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The Lazarus Effect Has a Frankenstein-like Warning

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

The makers of The Lazarus Effect, an uninspired horror film about modern-day mad scientists, do nothing noteworthy with their heady what-if premise: What do you see right before you die, and what would happen if you came back from the dead?

Screenwriters Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater ask and mostly answer those promising central questions within their film's first 40 minutes. At that point, The Lazarus Effect ditches its ambitions as a Frankenstein-like warning about gnostic hubris and becomes a quarter-assed slasher film starring Olivia Wilde as an undead psychic murderer who flies around and crushes things with her mind.

Wilde plays Zoe, an ironically named scientist ("Zoe" is Greek for "life"!) who gets resurrected via a death-defying exper »


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Archer Sags Into Middle Age in Its Sixth, 'Unrebooted' Season

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

TV shows aren't too different from people in at least one respect: The longer they've been around, the less interest they tend to garner. But the sixth season of FX's beloved spy spoof Archer is like few others. It's an "unrebooting" of the previous year, in which creator Adam Reed, reportedly bored with his own show, jettisoned virtually everything about it at the height of its popularity. Archer Vice, as the fifth season was called, found the animated cast peddling cocaine and country music after the disbanding of Isis, the show's espionage agency, by the federal government in the season premiere. Vice was a bold gamble, but unfortunately a flameout of a season; the show's stakes changed too fast and too furiously for viewers to keep up or care. No »


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Queer Anthology Remarkable Shades of Gay Asks, Why Should Heteros Hoard All the Insipidness?

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

There are nine queer shorts in the anthology Remarkable Shades of Gay, all of them directed (and almost all either written or co-written) by William Branden Blinn. To a clip, they are simultaneously dated and in sync with this tapioca moment in mainstream queer politics and aesthetics. Almost every tale is some variation on the coming-out theme: Two hetero male strangers meet in a bar, get drunk, and copulate in a hotel room, with anguished conversation afterward; a dying old married (to a woman) man rents a gay hustler for his first (incredibly mild) sexual encounter, which takes place in his hospital bed; a couple of straight white guys fleeing a laughably cast street gang end up screwing each other while hiding from their would-be assailants, with anguished conversati »


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'71 Tensely Recalls the Troubles in Ireland

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

In '71, Yann Demange tints the midnight alleys of Belfast like an Irish flag dragged through the mud: black skies, sickly green lamps, and the orange flames of torched cars. It's 1971, the height of the Troubles, and the town is hushed by a curfew yet roiling with fractious anger. The Protestants hate the Catholics, the zealots loathe the moderates, and even the British military shipped over to enforce the quiet festers with double-dealers. The overall effect feels like a zombie flick — anyone daring the streets is a threat. Somehow, stranded English soldier Gary (Jack O'Connell) must limp back to his barracks before any puffed-up punks with a gun blow his head off to make a point. As he did playing Louis Zamperini, O'Connell suffers more than he speaks. »


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The Widowmaker Doc Examines the Medical Frailties of the Human Heart

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

Decidedly not a thrilling Russian submarine film, The Widowmaker documents the story of another vessel dwelling beneath the surface: the human heart. This most vital organ is under attack — heart disease is the nation's biggest killer, with over 600,000 deaths yearly, greater than every cancer combined. Director Patrick Forbes's film, narrated by the cool voice of Gillian Anderson, traces the modern history of how medical science has attempted to combat the disease. Forbes's interviews with key figures in this battle reveal a political and financial war that has prevented a rational solution from being administered as the death toll continues to rise. The Widowmaker establishes an emotional connection to the epidemic of heart disease through a series of anec »


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The Stylishly Filmed Out of the Dark Is Scary, Too

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

Tidy, conventional horror stories are all about cause and effect. The scariness derives from not understanding what's happening, and the resolution lies in discovering the causes. With its ghosts, its spooky old house, and the story's roots in the past sins of a town's founders, director Lluís Quílez's Out of the Dark is a horror film as uninterested in rocking that boat as a new hire at an investment bank. Sarah and Paul (Julia Stiles and Scott Speedman) move to Santa Clara, Colombia, with their adorable daughter Hannah, as Sarah is joining the executive staff at her father's company. They settle in to a great big house during the "Festival of the Saint's Children" — a joyous celebration of some kids who once got kidnapped and died in a fir »


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Indie Horror Flick Ejecta Asks What Its Director Could Do With a Real Budget

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

Often, with indie horror flicks, you have to accept that you're watching a demonstration of ingenuity rather than a coherent film: "Here's what I can do with two sets, five actors, and a couple weekends," the directors seem to be telling us — "Imagine what I'd do with a real budget." I can't speak with authority as to how Chad Archibald and Matt Wiele's Ejecta came together. It's half an interrogation and possession cheapie, in which a tough-cookie government agent (or something) played by the commanding and appealing Lisa Houle questions a UFO abductee (Julian Richings), and it's also half a not-bad found-footage alien footchase. But despite a convoluted timeline it's hard to buy that the script was much fussed over. Houle gets stuck with mouth »


