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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

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 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, is funny and sad as one of Lady Bird’s young love interests, while Odeya Rush is golden as Lady Bird’s best friend, Jenna. Tracy Letts is perfect as the nice dad dealing with warring factions in the household, while Timothée Chalamet (currently racking up awards for Call Me by Your Name) is perhaps the biggest laugh-getter as another love interest, the aloof Kyle.

Lady Bird is a triumph for Ronan and Gerwig, and while it would never happen, I’d love to see a sequel about Lady Bird’s college years.

Lady Bird is showing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

I never got around to seeing Goosebumps while it was in theaters. That’s probably a good thing; while I found the fantasy flick to be mostly enjoyable, it is not a film that needed my presence in a theater.

In this fairly clever adaptation of the young-adult horror of R.L. Stine, Jack Black plays the author, a paranoid man living a hermitic life and keeping his daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush) in virtual imprisonment. When Zach (Dylan Minnette) moves in next door and befriends Hannah, they find themselves opening some books in Stine’s library—and unleashing the beasts within.

Black is pretty good in this typically manic performance, and the kids are OK. Ryan Lee gets the typical nerd role, and he does decently with it, although his character does feel a little clichéd.

The special effects are passable. They include a confused yeti, evil garden gnomes and the requisite evil ventriloquist’s dummy.

Rob Letterman directs; this marks his third teaming with Black after Shark Tale and Gulliver’s Travels. This is easily their best work together.

Special Features: You get deleted scenes, blooper reels and some featurettes.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

In a post-apocalyptic society, humans are being drugged into a state in which they feel no emotion, are completely submissive and see no colors. When they hit their late teens, they are assigned a job that they will have for the rest of their life. Everybody’s equal; there is no war; all aspects of life are predestined.

Lois Lowry’s novel had an interesting premise, but Phillip Noyce’s film simply feels and looks wrong. For starters, The Giver feels like a rip-off of Pleasantville, with the film slowly changing from black-and-white to color; meanwhile, elements of the dystopian society come off like a dated Disney ride. As for the casting, it’s good to see Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep on hand in pivotal roles, but the young leads (Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush) seem like they are overreaching. Taylor Swift shows up for a couple of minutes in a cameo—a cameo that is being marketed as a starring role, misleading her fans.

Bridges is at least interesting as an old wise man who stores all memories of past societies in his head. He’s tasked with passing his memories on to young Jonas (Thwaites)—as if that isn’t going to cause some sort of problem.

Noyce gives us some pretty pictures and a halfway decent cast—and basically doesn’t know what to do with it.

The Giver is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews