CVIndependent

Wed11132019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

11 Apr 2019
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The DC Comics universe gets its best movie since Wonder Woman with Shazam!, a fun—and surprisingly dark—blast of superhero fantasy. While a little sloppy at times, the movie works thanks to its central performances and warm-hearted core. Zachary Levi is an excellent choice to play the title character; that character is the result of a 14-year-old boy being handed super powers by a wizard (Djimon Hounsou). That boy is Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a foster child in search of his real mom. When he yells “Shazam!” a lightning bolt blasts him in his melon, and he becomes the glorious, red-suited, white-caped superhero—but he still has a 14-year-old’s brain. This gives Levi the chance to do a Tom Hanks/Big sort of shtick, and he’s good at it. Adults in a certain age group might remember the Shazam TV show from the 1970s. Batson would actually transform into Captain Marvel—not the Marvel…
11 Apr 2019
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The original cinematic take on Stephen King’s supposed scariest novel was a camp-horror hoot—a strange mixture of gore and satire that holds up pretty well today. The new take on Pet Sematary offers more of a straightforward approach to King’s story about humans who can’t deal with death, especially when it comes to pets and family members. Jason Clarke steps in as Louis Creed, big-city doctor moving to the country, where his wonderful new house is unfortunately bordered by a pet cemetery/Indian burial ground in the back, and a road full of speeding trucks in the front. The death of the family cat leads to an ill-advised burial in the cemetery … which leads to a zombie return of the beloved cat. The cat is followed by a family member, and King fans will be surprised to see who that family member is (as long as you haven’t seen the…
04 Apr 2019
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The decline of Tim Burton continues with Dumbo, his remake of the classic animated movie that amounts to a big zero—for kids and adults alike. The original Dumbo clocked in at just a little more than an hour, while this one lasts for nearly two hours … and it feels like about 40. Yes, the running time has been padded, but not with anything beneficial. A bunch of unnecessary subplots and added characters take away time from the title character, an admittedly cute CGI achievement. There are no talking animals in this movie, so remove Timothy the mouse, the singing crows, and the lullaby from the mama elephant off your list of expectations. The mouse (who makes a brief appearance, in a cage and wearing a hat) is replaced by the requisite precocious children, one of them played by Thandie Newton’s daughter. Sorry Thandie Newton’s daughter, but you can’t act,…
28 Mar 2019
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Oh, those evil doppelgängers, and their wonderful place in horror lore. See: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Twin Peaks, The Thing—and now Jordan Peele’s extremely creepy Get Out follow-up, Us. I ask you: What could be creepier than your double trying to slash your neck? Peele knows that it’s the ultimate nightmare—and Us plays upon it with chilling glee. The film starts with a quote about America having many miles of tunnels underneath its surface; there’s then a quick flashback shot of a videotape of 1984 sci-fi film C.H.U.D. next to a VCR. A TV plays an advertisement for Hands Across America, and you already have all sorts of subtext before anything even really happens. With a series in which a young girl (Madison Curry) in the same 1980s flashback drifts away from her father at a beach amusement park and finds herself in a darkened hall of mirrors, Peele…
21 Mar 2019
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If you are looking for a good, standard action-thriller to put into your Netflix queue, Triple Frontier is a safe bet. Maybe it’s too safe, in fact, but regardless, after a one-week theatrical release, the movie is now available for streaming. The latest from the streaming giant sends the likes of Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal and Charlie Hunnam into the jungle to rob a South American drug lord’s house of millions of dollars. Former special-forces operative Santiago “Pope” Garcia (Isaac) has become bored to death as a military adviser to police making drug busts. During a particularly bloody mission, he overhears a captured dealer divulge the location of a drug lord’s personal home, where he keeps all of his money. Pope gets to thinking and then calls upon some of his former Special Ops buds to pay the kingpin a house call and relieve him of…
14 Mar 2019
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It looks like somebody forgot to tell Brie Larson to have fun and let loose in Captain Marvel. Her turn as the title character, aka Carol Danvers, is laced with lethargy and bizarre line deliveries. Samuel L. Jackson and an orange tabby fortunately seem to be enjoying themselves, but Larson is stiffer than Church the cat on the Creed’s front lawn after his unfortunate encounter with a speeding truck. (Say, is my excitement for the upcoming Pet Sematary reboot evident?) A similar problem plagued Larson in Kong: Skull Island. The Academy Award-winning actress seems to be in her wheelhouse when the budget is low, but seems miscast when she shows up in a blockbuster. She gives off a detached vibe; it’s odd. The movie should be called Captain Meh: I Dunno … I Got Better Things to Do. If the movie around her were really good, her seemingly bored disposition…
07 Mar 2019
