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Betsy Sharkey, Film Critic

'Dreams' lulls young and old through life with grace and truth

Blythe Danner, Martin Starr, Sam Elliott and appealing cast get to the heart of things like loss and love without patronizing or parody.

'I Am Big Bird' a gentle peek at the guy behind the yellow feathers

'I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story' an affectionate visit with the puppeteer responsible for the 'Sesame Street' superstar.

Explosive comedy '100-Year-Old Man' tosses rules out a window

'The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared' is a romping good time from Sweden with a 'Forrest Gump' twist

'Stop Making Sense' still one of the best band documentaries ever

Jonathan Demme's 'Stop Making Sense' is a masterful look at Talking Heads and the band's frontman, David Byrne. It plays the Egyptian on Friday.

Left cold by 'Hot Pursuit'

Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara are left to chase one humiliating scene after another in the super-stereotyped 'Hot Pursuit'

Kristen Wiig is fearless in reality TV-jabbing 'Welcome to Me'

'Welcome to Me,' with Kristen Wiig, is weirdly off center yet strangely in sync with our times, delving into the making of a reality TV star.

'Maggie' has the zombie look but a deadly slow pace

Henry Hobson's 'Maggie' starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin has a new zombie plot but doesn't take it very far.

'Far from the Madding Crowd' a bare-bones stab at love, desire

Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts are superb in this spare adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 'Far from the Madding Crowd.'

'The Age of Adaline' a stylish affair of the heart and chance

Blake Lively and Michiel Huisman turn 'The Age of Adaline' romance into more than a series of strange coincidences.

'Adult Beginners' comically eases into family life's darker side

Ross Katz's 'Adult Beginners' is a pleasantly funny take on family issues and growing up.

'24 Days' a gripping, anguished account of a kidnapping

Based on a true story, '24 Days' by French filmmaker Alexandre Arcady captures the tragedy of a kidnapping of a young Jewish man.

'Ned Rifle' a high mark in Hal Hartley's bizarre world

Indie filmmaker Hal Hartley is on his game in the black comedy 'Ned Rifle.'

A promising romance blooms in '5 to 7'

Anton Yelchin and Bérénice Marlohe portray age-, and culture-divided lovers in Victor Levin's feature debut "5 to 7."

Riding the circle of life in absorbing 'Clouds of Sils Maria'

Juliette Binoche is a middle-aged actress, Kristen Stewart her assistant in Olivier Assayas' closely observed "Clouds of Sils Maria."

'While We're Young' illuminates in delightfully grown-up ways

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a couple trying to regain their edge in Noah Baumbach's poignant, charming 'While We're Young.'

'Furious 7' fires fuel-injected fun on all cylinders

The muscle-car franchise soars with flying cars and high emotion, including a heartfelt final ride for star Paul Walker, who died during filming

Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart buddy up in the cliched 'Get Hard'

Etan Cohen's prison-can-be-fun comedy 'Get Hard,' which stars Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, is anything but funny. Jail for all involved.

'Sound of Music,' 'Pretty Woman' heroines so similar, yet so different

The circumstances are different, but at the heart of 'Sound of Music' and 'Pretty Woman' is a spirited young woman transformed by love.

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

Pierre Morel's 'The Gunman' with Sean Penn and Javier Bardem is a dud of an action film about a sniper and his former mercenaries.

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

'Home,' with Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez and Steve Martin, is slight even for an animated film.

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

'Wild Tales,' Oscar-nominated for foreign-language film and written and directed by Damian Szifron, tells tales of revenge.

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

Ethan Hawke's documentary directing debut, 'Seymour,' is an understated, respectful profile of pianist Seymour Bernstein.

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

A studious, easygoing teen, learning she's 'The DUFF,' begins a makeover. Mae Whitman and Robbie Amell star. A review

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

Shakespeare's 'Cymbeline' is moved to the age of Instagram, an intriguing idea by Michael Almereyda that, alas, doesn't pay off.

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

'Focus,' with Will Smith and Margot Robbie, and written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, sizzles

In 'Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,' unhappy and unequal

'Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,' by Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz, shows a woman's troubles getting a divorce in Israel

Oscars 2015: Powerful foreign-language film nominees incite with insight

Purity and courage distinguish provocative entries from Mauritania, Estonia, Argentina, Poland and Russia

Oscars 2015: Julianne Moore and the art of effortlessness

Through Julianne Moore's sensitivity and sensibility, it's impossible not to be swept up in her performances, from 'Boogie Nights' to 'Still Alice.'

Oscars 2015: the best movies not up for best picture

Film critic Betsy Sharkey says the academy missed a chance to be bold and surprising by not filling all the 10 best picture spots.

'Paddington' is stuffed with family fun

Critic's Pick: Betsy Sharkey recommends "Paddington" for magic and adventure.

Suave yet with comic book energy, 'Kingsman' goes spying

"Kingsman: The Secret Service," with Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson, is a dry, wry sendup of spy films. A review.

Struggling teen faces a rocky road in 'All the Wilderness'

In the lyrical, if not quite perfectly synthesized 'All the Wilderness,' Michael Johnson has created a coming-to-terms for a struggling teen.

Vegas-set 'Wild Card' draws an, oh, so predictable hand

Jason Statham stars as a P.I. specializing in Vegas' low life in 'Wild Card.' The best part of this action flick? Stanley Tucci.

