‘Inside Out’ tops dinos, Tatum and Schwarzenegger at the box office

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Arnold Schwarzenegger and Channing Tatum proved to be no match for a young girl named Riley at the Friday box office.

‘Misery loves comedy’ in ‘Tangerine,’ a seriocomic film about trans sex workers

Standing on its own in the parking lot of a strip mall at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland Avenue, Donut Time is a place countless Angelenos have driven by countless times and likely wondered about the bustle that seems to be going on at all hours of the day and night.

The film “Tangerine,” opening July 10, starts its story inside the shop, using it as a central location for its alternately playful and dramatic tale set amid the transgender sex workers along Santa Monica Boulevard. Directed by Sean Baker, whose previous films include “Prince of Broadway” and “Starlet,” the new film continues his nuanced explorations of subcultures that often go unseen on screen and the underground economies that make them run.

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In the film, set on Christmas Eve, Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is just out of a 28-day stint in jail. Her best friend, Alexandra (Mya Taylor), accidentally reveals that Sin-Dee’s pimp and boyfriend, Chester (James Ransone), has cheated on her while she has been away. Sin-Dee then spends the day trying to find the girl he cheated with, Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan), before confronting Chester. At the same time, a cab driver, Razmik (Karren Karagulian), takes solace from the pressures of family life with Alexandra.

Taylor and Rodriguez make their feature film debuts in “Tangerine,” and their dynamic on-screen chemistry has a playful snap that tops off deeper emotional bonds.

Shot on an iPhone 5S, the film’s look matches its energy, at once nimble and intimate and still sweepingly cinematic. As Sin-Dee and Alexandra make their way up and down the boulevard, the film becomes an unusual blend of a screwball buddy comedy and a dramatic adventure.

‘Stung,’ about mutant wasps, is a throwback to 1980s B movies

Mutant wasps wreak havoc at a country-estate garden party in “Stung,” a homage to those 1980s creature features that reveled in grotesque details.

Classic thriller ‘The Third Man’ screens in a new light at Landmark Nuart

A film of brilliant pieces that coalesce into a superb whole, “The Third Man” is back in the best shape of its life. Opening Friday for a one-week run at the Landmark Nuart in West L.A., the film appears in the new 4K high-resolution version that was the toast of Cannes, the first restoration of this Carol Reed-directed, Orson Welles-starring thriller since its release in 1949.

Penelope Spheeris is relieved that her ‘Decline’ trilogy is finally out on DVD

Though she is known to many as the director of big, broad ’90s studio comedies such as “Wayne’s World” and “Black Sheep,” Penelope Spheeris is revered by others for her trilogy of L.A.-set music documentaries, “The Decline of Western Civilization” Parts 1, 2 and 3. The films have just been released as a boxed-set by Shout! Factory, allowing audiences for the first time to consider them all together while highlighting their achievement within Spheeris’ career and their deeper effect on her life.

Part 1, released in 1981, covers the nascent punk scene and includes X, the Germs, Fear, the Alice Bag Band and the Circle Jerks. Part 2, released in 1988 and subtitled “The Metal Years,” takes an ironic approach to the heyday of hair metal, featuring Poison, Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of KISS, and Alice Cooper. Part 3, which premiered in 1998 but never received a proper release, focuses on homeless street kids known as gutterpunks and includes the bands Naked Aggression and Final Conflict.

Mel Gibson, other Hollywood directors look to China market

Add Mel Gibson to the list of Hollywood stars hopping on the China film bandwagon.

‘Ted 2′ falls short of expectations as ‘Jurassic World’ continues winning streak

Seth MacFarlane’s comedy “Ted 2″ fell short of box office tracking expectations with a $32.9 million launch in theaters this weekend, as “Jurassic World” and “Inside Out” continued a close race for No. 1 at the box office.

Universal Pictures’ dinosaur adventure maintained its top spot for the third consecutive weekend, collecting an additional $54.2 million in the U.S. and Canada. Its worldwide total is $1.2 billion.



