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October 25, 2013 | By Mark Olsen
A few weeks back, I reviewed the movie "Pulling Strings," a bilingual, cross-cultural romantic comedy set around the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. I found the film to be unexpectedly charming, with a sort of breezy appeal many recent Hollywood rom-coms strain toward but fail to achieve. My review made a mention of the actress Stockard Channing, noting that she "steals every scene she's in because, well, she's Stockard Channing. " This was followed by a parenthetical: "About all that need be said of Tom Arnold's performance as a bumbling embassy administrator is that he is not Stockard Channing.
October 9, 2013 | By David Colker and Steven Zeitchik
Film critic Stanley Kauffmann, who in the 20th century helped define movie reviews as an intellectual form, died of pneumonia Wednesday at St. Luke's Hospital in New York. He was 97. His death was announced by the New Republic, the politics and culture magazine that published his criticism for more than five decades. Although Kauffmann's commentary tended toward the intellectual and often went against the grain - finding fault in heralded movies such as "The Godfather," "Pulp Fiction" and "Full Metal Jacket" - he championed the rise of serious cinema in the late 1950s and 1960s.
September 26, 2013 | By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
I have no idea what effect foodimals will have on the ecosystem, and I do worry. But the 3-D animated movie mash-up that creates such exotic species as taco-diles, shrim-panzees, banan-ostriches and, my favorite, fla-mangoes makes for some pretty delicious family fun in "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. " There are definitely fewer carbs this time around. Whether charges of insensitivity to childhood obesity issues hurled at the first film are the reason, "Cloudy 2" is overwhelmingly fruit- and veggie-centric.
September 19, 2013
Not content with just being a chop-socky princess, Ziyi Zhang has also tackled producing and playing a rom-com sweetheart. Her "Sophie's Revenge," which saw a limited U.S. run in 2009, proved such a box-office and critical hit in China that it has now spawned a new installment: "My Lucky Star," which finds Zhang reprising the Amélie Poulain-esque comic artist Sophie, who channels romantic longings through her very vivid imagination. She wins a trip to Singapore, where she meets the secret agent of her dreams and comic panels, David (Wang Leehom)
September 19, 2013 | By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
Like the kidnapping at the tortured heart of "Prisoners," once this chilling thriller about a parent's worst nightmare grabs you, it refuses to let go. Even if the film wasn't coming out just months after the May rescue of three kidnapped women in Cleveland, held for a decade by a madman, we know the real world has monsters far more frightening than any Hollywood can manufacture. Reality informs "Prisoners" at every turn. French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski keep the tightly constructed terror twisting by holding it close.
September 12, 2013 | By Mark Olsen
French filmmaker Luc Besson has long been among the world's finest purveyors of classy trash, making movies that are a combination of glossy style and gritty action. From his own films as director such as "La Femme Nikita" and "The Professional" to more recent efforts on which he served as producer and screenwriter like "Transporter" and "Taken," Besson has a knack for entertainment that is somehow smart and dumb, flashy and yet wise. His latest, "The Family," with Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, walks the same line.
September 10, 2013 | By Susan King
Before its world premiere Monday night at the Toronto Film Festival, the all-star adaptation of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer- and Tony-winning drama “August: Osage County” was considered one of the leading Oscar contenders. With critics in Toronto weighing in quickly, the reaction is decidedly mixed for the drama and its all-star lineup, which features Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin and Benedict Cumberbatch. Much of the praise was aimed at Streep's turn as a dying, drug-addicted matriarch.
September 6, 2013 | By Robert Abele
The world of competitive drag racing gets a sputtering, cliché-choked treatment in "Snake & Mongoose," an amateurish, haphazardly constructed indie biopic about longtime Southern California track rivals Don "Snake" Prudhomme and Tom "Mongoose" McEwen. The film was made in conjunction with the National Hot Rod Assn., and it shows, in the countless archival footage of races awkwardly crammed in between perfunctorily filmed off-track dialogue scenes that all look the same, no matter where or when they're taking place.
September 5, 2013 | By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
"Adore" is a twisted sexual drama about misguided affections between older women and younger men, which wouldn't be all that outrageous if not for the dicey details, so let's get right to it. Naomi Watts and Robin Wright, two of Hollywood's most beautiful and most accomplished women, play mothers who sleep with each other's sons. The sons are of age, with college on the horizon. The boys, not the mothers, are the seducers. It's all very civilized, but still ... They really are still boys.
August 27, 2013 | By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
"Closed Circuit" is a crisply enjoyable, professionally executed paranoid thriller of the "everyone is out to get us" variety. In an earlier, simpler day, its plotting would have been dismissed as far-fetched, but that was then and this is now. "Closed Circuit" comes at a moment when the U.S. National Security Agency has admitted to extensive spying on civilians and Britain employs half a million closed circuit cameras in London. So not surprisingly a film that posits that governments can spy on whoever they want, whenever they want, ends up being advertised in magazines like The Nation with the tag line "They See Your Every Move.
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