CVIndependent

Wed07172019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

DVDs/Home Viewing

03 Sep 2013
by  - 
Sometimes, all a movie really needs is Sam Rockwell. Rockwell stars in A Single Shot as John Moon, a reclusive poacher living in a trailer deep in the woods. One morning while out hunting a deer, he accidentally shoots a woman. Then, he finds a whole lot of money (echoes of A Simple Plan) and decides to keep it in an effort to make things better with his estranged wife (Kelly Reilly). Of course, the money actually belongs to bad people—and those bad people will be coming after John Moon. They most certainly will. A Single Shot doesn’t feel original; in fact, it feels a bit hackneyed at times. But the performances are often riveting, and Rockwell keeps it watchable. There’s also an unrecognizable Jason Isaacs as an unsavory sort, with the underrated Joe Anderson also playing a bad guy. William H. Macy brings a slight taste of comedy to…
03 Sep 2013
by  - 
Michael Shannon is his usual terrific self as Richard Kuklinski, aka The Iceman, one of the most notorious killers in American history. During his run, Kuklinski killed as many as 250 people as a solo assassin and mob hitman. The Iceman director and co-writer Ariel Vromen has made an impressive-looking movie, and he stocked it with good people, including Winona Ryder as Kuklinski’s wife, who allegedly didn’t know about her husband’s deadly ways until the day of his arrest. Chris Evans (Captain America!) is great as Mr. Freezy, a murderous accomplice who shows Kuklinski how to murder with cyanide. Ray Liotta reminds viewers that he is one of cinema’s great bad-asses as real-life crime figure Roy Demeo, who initiated Kuklinski into his gang by having him murder a random, innocent man. Yes, that’s David Schwimmer of Friends fame playing a long-haired, mustachioed Demeo henchman. The film looks great; the subject…
27 Aug 2013
by  - 
It was a little worrisome when Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel had its release postponed last year. As it turns out, turning the film into a summer blockbuster rather than an awards-season contender was a great move, because this one felt right at home during the summer movie season. Shot in glorious 3-D, this is a rollicking Roaring ’20s movie that shouldn’t be missed. Leonardo DiCaprio is a marvel in the title role, giving us a vulnerable and sometimes slightly crazy Gatsby who relentlessly pursues his love, Daisy (Carey Mulligan). His visual intro in this film is one for the ages. Tobey Maguire is excellent as narrator and Gatsby admirer Nick Carraway, while Joel Edgerton steals scenes as Tom Buchanan. Those who like Luhrmann’s opulent, sometimes-frantic style will find plenty to like. He also manages to effectively use music by Jay-Z and Lana Del Rey—in a…
20 Aug 2013
by  - 
In The Look of Love, Steve Coogan reunites with his frequent director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People) to tell the true story of Paul Raymond, Britain’s version of Hugh Hefner, who became one of Britain’s richest men before his death in 2008. I knew nothing of this man before watching the film—which seems strange, considering he was so huge in England. He opened England’s first strip club, and followed that with soft-porn magazines and real-estate properties until he amassed a huge fortune. Coogan plays Raymond as a likable-enough sort—even though he had a wandering eye and a lack of commitment when it came to relationships. Anna Friel (Land of the Lost) plays Jean, Raymond’s long-suffering wife, who had no problem with his dalliances—until he actually picks up and leaves. Imogen Poots is memorable as Debbie, Raymond’s daughter and the reason he became reclusive after her death from a drug…
14 Aug 2013
by  - 
Hell Baby is yet another horror-movie spoof, this one starring the great Rob Corddry (TV’s Childrens Hospital) and Leslie Bibb as a couple moving into a creepy house in New Orleans. She’s pregnant; the place might be haunted; and there’s a guy (the funny Keegan Michael Key) apparently living in their crawl space. On top of that, Mrs. Nussbaum, an old naked lady from the mental institution down the block, is running around the house and doing lewd things to Corddry … really lewd things. Can the couple get the old house renovated in time for the baby’s arrival, while keeping the wife’s womb un-possessed? Unfotrunately, you won’t care. There are a couple of running gags that work, including a repeated bit involving po’ boy sandwiches, but most of the jokes fall flat. This was written by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon of Reno 911!, with the two playing…
13 Aug 2013
by  - 
If you are not familiar with the case of the West Memphis Three, Amy Berg’s thorough documentary, West of Memphis (produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh), will get you up to speed. Three young boys, Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers, were found dead in a ditch in West Memphis, Ark., in May 1993. The circumstances of their deaths seemed to suggest some sort of satanic ritual—or so authorities thought. They arrested three teenagers, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., and eventually put them behind bars for more than 18 years. The film presents much of the information shared in the three prior Paradise Lost documentaries, with a new emphasis on another stepfather and his possible involvement in the murders. If I have a bone to pick with these documentaries, it’s that they point fingers at other suspects, yet present little to no evidence to back…
