CVIndependent

Wed03292017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Reviews

23 Mar 2017
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Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s wonderful animated musical from 1991, is the latest feature to get placed on the Disney Live Redo of a Beloved Animated Movie Assembly Line, with a big-budget effort starring Emma Watson as the iconic Belle, and Ewan McGregor as a CGI candelabra. You may be asking yourself, “Is this absolutely necessary?” The answer: No. No, it is not. Then, you may ask yourself, “OK, if it isn’t necessary, is it at least an enjoyable pastime, for I like enjoyable pastimes? They help distract me from all of this trivial shit in my head.” The answer: Why, yes, it is an enjoyable movie, even if it is completely unnecessary. The movie isn’t a shot-for-shot remake of the original like, say, Gus Van Sant’s time-wasting Psycho effort. However, it does follow a lot of the same plot points and incorporates enough of the musical numbers to give…
23 Mar 2017
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The Belko Experiment is a decent-enough yet schlocky horror offering that thinks it is deeper and cleverer than it actually is. Penned by James Gunn, this silly movie pits a bunch of office workers against one another after a voice comes over their intercom telling them to start killing each other off—or everybody dies. The building is sealed; the “experiment” is put into motion; and the likes of Tony Goldwyn and John C. McGinley start acting like homicidal assholes. Directed by Greg McLean, the film is fun on a very basic level. (If you like movies where lots of heads blow up, this one’s for you!) There’s a definite terror involved in not knowing whose head is going to blow up next, and the folks handling the gore factor do a pretty good job. However, when the big reveal comes at the end, there are no surprises, and the movie…
16 Mar 2017
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The King Kong cinematic machine is cranking again with Kong: Skull Island, an entertaining-enough new take on the big ape that delivers action, but lags a bit when the titular gorilla isn’t onscreen smashing things up. Of the Kong incarnations, this one has the most in common with the 1976 take on the classic story, basically because it’s set just a few years before, in ’73. While there is a beautiful girl on whom the big guy gets a small crush (Brie Larson as a photographer), the story eschews the usual “beauty and the beast” Kong angle for more straight-up monster vs. monster action. Unlike the past American Kong films, this one never makes it to Manhattan, and instead stays on Kong’s island—thus the title of the film. Kong himself is portrayed by motion-capture CGI, and he’s a badass. He’s also tall enough to be a formidable foe for Godzilla,…
16 Mar 2017
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Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee (from Denmark) Land of Mine tells a complicated and difficult story—but writer-director Martin Zandvliet more than succeeds. It’s post-World War II in Denmark, and a group of Nazi youth prisoners of war is tasked with clearing a beach of thousands of mines. Their commander, a Danish sergeant (an excellent Roland Moller), views his crew with contempt at first, treating them harshly. Over time, however, the fact that they are just young boys begins to wear on him, especially when some of them meet their deaths. The cast is beyond good here, delivering a story that has echoes of All Quiet on the Western Front. It’s a difficult film in that it portrays wartime German soldiers in a sympathetic way; the film will justifiably irritate some. In the end, it’s about the horrors of war, its aftermath, and coping with the hatred and bitterness that follows.…
09 Mar 2017
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And now for something completely different … Hugh Jackman (allegedly) is saying goodbye to Wolverine with Logan, a total shocker of a superhero movie that lays waste to the X-Men and stand-alone Wolverine movies that came before it. Director James Mangold, who piloted the decent The Wolverine, revamps the character’s mythos, and pulls in Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) for the gritty, bloody, nasty, awesome ride. It’s the future, and the X-Men are gone. A mutant hasn’t been born in a quarter-century, and Logan isn’t looking too hot. He’s driving a limo to make ends meet, coughing up blood and not aging well. However, he’s doing a lot better than Xavier (the mutant formally known as Professor X), who is prone to seizures and suffering from some sort of degenerative brain disease. Logan has to keep him in a big, empty tank to shield the world from his spells, which can…
02 Mar 2017
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Ines (Sandra Huller), a terse, corporate type, is busy trying to conduct international relations involving big dollars when her dad, Winfried (Peter Simonischek), shows up with a goofy wig and fake teeth as Toni Erdmann, corporate coach. He throws a wrench in the works with his prankster ways, and Ines must learn to lighten up—or reject her dad. The results of Toni Erdmann, while a little predictable (and long-winded), are fairly interesting, thanks mainly to Huller, who anchors the sometimes-silly film with a true sense of realism. Her performance is top-notch, and makes the film worth seeing. She also spends a good chunk of the film’s final act—which takes a major satirical turn—naked, which is pretty daring. Simonischek is fun in the dad role, although his antics are sometimes a little too outrageous to buy in what is basically a serious movie about father-daughter relationships and coping in a cold…
