Breaking News: “Vacation” receives DG (IWY) rating!

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I was a little surprised to be invited to a press screening for "Vacation" - an downdating  or unbooting of the old Chevy Chase Griswold Family vacation comedies.From the opening lyrics of the soundtrack, laden with "f" bombs, well, it just got worse. If any family has a vacation like this, all I can say is: someone call the Department of Children Services. The film, too, is child abuse, adult abuse and elder abuse all in one. That song is not in my repertoire.If this is humor, why … [Read more...]

‘Phoenix’ is a haunting post-Holocaust mystery

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In the still-growing canon Holocaust cinema, its victims and survivors, it's impact on history and humanity, there are fact-based stories such as “Schindler’s List” and fictional stories such as “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.” There are also searing documentaries such as “Memories of the Camps” filmed by the allied troops that liberated the death camps at the end of World War II.“Phoenix,” opening this weekend (July 24, 2015) in Los Angeles, is a fictional tale, though it could certainly ha … [Read more...]

‘Samba’ reminds viewers what it means to be human

From left, actor Omar Sy and directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano discuss a scene on the set of "Samba." (Broad Green Pictures/David Koskas)

While illegal immigration grabs political headlines in the United States, it is a major global human and social concern for those caught between borders while escaping war and poverty to seek a better life. The 2013 U.S. film "A Better Life" took a sensitive look at a Mexican father and son in Los Angeles. Now, French filmmakers turn a light on their county's reality in the thoroughly engaging film "Samba."Samba (Omar Sy) is an undocumented immigrant from Senegal who lives with his uncle in … [Read more...]

‘The Look of Silence’ exposes Indonesia’s present day legacy of genocide

Adi questions Commander Amir Siahaan, one of the death squad leaders responsible for his brother’s death during the Indonesian genocide, in Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary "The Look of Silence." (Courtesy of Drafthouse Films and Participant Media)

 Beginning in October 1965, an anti-Communist purge, rather conveniently instigated by a failed coup, led to the ousting of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno. This was followed by the U.S.-supported presidency of Suharto, who held office for 31 years. It is estimated that the purge, that lasted into 1966, and carried out by local militias under the direction of local and regional leaders, resulted in the brutal torture and deaths of at least 500,000 people.Many of the people who c … [Read more...]

‘Mad Max: Fury Road” & “Tomorrowland” both prophecy and fantasy

Britt Robertson stars in a scene from the movie "Tomorrowland." (CNS/Disney)

This summer’s “Tomorrowland” from Disney and director Brad Bird and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a “reboot” of the original Mad Max trilogy from the 1970s and ’80s from Australian director George Miller, go together better than you might think at first glance. Seeing them in tandem makes all the difference. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is the typical post-apocalyptic dystopian flick with themes of hope and redemption and regeneration. The lead characters are courageous, violent fighters and hope is a mirage. I … [Read more...]

‘The Gallows’ is a snooze fest

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  Ok, props to the filmmakers Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff for getting the movie made and distributed. It's proficient. But it's "Blair With Project" hand-held camera style is as annoying as the guy whose hands hold the camera, Ryan Shoos as the bully classmate, well, Ryan Shoos. I only went to see it because my 14 year-old nephew, who is visiting, wanted to see it but I'm sorry we did. It was too graphic and I loathe bullying, especially when there's no redemption … [Read more...]

Found on the back paddock at Jurassic World

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  My cousin just posted this on Facebook noting that this generation and those to come will never know the thrill of renting a video at Blockbuster. Technology develops so fast.  Technology is so disposable but memories can last forever. Yet, if I go by what I learned in Pixar's "Inside Out," it's not worth making technology memories "core memories" - because they are here today, gone tomorrow. Pixar's next film should be called "Gone with the Wind Redux."This … [Read more...]

’1913: Seeds of Conflict’ seeks to explain source of Israeli-Palestinian tensions

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 This comprehensive and compact docudrama premiering tonight on PBS (10pm), “1913: Seeds of Conflict” reveals little known facts that conflated to become what writer/director Ben Loeterman proposes as the root causes for today’s ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinians. Almost a half million Muslims, 60,000 Christians and 20,000 Sephardic (i.e. Mediterranean) Jews lived together peacefully enough in the years before World War I when Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire an … [Read more...]

‘Batkid Begins’ – a wish with a life of its own

Eric Johnston as Batman and Miles Scott as Batkid in "Batkid Begins." (Warner Bros. Entertainment Co.)

As news of the terrible shootings at the AME Church in Charleston, S.C., broke Wednesday, a couple hundred people were gathered at the Landmark Theater on Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles for the premiere of the documentary film “Batkid Begins.” “Batkid Begins” is the epitome of what a great community that America can be and is, the antithesis of the havoc a lone mass shooter wreaked on a group of people studying the Bible in their church.“Batkid” is Miles Scott, a little boy from a small town in No … [Read more...]

‘Jurassic World’ – No dinosaurs with pink feathers, but questionable ethics

The Indominus rex readies her attack in “Jurassic World."

 Below is the feature article I wrote on the science and philosophy in "Jurassic World" but I want to add a couple of things. First, the engineering science of Dallas Bryce Howard's high heeled shoes ought to have been mentioned. She wore them throughout and I think she even walked backwards sometimes. This feat defied nature. I would have mentioned the dinosaur brain science but I was not able to hear everything that Professor Horner said about this at the press day event. But it was … [Read more...]


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