CVIndependent

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Reviews

01 Mar 2013
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Nicky’s Family is a documentary that plays like more of a TV film than something for the big screen, but you won’t care by the time the film ends. That’s because the story being told here is amazing, heart-wrenching and ultimately heartwarming. Nicholas Winton was a rich Englishman in 1938, getting ready for a ski trip when he got a call from a friend dealing with troubles in Czechoslovakia. Soon thereafter, Winton found himself in that country assisting in the rescue of 669 Czech and Slovak children. He financed the passage of these children to England, where they avoided the concentration camps (although they did face Nazi wrath when Germany began bombing their new home). Winton is 103 now, and the size of his “family” numbers in the thousands. Many decades went by with those rescued by Winton not knowing him, but that changed when Winton’s scrapbook, containing lists of…
28 Feb 2013
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Dwayne Johnson has so much ink, yet he doesn’t show off any of his tattoos in Snitch. Not one tattoo shot! That’s because Johnson wants to be taken seriously as an actor, and his performance indeed shows he’s capable of more than making his pecs dance or firing guns while his tattoos sexily vibrate. (He’s leaving the sexy tattoo vibrations for the other 172 films he will be starring in within the upcoming year.) Johnson plays John Matthews, a flawed but well-meaning father. He provides for the family he has living in his lush house, thanks to a semi-lucrative trucking company. He also gives his ex-wife and son from the former marriage enough so they can get by; however, he has little to do with the upbringing of that son, Jason (Rafi Gavron). Of course, Jason has gone a little bad. He likes to smoke a pot and take Ecstasy.…
21 Feb 2013
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Bruce Willis returns in A Good Day to Die Hard as trouble magnet John McClane—and he looks lost, tired and miserable. One gets the sense that Willis realized he was in a dud, and spiritually clocked out well before the shoot was over. Willis seems to have a lot of power over all Die Hard production proceedings, and since he’s the star, most of the blame falls on his shoulders. The fact that they gave directing chores to the hackneyed John Moore (who directed the horrifically stinky Owen Wilson yawner Behind Enemy Lines) would be the first big mistake. Allowing Skip Wood (The A-Team, Hitman, Swordfish) to write it could also be chalked up as a big gaffe. I mean, doesn’t that creative combo just cry “suckage”? They are obviously running out of scenarios for McClane, so this one sends him to Russia, where his estranged son Jack (the dull…
22 Feb 2013
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Some actor named Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with this sweet movie about aging musicians in a retirement home. (He was supposed to direct Straight Time many years ago, but he gave up the gig a couple of days into shooting.) The film stars Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins and Michael Gambon, all of whom are wonderful. Hoffman shows he has a deft touch with performers, which comes as no surprise. His movie isn’t terribly original, but it is heartwarming and entertaining throughout. Smith and Courtenay are especially good as former lovers who get a chance to make up and become friends again. This movie makes me wish Hoffman had gotten going on the director thing a long time ago. I hope he has some more films in him. Quartet is now playing at the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 325-6565) and Cinemas…
20 Feb 2013
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Man oh man, this Best Picture nominee is a tough one to watch. From Michael Haneke, the director of the brutal Funny Games (both the foreign and American versions), we get a film about old age that's so honest, it guts you. Many of us know a couple like Georges and Anne (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva). Seeing a couple like this dealing with terrible illness is heartbreaking, and Haneke takes a terribly honest approach to impending death. Riva’s Oscar-nominated performance is one of those pieces of work you will never forget. It tattoos onto your brain. Rest assured: If you choose to see this, it’s going to knock you on your ass. Don’t watch this if the truth scares you. Amour is now playing at the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 325-6565) and Cinemas Palme d'Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 779-0430).
