CVIndependent

Mon11182019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

14 Nov 2019
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Stephen King fans know he hated Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining for trivializing Jack Torrance’s alcoholism, and improvising on the evil powers of The Overlook Hotel. Doctor Sleep, King’s sequel to The Shining, seems to exist, in part, to right some of the wrongs King saw in Kubrick’s movie. Unfortunately, director Mike Flanagan, the man behind the excellent and creepy Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House, made the decision to incorporate Kubrick’s film into his own cinematic adaptation of Doctor Sleep. The results are a mixed bag of genuinely scary moments and passages that make the film too dependent on the glory of Kubrick. Simply put: It’s not a good idea to try to re-create a Kubrick moment without Kubrick’s involvement. The film starts in 1980, with Danny Torrance riding around the Kubrickian Overlook on a big wheel—and making that dreaded stop at Room 237, where that old lady stayed…
07 Nov 2019
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The big thing about Terminator: Dark Fate is that James Cameron has returned to the franchise as a producer and story-credit guy. That means we’ll be returning to the sort of Terminator movies he directed back in the day, right? Well … no. Tim Miller, the guy who directed Deadpool, is in charge of this bland and banal chapter, with Cameron essentially whispering in his ear from afar. Cameron apparently never even visited the set, which is not surprising, considering ex-wife Linda Hamilton is back—and given her physical prowess, she could easily kick the living shit out of him. Cameron’s real attention is on the Avatar sequels, which have mercifully been postponed so many times that I am conditioned to think I will never have to sit through them. One can dream. For the umpteenth time, the future is all screwy, because rogue A.I. has essentially taken over the planet…
07 Nov 2019
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Robert Eggers, the man who gave us The Witch—a film for which I’m eternally grateful—is back with The Lighthouse, a trippy, gothic sailor’s yarn about two very strange men (Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe) working a difficult shift in a lighthouse in the late 19th century. It’s close quarters for the two, with every fart being heard loud and clear, and every glitch in each other’s personalities grating on the sensibilities. As the trippy drama plays out, paranoia degrades into delusional mania, before moving into psychopathic actions (or not, depending upon whether you view the whole thing as a fucked-up dream). Shot in black and white with a scope that reminds of old silent movies, the film starts with the two actors in a truly intense place, and they ratchet it up from there. Dafoe is incredible as the weathered sailor restricted to land duty—and possibly in the game of…
31 Oct 2019
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The Golden Age of Eddie Murphy Cinema occurred between 1982 and 1988, with the release of such classics as 48 Hrs., Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America. Since then, he’s had some great moments (Dreamgirls, Life, The Nutty Professor)—but he’s had plenty more duds. His forays into “family entertainment” included his enjoyable voice work in the Shrek films, but also included dreck like The Haunted Mansion, Daddy Day Care and Imagine That. And then, of course, there was Vampire in Brooklyn. I’m still recovering from that one. It was as if Eddie, the amazing movie comedian, went into hiding for more than three decades. That’s a long time. Well, Eddie Murphy is back: Dolemite Is My Name is a movie that can stand side by side with the best of Murphy’s Golden Age. It’s a consistently funny biopic honoring comedian-actor Rudy Ray Moore, and it’s clear Murphy’s…
24 Oct 2019
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Since the release of the first Zombieland back in 2009, much has happened in entertainment regarding the land of the undead. A little show called The Walking Dead premiered a year later, and in 2017, the zombie maestro himself, George Romero, passed away. Much has happened with the stars of Zombieland in the decade since, too. Emma Stone has an Oscar for La La Land; Woody Harrelson got his third nomination in that stretch; and Jesse Eisenberg was nominated for The Social Network. Abigail Breslin received an Oscar nom before the first film for Little Miss Sunshine. With all of this Oscar business, might this crew of performers opt for more snobby fare rather than blowing up ghoul skulls for laughs? Nope. Director Ruben Fleischer returns with the whole crew shockingly intact for Zombieland: Double Tap, a film that does little to add to the genre, but still delivers plenty…
10 Oct 2019
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Joker, a new take on DC Comics’ Clown Prince of Crime, will go down as one of the year’s big missed opportunities. Director Todd Phillips, best known for his Hangover movies, apparently got the green light to do whatever he wanted with the Joker mythos. In a feat of perfect casting, he managed to get Joaquin Phoenix to sign on for the title role. This was a chance to tell a dark origin story from Joker’s point of view. Phillips blew this chance. Phoenix is otherworldly good as Arthur Fleck, a severely troubled clown and standup comedy wannabe (and momma’s boy) with a condition that causes him to laugh uncontrollably at inappropriate moments. Phoenix physically and mentally disappears into the part—to the point where it’s reasonable to become concerned about the actor’s well-being. He accomplishes this in a film that has a major identity crisis, in that it wants to…