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However Compelling, Western The Salvation Fails to Break New Ground

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

Two Bond villains and Eva Green walk into a western, and they emerge with a rugged — if far from revolutionary — old-school horse-opera throwback. Having long since ditched the Dogme 95 precepts that guided his breakout 2000 feature, The King Is Alive, Danish director Kristian Levring employs a bounty of CG-enhanced Sergio Leone–isms for The Salvation, the story of a Danish soldier-turned-settler named Jon (Casino Royale's Mads Mikkelsen) who's reunited with his wife and child in 1871 America, only to have them raped and murdered. Jon exacts bloody revenge for this crime, which in turn makes him the target of a bandit leader (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in league with a mayor (Tomorrow Never Dies' Jonathan Pryce) and in love with »


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Vanity Doc My Way Is So Infuriating You'll Hate-Watch It

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

The main question raised by rock musician Rebekah Starr's documentary vanity project My Way has nothing to do with craft or ambition or the difficulties women confront in show business. She may be an Ok musician and songwriter, but she says little about her work, and the film includes only a few songs.

Shot with a camcorder by Rebekah and her bandmate Annika Alliksoo as they drive from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles, where they've booked a crew for a music video, the film is a long, arcless, infuriating montage of unconnected road-trip moments between two annoying and self-absorbed people.

Fifty minutes in, when you're still watching the pair drinking, flirting with frat boys, wearing douchey corn-curl-shaped cowboy hats, and having meaningless, showboaty sn »


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Bizarre and Wonderful Doc Farewell to Hollywood Offers Strange Heartbreak

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

If the only film about a teenage girl with cancer you've seen recently is The Fault in Our Stars, get ready for a new and stranger heartbreak. Reggie, the subject of the documentary Farewell to Hollywood, also wields the camera. Her collaborator is Henry Corra, an experienced director who specializes in "living cinema," an intimate style of documentary that blurs divisions between filmmaker and subject. Henry and Reggie quickly become close, and their shared love of filmmaking and each other is the engine of this bizarre and wonderful doc that's pitched like a home movie but crafted with fine, poignant sensibilities. Reggie's parents do not take kindly to the project. Imagine losing control over your adolescent daughter as adulthood kicks in; now imagine »


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The Truly Erotic Futuro Beach Is Full of Sensual Images

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

Recent European films like Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac and Alain Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake have drawn on the visual vocabulary of porn to make sex look like a chore only the compulsive would bother engaging in. While keeping things softcore, Karim Ainouz's Brazilian/German co-production misses no opportunity to have his actors take their clothes off — it helps that much of the film is set around water — and creates something genuinely erotic. The film begins with the drowning of a German motorbike racer on the Brazilian beach of the title. Lifeguard Donato (Wagner Moura) feels guilty, but also finds himself attracted to the dead man's friend Konrad (Clemens Schick). Donato winds up following Konrad to Berlin and moving in with him, regretfully »


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'71 Tensely Recalls the Troubles in Ireland

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

In '71, Yann Demange tints the midnight alleys of Belfast like an Irish flag dragged through the mud: black skies, sickly green lamps, and the orange flames of torched cars. It's 1971, the height of the Troubles, and the town is hushed by a curfew yet roiling with fractious anger. The Protestants hate the Catholics, the zealots loathe the moderates, and even the British military shipped over to enforce the quiet festers with double-dealers. The overall effect feels like a zombie flick — anyone daring the streets is a threat. Somehow, stranded English soldier Gary (Jack O'Connell) must limp back to his barracks before any puffed-up punks with a gun blow his head off to make a point. As he did playing Louis Zamperini, O'Connell suffers more than he speaks. »


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Doc Fixates on but Doesn't Examine Director Nicolas Winding Refn

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

Despite some consummately intimate footage, behind-the-scenes doc My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn proves frustrating because writer-director Liv Corfixen works harder to coddle Drive director Refn, her husband and subject, than she does to get inside his head. While the title of Corfixen's hour-long film suggests marital strife, she lovingly boosts her husband by applauding his creative struggles during the filming of his beguiling artsploitation gem Only God Forgives. Corfixen's fly-on-the-wall style is compelling, but it finds her too often circumspect, as when Refn asks Corfixen if she thinks Only God Forgives is better than Drive. She pauses before replying, "[Only God Forgives] isn't as commercial. Don't you reali »


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Campus Rape Doc The Hunting Ground Should Speak Up

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

The Hunting Ground opens with actual footage of high school seniors opening acceptance letters from their dream schools. It's one of the few hopeful moments in the entire film. Kirby Dick's documentary on campus rape features all the deeply troubling statistics and expert talking heads you'd expect of such an endeavor, but having a rough sense of how few of these cases result in actual punishment for clear-cut offenders is a far cry from actually witnessing the human consequences of institutional inaction. Forget prosecution; the vast majority of college perpetrators don't even get expelled, including cases with verbal or written confessions. Victim-blaming runs rampant, often thanks to unhelpful administrators tasked by their superiors with protecting the inst »


