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  • Neo-noir 'Spent' quickly exhausts audience's patience

    Neo-noir 'Spent' quickly exhausts audience's patience

    Writer-director Lisa Mikitarian goes for a stylized neo-noir aesthetic in the family melodrama “Spent,” but with amateurish acting, an overwrought script, and low-budget production design, this feature never has enough in the tank to get going in the first place. Connie Lamothe and Darren Barzegar...

  • Feng Xiaogang's stirring 'Youth' follows a Chinese military arts troupe through history

    Feng Xiaogang's stirring 'Youth' follows a Chinese military arts troupe through history

    An early sequence in Feng Xiaogang’s elegiac epic “Youth” shows a dance number being rehearsed by a People’s Liberation Army arts troupe in southwestern China. As 1970s propaganda floods the soundtrack (“We are armed with Mao Tse-tung thought!”), the performers run through their precisely synchronized...

  • 'Killing for Love' documents twists and turns of 1985 Virginia murders

    'Killing for Love' documents twists and turns of 1985 Virginia murders

    True-crime aficionados will probably get the most out of “Killing for Love,” a documentary from Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger re-examining the 1985 murders of wealthy Virginians Derek and Nancy Haysom, and the separate prosecutions that put their daughter Elizabeth and her German boyfriend,...

  • Documentary 'Quest' radiates north Philadelphia family's strength

    Documentary 'Quest' radiates north Philadelphia family's strength

    Devastating events befall the Raineys, the family at the center of photographer Jonathan Olshefski’s low-key but radiant filmmaking debut. And yet the lasting impression that “Quest” makes is not one of despair or ruin. Through eight years of filming — years that stretch from Barack Obama’s first...

  • 'The Leisure Seeker' sticks to the trite and true

    'The Leisure Seeker' sticks to the trite and true

    Better screen representation for older actors starts with not making movies like “The Leisure Seeker,” a soggy East Coast road trip saga in which Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland valiantly pretend that rogue treatment of debilitating illnesses has its funny/endearing side. They play the Spencers...

GRAMMYS 2018

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HOLIDAY MOVIE PREVIEW

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  • Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala team finds its groove with 1965's 'Shakespeare Wallah'

    Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala team finds its groove with 1965's 'Shakespeare Wallah'

    Note: A version of this review previously appeared in the Calendar section on March 2, 1998. For more than 50 years, producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory, most often in collaboration with writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, made films renowned for their civility and sophistication. Many were...

  • Animated 'Hedgehogs' fails the cute test

    Animated 'Hedgehogs' fails the cute test

    Animating the most adorable creatures — puppies, kittens, bunnies, etc. — usually results in an even cuter cartoon creation. However, “Hedgehogs’” first sin of many is the disservice it does to its titular animals. In this animated movie, the normally Instagram-worthy darlings are reduced to bland...

  • Working-class Brits keep calm and carry on in animated 'Ethel & Ernest'

    Working-class Brits keep calm and carry on in animated 'Ethel & Ernest'

    The similarly titled labor of love that was Raymond Briggs’ 1999 graphic novel about the warmly rendered lives of his parents, takes on a beautifully animated life of its own in “Ethel & Ernest.” Peppered with knowing insights surrounding the British working class, the film creates a richly etched...

  • Arty approach to woodland horror bogs down 'Desolation'

    Arty approach to woodland horror bogs down 'Desolation'

    Director Sam Patton’s debut feature “Desolation” takes a quietly existential approach to the “killer in the woods” story — an idea that’s honorable in intent, but dreary in execution. At times Patton and screenwriters Matt Anderson and Michael Larson-Kangas seem to be using arty reserve as a cover...

  • A boldly bonkers 'Beyond Skyline' takes on alien invaders

    A boldly bonkers 'Beyond Skyline' takes on alien invaders

    “Beyond Skyline,” written and directed by Liam O’Donnell, is ostensibly a sequel to the 2010 alien invasion thriller “Skyline,” though the motivation behind this film seems purely a desire to watch Frank Grillo and the guys from “The Raid” beat up some aliens. Fair enough. The only connection to...

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