CVIndependent

Fri09182020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

So I was sitting at home on Sunday night. I had been talking to Independent editor Jimmy Boegle the last couple of weeks about whether or not I was going to keep writing stupid movie reviews after all this shit went down. My reviews ran in two other newspapers; one ceased publication, and the other said, “Hey, we ain’t got no dough for your verbal spew at the moment; hang tight!” So I’ve just sort of been taking a break and considering the retirement of my critic’s pen.

Then I saw Louis C.K. had a new comedy special streaming on his website, and I said, “Ahh … fuck it. I’ll keep writing this bullshit if Jimmy is willing to publish it. It gives me something to do besides staring at the dog in my apartment and continuing to wonder when I will be able to go to a gas station again without risking death.”

The special, available for $7.99 at LouisCK.com, is called Sincerely, Louis C.K.—and if you think he is all worried about watching his choice of topics because of that trouble he got into, then you don’t know Louis C.K.

The man holds nothing back, and I mean nothing: dead babies, pedophilia, rescue dogs, Auschwitz, the mentally handicapped as portrayed by Shaun Cassidy, and, yes, his tendency to wank in front of people are all topics on display here. Somehow, this psycho nut of a human being makes it all not just funny, but funnier than anything you’ve heard in, certainly, the last couple of months.

Let’s face it: We can all use a good laugh, and this provides laughs with that same, sicko edge that all of Louis C.K.’s comedy has—that little, “Oh, you shouldn’t say that!” twist that you either love or hate.

Yes, what he did was inexcusable, and if you’re not comfortable watching him, that’s understandable. But if you need laughs, and are OK with having the shit shocked out of you via a comedian’s talking face, go ahead and partake. If you are easily offended, go ahead and partake anyway.

Sincerely, Louis C.K. is currently streaming via LouisCK.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

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 seems to be a sort of strange confession regarding his messed-up mistreatment of female colleagues and fans.

Even worse, I Love You, Daddy, seems to give the finger to people who take issue with artists who do stupid and arguably criminal things—as if those people taking issue are shallow for not separating art from a person’s bad behavior. The film has a creepy, odd vibe to it … and again, it’s just not very good.

After watching the movie, I sent the distributor a note saying I did not like the film, and I withdrew myself from consideration to interview C.K.

A few hours later, The New York Times story about Louis C.K.’s sexual wrongdoing dropped; that was followed shortly thereafter by C.K.’s half-assed apology. That mistreatment of female colleagues and fans has been confirmed, and now nobody will be interviewing Louis C.K. or seeing this shitty movie anytime soon.

C.K. self-funded and directed the movie, so nobody could tell him what he could and could not put into it. Man, does that show. One of those pesky studios would’ve told him the movie looked like crap and featured questionable subjects. He shot it on black-and-white, 35 mm film, quickly and cheaply. It looks washed out and poorly constructed.

This black-and-white “art” film is, in part, an homage to Woody Allen’s Manhattan, which makes things even more troubling. It features an older director who is notorious for sleeping with underage girls; the character, played by John Malkovich, is clearly modeled after Allen. C.K. plays a famous TV producer who deeply admires the director’s work—but his fandom is called into question when said director takes an interest in his 17-year-old daughter, China, played by Chloe Grace Moretz.

The movie actually features a character (played by Charlie Day) who, at one point, mimics vigorous masturbation while C.K talks to a woman on speaker phone. In other words, this insane movie includes a slapstick depiction of one of the vile things C.K. was accused of doing. That takes balls. Giant, depraved balls.

This was also supposed to be C.K.’s modern statement on feminism, but plays more like straight-up misogyny. It’s sad to see Moretz, Edie Falco and Rose Byrne virtually humiliated. As for Woody Allen, the movie clearly wants people to stop denouncing C.K.’s pervert idol and Blue Jasmine boss.

It was on what was supposed to be the day of the film’s premiere that C.K. wound up issuing a public sort-of apology to the women cited in the Times story. It’s hard to take that apology seriously after seeing the contents of this film, which he was trying to get released up until the moment he issued that statement.

David Bowie made his last album knowing he was going to die, and it was beautiful. C.K. made what might be his last film perhaps knowing he was doomed. Or, horrifyingly, perhaps he made it thinking he was bulletproof. In either case, I Love You, Daddy, is disgusting and stupid, and it will not be playing at a theater near you.