An earlier version of this article referred to “Ted 2″ as a Warners release instead of Universal.


With $500 million domestically to date, the film is now the fifth highest-grossing domestic release of all time, coming in behind the $534.8-million for “The Dark Knight” in 2008.

“Frankly, it just continues to astound,” Nick Carpou, Universal’s head of domestic distribution, said of the film’s success. He attributed the popularity of the film to its broad appeal, noting it has drawn in all age groups and genders.

Indie Focus: Joining in (or not) with ‘The Tribe,’ ‘Ted 2’ & the Academy

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Hello! I’m Mark Olsen, and welcome to your weekly field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

We here at Indie Focus HQ are just bubbling over with excitement at the run of screening events that will be coming up in July and August. Times subscribers are given priority access to RSVPs and seating. (If you do the math, with free movies and other LAT events, a subscription is a pretty good deal. Plus, the news!) Announcements for upcoming screenings will be coming soon, so keep checking here: events.latimes.com/indiefocus.

Nonstop movies. Movies nonstop.

‘The Tribe’

Sergey (Grigoriy Fesenko) and Shnyr (Alexandr Sidelnikov) threaten a schoolmate in “The Tribe.” (Drafthouse Films)

It’s unusual to genuinely be able to say a movie is like no other, but the Ukrainian film “The Tribe” is truly singular. Part juvenile delinquent movie, part rough-and-tumble coming-of-age romance, part societal allegory, the film is set within a boarding school for deaf children that has its own criminal hierarchy. Though not technically a silent film, there is no spoken dialogue, as all communication is done through unsubtitled sign language, giving the movie a raw physicality and hypnotic pull.

“It’s not a film about deaf people, and it’s not a film especially for deaf people. It’s a film for all of us,” writer-director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy said in a recent interview.

Many want to read the film as some sort of allegory for recent political unrest in Ukraine, but as lead actress Yona Novikova said, “I find it less of a political story and more of a human story. For me, it is more personal, as it relates to hearing people understanding deaf people as people, both good and bad… It makes us part of the greater human story.”

The film opened over the weekend to sold-out shows at the CinefamilyIn his L.A. Times review, Robert Abele called the film “a vortex of filmmaking style and humanity’s darker impulses… denying its power is tough.”

‘Ted 2’ inspires critics

John (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) keep their friendship going through life changes in “Ted 2.” (Universal Pictures)

I have not yet had a chance to see “Ted 2.” (There’s a lot of movies out there!) And though it may look like a movie intended as “critic proof,” Seth McFarlane’s foul-mouthed toy bear has inspired some of the most engaged, committed and on-fire film writing of the summer.

Grantland’s Wesley Morris powerfully connected the film to recent real-world events and explained how the film’s extended series of jokes on race and personhood land differently for some audiences than others. “You never expect a movie to hurt you. Disappoint? Dismay? Depress? Fine. But when a movie has a field day asserting the humanity of a fake toy bear at the expense of your own, it hurts.”

In the New York Times, Manohla Dargis took on both the film and those who might tell its critics to lighten up: “And this isn’t a question of political correctness, the default complaint of those who just want their critics to shut up. If anything, American comedies need to take on race more, to test boundaries and audiences alike. First, though, they have to grasp the differences between appropriation and engagement, and between comedy that supports the racist status quo and comedy that shreds it to pieces.”

Even positive reviews still had to recognize and grapple with the difficulties of a movie like “Ted 2.” The Times’ Rebecca Keegan dove into a joke involving gay rights by saying, “It’s a conundrum of MacFarlane’s career that he depends on viewers to grasp the nuance of that moment at the same time that they should be the kind of people who genuinely enjoy a good Kardashian joke. How much does the Venn diagram of those two groups overlap? I don’t know. I just know I’m in it.”

That sentiment was echoed by the Village Voice’s Stephanie Zacharek: “Some movies are indefensible, and ‘Ted 2’ is one of them… But I laughed and laughed at ‘Ted 2’ — as I did at the 2012 ‘Ted’ — and I can hardly tell you what that says about me, let alone about you.”

