CVIndependent

Wed10232019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

10 Oct 2019
by  - 
Joker, a new take on DC Comics’ Clown Prince of Crime, will go down as one of the year’s big missed opportunities. Director Todd Phillips, best known for his Hangover movies, apparently got the green light to do whatever he wanted with the Joker mythos. In a feat of perfect casting, he managed to get Joaquin Phoenix to sign on for the title role. This was a chance to tell a dark origin story from Joker’s point of view. Phillips blew this chance. Phoenix is otherworldly good as Arthur Fleck, a severely troubled clown and standup comedy wannabe (and momma’s boy) with a condition that causes him to laugh uncontrollably at inappropriate moments. Phoenix physically and mentally disappears into the part—to the point where it’s reasonable to become concerned about the actor’s well-being. He accomplishes this in a film that has a major identity crisis, in that it wants to…
03 Oct 2019
by  - 
I have never seen a single episode of Downton Abbey, the Emmy-winning British TV series that aired its finale almost four years ago. I didn’t intentionally avoid it; there are just some TV shows I never get around to watching. So, walking into Downton Abbey the movie, I knew next to nothing. I knew it was set in the early 20th century; I knew it was British; and I knew the awesome Maggie Smith was in it. I also knew Dan Stevens was probably not in it due to situations his character encountered during the run of the show—TV events that made the news. Well … this movie is a mess—although it’s the sort of mess a true fan will be willing to tolerate. Director Michael Engler works enough subplots into this movie to fuel an entire season of the former TV show, and it’s painfully apparent in the pacing,…
26 Sep 2019
by  - 
Sylvester Stallone takes his iconic John Rambo character and places him in what amounts to little more than an ultra-violent MAGA wankathon in Rambo: Last Blood—easily the worst film in the franchise, and one of the worst films in Stallone’s career. The Rambo movies have been on a slow downhill slide all along, but have always been watchable. First Blood was awesome; Rambo: First Blood Part II was fun and silly; Rambo III was passable action but a little tired; and Rambo (2008) was bit of a drag, albeit with some decent action scenes and carnage. Alas, Rambo: Last Blood is an abomination in the way all the Charles Bronson Death Wish sequels were terrible: This film does absolutely nothing to merit its existence. As a Rambo/Stallone fan, I wish I could pretend it didn’t happen, but it has, and it is pure dreck. Stallone has said he will continue…
26 Sep 2019
by  - 
Director James Gray and star Brad Pitt came up with a decent-looking, meditative, unsettling and messy attempt at meaningful science fiction with Ad Astra. Pitt plays Roy McBride, an astronaut following in the footsteps of his father (Tommy Lee Jones) decades after his dad disappeared on a scientific expedition searching for alien life somewhere around Neptune. When major power surges start threatening Earth, it’s believed Roy’s still-possibly-alive father is the culprit, so Roy is sent on a mission to reach his father and get him to knock it the fuck off. This leads to a journey that involves a lunar buggy shootout on the moon; an unimaginative visit to Mars; and, finally, a trip to Neptune. On top of the scientifically impossible things that happen in this film, the plot is stitched together with the ultimate crutch—the Apocalypse Now voiceover. Pitt is restricted to sad-puppy-eyes duty as his character deals…
19 Sep 2019
by  - 
Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez as a stripper who goes smooth criminal during the Great Recession, is getting great reviews. Alas, I find it derivative, boring and hampered by a shallow script. So … why has the film, directed by Lorene Scafaria, been receiving Scorsese comparisons (Hey, it has tracking shots!) and high scores on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer? I’m thinking it must be because of power of Jennifer Lopez’s multi-million-dollar ass. There’s no question: Lopez is a talented actress (including good performances in Selena and Out of Sight; shit, I even liked her in Maid in Manhattan). But her calling card has always been her much-ballyhooed ass. Her ass beckons to you like an evil genie. Her ass has its own economy and solar system. In fact, as Jennifer Lopez did a pole dance in this film (for the obligatory “This is how you pole dance!” scene), I could swear…
12 Sep 2019
by  - 
It Chapter Two gives moviegoers a needed, yet mediocre, conclusion to a saga started by the previous, far-superior film. Translation: If you saw and liked the first movie, you need to watch this one to get the full story. You’ll also be witnessing a decline in quality. In a strange way, I’m happy It Chapter Two exists, because it does have some good scares, and Bill Hader rocks as a grown-up Finn Wolfhard. It closes out the Stephen King story in much better fashion than that spider sequence in that TV miniseries. If you look at It as one long movie consisting of two chapters, the overall experience is still cool. But if you look at this sequel as a standalone … it’s a big mess—an editing-room fatality. The first movie focused on the Losers’ Club as children, concluding with them seemingly defeating Pennywise the Clown (an always-frightening Bill Skarsgard).…
11 Sep 2019
by  - 
