It might not be as glamorous as Cannes or as cool as Sundance, but the Los Angeles Film Festival has just as much to offer as its larger counterparts. Between high-profile premieres of blockbuster films, international competition entries and some of the most exciting indies around all premiering at LAFF every year, there's plenty to pay attention to. But if you were unfortunate enough to let the this year's fest — which ran from June 11 to 19 — we've got you covered with a rundown of the most talked-about films to premiere at LAFF, and what the critics are saying about them. Now you can make all of your friends think you're cooler than you actually are.
They Came Together The Amy Poehler/Paul Rudd romantic comedy you’ve been waiting for is less about the relationship between the central couple, Joel (Rudd) and Molly (Poehler), and more about skewering every last trope of the genre. Written and directed by Wet Hot American Summer’s David Wain, the film lovingly parodies the traits, characters, conversations, and comically large apartments that appear in every rom com ever made, while allowing two funny, good looking people to fall in love in an entertaining way.
“The script’s on-the-nose descriptions of each character (as described by the characters themselves) actually works to frame them as self-aware people forced to play out roles we have seen before and allows the hilarious cast to play within those lines. Poehler and Rudd have a natural chemistry that makes them believable as the two leads in love, but their comedy also blends well making it clear they are having fun with each other and the characters they are playing.” – Allison Loring, Film School Rejects
"Wain leads his well-known cast through spoofs of such classics as When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall, The Graduate and the sharp-elbowed comedies of Tracy and Hepburn. Each gag makes you wish you were watching the original, although a clench between Joel and his grandmother (Lynn Cohen) that almost leads to incestuous coupling deserves credit for sheer audacity. Most of the time, however, the actors on the screen seem to be having much more fun than the audience will." - David D'Arcy, Screen Daily
Cut Bank A small town crime drama set in Cut Bank, Montana that centers on a former high school football star (Liam Hemsworth) desperate to find a way out of his town. After he accidentally films the murder of the town mailman, he is offered a reward that would give him enough money to leave for good, but things aren't a simple as they seem, and he finds himself caught in a tangled web of deception and danger.
"...Shakman lets the scenes unfurl with a clunky pace and little verve, simply exaggerating the irony and naivety in the town as his main go-to points. It only makes sense that [John] Malkovich’s sheriff has never fired his gun and carries an aversion to violence; likewise with Palmer, who itches non-stop after a Miss Cut Bank pageant title even while she wants nothing more than to skip town. Thankfully humor seeps in through the edges of the film and its characters, sometimes on purpose and other times not." - Charlie Schmidlin, The Playlist
Dear White People A satire of college movies that tackles race relations and privilege in society, Dear White People follows four students as an Ivy League university — golden boy Troy (Brandon P. Bell), activist radio host Samantha (Tessa Thompson), Colendra "Coco" Conners (Teyona Parris), who has dreams of being a reality TV star, and shy misfit Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams) — after a planned "African American"-themed party thrown by a group of white students starts a riot on campus.
"If it ultimately feels modestly edgy rather than shocking or dangerous, 'Dear White People' nonetheless provokes admiration for having bothered to ask some of the hard questions without pretending to know any of the answers. It also works as a fine showcase for its actors: Fleshing out characters that could have been little more than one-note mouthpieces, Williams, Thompson, Parris and Bell all make strong, distinctive impressions, with Thompson perhaps the standout as the film’s sharpest and most enigmatic figure." - Justin Chang, Variety
The Last Time You Had Fun With a cast full of comedians and sitcom alums, The Last Time You Had Fun puts a grown-up twist on the standard "wild night out" comedy. After Ida (Eliza Coupe) forces her sister Alison (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) to blow off some steam with her, they find themselves bickering and partying with Clark (Kyle Bornheimer) and the sweatpants-clad Will (Demetri Martin), as the four of them attempt to have the most fun that four older, dysfunctional adults could possibly have.
