instantwatcher.com

Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

  1. The Returned 2014 Though an admirable shake-up of the typically overbearing, munch-intensive undead yarn, "The Returned" is still a far cry from the smarts-and-shocks zombie allegories George Romero mastered. full review
  2. Aftershock 2013 There's so little context to the litany of ugliness - some played for laughs, some meant to shock - that it's hard to discern where the entertainment value lies in any of this. full review
  3. Ass Backwards 2013 Where movie comedy teams once required a "straight" member - or so-called normal characters - off which to bounce stupidity or silliness, Raphael and Wilson believe total immersion in thickheadedness and failure is riot enough. full review
  4. A Band Called Death 2013 If ever a movie about punk deserved to be called legitimately sweet and life-affirming, it's the documentary "A Band Called Death." full review
  5. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me 2013 Overall, it's still a skillfully rendered narrative that should satisfy fans and pique the interest of the uninitiated. full review
  6. Big Sur 2013 There's a strange heft to its hollowness. full review
  7. The Brass Teapot 2013 Without a human dimension to ground its construct, "The Brass Teapot" ultimately feels like an interminably stretched-out skit rather than a storybook lesson stained with blood and hurt. full review
  8. C.O.G. 2013 For Sedaris fans, "C.O.G." is a regrettably patronizing washout. full review
  9. Cockneys vs Zombies 2013 "Cockneys vs. Zombies" might as well be "Babies vs. Zombies" or "Cats vs. Zombies" - strictly for addicts who don't care where their undead fix comes from. full review
  10. Dirty Wars 2013 As a connect-the-dots narrative, "Dirty Wars" is eye-opening, a fierce argument that there are chilling ramifications to endless, vague aggression. full review
  11. Drift 2013 The leads are engaging, and Pollard in particular projects an easygoing, friendly machismo. Where the movie routinely disappoints, though, is in pursuit of a perfect storm of conflict story lines ... full review
  12. Drinking Buddies 2013 Swanberg achieves an occasionally heady aura of improvisational flirtatiousness mixed with a churning will-they-or-won't-they suspense. full review
  13. Erased 2013 Eckhart and Liberato may not act as if they're in Retread-land - Olga Kurylenko, meanwhile, as a CIA handler, barely acts at all - but this "Erased" is eminently forgettable. full review
  14. The Guillotines 2013 A historical action epic set during the Qing dynasty that amounts to a bait-and-switch for wuxia fans stoked for steel-meets-flesh mayhem. full review
  15. The Hot Flashes 2013 A post-"Bridesmaids" case of raunch lite, a change-of-life comedy that could have used a change of scripts. full review
  16. I, Me Aur Main 2013 It's all slight stuff with a typically oversold Bollywood score, but there are pleasures here and there ... full review
  17. Insidious: Chapter 2 2013 This busy-yet-dull sequel feels like Wan robotically flexing his manipulation of fright-film signposts, an exercise more silly than sinister. full review
  18. Ip Man: The Final Fight 2013 The overall sense is of a rushed, simplistic installment in a well-worn biography franchise. full review
  19. It's a Disaster 2013 The movie elicits knowing smiles more than laughs, even as it reveals a boundless observational awareness about the beefs and slights that, for the small-minded, must feel like everyday Armageddons. full review
  20. John Dies at the End 2013 John lives in a frisky otherworld of willful incoherence all its own. full review
  21. Kai Po Che! 2013 Its performances are enjoyably boisterous, and director Abhishek Kapoor refuses to linger on cliches for too long ... full review
  22. Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain 2013 [Not] as strong as such previous dispatches as "Seriously...Funny." full review
  23. Killing Season 2013 The pretentious, preposterous, dueling-dialect flameout called "Killing Season" has to stand as one of the biggest missed opportunities in iconic matchups. full review
  24. LUV 2013 What begins as a promising peek into the tragic cycle of waylaid promise that's crippling broken inner-city families is itself dispiritingly pulled sideways in the Baltimore-set indie "LUV." full review
  25. Man of Tai Chi 2013 The brutally efficient shooting style Reeves employs to film master choreographer Yuen Woo Ping's breathtaking fights is refreshingly grounded and old-school kinetic. full review
  26. Maniac 2013 It's not clear what exactly merited an updating of William Lustig's 1980 "Maniac" - a cheapo urban grimeball about a serial killer - but like a rash's unwelcome return, we got it anyway. full review
  27. Newlyweeds 2013 More a series of darkly comic vignettes than a conventional romance, King's exploration of chemically altered human chemistry is amusing if slight, and his two leads are appealingly solid, especially Cheatom. full review
  28. Nicky's Family 2013 There's a great story at the heart of Matej Minac's documentary "Nicky's Family," if only it were allowed to be told unvarnished. full review
