CVIndependent

Tue11202018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

23 Nov 2017
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Great actresses do great things in Novitate, a stunner from writer-director Margaret Betts. Cathleen (Margaret Qualley) joins a convent in the 1960s, right in time for the major policy changes for nuns the Catholic Church made via Vatican II. She’s devoted, but also looking to escape a dreary childhood and her troubled mother (Julianne Nicholson). On her way to becoming a nun, Cathleen and her fellow sisters must contend with the fierce Reverend Mother (a scary Melissa Leo, playing one of the year’s best villains). Reverend Mother has a few problems with Vatican II; she refuses to adopt some of its more lenient policies, and continues to practice something akin to fraternity hazing. Leo is a coiled snake in this movie, and her outbursts are frightening. The film is a testament to a nun’s faith, because a lot of the girls stick around even though the lady in charge is…
13 Nov 2017
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Last week, I received a review link to Louis C.K.’s new film, I Love You, Daddy, along with a message saying that Louis C.K. was available for interviews. I also got a form that, among other things, asked about my reaction to the movie. I was a little peeved that my reaction to the film was needed before granting an interview … but that’s no big deal. A lot of media outlets would be interested in talking to C.K.—and, as a long-standing, rabid Louis C.K. fan, I figured the movie would be great, right? Wrong. This is easily the worst thing C.K. has done since Pootie Tang. Not only is it a bad movie on a purely technical level; its subject matter is, as you may already know, a bit suspect. For the past couple of years, I’d read about “rumors” of C.K.’s demented sexual proclivities. Unfortunately, this weird-as-all-fuck movie…
09 Nov 2017
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They were smoking some wild shit and licking frogs when they put together Thor: Ragnarok, a film so nutty that it easily surpasses the Guardians of the Galaxy films as the screwiest offering in the Marvel universe. When you hand the keys to the Thor franchise over to a director like Taika Waititi, you know you are going to get something bizarre—and Waititi doesn’t disappoint. Waititi is the New Zealand comic actor/director responsible for the hilarious vampire faux documentary What We Do in the Shadows and the funny family drama Hunt for the Wilderpeople. There’s really nothing on his resume that screams, “Hey, let’s have this guy direct an action packed, highly expensive Thor film!” but he got the gig, so there you go. Sometimes the wild card pays off. Borrowing from a host of Marvel comics (including the famed “Planet Hulk” storyline), the hallucinogenic plot drops Thor (Chris Hemsworth)…
02 Nov 2017
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It was around Halloween seven years ago when I did a little happy dance in my head as I walked out of a movie theater. I had just seen Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, the seventh and, as advertised, supposedly final film in the Saw franchise. Oh, deep down in my cinema-going heart, I didn’t really believe it would be the last one. I had been tricked before. (Fuck you, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street!) But, you know, it did say The Final Chapter in the title, and this was back in the pre-Trump days, when I was a little more optimistic and had a bit more spring in my step. I had hopes that I would never again hear Tobin Bell, as Jigsaw, droning on about “playing a game” and murdering people with elaborate schemes that would take something like $7 billion per death. (A…
26 Oct 2017
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After a slow start, Only the Brave rallies to become a solid tribute to the Granite Mountain Hotshots, 19 of whom died battling the massive Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013. The Hotshots were an elite Prescott, Ariz., crew led by veteran firefighter Eric Marsh, played here by Josh Brolin. This performance ranks among Brolin’s best, as he shows us a passionate man presiding over his crew like a father to his sons. Marsh takes a risk on Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), a former drug-user seeking redemption and a decent living to provide for his newborn daughter. The always-reliable Teller matches Brolin’s acting triumph every step of the way, making both Marsh and McDonough fleshed-out, complicated characters. The two seem right at home with each other onscreen. Director Joseph Kosinski takes a solid step beyond his prior sci-fi blunders (Oblivion, TRON: Legacy) to deliver a movie that is technically sound and…
26 Oct 2017
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Once again, somebody has tried to revive the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise—and, once again, with Leatherface, we’ve gotten proof that some things are better left alone. This time, the film goes the prequel route, with a silly story about how Leatherface became Leatherface. As proven in Rob Zombie’s faulty interpretation of Halloween—in which Michael Myers got a bigger backstory—some movie monsters are best left mysterious and mostly unexplained. Much of the action here centers around an insane asylum where a teenage Leatherface-to-be (Sam Strike) is hanging out until a riot ensues. He escapes with a nurse held hostage (Vanessa Grasse), while being pursued by yet another evil Texas Chainsaw franchise lawman, this one played by Stephen Dorff. Leatherface’s mom is also looking for him; she’s played by Lili Taylor, whose career is clearly in a downward spiral, along with Dorff’s. Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury throw in some gory…
