Read the latest film reviews, the most recent releases at the top.
8:07 AM PST, December 12, 2013
No feathers, animated or otherwise, will be ruffled by "Saving Mr. Banks," director John Lee Hancock's genial fictionalized account of how Walt Disney seduced "Mary Poppins" author P.L. Travers into allowing, for 5 percent of the gross, the supernatural caregiver to become a shiny Disney version of herself.
7:09 AM PST, December 17, 2013
My favorite minute of movie this year comes early in David O. Russell's "American Hustle." Christian Bale's character, the con man Irving Rosenfeld, based on the real-life Abscam linchpin Mel Weinberg, is riding high: His small-time investment scams, conducted with his wily mistress (played by Amy Adams), keep growing more profitable, and they're falling in love. Backed by the great Broadway finger-snapper "I've Got Your Number," Bale and Adams dance their way across a Manhattan intersection and, after a perfect cut, into a hotel ballroom where vocalist Jack Jones and a jazz combo are swinging. So few directors today know how to move a camera around; Russell is one of them. The whole movie, a feast of ensemble wiles and stunning hair, is juicy, funny and alive.
10:58 AM PST, December 19, 2013
The BBC series "Walking With Dinosaurs" gets a kid-friendly big-screen treatment, complete with cutesy story and dino-poop jokes, in "Walking With Dinosaurs 3D." Aimed squarely at that dino-crazy demographic (7-12), it pumps a few IQ points into a kid film genre sorely in need of them.
8:21 AM PST, December 11, 2013
One year and several hundred films later, I confess my mind isn't over-full of vivid memories of director Peter Jackson's first "Hobbit." It did the job, in its leisurely, fill-out-the-trilogy fashion, albeit looking like clinically detailed crud when viewed in 48 frames-per-second digital projection. Maybe my eyes will catch up to the glories of this alleged improvement. Maybe not.
November 21, 2013
The small and medium towns in the Midwest and the Great Plains region aren't so different from any other part — rural, urban or in between — of the United States. Half the people don't talk much, while the other half chatter to fill the silence. It's a time-honored cliche according to Garrison Keillor, but there's truth in it.
6:13 AM PST, November 26, 2013
Big, bright, often beautiful and essentially an action movie, as are most animated features these days, "Frozen" comes from Walt Disney Animation Studios. While Disney credits the 1845 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Snow Queen" as primary inspiration, the movie owes a lot more to the Broadway blockbuster "Wicked."
6:00 AM PST, November 8, 2013
"The Book Thief," the handsome, inevitable adaptation of Markus Zusak's internationally bestselling novel, unfolds as a curiosity on the big screen.
6:15 AM PST, November 26, 2013
Writer-director Kasi Lemmons hasn't had a feature in theaters since 2007's "Talk to Me," a vibrant and unjustly little-seen biopic that starred Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor and told the story of D.C. deejay Petey Greene. That film was all about the power of words. Lemmons' new film, "Black Nativity," concerns good deeds and great songs, as it struggles with uneven success to find a cinematic home for the 1961 Langston Hughes "gospel-song-play" setting of the Nativity story.
6:12 AM PST, November 26, 2013
A bloody bore featuring Jason Statham wasting steaming piles of rednecks in small-town Louisiana, "Homefront" nonetheless contains many teachable moments while setting a very low bar for fathers everywhere. One such moment, for example: If your 10-year-old daughter is watching you, don't murder that optional 10th or 11th bad guy. She doesn't need to see that.
7:39 PM PST, November 14, 2013
It is 10 months since Lance Armstrong's trip to the Oprah Winfrey confessional, where the disgraced cycling champion told some of the truth about his use of performance-enhancing drugs and admitted to being a jerk and a bully.
6:10 AM PST, November 26, 2013
Consider "Oldboy" Spike Lee's cover version of "If I Had a Hammer." This new American remake of the 2003 Korean revenge drama, also titled "Oldboy," stars Josh Brolin as the victim of a bizarre kidnapping and 20-year imprisonment. Upon his release, as sudden as the instigating events two decades earlier, the protagonist must determine who did this to him, why — and why he's being framed for his wife's murder. The character's ally in amateur detective work is a pliable social worker played by Elizabeth Olsen. By the time everyone on screen realizes what's up, and who's who, the audience may be more in a "Why? Why?" mood.
