Los Angeles Times

Betsy Sharkey, Film Critic

  • 'The Gunman' with Sean Penn a misfire that wastes strong cast

    'The Gunman' with Sean Penn a misfire that wastes strong cast

    At one point in "The Gunman," a pack of well-armed assassins is in hot pursuit of Sean Penn's sniper and his beautiful distressed damsel when suddenly she stops, refusing to go one step farther until he explains what the heck is going on. My sentiments exactly. Part of the contract that movies...

  • Quirky 'Home,' with Jim Parsons and Rihanna, keeps it too light

    Quirky 'Home,' with Jim Parsons and Rihanna, keeps it too light

    As a certain Boov, buoyantly voiced by that alien life force Jim Parsons, might say: Best silly ever is to be having in "Home." The new animation 3-D pop from DreamWorks is breezy, sentimental and quirky. That it is also somewhat slight is only a minor bother. It helps that the extraterrestrial...

  • Critic's pick: Oscar-nominated 'Wild Tales' conjures revenge fantasies

    Critic's pick: Oscar-nominated 'Wild Tales' conjures revenge fantasies

    Indulging in a vicarious experience is one of the central pleasures of movies, and "Wild Tales" provides more than its share. Writer-director Damian Szifron conjures up six revenge fantasies in the tragicomical extravaganza from Argentina that earned a foreign-language Oscar nomination this year....

  • 'Seymour' is Ethan Hawke's moving look at pianist Bernstein

    'Seymour' is Ethan Hawke's moving look at pianist Bernstein

    Ethan Hawke's documentary on pianist Seymour Bernstein is very much like the sonatas Bernstein plays so beautifully, teaches so insightfully — quietly moving, infinitely deep. With "Seymour: An Introduction," the actor is making his documentary directing debut, and it's a modest but affecting one....

  • 'Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter' chases her 'Fargo' dream

    'Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter' chases her 'Fargo' dream

    "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter" is a moody comic allegory about desperation, disconnection and dreams that uses "Fargo," the Coen brothers classic, as a touchstone to examine modern life. The film stars the talented Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, Oscar-nominated for her stirring portrayal of a deaf...

  • 'The Salvation' a western that gets lost in the genre

    'The Salvation' a western that gets lost in the genre

    The simplicity of an old-school western with one good loner facing down a relentless outlaw can fool you into thinking these films are easy to make. From classics such as "High Noon" and "Shane" to Sergio Leone's bloody spaghetti westerns, they tend to be short on dialogue and long on mood, with...

  • In 'Cinderella,' no sly asides. Goodness and romance rule

    In 'Cinderella,' no sly asides. Goodness and romance rule

    As pure of heart as its heroine, "Cinderella" floats across the screen like a gossamer confection, full of elegant beauty and quiet grace. No sly asides, no double entendres and nary a hint of modern-day gender politics dilute this poetically, if not prophetically, imagined storybook fable embraced...

  • Strong acting can't right topsy-turvy priorities in 'The DUFF'

    Strong acting can't right topsy-turvy priorities in 'The DUFF'

    "The DUFF," starring Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne and Robbie Amell, is the latest teenage comedy to explore the ever-expanding list of ways kids torture one another in high school. For those who don't recognize the acronym, it stands for "designated ugly fat friend" and is used in the social media...

  • 'Cymbeline' in the Instagram age; an intriguing idea that misses

    'Cymbeline' in the Instagram age; an intriguing idea that misses

    Surreal and au courant to a fault, "Cymbeline," starring Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich, Dakota Johnson and Penn Badgley, is a mash-up of social media shortcomings and Shakespearean tragedy that becomes as much a tale of cinematic ambition gone awry as anything the Bard intended. Writer-director...

  • Will Smith and Margot Robbie sizzle in the irresistible 'Focus'

    Will Smith and Margot Robbie sizzle in the irresistible 'Focus'

    "Focus," the new rom-com-con — as in romantic comedy-con artist caper — is an irresistible reminder of all the reasons we first fell for the Fresh Prince so many years ago. Will Smith comes back from the "After Earth" sci-fi fiasco of 2013 leading with his heart, more vulnerable than we've seen...

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