CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

06 Dec 2018
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One of the directors of Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary goes solo for Green Book, his first “serious” feature effort. Director Peter Farrelly, sans little brother Bobby, gives us a film that’s essentially a remake of Driving Miss Daisy with the roles reversed, starring Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and the Academy Award-winning actor from Moonlight (Mahershala Ali). It’s a feel-good movie about race relations that goes light on the grit and heavy on the sentiment. The film is based on a true story. Mortensen plays Tony Lip, an Italian bouncer at the Copacabana who finds himself temporarily without a job as the club is getting renovated. His next gig installs him as a driver and bodyguard for Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), an African-American classical pianist who is touring with a jazz trio in the early 1960s deep South. This is a road movie, with Tony driving and Don…
06 Dec 2018
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Lucas Hedges continues to establish himself as one of his generation’s best actors as a young gay man forced into conversion therapy by his Baptist parents (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman) in Boy Erased, an adaptation of Garrard Conley’s memoir. Hedges plays Jared (a character based on Conley), a college student who, after a horrible event on campus, reveals to his parents that he “thinks about men.” This sends his parents into a religious panic, and they send him to a facility where a shifty preacher/counselor (Joel Edgerton, who also directs and wrote the screenplay) tries to convince him that homosexuality is a sin and the wrong choice. Jared is forced to withstand psychological torture and gradually realizes that, despite his upbringing and the wishes of his parents, he’s gay—and no amount of bullshit preaching is going to change that. Edgerton does a respectable job of keeping all of the…
29 Nov 2018
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I’ve always hated Rocky IV. I’m pretty sure my life as a movie critic started in 1985 when my heart sank as I watched it in a crowded, overly enthusiastic theater with a bunch of friends. Walking out of the theater, my friends were all hyped after American Rocky Balboa vanquished the evil Russian Ivan Drago. I, on the other hand, thought the damn thing was ridiculous and hokey, especially when Rocky climbed a snowy, treacherous mountain with nothing but his beard and a dream. My sour attitude rendered me unpopular at the after-movie get-together at the diner. I don’t think I touched my pie. Now, 33 years later, the franchise says hello again to Drago (a weathered Dolph Lundgren) and his boxing son, Viktor, with Creed II, the follow up to Ryan Coogler’s excellent Creed. Coogler has not returned; he’s replaced by Steven Caple Jr. in the director’s chair.…
29 Nov 2018
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Writer-director Steve McQueen follows up his Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave with Widows, an above-average thriller made very watchable thanks to a terrific performance by Viola Davis. Davis plays Veronica, the wife of lifetime criminal Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson). When Harry meets an untimely end, he leaves behind a nasty debt—and some nasty people want it paid back. Veronica hatches a plan to pull a heist, and she looks to the wives of Harry’s also-dead gang mates to help her out. Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki are good as the other widows, while Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell steal scenes as father-and-son politicians. The plot is fairly standard, and you’ll see some of the “big twists” coming a mile away. That doesn’t keep the movie from being a sufficiently stylized, serviceable thriller that gives Davis her best vehicle in years. Widows also costars Lukas Haas as a mysterious boyfriend, Daniel…
22 Nov 2018
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Fine performances bolster Wildlife, Paul Dano’s excellent directorial debut. The movie, about a family falling apart in the early 1960s, is sometimes uncomfortable—just as it’s supposed to be, considering the subject matter. Young Joe (Ed Oxenbould) is living a typical life in Montana. Mom, Jeanette (Carey Mulligan), stays at home while dad, Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal), works a low-paying job at the local country club. Jerry urges Joe to try out for football, while Mom helps him with his studies. It’s not an ideal life; money clearly could be an issue if life takes a wrong turn. Then comes that wrong turn. When Jerry loses his job, a family meltdown takes place. Jerry becomes despondent, while Jeanette takes a job teaching swimming. Joe gets a part-time gig at a photography shop taking pictures, while Dad spirals further into depression. When Jerry announces that he will be joining a firefighting team—despite almost…
15 Nov 2018
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American soldiers get up close and personal with mutant Nazi soldiers in Overlord, one of the weirder films to make it to the big screen in 2018. J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot company have come up with something peculiar here. While initial reports had this one as a Cloverfield movie, it is not: It’s a standalone film … a weird, freaky standalone. World War II American paratrooper soldiers—led by Kurt Russell’s lookalike/soundalike son, Wyatt, as demolition expert Ford—land on the eve of D-Day in a Nazi-occupied French town, intent upon destroying a Nazi communication tower. Director Julius Avery’s flick starts off as an effective war movie as those paratroopers, including Jovan Adepo as Boyce and John Magaro as Tibbet, must escape a crashing plane and then evade Nazis on the ground. Soon after meeting up with Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), the soldiers find themselves in a safehouse. It’s a typical…