"Granted, the excesses of Bridesmaids or The Hangover are not essential to sparkling relationship comedy, but Fun lacks an edge, or even much of an attitude. Blandly risqué situations, featherweight banter and a hint of implied sexual impropriety have all the heft of an extended cable sitcom episode. Or maybe it’s the casting, which draws extensively on the TV comedy background of the four leads, who all acquit themselves adequately but can’t achieve sufficient character differentiation within the ensemble. Undistinguished locations, flat lighting and primarily static setups perpetuate the small-screen aesthetic, which at least bodes well for the film’s transition to home entertainment formats." - Justin Lowe, The Hollywood Reporter
Echo Park The debut film from photographer Amanda Marsalis, Echo Park is a story about two people who come together "across cultural, economic and racial boundaries." Sophie (Mamie Gummer) is an unhappy housewife who moves from her Beverly Hills home to the up-and-coming neighborhood of Echo Park in order to shake up her predictable boring life, who finds herself drawn to Alex (Tony Okungbowa) after she buys his couch. But their burgeoning relationship might have to be put on hold, since he's about to leave for London...
"It’s Marsalis’ direction, and the fine performances from Gummer and Okungbowa that elevate the film above what it might have been, given the issues with the script and story that hover around the edges of cliché and stereotype (the worst offender: Sophie’s mother). While the dialogue, especially the scenes between Sophie and Alex, works well, the story beats are oddly laid out, rushing through some important character and relationship establishing moments, and dwelling too long in moments where the characters are making frustrating, selfish choices. Still, the end of the film avoids falling into the traditional romantic film trap, leading to a message that’s a bit more complicated and nuanced than expected." - Katie Walsh, IndieWire
British model-turned-reality TV personality Katie Price checked into a U.K. hospital on Saturday (31May14) to undergo tests on her unborn child amid fears her marriage troubles could cause complications with her pregnancy. The busty star, who is expecting her fifth child, split from Kieran Hayler last month (May14) amid allegations he had been cheating on her with her best friend.
However, the estranged pair reunited on Saturday as Price had doctors check on the wellbeing of their baby.
Her representative tells Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, "Katie is doing all she can to focus on her pregnancy and making sure this situation does not cause any issue with it."
Price wed stripper Hayler in the Bahamas in January, 2013. They are parents to a son named Jett, who was born last August (13), while the 36 year old is also mum to two children from her marriage to Australian pop star Peter Andre, and another boy, Harvey, from a previous relationship.
Orlando Bloom has opened up about his marriage split in a new TV interview, insisting he and model Miranda Kerr will always "be in each other's lives". The Lord of the Rings star stunned fans when he confirmed reports he and the Australian beauty, who is the mother of his son Flynn, had split - but he insists they're determined to stay close and support one another.
In a taped interview with U.S. TV personality Katie Couric, which will air on her daily show on Friday (01Nov13), the actor says, "We love each other, we’re a family, we’re gonna be in each other’s lives for the rest of our lives... There’s no question that, you know, for the sake of our son and everything else, we’re going to support one another and love each other as parents to Flynn."
He adds, "Life sometimes doesn’t work out as we plan or as we hope for, but fortunately we’re both adults. I mean, I’m 36 now, she’s 30, and we’re professionals, and we love and care about each other and we most of all love our son."
British glamour model-turned-reality TV star Katie Price has undergone emergency surgery after suffering complications linked to the premature birth of her son last month (Aug13). The new mother, who welcomed her son Jett Riviera eight weeks early, had the operation at a hospital this week (ends29Sep13), but she has since been discharged to recover at home with husband Kieran Hayler at her side.
A source tells Britain's Daily Mirror, "Katie was obviously really worried, as was Kieran. It's been a difficult few months, as she has been plagued by so many complications. This was yet another problem for her to face, but once she had the emergency op, which went well, she was able to leave hospital late that night to return home to her children."
Price delivered Jett early via Caesarean section after she developed a dangerous infection while on vacation abroad.