2:27 PM PST, November 18, 2013
"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is a lot like its own celebrity heroine, Katniss Everdeen, who begins this second "Hunger Games" movie fulfilling a public relations tour as penance for her killer — literally, killer — popularity. She is adored by millions; the books are too. The three Suzanne Collins novels, to be spread across four films, are being adapted with both eyes on fidelity to the source material. All "Catching Fire" had to do was to show up, look good and not screw up to succeed.
November 21, 2013
It's too much to call the misty-eyed sentimental comedy "Delivery Man" Vince Vaughn's very own "Patch Adams," but the film does require Vaughn's character to smile through tears, over and over, in an attempt to yank your own heartstrings straight out of your heart. The movie's goal is a simple one: to leave moviegoers all over the world without functioning hearts, just like that poor schnook in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."
October 31, 2013
This is economically unfeasible thinking, I realize. But the only way we're ever going to get a great movie about the Beats is if someone makes it like there's nothing to lose, with no concern about whether audiences are going to "get it," or care, or relate, or any of that. None of it. Until then, we'll keep up with all the pretty good tries, like the recent Walter Salles edition of "On the Road." Or fairly good, such as the new "Kill Your Darlings."
3:10 PM PDT, October 24, 2013
The moral of "Blue Is the Warmest Color" is simple: Sex without love is nothing; life without love is even less.
November 21, 2013
If lush settings were plums and costumes were nuts, we'd all have fruitcake for Christmas.
9:15 AM PST, November 7, 2013
In "Dallas Buyers Club," we meet Matthew McConaughey's Ron Woodroof mid-coitus. He's making love with two women in a rodeo holding pen, seconds before he jumps onto a wild bull for thrills and the promise of a few bucks. The year is 1985, the same year Rock Hudson died of AIDS-related causes. By contrast Woodroof, a drug-using heterosexual, is just another good ol' boy with a dangerous edge and zero sense of personal frailty, as quick with a casual homophobic slur as with a come-on to the ladies.
7:39 AM PST, November 7, 2013
Watching the latest "Great Expectations," one can't help but think Helena Bonham Carter has spent her entire career auditioning for the role of Miss Havisham. The jilted, wilted bride whose bitterness she carries into her dotage is the very picture of the wild-eyed, wilder-haired Carter.
7:36 AM PST, November 14, 2013
"The Best Man Holiday" follows in the footsteps of writer-director Malcolm D. Lee's successful 1999 comedy "The Best Man," using a template familiar to anyone who may have seen "The Big Chill" or its micro-budget predecessor, "Return of the Secaucus Seven." They're all different in their qualities and atmosphere. "The Best Man Holiday," for example, is a far more Tyler Perry-ish mixture of comedy and tragedy than the easygoing "Best Man" was, back in the pre-Perry movie era.
9:27 AM PST, November 6, 2013
"Thor: The Dark World" is the eighth movie in its particular franchise. So if anyone asks you what it has in common with "Blondie Goes Latin" and "Bomba and the Jungle Girl" you'll know the answer.
October 31, 2013
There's a myopia to "Diana," the new film about the divorce and last great romance of Princess Diana's life, that fits its subject like one of Diana's signature, custom-tailored gowns.
7:00 AM PDT, October 24, 2013
Imagine an alternate-universe version of the lean, relentlessly taciturn survival tale "All Is Lost," featuring a different actor than the film's one and only performer, Robert Redford.
7:27 AM PST, November 7, 2013
Imagine a Judy Blume rewrite of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," and you'll end up somewhere in the ashen yet uplifting vicinity of "How I Live Now."
8:14 AM PDT, October 11, 2013
(Toronto) There are books you should've read by now but haven't — books with granite reputations, the ones commonly, seemingly contractually labeled great, or important, or both.
