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...]

’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...]

‘Forbidden Films’ the hidden legacy of Nazi films

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  This documentary from Germany explores the dilemma of censorship about a cache of about 40 Nazi feature films (out of 1200 made between 1933 and 1944) that are not available to the German public to see. It will be shown in Los Angeles June 1 and 2 at six Laemmle Theaters.The description from the Telluride Film Festival catalog says:"Twelve hundred feature films were made in Germany’s Third Reich. According to experts, some 100 of these were blatant Nazi p … [Read more...]

‘Woman in Gold’ is a first-rate detective story that unravels a decades-old mystery

Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds in "Woman in Gold" (The Weinstein Company/Robert Viglasky)

"Woman in Gold" is a David-and-Goliath story. When the sister of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) dies in Los Angeles, she chats with an old family friend from Vienna about some information she found in her sister's belongings. Maria's friend says her son, Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), a young lawyer with time on his hands, might be able to help her. Randol shows up at Maria's home near Beverly Hills. Although he is reluctant, he listens to her story about a famous painting of her aunt, Adele … [Read more...]

‘A.D. The Bible Continues’ kicks off with a familiar story

Juan Pablo Di Pace as Jesus in "A.D. The Bible Continues" (CNS/Courtesy Arenas Group)

"A.D. The Bible Continues" Premieres 9 p.m./8 p.m. Central, Sunday, April 5, NBC The NBC website for this new miniseries on the New Testament says: "The epic story picks up where 'The Bible' left off, exploring the aftermath of events following the Crucifixion."Actually, this is a somewhat misleading statement. The opening episode of the 12-part series that premieres on Easter Sunday begins with Pilate's words "Truth? What is truth?" and images of the nails being forged that … [Read more...]

‘METALHEAD’ is a Good Friday film with an Easter ending

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Out of Iceland comes an extraordinary story of grief and understanding, violence and forgiveness, isolation and community, family and church, despair and hope, art and grace. Hera Karlsdottir is about twelve years old and is outside playing with her friends when her mother, Droplaug, calls to her to come in for dinner and to summon her older brother, Baldur, to come in as well. Baldur is about seventeen and is on the tractor, harvesting hay for their dairy cows. He motions to Hera but keeps on … [Read more...]


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