'Seventh Son's' medieval fantasy falls flat on every level

Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges can't lift Sergei Bodrov's medieval action-fantasy film 'Seventh Son' from its weak doldrums.

Oscars 2015: Indie outside shot 'Whiplash' keeps hitting the mark

'Whiplash's' road to five Oscar nods began at Sundance. The beat has only grown since for unsentimental saga of a aspiring drummer.

'Timbuktu' a compelling exploration of extremism's absurdities

Abderrahmane Sissako strikes an unconventional note in 'Timbuktu,' his take-down of jihadists that's up for the foreign-language Oscar.

We view movies through the lens of our times; case in point, 'Selma'

When we watch the civil rights drama "Selma," we feel the weight of recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island. Commentary.

Kevin Hart-Josh Gad chemistry highlights 'The Wedding Ringer'

In 'The Wedding Ringer,' starring Kevin Hart, Josh Gad and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, bromance blooms and a bride is hard to like.

'Strange Magic' casts a musical spell, but as a movie it misses

'Strange Magic,' the first animated fairy tale from Disney and Lucasfilm, plays like a very long music video.

'Little Accidents' mines small-town tragedy with Gothic grit

'Little Accidents,' starring Elizabeth Banks, piles on the angst, but it's an interesting directing debut for Sara Colangelo.

Daring films lifted the artform in 2014

With daring filmmakers like Ava DuVernay, 2014 was the year of the auteurs, says Los Angeles Times film critic Betsy Sharkey.

Golden Globes 2015: Sweet wins for audacious filmaking

Winners at the 72nd Golden Globes represented a class of filmmakers and actors whose independence often puts them at the industry's edges.

An 'Annie' without the expected sunshine, spirit or energy

Cynicism and darkness lurks around every corner in the new 21st century film version by Will Gluck

'Taken 3's' Liam Neeson fires up action, and unintended laughs

Chris Rock a rough, raw, rare diamond in 'Top Five'

Chris Rock rules in the superb 'Top Five.' As writer, director and star, he uses his control wisely and wittily, packing his film with funny friends and cameos.

'Two Days, One Night' has Marion Cotillard at her best

'Two Days, One Night,' by directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, and starring Marion Cotillard, is thrilling

Betsy Sharkey's best films of 2014

Los Angeles Times film critic Betsy Sharkey picks her top movies of 2014, including 'Boyhood,' 'Grand Budapest Hotel' and 'Selma.'

Tim Burton's 'Big Eyes' feels too paint-by-numbers

'Big Eyes' is Tim Burton's most conventional film, with Amy Adams too reined in and Christoph Waltz too extreme.

'Monk With a Camera,' though devoted, is blurry at its center

Nicholas Vreeland, grandson of Vogue's Diana, chose the life of a Buddhist monk. Guido Santi and Tina Mascara made a documentary.

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

The Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine stage musical "Into the Woods" transfers, in Rob Marshall's hands, magically to film.

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

'Miss Julie,' directed by Liv Ullmann with Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton starring, fails to connect

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

Texas-raised Golden Globe nominees Richard Linklater ('Boyhood'), Wes Anderson ('Grand Budapest Hotel') embody go-it alone state.

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

Though it will likely satisfy its most ardent fans, 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' is ultimately one battle too many.

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

Absorbing documentary of Lithuanians' struggle against Soviets echoes against conflict in Ukraine today.

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

Jean-Marc Vallee wrings authentic emotion from Reese Witherspoon in the soul-baring 'Wild,' adapted from Cheryl Strayed's memoir.

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

Ana Lily Amirpour takes an off-center cut at Iranian gender politics and U.S.-Eurocentric pop culture in 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.'

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

In 'Dumb and Dumber To' Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels' light bulbs are dimmer but Carrey carries the film with re-energized antics.

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

Ben Affleck can play the manipulated male well in 'Gone Girl.' The role is in such films as 'Double Indemnity,' 'Basic Instinct.'

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

The nominees for SAG Awards' cast in a motion picture, including 'Boyhood' and 'The Theory of Everything,' are all over the map.

'Inherent Vice' a trippy beach noir set in '70s L.A.

'Penguins of Madagascar' hit by a blizzard of puns

The birds of 'Penguins of Madagascar' are comedy gold, but the barrage of fowl wisecracks can be overwhelming.

Mike Nichols' incisive, touching films got personal

Mike Nichols, director, The Graduate, Heartburn, appreciation

'Horrible Bosses 2' has horribly funny moments, but too few

'The Babadook,' smart and dark, delivers grown-up horrors

Writer-director Jennifer Kent's 'The Babadook,' starring Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman, is a horror film for adults

Harsh land and raw, maddening emotion test 'The Homesman'

Tommy Lee Jones directs and stars in the lean adaptation, but the film is carried home by Hilary Swank

Rehabilitating birds soar in 'Pelican Dreams'

The maker of "The Parrots of Telegraph Hill" finds a new feathered subject in "Pelican Dreams," a gripping new documentary.

In 'Big Hero 6' a huggable robo-hero pops up in the future

Disney takes its animation a step further with 'Big Hero 6,' based on a Marvel comic and set in the future with a huggable hero.

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