CVIndependent

Sat11172018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

18 Jan 2018
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Perhaps the most important journalistic battle in American history gets the Spielberg treatment in The Post, featuring a stellar cast that includes Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The film explores The Washington Post’s decision to print the Pentagon Papers on Vietnam in 1971, a move that raised the ire of then-President Richard Nixon, and put the careers of people like paper owner Kay Graham (Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) in major jeopardy. Of course, Hanks isn’t the first movie star to play Bradlee: Jason Robards also played him in All the President’s Men, the classic film that covered the Watergate scandal. Bradlee, who died in 2014, was a journalism giant. The movie starts in the mid-’60s with Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), a member of the State Department who is a study for then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) in South Vietnam. Embedded with American troops, Ellsberg sees all…
18 Jan 2018
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Admit it: When Nancy Kerrigan got kneecapped by folks connected to Tonya Harding all those years ago, you just knew there would be a big Hollywood movie about it someday. Well, here it is, starring Margot Robbie as Harding—and it’s funny, nasty stuff. Allison Janney is a sinister hoot as Tonya’s nasty mom, while Robbie proves, weirdly enough, that she was born to play Tonya Harding. The movie is the subject some post-release controversy, as some people are claiming director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers tried to turn Harding into some kind of hero—an innocent in the scheme to take Kerrigan out and pave the way for Harding to become the world’s skating champion. Nah … Harding is not portrayed in a positive light here. It’s just that her mom is the greater villain—a manipulative, back-stabbing monster who Janney brings to hilarious fruition. As she brow-beats Tonya from her…
11 Jan 2018
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Jessica Chastain takes the role of Molly Bloom—a real poker-game organizer and former championship skier—and nails it: Molly’s Game takes a true story that seems too crazy to be real and turns it into a great movie about a woman’s struggle against the justice system, as well as the perils of gambling outside the already-dangerous realm of a casino. This is a great actress firing on all cylinders. Making the experience all the more enjoyable is screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), whose stylish, snappy directorial debut here shows he has a big future beyond the keyboard. Bloom was a top-notch athlete, shepherded by her domineering father (an excellent Kevin Costner), who had all of her plans laid out before her. She was going to medal at the Olympics, go to law school and become an entrepreneur. Her plans started to hit a snag when it was discovered that she…
04 Jan 2018
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Leave it to Guillermo del Toro to make 2017’s weirdest “mainstream” movie. The maverick director has been merely so-so with his last couple of big-screen offerings: the gorgeous but shallow Crimson Peak, and the goofy but good-looking Pacific Rim. The all-encompassing magic of Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth seemed to be eluding him, and it was looking like he’d perhaps peaked a few films ago. But The Shape of Water, for which he also co-wrote the screenplay, reminds us that this guy is a genius—a sick and twisted genius, but a genius nonetheless. This story set in the 1960s is—in a strange, backward way—as close to a Disney movie as del Toro has gotten. It has a lot of violence, interspecies sex, nudity and cussing in it … yet it has a Disney kind of vibe to it. That del Toro—he’s a nut. Sally Hawkins, in an awesome performance that’s her…
04 Jan 2018
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In what amounts to a much-wordier companion piece to Dunkirk, Gary Oldman disappears into the role of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. The movie starts shortly before Churchill takes over as prime minister—a controversial choice to lead who is facing a lot of opposition, including a skeptical King George VI (brilliantly played by Ben Mendelsohn). The film chronicles Churchill’s speeches (transcribed by personal secretary Elizabeth Layton, played winningly by Lily James) and his strategizing, leading up to him gaining Parliament’s support in not seeking peace with Hitler—and pledging all-out war. Director Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna) always makes great-looking movies, and this is no exception. Oldman is virtually guaranteed an Oscar nomination as Churchill. It’s not a role you would think he was born to play, but excellent makeup and prosthetics make his transformation completely convincing. This isn’t just a guy working through a bunch of stuff on his face; Oldman…
28 Dec 2017
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I watch a lot of movies. Like, a lot of movies, and it’s very rare for me to be thinking halfway into a movie: “Say, this could be one of the year’s best films!”—only to have it become one of the year’s worst films in the second half. Well, that’s what happened when I watched the latest Matt Damon vehicle, from director Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways), the horribly off-balance Downsizing. The film starts as brilliant satire mixed with science fiction: Scientists have discovered a way to reduce energy and resource consumption on our planet by shrinking people and putting them into miniature utopia communities. By doing this, not only do humans generate less trash; they essentially become rich when their finances are transferred into the downsized communities. A standard bank account goes from being worth thousands to millions. Damon plays Paul, an occupational therapist at Omaha Steaks living from paycheck…
