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ENTERTAINMENT
April 29, 2011 | By Robert Abele
For a horror filmmaker to traffic in vampires or post-apocalypse survival scenarios these days is to risk a collective "Really, again?" But resourceful writer-director Jim Mickle covers both in his realism-tinged indie "Stake Land" and shows that a savvy mixture of characterization, atmosphere and gore-eographed suspense can make even the most familiar fright tropes feel vaguely organic again. The template is a coming-of-age story in which our narrator — orphaned teen Martin (Connor Paolo)
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ENTERTAINMENT
March 13, 2014 | By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
"Veronica Mars," the movie, is just so Veronica Mars. The teenage private eye from the 2004-07 TV series starring Kristen Bell has grown up. But like fans of the show, a.k.a. marshmallows, it is quickly clear that while Veronica may have left her life in Neptune, Calif., behind, she hasn't moved on. Director Rob Thomas, creator of the prime-time show, and series executive producer Diane Ruggiero, finally do what they refused to do when "Veronica Mars" was canceled in 2007 - deliver a script that ties up a lot of loose ends and opens up a new can of worms.
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ENTERTAINMENT
March 2, 2012
Although "Falling Away" would have benefited from stronger main character focus and a less episodic scene structure, writer-director Michael David Trozzo's feature debut proves a sincere, authentic, generally stirring effort. The film tracks the effect of a fatal school bus accident on three South L.A. teens: Elijah (Jason Finn), a hard-working kid aiming to leave the 'hood; his best friend, Julius (D'Angelo Wilson), a budding basketball star sidelined by a crash-related injury; and Emily (Jennifer Freeman)
ENTERTAINMENT
March 13, 2014 | By Robert Abele
A race-against-time thriller set in a crowded concert hall, director Eugenio Mira's "Grand Piano" may never match the silky suspense of Hitchcock's classic of sinister decorum, "The Man Who Knew Too Much," but it has a certain virtuosic joie de vivre. Elijah Wood stars as a celebrated pianist who, five years after a notorious fiasco of a performance, is making a nervous, much-hyped return to the stage. As he begins to play for the eager audience, however, his score reveals a scrawled note from a hidden sniper (a mostly unseen John Cusack)
ENTERTAINMENT
April 20, 2012
This can't be correct: Cloris Leachman and Tara Reid topline a period horror-thriller about a young boy who becomes convinced the Manson family has moved into the cornfield in back of his house? And it's not some mad parody but, rather, an earnest effort, which makes it even more weird. The absolute best part of "The Fields" is simply that, letting the very idea of this cast and this story marinate in the brainpan for a moment before coming to the obvious common-sense conclusion: This cannot possibly work out. And indeed the film, directed by Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni from a screenplay by B. Harrison Smith, is flat and lifeless, not even the odd object promised by its unlikely cast, who play it straight and with little energy.
ENTERTAINMENT
May 21, 2010 | By Sheri Linden
Early in this uneven yet moving documentary, a university janitor greets a woman exiting the restroom he's about to clean. She doesn't respond. Neither does she look at him nor acknowledge his presence in any way. In "The Philosopher Kings," director Patrick Shen insists that we look at individuals usually relegated to the margins. That straightforward insistence is the lifeblood of the film, which profiles eight people who work as custodians at institutions of higher learning. The sole woman notes that when she tells people what she does, they usually clam up, certain that nothing interesting could possibly ensue.
ENTERTAINMENT
July 18, 2012 | By Oliver Gettell
No film this year faces higher expectations than "The Dark Knight Rises," the ambitious conclusion to Christopher Nolan's pitch-black Batman trilogy. And yet, like the caped crusader himself, Nolan has been known to pull off some pretty remarkable feats - the latest being that "Rises" appears to live up to the hype. The Times' own Kenneth Turan calls "The Dark Knight Rises" a "dazzling conclusion" that "is more than an exceptional superhero movie, it is masterful filmmaking by any standard.
ENTERTAINMENT
April 27, 2012
In the film "Elles"from director Malgoska Szumowska, Juliette Binoche plays a Paris magazine journalist who interviews two young women (Anaïs Demoustier, Joanna Kulig) putting themselves through school working as prostitutes. The girls envy her bourgeois stability while she comes to want their self-possessed freedom, though the lives of all three are shown to be not quite so clear-cut. Binoche proves why she is such a world-renowned actress with the way she conveys ideas flickering across her brow and flashing behind her eyes.
