April 29, 2013 |
Somewhere between Grammy hosting duties, starring on a hit CBS cop drama and thwarting home burglars, LL Cool J has completely lost touch with what launched him into superstardom: rapping. That startling disconnection is what bogs down his 13th album, "Authentic. " His first offering in nearly five years - and first not to be issued through longtime hip-hop powerhouse Def Jam - "Authentic" not only misses the mark, it doesn't even come close. In the nearly 30 years since the Queens emcee first emerged, the lady-killer has become a multi-hypenate force in entertainment.
March 19, 2013 |
This is the first of a series on some of the top character actors in Hollywood. Over the years, Nick Searcy has played everything from a German shepherd in an off-Broadway musical rip-off of "Cats" called "Dogs" to astronaut Deke Slayton in the Emmy Award-winning 1998 HBO miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon" to a drag queen who performs as Cher and Christina Aguilera in the 2007 sports comedy "The Comebacks. " It's all in a day's work for a character actor such as Searcy, who can change personas in a flash but always brings a down-home authenticity to all his roles.
March 15, 2013 |
AUSTIN, Texas - The South by Southwest music festival and conference, now in its 27th year, was once a meeting ground for industry debates and indie artist showcases. Today the festival is a vehicle for promotion for the likes of Justin Timberlake, Prince and Green Day, and afternoon chats with artists are less about realities and more about compromises. Which brand are you willing to partner with and will the association with, say, Taco Bell take something away from your music? But the artists are arguably not even the stars, as a stroll around the 100-plus stages that pepper Austin's 6th Street attests.
January 14, 2013 |
"The Mother… With the Hat" is not the actual title of the exhilarating Stephen Adly Guirgis play now at South Coast Repertory, but it's the best I can do without bringing down the strong arm of the censor. Hard as it might be for casual cursers to believe, naughty words still have the power to offend. Guirgis knows this on a deeper level than most. His characters throw the profanity equivalent of Molotov cocktails at one another. They're foulmouthed artists, spinning obscenely colorful invective to inflict as much damage as possible on their targets.
January 12, 2013 |
When mobster Mickey Cohen ruled Los Angeles in the late 1940s, his favorite hangout was the legendary Slapsy Maxie's nightclub on Wilshire Boulevard. It's long gone now of course, so to re-create it for the new film "Gangster Squad" the filmmakers had to be creative. Production designer Maher Ahmad found the right spot for Slapsy Maxie's almost by accident, while driving around with the film's first location manager. They had been looking for a vintage house in a suburban neighborhood when they passed an Art Deco-inspired block of empty businesses in Bellflower.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
January 7, 2013 |
At 9 a.m. sharp, the man in the blue blazer swung a brass bell over his head, a rite that dates back to the Grand Central Market's opening day in 1917. A minute later, nearly every swivel chair at the China Cafe counter was filled, mostly by older men hunched over bowls of wonton soup. "It's not a fancy place," said Concepcion Orellano, 57. "People come here because they are poor. " Owner Rinco Cheung, an experienced restaurateur and Hong Kong native, confided he didn't know what chop suey was until he took over China Cafe from his wife's cousin last year.
December 6, 2012 |
In 2008, the screenwriter Mark Boal sought an appointment with a retired special-forces operator. Boal was researching a movie about the fruitless search for Osama bin Laden in the caves of Tora Bora six years before, and he wanted insight into how U.S. forces gathered intelligence. The agent agreed to meet, but under strict conditions. Boal would be kept in the dark about where the encounter would take place until just before, when he'd be given directions, via GPS, to what turned out to be a gas station.
October 18, 2012 |
"Simon and the Oaks" is a two-hour theatrical feature that has the kind of emotional and storytelling reach regularly found these days only in cable TV miniseries. It's a warmly done family and personal drama that seems to cover familiar territory, but only up to a point and very much in its own way. Given that "Simon" follows the fortunes of two interlinked Swedish families from 1939 to 1952, it's not surprising that the source material is a bestselling novel, in this case one by Marianne Fredricksson that has been translated into 25 languages and sold more than 4 million copies worldwide.
October 11, 2012 |
"Now, Forager" from directors Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin, takes place in the world of itinerant food workers. The married couple we meet at the beginning, rooting for wild mushrooms in New Jersey's woodlands are beginning to feel the instability of a pick-and-sell, slow-food lifestyle that doesn't fully pay the bills. Lucien (Cortlund, who also wrote) proposes doubling down on their nomadic existence, while Regina (Tiffany Esteb) - to her husband's snobbish dismay - turns to employment in the kitchen of a chic restaurant.
October 11, 2012 |
In "Sinister," Ethan Hawke plays a down-on-his-luck true crime writer desperate for a hit, who moves his family into a house in which the previous occupants died under ominous circumstances. That turns out to be a big mistake. He soon discovers a box of old home movies, actual filmstrip movies with the necessary projector even, in the attic that seem to be a series of snuff films, families murdered over decades with only fleeting glimpses of a mysterious, ghoulish figure pointing to who is behind it all. Pursuing the story of those films and whether he has put his own family in the path of whoever made them drive Hawke's writer relentlessly to the brink of madness.