  29. The Numbers Station 2013 A predictable hodgepodge of uninteresting psychological cat-and-mouse, dimly lighted action filmed by director Kasper Barfoed in standard-operating shaky-cam ... full review
  30. Olympus Has Fallen 2013 A typical slab of Hollywood action in which the White House crumbles under attack, the American flag is tattered and tossed aside by baddies, and cliches rise like gods. full review
  31. Paradise: Faith 2013 With little room to feel for or even understand Anna Maria, "Paradise: Faith" rarely seems more than high art with low intentions. full review
  32. Passion 2013 After the clinically dull first half, it's more desperate pantry raid than feast. full review
  33. Pieta 2013 Expectedly gruesome in some of its details. But it's the explicitness about capitalism's emotional wreckage that gives this micro-budgeted drama a gut-punch heft. full review
  34. The Prey 2013 Like a bullet train, the French thriller "The Prey" is a model of breathless efficiency, its stuffed cargo of chases, brawls and twists delivered with admirable speed. full review
  35. Reaching for the Moon 2013 Everything ultimately gives way to the stately, simplistic, inevitable pace of by-the-numbers biopics, from some woefully tinny, hit-and-run screenwriting to the usual difficulties surrounding the dramatization of an author's craft. full review
  36. Resolution 2013 A strangely tense and humorous meta-narrative about two friends experiencing weird goings-on at a remote cabin. full review
  37. The Rooftop 2013 "The Rooftop" is a restless boy-fights-for-girl fantasia, too stylistically bulbous a misfire to allow for easy enjoyment as either a demented throwback or a genre hybrid. full review
  38. Rushlights 2013 If ever a movie signaled that the Quentin Tarantino copycat age of empty-headed wink-wink genre rehashing is still with us, "Rushlights" is that movie. full review
  39. Shadow Dancer 2013 The character mechanics ... leave the viewer always feeling a step ahead of the story and its too-late-to-excite twists. full review
  40. Stranded 2013 "Stranded" stops at being merely seriously dull and trite, rather than tipping into train-wreck silliness. full review
  41. Sweetwater 2013 As violent act begets silly exchange begets another violent act, "Sweetwater" squanders its noteworthy resources ... full review
  42. Tai Chi Hero 2013 There's less of the hyperventilated genre-pinging (video games, manga, comic books) from the first film. But there's still a nagging, cartoonish emptiness ... full review
  43. This Is Martin Bonner 2013 This Is Martin Bonner takes a magnifying glass to everyday goodness and lingering pain, illuminating their contours and complexities but pulling away before the movie can ever burst into sentimental flame. full review
  44. White Reindeer 2013 Hollyman takes this woman's barely controlled dignity on a quietly brave, revealing ride. full review
  45. Wrong Cops 2013 Pitched somewhere between a DIY alt-humor video and a knockabout comedy, this meandering lark about a corrupt, spiteful and hopelessly distracted police force in a decriminalized, sun-scorched city never quite finds the funny bone. full review
  46. Assassin's Bullet 2012 [A] dippy hodgepodge of hitman action, illogical romance and geopolitical commentary. full review
  47. Branded 2012 To borrow a hamburger chain's refrain, not lovin' it. full review
  48. Cafe de Flore 2012 It's terribly long and repetitive for so delicately dreamy a diptych, and at times the modern-day story feels like little more than a drawn-out apologia for the wandering male gaze. full review
  49. Dangerous Liaisons 2012 Zhang, expertly conveying someone closed off yet silently sensual, even rolls out a tear during a moment of impending intimacy as exquisitely timed as a dancer's move. full review
  50. Dark Tide 2012 The only palpable emotion from "Dark Tide" is sadness for Berry, treading water in dreary efforts like this. full review
  51. Detachment 2012 There's something weirdly effective about the artistic desperation, which includes inserts of chalkboard animation and to-the-camera testimonials. full review
  52. Fightville 2012 "Fightville" feels authentic about this world, where success may be measured in wins, but the balance of unrelenting brutality and self-discipline needed for those wins is a trickier equation. full review
  53. For Greater Glory 2012 Ultimately a stodgy, overblown and repetitive slog. full review
  54. The FP 2012 "The FP" so desperately wants to be cultishly admired for its bad-taste rollout of wacko characters, ugly costumes and vulgar slang that it forgets to be genuinely offbeat or funny. full review
  55. Gayby 2012 What lifts Gayby above its sitcom trappings is its emotional generosity and easy warmth, the sense that characters are defined by -- and made funny through -- their aspirations, not their way with a one-liner. full review
  56. Goats 2012 Nibbles on a lot of stuff it never gets around to digesting. full review