08 Nov 2018
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Rami Malek gives it his all as Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of Queen, in Bohemian Rhapsody. Oh, and there’s a competent re-creation of Queen’s Live Aid domination. Unfortunately, those are the only good things one can say about this embarrassing effort to memorialize an incredible person and his sadly short life. The movie basically takes Mercury’s legacy, completely screws with his life’s timeline, and makes up a bunch of unnecessary occurrences to pad its 134-minute running time. So much of this film isn’t true; that, and the fact that they took this hard-living rock star’s life and homogenized it for a PG-13 film makes Bohemian Rhapsody far from authentic. Mercury died from pneumonia while battling AIDS in 1991; he was diagnosed with the illness in 1987. This film—partially directed by Bryan Singer and then finished by Dexter Fletcher—has Mercury learning about his diagnosis before his incredible 1985 Live…
01 Nov 2018
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Jonah Hill makes his feature-directing debut using his own script with Mid90s, the best movie ever made about skater culture—and a powerful film about familial dysfunction and the need for friendship. Sunny Suljic (The House With a Clock in Its Walls) gives a breakout performance as Stevie, a kid living in a single-parent household with a head-case older brother, Ian (Lucas Hedges). Stevie suffers massive beatings at the hands of Ian, and causes himself further pain with self-inflicted strangulation, skin burns and pressing on the bruises Ian created. In short … the kid has some major issues. In search of some kind of identity, Stevie grabs himself a skateboard and starts hanging around some older kids at the skate shop. They include skaters nicknamed Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt), Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin) and a younger kid simply named Ruben (Gio Galicia), because he hasn’t earned his nickname yet. Stevie practices at…
25 Oct 2018
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Forty years after she first “dropped the knife,” Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) tangles, yet again, with the unstoppable killer Michael Myers—and this time, she’s got an arsenal and a panic room. The original Halloween was an art film. John Carpenter put together a perfect little horror movie with an auteur’s eye, full of beautifully mapped shots, an expert use of lighting, that unforgettable score and that photogenic, painted-up William Shatner mask. It set the high-water mark for slasher films—a mark that has never been surpassed. The new Halloween comes to us courtesy of writer-director David Gordon Green and writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley. Green is no slouch, responsible for a few highly regarded indies (George Washington, All the Real Girls) and classic comedies (Pineapple Express, banner episodes of TV’s Eastbound and Down). When it was first announced he and McBride would be working on a new Halloween, the…
25 Oct 2018
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John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix join forces as title-characters The Sisters Brothers, guns for hire who are contracted to find a prospector (Riz Ahmed) with a scientific trick for finding gold in rivers. Reilly plays Eli, the nicer of the two brothers, who is starting to consider life after riding and killing. Phoenix plays Charlie, perfectly content to be a bounty hunter of sorts, as long as the mission includes hookers and lots of booze. Another man (Jake Gyllenhaal) intercepts the prospector with the intent of turning him over to the brothers, but he has a change of heart—and the hunt takes on a new dimension. Reilly and Phoenix are great together, creating a palpable fraternal bond. This is a dark period Western speckled with some funny moments, but don’t be tricked by the commercials for the film: It’s a mostly dark affair, acted well by all involved. Jacques…
18 Oct 2018
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Space-exploration movies based upon real events, not surprisingly, have usually made “the mission” the thrust of the plot. First Man goes a different route. It dares to focus on a man rather than a mission—Neil Armstrong, the man at the center of the Apollo 11 mission, and what made him tick. It shows the familial struggles the man dealt with leading up to the mission and, most strikingly, his viewpoint as a bunch of white-clad workers packed him into sardine-can-like compartments and blasted him off into space. It’s an amazingly intimate movie, considering the subject matter. Director Damien Chazelle (La La Land) doesn’t ignore the details of NASA’s buildup to Armstrong’s arrival on the lunar surface. In fact, the film is one of the most scientifically intriguing films I’ve seen regarding what astronauts go through, and the mechanics of a space launch. However, it also manages to be a moving,…
18 Oct 2018
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Writer-director Drew Goddard, who hadn’t directed a film since The Cabin in the Woods in 2012, assembles an all-star cast for a nutty film—that’s sometimes a little too cute for its own good. The star of this movie is the El Royale, a fictional hotel based on Lake Tahoe’s Cal Neva hotel, once owned by Frank Sinatra. Bad Times at the El Royale features fine art direction, from its aged lobby straddling two states, to its creepy tunnels behind the rooms set up for criminal voyeurs. Jeff Bridges plays a mysterious priest who checks into the resort along with a singer (Cynthia Erivo), a vacuum salesman (Jon Hamm) and a hippie (Dakota Johnson). After the messed-up manager (Lewis Pullman) checks them in, each visitor has his or her own story in his or her own room. Goddard shows flourishes of brilliance, mixing thrills, mystery, humor and lots of blood into…

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