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High concept, uninspired execution plagues 'Rock Dog'

The animated feature “Rock Dog” arrives one week after the release of another prominent Chinese-American co-production, the fantasy adventure “The Great Wall.” Director Ash Brannon brings Pixar and Sony bona fides (he co-directed “Toy Story 2” and directed “Surf’s Up”) to this adaptation of rocker...

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  • Beaten and battered bride-to-be persists in indie drama 'Erasing Eden'

    Beaten and battered bride-to-be persists in indie drama 'Erasing Eden'

    It’s a flippant comparison to say that “Erasing Eden,” written and directed by Beth Dewey, combines themes from “The Hangover” and “Runaway Bride,” but those big Hollywood films provide the cinematic touchstones for this moody, lyrical indie about a bride-to-be (Breeda Wool) who wakes up — beaten...

  • Warner Bros. brings on Matt Reeves to direct 'The Batman'

    Warner Bros. brings on Matt Reeves to direct 'The Batman'

    Ending weeks of speculation and swirling rumors about the future of one of its most important comic book franchises, Warner Bros. announced that director Matt Reeves — whose films include “Cloverfield,” “Let Me In” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” — will take the reins of the next solo Batman...

  • Here's who's going to win all 24 Oscar categories

    Here's who's going to win all 24 Oscar categories

    After six months of campaigning and cajoling and trying to get “City of Stars” out of our heads, the Oscars are finally here. So it’s time for some final predictions for Sunday’s ceremony. Ready? Somebody will mention Donald Trump. Somebody will cry. Somebody will cry while mentioning Donald Trump....

  • Horror-thriller 'Drifter' is a semi-successful exercise in genre homage

    Horror-thriller 'Drifter' is a semi-successful exercise in genre homage

    Quentin Tarantino and Brian De Palma proved that there’s nothing wrong with filmmakers wearing influences on their sleeves, provided they also bring their own personality and gusto. Writer-director Chris von Hoffman’s debut feature, “Drifter,” hits its target about half the time. Sometimes it’s...

  • Amusing sequel 'Punching Henry' finds reality in comedy

    Amusing sequel 'Punching Henry' finds reality in comedy

    The knowing satire “Punching Henry” may not amount to a lot in the end, but getting there is lots of fun. This sequel to the 2009 Slamdance Film Festival hit “Punching the Clown” (both movies were directed by Gregori Viens, who co-wrote with star Henry Phillips) proves another enjoyable trip across...

  • Melanie Lynskey raises hell in the bloody dark comedy 'I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore'

    Melanie Lynskey raises hell in the bloody dark comedy 'I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore'

    The governing philosophy of writer-director Macon Blair’s darkly funny suburban noir is nicely summed up by its melancholy mouthful of a title: “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore.” A more succinct version of this idea — and here I’m paraphrasing the movie’s put-upon heroine, Ruth Kimke...

  • 'Kiki' is an energetic, affectionate portrait of New York's LGBT ballroom scene

    'Kiki' is an energetic, affectionate portrait of New York's LGBT ballroom scene

    The various bodies moving through “Kiki,” an energetic and enveloping documentary about New York City’s LGBT ballroom scene, are capable of astonishing, even superhuman physical feats. They dance and gyrate on underground subway platforms, down half-empty streets, and on the grass at Christopher...

  • Criterion brings 'Mildred Pierce' out of the noir shadows

    Criterion brings 'Mildred Pierce' out of the noir shadows

    It may not be as faithful or definitive an adaptation of the James M. Cain novel as Todd Haynes’ 2011 HBO miniseries, but Michael Curtiz’s “Mildred Pierce” (1945) remains a rip-roaring entertainment. Joan Crawford won an Academy Award for her performance as a single mother-turned-restaurateur,...

  • Oscar nominee 'My Life as a Zucchini,' a stop-motion delight, arrives in theaters

    Oscar nominee 'My Life as a Zucchini,' a stop-motion delight, arrives in theaters

    As unexpectedly enchanting as its title is initially perplexing, "My Life as a Zucchini" is short but oh so satisfyingly bittersweet, an example of the kind of movie magic that's always hard to find. A word-of-mouth phenomenon since its premiere at Cannes last year, this 70-minute stop-motion feature...

  • Samuel L. Jackson on Denzel, Viola, this year's Oscar race and his own 'Pulp Fiction' fight

    Samuel L. Jackson on Denzel, Viola, this year's Oscar race and his own 'Pulp Fiction' fight

    The evening before he planned to cast his Oscar ballot, Samuel L. Jackson had no doubt as to who had his  lead actor vote. “I don’t think anyone did a better job than Denzel,” Jackson said of “Fences” star and friend Denzel Washington, who vies for the Academy Award on Feb. 26. “That’s a difficult...

  • Fox apologizes for use of fake news sites in 'A Cure for Wellness' ad campaign

    Fox apologizes for use of fake news sites in 'A Cure for Wellness' ad campaign

    In a rare mea culpa from a major Hollywood studio, 20th Century Fox is apologizing for an unconventional online ad campaign that it recently launched for “A Cure for Wellness,” a psychological horror movie from New Regency that opened Friday. The digital campaign included several fake news sites...