Change and the Academy

Daniel Radcliffe, left, Elizabeth Banks and Justin Lin are among the 322 people invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Los Angeles Times)

Josh Rottenberg had a story this week about veteran stuntman Jack Gill’s campaign for the Oscars to recognize stuntwork. This year has certainly featured some breathtaking screen stunts, from the cars dropped from a cargo plane in “Furious 7” to all of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The upcoming “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nations” is being sold in no small part on a stunt in which Tom Cruise hangs off the side of a plane. The article gets into some of the practical realpolitik reasons why it has been difficult to get traction for a stunt Oscar within the halls of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Speaking of the academy, it released its annual list of invited new members this week, a walloping 322. The list pointed toward the academy’s continuing campaign to diversify itself to better reflect contemporary working Hollywood and audiences alike. Among those invited were performers Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Tom Hardy, Rosamund Pike and Choi Min-sik, directors Bong Joon-ho, Kelly Reichardt, Francois Ozon, Abderrahmane Sissako, Justin Lin, Edgar Wright, Lynn Shelton and Andrey Zvyagintsev. And the music branch invited in “Tootsie” composer Dave Grusin!

‘Once Upon a Time in the West’

In what will probably wind up as one of the true film nerd highlights of the summer, the New Beverly Cinema  is giving a week-long run to a brand-new 35 mm print of Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West” from June 28-July 4. With a self-awareness that makes it still seem fresh today, the film is somehow both stately and nimble. The opening sequence in which a group of men assembles at a train station is a master class in the use of screen space, cutting and close-ups to build atmosphere and an unbearable tension.

The cast alone is incredible, with Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson and Woody Strode. Add to that one of Ennio Morricone’s most eccentric scores, mixing electric guitar, harmonica and orchestra with use of ambient sounds as punctuation.

To call “West” Leone’s best film would be to somehow deny the greatness of “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” or “Once Upon a Time in America.” As 35 mm projection becomes increasingly specialized, the chance to see a brand-new print of a dusty jewel like “Once Upon a Time in the West” is an event that will only become all the more rare.

Email me if you have questions, comments or suggestions, and follow me on Twitter @IndieFocus

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

The superb, thrilling ‘Third Man’ returns in a brilliant restoration

It was the rare film of Graham Greene’s work that the novelist was happy with, the only example of Orson Welles’ that the actor liked well enough to watch on television. A film of brilliant pieces that coalesce into a superb whole, it could only be “The Third Man,” and it is back in the best shape of its life.

Opening July 3 for a one-week run at the Landmark Nuart, “The Third Man” appears in a new 4K version that was the toast of Cannes, the first restoration this Carol Reed-directed thriller has had since its release in 1949.

Just as much of a “Third Man” character as anyone played by an actor is the city of Vienna in those corrosive, casually amoral post-World War II days when it was divided into sectors run by each of the great Allied powers: Britain, France, America and the U.S.S.R.

The film makes excellent use of real-life locations, especially the city’s magnificent architecture, often glimpsed half-crumbling or standing destitute next to enormous piles of rubble. The atmosphere Reed and company created is as thick as the local coffee, an ideal setting for a world without heroes where everyone is either a fool, a cynic, a criminal or, quite possibly, a combination of all three.

Robert Krasker’s Oscar-winning black-and-white cinematography was essential in creating this ambience. Its use of disconcerting camera angles to depict a nocturnal atmosphere of deep and dangerous shadows, a dark world in every sense of the word, was key to its being named in American Cinematographer magazine as one of the 10 best-shot films of cinema’s first half-century.

‘Fresh Dressed’ checks out the why of what gets worn

Given the demand for today’s latest “It” label and status accessories, and the constant push by media toward the next must-have purchase, a film that approaches clothing from a timeless point of view is a welcome respite from the exhausting cycle of trends that fuel the fashion industry.