ENTERTAINMENT

Movie Review: Downhill is a Frigid, Unfunny Remake

Downhill has the impossible task of following up a masterpiece. Directed by Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund, Force Majeure was a fierce marital drama that made audiences question their own relationship problems. The only thing this remake makes you think about, however, is- why was it made? The plot is the same as the original. Pete (Will Farrell) and Billie’s (Julia-Louis Dreyfus) marriage is on a slippery slope, so they take a family vacation to the Alps to figure things out. The setting certainly is therapeutic. Trees are blanketed with snow. The sun rests just above the mountains. Acres of silence are interrupted only by the sound of snowboarders. But this peaceful tone doesn’t last long. When one of the resort’s controlled avalanches makes its way toward the lunch te...

Review: Margot Robbie Makes a Fantabulous Villian in Birds of Prey

As Disney, Marvel and DC character-driven movies proved a long time ago, supervillains are always more interesting than superheroes. It’s not too far a leap to further declare that female villains are more auspicious on screen, more complex and simply more fun to watch, too. In the Batman films alone Michelle Pfeiffer’s Cat Woman and Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy both nearly stole the show from the caped crusader. Likewise, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was like a ray of lethal Technicolor sunshine in the otherwise abysmal baddie mess Suicide Squad. Well, the wacky punkette is back and she’s set on proving she don’t need no Joker to cause havoc. She’s ok with a squad though, and she ultimately gets a girl-powered one in Birds of Prey-The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. Director Cat...

L.A. Weekly’s Movie Guide: Birds of Prey, Waiting for Anya, Goalie, Suspiria and More in Theaters This Week

L.A. Weekly’s Movie Guide is your look at the hottest films in Los Angeles theaters this week — from indie art house gems and classics to popcorn-perfect blockbusters and new movies garnering buzz. Check here every week before you make your big screen plans. BIRDS OF PREY (Warner Bros.) OPENING WIDE: Birds of Prey—the eighth film in the DC Extended Universe—gives Harley Quinn, Joker’s gleeful ex, her own movie. Its star, Margot Robbie, a compellingly strange sight in her cotton candy-dipped pony tails and lunatic grin, also serves as producer in this follow-up to Suicide Squad in which Harley teams up with three other badass babes (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and Rosie Perez) in order to take down local kingpin Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Cathy Yan directs a screenplay b...

The Colors of Cage: Nicolas Cage Talks Character Choices, Critics and Self-Awareness on Film

He’s one of the most audacious — and ubiquitous — actors in Hollywood, having earned not only icon status, but meme status as well. But Nicolas Cage is still, to most, an enigma. His choices as an actor have varied wildly over the years, and his filmography is filled with everything from quirky classics like Peggy Sue Got Married, Moonstruck and Wild at Heart, to mainstream blockbuster flicks such as Face/Off, Con Air, The Rock and National Treasure, to heady dramas like Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation. (He scored Academy Award nominations for the latter two and won for Vegas.) But in 2020, if you say the name Nick Cage (what he uses in his daily life, spelled — as he tells us before a recent interview — with a “k” at the end) this illustrious thespian’s past work may not be what comes to...

How Todd Phillips Played the Joker Card on Hollywood

A decade ago, when Todd Phillips was at the peak of his Hangover fame, the idea that one of his movies might become a leading Oscar nominee would have seemed like a joke. So it’s more than ironic that the director most closely identified with “the imperishable idiocy of the American male” made a bleak, artsy, psychological film  up for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Joaquin Phoenix’s alienated standup comic says in Joker, “no one is laughing now” — except, perhaps, Warner Bros. executives and investors. Joker, which portrays the DC Comics villain as a sympathetic sociopath in clown makeup, was Phillips’ hat tip to the gritty character films of the 1970s, and he was as surprised as anyone when it set off a cultural explosion. Since opening in October, the film has wowed audience...

Countdown to The Oscars: Who Will Win and Who Should Win?

The Oscars will always cause controversy. There will always be snubs, surprises and films or performances we all think should have been nominated but weren’t. But in some ways, that’s what makes this awards so endearing. In a medium where anything is possible, why shouldn’t the Academy of Motion Pictures delight us, surprise us and infuriate us with their votes? The lack of diversity and seemingly political/populist slant seen in many nominations aside, the good stuff does tend to rise to the top. The top spot this year belongs to Joker, of course. Clocking in with 11 nominations — a record for the comic book genre — this cultural phenomenon continues to laugh all the way to the bank. The film has ignited debate about its depiction of contemporary America, but that was th...