Published in Reviews

A bunch of comedians lend their voices to some cartoon characters, and the results are moderately entertaining. The Secret Life of Pets is good for a laugh or two, and the occasional wacked-out moment makes it a semi-original animated movie.

Yeah, this is not a ringing endorsement.

Louis C.K. voices Max, a Jack Russell terrier who loves his master, Katie (Ellie Kemper, of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), with that undying loyalty that makes dogs so damn cool. However, when Katie brings home a new brother for Max, a big, brown shaggy dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet), it creates turmoil in the household.

This leads to that, with Max and Duke eventually winding up in the hands of Animal Control, and eventually fending for themselves inside the sewers of Manhattan. There, they become enemies of the Flushed Pets, a group consisting of alligators, lizards, snakes and furry critters, all led by Snowball the Rabbit (Kevin Hart, on a sound-booth tear).

Trailers and advertisements have suggested that the movie is about what our pets do around the house when we leave home. That part of the film is out of the way in the movie’s opening minutes. (They basically eat all of our food, have parties and listen to punk rock.) The rest of the movie follows the band of pets in Max’s neighborhood who are trying to find Max and Duke after they get lost.

Some of the sequences are borderline deranged. Max and Duke wind up in a sausage factory, where they gobble down hot dogs in an almost-hallucinatory scene set to Grease’s “We Go Together.” This doesn’t feel like the stuff of kids’ movies; it’s a sequence that seems as if the animators took a little LSD break, came back to their computers, and conjured up some wild shit.

The same can be said for the sewer stuff, which might terrify kids younger than the age of 8 (as well as some of the softer, sweeter adults in attendance). For starters, there’s a snake down there that initiates new members of the Flushed Pets crew by biting or eating them.

Directors Yarrow Cheney (making his feature-film-directing debut) and Chris Renaud (the Despicable Me movies) use a very frantic pacing style that becomes a bit of a headache at times. Much of the movie goes by at whiz-bang speed, although the action is fairly coherent.

The animators came up with a fun vision of New York City, with apartment buildings squished into each other, and a compressed Manhattan skyline. They manage to make the city look friendly and crazy at the same time, which is the way many of the city’s residents would describe their home.

One of the greater joys of the movie is hearing Louis C.K. toning things down for PG-rated animated fare. He has a gift for playing a dog, and Max even looks a little like him. Louis C.K. is a passionate endorser of NYC, and he’s right at home.

Hart goes for something a little more evil with his rabbit, giving the killer bunny from Monty Python and the Holy Grail a run for its money. With this, and his recent pairing with Dwayne Johnson in the sort-of=OKCentral Intelligence, Kevin Hart is having himself a sort-of-better-than-average, slightly-better-than-fair-to-middling summer.

Where does The Secret Life of Pets rank on the list of animated movies released so far in 2016? It’s well below Zootopia, and somewhat short of Finding Dory, but still OK. No, you don’t need to run out and see this one, but if it should play in front of your face, there’s a good chance you will enjoy substantial parts of it.

The Secret Life of Pets is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Louis C.K., the Radiohead of standup comics, has dropped yet another surprise on his fans: On Saturday, Jan. 30, I—having been the purchaser of many C.K. nuggets before— received an e-mail from his website stating there was something new to watch, a show called Horace and Pete.

Well, shit. I buy anything this guy turns out—and I mean anything. I went to the website, digitally plopped down my $5, and set about watching his new experiment.

Horace and Pete, as it turns out, is a Web series staged not unlike an off-Broadway play. There are a couple of sets, and a bunch of actors seemingly going at it without the benefit of a lot of takes. There’s no studio audience, and no laugh track. It’s bare-bones—and it’s very good.

C.K. writes, directs and stars as Horace, owner of a family bar alongside brother Pete (an often-unhinged Steve Buscemi). Horace has a younger girlfriend, Rachel (Rebecca Hall), and full-grown daughter, Alice (Aidy Bryant), who has a tendency to return his calls with unwanted texts. Uncle Pete (Alan Alda) mans the bar with an intolerant and racist fist.

