Los Angeles Times

Betsy Sharkey, Film Critic

  • The trip 'Into the Woods' is spooky, thoughtful, delightful

    The trip 'Into the Woods' is spooky, thoughtful, delightful

    "Into the Woods," the deliciously arch, deceptively deep, fractured fairy tale with its soaring Sondheim showstoppers, has made it to the big screen virtually untouched by Hollywood's big, tall, terrible giants, whose meddling can so often make a mess of things. As you'd expect, the woods have...

  • In 'Miss Julie,' Liv Ullmann is too faithful to Strindberg play

    In 'Miss Julie,' Liv Ullmann is too faithful to Strindberg play

    The comely mistress of the manor is hot and bothered, the homely cook is cool and collected, and the dashing valet is desired by both. In "Miss Julie," an Irish period piece of class divides, sexual politics and power games, things will end badly, one suspects, though the denouement still shocks....

  • Golden Globes 2015: 'Boyhood,' 'Grand Budapest' directors walk alone

    Golden Globes 2015: 'Boyhood,' 'Grand Budapest' directors walk alone

    The Golden Globe Awards' five nominations for "Boyhood" and four for "The Grand Budapest Hotel" will be analyzed many ways in a season that has seen little clarity beyond the emerging dominance of "Birdman." I call it the Texas Effect. Or to put it in modern terms, #TheTexasEffect. Both "Boyhood"...

  • 'Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' too often overwhelms

    'Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' too often overwhelms

    There are three big Middle-earth lessons in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," Peter Jackson's final film tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien's literary fable. Firstly: Dragons, even ones as mighty as that slithery scorcher Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), are ever so moan-y and melodramatic when...

  • 'Invisible Front' reveals same fight for freedom 70 years ago

    'Invisible Front' reveals same fight for freedom 70 years ago

    It's impossible not to think of the current conflict in Ukraine watching "The Invisible Front," an absorbing new documentary that delves into the Lithuanian resistance against Soviet aggression and occupation circa 1944. The film's name is drawn from Soviet intelligence files; it is how the guerrilla...

  • 'Wild' takes Reese Witherspoon into raw, bracing new territory

    'Wild' takes Reese Witherspoon into raw, bracing new territory

    "Wild" opens high atop the Pacific Crest Trail, where at first all the eye can see is the sweeping beauty of a rugged land, unmarred and untamed. The scene is breathtaking, serene, until it is broken by pain and pierced by a scream. The pain comes from Cheryl Strayed, portrayed by a wonderfully...

  • 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night' has a definite bite

    'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night' has a definite bite

    A vampire is such a handy creature for filmmakers in search of a metaphor or two. Mortality is usually the first bite, and Ana Lily Amirpour's stunning first feature, "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night," definitely takes a stab at that. But it is the way in which the writer-director uses the specter...

  • 'Dumb and Dumber To' just a chip off the older blockheads

    'Dumb and Dumber To' just a chip off the older blockheads

    Two hours is a whole lot of dumb. So in that respect "Dumb and Dumber To," starring the off-the-chain, goofballing Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, delivers on its promise. The sequel's definitely been dumbed down, which is not really an issue. If you buy a ticket to a movie called "Dumb and Dumber...

  • Ben Affleck gets the manipulated man's every twist and turn right

    Ben Affleck gets the manipulated man's every twist and turn right

    Ben Affleck has played virtually every style of loser lug on-screen, each lug better than the last. Even when his character appears to be in charge, like his CIA agent in "Argo," you're not surprised that the Americans he's supposed to be saving in Iran during the 1980 hostage crisis are nervous....

  • SAG Awards 2015: 'Birdman' yes, but 'Theory'? Cast nominations a puzzle

    SAG Awards 2015: 'Birdman' yes, but 'Theory'? Cast nominations a puzzle

    These scenes began flashing through my mind just as the Screen Actors Guild Awards began announcing nominations for performance by a cast in a motion picture: "Birdman" — actors in constricted spaces using dressing rooms and winding corridors to stage an intimate ballet; bodies and egos ever in...

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