Betsy Sharkey, Film Critic

  • 'Listen Up Philip' is a toxic triumph

    'Listen Up Philip' is a toxic triumph

    Jason Schwartzman in "Listen Up Philip" plays a frosty, frothy, Faustian Philip Roth-ian narcissist novelist with such an acid tongue you'll wonder if someone has spirited away the usually sweet, self-deprecating actor and stashed him in a trunk somewhere. And then you won't care because the terribly...

  • 'Stonehearst Asylum' has gothic air, can't lock in the terror

    'Stonehearst Asylum' has gothic air, can't lock in the terror

    "Stonehearst Asylum," starring Jim Sturgess, Kate Beckinsale and Ben Kingsley, is a Victoria-era psychological thriller with some good twisty turns thanks to the inspiration of an Edgar Allan Poe story. The psychology is there too. The setting is a British insane asylum whose troubled patients...

  • 'Laggies' a lively break from the pressures of adulthood

    'Laggies' a lively break from the pressures of adulthood

    "Laggies," starring Keira Knightley, Chloë Grace Moretz and Sam Rockwell, is a lovely lark that provides a lively consideration of the benefits of taking a break from the pressure of keeping up with the twentysomething Joneses. Directed by Lynn Shelton, with her usual light touch, the film represents...

  • 'Birdman' soars feathered and unfettered

    'Birdman' soars feathered and unfettered

    In "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)," Michael Keaton is something of a cross between an aging Icarus and the emperor with no clothes — metaphorical until the tighty-whitey Times Square streak. As a latter-day celluloid superhero come to Broadway's proving ground for a rebirth, the...

  • Flawed 'Camp X-Ray' still exposes truths in war on terror

    Flawed 'Camp X-Ray' still exposes truths in war on terror

    One thing director Peter Sattler gets right in the new film "Camp X-Ray" is the way life can entrap even without prison walls. Pvt. Cole, a young soldier played by Kristen Stewart, joins the Army to escape small-town Florida and ends up guarding Ali, a Guantanamo Bay prisoner played by "A Separation"...

  • Hallelujah, 'St. Vincent' lets Bill Murray run amok

    Hallelujah, 'St. Vincent' lets Bill Murray run amok

    Soaked in whiskey, dipped in brine, Bill Murray delivers a salty, acerbic, inebriated comic blast as the unlikeliest saint imaginable in "St. Vincent." The film, written and directed by Ted Melfi, is about paying homage to those overlooked and underappreciated good souls we bump into every day....

  • Reese Witherspoon, from rom-com queen to 'Wild' woman

    Reese Witherspoon, from rom-com queen to 'Wild' woman

    Reese Witherspoon started crawling out of the romantic-comedy muck two years ago in "Mud," aptly titled given the situation. The actress wasn't even the costar — that place was taken by two Huck Finnish boys, Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland, who help Matthew McConaughey's Arkansas fugitive evade...

  • 'Whiplash,' exquisite and painful, hits all the right notes

    'Whiplash,' exquisite and painful, hits all the right notes

    Fear. Passion. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Pounding through the beat of a drum. Screaming in the crash of the cymbals. Fast, furious, raging perfection in bleeding hands, broken sticks, broken relationships, broken lives. Debris surrounding transcendent greatness. Ecstasy within the agony. That is "Whiplash,"...

  • A heartwarming soul is the truth behind 'The Good Lie'

    A heartwarming soul is the truth behind 'The Good Lie'

    Small deceptions for the greater good are at the heart of "The Good Lie" about a handful of Sudanese "lost boys" who were resettled in the U.S. The most obvious deception is the notion that Reese Witherspoon is the star. The Oscar-winning actress is a minor player on-screen, a major player off...

  • 'Lilting' a lyrical, emotional play on language

    'Lilting' a lyrical, emotional play on language

    "Lilting," starring Cheng Pei-pei and Ben Whishaw, is a lyrical little chamber piece on language, playing with what words mean, what the body says, what is understood and what is not. Writer-director Hong Khaou, in his feature directing debut, was inspired, or provoked, by personal experience to...

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