October 31, 2013
And now for a completely improbable romantic comedy recommendation.
October 31, 2013
In step with its sensitive, tactically brilliant 12-year-old hero, "Ender's Game" is a bit of a tweener, neither triumph nor disaster, a war-games fantasy with a use-by date of Nov. 22, when the new "Hunger Games" movie comes out.
October 31, 2013
A genial "Hangover" for the AARP set, "Last Vegas" is roughly what you'd expect, or fear, but a little better.
October 31, 2013
Who knew that what Keanu Reeves really wanted was to play the villain in a Jean-Claude Van Damme picture? And direct it?
6:58 AM PDT, October 24, 2013
Set along the Texas/Mexico border but photographed largely in Spain, "The Counselor" is novelist Cormac McCarthy's first original screenplay to make it before the cameras. It concerns a self-deluding and financially challenged Texan who takes a chance involving some cocaine cartel money to dig himself out of a financial hole. Drugs; greed; malice; ridiculous lifestyle excess, signified by the chief sociopath's pet cheetahs: "The Counselor" offers all sorts of pulpy theoretical interest. As a bonus, the violence showcases not one but two really nasty ways to die via beheading, which is one more exotic method of killing than we got with the cattle stun-gun as deployed in the Oscar-winning "No Country for Old Men," taken from a McCarthy novel.
7:13 AM PDT, September 12, 2013
"Short Term 12" is a small wonder, a film of exceptional naturalness and empathy that takes material about troubled teenagers and young adults that could have been generic and turns it into something moving and intimate.
October 17, 2013
One challenge facing screenwriters and directors today towers above the rest. It is this: How do you make something vital and interesting out of a story of guys, in a sweat, looking at keyboards?
6:55 PM PDT, July 11, 2013
"The Hunt" is a terrifying cautionary tale about the loss of innocence, sexual abuse and children. But in a chilling twist, the innocence lost is that of a single father, a respected member of the community, a beloved kindergarten teacher suddenly pegged as a pedophile by an angry child.
9:04 AM PDT, October 10, 2013
"Captain Phillips" is a Tom Hanks movie. It is also a Paul Greengrass movie, and the cinematic tumult director Greengrass adroitly captures and sustains in the service of a narrative has a way of keeping his stars unmoored — in a good way — while trumping conventional Hollywood notions of a star vehicle.
9:04 AM PDT, October 10, 2013
The most excellent and lamentable tragedy "Romeo and Juliet" has been turned into a film that is lamentable without the "excellent" part.
October 4, 2013
"Gravity" defies itself. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play astronauts — a newbie scientist and a veteran cowboy — who dodge space debris and the usual narrative expectations while coping with a highly compressed series of crises 372 miles above the Earth's surface. It's a nerve-wracking visual experience of unusual and paradoxical delicacy. And if your stomach can take it, it's truly something to see.
6:46 AM PDT, October 3, 2013
We may never know who really was involved in the killing of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. But the opposite poles of the existing theories, cinematic division, stand in clear and livid disagreement. Oliver Stone in "JFK" argued that everybody did it except your mother. And the squishy new drama "Parkland," a wan human-interest procedural focusing on some of the event's lesser-known players, restates the conclusion of the Warren Commission: That Lee Harvey Oswald, lone gunman, flagrant wing nut, acted on his own, and the rest of you conspiracy idiots can just shut up about anti-Castro Cubans and Kennedy-hating Mafiosi and various slithering snakes on the grassy knoll.
6:33 AM PDT, September 26, 2013
It's big, brash and dramatically it goes in circles. The first two may be enough for most people, especially if they're into Formula One racing, to overlook the third.
6:35 AM PDT, September 26, 2013
Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing a Lothario who spends a tremendous amount of time in thrall to an avalanche of online pornography? It doesn't sound like a date movie, the way "(500) Days of Summer" sounded like one and, in fact, was one.
6:35 AM PDT, September 26, 2013
Thanks to the likes of "Ice Age," most animated features rely on a general wash of sarcasm-based meanness atop sequences of hammering, photo-realistically rendered peril. Throw in a rote message of friendship and a reminder of the importance of family before the up-tempo closing credits, and the people will come. Same old thing but louder? Count me in.