Jessica Lange—yes, the Jessica Lange—co-stars as a barfly, while the likes of Steven Wright, Nick DiPaolo and Edie Falco round out the stellar cast. Alda makes the most memorable impression, partly because he delivers the most-shocking lines. He has a remark about pedophilia that looks like it caught C.K. off-guard.

There’s a definite improvisational feel to much of this. Some lines get flubbed, and there are a few signs that the performers didn’t have a lot of time to get their lines down. That’s probably true, because the show feels as if it was taped just a few days ago; for example, there are remarks about Trump in Iowa.

Throw in a theme song by a little guy named Paul Simon, and you have a pretty impressive production. There are signs that this isn’t a one-time thing, which is good to know.

If you are wondering whether or not it’s worth $5 … well, it’s 67 minutes long, and it has Louis C.K. and Jessica Lange in it. Enough said.

Louis C.K. has put his FX series on hold in favor of other projects, this being one of them. May Horace and Pete serve drinks at their shitty bar for a long time to come.

Horace and Pete is available for download ($5) at Louisck.net.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

The Hollywood blacklisting that led to the imprisonment of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was a travesty—and it’s high time somebody made an excellent movie about it.

Director Jay Roach eschews his comedy-making reputation for this riveting look into the tribulations that Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) and fellow artists faced during the Red Scare days of the Cold War. Cranston does his best movie work yet as Trumbo, a confessed member of the Communist party who did jail time and lost work due to his beliefs. He eventually started writing screenplays anonymously, even winning an Oscar under a different name.

The film’s best scenes involve Cranston and none other than Louis C.K. as writer Arlen Hird (a fictional composite character) as they marvel at the injustices bestowed upon them. The film does a nice job of capturing the paranoia of the times, with nice touches such as John Wayne (David James Elliott) throwing his weight around, and Diane Lane as Cleo, Trumbo’s very patient wife. The film does a nice job of balancing truth and fiction, and Cranston is marvelous.

Let it be said that Louis C.K. continues to show surprising prowess as an actor. He’s building up an impressive resume for a guy who insists he can’t act.

Trumbo is now playing at the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565) and the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews

Louis C.K. took a year off from his groundbreaking, innovative TV show to make a couple of movies. One of those films was the Oscar-nominated American Hustle, in which he played an FBI agent getting bullied by Bradley Cooper's character. The other was Woody Allen’s Oscar-nominated Blue Jasmine, in which he played a scumbag.

He played both roles amazingly well.

It looks like some of those dramatic leanings have worn off on C.K. The shows of his fourth season now feel like something from the Woody Allen of old—down to the white letters on black background credits that start each episode. (There’s no more “Louie” song!).

While this year’s installments are perhaps a little less funny than in prior years, they are still mind-blowingly good. FX has chosen to air the shows in two-episode, one-hour blocks, and while this means the new episodes will end sooner on the calendar, it’s nice to get double blasts at a time.

This season has featured several multiple-episode story arcs, all dealing with the turmoil of raising his kids (still amazingly played by Hadley Delany and Ursula Parker) and his hapless stabs at romance. I’ve yet to see anything as frighteningly memorable as Melissa Leo cracking Louie’s head on a car window as she did in Season 3—but the season isn’t over yet.

Louie’s fourth season airs Mondays on FX, concluding on Monday, June 16. The episodes are also available for rental via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Director David O. Russell continues his impressive roll with American Hustle, a semi-comedic look at the notorious 1970s Abscam scandal.

Russell is shooting for Scorsese-style glory here, and while the style of the movie seems copied at times, there’s no denying the power of the ensemble cast. Bradley Cooper scores laughs as a pathetic FBI agent looking to make a name for himself, and Christian Bale looks great with a comb-over as the conman forced into an alliance with the law. Amy Adams gets one of the strangest roles of 2013 as a con artist pretending to be British; she pulls it off quite nicely.

Jennifer Lawrence steals every scene she’s in as a seemingly dim Long Island housewife, a role for which I thought she deserved an Oscar. The film scored nominations for Lawrence, Cooper, Bale and Adams among 10 total nominations—yet it didn’t take home a single award.

Also worth noting: Louis C.K. is hilarious as Cooper’s field boss. C.K. canceled a show for which I had tickets make this movie. I was pissed but, after seeing how good he is here, I’m OK with it now.

