible. Throw in a precocious daughter (Joey King) and James Woods doing his James Woods routine, and you have a movie full to the brim with useless clichés. Tatum, so much fun in 21 Jump Street, is left stranded in a…
04 Jul 2013
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Sandra Bullock might receive top billing, but Melissa McCarthy is the reason folks should go see The Heat. McCarthy, reuniting with her Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, gets more laughs in her first 10 minutes here than the Wolf Pack got in the entirety of The Hangover Part III. As Mullins—one of those Boston police detectives who can only exist at the movies—McCarthy reminds viewers that she is one of the best comic actresses working today. When she’s on a roll, anything she says is funny (especially when that “anything” is tagged with a creative array of obscenities). Not since Eddie Murphy was in his heyday has a performer spun an abundance of vulgarity so eloquently. She is the goddess of four-letter words. Bullock complements her well as the straight-laced Ashburn, an FBI agent who is in Boston to take out a notorious drug lord—and hopefully score a big promotion in…
28 Jun 2013
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Based on an actual series of robberies during which Southern California teens robbed the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola’s fifth directorial effort, is a biting satire featuring fun work from Emma Watson in a performance reminiscent of that of Nicole Kidman in To Die For. The ensemble cast, including Katie Chang, Israel Broussard and Taissa Farmiga, does a good job of portraying vacuous teens obsessed with celebrity—and what those celebrities are wearing. When they find out a star is out of town, they go to the star’s house—and basically go shopping. At one point, they go to Paris Hilton’s place; Coppola films at Hilton’s actual house. In typical Coppola style, the film looks great and boasts a terrific soundtrack. It’s a return to form for the director after the sleepy misfire that was Somewhere. The Bling Ring is now playing at the Regal…
27 Jun 2013
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World War Z is two-thirds of a decent movie. The movie has one helluva start, and an even better middle. Then, in its final act, it totally craps out. Too bad. I was looking to Brad Pitt’s zombie movie as possible relief from the mediocre, big-budget blockbusters we’ve gotten this summer (with the blessed exceptions of Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness). Unfortunately, the much-troubled production shows every one of its scars, especially in its positively ridiculous finale. Those who frequent movie websites know that director Marc Forster oversaw the tumultuous production, which included big delays and crucial reshoots. Lost and Prometheus scribe Damon Lindelof was brought in to write an all-new ending. Unfortunately, that ending strains so hard to be clever that you can see the throbbing veins popping out of its head. This movie called for a finale that kicked mortal ass; instead, Lindelof and Forster…
20 Jun 2013
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James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and especially Danny McBride and Michael Cera are going to get crossed off a lot of Christmas-party guest lists this year. After what happens at their party in This Is the End, nobody’s going to want them anywhere near the Chex mix. Rogen and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, make a co-directorial debut for the ages with this caustically funny, blood-drenched satire of Hollywood vanity and biblical end times. Nobody is safe in this movie, in which Rogen and a bunch of his film cronies play themselves. They behave rather poorly as apocalyptic hellfire burns the Hollywood Hills, and the devil comes knocking with his huge junk hanging out. When Baruchel comes to Hollywood to visit Rogen, he is dragged against his will to James Franco’s incredible new house—which Franco has, of course, designed himself—for a blowout party, where Cera is jacked up on…
11 Jun 2013
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With Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach writes a love letter to his current girlfriend, Greta Gerwig, who stars as the title character and co-wrote the script (with Baumbach). Frances is an New York City dancer apprentice who really loves her best friend (Mickey Sumner …the daughter of Sting!) and has to move between apartments a lot. The movie follows her often-failed attempts to settle into some kind of groove—which is hard to do when you’re doing things like taking an impromptu trip to Paris after getting drunk at a dinner party. Shot in black and white, the film has a nice, natural feel to it, and it’s propelled by Gerwig’s quirky performance. The comparisons to vintage Woody Allen are well-deserved, with Gerwig proving that she is much better in smaller fare (this and Damsels in Distress) than big Hollywood productions (No Strings Attached, Arthur). Frances Ha is now playing at the…
14 Jun 2013
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When I heard Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson would be reuniting for a film after their blessed Wedding Crashers, I got justifiably excited. Vaughn is fantastic when he’s being profane, and he made Wilson tolerable in their first go-round. However, what we get with The Internship is a terrible, a two-hour commercial for Google that sanitizes Vaughn and Wilson. They play a couple of salesmen who lose their gigs when watches become obsolete. For reasons that are never really explained, the Vaughn character hones in on Google during his job search, and he convinces the Wilson character to compete with him in an intern contest, with the winners getting jobs. Vaughn, who co-wrote the screenplay, allegedly worked closely with Google while creating the film, so, needless to say, there aren’t a lot of profanities and nude shots. Instead, we get family-friendly Vaughn and Wilson, with the results being boring, unfunny…