CVIndependent

Sun02182018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Reviews

15 Feb 2018
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I went to see Fifty Shades Freed—the third, supposedly final and treacherously terrible entry in the Fifty Shades franchise—on a Sunday morning, hoping to keep a low profile. I was the only single guy sitting in the dark theater, along with couples of varying ages, primed for groping and sloppy in-theater fellatio. (Hey, we all know what happens at these damn Fifty Shades screenings!) So … this is the one in which Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) get married, creating an eternal bond for their patented strain of lovemaking that involves whips, handcuffs and shitty dialogue. When I sat down to take in this fart to the face, I was thinking, “Say, you know what I want with my miserable, dick-killing soft-core porn? Give me some car chases and kidnapping drama!” And that is what I got … but I wasn’t really thinking that. I was…
08 Feb 2018
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Toward the end of Winchester—the new haunted house movie starring Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke—a character has a moment when she says the words, “I am not afraid,” repeatedly. My sentiments exactly. Mirren and Clarke head a decent cast in what proves to be a movie without any real scares, personality or real reason to sit down and watch it. The acting is terrible; the editing is sloppy; and the special effects are third-rate. This level of failure is very surprising, considering it was directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, the brothers who put together the inventive science-fiction thriller Predestination. Clarke plays Eric Price, a doctor addicted to drugs and alcohol. His wife died due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound via a Winchester rifle, a rifle from which he also took a bullet, although he survived. (The script alludes to him being dead for three minutes before being brought back…
01 Feb 2018
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Director Scott Cooper’s Hostiles is an uncompromising, brutal Western. It makes Clint Eastwood’s classic, somber Unforgiven look like Mary Poppins. Christian Bale turns in another spellbinding performance as Capt. Joseph J. Blocker. Joe—a quiet, tired, jaded soldier—is spending the closing days of his military career in 1892 capturing and imprisoning Native Americans. He has fought many battles, seen many atrocities, and committed many of his own. When aging and terminally ill Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) is granted freedom by the president of the United States, somebody who knows his dialect must be chosen to escort him and his family back to Montana. Joe is the best candidate for the job … but it’s a job he doesn’t want: Joe fought against Yellow Hawk and witnessed him murdering his friend many years ago. The idea of leading a man he sees as the worst of murderers to a graceful…
25 Jan 2018
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The latest film from Paul Thomas Anderson finally did in actor Daniel Day-Lewis: He announced his retirement from acting before Phantom Thread made it to movie screens late last year—just in time for awards season. Timing is everything: The film nabbed six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and a Best Actor nom for Day-Lewis. Day-Lewis tends to kick his own ass when he plays roles. A notorious method actor, he stayed in the role of Abe Lincoln for the Spielberg biopic when cameras weren’t rolling, and word has it that he did heavy research for his role as a 1950s dress-maker and fashion maverick in Phantom Thread. That crazy research and attention to detail most contributes to Day-Lewis’s tendency to inhabit a role like no other. I maintain that the greatest single performance by any actor, anywhere, ever, is his portrayal of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood—Day-Lewis’s first,…
25 Jan 2018
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Call Me by Your Name is one of 2017’s better love stories—a sumptuously filmed romance set in Italy that is a thing of beauty. Lush settings, stunning locations and two adorable leads in Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet contribute to a sweet, and heartbreaking, story by André Aciman (who wrote the novel), with a screenplay by James Ivory. In an Oscar-nominated performance, Chalamet plays Elio, an American living in Italy with his professor father (Michael Stuhlbarg). When his father takes an assistant in the form of Oliver (Hammer), Elio is smitten—and so is the older Oliver. They wind up having a fling that carries deep meaning for them, and for those who know them. Chalamet (who was also terrific in Lady Bird) makes Elio so much more than a confused teen in love; this guy is really in love in a way that will affect his entire life, and the…
18 Jan 2018
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Perhaps the most important journalistic battle in American history gets the Spielberg treatment in The Post, featuring a stellar cast that includes Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The film explores The Washington Post’s decision to print the Pentagon Papers on Vietnam in 1971, a move that raised the ire of then-President Richard Nixon, and put the careers of people like paper owner Kay Graham (Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) in major jeopardy. Of course, Hanks isn’t the first movie star to play Bradlee: Jason Robards also played him in All the President’s Men, the classic film that covered the Watergate scandal. Bradlee, who died in 2014, was a journalism giant. The movie starts in the mid-’60s with Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), a member of the State Department who is a study for then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) in South Vietnam. Embedded with American troops, Ellsberg sees all…
