CVIndependent

Tue01222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

26 Sep 2013
by  - 
Prisoners, the new kidnapping thriller starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, is one of those movies that is impressive while being watched—but it loses some of its power upon reflection. By the time I got to my car after the screening, my head started going “Wait a minute … that part didn’t make much sense, now did it?” I enjoyed the film on many levels. It’s 2 1/2 hours long, and the time went by fairly quickly. The two leads are at the top of their games, and you just can’t go wrong with the visuals when Roger Deakins is working the camera. But somewhere around the third act, the kidnapping-mystery element starts going a little haywire. Director Denis Villeneuve and his writer, Aaron Guzikowski, are so determined to trip viewers up that the movie traipses over to the ridiculous side. This doesn’t derail the film, but it downgrades it…
19 Sep 2013
by  - 
The Family tries to be many movies at once—and none of them are any good. The result is an overcooked mafia comedy laced with jarringly inappropriate violence and jokes that only its writers would enjoy. The Family wants to be a comedy, but it isn’t funny. At times, it wants to be a scary and realistic take on mafia life, but it lacks tension. It also wants to be a family drama, but none of its characters can be taken seriously. It also boasts an over-stylized, fairy-tale quality that makes the undertaking a weird, unbalanced experience. Robert De Niro plays Giovanni, a mafia hit-man who has ratted out his co-workers and has been relocated with his family to Normandy, France, where he receives a new name, Fred Blake. His wife, Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), daughter, Belle (Dianna Agron of Glee), and son, Warren (John D’Leo), all seem rather forgiving of Fred’s…
12 Sep 2013
by  - 
Vin Diesel is back—and growling more than ever—as Riddick, the character that made him a star, in the creatively titled Riddick. The third movie in the shiny-eyed franchise is a decent-enough return to form—and much better than most of those vroom-vroom movies Diesel has been in lately. Director David Twohy gave us the original—the above average Pitch Black—back in 2000. Diesel’s performance in that film remains perhaps his best ever, although that’s not saying much. Then came The Chronicles of Riddick, an awful, bombastic PG-13 spectacle that felt silly after the barebones, R-rated horror of Pitch Black. Many of us who enjoyed the original were appalled to see a big-budget blockbuster showing the gritty Riddick hanging out with Judi Dench. Riddick proves that producers understand how legions of fans were severely pissed off by the costume pageantry of the second film: Twohy and Diesel have taken the character back to…
06 Sep 2013
by  - 
From director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel) comes Adore, this beautifully shot tale of two female friends (Naomi Watts and Robin Wright) who watch each other’s sons (Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville) grow up to be rather strapping lads. So it only stands to reason that the women start sleeping with each other’s sons—and that causes all kinds of troubles and mixed feelings. That’s about it for plotting; the film will not blow you away on a story level. However, it is well-acted, with Watts and Wright especially good as loyal friends who can’t help themselves. Fontaine knows how to make a good-looking movie, and there are many shots of awesome-looking people in swimwear. The great Ben Mendelsohn is on hand as Wright’s husband, who gets a big surprise when he returns from an extended trip. This is Wright’s best role in quite some time; meanwhile, Watts just needs to…
05 Sep 2013
by  - 
Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez are one sorry movie duo in Getaway. This film is a sure sign that the summer-movie season is coming to an end: Studios have started dumping their crap. Hawke plays Brent, a former race-car driver who comes home to find his Christmas tree in disarray—and his wife gone. He gets a call from Jon Voight’s ugly mouth (that’s the only part of the actor we see for most of the movie) telling him to get in a crazy-awesome car in the parking garage, and start taking his orders. If not, the wife gets it. Brent does what he’s told and starts driving like a maniac in a tripped-out Mustang rigged with numerous cameras. After successfully driving through a crowded park without killing anybody (this is a PG-13 movie, after all), the annoying Selena Gomez winds up in his car as a tough girl (she wears…
28 Aug 2013
by  - 
You’re Next is a little bit better than The Purge, the summer’s other home-invasion horror film … but only a little. A rich family gathers for a feast at their vacation home in the countryside, only to have unseen visitors start picking them off with a crossbow. Those unseen visitors eventually show themselves as dudes wearing various white animal masks; they are a little on the creepy side. Overall, this film feels like it’s covering standard, worn-out territory, although it is made sporadically tolerable thanks to director Adam Wingard’s ability to offer the occasional unique scare. A seasoned mystery/horror watcher will see the big twists coming a mile away. Still, Sharni Vinson is pretty kick-ass as the girlfriend with a surprise ability to survive; the movie is a showcase for her talents. As 2013 horror films go, this one isn’t nearly as fun as The Conjuring, but it’s markedly better…
29 Aug 2013
by  - 