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Isabelle Huppert goes bonkers in director Neil Jordan’s Greta, a silly, standard psycho-stalker film made somewhat fun by Huppert’s commitment to nuttiness, as well as co-star Chloe Grace Moretz’s excellence at playing freaked out. Moretz is Frances, a young woman living in New York City with her best friend, Erica (Maika Monroe). Frances, still dealing with the loss of her mother, finds somebody’s handbag on the subway and decides to return it to its owner. The owner is Greta, a piano-playing, solitary French woman who immediately invites Frances into her life, and they develop a fast mother-daughter-type bond. Greta has a daughter of her own, but she lives in Paris, so Frances fills a void, while Greta provides the motherly friendship Frances craves. Erica cries “Weird!” about the whole relationship, but Frances persists, even helping Greta adopt a dog, and opting to hang with Greta instead of friends her age.…
28 Feb 2019
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The tale of Toothless the freaking adorable animated dragon comes to a close—maybe—with How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third chapter in what producers are calling a trilogy. Yeah, that’s the same thing they said about Toy Story 3 before greenlighting Toy Story 4. If the story continues beyond this chapter, you won’t get any complaints from me; I think the dragon beat could entertainingly go on with this franchise. Hiccup (the voice Jay Baruchel), now the chief of his Viking tribe, and his dragon buddy, Toothless, happen upon another Night Fury dragon—this one a female, and Toothless is justifiably smitten. After a first date that involves some hilarious show-off dancing, the two hit it off, and Hiccup finds himself possibly staring down a future without Toothless. Before Toothless and his new gal pal can head off for wedded bliss in the mystical Hidden World, where dragons…
25 Feb 2019
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Three actresses in excellent form—Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and newly christened Oscar-winner Olivia Colman—bring the thunder in The Favourite, a funny, sinister look at Queen Anne and her confidantes in the early 18th century. Early talk had Stone or Weisz getting Oscars for their roles—they were both nominated for Best Supporting Actress—but as awards season played out, Colman got more accolades, culminating with her surprise Oscar win. Her performance in this movie is vulnerable, hilarious and even a little scary at times. As for Stone and Weisz, they were deserving of their nominations, and they are equally fantastic. It’s a period piece with a rapier wit, and one of 2018’s funniest, best-looking movies. Nicholas Hoult also contributes career-best work as Harley, a devious politician rocking a huge powder wig. It’s a period piece that is anything but stuffy, and while I was saddened to see Lady Gaga lose that Best…
21 Feb 2019
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Alita: Battle Angel is a project that’s been on James Cameron’s plate for almost two decades. Then the whole Avatar thing happened, and Cameron, the director, got lost in Pandora speaking Navi and doing strange things with horse-like creatures. He went from directing Alita to producing and screenplay contributions only. Directing chores went to Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, From Dusk Till Dawn)—and after substantial delays, the movie has finally arrived. The first time I saw the character of Alita in previews (played, in motion captures, by Rosa Salazar), I found her super-creepy, with her big eyes and ghostly smile. After seeing her in 3-D IMAX, I have to say: Something about adding that third dimension makes her more visually accessible. She really is an impressive special-effects feat, blending in just fine with the 100 percent humans and special-effects backdrops. The movie itself is rather absorbing for a while, telling a…
21 Feb 2019
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Christopher Landon follows up his somewhat creative original Happy Death Day with Happy Death Day 2U, an overly ambitious sequel that starts off great, but gets lost in its second half. Jessica Rothe returns as Tree, the college student who got stuck in the Groundhog Day murder loop in the original. The sequel starts with Ryan (Phi Vu), the character who walked in on Tree and Carter (Israel Broussard), stuck in a brand-new murder loop with a seemingly different baby-mask killer. Landon and friends establish a fascinating a reason for the whole murder-loop thing (a quantum-physics experiment) and set up some scenarios that openly acknowledge the plot of Back to the Future 2, featuring doppelgangers and everything. So far, so good. Then the plot begins to center on Tree—specifically about her fixing other elements of her life, leaning hard on emotional stuff rather than the clever gimmicks of the film’s…
19 Feb 2019
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Alex Honnold had a dream: to climb the face of Yosemite’s El Capitan without a rope. That’s a strange, crazy, psycho kind of dream, but he achieved it—and directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin captured it on film. The movie Free Solo spends much of its time on the pre-climbing ritual of training and Honnold studying El Capitan while climbing it with ropes. That stuff is harrowing enough, but when Honnold jettisons his safety harness for a climb using just his fingers and toes, things get all-out nuts. Peppered throughout the film are mentions of the deaths of other free-climbers around the world, some of whom die while Honnold is prepping for his big day. No matter—he just keeps on plugging, much to the amazement of the camera crew and Honnold’s girlfriend, Sanni McCandless, possibly the most patient and understanding woman in the world. The final climb is a…