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David O. Russell's crime caper shakes things up in style

David O. Russell's crime caper shakes things up in style

David O. Russell is a director on a hot streak, an audacious original with an affinity for edgy American madness. His dizzying, outlandishly entertaining “American Hustle” is a 21st century screwball farce about 20th century con men, scam artists and those who dream of living large, a film t…

December 19, 2013 12:00 am
Caliente review: How Walt Disney won over ‘Mary Poppins’

Caliente review: How Walt Disney won over ‘Mary Poppins’

A creative dispute between a writer and a studio head over the direction of a prospective motion picture sounds like the kind of movie scenario only a lawyer could love.

December 19, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
'A Touch of Sin' shows how greed undermines Chinese society

'A Touch of Sin' shows how greed undermines Chinese society

Although no one knows if former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping did say “To get rich is glorious,” that sentiment has certainly taken hold in China.

November 14, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
Robert Reich's economic lessons in 'Inequality for All

Robert Reich's economic lessons in 'Inequality for All

Smart, funny and articulate, Robert Reich is the university professor we all wish we’d had. He’s so accessible and entertaining he takes a subject that sounds soporific and makes it come alive like you wouldn’t believe in “Inequality for All.”

October 24, 2013 12:00 am

'Enough Said' says just enough

Writer-director Nicole Holofcener is her own person, and her work, once seen, reminds you of no one else’s. Actors James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are the boldface names that will persuade moviegoers to see her latest film, “Enough Said,” but it is Holofcener’s world they will be en…

September 26, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
'Rush' is a good ride, but not a great one

'Rush' is a good ride, but not a great one

If the elegant cars of Formula One racing are thoroughbreds, “Rush,” the new film set in that world, is more of a mixed breed. When screenwriter Peter Morgan candidly calls this “a British independent film directed by a Hollywood director,” he is underlining the movie’s frustrations as well …

September 26, 2013 12:00 am Photos

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'When Comedy Went to Schoolí is good for a few laughs'

'When Comedy Went to Schoolí is good for a few laughs'

LOS ANGELES — For a disorganized film that has trouble deciding what itís about, “When Comedy Went to School” can be a lot of fun.

September 19, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
'The Act of Killing' re-creates Indonesian slaughters

'The Act of Killing' re-creates Indonesian slaughters

“The Act of Killing” takes more than a little getting used to.

September 12, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
Wong Kar-wais' 'The Grandmaster' is sweet martial arts feast

Wong Kar-wais' 'The Grandmaster' is sweet martial arts feast

“The Grandmaster” is like a meal of all desserts, with maybe the tiniest bit of protein thrown in. You’ll feel decadent enjoying it, but everything is so tasty, it would be foolish to object.

August 29, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
'Serena and Venus' a rare look at tennis stars' personal side

'Serena and Venus' a rare look at tennis stars' personal side

What could be more improbable than the linked triumph of Venus and Serena Williams?

June 13, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
'Kon-Tiki' recounts incredible journey

'Kon-Tiki' recounts incredible journey

"Kon-Tiki" is a ripping yarn torn from yesterday's headlines. Though somewhat forgotten now, the 1947 story of six men, an oceangoing raft and a wild and crazy theory was a media sensation that gripped the world's imagination - and launched a thousand tiki bars.

June 09, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
'Frances Ha' charms in its honest nature

'Frances Ha' charms in its honest nature

LOS ANGELES - Effortless and effervescent, "Frances Ha" is a small miracle of a movie - honest and funny with an aim that's true. It's both a timeless story of the joys and sorrows of youth and a dead-on portrait of how things are right now for one particular New York woman who, try as she m…

May 30, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
'Kon-Tiki,' this time in English, recounts incredible journey

'Kon-Tiki,' this time in English, recounts incredible journey

"Kon-Tiki" is a ripping yarn torn from yesterday's headlines. Though somewhat forgotten now, the 1947 story of six men, an oceangoing raft and a wild and crazy theory was a media sensation that gripped the world's imagination - and launched a thousand tiki bars.

May 16, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
'War Witch' captivates in unexpected ways

'War Witch' captivates in unexpected ways

LOS ANGELES - The powerful things we expect from "War Witch" are as advertised, but what we don't expect is even better.

March 21, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
'Ceasar' is intense behind bars

'Ceasar' is intense behind bars

To understand why "Caesar Must Die" is more intense than you might expect, why it ranks among the most involving adaptations of Shakespeare ever put on screen, you have to know exactly what it is and how it came into being.

March 14, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
'56 Up' shows that resilience triumphs

'56 Up' shows that resilience triumphs

To see "56 Up" is to be reunited with an old friend. Make that 13 old friends, together again for a documentary project the likes of which the world has never before seen.

February 07, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

'Sound City' pays homage to a machine

High-spirited, emotional and funny, "Sound City" is, of all things, a mash note to a machine. Not just any machine, however, but one that helped change the face of rock 'n' roll.

February 07, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
'Simon' has emotional, textured storytelling - a rarity in theaters

'Simon' has emotional, textured storytelling - a rarity in theaters

"Simon and the Oaks" is a two-hour theatrical feature that has the kind of emotional and storytelling reach regularly found these days only in cable TV miniseries. It's a warmly done family and personal drama that seems to cover familiar territory, but only up to a point and very much in its…

December 27, 2012 12:00 amLoading…
'Nowhere' is character-driven

'Nowhere' is character-driven

LOS ANGELES - To say that "Middle of Nowhere," winner of Sundance's coveted directing award for writer-director Ava DuVernay, sheds long-overdue light on infrequently explored aspects of African-American life is true as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough.

December 06, 2012 12:00 amLoading…
'Royal Affair' puts ideals first

'Royal Affair' puts ideals first

"A Royal Affair" is not as racy as it sounds. This highly polished costume drama is exceptionally well-made and a model of intelligent restraint, but it is also unapologetically earnest and a bit on the bloodless side.

November 15, 2012 12:00 amLoading…

Romance is in loving hands in 'Well-Digger's Daughter'

LOS ANGELES - Let "The Well-Digger's Daughter" take you back in time, not once but several times over.

October 18, 2012 12:00 amLoading…
'Samsara' beautiful but exasperating

'Samsara' beautiful but exasperating

"Samsara" is as frustrating as it is beautiful, which is saying a lot because this is a film laced with exquisite images.

September 20, 2012 12:00 amLoading…

'Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry' a living profile in courage

LOS ANGELES - Watching "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" is like experiencing a thrilling unfinished symphony: The story is enthralling, but it's not over, and there's no telling where it's going. Which makes what we see on screen all the more involving.

August 09, 2012 12:00 amLoading…
'Invisible War' opens door on military rape

'Invisible War' opens door on military rape

The statistics brandished by the documentary "The Invisible War" are scandalous, but what makes this savage indictment of the epidemic of rape in the U.S. military so unforgettable are not numbers but the devastating personal stories of the victims of brutal sexual assault.

July 19, 2012 12:00 amLoading…
'Fan's Hope' a fun, warm look at quirky folks of Comic-Con

'Fan's Hope' a fun, warm look at quirky folks of Comic-Con

As documentaries like "Super Size Me" and "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" demonstrate, Morgan Spurlock is not one to avoid the spotlight. In "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope," however, the director does just that, with warm and surprising results.

June 07, 2012 12:00 amLoading…

Warmth, charm make 'Salt of Life' delicious

Rueful, funny and wise, "The Salt of Life" is a comedy not of errors but of the tiniest of missteps. A warm yet melancholy film of quiet yet inescapable charm, it has a feeling for character and personality that couldn't be more delicious.

April 12, 2012 12:00 amLoading…
'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' is tasty any way you slice it

'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' is tasty any way you slice it

"Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is as elegant and tasty as the splendid sushi prepared by the man in the title, and that is saying a lot.

April 05, 2012 12:00 amLoading…
'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' brings life to a desert fairy tale

'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' brings life to a desert fairy tale

A pleasant fantasy with a crackerjack title, "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is a charming film whose few attempts at seriousness are best forgotten or ignored. When Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor are your stars, that is easy to do.

March 29, 2012 12:00 amLoading…
Troubled relationship of son, mother a gripping horror story

Troubled relationship of son, mother a gripping horror story

"We Need to Talk About Kevin" is about a nightmare on your street, not Elm Street.

March 15, 2012 12:00 amLoading…
'Crazy Wisdom' chronicles Buddhist bad boy's life

'Crazy Wisdom' chronicles Buddhist bad boy's life

LOS ANGELES - The Tibetan Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche spent his life in the West confounding expectations and behaving in ways no one could anticipate or even understand. After 17 years of marriage, his wife found him "completely unfathomable" and his devoted students often felt…

March 01, 2012 12:00 amLoading…
'A Separation' exhilarating cinema

'A Separation' exhilarating cinema

LOS ANGELES - "A Separation" is totally foreign and achingly familiar. It's a thrilling domestic drama that offers acute insights into human motivations and behavior as well as a compelling look at what goes on behind a particular curtain that almost never gets raised.

February 16, 2012 12:00 amLoading…
Wonder wins out at Sundance as range of awards expands

Wonder wins out at Sundance as range of awards expands

LOS ANGELES - Every year the story is the same: Sundance satisfies and disappoints in equal measure, depending on how you look at it.

February 02, 2012 12:00 amLoading…
'Shame' bares characters' souls, bodies

'Shame' bares characters' souls, bodies

"Shame" is a dispassionate treatment of a disturbing topic, and therein lies its power.

January 19, 2012 12:00 amLoading…
'6th Floor' a farce only French could make

'6th Floor' a farce only French could make

The French have a knack for it. They've been making funny and agreeable movie farces for forever, and seeing "The Women on the 6th Floor" makes you hope they'll never stop.

December 29, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Underdogs unite in absurdist 'Le Havre'

Buster Keaton isn't dead - he's alive and well in Finland, where under a new identity he pursues his own particular brand of deadpan absurdism to wonderful effect. If the name Aki Kaurismaki doesn't mean anything to you, it should, and "Le Havre" may be the film to make it happen.

December 22, 2011 12:00 amLoading…
'Teacher' reveals a sorry reality

'Teacher' reveals a sorry reality

LOS ANGELES - It's titled "American Teacher," but this unsettling look at what's wrong with our culture's attitudes toward that beleaguered profession could just as well have been called "The Vanishing Americans."

December 15, 2011 12:00 amLoading…
'Weekend' shows complexity of developing relationships

'Weekend' shows complexity of developing relationships

LOS ANGELES - "Weekend" presents 48 hours in the lives of two gay men who are almost immediately attracted to each other, then have to figure out what that means in the complex tapestry of their individual situations.

November 17, 2011 12:00 amLoading…
'Nim' experiment a wellspring of regret

'Nim' experiment a wellspring of regret

In late November 1973, a young woman from New York went to Norman, Okla., to adopt the newest and youngest member of her family.

August 11, 2011 12:00 amLoading…
Daring 'Poetry' explores beauty, truth, mortality

Daring 'Poetry' explores beauty, truth, mortality

LOS ANGELES - "Poetry" is daring in the ways only quiet, unhurried but finally haunting films have the courage to be. A character study of remarkable subtlety joined to a carefully worked-out plot that fearlessly explores big issues such as beauty, truth and mortality, it marks the further e…

August 04, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

'Page One' lacks focus, central theme

Watching "Page One: Inside the New York Times" is like talking to a smart person with a severe case of attention deficit disorder: A lot of what they say is intriguing, but you wish they could stick to the point.

July 07, 2011 12:00 amLoading…
'Green Lantern' casts a weak light in sci-fi universe

'Green Lantern' casts a weak light in sci-fi universe

LOS ANGELES - "Green Lantern" is both off the wall and out of this world - literally.

June 19, 2011 12:00 amLoading…
'Illusionist' is quixotic, episodic with eccentric, unique animation

'Illusionist' is quixotic, episodic with eccentric, unique animation

Bittersweet and melancholy are not the words usually associated with animation, but they are the ones that best fit "The Illusionist," the new feature by French director Sylvain Chomet.

February 10, 2011 12:00 amLoading…
2 movies on same theme: a French thug

2 movies on same theme: a French thug

"Mesrine" is a thug's life writ very large, so large that it takes two films and more than four hours of screen time to tell it.

February 03, 2011 12:00 amLoading…
'White Material' adds artful beauty to canvas of armed chaos in Africa

'White Material' adds artful beauty to canvas of armed chaos in Africa

Simultaneously poetic, dramatic and realistic, "White Material" is an altogether stunning work. Directed by Claire Denis and starring Isabelle Huppert in a bravura performance as a woman confronting armed chaos in Africa, this is filmmaking that is at once exhilarating and chilling, powerful…

January 06, 2011 12:00 amLoading…
Balance of genius, madness makes Gould film compelling

Balance of genius, madness makes Gould film compelling

Geniuses can be terribly boring, and compelling individuals can be devoid of any gifts save charm. Glenn Gould, however, who lived his life on the balance point between genius and madness, was a virtuoso who couldn't have been more fascinating.

December 16, 2010 12:00 amLoading…
France's 'Kings of Pastry': Tears, camaraderie and nerves of steel

France's 'Kings of Pastry': Tears, camaraderie and nerves of steel

The judge looks somber, even severe. "Each product," he says with great solemnity, "is a moral dilemma." Is he talking about matters of life and death? No, he is talking about desserts. French desserts. Welcome to the alluring, irresistible world of "Kings of Pastry."

November 04, 2010 12:00 amLoading…
'Lebanon': a too-real horror ride

'Lebanon': a too-real horror ride

Just as the word "Vietnam" came to mean more than a country for many Americans and came to describe an era and a state of mind, so too the word "Lebanon" is not just the name of an excellent new Israeli film; it signifies a continuing national obsession that shows no signs of going away.

September 23, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

'Bone' offers a bleak, potent tale

Intense, immersive and in control, "Winter's Bone" has an art house soul inside a B picture body, and that proves to be a potent combination, indeed.

July 22, 2010 12:00 amLoading…
Manic 'Town Called Panic' is a surreal comic oddity

Manic 'Town Called Panic' is a surreal comic oddity

I could tell you about the parachuting cows, the giant automated penguin, the mad scientists doing serious snowball research. I could even tell you about Cowboy, Indian and Horse, three amigos who share a two-story house way out in the sticks. But to really understand the surreal comic madne…

May 20, 2010 12:00 amLoading…
Potent Mideast exploration 'Ajami' feels real

Potent Mideast exploration 'Ajami' feels real

The last thing you see in "Ajami" should be the first thing on your mind about this compelling new film from Israel. That would be the closing credits, written in both Hebrew and Arabic, separate but equal, side by side, mirroring the creative process behind this potent work and the story it…

May 13, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

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