03 Oct 2019
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I have never seen a single episode of Downton Abbey, the Emmy-winning British TV series that aired its finale almost four years ago. I didn’t intentionally avoid it; there are just some TV shows I never get around to watching. So, walking into Downton Abbey the movie, I knew next to nothing. I knew it was set in the early 20th century; I knew it was British; and I knew the awesome Maggie Smith was in it. I also knew Dan Stevens was probably not in it due to situations his character encountered during the run of the show—TV events that made the news. Well … this movie is a mess—although it’s the sort of mess a true fan will be willing to tolerate. Director Michael Engler works enough subplots into this movie to fuel an entire season of the former TV show, and it’s painfully apparent in the pacing,…
26 Sep 2019
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Sylvester Stallone takes his iconic John Rambo character and places him in what amounts to little more than an ultra-violent MAGA wankathon in Rambo: Last Blood—easily the worst film in the franchise, and one of the worst films in Stallone’s career. The Rambo movies have been on a slow downhill slide all along, but have always been watchable. First Blood was awesome; Rambo: First Blood Part II was fun and silly; Rambo III was passable action but a little tired; and Rambo (2008) was bit of a drag, albeit with some decent action scenes and carnage. Alas, Rambo: Last Blood is an abomination in the way all the Charles Bronson Death Wish sequels were terrible: This film does absolutely nothing to merit its existence. As a Rambo/Stallone fan, I wish I could pretend it didn’t happen, but it has, and it is pure dreck. Stallone has said he will continue…
26 Sep 2019
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Director James Gray and star Brad Pitt came up with a decent-looking, meditative, unsettling and messy attempt at meaningful science fiction with Ad Astra. Pitt plays Roy McBride, an astronaut following in the footsteps of his father (Tommy Lee Jones) decades after his dad disappeared on a scientific expedition searching for alien life somewhere around Neptune. When major power surges start threatening Earth, it’s believed Roy’s still-possibly-alive father is the culprit, so Roy is sent on a mission to reach his father and get him to knock it the fuck off. This leads to a journey that involves a lunar buggy shootout on the moon; an unimaginative visit to Mars; and, finally, a trip to Neptune. On top of the scientifically impossible things that happen in this film, the plot is stitched together with the ultimate crutch—the Apocalypse Now voiceover. Pitt is restricted to sad-puppy-eyes duty as his character deals…
19 Sep 2019
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Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez as a stripper who goes smooth criminal during the Great Recession, is getting great reviews. Alas, I find it derivative, boring and hampered by a shallow script. So … why has the film, directed by Lorene Scafaria, been receiving Scorsese comparisons (Hey, it has tracking shots!) and high scores on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer? I’m thinking it must be because of power of Jennifer Lopez’s multi-million-dollar ass. There’s no question: Lopez is a talented actress (including good performances in Selena and Out of Sight; shit, I even liked her in Maid in Manhattan). But her calling card has always been her much-ballyhooed ass. Her ass beckons to you like an evil genie. Her ass has its own economy and solar system. In fact, as Jennifer Lopez did a pole dance in this film (for the obligatory “This is how you pole dance!” scene), I could swear…
12 Sep 2019
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It Chapter Two gives moviegoers a needed, yet mediocre, conclusion to a saga started by the previous, far-superior film. Translation: If you saw and liked the first movie, you need to watch this one to get the full story. You’ll also be witnessing a decline in quality. In a strange way, I’m happy It Chapter Two exists, because it does have some good scares, and Bill Hader rocks as a grown-up Finn Wolfhard. It closes out the Stephen King story in much better fashion than that spider sequence in that TV miniseries. If you look at It as one long movie consisting of two chapters, the overall experience is still cool. But if you look at this sequel as a standalone … it’s a big mess—an editing-room fatality. The first movie focused on the Losers’ Club as children, concluding with them seemingly defeating Pennywise the Clown (an always-frightening Bill Skarsgard).…
11 Sep 2019
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Linda Ronstadt is one of the most versatile musicians to have ever walked the planet. Country music, pop, rock, opera, Mexican folk music—her resume is crazily full of wide-ranging, bold leaps into all corners of the musical landscape. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, with her full participation, covers her career from her Tucson, Ariz., roots, through her band The Stone Poneys, and on through her amazing solo career. Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Don Henley, Jackson Browne and many others sit down for interviews—and it slowly hits you that, dammit, this is one amazing entertainer, perhaps more amazing than you realized during her heyday. Ronstadt has basically retired, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but that doesn’t stop her from offering up a jewel at the end of this movie—a short but very sweet moment of her singing with friends. This documentary is nothing unusual from a filmmaking standpoint, but…

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