Linda Ronstadt is one of the most versatile musicians to have ever walked the planet. Country music, pop, rock, opera, Mexican folk music—her resume is crazily full of wide-ranging, bold leaps into all corners of the musical landscape. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, with her full participation, covers her career from her Tucson, Ariz., roots, through her band The Stone Poneys, and on through her amazing solo career. Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Don Henley, Jackson Browne and many others sit down for interviews—and it slowly hits you that, dammit, this is one amazing entertainer, perhaps more amazing than you realized during her heyday. Ronstadt has basically retired, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but that doesn’t stop her from offering up a jewel at the end of this movie—a short but very sweet moment of her singing with friends. This documentary is nothing unusual from a filmmaking standpoint, but…
05 Sep 2019
by  - 
I cried like a damn baby while watching After the Wedding. So, there you go. After the Wedding has the distinction of having the lion’s share of its dialogue delivered by Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup; that’s a solid pedigree. This remake of a 2006 Swedish/Danish film has a soap-opera plot for sure—but you won’t care when it gets a little melodramatic. Williams does so much with facial expressions in this movie—it’s otherworldly. As Isabel, a woman visiting New York in an effort to raise funds for her charity, she shows the power of simple expressions. She also reminds us that she’s a master at blowing the roof off the house if the script calls for it. As Theresa—the businesswoman who might find herself cutting a big check for Isabel and her overseas orphanage—Moore doesn’t just match Williams’ power; she blows the shit out of the acting meter,…
29 Aug 2019
by  - 
After some strong but smaller roles in Ash vs Evil Dead and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Samara Weaving gets a lead role in Ready or Not—and totally kills it. As Grace, a newlywed who has one of the worst wedding days in cinematic history—right up there with Uma Thurman’s in Kill Bill—Samara is so good that it makes you wonder how she hasn’t had more big starring roles. She commands the screen with a fierce, comedic energy that helps make Ready or Not a memorable, if predictable, horror/thriller show. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, and written by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy, the movie is a scathing indictment of both the rich and the institution of marriage—all in good fun, of course. When we meet Grace (fun fact: Weaving is Hugo’s niece), she’s about to marry Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) and enter into a very rich…
22 Aug 2019
by  - 
It takes big balls to release a movie like Good Boys in today’s PC environment. Kids in the film swear like sailors, unknowingly sniff anal beads and run across busy highways without looking both ways. It might just be the all-time cinematic winner for child-delivered profanity, topping the likes of the original The Bad News Bears. Actually, I should delete the word “might”: It’s the winner for sure. Jacob Tremblay, the cute little dude from Room, goes full stank-mouth mode as Max. He’s a member of the Beanbag Boys (they call themselves that because, well, they have beanbags), along with pals Lucas (a scene-stealing Keith L. Williams) and Thor (the wildly funny Brady Noon). Their junior-high social activities consist of bike rides and card games—but things are taken up a notch when they are invited to a party that will include, gasp, a kissing game. The trouble then begins, involving…
15 Aug 2019
by  - 
Alvin Schwartz’s collection of short horror stories for kids gets a big-screen adaptation with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, directed by André Ovredal and produced by Guillermo del Toro. The original three books gathered together stories from folklore and urban legend; Schwartz put his own spin on them, and even instructed readers on how to scare friends while reading them aloud. They were quite short, sometimes grisly and had no connecting thread. They managed to make their way into campfire stories in the 1980s; I distinctly remember somebody getting me with “The Big Toe” one summer’s eve. Rather than do an anthology movie, like a Creepshow for kids, Ovredal and del Toro opt for a framing device that is a direct nod—one could also call it a rip-off—of Stranger Things/Stephen King’s It-style nostalgia involving plucky kids dealing with various horrors. The resulting film feels derivative, disconnected and boring,…
08 Aug 2019
by  - 
While the poster for Hobbs and Shaw declares it is presented by Fast and Furious, it has very little in common with that franchise other than the participation of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, reprising their characters from the Furious films. In other words … REJOICE! Leaden, dreary Vin Diesel is nowhere to be seen in this movie! Hobbs and Shaw is a bizarre hybrid of spy thriller, action pic and science fiction. While Fast and Furious movies are certainly outlandish, they remain somewhat grounded in reality (with the notable exception of a car jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper). Hobbs and Shaw, however, completely abandons realism. It’s too damn long (137 minutes!), but when it works, it works well. It also functions as a comedy in that Johnson and Statham have great timing and work well together. Hobbs (Johnson) and Shaw (Statham) are protecting Shaw’s sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby of…

Page 1 of 54