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  • A glamorous Penélope Cruz can't transcend spotty comedy 'The Queen of Spain'

    A glamorous Penélope Cruz can't transcend spotty comedy 'The Queen of Spain'

    By turns sedate and breathless, the pitch-perfect 1950s newsreel footage that opens Fernando Trueba’s new comedy promises an intriguing mix of fiction and history. But though “The Queen of Spain” looks terrific and features a warm, glamorous performance by Penélope Cruz, that promise is fulfilled...

  • Natalie Portman, Lily-Rose Depp star in haunting drama 'Planetarium'

    Natalie Portman, Lily-Rose Depp star in haunting drama 'Planetarium'

    Although “Planetarium” may not wholly satisfy as the kind of statement film it so ambitiously aims to be, this intriguing drama, confidently directed by Rebecca Zlotowski (who co-wrote with Robin Campillo) proves a singular, at times haunting experience. In the late-1930s, as Nazi Germany tenses...

  • Struggling actor's life crumbles in the weirdly charming comedy 'Lemon'

    Struggling actor's life crumbles in the weirdly charming comedy 'Lemon'

    What is the “lemon” of director/co-writer Janicza Bravo’s deliriously deadpan feature debut “Lemon”? Is it the turquoise jalopy of protagonist Isaac (co-writer Brett Gelman) that breaks down on him in a moment of extreme distress, or is it, frankly, the man himself? Partners in life and comedy,...

  • Soviet-set drama 'The Fencer' deftly mixes sports and politics

    Soviet-set drama 'The Fencer' deftly mixes sports and politics

    “The Fencer,” Finland’s official Academy Award entry for 2016, is an effective mix of underdog sports drama and political thriller, inspired by the true-life story of celebrated fencing champ Endel Nelis. The 1953-set film finds Estonian resister Endel (a finely understated Märt Avandi) forced...

  • Hostage drama '6 Days' proves duller than real-life

    Hostage drama '6 Days' proves duller than real-life

    As Ben Affleck’s “Argo” effectively demonstrated, movies based on real-life events such as the 444-day Iran hostage crisis can be every bit as tensely unpredictable and thoroughly entertaining as their entirely fictional counterparts. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the considerably...

  • 'Women Who Kill' is a fresh twist on indie comedy, romance and serial killers

    'Women Who Kill' is a fresh twist on indie comedy, romance and serial killers

    Filled with a dry wit driven by its writer-director-star Ingrid Jungermann, “Women Who Kill” is a darkly comic indie that is a distinct product of its place and time. Its location is Park Slope in Brooklyn, and much of the drama takes place in a co-op grocery store, a quintessential neighborhood...

  • Justin Chon's drama 'Gook' revisits '92 L.A. riots with insight

    Justin Chon's drama 'Gook' revisits '92 L.A. riots with insight

    As its wounded, defiant provocation of a title suggests, “Gook” looks head-on at racial animosity, American-style. Set on the first day of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Justin Chon’s drama is uneven but bristling with life, and it offers a new perspective on a calamitous moment, one whose 25th anniversary...

  • California coastal drama 'Liza, Liza Skies Are Grey' is one long journey

    California coastal drama 'Liza, Liza Skies Are Grey' is one long journey

    A nostalgic look at first love on the open road in the ’60s, “Liza, Liza, Skies Are Grey” feels like the work of a first-time filmmaker, though it comes from veteran writer-director Terry Sanders. With a résumé primarily populated by documentary films, two-time Oscar winner Sanders might be forgiven...

  • 'Lycan' recycles werewolf and horror formulas with little payoff

    'Lycan' recycles werewolf and horror formulas with little payoff

    An indistinct muddle of werewolf mythology, slasher formula and “teenagers in the woods” clichés, the horror pastiche “Lycan” might’ve been a passable picture if writer-director Bev Land had settled on what he was making. While its DIY spirit is admirable, this tedious shocker feels like it was...

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  • Found-footage horror film 'The Monster Project' is logic- and scare-free

    Found-footage horror film 'The Monster Project' is logic- and scare-free

    When done well, found-footage horror films are effective and inventive, bringing the audience intimately into the action without the façade of narrative distance. Unfortunately, “The Monster Project” is one that breaks the rules of the subgenre, and it seems to do so more as a result of laziness...

  • 'The Ice Cream Truck' soft serves its horror

    'The Ice Cream Truck' soft serves its horror

    The arty slasher picture “The Ice Cream Truck” proceeds from the oft-deployed premise that the suburbs are inherently creepy. While writer-director Megan Freels Johnston makes some unusual choices that set her film apart from run-of-the-mill low-budget horror, too much of her movie feels warmed-over....