She is already mother to Junior, eight, and six-year-old Princess from her marriage to Australian singer Peter Andre, as well as 11-year-old Harvey from a previous relationship.
Kate Middleton reportedly plotted to snare Prince William after the university he had chosen to attend became public knowledge. Katie Nichol, the author of a new book titled Kate: The Future Queen, claims the Duchess of Cambridge rejected an offer to study at Scotland's Edinburgh University and took a gap year so she could go to St Andrew's instead - as the British royal would be there.
The claim will fuel speculation the future duchess set out to target the prince at university. It has previously been suggested she caught his eye by deliberately wearing a barely-there dress to a fashion show he was attending.
According to Britain's Daily Mirror, a career adviser at Kate's former school has confirmed her first choice of university had been Edinburgh but she took a gap year and reapplied to St Andrews.
The couple wed in 2011 and had their first child, Prince George, in July (13).
Singer Katie Melua has been left "shocked and spooked" after she was mugged in London this week (beg08Jul13). The star was walking home from a recording studio in Notting Hill when a thief ran up behind her and wrestled her cell phone from her hands.
Melua was not hurt in the mugging, but admits she was left shaken.
She tells Britain's Daily Mail, "It was quite late but with the weather being gorgeous I thought a stroll would be great. And because I'm not familiar with the back streets, I was holding my phone out in front of me and following the directions on a map home. I heard running steps behind me and before I could turn to see who it was, I felt their hands grab mine and wrestle my phone out of my grip. I was spooked and shocked. But I'm relieved they didn't take my bag too."
After the incident, the singer asked a couple for help as she was too frightened to walk home alone.
She adds, "I went up to a couple nearby and asked them to walk with me and help me find a taxi."
Emma Watson is returning to Brown University in Rhode Island after the summer (13) to continue her studies. The studious Harry Potter star left the college in 2011 to focus on her acting career and now she's planning to go back after making a string of movie including The Perks of Being a Wallflower and new films This is the End and Bling Ring.
She tells the New York Daily News, "I really like the fact that it has a very open curriculum, that there aren't any requirements. Really, I've kind of been in charge of my own education since I started out on Potter when I was nine or 10, and I liked that I could design my own major if I wanted to, and I could take independent studies if I wanted to on subjects that weren't necessarily in the curriculum.
"I did an independent study on the psychology and philosophy of how and why we fall in love, which was awesome."
And her love of further education has rubbed off on her Bling Ring co-star Katie Chang, who will be attending Columbia University later this year (13).
Chang says, "I picked her brain at least once or twice. I just remember her telling me that regardless of how much I wanted a different experience and wanted to get out of town and try something new that it had to be something relatively familiar.
"I'm really excited to see what the next few months hold for me. I'm really nervous but I can't wait. I just hope I won't be recognised on campus as the Bling Ring girl!"
Scottish funnyman Frankie Boyle has contacted police after receiving online death threats, according to a U.K. report. The controversial comedian, who has sparked public outrage with his abrasive routines, has been hit with a barrage of abuse on the web recently, and editors at Britain's Daily Star newspaper report he has now called in cops.
A police spokesperson tells the publication, "We have received a complaint regarding online activity and inquiries are ongoing."
Boyle previously attracted 500 complaints from TV viewers in the U.K. over a quip about reality star Katie Price's disabled son in 2010, and earlier this month (May13), he was blasted by health campaigners over a joke he made about Angelina Jolie's breasts following the revelation she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy.
Pop star Kevin Jonas has welcomed his in-laws into his marital home as they await the completion of construction on a new property. The Jonas Brothers star and his wife, Danielle Deleasa, have been living in a quiet suburb of New Jersey since marrying in 2009, but they are currently a little cramped for space after his mother and father-in-law moved in with their daughter Katie.
The couple has been struggling to adjust to the new living situation, which has been documented in the upcoming second season of its U.S. reality show Married to Jonas, which premieres on Sunday (21Apr13), and the 25 year old admits things have been quite chaotic at home.