02 Mar 2017
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Writer-director Jordan Peele, the comedic performer from TV’s Key and Peele and the adorable/funny cat movie Keanu, delivers a huge cinematic surprise with Get Out, a twisted, darkly satirical horror film that pulls no punches when it comes to race relations and dating. Peele has cited Night of the Living Dead and The Stepford Wives as inspirations for this journey to the dark side of his creative soul. Those films’ influences are detectable; you could also throw in a pinch of Rosemary’s Baby and a side of Being John Malkovich. Two of the hardest things to accomplish with a movie are making people laugh, and getting them legitimately scared. Get Out manages to do both throughout its running time. Peele takes taboo subjects and stereotypes, and doesn’t let his pen get restricted by a fear of offending anybody. This is an appropriately evil, scabrous movie. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young…
23 Feb 2017
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Something in the neighborhood of $17 bazillion zillion got thrown at this movie thing called The Great Wall, a mash up of American stars and kick-ass Asian directors. That’s $17 bazillion zillion somebody would’ve been better off spending on masking tape and gummi bears. Matt Damon stars in this mess, and this may very well represent the low point of his career, a career that has included the atrocious Jason Bourne and Hereafter. He probably thought he was in safe hands, because The Great Wall is helmed by director Zhang Yimou, maker of such masterpieces as Hero, House of Flying Daggers and—one of my very favorite movies—The Road Home. Damon was probably all like, “Hey, Yimou is calling the shots. If anything, I’m going to look good in this pic!” Then … he saw his wardrobe. It begins with big furry wigs and beards, and then declines into a sad…
16 Feb 2017
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Let’s face it: The Dark Knight has been really living up to the word “dark” since Tim Burton’s Batman came out 28 years ago. He can certainly be a morose sourpuss. Wait a minute … has it really been 28 years since Burton’s Batman came out? Holy crap! I just totally freaked myself out. Hang on … I need to catch my breath and gather my thoughts. It’s been nearly three freaking decades since Nicholson played The Joker? I need to drink five beers. All right … OK, I am back. As I was saying, Batman has been a downer at the cinemas. Even when he wasn’t being quite so dour, he was just plain sucking in the Joel Schumacher Batman movies that started coming out 22 years ago. Wait a minute … did Kilmer really do Batman more than two decades ago? I think I’m having a panic attack.…
16 Feb 2017
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A whole lot of people get shot in the face in John Wick: Chapter 2, a worthy sequel to the 2014 breakout hit. A totally bummed-out Keanu Reeves returns as the lone assassin, originally brought out of retirement after somebody killed his dog and stole his car. Many deaths later, Wick is back in his stylish home, with a new (and unnamed) dog, intent upon burying his guns and taking a long break. No such luck: A man from the past shows up with a marker, giving him a killing assignment that will take him to Italy and have him face off with Common. (It turns out Common is built like The Terminator and makes a good villain. Oh, wait … he’s sort of the good guy. Wick is actually a villain.) Balletic violence begins—and never ends. This time out, Wick is wearing some sort of bulletproof lining under his…
09 Feb 2017
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After seeing Ouija: Origin of Evil last year, and being blown away by the horror sequel (which was far superior to its awful predecessor), I had newborn faith in the ability of horror sequels to entertain me when I traipsed into my local cinema to see Rings. For those of you getting your American remakes of Japanese horror classics mixed up: The Ring (remake of Ringu) back in 2002 was the one with the scary, contorted girl in a well, plus Naomi Watts. A quick scan of this sequel’s cast reveals Vincent D’Onofrio has a role in it. That’s good, right? It also has Johnny Galecki of The Big Bang Theory. Not too shabby if you like unfunny, overrated TV shows, right? So … there’s enough to think the film, directed by F. Javier Gutiérrez, has a fighting chance of being reasonably good. Then, the movie starts, and that fighting…
02 Feb 2017
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Robert De Niro delivers a good performance in The Comedian, a film from director Taylor Hackford that doesn’t match the great actor’s prowess. De Niro plays Jackie Burke, an aging standup comedian dealing with a TV-sitcom past he isn’t too proud of. De Niro does a nice job playing a Don Rickles-type old-school comedian. He’s not entirely hilarious, but he’s convincing in his standup sequences. He’s also good when Jackie is off stage being an ornery bastard. The film lets him down in its handling of modern-day things like viral videos and reality TV. Hackford’s take on modern media is woefully out of touch, and De Niro finds himself stranded in some rather ridiculous, tone-deaf scenes. Leslie Mann is her usual great self as a younger woman Jackie winds up trying to romance; the two actually make a convincing almost-but-not-quite couple. Harvey Keitel is a little overbearing as Mann’s dad,…

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