MOVIE SNEAKS

Winter-Spring Preview

Times film critics Kenneth Turan and Justin Chang discuss year-end films

The Times’ film critics, Kenneth Turan and Justin Chang, sat down to talk about the new holiday movies they’re looking forward to and the older ones they still cherish. JUSTIN CHANG: I could be wrong, but Hollywood seems to have long since given up any strict obligation to holiday cheer where year-end...

Movie Reviews

  • 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...

  • Long-delayed action film 'Collide' is one dopey ride

    Long-delayed action film 'Collide' is one dopey ride

    Four of cinema’s best faces share the screen in the international action picture “Collide.” Nicholas Hoult and Felicity Jones star as Americans enjoying a torrid love affair in Germany, while Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley play rival European crime bosses. That’s a lot of acting talent — all...

  • British horror film 'The Girl With All the Gifts' is unlikely to leave you hungry for more

    British horror film 'The Girl With All the Gifts' is unlikely to leave you hungry for more

    Sweet-faced, 10-year-old Melanie, counting on her fingers in an underground cell and served bowls of live worms through the door slot, hardly seems the type to warrant imprisonment, much less being strapped into a wheelchair when soldiers enter with automatic weapons trained at her face. She’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...

  • Tragic story of the Holodomor is reduced to cliché in historical drama 'Bitter Harvest'

    Tragic story of the Holodomor is reduced to cliché in historical drama 'Bitter Harvest'

    The Holodomor, the historic event at the center of “Bitter Harvest,” is a devastating chapter in the chronicles of a long-embattled Ukraine and now widely regarded as an act of genocide by the Soviet regime. Targeted by famine-inducing policies engineered in Stalin’s Kremlin, millions died of starvation....

  • High concept, uninspired execution plagues 'Rock Dog'

    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...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 'My Life as a Zucchini,' 'Toni Erdmann' and more critics' picks, Feb. 24-March 2

    'My Life as a Zucchini,' 'Toni Erdmann' and more critics' picks, Feb. 24-March 2

    Movie recommendations from critics Kenneth Turan, Justin Chang and other reviewers. Click title for full review. Arrival Amy Adams stars in this elegant, involving science-fiction drama that is simultaneously old and new, revisiting many alien-invasion conventions but with unexpected intelligence,...

  • Matt Damon's 'The Great Wall' crumbles in epic fashion

    Matt Damon's 'The Great Wall' crumbles in epic fashion

    "The Great Wall" is poised to take a great fall, creating the kind of mess not seen since Humpty Dumpty sat on a similar structure. All the king's horses and all the king's men (and there are a lot of them here) won't be able to put this snore of a movie together again. Starring Matt Damon, the...

  • The mad puzzle of Gore Verbinski's 'A Cure for Wellness'

    The mad puzzle of Gore Verbinski's 'A Cure for Wellness'

    At some point during “A Cure for Wellness,” a lavish and interminable new thriller from writer-director Gore Verbinski, I found myself wondering which movie it would pair best with on a double bill. Maybe “Crimson Peak” or “Shutter Island,” two similarly gorgeous-looking auteur forays into the...

  • Three teens in U.S. illegally tell their stories in the moving drama 'From Nowhere'

    Three teens in U.S. illegally tell their stories in the moving drama 'From Nowhere'

    The three Bronx teenagers we get to know in “From Nowhere,” a somber and affecting independent drama from the writer-director Matthew Newton, are sketched along familiar lines. Moussa (J. Mallory McCree) is bright, good-looking and popular, and has a steady girlfriend. Alyssa (Raquel Castro) is...

  • The subversive pleasure of Gael García Bernal's scoundrel in 'You’re Killing Me Susana'

    The subversive pleasure of Gael García Bernal's scoundrel in 'You’re Killing Me Susana'

    Gael García Bernal is the most charming of actors, and one of the pleasures of his satisfying “You're Killing Me Susana” is watching him display that quality in a decidedly subversive way. Directed by Roberto Sneider as an engaging romantic comedy with some serious things on its mind, “Susana” is...

  • Cats and the city: 'Kedi' investigates the feline lives of Istanbul

    Cats and the city: 'Kedi' investigates the feline lives of Istanbul

    “Kedi” means cat in Turkish. And while you don’t have to be crazy about cats to enjoy this documentary, it would certainly help.  As that Turkish title indicates, “Kedi” is shot on the streets of modern Istanbul, with director Ceyda Torun, who was born in the city, and her intrepid cameraman and...

  • James Franco takes a page from Steinbeck in the laborious drama 'In Dubious Battle'

    James Franco takes a page from Steinbeck in the laborious drama 'In Dubious Battle'

    John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle” chronicles a brief, intense labor strike by migrant apple pickers in Depression-era California, at a time when agricultural workers across the state were getting hit hard by wage cuts. Published in 1936 under a title inspired by “Paradise Lost,” it was the first...

  • Sam Fuller tribute in Westwood features screening of an unaired TV pilot and biographical doc

    Sam Fuller tribute in Westwood features screening of an unaired TV pilot and biographical doc

    A tribute to the rambunctious Sam Fuller, director of such pulp classics as "Pickup On South Street” (1953) and "Shock Corridor" (1963), is always welcome, but the one scheduled by the UCLA Film & Television Archive for 7:30 p.m Saturday at the Hammer Museum's Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood is...

  • Charlie Day and Ice Cube tangle in overzealous comedy 'Fist Fight'

    Charlie Day and Ice Cube tangle in overzealous comedy 'Fist Fight'

    The high school-set comedy “Fist Fight” really revs up those three Rs: rowdy, raunchy and ridiculous. For much of its fast-paced running time, the film, which involves an after-school fight between two polar-opposite teachers, is just amusing enough to make up for its sheer preposterousness; it...

  • Filmmaker Anne Hamilton delivers an unsettling, if uneven, 'American Fable'

    Filmmaker Anne Hamilton delivers an unsettling, if uneven, 'American Fable'

    The images of a rural field that open “American Fable” could, for a brief instant, be something out of Andrew Wyeth, woozy with wonder. Soon, though, it’s clear that a nightmarish dread pulses beneath the dreamlike beauty. For her first feature, set during the Midwestern farm crisis of the 1980s,...

  • Quirky indie drama 'The Great & the Small' delivers emotional depth

    Quirky indie drama 'The Great & the Small' delivers emotional depth

    Writer-director Dusty Bias takes a singular approach to telling an offbeat, oddly resonant tale of family, survival and redemption in “The Great & the Small.” Though it’s often too quirky for its own good and its bumpy narrative structure can be jarring, the film sneaks in quite a bit of depth...

  • 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...

  • 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,...

  • 'Moonlight,' 'Manchester by the Sea' and more critics' picks, Feb. 17-23

    'Moonlight,' 'Manchester by the Sea' and more critics' picks, Feb. 17-23

    Movie recommendations from critics Kenneth Turan, Justin Chang and other reviewers. Click title for full review. Arrival Amy Adams stars in this elegant, involving science-fiction drama that is simultaneously old and new, revisiting many alien-invasion conventions but with unexpected intelligence,...

  • 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...

  • 'The Lego Batman Movie' is the best Batman movie since 'The Dark Knight'

    'The Lego Batman Movie' is the best Batman movie since 'The Dark Knight'

    “Why so serious?” The Joker posed that question in “The Dark Knight,” and even in the context of the greatest (and the most serious) of all Batman movies, it carried the unmistakable sting of a self-critique. If there was anyone who could stand to lighten up a bit, it was surely the film’s director,...

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