19 Oct 2017
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A college girl learns a few lessons about life—and about not being a total ass—by re-living the day she is murdered over and over again in Happy Death Day, a so-so movie that gets by completely on the power of its relative unknown lead actress, Jessica Rothe. Rothe plays Tree Gelbman, who wakes up in a strange dorm room on the morning of her birthday to discover she has spent the night with a bit of a dweeb, Carter Davis (Israel Broussard). She storms out of the room while ignoring phone calls from her dad—and basically being nasty to everybody she comes across during her walk of shame. It’s established quickly that Tree is a jerk—and that she has more than a few enemies. All of those enemies, and even some of her friends, become murder suspects when Tree is killed by a mask-wearing baddie on her way to a…
12 Oct 2017
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Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner came out in 1982—35 years ago. Scott has tooled around with the movie numerous times, resulting in a final cut that was released about 10 years ago. While there was a lot of monkeying around (in a good way) with the original, it didn’t seem there was much thought of, or chance for, an actual sequel. After all, the original was not a box-office hit, and it didn’t start gaining its classic status until a decade after its release. In fact, critics beat up on it a bit. Here in 2017, however, we actually do get a sequel. Blade Runner 2049 is directed by Denis Villeneuve, the visionary behind Enemy and Arrival. (Scott remains involved as a producer.) Harrison Ford, who has classically complained about the original movie, has nonetheless returned to play blade runner Rick Deckard. Ryan Gosling steps into the starring role…
12 Oct 2017
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Usually reliable directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Farris (Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks) somehow manage to make the story of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs’ infamous early 1970s tennis match quite boring. In Battle of the Sexes, King is played by Emma Stone, who brings a nice warmth to the role of King, one of the great trailblazing athletes of the 20th century. Steve Carell labors a bit as Riggs, the chauvinist pig who challenged the much-younger King to a battle of the sexes, an exhibition tennis match to prove the superiority of the male athlete. The actual match happens in the film’s final half-hour, and it’s an entertaining segment that manages to incorporate real footage of Howard Cosell and a realistic depiction of the actual tennis play. What the movie doesn’t do is have much of a pulse in the buildup, portraying King’s love life in a way…
05 Oct 2017
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The messed-up life of pilot Barry Seal gets a movie that’s not messed up enough in American Made, a sufficiently entertaining film that plays it a little too safe. Drug cartels and Iran Contra are played for laughs—in a story that should not be very funny. The movie winds up being moderately enjoyable thanks to Tom Cruise, who sweats it out in the lead role. While his work here may not be his best, it’s miles better than what he put forth in The Mummy, that shit-storm that damaged his career this summer. Director Doug Liman (who teamed with Cruise on the sci-fi masterpiece Edge of Tomorrow) rips off Catch Me If You Can, The Wolf of Wall Street, Goodfellas, Blow and many others in telling the story of the notorious TWA pilot-turned-pawn for the CIA. Inspired by Seal’s true story (and, yes, some of the more outlandish stuff depicted…
28 Sep 2017
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If you thought 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was a bit over the top—and you liked that aspect of it—you’ll be happy to know that things were just getting started with Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of the Mark Millar/Dave Gibbons graphic novel, The Secret Service. Sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle pulls out all of the stops, goes into severe overkill mode, and then somehow holds together nicely; it delivers a fun time for those who like their movies a little nasty. It’s over-long at 141 minutes, and a pug dies—but the action snaps with expert precision, and the cast kicks ass. That cast includes Taron Egerton as Eggsy, the young recruit of Harry Hart (Colin Firth) from the first film. The Kingsman—an underground, sharply dressed spy agency in England—remains in operation after the death of Harry, who took a bullet to the head in the first chapter. Eggsy has settled down…
21 Sep 2017
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Writer-director Darren Aronofsky is a nut, and his latest film, Mother!, is one helluva nutty movie. The film’s star, Jennifer Lawrence, is currently dating Aronofsky, a fact that infiltrates the mood of Mother! because the film takes aim at relationships, in a rather nasty way, among its many targets. Those targets also include the Bible, narcissism, celebrity, art, family, smoking and … oh yeah, motherhood. By the time Mother! is over, you might not know exactly what went down, but you know that what happened was rather cynical … highly stylized, loony, entertaining cynicism. Lawrence plays Mother, an apparently kind-hearted partner to Him (Javier Bardem). They live in an old-style country house out in the middle of nowhere. Him is a writer, going through some major writer’s block and occasionally speaking of having lost everything in the past to a fire. He has some sort of crystalized object on a…