18 Feb 2013
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I remember watching the Oscars back when Johnny Carson hosted. This was before I knew the whole thing was bullshit; I would get all excited when those envelopes were opened, and even when stupid Paul Williams showed up singing a song. Even though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences usually doesn’t get it right with the awards, I still look forward to the show, especially when that idiot Billy Crystal isn’t hosting it. This year, the host will be Seth MacFarlane. Should be interesting, and perhaps delightfully profane. Here are the nominees, along with my predictions. Drink chocolate milk every time I get one right, and regular milk when I get one wrong. (I don’t endorse alcohol-drinking games.) Best Picture Amour Argo Beasts of the Southern Wild Django Unchained Les Misérables Life of Pi Lincoln Silver Linings Playbook Zero Dark Thirty Let’s immediately eliminate Amour, Beasts, Django and…
12 Feb 2013
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The first half of director Steven Soderbergh’s alleged feature-film swan song is excellent, while the second half is only passably good. Jude Law stars as a doctor treating a depressed patient (Rooney Mara) who is given an experimental drug with some nasty results. The film is at once a mystery and an indictment of the worldwide pharmaceutical industry, and it hums along nicely for a good chunk of the running time. Then it suddenly becomes a mediocre Brian De Palma-style movie as the mysteries are solved; it gets a little hokey. Good things happen before it unravels, though, with Mara doing some nice work alongside Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Soderbergh says this is it for him. Hopefully, he just takes a couple of years off and finds himself back behind the camera. This movie is OK, but I would like to see him go out on a better note.…
14 Feb 2013
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After her Oscar-nominated turn in Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy gets a headlining role alongside Jason Bateman in Identity Thief. While both performers are talented and make the best of the crap heap of a script they were handed, it’s not enough to make this anything more than a desperate misfire. McCarthy has a lot of talent. One only needs to see her in The Nines to understand her dramatic capabilities. Yet, here she is, being smashed in the face with guitars and asked to lip-sync that stupid milkshake song while sitting in the passenger’s seat for yet another riff on Planes, Trains and Automobiles. This is the sort of junk Chris Farley would have been handed back in the days before his heart exploded. McCarthy is a big woman, so she is cast in the role of sloppy clown to Bateman’s dapper straight man. Well, McCarthy is also a beautiful and…
08 Feb 2013
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In Stand Up Guys, a bunch of great actors get together and do their best with middling material. Al Pacino plays a criminal released from a long prison haul, and Christopher Walken plays the guy who is supposed to pick him up—and take his life soon thereafter. I have a hard time with this premise: If you are a crime boss with any brains, and you want somebody smoked, you don’t hire the dude’s best friend to do the gig. Don’t you think there’s a chance the dude won’t follow through? Anyway, Pacino and Walken hang out for a night that includes stealing cars, snorting prescription drugs and hanging out with another old guy (Alan Arkin). The trio makes most of this watchable, but with this cast, you want something more than just watchable. Pacino works hard to get credibility back after a string of loser movies, and he redeems…
07 Feb 2013
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The movie year gets it first big, sweet surprise with Warm Bodies, a funny and surprisingly moving take on the zombie genre from director Jonathan Levine, who gave us the wonderful 50/50. To call Warm Bodies a straight-up zombie flick would be inaccurate; it’s a love story set in a horror-movie world. It’s everything the Twilight saga wanted to be, but failed to become. It’s a movie that knows it is ridiculous, embraces its ridiculousness, and emerges as astonishingly real and true-to-life. The movie opens on a figure in a red-hoodie we will come to know as R (Nicholas Hoult, in a stardom-cementing role). He’s zombie with a fried memory, but he’s still able to conduct a relatively cohesive inner narrative, heard through a voiceover that is clear and concise. However, when R tries to speak out of his mouth, he slurs, moans and groans. He’s a lost boy in…
30 Jan 2013
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I didn’t care all that much for Movie 43, a new-millennium attempt at something akin to Kentucky Fried Movie. But I won’t be trashing it, because it crosses many lines, is terribly offensive, and is often screamingly disgusting. I’m a little demented when it comes to comedy, so I say: Bring on the farts, excessive curse words and scrotum necks! However, if you are going to do a gross sketch comedy, you had better do gross well. Your jokes better have the proper punch lines and kickers, and your sketches have to end strong. Many of the sketches in Movie 43 end like bad Saturday Night Live sketches. Too many of the sketches, which are directed by various directors, just aren’t funny. They land with a thud. First, I’ll talk about the good stuff. I must give props to real-life couple Naomi Watts (a current Oscar nominee) and Liev Schreiber…
24 Jan 2013
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This genuinely chilling haunted fairy tale comes from producer Guillermo del Toro and writer/director Andres Muschietti, and is based on Mushcietti’s original short film. Two little girls are abandoned by their demented father in the forest. They are discovered years later and adopted by their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend (Jessica Chastain). The little girls have taken on the characteristics of feral beasts and are convinced they are being watched over by a force they call “Mama.” As it turns out, Mama is very real—a decent CGI creation that is both scary and just the right touch of funny. The film works well, not just because Muschietti knows how to construct a good scare, but also because he does a great job getting you to care for the little girls and the Chastain character. Chastain, looking rather gothic, delivers another good performance, even though she isn’t very convincing as…