  • Josh Lucas, Terrence Howard and Lake Bell are haunted by the laughable 'Ghost of New Orleans'

    Josh Lucas, Terrence Howard and Lake Bell are haunted by the laughable 'Ghost of New Orleans'

    The type of vehicle that even Nicolas Cage likely would have passed on, “Ghost of New Orleans,” by Serbian director Peter (Predrag) Atonijevic, is a laughably pretentious crime caper-supernatural thriller hybrid that comes up woefully lacking on both fronts. Languishing on the shelf for the past...

  • Why 'Moonlight' deserves to win the best picture Oscar

    Why 'Moonlight' deserves to win the best picture Oscar

    “Moonlight” deserves to win the Oscar for best picture. That may be a crass, clunky thing to say about one of the least self-important American films in recent memory, but then not all truths can be conveyed as gracefully and eloquently as they are in director Barry Jenkins’ beautiful movie. So...

  • Oscars aim to bring 'overarching joy' into our living rooms

    Oscars aim to bring 'overarching joy' into our living rooms

    Could you use a little overarching joy in your life? Well, that’s just what the producers of this year’s Oscars are hoping to bring into your living room next Sunday night. Welcome to the Gold Standard, the newsletter from the Los Angeles Times that helps guide you through the ins and outs of the...

  • How Allison Williams mined the horrors of white privilege for 'Get Out'

    How Allison Williams mined the horrors of white privilege for 'Get Out'

    It’s been three days since Allison Williams dyed her hair blond. Before then, she’d spent the entirety of her 28 years as a brunet.  Sitting at a booth encased by mirrored walls, she’s still startled when she catches a glimpse of her reflection. She made the change after a fashion magazine posed...

  • At the Oscars Governors Ball, the truffle popcorn will be dusted with gold and the corn dogs made of lobster

    At the Oscars Governors Ball, the truffle popcorn will be dusted with gold and the corn dogs made of lobster

    After months of SoulCycle classes, trips to the sweat lodge and scant carbohydrates, most of the stars who walk into the Governors Ball after the Academy Awards are ready to indulge. And if Emma Stone, Viola Davis or Ryan Gosling want to pig out post-Oscars, Wolfgang Puck will be prepared. The...

  • In 'Fabricated City,' it's not clear where the game ends and the movie begins

    In 'Fabricated City,' it's not clear where the game ends and the movie begins

    True to its English-language title, the South Korean action film “Fabricated City” is an amped-up video game vision of a revenge fantasy that’s so preoccupied with switching gears that it neglects to provide viewers with any place to park their battered attention spans. Unemployed and unmotivated,...

  • Horror anthology 'XX' features feminist perspective on genre

    Horror anthology 'XX' features feminist perspective on genre

    Women directors are largely underrepresented in the horror genre, despite the amount of women who appear in horror films. This is a wrong that the anthology “XX” takes a stab at correcting, featuring four short horror films written and directed by women. Despite the variations among the project,...

  • Something new in found-footage horror flick 'VooDoo'

    Something new in found-footage horror flick 'VooDoo'

    Strong lead performances and a startling twist juice up the found-footage exercise “VooDoo,” which squeezes unexpected novelty from an exhausted subgenre. Writer-director Tom Costabile brings real imagination to the form, producing something that fright fans might appreciate for being a little...

  • How will the SAG Awards influence the Oscars?

    How will the SAG Awards influence the Oscars?

    The Screen Actors Guild Awards has become such a strong indicator of the Oscars that it has created its own cottage industry of reasoning that publicists use to explain why their clients, the ones who lost at the SAGs, could still prevail with the film academy. The most common explanation offered:...

  • Some tips for getting that Oscar speech just right — first, start writing it now

    Some tips for getting that Oscar speech just right — first, start writing it now

    Barring something spectacular happening at the Oscars on Feb. 26, we know who’s a shoo-in to win the imaginary best Speech of the Season statuette this year: Meryl Streep. The Oscar-winning actress’ use of her lifetime achievement award acceptance at the Golden Globes in January to focus on political...

  • Some Oscar speeches truly stand out — for better or worse

    Some Oscar speeches truly stand out — for better or worse

    Some award acceptance speeches are models of grace and class. Others are … well, a little out there. Here’s a look at some of each. Tom Hanks, “Philadelphia” (1994) Here's a measure of how popular Hanks was and is: He won his first lead actor Academy Award (of two in a row) for a groundbreaking...

  • Oscars select nine unique films as contenders — or are they?

    Oscars select nine unique films as contenders — or are they?

    With the Academy Award nominations now out, the race is finally on to guess wildly about which of the nine nominated films will win the big enchilada, best picture. Of course you could read our Buzzmeter panelists (latimes.com/buzzmeter) or The Gold Standard column (latimes.com/theenvelope) for...

  • From 'Arrival' to 'Moonlight' to 'Silence,' a look at the first frame of 9 films meant to pull you in

    From 'Arrival' to 'Moonlight' to 'Silence,' a look at the first frame of 9 films meant to pull you in

    The first scene of a movie is often its defining moment: In subtle and large ways it lets the audience know where they are, where they’re going — and often, what to expect along the way. But deciding on that first major statement can be a challenge; sometimes, a main character dancing to “Thriller”...

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