Miles Teller delivers a breakout performance in The Spectacular Now as Sutter, a partying high school senior who everybody loves, but nobody takes seriously—until a well-balanced girl, Aimee (Shailene Woodley), comes along. They start a complicated relationship that is ill-advised at both ends—but sometimes, that’s the best way to start a relationship. Teller is a marvel here, turning Sutter into someone who’s much more than your average high school screw-up. Woodley, so good in The Descendants, is proving to be one of cinema’s great young actresses. The film is a unique and intelligent take on growing up. This is directed by James Ponsoldt, who piloted last year’s terrific Smashed, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who appears here as Sutter’s sister. Ponsoldt is officially a force to be reckoned with, seeing as he’s now made two of the best films of the last two years. Others in the cast include Jennifer Jason…
29 Aug 2013
by  - 
There was a time when Woody Allen was consistently making the best movies in the business—and Blue Jasmine is that return to form that some of us Allen fans have been waiting for, thanks in large part to a phenomenal central performance by Cate Blanchett. Blanchett—sure to nab an Oscar nomination here—plays Jasmine, the wife of a Bernie Madoff-type financier (Alec Baldwin) who must relocate from New York to San Francisco after she is financially ruined and emotionally destroyed. She gulps martinis, criticizes her helpful sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), and, quite frighteningly, is prone to bouts of talking to herself. Allen finds the dark humor in the story, and employs a supporting cast that includes Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K. and, most astonishingly, Andrew Dice Clay, who, doggone it, delivers one amazing performance as Ginger’s financially destroyed ex-husband, Augie. Above and beyond the humor, Allen makes his film a parable about…
29 Aug 2013
by  - 
Director Edgar Wright teams with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for the raucous conclusion to their “Cornetto” trilogy with The World’s End, a twisted homage to male bonding, beer crawls and John Carpenter sci-fi. This movie works because of the sense that anything can, and will, happen. Pegg plays Gary King, a somewhat troubled but good-natured man who is determined to get his old crew back together to complete a pub crawl in his hometown—20 years after the gang failed to make it to the last pub on their infamous crawl, an incident providing King with a nagging sense of unfinished business. A good chunk of the film is actually a warmhearted, funny and well-written gathering of old friends, told in straightforward fashion. Some of the men from the old gang are fairly happy to see King, while others, like Andy (Nick Frost), would prefer he piss off. Still, even…
22 Aug 2013
by  - 
Director Lee Daniels (mentioned in the film’s title after a much-publicized lawsuit) delivers a fine emotional wallop with this historical epic that is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, a butler at the White House for 34 years. Those going to this film for its historical significance, take note: The film contains much fiction. Allen is renamed Cecil (played by Forest Whitaker), and is given a fictional older son to depict a family conflict during the Civil Rights Movement. In other words, this film, which shows the butler interacting with presidents from Eisenhower (Robin Williams) through Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman), is mostly made up. That doesn’t hurt the film’s dramatic significance; it’s a moving experience. What does damage the film a bit is horrible makeup, especially a goofy fake nose for John Cusack as Richard Nixon. The makeup is sometimes so bad that the film turns into unintentional…
22 Aug 2013
by  - 
Kick-Ass 2 had barely started when I experienced a serious flashback—a flashback so vivid that it felt like I had traveled through time. (I concede that I was sort of high on Benadryl; at least it stops my nose from running.) It was 1989, the summer before my final year of college. I was managing a crappy discount movie theater at the time, and I would go up the road to the nice theater for the big, new movies a few weeks before our cheap-ass theater got a print. I was a bright-eyed optimist sitting down for a showing of Ghostbusters 2. A few short minutes into that sequel, I knew things had gone terribly wrong with a potentially great franchise. I felt that same, sinking, nauseating feeling as Kick-Ass 2 began by recycling the infamous bit from the original film in which Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) tested the bulletproof…
15 Aug 2013
by  - 
Writer-director Neill Blomkamp follows up District 9 with another solid sci-fi effort in Elysium, a film that delivers terrific action—along with a reasonable amount of smarts. Unfortunately, Elysium is also a little on the stupid and illogical side, especially during its ending. Yes, I just complimented the film for being smart—so it’s possible to be both dumb and brilliant in the same movie. (Heck, Guillermo del Toro did just that with his Pacific Rim earlier this summer.) It’s about 140 years in the future, and man has, not surprisingly, screwed up the planet. It’s one big garbage heap (shades of WALL-E and Idiocracy), and the planet’s wealthy people have abandoned Earth for a bitchin’ space station in the sky. This space station, Elysium, has everything a rich bitch would want: It’s got mansions, pools, sweet landscaping, 10 different kinds of tacos and, most notably, healing booths. These healing booths don’t…