Jonas tells the New York Daily News, "It happened really fast and unexpectedly. We have mum, dad and (Danielle's sister) Katie upstairs, plus four dogs, which created an interesting family dynamic."
The Burnin' Up hitmaker jokes the only down side is "trying not to eat everything under the sun" because of the constant smell of his mother-in-law's Italian cooking, but the situation has prompted the pair to begin thinking about filling their house with their own kids.
He adds, "Family is something we both want. We just want it at the right time."
Only Anne Hathaway seems capable of inspiring as much ire as Taylor Swift these days. Many seem to have long found her annoying, but it feels like we’re reaching some sort of peak hatred for Swift. (I hope, anyway.) Even Michael J. Fox has snark to spare for her.
In a new Vanity Fair interview, Swift comes out swinging — and she's more than capable of standing up for herself, thanks. She even has some words for Golden Globes hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — who took the jab at her love life that led to Fox’s joke. When asked about Fey and Poehler’s crack that she should stay away from Fox’s son (who was onstage helping with the awards), Swift quoted something Katie Couric once told her: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
As painful as this is, it’s hard to deny: Taylor Swift is right, and the usually impeccably feminist Fey and Poehler are wrong. Or maybe not so much wrong as likely inclined to agree with her that these jokes could use some rethinking, and are, in fact, sexist. As Swift continued, directing her ire at the broader judgy, tabloid culture, “For a female to write about her feelings, and then be portrayed as some clingy, insane, desperate girlfriend in need of making you marry her and have kids with her, I think that’s taking something that potentially should be celebrated — a woman writing about her feelings in a confessional way — that’s taking it and turning it and twisting it into something that is frankly a little sexist.”
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I hate to tell you this, Ms. Swift, but given those last few statements, you are a feminist — even though you sidestepped the label in a recent interview with The Daily Beast. Feminism isn't just “guys versus girls,” as you put it there. And, if you really feel that "if you [meaning women] work as hard as guys, you can go far in life," you're a femisist, whether you adopt the label or not. Given that she’s still only 22, hopefully she’s in the process of figuring that out.
Despite her eschewing of the feminist label, I can’t help feeling a little defensive of a girl who has managed to keep her wits and intelligence about her through her teen years in the spotlight, and who is a damn good songwriter. (Otherwise, we wouldn’t all be talking about her in the first place.) Yes, she takes her chances by putting her love life out in her songs for public consumption. Being an artist means being vulnerable, and she has nailed that since the beginning of her career.
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Swift has in the process emerged as a confounding creature to many feminists, and thus has ended up the subject of surprisingly vitriolic diatribes from the likes of Camille Paglia and Jezebel. One, these are ridiculous rants against Swift, reflecting far more about the ranters than about the woman herself. What they’re saying is: We don’t think we’d like to hang out with her, and we don’t enjoy her music, therefore she can’t be a feminist like we are.
None of us are perfect feminists. If any of our lives were dissected piece by piece, you could put some parts in the “feminist” column, some parts in the “not,” and I’d hope we’d still be “allowed” to be feminists. Dating back to her teens, Swift has been inspiring little girls to pick up guitars and to write their own truths into song. She has also been perpetuating endless fairy tale, princess-in-distress fantasies through her songs, though I’d argue that that’s her truth. A then-teenage singer/songwriter couldn’t be held responsible for reflecting what her culture had taught her. And incidentally, her newer songs, like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were in Trouble” drop the Prince Charming delusions.
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For me, she lands squarely in the feminist camp — whether she embraces that word or not — when she says this to Vanity Fair: “There’s a lesson in all this, in knowing that you can live your life in a way that you’re proud of and people are still gonna take shots.” Hopefully, she’ll keep doing just that, and growing.
Hollywood.com correspondent Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is the author of two forthcoming books, Sexy Feminism and Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, a history of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. For more information visit JenniferKArmstrong.com.
Follow Jennifer on Twitter @jmkarmstrong
[Photo Credit: Vanity Fair]
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