21 Dec 2017
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In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we finally get the movie with both older Luke and Leia. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher get to do what Harrison Ford did in The Force Awakens: They spend a little more time (in the case of Hamill, a lot more time) in their iconic roles. Both stars shine as they play in the Star Wars sandbox 40 years after the original’s release. When this film focuses on the saga of Luke and Rey, it is nothing short of epic. When the camera is on the late Carrie Fisher—who gets more quality screen time than she did with her glorified cameo in Force Awakens—it’s heartwarming and, yes, sad. (The Leia stuff gets a little kooky at times, but I’m trying to make this a spoiler-free zone.) When writer-director Rian Johnson takes the action to the characters of Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and…
14 Dec 2017
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If you love all kinds of movies, and you haven’t yet seen The Room, you really need to change that. Written, directed by and starring the legendary Tommy Wiseau, it’s possibly the greatest bad movie ever made. It’s so great in its badness, the Rifftrax episode (the movie-bashing bastard stepchild of Mystery Science Theater 3000) with the movie is actually annoying. You just want Mike Nelson and friends to shut up and let you enjoy the pure experience of The Room. No riff is funnier than what is happening in the actual movie. James Franco pays tribute to Tommy Wiseau with The Disaster Artist in much the same way Tim Burton glorified shlockmeister Ed Wood more than 20 years ago. Franco directs and stars as Tommy, complete with the awesome long vampire black hair and chipmunk cheeks that comprise “the Wiseau.” He also nails the Wiseau mystery accent. (While his…
07 Dec 2017
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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the third feature film by writer-director Martin McDonagh. It’s also his third masterpiece. Three Billboards also marks another astonishing film achievement for Frances McDormand, who will drill into your chest cavity and do all kinds of crazy shit to your heart as Mildred, a justifiably pissed-off mother who has a few issues with the cops in her town. It’s been five years since Mildred’s young daughter was raped, killed and burned by unknown murderers. Mildred, who isn’t even close to getting over the tragedy, spies some old, dilapidated billboards on the way home and gets an idea. After meeting with a sloppy advertising agent (Caleb Landry Jones), some guys are commissioned to put alarmingly provocative signs on those billboards. Those signs call out Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), a well-meaning but emotional man who, for various reasons, is not on his best game. He challenges…
07 Dec 2017
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Greta Gerwig makes her solo directorial debut with Lady Bird, a semi-autobiographical look at her life growing up in Sacramento—and she immediately establishes herself as a directing force to be reckoned with. Saoirise Ronan, who should’ve won an Oscar for Brooklyn, will likely get another chance for her turn as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, an artistic Sacramento youth who yearns for the East Coast and some distance from her domineering mom (Laurie Metcalf). This is a coming-of-age story like no other thanks to the insightful writing and brisk directorial style of Gerwig, who makes Lady Bird’s story consistently surprising. Ronan’s Lady Bird is a rebel with a good heart—a theater geek who stinks at math—but she’s on an emotional rollercoaster. She also gets a lot of laughs, especially in her showdowns with Metcalf, who has never been better. Lucas Hedges, on a roll after Manchester by the Sea and Three…
30 Nov 2017
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In 1843, when Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol, folks were just starting to get into that thing we call Christmas, with stuff like Christmas trees, gift-giving and Cyber Mondays. (An iPad would cost, like, nothing on Cyber Monday in 1843, because nobody had invented the damn thing yet.) It was the Dickens novel about a miserable miser named Ebenezer Scrooge, who transforms from evil greed monster to kind philanthropist throughout its five chapters, that would help take the celebration of Christmas to a new level—and the boldly titled The Man Who Invented Christmas spins an entertaining and clever take on how and why Dickens got the idea for the story that would change the world. Coming off a couple of flops after the success of Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) is doing clumsy book tours to pay the bills. Desperate for a “hit,” he gets an idea for…
23 Nov 2017
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Come on, DC Films! You did so well with Wonder Woman, and Justice League was your chance to really establish your superhero universe! And you blew it. Justice League is an expensive mess in which some of our favorite superheroes battle an apocalyptic force, while two seriously different directors, Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon, battle with their filmmaking styles. It’s no big secret that Zack Snyder (who created two execrable duds with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) had to leave deep into production due to family reasons. Joss Whedon (The Avengers) stepped in for post-production and major reshoots. The resulting catastrophe is like a swig of boxed wine that has been left out in the sun for three weeks, chased by a big chug of Sunny Delight. Neither is a taste you want in your face. The action picks up after the death of Superman…