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Latest Movie Reviews

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...

  • Tim Sutton's 'Dark Night' offers a hypnotic prelude to a tragedy

    Tim Sutton's 'Dark Night' offers a hypnotic prelude to a tragedy

    Everyone in “Dark Night” seems terribly alone — even the ones who aren’t. In the opening moments, a teenager stares blankly out at a mall parking lot, her eyes reflecting, but barely registering, the flashing red-and-blue lights of a police car. In another scene, two skateboarding kids keep slipping...

  • This year's Oscar-nominated shorts illuminate the world in which we live

    This year's Oscar-nominated shorts illuminate the world in which we live

    This year’s batch of Oscar-nominated shorts, whether animated, live action or documentary, deal primarily with sadness and strife, but a handful do so sublimely. Of the animated films, most clock in at under 10 minutes, save Robert Valley’s noirish half-hour epic “Pear Cider and Cigarettes,” a...

  • David Fincher's masterful 'Zodiac' looms large at Cinefamily

    David Fincher's masterful 'Zodiac' looms large at Cinefamily

    It’s been 10 years since David Fincher made his supreme masterpiece, “Zodiac” — the movie in which his own obsessive perfectionism found an unimprovable choice of subject, style and theme. Adapted by James Vanderbilt from Robert Graysmith’s authoritative account of the killings that rocked the...

  • 'Land of Mine,' 'Tanna' and more critics' picks, Feb. 10-16

    'Land of Mine,' 'Tanna' and more critics' picks, Feb. 10-16

    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,...

  • The words of James Baldwin ring out in Harlem drama 'Chapter & Verse'

    The words of James Baldwin ring out in Harlem drama 'Chapter & Verse'

    James Baldwin’s bracingly relevant writings, which inspired the potent “I Am Not Your Negro,” also resonate deeply in “Chapter & Verse,” Jamal Joseph’s tough/tender portrait of an ex-con attempting to find redemption in modern-day  transitional Harlem. Having served eight years in prison for “being...

  • Teen auteur Jack Fessenden propels crime drama 'Stray Bullets'

    Teen auteur Jack Fessenden propels crime drama 'Stray Bullets'

    A true family project, the low-budget crime picture “Stray Bullets” was co-produced by indie cinema hero Larry Fessenden with his wife, Beck Underwood, and their son, Jack. The elder Fessenden also handles the cinematography while Underwood is the costumer and production designer. And Jack? He...

  • Child exploitation, free speech and net neutrality tangle in fervent documentary 'I Am Jane Doe'

    Child exploitation, free speech and net neutrality tangle in fervent documentary 'I Am Jane Doe'

    Mary Mazzio’s documentary “I Am Jane Doe” is a whirlwind primer on the case of Backpage, a classified ads website with a serious problem: the exploitation and trafficking of minors conducted in the escorting and adult section of the site. Backpage is now the center of a legal drama that has proceeded...

  • Even Sharon Stone and horses can't save 'Running Wild's' shoddy storytelling

    Even Sharon Stone and horses can't save 'Running Wild's' shoddy storytelling

    As an advocacy piece for the protection of America’s overpopulation of wild horses, “Running Wild” makes a few meaningful points. But as a dramatic telling of one woman’s fight against equine politics, misguided self-interests and federal bureaucracy, the film, directed by Alex Ranarivelo (“The...

  • Potential goes unfulfilled in romantic drama '1 Night,' but Anna Camp is worth a watch

    Potential goes unfulfilled in romantic drama '1 Night,' but Anna Camp is worth a watch

    First-time writer-director Minhal Baig’s “1 Night” is far more ambitious than it first appears, with a high-concept plot that has the potential to set it apart from the average romantic drama. But even its wistful tone points toward an opportunity missed; unfortunately, the film doesn’t fully explore...

  • Bloody 'Havenhurst' unlikely to win over any converts

    Bloody 'Havenhurst' unlikely to win over any converts

    A dripping faucet and noisy neighbors suddenly seem like minor inconveniences when watching the horror movie “Havenhurst.” Set in a deathtrap disguised as a gorgeous Gothic apartment building, this low-budget bloodbath won’t bring any new fans to the genre. However, gorehounds and true crime obsessives...

  • Tables are turned on pranksters in taut horror film 'Don't Hang Up'

    Tables are turned on pranksters in taut horror film 'Don't Hang Up'

    It’s a standard horror movie trope to start off with a young woman on the other end of a menacing phone call, and “Don’t Hang Up” pays homage to this tradition. The callers are a group of teenage pranksters who post their videos online for all the hits, likes and clicks they can get. But soon teenage...

  • Supernatural thriller 'Bornless Ones' wields surprising depth

    Supernatural thriller 'Bornless Ones' wields surprising depth

    It’s not easy to come up with a fresh spin on the “group of friends tormented by a demon in the woods” plot, but while writer-director Alexander Babaev’s “Bornless Ones” doesn’t do anything radically new, it deepens its characters and situations enough to be distinctive. Margaret Judson stars as...

  • Anachronistic kids' caper 'The Adventure Club' takes bland to the next level

    Anachronistic kids' caper 'The Adventure Club' takes bland to the next level

    Set in some sort of weird alternate universe where contemporary kids prefer to communicate on walkie-talkies and look stuff up at the library, “The Adventure Club” is a remarkably dull Canadian tween caper about a sought-after magical ancient box with wish-making powers. Undaunted that their homemade...

  • European drama 'Sex Doll' is a meandering take on a high-end call girl

    European drama 'Sex Doll' is a meandering take on a high-end call girl

    It’s hard to get too worked up over “Sex Doll,” a kind of anti-romantic drama with erotic thriller aspirations. Like the impassive young call girl at its moody center, writer-director Sylvie Verheyde’s London-set look at the shadowy world of high-end prostitution offers more possibility than payoff....

  • Immigrant comedy set in the '70s 'Growing Up Smith' falls short

    Immigrant comedy set in the '70s 'Growing Up Smith' falls short

    A strained cross between broad, culture-clash comedy and wistful coming-of-age tale, “Growing Up Smith” is a well-intentioned fizzle that misses what should have been an easily reachable mark. But a patchy, overly episodic script by Anjul Nigam, Paul Quinn and Gregory Scott Houghton paired with...

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