Movie Reviews

Documentary 'Take Me to the River' explores Memphis' musical genres

The loose, worshipful documentary "Take Me to the River" sets out to celebrate Memphis as a musical nexus of genres — blues, country, soul, rock — by sitting in on the recording of an album bringing together the region's legendary headliners and session men with today's young, mostly...

'Pay 2 Play' takes aim at big money's effect in politics

Citing the Citizens United case, the Hobby Lobby case, the Koch brothers, Occupy Wall Street, "stand your ground" and other trending topics of recent civil discourse, the documentary "Pay 2 Play" lays out a compelling case against corporate personhood and money as free speech.

F-bomb-filled 'Swearnet' loses steam after awhile

Comic actors Mike Smith, John Paul Tremblay and Robb Wells portrayed the rude-and-lewd troika known as the Trailer Park Boys in the eponymous hit Canadian TV series as well as in TV specials and feature films. Now the three play versions of themselves, post-"Trailer Park" success, in the funny if...

Estranged siblings reconnect in 'A Picture of You'

A parent's death as the catalyst of renewal — it's an oft-used setup, and one that undergoes its own renewal in the hands of writer-director J.P. Chan.

Betsy Sharkey: In 'The Skeleton Twins,' untangling the past to move forward

One song kept playing through my mind as I watched "The Skeleton Twins," an introspective indie drama starring the very exciting post-"Saturday Night Live" Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as siblings damaged by their father's death.

'Rocks in My Pocket' hard-hitting but flawed

Signe Baumane's independent feature "Rocks in My Pockets" blends two disparate animation traditions: the brooding moodiness of the Soviet-era Eastern European films and the autobiographical themes of many American shorts.

South Korean 'The Pirates' follows Hollywood formula

South Korean blockbuster "The Pirates" seems to have looted its formulaic plot directly from Hollywood. It's a derivative trove of swashbuckling action, romance, comedy, special effects and revisionist history — the kind of film that would be pitched to studio execs as "Pirates of the...

Review: 'Honeymoon' is a chilling newlywed nightmare

When a horror movie is called "Honeymoon," the obvious question is "When is it over?" (the honeymoon part, not the whole movie).

'108 Stitches' strikes out in nearly every way possible

"108 Stitches," named for the number of red stitches on a regulation Major League baseball, is a fatally clueless, painfully overlong sports spoof. A kind of "Bad News Bozos," it tells the sloppy, ham-fisted story of a barrel-bottom Utah college baseball team with a single afternoon to reverse its...

A captivating 'Wetlands' pushes the boundaries of taste

The unrepentantly vulgar and captivating German coming-of-age film "Wetlands" gives new meaning to the term "naughty bits."

Kenneth Turan : 'The Green Prince' is a real-world spy thriller

Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of Hamas founder/leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef, spied on Hamas for Israel for 10 years

Kenneth Turan : Paris isn't enough of a diversion in weak 'My Old Lady'

You can't complain about the cast in "My Old Lady" — Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas going at one another in high style — and the setting of Paris at its most atmospheric is charm itself. The film in question, however, doesn't live up to the expectations its elements...

Betsy Sharkey: Harsh realities of immigration issue drive overly earnest 'Frontera'

Whether riding horseback on land you own or trying to cross it on foot undetected, there is a harsh reality that grounds "Frontera." Starring Ed Harris, Michael Peña and Eva Longoria, the film is set on a lonely stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border where the desert is as unforgiving as the...

 'Levitated Mass' revisits dramatic pull of LACMA's rock star

Kenneth Turan : 'Levitated Mass' revisits dramatic pull of LACMA's rock star

Let's start with the numbers, which are impressive: a 150 million-year-old granite boulder more than 21 feet high and weighing in at 340 tons. It took 11 days to transport that boulder, via a 206-wheeled trailer, the 105 miles from Riverside to the campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art...

Fun 'Jason Nash Is Married' explores love and showbiz

Fun 'Jason Nash Is Married' explores love and showbiz

"Jason Nash Is Married," written and directed by and starring Jason Nash, is the feature adaptation of the funnyman's same-titled Comedy Central Web series. The film, a largely point-and-shoot affair, is an enjoyable, lightly satirical glimpse at the uneasy intersection of marriage, showbiz and life...

Betsy Sharkey: 'Last Weekend' is too placid on surface and below it

Polite society is so often impolite it's a wonder it still retains rights to the description. Vacation retreats are not so much for relaxing as for allowing wealthy clans to catch up on old grudges, open old wounds. That is very much the case during the less-than-warm "Last Weekend," which catches...

'Innocence' is as predictable as it is dull

The teen thriller "Innocence," based on the 2001 novel by Jane Mendelsohn, is a movie of such snowballing stupidity that it's a wonder the actors could keep straight faces while shooting it (outtakes, please!).

'Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering' a one-sided tale

The documentary "Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering" examines a brief period in the 1970s when a respected doctor's research into the unconventional, often-banned and quack-labeled therapy laetrile — a modified chemical substance found in apricot pits — appeared to promise a...

'Thunder and the House of Magic' full of worn-out tricks

"Thunder and the House of Magic" epitomizes the sort of animated film that's supposed to be fun for the whole family but that actually pleases no one. Co-directors Ben Stassen and Jérémie Degruson have assembled so many clichés and bits borrowed from other films that "Thunder"...

'No No: A Dockumentary' an engaging portrait of Dock Ellis

You might figure that any baseball player who pitched a no-hitter in a major league game while reportedly on LSD is probably worth a movie, and based on the engaging "No No: A Dockumentary," that assessment pretty much stands.

An oblivious 'Longest Week' quickly wears out its welcome

In "The Longest Week," veteran commercial director Peter Glanz channels the sensibility of Wes Anderson on a set that evokes Woody Allen's opulent Uptown Manhattan, but the lack of originality is far from the film's biggest sin.

A spiritual reawakening at the center of 'Kabbalah Me'

"The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know," says producer-director Steven E. Bram of the ancient mystical philosophy at the center of his documentary "Kabbalah Me."

Horror thriller 'The Damned' an exercise in dumb moves

The horror thriller "The Damned" reconfirms one cardinal rule: When the grizzled proprietor of a crumbling inn in the middle of nowhere tells you that the joint is closed, take a hike.

Betsy Sharkey: 'Cantinflas' is buoyed by Oscar Jaenada, hampered by Hollywood

In the Hollywood hierarchy of stardom, Cantinflas, the beloved Mexican comic actor, was like a streaking comet — white-hot and short-lived. Though well established in his homeland, he was a relative unknown to most in this country when he burst on the scene, costarring with David Niven in...

'The Congress' envisions a future dystopian virtual reality

In "The Congress," an ambitiously trippy and compulsively watchable dystopian saga from Israeli writer-director Ari Folman ("Waltz With Bashir") adapting a novel by Polish sci-fi author Stanislaw Lem, Robin Wright gamely and effectively plays a version of herself.

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