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In Eastern Boys, an Immigrant's Turbulent Life in Paris

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

The eastern boys of French-Moroccan director Robin Campillo's beautifully acted new film are a gang of undocumented East Europeans headed by a gorgeous, cruel Boss (Danil Vorobyev). They live together in a shabby suburban hotel and go into Paris each day to earn or con the money to survive. The most sensitive and intriguing of the boys, Marek (Kirill Emelyanov), is Ukrainian and delicate, aloof. Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin), a bourgeois Parisian, cruises Marek at a train station and invites him back to his swank, modern flat. In doing so, Daniel accidentally involves himself in the gang's messy violence. Later, Marek lets the older man fuck his limp, languid body for money; the two fall into a strange, unnerving relationship; lonely Daniel tries both to date and to paren »


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Salma Hayek Takes On an Arsenal in Everly

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

Joe Lynch's Everly opens with the screams of a sex slave played by Salma Hayek. It seems impossible things for her could get much worse — but they do. Emboldened by a detective who's pledged to wrest her from gangster Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe), Hayek's Everly has chosen today to fight for freedom. Good luck, lady.

Taiko has an arsenal: killer dogs, machine-gunning brutes, sai-stabbing prostitutes, and a cruel torturer who calls himself The Sadist (Togo Igawa), all happy to make house calls. Forget finding her long-lost mom and five-year-old daughter (Laura Cepeda and Aisha Ayamah) — Everly can't even escape from her own apartment.

Everly has the heaving, bloody bosoms of an exploitation flick, yet Hayek gives the character powerful dign »


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A Star Comes Into Focus but the Movie Never Quite Does

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

If Grace Kelly had been raised by coyotes, she might have stalked the screen like Focus's Margot Robbie, a va-va-voom blonde with bite. Robbie is too beautiful to play normal, too sly to play nice. Miscast as a shy saint in Craig Zobel's upcoming Sundance hit Z for Zachariah, she had to disguise herself as a brunette. Robbie's more at ease when she can let 'er rip, as in her big debut as Leonardo DiCaprio's gold-digging wife in Wolf of Wall Street. Applaud DiCaprio's slithering stoned car scene to the rafters — I'll save my standing ovation for the deft way that Robbie, trying to impress her date at a posh restaurant, haughtily commands the waiter to bring her a s »


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Go on the Lam With the Louts of Young Bodies Heal Quickly

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

If there is a "crisis" among American boys, as you sometimes hear during slow news weeks, its cause is pretty straight-up clear: The bored and brutish traits our culture encourages in boys no longer have anything to do with the ones this economy actually rewards. In its terrific first half-hour, writer-director Andrew T. Betzer's Young Bodies Heal Quickly plays like cockeyed comedy based on that truth.

A hunky lout raises pointless hell in the fields and meadows of one of those parts of Maryland that dips down into what may as well be the Deep South. The lout — he's never named, but he's embodied by Gabriel Croft — beats up an abandoned car, peppers BBs at livestock, and gets into a brawl with young women riding ATVs. It's a playful fight, despite all t »


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Julianne Moore Is Grand in Maps to the Stars

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

Is it possible to essentially like a movie yet feel revulsion toward its script? David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars is clearly intended as a sharp satire of Hollywood ambition, vanity, avarice, and emptiness, and in places it's smart and astringently funny. Yet it seems to be fighting its own bone structure. The script is by Bruce Wagner, a screenwriter, producer, and novelist whose specialty, in bitter little books like Force Majeure and Dead Stars, is skewering Hollywood — he's like a jaundiced eye with a laptop attached. But unlike other novelists who've tackled Hollywood — among them Michael Tolkin, Terry Southern, Don Carpenter, and the lesser-known John Kaye, author of the splendid twin novels Stars Screaming and The Dead Circus &md »


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Screwball in Brooklyn: Wild Canaries Is No Hipster Thin Man

24 February 2015 9:00 PM, PST

The new Brooklyn is generally derided as a wilderness of double-wide strollers, young men with the facial hair of Canadian loggers circa 1852, and artisanal everything. But in Wild Canaries, a modestly scaled murder mystery-comedy from writer-director-star Lawrence Michael Levine, today’s Brooklyn is a place of danger and intrigue. Just as in the good old bad old days of the Seventies and Eighties, you can actually get killed there, and the first corpse to show up in Wild Canaries is that of eightyish Sylvia (Marylouise Burke). Sylvia is the tenant of a rent-controlled apartment, and in New York City real estate terms, that right there makes her a sitting target for murder.

If Sylvia was murdered, who would do such a thing? A couple living in he »


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