7:32 AM PDT, September 26, 2013
James Gandolfini died in June at age 51, and it's still a terrible loss, all these breathless 24-hour news cycles later. His final picture, a crime drama called "Animal Rescue," opens next year. Meantime, consider writer-director Nicole Holofcener's "Enough Said" is a fond farewell.
7:05 AM PDT, September 19, 2013
Classy trash, "Prisoners" opens with a scene of holy sacrifice, the first of many violent acts sanctified as virtuous — necessary — by an increasingly grotesque narrative. In the Pennsylvania woods, a carpenter played by Hugh Jackman guides his quiet teenage son (Dylan Minnette) in the killing of his first deer. A prayer is uttered. A shot is fired. The carpenter, named Keller Dover, is a true believer in the Lord, and he gets results.
August 15, 2013
"The Act of Killing" takes more than a little getting used to. It's a mind-bending film, devastating and disorienting, that disturbs us in ways we're not used to being disturbed, raising questions about the nature of documentary, the persistence of evil and the intertwined ways movies function in our culture and in our minds.
11:50 AM PDT, September 12, 2013
With the crafty "Insidious" (2011) and this year's exceptional "The Conjuring," director James Wan asserted the reliability and profitability of old-school suggestive horror, haunted-house division, easy on the sadism.
4:05 PM PDT, August 15, 2013
Keri Russell, she of "Felicity" and "Waitress" and many others, is such a winning actress, even in a flat soda of a comedy like "Austenland," she's in there, doing all she can to carbonate things.
8:45 AM PDT, September 5, 2013
Michael Phillips: 'Afternoon Delight': Her marriage is a snooze, but new friend is intriguing ★★ 1/2
Once you prove yourself in a certain kind of broad comedy, as Kathryn Hahn has in the movies and on TV, you spend a fair percentage of your career trying to prove that you can do other things too. In the inexplicably popular "We're the Millers" Hahn brings her usual confident attack to a shrill supporting role. It's welcome, therefore, probably for her and certainly for us, to watch her explore a more bittersweet variety of situations in her first screen lead, in writer-director Jill Soloway's "Afternoon Delight."
September 6, 2013
From the dusty annals of a science-fiction franchise belonging to another age, that of "Pitch Black" (2000) and "The Chronicles of Riddick" (2004) and several video game variations, here's a modestly scaled summer picture continuing the legend that time and many moviegoers forgot. And it's fun! Extremely violent, cleverly managed fun, full of eviscerating aliens, Vin Diesel making those little swimmer goggles look sharp and Katee Sackhoff of "Battlestar Galactica" swaggering around as a sexually ambiguous bounty hunter stuck with a bunch of guys on a crummy planet, ruled (more or less) by the escaped prisoner Riddick, whose story is recapped in "Riddick" but there's not much to it, don't worry.
9:12 AM PDT, April 26, 2013
The line sounds absurdly melodramatic, but it's delivered in a steely tone. "You'll end up in the old man's bed. Like my mother. Like all of them." Played by a taciturn Thomas Doret, the younger son of painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir knows the score. He has seen the painter's models, with or without underthings, come and go, like so much French laundry.
3:51 PM PDT, August 22, 2013
"The Grandmaster" is like a meal of all desserts, with maybe the tiniest bit of protein thrown in. You'll feel decadent enjoying it, but everything is so tasty, it would be foolish to object.
3:44 PM PDT, August 28, 2013
"Getaway" will never be mistaken for a "Fast & Furious" sequel. It's more like "Taken … for a Ride!" Terrible but, in its squealing way, sporadically fun-terrible, it features a glowering Ethan Hawke as a former professional race car driver named Brent Magna … or Brock Magma … or Frack Slaterock … or something like that. Let's call him Magma.