ENTERTAINMENT
April 12, 2012
First-time feature director Kat Coiro gives an oft-tread story a snappy new spin in the hip and enjoyable comedy "Life Happens. " After underdog Kim (an endearing Krysten Ritter) loses out for the last nearby condom to brasher roommate Deena (Kate Bosworth, also fine) during the BFF's simultaneous one-night stands, Kim ends up a devoted but ill-prepared mother of a baby boy. With the child's me-first, surf star dad (Rhys Coiro, Kat's husband) decidedly absent, Kim must navigate the demands of single motherhood, her thankless job assisting a hellish canine patron (Kristen Johnston)
ENTERTAINMENT
February 10, 2012
If Stephen Sondheim and Brian De Palma had collaborated on a horror musical, they would never have made "Don't Go in the Woods," an undercooked, "Glee"-like hybrid of grating indie pop songs and forest slasher flick. The people who did make it — debut feature director Vincent D'Onofrio, and screenwriters Sam Bisbee (responsible for the songs) and Joe Vinciguerra — operate under the lazy artistic assumption that simply touching chocolate and peanut butter together magically makes a Reese's Cup. Instead, a young all-male band of five ventures into wooded seclusion to concentrate on new material, whereupon they perform what sounds like the same whiny lament over and over, bicker, hook up with girls and get knocked off in turn by a masked killer.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 13, 2014 | By Robert Abele
The only possible reaction to an amateurish romance like "Shirin in Love" is: Do the filmmakers think we're all idiots? Practically every scene in this tale about a glamorous, unhappily engaged Los Angeles book reviewer (Nazanin Boniadi) with an eye for the handsome son (Riley Smith) of a reclusive novelist (Amy Madigan) is an abject filmmaking lesson in the many ways to irk moviegoers: cardboard characters, dippy plotting, sentimental overkill and tortuous logic. The thinly conceived Shirin is ostensibly meant to embody the kind of young, vivacious Iranian American member of the "Tehran-geles" community who finds it hard to balance cultural tradition with independence.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 13, 2014 | By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film critic
"Le Week-End" is a sour and misanthropic film masquerading as an honest and sensitive romance. A painful and unremittingly bleak look at a difficult marriage, it wants us to sit through a range of domestic horrors without offering much of anything as a reward. This is especially disheartening because on an abstract level the film's participants on both sides of the camera are talented individuals with strong resumes. Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, who star as the unhappy couple, are two of Britain's top actors.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 6, 2014 | By Martin Tsai
Hong Kong filmmakers have tried - and largely failed - to duplicate the success of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," so more appear to be looking to thriving film industries in Japan and South Korea for inspiration. The Donnie Yen vehicle "Special ID" supplies the proof. Director Clarence Fok Yiu-leung has here co-opted South Korea's messy fight choreography as seen in the noted 2003 thriller "Oldboy" as well as the cartoonish, multi-culti lowlifes that populate the bulk of Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike's canon.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 28, 2014 | By Robert Abele
The ludicrous and bloody New Orleans melodrama "Repentance" offers the despairing sight of talented actors in full flounder. There's Forest Whitaker, as a basket-case divorcee and father who never got over his dead mother, stomping around with a mopey expression and a jittery left hand that's bad-movie shorthand for impending psychosis. There's Anthony Mackie, as a bestselling self-help author who changed his life after a devastating car accident, smiling uncomfortably through ridiculous therapy sessions with Whitaker - $300 an hour!
ENTERTAINMENT
January 30, 2014 | Betsy Sharkey, Film Critic
"At Middleton," the new romantic comedy starring Vera Farmiga and Andy Garcia as strangers who collide during a campus tour with their college-bound kids, is like a feckless flirtation. I use the word "feckless" because it keeps popping up in the film, an ongoing joke starting with a crossword puzzle. Feckless may be a hard word to make funny, ahem, but it does come in handy in describing a slight film that mostly squanders its fine cast on frothy banter and silly escapades. Borrowed bikes and shared bongs are typical of the adults' risky business after they escape the tour.
ENTERTAINMENT
December 6, 2013 | By Robert Abele
For a documentary extolling the friendship between two icons of minimalist persuasion - soft-spoken movie star Gary Cooper and stripped-bare wordsmith Ernest Hemingway - John Mulholland's "Cooper & Hemingway: The True Gen" sure does talk a lot. Not to mention repeat itself and traffic in sentimentality. Exhaustive at more than two hours, with rapid-fire narration from Sam Waterston over a cascade of animated graphics, text, photos, archival footage and interviews (with those still alive and long dead)
ENTERTAINMENT
October 28, 2011
As romantic comedies go, the low-key "All's Faire in Love" has a cheeky beggar's appeal not unlike its setting: the hammy world of Renaissance Faire performers. Into this eccentric playground of role-playing costumers is thrown college football star Will (Owen Benjamin), who must join a motley theater troupe to earn a passing grade. Though always ready with a snarky comment about the tortured Elizabethan speechifying and past-era nerdiness around him, he becomes smitten with Kate (Christina Ricci)
ENTERTAINMENT
April 29, 1985 | KEVIN THOMAS, Times Staff Writer
"Creature" (Citywide) rips off "Alien" and then compounds the felony by doing it poorly. Ironically, this science-fiction horror picture is no cheap schlocker, but an earnest effort with decent hardware and special effects and a fine, soaring score. But director (and co-writer-producer) William Malone would have been better off having some fun with this pursuit and conquest of a Godzilla-like creature on the rampage on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. (The film was originally titled "Titan Find."
ENTERTAINMENT
December 6, 2013 | By Sheri Linden
With its ill-gotten loot, femme fatale and ends-of-the-earth locales, "Swerve" looks at first like a promising genre entry from Down Under, where the bar is set high. It might be the country's physical isolation or its penal-colony legacy, but a number of exceptionally robust thrillers have come out of Australia over the years, among them "Animal Kingdom," "The Square" and 1971's "Wake in Fright" (rereleased in 2012). Craig Lahiff's noir wannabe, alas, isn't one of them. As it zigs and zags, its plot unravels rather than tightens, and its curveball of an ending is bound to leave audiences feeling as double-crossed as some of the characters.
ENTERTAINMENT
November 15, 2013 | By Oliver Gettell
Fourteen years after writer-director Malcolm D. Lee's romantic comedy "The Best Man" hit theaters, the filmmaker and his ensemble cast are back with a sequel, "The Best Man Holiday. " As is often the case when old friends reunite, it doesn't take long for past grudges and attractions to bubble back up. According to reviews, the cast, led by Taye Diggs and Morris Chestnut, proves to be very pleasant company, but Lee's overstuffed script drags the movie down. The Times' Betsy Sharkey writes , "Be ready to reach for a tissue, say 'amen' and sigh more than a few times, for the film has all the chaos and clutter of a big holiday gathering.
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