07 Aug 2013
by  - 
Derek Cianfrance follows up his brilliant Blue Valentine with The Place Beyond the Pines, a film bigger in scope that also stars Ryan Gosling. Gosling plays Luke, a motorcycle stunt guy who finds out he has a kid. Problem is, the kid is the product of a one-night stand, and the mom (Eva Mendes) has moved on. Luke resorts to robbing banks, which culminates in a meeting with a rookie cop, Avery, played by Bradley Cooper. The film then focuses on Cooper’s character for a segment before dealing with the kids of Luke and Avery (played by Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen) when they are teens. The two young actors match their adult counterparts with strong performances. The movie is long but never boring, and it crackles most when Gosling is onscreen. This is all about the sins of the fathers, and Cianfrance presents the story in a way that…
06 Aug 2013
by  - 
It’s official: Jeff Nichols, who gave us the brilliant Take Shelter, is a writer/director who stands among the best of the current crop. Matthew McConaughey plays the title character in this amazing film, Mud. He’s a chipped-toothed, wild-haired drifter living in a boat in a tree along the Mississippi. Two kids, Ellis and Neckbone (Tye Sheridan, of The Tree of Life, and Jacob Lofland) stumble upon him and become a part of his strange and dangerous world. McConaughey is catching wave after wave of success lately, and this role is his best one yet. He makes Mud a little scary, yet charming and cunning. Sheridan and Lofland are terrific as the young friends who should probably stay away from guys living in boats in trees. The cast also boasts Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon and Sam Shepard. All of them are equally great. A lot of us wrote off McConaughey a…
30 Jul 2013
by  - 
When watching Lord of the Flies—the 1963 Peter Brook adaptation of William Golding’s classic book about British school kids going savage after being marooned on an island—you have to be a bit forgiving. Brooks shot the film for $150,000 and had all sorts of audio problems. Virtually none of the audio shot on-set was used; most of what appears in the film needed to be looped in afterward. The production took a long time, so the young actors grew into puberty during filming, and their voices changed. Ralph (James Aubrey) has about four different voices throughout the film. Despite this movie’s shortcomings, I love it. Hugh Edwards as Piggy has to be one of the all-time-best castings of an iconic literary character. He is Piggy … it’s a perfect choice. This book and the movie were required reading and viewing when I was a kid. I think it resulted in…
24 Jul 2013
by  - 
Director Neil Jordan makes Byzantium a vampire film that is actually worth watching. Now available via IFC On Demand, this is the first decent vampire film since the undead started sparkling and moping in the Twilight films. Saoirse Ronan stars as Eleanor, a vampire permanently stuck at the age of 16 for more than 200 years. She roams the Earth with her prostitute vampire mother, Clara (Gemma Arterton). Eleanor likes to write her stories down and then throw them away, as a means of keeping her secrets. She meets an interesting and ill boy (Caleb Landry Jones) and starts thinking that her vampire life is kind of boring. It’s nice to see a vampire story with a majestic scope that goes beyond mere camp. Jordan literally uses waterfalls of blood in his movie, and brings his true sense of style to the proceedings. Ronan and Arterton keep things interesting, even…
23 Jul 2013
by  - 
I suspect that a lot of the critics who are raving about Orange Is the New Black, Netflix’s new original series, failed to watch past the first few episodes. This drama about women behind bars starts off gangbusters, with touches of brilliance and great humor. But by the time I was watching the 13th episode, I was a few hours past over it. This one loses steam fast and becomes quite a letdown. The show degenerates from an introspective look at a woman’s stint in prison to a parade of clichés. At first, the story of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling)—who goes up the river for a felony she committed 10 years before—is nothing short of awesome. The show also boasts the best performance from Jason Biggs in a long time, as her beleaguered boyfriend. (There’s even a great American Pie joke.) However, as Piper settles in to prison life, we…
17 Jul 2013
by  - 
Like Schwarzenegger did in The Last Stand, Sylvester Stallone gives his all in service to Bullet to the Head and its undistinguished script. The results? Neither this nor Arnie’s offering is worth your time. Not surprisingly, both of these lame films flopped at the box office. Director Walter Hill (48 Hrs.) makes action/buddy films that all tend to feel the same. Unfortunately, this one has more in common with his Another 48 Hrs., in which the formula had already gotten tired. Stallone plays a tattooed thug named James Bonomo; his buddy is South Korean Taylor Kwon (played by Sung Kang), which leads to more than a few uncomfortable race jokes. The plot involves the usual crap: a double cross, a partner getting killed, somebody getting kidnapped, ax fights, etc. Stallone looks great and delivers his stupid lines with much aplomb. Kang is just there for the ride, offering little in…