11:35 AM PDT, August 26, 2013
"Closed Circuit," starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall as a pair of sleek English defense attorneys who make those Old Bailey wigs look positively haute, opens with security-camera screens, first four, then eight, then 12, then 15, dispassionately recording street activity and anonymous passers-by in London's Borough Market neighborhood. A truck appears on one of the screens. The music signals trouble. A bomb explodes. More than 100 people die.
6:54 AM PDT, August 8, 2013
"The Spectacular Now" is rare: a coming-of-age movie featuring a teenage couple about whom you actually give a rip.
August 22, 2013
Zippy, kinetic and brashly funny, "The World's End" comes to the U.S. from its native England hard on the heels of "This Is the End," an American comedy about ordinary mortals (comedians, actually, so maybe not so ordinary) manning up to deal with apocalyptic plot developments. "World's End," a collaboration among director Edgar Wright, co-writer and star Simon Pegg and co-star Nick Frost, joins the trio's earlier genre scrambles "Shaun of the Dead" (zombie invasion plus rom-com) and "Hot Fuzz" ("Bad Boys"-brand action movie plopped down in Miss Marple land).
August 23, 2013
Frequently, horror movies send some useful idiots to a remote location and then hack them up victim by victim. But what might happen if one of the potential corpses had some self-defense savvy?
7:37 AM PDT, August 15, 2013
There's nothing wrong with "Paranoia" that a stronger director, livelier leading actors and several hundred fewer narrative conveniences wouldn't cure. It's too bad. All year we see R-rated movies crammed with fantasy violence too rough for teenagers yet fiscally dependent on that demographic. Now and then a more "grown-up" picture (ironically and typically rated PG-13) wanders past the studio gates, aimed at a somewhat broader and more seasoned crowd. The "Arbitrage" crowd, let's say: folks who, in this instance, might enjoy seeing Harrison Ford (as a Steve Jobs-type tech powerhouse, about to launch a "game changer" of a smartphone) chewing scenery, discreetly, opposite Gary Oldman (as his protege turned murderous business rival).
1:15 PM PDT, August 14, 2013
The best scenes in "Lee Daniels' The Butler" — a family farewell at a bus station; a few drinks and a few dangerous glances among friends in an ordinary Washington, D.C., living room — steer clear of the White House and keep a comfortable and freeing distance from the flotilla of celebrity impersonations sailing by.
1:28 PM PDT, July 31, 2013
The acting is everything in "Blue Jasmine," though Cate Blanchett and company wouldn't have anything to act without writer-director Woody Allen's flagrant revision of "A Streetcar Named Desire." "Best-since" phrases have been flying since Allen's seriocomic exercise opened in New York and Los Angeles: best since "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," best since "Match Point," best since "Crimes and Misdemeanors" a generation ago, even. Well. Certainly it's his best since "Midnight in Paris," two movies ago, which is to say it's better than "To Rome With Love."
1:16 PM PDT, August 14, 2013
Here's what we know from "Jobs," the first and, with luck, the lamer of the two biopics (Aaron Sorkin is working on his own screenplay) about the late Apple computer guru Steve Jobs, played here by Ashton Kutcher. Genius, according to Kutcher's bland performance, is a matter of pursing your lips, pausing, speaking deliberately and arrogantly and reading every line as if you already know the retort, because you are Steve Jobs and therefore an omniscient god. Kutcher has the circular eyewear and the dreamy gait down pat. Each time he serves up a conspicuous, dismissive hand gesture, you think: Yes, I seem to remember seeing the real Jobs doing something like that on camera.
August 15, 2013
"Kick-Ass 2," the sequel to the 2010 adaptation of Scottish comic book author Mark Millar's "Kick-Ass," comes in right on the bubble: It's no better, no worse and essentially no different from the jocular, clodhopping brutality of the first one. Here in writer-director Jeff Wadlow's crimson bauble, Chloe Grace Moretz and Aaron Taylor-Johnson reprise their roles as Hit Girl and Kick-Ass, respectively — the homegrown, limb-lopping superheroes and high school classmates (he's older, but she's tougher) who spill more blood than a klutzy production assistant on a Tarantino shoot.
