Movie Reviews

Kenneth Turan : 'Planes: Fire & Rescue' soars amid blazing-hot visuals

"Planes: Fire & Rescue" sounds more like a category on Craigslist than the name of a new animated film. But what this Disney feature lacks in the title department it makes up for with fluid visuals and fast-moving action of the, yes, firefighting variety.

Betsy Sharkey: 'The Purge: Anarchy' ups the ante and the gore

"The Purge: Anarchy" is a good deal bloodier, but also — gulp — a good deal better than its predecessor. Make no mistake, a good "Purge" does not equal a good movie, but the post-apocalyptic thriller is slightly more interesting because it takes itself, and its menace, more seriously.

'Wish I Was Here' should have wished for insight

Has it really been 10 years? Are things so different now? Are we? Is Zach Braff's new "Wish I Was Here" a spiritual sequel to "Garden State," his 2004 directorial debut? Answer key: yes, yes, maybe, kind of but not really.

Betsy Sharkey: 'I Origins' looks polished, but story is out of focus

In Mike Cahill movies, bad things happen to good people, and other good people are guilt-ridden as a result. But the human connections and the spare sci-fi logic that characterized "Another Earth," Cahill's ethereal romantic dramatic debut, are muddied in his second feature, "I Origins."

Betsy Sharkey: Director Aaron Fernandez makes 'The Empty Hours' worth the time

"The Empty Hours," Aaron Fernandez's balmy, blissful new film, is about an impressionable 17-year-old Sebastian, a mid-30s Miranda and an aging rent-by-the-hour beach motel nestled on a spare stretch of Veracruz, Mexico, coastline where their paths briefly cross.

'K Missing Kings' is an anime hot mess

'K Missing Kings' is an anime hot mess

"K Missing Kings" follows up on the 2012 Japanese anime series "K," which put a futuristic spin on Japanese period dramas by stacking superhero powers and skateboards onto time-honored chambara samurai sword fights and dressing characters in "visual kei," Japan's answer to glam-rock style.

'Video Games' just plays at seriously examining the industry

That video games — a technology-driven mix of art, commerce and competition — are here to stay is undisputed. It's now the biggest entertainment industry and an influential culture.

Kenneth Turan : 'A Summer's Tale' a belated glimpse of Eric Rohmer magic

Like a forgotten gift we now get to unwrap with delight, Eric Rohmer's 1996 "A Summer's Tale," never before released in this country, arrives just in time to add a touch of delight to the contemporary landscape.

'Closed Curtain' a cry for openness and art in Iran

Since being banned from making films by the Iranian government four years ago, director Jafar Panahi has produced two works of artful defiance. The latter of the two, the self-reflexive, semi-confessional drama "Closed Curtain," finds Panahi weary yet resourceful under severe creative constraints.

Betsy Sharkey: 'Sex Tape' lacks appeal, even with Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz

Let's start with the bare facts. A big-screen shot of a naked handstand is an overshare any way you look at it of parts and places better left unexposed — even from the back, even in a raunchy sex comedy titled "Sex Tape," even when executed by Jason Segel, like costar Cameron Diaz, a very...

Review: Well-told 'Aftermath' unfolds as yet another apocalypse

At the start of "Aftermath," a series of nuclear explosions hits across the globe and once again, moviegoers, it's the end of the world as we know it.

'Affluenza' tries for 'Great Gatsby,' comes up shortchanged

It might be true that the very rich, as F. Scott Fitzgerald put it, "are different from you and me," but movies about their profligate kids tend toward dime-a-dozen sameness.

'Manhattan,' 'Annie Hall' double bill honors Gordon Willis

A new Woody Allen film hits the screen just about once a year. But if like the super-intelligent aliens in 1980's "Stardust Memories" you prefer the early, funny ones, the American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica features a double bill Friday of two of Allen's best as part of a...

Betsy Sharkey: 'Land Ho!' embarks on two men's adventures in Iceland

Calling something a feel-good film always feels like a pejorative, so let's just say that after seeing "Land Ho!" you are very likely to feel a good deal better.

'Rage' is just another tired Nicolas Cage action film

'Rage' is just another tired Nicolas Cage action film

"Rage" is the latest in a parade of cheesy, derivative action-thrillers that erstwhile A-list actor Nicolas Cage has recently starred in, presumably as a quick cash grab. Why he can't find an equal payday in better pictures is perhaps a less vital question than how exactly the Academy Award-winner...

'Siddharth' exposes India's tragic, dark truths

Hope is an open wound in "Siddharth," the story of a man's search for his missing son. Taking his inspiration from the firsthand account of a father who was already a year into such a search, writer-director Richie Mehta has made a film of subdued but mounting panic and grief — an...

Betsy Sharkey: 'Whitey' documentary indicts more than just James J. Bulger

The bad guy in "Whitey: The United States of America v. James J. Bulger" is ostensibly Bulger. But Joe Berlinger's densely detailed new documentary about the legendary Boston mobster is disturbing on so many levels it's hard not to wonder why Bulger was the only one on trial.

An easy, enjoyable journey on the 'Road to Paloma'

Though there's nothing terribly profound or unique about actor Jason Momoa's feature writing-directing debut, "Road to Paloma," it does prove an effective throwback to the loose-limbed, my-way-or-the-highway road movies of the "Easy Rider" era.

'The Battered Bastards of Baseball' a fun, true underdog tale

The Portland Mavericks, an independent minor league baseball team that played for five seasons in the 1970s, didn't run with the pack.

An inspiring and insightful 'Underwater Dreams'

With the debate over America's unresolved immigration policies at fever pitch these days, the inspiring documentary "Underwater Dreams" makes for quite the timely entry.

Betsy Sharkey: 'Gabrielle' tale of first love is hard to resist

There is an infectious reality that is not accidental in "Gabrielle," Canadian filmmaker Louise Archambault's story of first love for an engaging young couple, who happen to have intellectual disabilities.

Kenneth Turan : 'A Hard Day's Night' continues to dazzle, 50 years on

It was up for two Academy Awards — original screenplay and adapted score — but amazingly none of the original songs the Beatles wrote for "A Hard Day's Night" was Oscar nominated. There's an oversight for you.

Kenneth Turan : Roger Ebert doc 'Life Itself' deserves a thumbs up

Critics review films, sometimes they even appear in films, but films are not made about them. Roger Ebert, however, did things his own way, and "Life Itself," a fine and moving new documentary that tells his story, shows us how and why he stood out.

'Pleasures of Being Out of Step' a brisk look at Nat Hentoff

Anyone with even a casual interest in jazz knows the name Nat Hentoff. Look on the back of landmark albums like John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" or Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain" and you'll see Hentoff's name, along with an articulate essay that will help you understand the music and feel it deeply.

Betsy Sharkey: Roman Polanski knows the ropes in 'Venus in Fur'

"Venus in Fur," a whip-smart dissection of gender politics via some teasing S&M, is arch. So arch in fact that it is surprising it's a Roman Polanski film.

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