Welcome to a World of Movies Nonstop

Hello, I'm Mark Olsen. Welcome to our weekly movie party!

This is the first installment in what I hope will become your regular guide to cinema in Los Angeles, the world beyond and parts unknown. I’ll skip the overarching manifesto to simply say that I like movies that are serious, silly, smart, stupid, quiet and slow, loud and fast and everything in between.

To paraphrase Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver” my attitude toward movies is “anytime, anywhere.” Or, as Marlon Brando says in “The Wild One,” “What do you got?”

Will all the films here be “indie” by any conventional definition? No. But were they made in a spirit of curiosity and adventure? You bet.

'Mad Max: Fury Road'

I can’t fake a professionally blasé attitude on this one — I am super excited to see this movie. I am a fan of all three earlier post-apocalyptic “Mad Max” adventures, but the casting of Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, two of my favorite current performers, throws me into overdrive. I recently interviewed filmmaker George Miller — a true thrill — and he explained the overall timeline of the series by saying the new film takes place 45 years from next Wednesday.

Here’s my article on Miller and “Mad Max: Fury Road” for our Summer Sneaks preview.

Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Village Roadshow Pictures' action adventure movie "Mad Max: Fury Road." (Jasin Boland / Warner Bros.)

'Ex Machina' Q&As

The relatively small, relatively new distribution company A24 has released my favorite film of the year the last two years running — “Spring Breakers” and “Under The Skin,” if you’re wondering — and they’ve put out two of the most exciting films so far this year too, with “While We’re Young” and “Ex Machina.”

Recently here in Los Angeles the writer and director of “Ex Machina,”  Alex Garland, participated in a pair of post-screening Q&As, one moderated by Graham Moore, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “The Imitation Game,” and the other by Rian Johnson, writer-director of “Looper” and Episode VIII of the revitalized “Star Wars” series.

Garland described the film as a sci-fi psychological thriller, and even people who don’t like it seem compelled to talk about its provocative take on artificial intelligence and the very essence of humanity. Here are videos of each of the Q&As — smart people talking about a smart movie. 


Also for the Summer Sneaks section, I sat down with Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne just before the world premiere of their new espionage comedy, “Spy.” The movie might best be described as something of an un-buddy comedy as they play enemies, a fledgling CIA field agent and an international villainess, who come to have a begrudging respect for each other. Written and directed by Paul Feig, who also made “Bridesmaids,” the movie really rests on the offbeat chemistry of McCarthy and Byrne.

Rose Byrne, left, and Melissa McCarthy on the rooftop patio of the Market in downtown Austin, Texas. (Thomas Meredith / For The Times)

'The Water Diviner'

Back when I was a video store clerk in Lawrence, Kan., I once rented an obviously terrible movie to John Clifford, screenwriter of the original “Carnival of Souls.” I don’t remember the movie, but what I have never forgotten was how he looked me in the eye and said, “Sometimes you learn more from the bad ones than the good ones.”

By that logic, I should have learned more from Russell Crowe’s disappointing directorial debut “The Water Diviner.” Here’s my review.

There's more

Also in the Summer Sneaks section are some terrific articles by my coworkers here at the LAT. Rebecca Keegan and I shot a short video chat to kick things off. Rebecca also has a fun story about her visit to the London set of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” with Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill, Alicia Vikander and the classic East German auto, the Trabant.

Josh Rottenberg talked to some of the folks involved in “Terminator Genisys,” including the former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Amy Kaufman met with Rebel Wilson at the Chateau Marmont to talk sweat pants and stardom and the much anticipated “Pitch Perfect 2.”

Susan King talked to Carey Mulligan about her role in Thomas Vinterberg’s swooningly romantic adaption of “Far From the Madding Crowd.”

Steve Zeitchik has the inside track on how Tom Cruise pulled off the totally insane, hanging off the side of a plane stunt in Chris McQuarrie’s “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” (Short answer: He hung off the side of a plane.)

Actress Rebel Wilson at the Historic Hudson Studios in Hollywood. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

A movie on us: 'Saint Laurent'

We’ve got one of our Indie Focus Screening Series events happening Monday night at our regular home at the Sundance Sunset Cinemas right there on the famous Sunset Boulevard. We’ll be showing “Saint Laurent,” a look at the life and work of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. This film is so sensual and stylish that I basically want to climb inside and live in it. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year, was France’s submission for the foreign language Oscar, and was nominated for 10 French Cesar awards. You’ll be hard pressed to find a cooler movie right now.

Apart from their appearance last fall at the AFI Fest, we’ll have the only Los Angeles Q&A with director Bertrand Bonello and star Gaspard Ulliel. (We’re talking to them just before a Bonello retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.) I’ll also be writing a story for the paper on the film ahead of its opening on May 8. Dress up, come on down, check it out. RSVP here.

Email me if you have questions, comments or suggestions, and follow me on Twitter @IndieFocus