Monday, February 25, 2013


Now that awards season has passed, if you're looking to turn your brain off and kill 95 minutes, you could do worse than Dwayne Johnson's new action vehicle "Snitch," in which the Rock, a construction company owner whose son faces a mandatory minimum of ten years after accepting delivery of a FedEx package containing his best friend's huge stash of Ecstasy, volunteers to entrap a local kingpin and later a major Mexican cartel by running drugs and money across the country and over the border in exchange for D.A. Susan Sarandon's promise to release the kid.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


For the umpteenth consecutive year, I attended the International Documentary Association’s DocuDay at the Writer’s Guild on Doheny yesterday.

The IDA presents all five Oscar-nominated documentary features and shorts, with Q&A’s with the filmmakers.

5 Broken Cameras

For the umpteenth consecutive year, I attended the International Documentary Association’s DocuDay at the Writer’s Guild on Doheny yesterday.
The IDA presents all five Oscar-nominated documentary features and shorts, with Q&A’s with the filmmakers.
I was able to catch up on the last feature I needed to see, “5 Broken Cameras,” a boring and one-sided piece of anti-Israel agitprop. It’s not a pleasant feeling to be surrounded by people applauding a Palestinian director for a movie that portrays Jews as greedy, land-grubbing occupiers and never offers a contrary point of view.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hitler's Children

Quick capsule reviews on a movie weekend that took me from Chile ("No") to Germany, Japan, and Siberia. Chanoch Zeevi's fairly artless documentary "Hitler's Children" poses the fascinating question, what is life like for the children and grandchildren of the most notorious names from the Third Reich?

Like Someone in Love

I didn't dislike Abbas Kiarostami's soft-jazz Tokyo moodscape "Like Someone in Love" as much as his last picture, the wildly overpraised and false-ringing "Certified Copy," but when it abruptly ended after two hours, I realized nothing of substance had happened.

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

The astonishing self-reliance and resourcefulness of the people of Siberia - and their warmth - bring joy and wonder to Werner Herzog's "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Chilean foreign-language Oscar nominee “No” stars Gael García Bernal as René Saavedra, a young ad exec recently returned to Santiago from his family’s political exile. As the movie opens in 1988, René delivers an alarmingly upbeat demo spot for a new soft drink, Free (“What the fuck,” the client asks, “is a mime doing in my commercial?”).

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Playroom

John Hawkes has had some of the strongest roles in the 2010's (my favorite being his work in "The Sessions"), but there's nowhere for him to take his lawyer father of four with a drunk for a wife in "The Playroom," a poor man's "Ice Storm" in which Hawkes and Molly Parker spend the evening with their friends Clark and Nadia (it's clear the wrong couples are married) while the kids construct elaborate fairy tales upstairs and occasionally spy on the grown-ups.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Side Effects

The protean director Steven Soderbergh, whose "sex, lies, and videotape" snuck the Palme D'Or out from under Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing" at Cannes in 1987 (earning him a permanent soft spot in my heart), has in the subsequent quarter-century given us terrific films as disparate as "King of the Hill," "Out of Sight," "Traffic," and "Ocean's Eleven." For his self-labeled swan song, though, he's chosen a convoluted and supremely silly thriller that, with its one-car crashes, lesbian therapists, and involuntary institutionalizations, ends up bordering on camp.


I'm so sick of Holocaust movies, I can't tell you. "Schindler's List" and the seminal documentaries "Shoah" and "The Sorrow and the Pity" have set the bar so high, a filmmaker really has to bring something new and exciting to interest me. For every gem such as "Downfall" that manages to find a fresh and fascinating perspective, we get ten dramatically inert dramas like "In Darkness" or, sometimes, the contemptible manipulation of a piece of trash such as "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas." I'm tired of filmmakers using the Holocaust to give thrust and impact to otherwise lacking stories.


Short and sweet, the Israeli import "Yossi" (a decade-later sequel to "Yossi and Jagger") tells of Dr. Yossi Hoffman (Ohad Knoller), a cardiologist with a busy practice in Tel Aviv and a secret life as a lonely, closeted gay man who spends his nights reading books, jacking off to porn videos, and trolling hookup sites for NSA sex.

The Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

There's a good crop of animated shorts up for this year's Oscar.

First on the program - now screening at the Nuart - is the least impressive, Canada's ill-defined and forgettable "Dimanche (Sunday)."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sound City

In the rockumentary "Sound City," Nirvana drummer and head Foo Fighter Dave Grohl has a lot of fun telling the story of the legendarily seedy Sound City recording studio in Van Nuys, where his bands - and acts as disparate as Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Rick Springfield and Fear - produced seminal albums on a custom-built and proudly analog Neve console.

Identity Thief

Melissa McCarthy’s genius is allowed out only for short walks in the disappointing new comedy “Identity Thief.” The rest of the time (an overlong 107 minutes), she’s chained to one of the more preposterous, logic-defying plots in recent memory, in which law enforcement in one state shrugs off felonies committed in another, abductees escape from captivity with the ease of Houdini, and the most important people in the life of Jason Bateman’s Sandy Bigelow Patterson treat him as if they’ve never met.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bullet to the Head

Following quickly on the heels of Ahnold’s “The Last Stand,” Sly returns as hitman Jimmy Bobo in “Bullet to the Head,” a workmanlike but generic and unexciting policier involving corrupt Crescent City real estate developers buying up public projects and bulldozing them to make way for condominiums.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animation and Live Action

There are several worthy choices among this year's animated short nominees.

The program opens with "Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare,'" which plays like the best five minutes from a good "Simpsons" episode.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Gatekeepers

"The Gatekeepers" director Dror Moreh - the so-called "Michael Moore of Israel" - has been accused by some of Anti-Semitism, and there is something unseemly about the way he scolds Israelis while never commenting on the atrocities committed by their Palestinian counterparts, but there's a more fundamental reason why his film is by far the weakest of the four documentary Oscar nominees I've seen (I'm hoping to catch "5 Broken Cameras" at DocuDay): it's so boring I dozed through wide swaths of it.