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'The 9th Life of Louis Drax' doesn't survive the free-fall of obviousness

Nine-year-old Louis Drax’s (Aiden Longworth) brief existence so far has been marked by near-death mishaps — from salmonella and botulism to electrocution and broken bones — yet he cheerfully calls himself “accident-prone.” He narrates an introduction as we see him plummeting from a seaside cliff...

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  • Remembering Gene Wilder: In (not-quite) defense of 'Silver Streak'

    Remembering Gene Wilder: In (not-quite) defense of 'Silver Streak'

    The death of Gene Wilder at age 83 has prompted a justifiable outpouring of love for his movies: “Blazing Saddles,” “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” and other repositories of his controlled zaniness. Wilder had a trove (if not nearly a large enough one) of classic comedic performances, also...

  • The summer of our discontent: When franchise overload killed movie originality

    The summer of our discontent: When franchise overload killed movie originality

    At one point in “Suicide Squad,” one of the most commercially successful and culturally worthless movies of 2016, the Joker whispers his idea of a sweet nothing to his deranged moll, Harley Quinn: “Oh, I’m not gonna kill you. I’m just gonna hurt you really, really bad.” Those of us still emerging...

  • AFI Fest to open with Warren Beatty's Howard Hughes picture 'Rules Don't Apply'

    AFI Fest to open with Warren Beatty's Howard Hughes picture 'Rules Don't Apply'

    The 30th edition of AFI Fest will open with the world premiere of “Rules Don’t Apply” on Nov. 10 at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Written, directed and produced by and starring Warren Beatty — recipient of the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award and an Academy Award winner...

  • From 'Willy Wonka' to 'Stir Crazy': Remembering Gene Wilder through his five greatest performances

    From 'Willy Wonka' to 'Stir Crazy': Remembering Gene Wilder through his five greatest performances

    When Gene Wilder was considering taking the role of the delightfully demented title character in 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” legend has it that his sticking point was the manner of Willy Wonka’s first appearance in the film. Wilder demanded that the quizzical confectioner first...

  • Hollywood mourns the loss of comedy legend Gene Wilder

    Hollywood mourns the loss of comedy legend Gene Wilder

    Gene Wilder, best known for his turn as Willy Wonka in the 1971 cult classic, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” as well as his comedic collaborations with the likes of Richard Pryor and Mel Brooks, has died at age 83, his family announced Monday.  The loss of the actor caused an outpouring...

  • Aaaah: 'Don't Breathe' takes top spot at the box office

    Aaaah: 'Don't Breathe' takes top spot at the box office

    That airy, wooshing sound? It’s a deep sigh of relief from Sony’s Screen Gems and Steve Bersch’s Stage 6 Films. Their low-budget horror movie, “Don't Breathe,” surpassed “Suicide Squad” and pulled into the top spot at the box office on Saturday. It grossed about $10 million on Friday, and is expected...

  • The 'King and I' gets a widescreen release for its 60th birthday

    The 'King and I' gets a widescreen release for its 60th birthday

    Celebrating its 60th anniversary, Walter Lang’s 1956 film adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I” returns to the big screen next week in its opulent Cinemascope majesty. The lavish and boisterous 20th Century Fox musical will screen in theaters nationwide for two days as part of...

  • New on video: Disney's entertaining 'Jungle Book' remake

    New on Blu-ray “The Jungle Book” (Disney/Buena Vista DVD/Blu-ray combo, $39.99; also available on VOD) This year’s slate of Hollywood remakes and sequels has mostly drawn mixed responses from critics and audiences, yet just about everybody has liked Disney’s live-action version of “The Jungle Book.”...

  • The indie summer provided a cure for the blockbuster blues

    The indie summer provided a cure for the blockbuster blues

    Ask most filmgoers about the summer movie season and the consensus would be that it was a disappointment. Films made from the seemingly surefire formula of sequels and reboots with built-in audiences nevertheless seemed to let down critics and audiences alike week after week. From “X-Men: Apocalypse”...

  • Frederick Wiseman's first decade of docs kicks off a vital retrospective

    Frederick Wiseman's first decade of docs kicks off a vital retrospective

    One of the timeliest, most urgent movies you can see in a Los Angeles theater next month was first shown nearly 50 years ago, not long after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the devastating race riots that followed in its wake. Among the cities hit the hardest was Kansas City, Mo.,...