7:22 AM PDT, July 25, 2013
Tilikum, the orca at the center of the depressing documentary "Blackfish," has killed three humans and remains, relatively speaking, free — he's an ongoing attraction at SeaWorld Orlando, making the big splash that gets everybody wet. Anyone who has visited a SeaWorld or its equivalents knows the routine.
6:54 AM PDT, August 8, 2013
6:55 AM PDT, August 8, 2013
How far does a girl have to go to untangle her tingle? This was the discreetly prurient poster question used to sell "Deep Throat" and Linda Lovelace to a mainstream public in 1972. The new biopic "Lovelace," about the grimly exploited porn star born Linda Boreman, stars Amanda Seyfried as the improbable icon whose name became Bob Hope's late-career punch line and a reliable ba-DUM-bum on "The Tonight Show" and a thousand other cultural wellsprings.
August 7, 2013
When Jason Sudeikis and Ed Helms appear in the same movie there's a significant threat of clean-cut sameness. Mediocre material makes them like two halves of the same comic actor: Ed Jason Helms-Sudeikis.
1:28 PM PDT, July 31, 2013
Taken from a graphic novel, "2 Guns" has this much in common with Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine": They're both about characters hung out to dry. Also, the stars in both films lend panache and a sense of purpose to familiar-seeming material. Beyond that the differences are significant. "Blue Jasmine" is the movie with the old-time jazz on the soundtrack; "2 Guns" is the one with people getting shot in the leg, the arm, the head, the chest or somewhere else, and with Paula Patton in a nude scene that brings a hush of prayerlike gratitude from a mostly male audience.
7:20 AM PDT, July 25, 2013
Every time Hugh Jackman's up there on screen, dining out on the rage stew that is the Wolverine, I think back to his Tony Award-winning performance as entertainer Peter Allen in "The Boy From Oz." It was a terrible musical but a wonderful Broadway turn, flamboyant exuberance personified. Each strand of this performer's DNA is about giving the audience a great time. He's a strutter, and in "The Wolverine," Jackman's sixth and most dominant appearance as the Marvel Comics character, the immortal mutton-chopped loner looks as if he has been spending all his time up in the Canadian wilderness with a personal trainer, waiting for his close-up.
6:57 AM PDT, July 18, 2013
"Fruitvale Station" is hugely effective meat-and-potatoes moviemaking, and one hell of a feature film debut for writer-director Ryan Coogler.
7:22 AM PDT, July 25, 2013
Uber-raunchy but pretty interesting as sex comedies go, writer-director Maggie Carey's "The To Do List," set in 1993, stars Aubrey Plaza of "Parks and Recreation" as a Boise, Idaho, high school graduate of sterling academic credentials and a firmly maintained image among her peers as a math whiz and a social zero.
4:45 PM PDT, June 27, 2013
I can't remember when, if ever, Pedro Almodóvar has had as much flamboyant fun as he does in the high-flying comedy "I'm So Excited!"
12:32 PM PDT, July 16, 2013
Haunted house movies only work if the people in the house are worth scaring. Sounds stupid, but it's true, although let's be honest: Real estate is inherently frightening. You put all that money in and only Satan knows if it'll turn out to be a decent investment, or if you'll be able to afford what it takes to repair any undisclosed matters of basement seepage. The quirks and creaks of an old house are always good for gallows humor or a cold shot of dread. As I write this the fridge in our new/old residence is softly moaning like a distant foghorn. Is it the way the appliance sits on a slightly askew kitchen floor? Is it demonic?
10:34 AM PDT, July 3, 2013
Sam Rockwell: a lot of fun. He's a rarity in American movies, a serious and careful actor — the essence of utility, able to support and enliven all sorts of material — who is comfortable just kicking back and enjoying himself if the role calls for it.
6:59 AM PDT, July 18, 2013
"RED 2," the in-one-eye, out-the-other sequel starring Bruce Willis, received a PG-13 for its "pervasive action and violence" and "frenetic gunplay," according to the Motion Picture Association of America's rating description. I love that they went out of their way to add the adjective "frenetic." For the record the best bit in the picture involves no automatic weaponry of any kind, nor that drooling, hollow cliche, recycled here, of ridiculous numbers of empty shell casings hitting the ground in slow motion. No. My favorite thing in the movie is the way co-star and Korean action icon Byung Hun Lee uses his feet of fury to hoist a paint can and send it flying.
