Sign up to receive our Essential Arts & Culture Newsletter
Movies Now Film — past, present and future
'Chappie': Artificial intelligence tale lacks brainpower, reviews say

South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp is back with his third sci-fi film in a row, "Chappie," a dystopian tale about a police robot programmed to think, learn and feel.

According to movie critics, however, Blomkamp's action-packed exploration of artificial intelligence is lacking smarts of its own.

The Times' Kenneth Turan writes, "'Chappie' is a movie about the evolution of artificial intelligence that's as dumb as a post. It also marks the continuing devolution of the work of director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp." The film is "a derivative endeavor, with echoes of everything from Dr. Frankenstein's creation to the Tin Man," and features "pretty dire" acting, even from recognizable names like Sigourney Weaver, Dev Patel and Hugh Jackman (the latter in a performance "worse than you can possibly imagine").

The underlying issue, Turan says, is that Blomkamp "favors a filmmaking style so sloppy and crude it's impossible to tell if it's the result of intention or ineptitude."


Read more
Remembering Albert Maysles, documentarian and truth seeker

It's not often that a filmmaker helps change the face of an art form, but that was the case with Albert Maysles.

Maysles, who died March 5 at age 88, was a pioneer in a style of documentary filmmaking variously called cinema verite or direct cinema. Collaborating with his brother David, who died in 1987, and others, he worked in a way that avoided interviewing and setup situations and placed a premium on strict observation.

"I don't go out to catch people," he told a UCLA class several years ago. "I go out to find them."

Though his films did not get Oscar attention — only a 1972 short, "Christo's Valley Curtain," was nominated — they often captured public attention.

His best known works included "Salesmen" (1969), about a quartet of door-to-door Bible salesmen; "Gimme Shelter" (1970), which recorded the Rolling Stones infamous concert in Altamont, Calif.; and "Grey Gardens" (1975), a look at the reclusive lives of a mother and daughter who were related to Jackie Kennedy.

I met Albert...

Read more
'Furious 7' extended trailer: Skydiving cars? Sure, why not.

In six previous installments, the "Fast & Furious" franchise has sped, cornered, jumped, flipped, spun and crashed cars in nearly every way possible — on land. Which means it's only reasonable that "Furious 7" would take to the skies.

A newly released trailer offers an extended look at one of the major action sequences orchestrated by director James Wan, and it centers on a fleet of cars reversing out the back of an airborne C-130 cargo plane, then parachuting onto a winding road below.

It's no big deal for tough guy Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), tough gal Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), ex-cop Brian (the late Paul Walker) or tech expert Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), but ex-con Roman (Tyrese Gibson) isn't too keen on the stunt. He eventually gets some, shall we say, encouragement from his friends.

The new video also glimpses some of the globe-trotting locales, fiery explosions and knock-down, drag-out fights featured in the film, which hits theaters April 3.

Mostly, though, it's about those...

Read more
Dev Patel handles robots and retirees in 'Chappie,' 'Marigold 2'

Anybody up for a Dev Patel double feature?

Beginning this weekend, the 24-year-old actor can be seen in two very different big-screen outings: Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi tale "Chappie" and John Madden's retiree comedy "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."

In the former film, Patel plays Deon, a computer whiz in near-future Johannesburg, South Africa, who has designed a line of police robots but dreams of something bigger: a bot that can think, learn and feel. He eventually does so, but like many young parents learns that raising a kid in this messed-up world isn't easy.

Deon's creation, dubbed Chappie (Sharlto Copley), soon falls in with the wrong crowd — a trio of gangsters played by Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser (of the South African rave-rap group Die Antwoord) and Jose Pablo Cantillo. Violence and comedy ensue.

Patel, who recently described his Antwoord co-stars as "the strangest, most gangster vegans I've come across," joins an ensemble with a very different brand of charisma in "The...

Read more
Albert Maysles, acclaimed director of 'Grey Gardens,' dies at 88

Albert Maysles, the influential filmmaker behind movies such as “Grey Gardens” and “Gimme Shelter,” died Thursday, according to the Associated Press. He was 88.

Maysles was known for championing a fly-on-the-wall style of moviemaking. Along with his late brother David, who died in 1987, he was keen on putting the camera at an intimately close distance and letting the subject unfurl itself.

His movies, such as 1970’s “Shelter,” about an eventful Rolling Stones tour, and, “Gardens,” about a pair of eccentric Bouviers on Long Island, demonstrated these tactics, as did later work such as “The Gates” and the 2001’s “LaLee’s Kin” (the latter was nominated for a documentary Oscar). Albert Maysles often collaborated with younger filmmakers on recent movies, co-directing or serving as its cinematographer and spirit guide.

Maysles died at his home in Manhattan, the AP said.

Although Maysles’ style of verite was highly unusual in the documentary realm when he began, it came to inform a host of...

Read more
Harrison Ford plane crash stirs subconscious fears

The news Thursday afternoon that Harrison Ford was hurt in a private plane crash, possibly badly, sent shivers down movie fan's spines.

Ford's publicist would later in the evening say that the actor was, fortunately, going to be OK after a vintage aircraft he was piloting went down on a Venice golf course. ("The injuries sustained are not life-threatening, and he is expected to make a full recovery”). But in those few hours when his condition was murky, a chill rippled through the entertainment world. Until his recovery is complete, it still might.

There's reason to be skittish. We'd been in related circumstances over the years too many times with beloved figures (Ritchie Valens, John F. Kennedy Jr., James Dean and, just a few weeks ago, Bob Simon, to name only a few). When reports like this begin to circulate--increasingly fast in the insta-medical reporting of the TMZ age--the full picture often bears out some of our worst fears.

There is, with these accidents, the sheer caprice...

Read more