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Zlatko Buric and Richard Coyle in PUSHER

With the relative success of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, I suppose it’s inevitable a producer would scour the Danish director’s filmography for a gritty gem that could be reworked for an English speaking audience. That’s what’s happened with the crime-thriller Pusher, Refn’s low budget 1996 bid to break into the movie business which proved popular enough to generate a couple of sequels.

The Other Son

  As much as possible, I go into screenings not really knowing anything in advance about the movie in question. Obviously with higher profile movies I’m aware of general buzz or often it’s a movie I’ve been anticipating and following based on the talent involved, but once in a while I walk into a movie (read…)

Andrea Arnold's "Wuthering Heights"

This is not your grandmother’s Emily Brontë [Wuthering Heights opened 10/5 in New York. It opens 10/12 in Los Angeles, Portland and Washington D.C. with further expansions to follow] With Wuthering Heights, Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) has revisited a timeless though sometimes musty literary classic and come up with a spare, intense, personal vision unlike (read…)

Emayatzy Corinealdi and David Oyelowo in Ava DuVernay's "Middle of Nowhere"

Emayatzy Corinealdi and David Oyelowo in Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere The title of Ava DuVernay’s lovely and moving Middle of Nowhere speaks to the main character Ruby, a woman caught between worlds.  Once a happily married med student making her way out of a rough upbringing in South Central Los Angeles, Ruby’s goals and dreams (read…)

Nicole Kidman in Lee Daniels' THE PAPERBOY - Courtesy of Millenium Entertainment

There were a lot of things I didn’t like about Lee Daniels’ Precious (2009), but mainly it was the lurid, cartoonish tone it tended to slip into at moments of high drama. It has been suggested to me though that I’d have liked it better if I took it as camp and maybe I brought that attitude into The Paperboy because that same overheated, over-the-top quality actually fit the story really well.

Jennifer Garner memorializes November 22, 1963 in "Butter"

Welcome to the exciting world of competitive butter carving. Yes, this is an actual thing and apparently has been at least since the 1911 Iowa State Fair. Reigning supreme over this world is Bob Pickler (Modern Family’s Ty Burrell) the undisputed king of butter carving for 15 years running. Bob is content with his place in the universe, but his upright and uptight wife Laura (Jennifer Garner, Alias) has big, Lady Macbethian plans to parlay Bob’s innate butter carving talents into perhaps one day a run at the highest office in the land. When the local butter carving committee convinces Bob that maybe it’s time he stepped aside and let someone else have a chance at glory, however…

"FRANKENWEENIE".Victor happily examines his beloved dog Sparky after he successfully brings him back to life in "Frankenweenie," a new stop-motion, animated comedy from the creative genius of director Tim Burton.  Presented by Walt Disney Pictures, "Frankenweenie" opens in theaters on October 5, 2012..©2011 Disney Enterprises. All Rights Reserved.

The hardest lesson learned in life is how to deal with the loss of a loved one. A lot of us learn that lesson early on when a cherished family pet dies and that’s what’s at the heart of Tim Burton’s funny and sometimes a little dark stop motion-animated Frankenweenie, a clever riff on Mary Shelley’s Franksenstein and the many Universal horror films that story spawned. Far from Frankenstein’s musty old German castle however, Burton shifts his location to a sunny suburbia stuck in the early 1960s – a neighborhood which looks an awful lot like the Burbank California Burton himself grew up in. There we find Victor, a budding young filmmaker…

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis in Rian Johnson's "Looper" (2012)

I’m sure a smarter person than me could figure out how Looper was going to work itself out well in advance while also picking apart the logic of the various story elements, but the wonderful thing about this surprisingly moving new sci-fi time travel flick is that it satisfyingly manages to keep its flaming narrative machetes in the air without ever taking its eye off the things that really matter: emotional and thematic depth. Christopher Nolan should lie awake at night wishing his empty puzzle box of a movie Inception had half the gut-level resonance of this particular puzzle box from writer/director Rian Johnson…

Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best

[Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best made it’s theatrical debut on the East Coast last week and it lands in selected West Coast theaters today. You can find a list of theaters here] Somewhere along the line, young filmmakers figured out if they make films that fit certain templates, they’ll have a leg up in garnering (read…)

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" (2012)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master opens to the soft, whispering sounds of the sea followed by an image of swirling foam eddies stirred up behind a ship on the turquoise ocean. It’s a motif Anderson returns to again and again throughout the film and it bespeaks turmoil and rudderless wandering. A sailor on that ship, (read…)

Jackie Siegel, The Queen of Versailles

Jackie Siegel, The Queen of Versailles Photographer Lauren Greenfield’s documentary The Queen of Versailles starts out as the story of billionaire couple David and Jackie Siegel and the building of their new Orlando mansion which was modeled after the royal palace outside Paris and, upon completion, would be the largest private residence in the United (read…)

Christian Bale in "The Dark Knight Rises"

I’m not sure yet if it quite holds up to deeper scrutiny, but my in-the-moment response to The Dark Knight Rises is that it’s exactly what you’d want and expect for the concluding chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. You’ve got the spectacle, the angst, the gloom, the thematic grandiosity and the gravity, but there’s (read…)

The Amazing Spider-Man

To put a twist on the tagline from the movie that kicked off the cinematic obsession with superheroes more than 30 years ago: when it comes to The Amazing Spider-Man, you’ll believe a man can cry. I mean that in a good way since this film scores a hit with the emotional beats which is rare for this kind of thing.