  57. The Innkeepers 2012 There's a skillful appreciation here for the kind of subjective dislocation behind the best ghost stories, and in this era of bloody-disgusting, that kind of smart ambiguity is welcome indeed. full review
  58. Jodi Breakers 2012 [A] choppy, hammily acted and aggressively superficial factory product. full review
  59. Last Ounce of Courage 2012 The patriot-packaged "Last Ounce of Courage" has been made with the conviction of true zealots, but also the competence of amateurs. full review
  60. Masquerade 2012 As predictable as these stories invariably are, Lee's wonderful turn reignites the potent fantasy of peasant wisdom - if given the power - melting politically cynical hearts and legislating through decency rather than fear. full review
  61. My Way 2012 "My Way" is combative to a thematic and stylistic extreme. full review
  62. North Sea Texas 2012 "North Sea Texas" explores emergent sexuality and first love with a refreshing optimism. full review
  63. Post Tenebras Lux 2012 Moviegoers beholden to clean narrative may feel they need their own explanatory GPS and audio guide. But the richer reward lies in allowing oneself to be led by this gifted director's instinct for lyrical, sensory exploration. full review
  64. Safe 2012 Yakin gives his star plenty of room to look mean, think fast, drive faster, punch, quip, mow down and charismatically bond with the most imperiled child character in screen memory. full review
  65. Seeking Justice 2012 [Cage] acquits himself well enough in this otherwise rudimentary thriller from deliriously unsubtle director Roger Donaldson. full review
  66. Soldiers of Fortune 2012 Korostyshevsky doesn't waste a lot of time getting from run-jump-shoot to duck-roll-cover and back again; the artillery decibel level isn't matched by any notable level of filmmaking craft or excitement. full review
  67. Special Forces 2012 It's not only Americans who can make leaden, video game-style exercises in dumb war action. full review
  68. Starlet 2012 It's a character study about faith in connectedness, with an unforced love for cross-generational companionship that's special indeed. full review
  69. Tai Chi Zero 2012 "Tai Chi Zero" is often more distracting than diverting with its everything-goes aesthetic - there are strains of steampunk, manga and silent film comedy, with video-game touches. full review
  70. Talaash 2012 Ultimately the movie's many strands come together for a final twist, but it's too little too late for this regrettably mediocre Bollywood import. full review
  71. Tonight You're Mine 2012 If only the falling-in-love machinations and character details weren't so wispy, "Tonight You're Mine" might have had more resonance. full review
  72. The Tower 2012 "The Tower" may be skillfully executed as an effects-laden opus, but its miniature portraits in courage are ultimately too jerry-built to feel like anything but filler between the combustive set pieces. full review
  73. Ultrasonic 2012 The kind of grimly serious low-budget indie that wants to shake up perceptions about our engagement with the world, but mistakes repetition for resonance. full review
  74. Until They Are Home 2012 Unfortunately too pedestrian to appeal to many beyond war buffs and the uber-patriotic. full review
  75. The Viral Factor 2012 It takes a special kind of action director to use chaotic, human-filled public spaces for high-energy foot chases, auto stunts and gun battles yet never once get under the skin with a sense of genuine danger. full review
  76. The Waiting Room 2012 A revealing portrait of the often tough transactions between patients and hospital staff at the urgency level. full review
  77. Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale 2012 At 2 1/2 hours, "Warriors" is a bruising, relentless experience, one more tiring than inspiring. full review
  78. The Woman Who Wasn't There 2012 A fascinating story of fakery ... even when it occasionally overreaches ... full review
  79. The Zen Of Bennett 2012 We see an art form bridge generations with a strange mixture of grace, joy and melancholy. full review
  80. Beautiful Darling 2011 "Beautiful Darling" is sympathetic and critical, a sobering reminder in this fame-grabbing age of a time when gender politics, art and artifice could make for a turbulent identity cocktail. full review
  81. Bellflower 2011 This frequently dazzling, eccentric portrait of mutually assured destruction is that most delirious of combos: charmingly funny and emotionally terrifying. full review
  82. The Chaperone 2011 Like last year's "Legendary" and "Knucklehead," which didn't exactly slam moviegoers to the mat with their entertainment chops, this haphazardly cliched comedy-drama about redemption similarly suffers. full review
  83. Dirty Girl 2011 [Sylvia's] attempts at situational humor on the road - including a stripping scene for Dozier as coming-out metaphor - fall embarrassingly flat. full review
  84. Going Down In La-la Land 2011 It's...familiar plotting and by-the-numbers characterization that sinks this earnest, gay-contoured take on the evergreen making-it-big melodrama. full review