July 19, 2013
Part "CSI," part found-footage horror film, "Evidence" is a well-made thriller with its fair share of suspense and mild scares.
July 11, 2013
The Summer of Loud continues with "Pacific Rim," full of sound and fury signifying nothing more than a monster movie in full roar. It's closer to the hammering "Transformers" aesthetic than expected. Yet the weirdness around the edges saves it from impersonality.
4:27 PM PDT, May 9, 2013
Murder is a funny thing that happens in Ben Wheatley movies, though it's never been droller, drier or deadlier than in "Sightseers," the British filmmaker's latest comic assault.
July 3, 2013
Older kids and their minion guardians could do worse than "Despicable Me 2," the sequel to the 2010 smash about a supervillain turned adoptive parent. On the other hand, reports of the movie's charm have been greatly exaggerated. It's a reasonably efficient baby sitter, done up in 3-D computer-generated animation of no special distinction. But the first one's weird mixture of James Bond bombast and hyperactive pill-shaped Minions (the protagonist Gru's goggle-clad helpers) had the element of surprise in its favor.
July 3, 2013
Not that Johnny Depp did them for free, but Disney Enterprises Inc. owes Depp and his mock-heroic portrayal of the knave Jack Sparrow a great deal for the financial success of the four "Pirates of the Caribbean" pictures. You know how it is with four hits: There's always the threat of a fifth. Meanwhile, Disney, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski have moved on to another quarter-billion-dollar gamble.
7:41 AM PDT, July 5, 2013
"Stuck in Love" seems, on its surface, like another male wish-fulfillment fantasy masquerading as a romantic comedy.
June 28, 2013
If you see just one terrorists-take-over-the-White House thriller this year, make it "White House Down." Even if you saw the dour and bloody "Olympus Has Fallen," which has a lot in common with "White House Down," you owe it to yourself to check out Roland "2012" Emmerich's preachy, goofy, over-the-top take on "'Die Hard' at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave."
June 13, 2013
An elegant miniature, Rama Burshtein's "Fill the Void" labors under a narrative inevitability, but it's artful work nonetheless.
9:13 AM PDT, June 20, 2013
What is Pixar doing, settling for adequacy?
9:46 AM PDT, June 19, 2013
It begins the way global epidemics have begun once or twice before in the movies: with a nice American family around the kitchen table, television droning in the background, delivering news reports of a mutating virus. OK, pass the oj! Let's get on with the rest of our undead-plagued lives, shall we?
4:40 PM PDT, June 6, 2013
Think of it as a single scoop of sorbet: Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing" is both a palate cleanser for the director and a small but savory treat for Shakespeare-starved audiences.
9:25 AM PDT, June 20, 2013
"I think Los Angeles is so the center of American culture right now," writer-director Sofia Coppola says in the production notes for her swift, clever bauble "The Bling Ring," because "of all these reality TV shows."
June 6, 2013
"The Kings of Summer" is a coming-of-age story that keeps its humor as dry as the sunbaked days of its teen rebellion.
2:40 PM PDT, June 13, 2013
Thanks, "Man of Steel." Because of the scene where Superman battles two of his adversaries from the planet Krypton in downtown Smallville, wrecking most of an IHOP and a Sears store, I now associate pancakes and appliances with pain and suffering.
2:41 PM PDT, June 13, 2013
The "Hangover" movies, even the third one no one defends, barely qualify as comedies in the traditional sense. They're more like grimy action pictures with a joke or two tossed in to avoid the charge of false labeling. Their ugliness of spirit compounds a disinterest in verbal jokes and a reliance on brutality (which isn't the same as artfully violent slapstick), and nobody involved seems to care about making the talk snappy or keeping a scene moving forward. Whatever. They're hits. The public hath spoken, even as the public groweth weary.
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