Review: The Rhythm Section Pounds With Panache But Lacks Resonance

The Rhythm Section — whose title refers to the equilibrium our souls should maintain in order to carry out an execution (or something like that) — should’ve been a fun and raucous affair. It’s got the Bond franchise producers (Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson), an exciting new director who helmed a few episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale (Reed Morano), and a comely lead in Blake Lively, who’s demonstrated an ability to disappear into problematic characters (A Simple Favor). Mix in some exotic locations and a potentially interesting narrative about international terrorism and British Intelligence, and you just might think to yourself, “Finally, a female Bond!” Nope, afraid not. The Rhythm Section features a whirlpool of talent, but it twirls into a void. Such a waste....

L.A. Weekly’s Movie Guide: Gretel & Hansel, Coda, The Assistant and More

L.A. Weekly’s Movie Guide is your look at the hottest films in Los Angeles theaters this week — from indie art house gems and classics to popcorn-perfect blockbusters and new movies garnering buzz.  Opening This Week (Wide) Infamous siblings get a new horror take in Gretel & Hansel, which puts the sister up front as it reimagines the classic Grimm fairy tale. Director Oz Perkins, who also wrote the screenplay along with writer Rob Hayes, takes the inherent creepiness of the classic story from Germany and milks it for all its worth. Sophia Lillis (Gretel) and Samuel Leakey (Hansel) portray the main characters who journey into the woods to seek work and food to help their poor parents, only to stumble upon the dwelling of a sinister witch. Charles Babalola, Jessica De Gouw and Alice Krig...

UnBinged: If You Still Haven’t Seen Maisel, The Witcher, You or Dollface, Read This

There’s a battle brewing, and it’s being fought by streaming services, cable TV and primetime television. If you’re too weak to resist, UnBinged is here to help, telling you what to hate, what to love and what to love to hate. This week: 2020 will bring a new slew of network, cable and streamed content, but a few biggies from the end of last year are still available and if you never got to them, now is the time. Here’s why. The Witcher | Netflix Since the fall of Daenerys Targaryen and those who created her, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, fantasy-loving fans have searched for a new series in which to replace their precious Thrones. From Carnival Row to His Dark Materials to See, many new series have tried and failed. Now Netflix takes a turn with the expansive and ex...

A Review of the Oscars’ Best Shorts Nominees (and Where You Can See Them)

On Oscar day, it’s not unusual for a movie critic to receive several (slightly frantic) text messages from friends seeking advice on the office awards pool: “What will win Best Live-Action Short? Best Short Doc? Best Animation Short? Help!” Although your nearest critic pal is always glad to help, this year, you can see the nominated shorts for yourself. All the films in each of the three categories begin screening this week at quite a few L.A. area theaters — look hard, there’s one near you. Here’s a round-up of the nominees, with office pool tips, of course. THE NEIGHBOR’S WINDOW (Marshall Curry) Best Live Action Short Brotherhood: In this complex drama, a Tunisian father wonders if the son who’s returned from Syria with a pregnant Syrian wife fought for the Islamic State, and if so...

Review: Tell My Story Brings Purposeful Perspective on Suicide

Filmmaker Jason Reid takes us on a journey of overwhelming loss in his documentary, Tell My Story — a film that should probably be required viewing for every parent or caretaker.  Reid was enjoying a seemingly perfect life as a successful father, husband and businessman when everything he knew and loved was turned on its head. In March of 2018, his beloved 14-year-old son Ryan committed suicide in the attic of their family home while Reid and his wife were away on vacation. This is gut-wrenching viewing, as the documentary begins depicting scenes of a happy childhood before unfolding into tragedy. You’ll hold your breath taking in the intimate family memories splashed across the screen. Painfully evocative, this style of filmmaking serves to drive the point that everything is not alw...

Review: Guy Ritchie is Ready to Stop Being Gentle With The Gentlemen

As The Gentlemen opens, you can practically smell the cigar smoke and taste the bourbon marinating in the room, as two lads are chatting next to a crackling fire. On one side of the room is Ray (Charlie Hunnam), the right-hand man of a drug lord. On the other side is Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a reporter hoping to blackmail him. The two trade insults until Fletcher reflexively asks, “Can I tell you a story?” The story makes up the movie’s plot, which was written and directed by Guy Ritchie, and is told in flashback sequences brimming with colorful characters and intoxicating action. The story of Ritchie’s career has been one of ups and downs, of course. His popularity took off faster than a speeding bullet when Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was released in 1998, a...