  • Director Andrew Ahn and actor Joe Seo make impressive debuts in Koreatown drama 'Spa Night'

    Director Andrew Ahn and actor Joe Seo make impressive debuts in Koreatown drama 'Spa Night'

    Set in L.A.’s Koreatown, “Spa Night” is a classic American story of immigrant parents and assimilated children. The assured feature debut by Andrew Ahn is also the story of a young gay man’s sexual awakening, and its sensitive lead performance affectingly expresses the tension between tradition...

  • A filmmaker juggles life and work in the richly rewarding 'Mia Madre'

    A filmmaker juggles life and work in the richly rewarding 'Mia Madre'

    While concerned cineastes bemoan the lack of women behind the camera, Italian writer/director Nanni Moretti makes one his autobiographical avatar in “Mia Madre,” about an emotionally fraying filmmaker (Margherita Buy) dealing with crises professional and personal, namely a problem-beset movie shoot...

  • Plenty to recommend in ensemble indie 'The Intervention'

    Plenty to recommend in ensemble indie 'The Intervention'

    The weekend-away-with-friends indie has become a safe testing ground for first-time feature directors: one (typically pretty) location reduces certain production stresses, while a large cast allows plenty of room to discover what works and what doesn’t. In the case of actress Clea DuVall’s debut...

  • Director-star John Krasinski works hard at making 'The Hollars' likable

    Director-star John Krasinski works hard at making 'The Hollars' likable

    It’s tough to dislike “The Hollars,” which is something director-star John Krasinski and writer Jim Strouse work overtime to ensure. That’s hardly a bad thing, though, when a film is as warm, funny and truthful as this one. But it’s the movie’s endearingly wacky approach that most sets it apart...

  • Korean thriller 'Tunnel' may make you rethink your commute

    Korean thriller 'Tunnel' may make you rethink your commute

    What “Psycho” did for showers and “Jaws” did for the ocean, the Korean disaster flick “Tunnel” won’t likely do for, well, tunnels. But after watching this often gripping, humanistic thriller, you may just think twice before driving into one. On a typical day’s ride home from his job selling Kias,...

  • Animated sequel 'Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon' feels earthbound

    Animated sequel 'Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon' feels earthbound

    There’s so much quality children’s entertainment on TV and at the movies these days that there’s no real reason to take your kids to see a dog — or, more specifically, “Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon.” The sequel to 2010’s “Space Dogs” follows the son of a canine cosmonaut as he stows away on...

  • Christian drama 'Natural Selection' is no subtle offering

    Christian drama 'Natural Selection' is no subtle offering

    There’s little that comes off as “natural” in “Natural Selection,” a stiffly heavy-handed, drawn-out, faith-based drama about a Christ-like teen struggling to find his true path. Arriving in a new town, soft-spoken Tyler (Mason Dye) and his alcoholic mother (“Bluebloods” regular Amy Carlson) have...

  • Cinecon brings dozens of classic gems back to Hollywood

    Cinecon brings dozens of classic gems back to Hollywood

    Los Angeles is rife with film festivals of all sorts, but if the city has an underappreciated gem, it’s the Cinecon Classic Film Festival, a beloved event whose 52nd edition runs Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-5, at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. Passionately dedicated to rarely screened films...

  • How the love African Americans have for the Obamas emboldens 'Southside With You'

    How the love African Americans have for the Obamas emboldens 'Southside With You'

    When President Obama was first elected on the night of Nov. 4, 2008, and took the stage in Grant Park in his hometown of Chicago, black people saw what all of America and the world saw. But what many of them felt was very different. Though the words “pride” and “respect” may come to mind, ultimately,...

  • 'In Search of the American Dream' is both sincere and a clunker of an immigration drama

    'In Search of the American Dream' is both sincere and a clunker of an immigration drama

    Although the thunderous opening score makes it clear from the outset that understatement won’t be a major component of “In Search of the American Dream,” it still does not prepare you for just how amateurishly over-the-top this bloated, laughably melodramatic saga about a Mexican family on the...

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