Ted

Seth MacFarlane’s Ted was funny enough, but it felt a lot longer than its listed 106 minute run time and that’s not a good thing for a movie high concept that could’ve been satisfactorily explored across the space of a couple of half-hour sitcoms. Continuing a disappointing trend of comedies that sell themselves as raucous and dirty when in fact they’re weak sauce (see: The Hangover), Ted turns out to be less edgy than a typical episode of MacFarlane’s TV show Family Guy.

Jonathan Demme's "Neil Young Journeys"

In the third collaboration between Neil Young and director Jonathan Demme, the legendary singer songwriter pulls out a handful of old favorites, but the real focus of Neil Young Journeys is Young’s recent solo album, Le Noise. As a result, Journeys might not be as immediately appealing for the casual fan as was Neil Young: (read…)

Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum in Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Miike"

Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum in Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike The Closing Night Film of the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival Photo by Claudette Barius Steven Soderbergh’s last movie was an action flick centered on a woman. For his next trick, he’s turned the tables around once more and made a comic stripper movie where (read…)

It's a Disaster

Couples’ brunch takes a funny turn for the worse in Todd Berger’s It’s a Disaster [Note: Due to popular demand, there are two more LA Film Festival screenings of It’s a Disaster at 2:30 and 9:40 on Saturday 6/23. Needless to say I recommend you hit one if you’re in town.] Having made its world (read…)

Keira Knightley, Gillian Jacobs, TJ Miller and Steve Carell in "Seeking a Friend at the End of the World"

Keira Knightley, Gillian Jacobs, T.J. Miller and Steve Carell If the world was ending and I was looking for a friend and that friend turned out to be Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, I would put a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger. It’s a black comedy with a (read…)

Brave

[Brave christens the 3,400 seat Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak) for pass holders tonight as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival. It screens again tomorrow night downtown for general audiences and it opens in theaters across the country on Friday.] Even after the relative disappointment of Cars 2, Pixar has been cruising along at (read…)

Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry in "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

[Lighting up the festival circuit since its debut at Sundance in January, Benh Zeitlin’s Beats of the Southern Wild played before an appreciative Los Angeles Film Festival audience Friday night. It opens theatrically on June 27th.] An invigorating, homespun American fairytale, Beasts of the Southern Wild is about perseverance in the face of calamity rooted (read…)

Chris Pine, Elizabth Banks and Michael Hall D'Addario in "People Like Us"

Chris Pine, Elizabth Banks and Michael Hall D’Addario [People Like Us makes its World Premiere tonight at the Los Angeles Film Festival. It opens in theaters on June 29th] People Like Us is the surprisingly moving story of two wayward strangers who are drawn together by a shared secret. Finding each other, it turns out, (read…)

Alec Baldwin in Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love" (2012)

[This review also appears at Awards Daily] The stars came out tonight to launch the 18th Annual Los Angeles Film Festival and even Woody Allen, whose character Alvy Singer once famously asked of L.A. “Who would want to live in a place where the only cultural advantage is that you can turn right on a (read…)

Michael Fassbender in Ridley Scott's "Prometheus"

“You are here.” Hmmm… In spite of all the marketing and hype to the contrary, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus quickly establishes itself as an entirely different film from the groundbreaking Alien of which this is a sort of prequel. Right away, Marc Streitenfeld’s quietly ominous score strikes a contrast to Jerry Goldsmith’s work in the original (read…)

Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman explore Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom"

Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman explore Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom Set in 1965 on fictional New Penzance Island off the New England coast, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom offers up a funny and charming, child’s-eye view of the world as seen by a couple of 12-year-old runaways. Island resident Suzy Bishop is the sullen oldest child (read…)

Melissa Weisz in Eve Annenberg's "Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish" - Photo Credit Mafalda Melo

Melissa Weisz in Eve Annenberg’s Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish Photo Credit Mafalda Melo [Note: After a successful run on the film festival circuit, Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish debuted in New York last summer. It arrives this weekend in Los Angeles, just in time for Mothers’ Day] What do you get when you take (read…)

Chris Hemsowrth and Chris Evans in "The Avengers" (2012)

Avengers assemble! Marvel has been building toward The Avengers at least since Iron Man in 2008. While the individual films along the way – Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America – were a mixed bag, Joss Whedon finally puts all the pieces together and he’s delivered the most entertaining (read…)

Kasey and Diane Keaton in Lawrence Kasdan's Darling Companion Photo by Wilson Webb, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Diane Keaton and Kasey in Lawrence Kasdan’s Darling Companion Photo by Wilson Webb, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics “Love is love. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog.” So says Diane Keaton during an argument with her husband Kevin Kline in Lawrence Kasdan’s unassuming, stripped down and altogether lovely new film Darling Companion. The dog (read…)

Chimpanzee

“When I grow up, I want to be just like Dr. Zira.” It seems impossible the folks at Disneynature could’ve taken such wonderful nature cinematography and made such a horrible film out of it, but the results are there for all to see in their latest release Chimpanzee. Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield (the folks (read…)

Kristen Connolly in "The Cabin in the Woods"

Eeegyahh! Zombie rednecks! Kept on the shelf for three years amid the turmoil of MGM’s financial woes, the Joss (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) Whedon-scripted Cabin in the Woods finally arrives in theaters fresh-faced and a little bit sassy. Dusting off the tired tropes of the teen slasher picture and knowingly reconfiguring them into a spryly (read…)

Emilien Neron and Sophie Nelisse in "Monsieur Lazhar" image courtesy of Music Box Films

Émilien Néron and Sophie Nélisse in Monsieur Lazhar (Courtesy of Music Box Films) Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar was nominated in this year’s foreign language Oscar category and it’s easy to see why. Based on the play Bachir Lazhar by Evelyn de la Cheneliere, it avoids the ordinary pitfalls of the standard “inspirational teacher” drama and (read…)





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