18 Jan 2018
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Admit it: When Nancy Kerrigan got kneecapped by folks connected to Tonya Harding all those years ago, you just knew there would be a big Hollywood movie about it someday. Well, here it is, starring Margot Robbie as Harding—and it’s funny, nasty stuff. Allison Janney is a sinister hoot as Tonya’s nasty mom, while Robbie proves, weirdly enough, that she was born to play Tonya Harding. The movie is the subject some post-release controversy, as some people are claiming director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers tried to turn Harding into some kind of hero—an innocent in the scheme to take Kerrigan out and pave the way for Harding to become the world’s skating champion. Nah … Harding is not portrayed in a positive light here. It’s just that her mom is the greater villain—a manipulative, back-stabbing monster who Janney brings to hilarious fruition. As she brow-beats Tonya from her…
11 Jan 2018
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Jessica Chastain takes the role of Molly Bloom—a real poker-game organizer and former championship skier—and nails it: Molly’s Game takes a true story that seems too crazy to be real and turns it into a great movie about a woman’s struggle against the justice system, as well as the perils of gambling outside the already-dangerous realm of a casino. This is a great actress firing on all cylinders. Making the experience all the more enjoyable is screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), whose stylish, snappy directorial debut here shows he has a big future beyond the keyboard. Bloom was a top-notch athlete, shepherded by her domineering father (an excellent Kevin Costner), who had all of her plans laid out before her. She was going to medal at the Olympics, go to law school and become an entrepreneur. Her plans started to hit a snag when it was discovered that she…
04 Jan 2018
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Leave it to Guillermo del Toro to make 2017’s weirdest “mainstream” movie. The maverick director has been merely so-so with his last couple of big-screen offerings: the gorgeous but shallow Crimson Peak, and the goofy but good-looking Pacific Rim. The all-encompassing magic of Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth seemed to be eluding him, and it was looking like he’d perhaps peaked a few films ago. But The Shape of Water, for which he also co-wrote the screenplay, reminds us that this guy is a genius—a sick and twisted genius, but a genius nonetheless. This story set in the 1960s is—in a strange, backward way—as close to a Disney movie as del Toro has gotten. It has a lot of violence, interspecies sex, nudity and cussing in it … yet it has a Disney kind of vibe to it. That del Toro—he’s a nut. Sally Hawkins, in an awesome performance that’s her…
04 Jan 2018
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In what amounts to a much-wordier companion piece to Dunkirk, Gary Oldman disappears into the role of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. The movie starts shortly before Churchill takes over as prime minister—a controversial choice to lead who is facing a lot of opposition, including a skeptical King George VI (brilliantly played by Ben Mendelsohn). The film chronicles Churchill’s speeches (transcribed by personal secretary Elizabeth Layton, played winningly by Lily James) and his strategizing, leading up to him gaining Parliament’s support in not seeking peace with Hitler—and pledging all-out war. Director Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna) always makes great-looking movies, and this is no exception. Oldman is virtually guaranteed an Oscar nomination as Churchill. It’s not a role you would think he was born to play, but excellent makeup and prosthetics make his transformation completely convincing. This isn’t just a guy working through a bunch of stuff on his face; Oldman…
28 Dec 2017
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I watch a lot of movies. Like, a lot of movies, and it’s very rare for me to be thinking halfway into a movie: “Say, this could be one of the year’s best films!”—only to have it become one of the year’s worst films in the second half. Well, that’s what happened when I watched the latest Matt Damon vehicle, from director Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways), the horribly off-balance Downsizing. The film starts as brilliant satire mixed with science fiction: Scientists have discovered a way to reduce energy and resource consumption on our planet by shrinking people and putting them into miniature utopia communities. By doing this, not only do humans generate less trash; they essentially become rich when their finances are transferred into the downsized communities. A standard bank account goes from being worth thousands to millions. Damon plays Paul, an occupational therapist at Omaha Steaks living from paycheck…
21 Dec 2017
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In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we finally get the movie with both older Luke and Leia. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher get to do what Harrison Ford did in The Force Awakens: They spend a little more time (in the case of Hamill, a lot more time) in their iconic roles. Both stars shine as they play in the Star Wars sandbox 40 years after the original’s release. When this film focuses on the saga of Luke and Rey, it is nothing short of epic. When the camera is on the late Carrie Fisher—who gets more quality screen time than she did with her glorified cameo in Force Awakens—it’s heartwarming and, yes, sad. (The Leia stuff gets a little kooky at times, but I’m trying to make this a spoiler-free zone.) When writer-director Rian Johnson takes the action to the characters of Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and…

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