CVIndependent

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Reviews

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…
13 Jun 2013
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Cool concept … poor execution. The concept of The Purge: For 12 hours each year, Americans are allowed to go all helter-skelter and commit any felony—including murder—with no legal consequences. James (Ethan Hawke) has made a lot of money by capitalizing on this day—selling high priced security systems to his neighbors. When he locks down his house on the night of “the purge,” he’s thinking his home is an impenetrable fortress. Obviously, something is going to go very wrong. There’s a great idea at this movie’s core, but the film degenerates into a home-siege movie in which everybody, and I mean everybody, acts stupidly. This is a movie in which the villains are walking around, with their guns down and their faces just outside windows … and the armed people they are pursuing fail to take them out. It drove me a little crazy. Hawke gives it a good try,…
13 Jun 2013
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Seven years ago, director Bryan Singer tried to re-launch Superman by casting a Christopher Reeve clone (Brandon Routh) and a long-dead Marlon Brando, while retaining that majestic John Williams theme. I liked Superman Returns, but it performed beneath expectations, and producers put Superman on ice. With Man of Steel, Warner Bros. is reviving Superman by giving the son of Jor-El the Christopher Nolan treatment. Nolan doesn’t direct, but he does produce; David S. Goyer, who co-wrote Nolan’s Batman films, has penned the script. The result? A dull Superman who whines about his parents a lot. Man of Steel has some impressive fireworks, but it severely lacks soul. It’s like a Superman/Transformersmovie. I’ll say this: Henry Cavill is easily the best-looking Superman. I mean, this guy is GORGEOUS. Man of Steel will probably do good box office simply because people will want to spend many summer hours just gazing at this…
07 Jun 2013
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For those of you hankering for another magician movie after The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, here it is! A Las Vegas magician act called the Four Horsemen (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco) concludes a show by seemingly robbing a bank in France through teleportation. An FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) and an Interpol detective (Mélanie Laurent) investigate—and we snore. Morgan Freeman is on hand as a man who makes a living debunking magic, as is Michael Caine as a millionaire bankrolling the Horsemen. It all amounts to nonsense, with the a lot of swirling cameras and stupid fights involving playing cards and paper cuts. The big reveals are silly, and much of what happens on the magic side is never explained. Meanwhile, Eisenberg delivers one of the year’s more annoying performances. Now You See Me is playing at theaters across the valley.
06 Jun 2013
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The amazing Sarah Polley continues her directorial hot streak (Away From Her, Take This Waltz) with this introspective look at her own origins. Polley mixes archival footage, new interviews, and well-done home-video re-enactments to tell the story of her mother, the father who raised her, and her birth dad. It’s fun—and a little shocking—to find out about Polley’s dad, and the events that led to her birth. Michael Polley, the man who raised Sarah, provides wonderful narrative from a memoir he wrote himself; other major contributors include Sarah’s sisters and brother. It wasn’t until the movie was almost half over that I realized some of the archival video sequences were re-enactments. For a change, somebody has done re-enactments for a documentary that fit. Polley is one of the more gifted filmmakers going today. (If you haven’t seen Away From Her, see it now!) This will surely be one of the…
06 Jun 2013
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Will Smith plays royal king douche of all douchebags in director M. Night Shyamalan’s latest travesty, the unwatchable, intolerable After Earth. Conceived by Smith (he gets a story credit) as a project for himself and his son Jaden (they were cute together in The Pursuit of Happyness), After Earth focuses on a father and son stranded on Earth long after humans have abandoned it. It seems humans can no longer breathe on the planet’s surface, yet all manner of wildlife (buffalo, huge-assed birds, baboons, lions, etc.) have no problem. Go figure. They wind up on the planet after their transport ship drives through an asteroid field, and everyone else on board is killed. After the harrowing crash sequence (the best thing in the movie), Will Smith’s Cypher Raige (this year’s pick for dumbest movie name!) is severely injured and must stay behind in the crippled ship as son Kitai Raige…
30 May 2013
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I had high hopes for The Hangover Part III, the conclusion to director Todd Phillips’ trilogy about a group of guys who get into a lot of R-rated trouble after ingesting bad stuff. In retrospect, I feel like a major idiot for having such high hopes. The Hangover franchise, as it turns out, should’ve never become a franchise at all. With the first film, Phillips and his gang of actors captured comedic magic when an awkward bearded man drugged his buddies at a bachelor party, which led to sordid acts including the kidnapping of Mike Tyson’s tiger. The Hangover Part II was a carbon copy of that film, shipped from Las Vegas to Thailand. It had about 15 percent of the original’s laughs; however, it wasn’t a complete loss, even though it was a supreme disappointment. Alas, Part III is total garbage, a film lacking any sense of purpose and…
23 May 2013
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When director J.J. Abrams created the alternate timeline with his brilliant 2009 Star Trek reboot, it gave the franchise a chance to construct all new adventures for Kirk and Spock. It also gave Abrams the opportunity to mess around with variations on characters and adventures that we have already seen. Such is the case with the exhilarating Star Trek Into Darkness, a movie that includes elements of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and “Space Seed” (a classic Trek TV episode). The film starts with Chris Pine’s cocky Kirk getting himself into more trouble. He ignores Starfleet directives and rescues Spock (Zachary Quinto) from an erupting volcano, allowing a primitive alien species to set their eyes on a big UFO in the form of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Kirk gets demoted by Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood), but keeps a relatively high rank thanks to his pal Pike pulling some strings.…
16 May 2013
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The moment when we first see Leonardo DiCaprio’s face as the title character in Baz Luhrmann’s lavish adaptation of The Great Gatsby is perhaps the biggest “movie star” moment of DiCaprio’s career to date. As fireworks pop off in the night sky behind him, he turns and raises his glass to the camera in a way that exudes high-octane star charisma. If you are a Luhrmann fan, and you appreciated his over-stylized vision in works like Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! (Let’s just forget Australia ever happened, shall we?), you are bound to find much to like in his Gatsby. It’s full of eye-popping visuals, lush costumes and terrific soundtrack stunts. (I loved hearing Jay-Z and Lana Del Rey while watching a picture set in the roaring ’20s.) More important than any of the visual and audio treats is the fact that DiCaprio gives us cinema’s first “great” Gatsby.…
09 May 2013
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Shane Black, writer of the screenplays for Lethal Weapon and Last Action Hero, made one of my favorite directorial debuts with 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I thought it marked the arrival of a true directorial force. Then he basically disappeared. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang featured the best Robert Downey Jr. performance ever put to screen. Maybe Downey agrees with that statement, because he pushed for Black as his director on Iron Man 3. Thankfully, he got his wish. Iron Man 3 is as good as the first film, and markedly better than the OK second installment; it’s just slightly inferior to last year’s The Avengers. Like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it features dark humor, and gives us a protagonist that is slightly unreliable. The film opens with a few mistakes Tony Stark made a long time ago, and sets us up for the perils Stark is facing today. Chief…
03 May 2013
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In Room 237, some Stanley Kubrick fans offer their opinions on the inner workings of The Shining. Some of their views are interesting; some of them are totally crazy. The most convincing of the arguments would be that Kubrick made his movie about the plight of Native Americans; meanwhile, a not-so-brilliant theory posits that Kubrick made the film as sort of an apology for helping fake America’s moon landing. The documentary serves as a cool testament to seeing something below the surface in a film, and fandom in general. I’ve always liked the movie, but now I want to watch it again and see the puzzles for myself—and then do the same with Kubrick’s other films. Room 237 opens Friday, May 3, at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565.