  • Portrait of an artist unraveling in horror comedy 'Dave Made a Maze'

    Portrait of an artist unraveling in horror comedy 'Dave Made a Maze'

    While the dramatic underpinnings could have used more work, the labyrinth that’s the focus of “Dave Made a Maze” is truly an amazingly inventive sight to behold. Determined to finally complete something of significance, frustrated artist Dave (Nick Thune) pours every ounce of his creative juices...

  • 'Game of Thrones' star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau breaks bad in crime thriller 'Shot Caller'

    'Game of Thrones' star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau breaks bad in crime thriller 'Shot Caller'

    The prison-tinged action drama “Shot Caller” arrives at a tension-filled national moment when a protagonist with WHITE PRIDE tattooed on his back might not be the antihero audiences care to see. The ink is a sign of the soul-tainting effects of the penitentiary system on a successful businessman...

  • Danielle Macdonald's star-is-born performance elevates the hip-hop fairy tale 'Patti Cakes'

    Danielle Macdonald's star-is-born performance elevates the hip-hop fairy tale 'Patti Cakes'

    Patricia Dombrowski, a twentysomething New Jersey bartender and aspiring rap star played by the terrific Australian actress Danielle Macdonald, goes by many aliases. To her best friend and biggest fan, Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay), she’s mostly “Killa P” and sometimes “Patti Cakes,” which also serves...

  • Classic westerns ride again at the Ahrya Fine Arts

    Classic westerns ride again at the Ahrya Fine Arts

    Disrespected and often left for dead, the western endures as Laemmle’s second annual Western Weekend showcases half a dozen of the great films that made the genre eternally popular. Each of the six features is worth a visit, including the classic “High Noon” (4:30 p.m. Aug. 20) with Gary Cooper...

  • Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World' recording turns 50

    Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World' recording turns 50

    A half-century ago, as turmoil and restlessness stemming from the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the rise of feminism, nascent hippie culture and other social and political changes spread across the globe, Louis Armstrong recorded a simple, unapologetic ode to peace and brotherhood that...

  • Third woman claims she was sexually assaulted by Roman Polanski when she was a teen

    Third woman claims she was sexually assaulted by Roman Polanski when she was a teen

    For years, the victim at the center of Roman Polanski’s sexual assault case has urged Los Angeles authorities to end the drawn-out legal saga, for her sake and for the sake of the movie director. But when Samantha Geimer spoke sympathetically this year about Polanski before a scrum of reporters...

  • Why is the conversation about Kathryn Bigelow's 'Detroit' only barely above a whisper?

    Why is the conversation about Kathryn Bigelow's 'Detroit' only barely above a whisper?

    What if Hollywood threw a provocation and nobody came? There will almost certainly be larger financial failures than “Detroit” this moviegoing year. And there will doubtless be bigger celebrity crash-outs. But there are unlikely to be many greater cultural surprises than the reaction — or non-reaction...

  • What Sam Hunt had to say about cultural integration at the Greek Theatre

    What Sam Hunt had to say about cultural integration at the Greek Theatre

    Sam Hunt started out in one place Tuesday night but ended up in quite another. The singer of the year’s biggest country hit, “Body Like a Back Road,” was about halfway through the first of two concerts at the Greek Theatre when he sat down on a stool for a “little chat,” as he put it, about how...

  • Country music matriarch Jo Walker-Meador dies at 93

    Country music matriarch Jo Walker-Meador dies at 93

    Jo Walker-Meador, a matriarch of country music who led the Country Music Assn. for nearly three decades, has died. She was 93. Walker-Meador died Tuesday in Nashville, according to a statement from the CMA. She was an office manager for the CMA when it was created in 1958, then took over as executive...

  • At the Hollywood Bowl, a young piano virtuoso tackles Rachmaninoff alongside the L.A. Phil

    At the Hollywood Bowl, a young piano virtuoso tackles Rachmaninoff alongside the L.A. Phil

    You knew this would come our way eventually. Behzod Abduraimov, the 26-year-old Uzbeki keyboardist who made his splash in the piano world in the usual way – tackling the big Russian piano concertos – got around to bringing the biggest of the bunch, the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3, to the...

  • What to listen to now: Alice Glass and Aaron Dilloway

    What to listen to now: Alice Glass and Aaron Dilloway

    A weekly roundup of must-hear music from The Times’ pop staff. Alice Glass, “Without Love” (Loma Vista). It’s been a long, slow burn waiting for a debut solo album from the former Crystal Castles singer Alice Glass. The singer endured an ugly separation from her old project (“I’ve been waiting...

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