The film falls a little short of greatness due to the fact that it seems copied at times, but the cast pulls it out of the fire. It also has the best usage of Robert De Niro as a bad guy in many years. I keep forgetting that De Niro was once the greatest actor on planet Earth; with this film, and his terrific turn in Silver Linings Playbook, De Niro seems to have found a great director in Russell.

It’s a good time, but it ultimately feels a tad unoriginal.

Special Features: There’s a bunch of deleted and extended scenes, along with a making-of featurette. Not much to enjoy.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

There was a time when Woody Allen was consistently making the best movies in the business. Blue Jasmine is that return to form that some of us former Allen fans have been seeking, thanks in large part to a phenomenal central performance by the Oscar-nominated Cate Blanchett.

Blanchett plays Jasmine, the wife of a Bernie Madoff-type financier (Alec Baldwin) who must relocate from New York to San Francisco after she is bankrupted and emotionally destroyed. She gulps martinis, criticizes her helpful sister (Sally Hawkins, also an Oscar nominee) and, quite frighteningly, is prone to bouts of talking to herself.

Allen finds the dark humor in the story, and employs a supporting cast that includes comedians Louis C.K. and, most astonishingly, Andrew Dice Clay—who, doggone it, delivers an amazing performance as Ginger’s financially destroyed ex-husband, Augie.

Above and beyond the humor, though, Allen makes his film a parable about how some deeds are irredeemable, and some folks are simply doomed. It’s as bittersweet as any movie you will see. As far as the Allen film canon goes, it’s a Top 5 installment.

On top of the acting nominations, the film got a nom for Allen’s screenplay. It deserves the nomination. However, the film didn’t get nominations for Best Picture or Best Director—and Blue Jasmine is better than most of the films nominated in those categories. That’s a bit annoying.

This is one of those films in which everything comes together perfectly, with Blanchett at its powerful center. Yeah, Woody Allen is total scum, but he’s still making movies, and this is one of his best.

Special Features: As is usually the case with Allen releases, there’s not much here. You get a press conference and some quickie interviews. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

David O. Russell continues his impressive directorial roll with American Hustle, a semi-comedic look at the notorious 1970s Abscam scandal. Russell is shooting for Scorsese-style glory here, and while the style of the movie seems copied at times, there’s no denying the power of the ensemble cast.

Bradley Cooper scores laughs as a pathetic FBI agent looking to make a name for himself, and Christian Bale looks great in a combover as the conman forced into an alliance with the law. Amy Adams gets one of the strangest roles of the year as a con artist pretending to be British—and she pulls it off quite nicely. Jennifer Lawrence steals every scene she’s in as a seemingly dim Long Island housewife. You also get Louis C.K. as Cooper’s field boss. (He canceled a show for which I had tickets to make this movie. I was pissed then, but after seeing how good he is here, I’m OK with it now.)

The film falls a little short of greatness due to its sometimes carbon-copy feel, but the cast pulls it out of the fire. It also has the best usage of Robert De Niro as a bad guy in many years.

American Hustle is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

There was a time when Woody Allen was consistently making the best movies in the business—and Blue Jasmine is that return to form that some of us Allen fans have been waiting for, thanks in large part to a phenomenal central performance by Cate Blanchett.

Blanchett—sure to nab an Oscar nomination here—plays Jasmine, the wife of a Bernie Madoff-type financier (Alec Baldwin) who must relocate from New York to San Francisco after she is financially ruined and emotionally destroyed. She gulps martinis, criticizes her helpful sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), and, quite frighteningly, is prone to bouts of talking to herself.

Allen finds the dark humor in the story, and employs a supporting cast that includes Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K. and, most astonishingly, Andrew Dice Clay, who, doggone it, delivers one amazing performance as Ginger’s financially destroyed ex-husband, Augie.

Above and beyond the humor, Allen makes his film a parable about how some deeds are irredeemable, and some folks are simply doomed. It’s as bittersweet as any movie you will see this year—or any year, for that matter.

As far as the Allen film canon goes, this is in the Top 5. It’s one of those films where everything comes together perfectly, with Blanchett at its powerful center.

Blue Jasmine is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews