Movie Reviews

Dwayne Johnson's 'Hercules' packs action-filled punch

Was anyone waiting for yet another movie incarnation of the tale of Hercules, especially given that Renny Harlin's poorly reviewed sub-spectacle "The Legend of Hercules" was unleashed in theaters a mere six months ago? The quick answer: probably not.

'Le Chef' cooks up a comic fairy tale about what feeds us

"Le Chef" — not to be confused with the current Jon Favreau gastro-hit "Chef" — is an amusing soufflĂ© of a comedy that pokes fun at foodies while honoring the art of those who cook for them.

Great cast but 'Very Good Girls' could be better

Screenwriter-turned-director Naomi Foner aims to capture what she calls "mythic" memories in her coming-of-age story "Very Good Girls." But little resonates as persuasive, let alone memorable, in the underwhelming sexual-awakening exploits of two Brooklyn friends. Despite a finely wrought lead...

'Ironclad' sequel quenches hack-a-thon fans' thirst for blood

If your only response after seeing 2011's medieval siege-and-slaughter opus "Ironclad" was "Another two hours, please!" then the grimy sequel "Ironclad: Battle for Blood" is for you. Returning director/co-writer Jonathan English has made a cursory effort to fit a new framing device on his 13th...

Betsy Sharkey: 'Magic in the Moonlight' is an amusing trifle of a film

In "Magic in the Moonlight," an amusing trifle and sugary truffle of a film, Woody Allen dallies with some of his favorite themes — true romance, magicians and spirituality — and favorite tropes — beautiful women and scenery.

Eerie 'Come Back to Me' borrows the best shocker bits

"Come Back to Me" is a sufficiently tense and eerie shocker that borrows bits from "Rosemary's Baby," "Psycho," "Paranormal Activity" and others while forging its own path. Writer-director Paul Leyden does a decent job holding our interest as well as providing a few intriguing twists and reveals....

Kenneth Turan : Taut 'A Most Wanted Man' showcases Hoffman's final performance

The last we see of Philip Seymour Hoffman in "A Most Wanted Man," he leaves his car and walks out of the frame. As it tragically turned out, he was exiting his acting career as well, and this taut, involving thriller, the late actor's final starring role, is a fitting film for him to leave on, not...

'Premature' thinks crudeness is a teen's path to success

The "Losin' It" genre of sex-obsessed story lines receives a twist but not the revolution it needs with "Premature," a rapidly wearying comedy that mistakes crudeness with humor.

Betsy Sharkey: 'Begin Again' mends any broken heart in sight

There are many reasons why "Begin Again" continues to have such great staying power against the big guns this summer. Expanding its run in L.A. this weekend, the story is a catchy one, the music is great, and it is flavored by real musicians, including Mos Def, CeeLo Green and a star turn by...

'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: '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.

'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.

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...

'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.

'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.

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.

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: '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.

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.

'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...

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.

'Audrey' definitely not worth waiting for

For the title character in "Audrey," an eager-to-please woman in her mid-30s who's smilingly fraught with superstition and anxiety, an all-important, relationship-testing third date becomes instead a testing ground for her self-respect. The comedy unfolds mostly in real time, but its grasp of real...

'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...

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.

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