  85. Gun Hill Road 2011 Before some predictable, freedom-threatening recidivism on Enrique's part, the film exhibits a simultaneously anthropological and sensitive interest in Michael's day-to-day life... full review
  86. I Melt with You 2011 A fanfare for the common jerk that taints every '80s-era alt-rock soundtrack tune it touches, "I Melt With You" assuredly marks itself as one of 2011's most ludicrous releases. full review
  87. Ironclad 2011 The loud, closely photographed limb-hacking becomes as monotonous as the movie's unrelentingly gray palette. full review
  88. Ladies vs Ricky Bahl 2011 One's diminishing interest in the nuts and bolts of cheating a cheat can be forgiven when the sheer star wattage of the peppy cast is in close-up overdrive. full review
  89. The Perfect Host 2011 What aims for Hitchcockian slyness ends up an inconsequential jumble in the comedy thriller "The Perfect Host." full review
  90. Rapt 2011 "Rapt" fuses strands of dramatic tension in a shrewd enough way that it even saves its sharpest cuts for the kidnapping's aftermath, when a well-heeled life laid bare must reconcile with a much different form of enforced solitude. full review
  91. Stake Land 2011 Shows that a savvy mixture of characterization, atmosphere and gore-eographed suspense can make even the most familiar fright tropes feel vaguely organic again. full review
  92. Stay Cool 2011 Attempts to pay homage to the '80s oeuvre of filmmaker John Hughes, but its singular lack of emotional logic, charm and humor bring to mind a couple of hours in detention instead. full review
  93. Tomboy 2011 Quiet and naturalistic in the best way, the French film "Tomboy" rolls out a tale of malleable pre-adolescent identity with a marked absence of sensationalism. full review
  94. The Ward 2011 "The Ward" is bland shock therapy from the guy who reinvented bloody peek-a-boo with the classic "Halloween." full review
  95. A Bag of Hammers 2010 It's too little, too late for Crano's Wes Anderson-inflected innocence-disrupted project... full review
  96. Black Death 2010 Early on "Black Death" falls victim to its own sluggish sickness, its narrative drive proving no match for the aggressively rotted pallor, dour acting and tiresomely handheld you-are-there aesthetics. full review
  97. The Killing Jar 2010 What dribbles out is a series of repetitive, dull, cliched showdowns until most of the cast is gruesomely dispatched and the twist-that-isn't-a-twist is revealed. full review
  98. Legendary 2010 A school wrestling drama so mired in family-film cliches it can never shake loose the suspicion that -- not unlike certain high-gloss mat bouts -- the emotional fix is in from the get-go. full review
  99. Monsters 2010 Although the vérité aesthetics of Monsters will invite comparisons to Cloverfield and District 9, what galls most is the infuriating lack of purpose beyond its backdrop. full review
  100. Ong Bak 3 2010 Beware bone-crushing action stars bearing messages of peace and enlightenment. full review
  101. Rubber 2010 "Rubber" has anthropomorphic, head-scratching fun with its gory B-movie trappings, silly music cues, self-referential comedy and deliberately off-kilter acting. full review
  102. Waiting for Forever 2010 With "Waiting for Forever," an insipid contemporary fairy tale about a lovestruck young vagabond shadowing a childhood sweetheart he can't bring himself to approach, we get stalking, juggling and cancer. Happy Valentine's Day! full review
  103. Best Worst Movie 2009 In its more amusing and accepting moments, Best Worst Movie captures the geek-joy fizz when fame morphs into notoriety, and artlessness becomes its own art.
  104. The Fourth Kind 2009 Writer-director Olatunde Osunsanmi attempts an Orson Welles-like confluence of "real" and imagined that might have worked had he gotten out of the way more, literally and figuratively. full review
  105. The House of the Devil 2009 West's assured way with widescreen framing, long takes and silences followed by sharp if explainable noise are almost cruelly funny in their heart-stopping pleasures. full review
  106. Valhalla Rising 2009 You sometimes wish Refn's gift for Ridley Scott-level mayhem had won the battle over his much iffier Werner Herzog leanings.
  107. Constantine's Sword 2008 The movie covers an immense amount of shameful historical ground, but the soft-spoken Carroll's mission is less about winning an argument than prodding true believers full review
  108. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father 2008 An undeniably shattering story, if forgivably shaky in its impassioned, therapeutic unfolding. full review
  109. Fireproof 2008 Unfortunately, the emphasis on what God wants has a way of overwhelming who Caleb and Catherine are as characters. full review
  110. Descent 2007 It's indie provocation trapped between shock and blah. full review
  111. The Order of Myths 2007 An invaluable portrait of us-and-them America, a smart, generous, poignant, quietly disturbing movie about secrecy and hospitality. full review
  112. Freshman Orientation 2005 ...too often feels more like a tapped-out keg than a provocative romp. full review
  113. Wake in Fright 1971 "Wake in Fright" is true horror. full review