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Review: 'Hot Coffee' An Eye-Opening, Must-See Doc About A Legal Case You Thought You Knew

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • June 27, 2011 2:56 AM
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  • 8 Comments
In 1994, a decision in a seemingly innocuous legal case made waves around the country, becoming fodder for "Seinfeld," late night stand-up routines and editorials around the country, and you probably remember it. A woman in New Mexico was awarded a judgment of $2.86 million dollars after suing McDonald's because her coffee was too hot. "Isn't coffee supposed to be hot?" seemed to serve as a punchline to numerous jokes, while most just read the headlines in newspapers and assumed it was yet more evidence of a legal system gone out of control. But did you know that the plaintiff, Stella Liebeck, was 79 years old? Did you know that the burns were so severe she required skin grafts? Did you know that she required two years of medical treatment? Did you know that McDonald's had actually been quietly settling out of court for years after numerous, similar complaints? And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Infuriating, shocking, riveting and one of the best legal documentaries we've seen in a long time, Susan Saladoff 's "Hot Coffee" uses Liebeck's lawsuit as a springboard to investigate how the public spin on that case was slowly used to strip the rights of regular citizens, consumers and employees to sue big business.

L.A. Film Fest Reviews: Songs by Animal Collective & Bon Iver Can't Save 'The Dynamiter'

  • By James Rocchi
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  • June 25, 2011 12:58 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Plus Iranian Indie 'Please Do Not Disturb'"The Dynamiter" opens in the fields of the South with two young brothers (one fourteen, one eight) throwing sharpened sticks they've made at a pile of hay. We keep seeing wannabe Malick-like cuts and shots as the older brother is telling a joke, the sky is an amazing blue, and "Banshee Beat" by Animal Collective plays in the background. This sets the tone for the rest of the film; one of shallow cliches, disingenuous nostalgia, and a coldly calculated style.
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L.A. Film Fest Reviews: Herzog-ian 'Family Instinct' & The Quiet Tragedy Of 'The Salesman'

  • By James Rocchi
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  • June 24, 2011 6:03 AM
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  • 0 Comments
"Family Instinct" Director Andris Gauja seems to be taking a page out of Werner Herzog's "ecstatic truth" playbook with "Family Instinct," a film about Zanda, a Latvian woman waiting for her husband and father of her children to come home from prison. But he's only in prison because she told the police of the abuse she and her children were receiving. Still, she says she'll let him back and be happy if he behaves. After all he is her husband. And her brother.
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Review: 'A Better Life' Is Uneven, But A Well-Intentioned & Modest Human Story

  • By The Playlist
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  • June 24, 2011 4:58 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Sincerely rendered, modest and at times, a little too simplistic, Chris Weitz's "A Better Life," is neverthless a labor of love and a quiet, well-intentioned examination of family, father-son relationships and immigration issues in the U.S. Chalk it up to guilt. No, not white guilt, franchise guilt. After delivering two back-to-back rather bankrupt genre tentpoles (the polar bear coke commercial, anti-religion campaign "The Golden Compass" and the vacuous "Twilight: New Moon") director Weitz pulls a full 180 with his small-scale humanist drama, and he's a better man (and filmmaker) for it. If only every empty and tentpole obsessed director felt as though they needed to make similar amends. Not that atonement washes away all sins nor creates a perfect movie, but at the very least, even if it misfires ocassionally, which is does, the intent is pure -- and that's a start.

L.A. Film Fest Review: 'The Destiny Of Lesser Animals' Is A Study In Identity

  • By Leah Zak
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  • June 24, 2011 3:22 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The Filmmakers Also Talk Bringing The Production To Ghana In “The Destiny of Lesser Animals” director Deron Albright and writer/lead actor Yao B. Nunoo paint an unhappy picture of life on the coast of West African nation Ghana. Boniface Koomsin (Nunoo) is a police inspector in the Cape Coast region, but is trying his best to break free and return to the bright lights, big city of New York, where he spent time as a young man. But following his deportation back to Ghana after 9/11, he finds it much harder to return to the States and desperate, saves his paychecks for a counterfeit U.S. Passport that, no sooner does it finally reach his hands, is stolen.
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Review: ‘Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop’ A Funny & Moving Portrait Of The Late Night Staple

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • June 24, 2011 2:44 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The following is a reprint of our review from SXSW.

Review: 'Bad Teacher' Only Deserves A Mildly Passable Grade

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • June 23, 2011 2:56 AM
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  • 2 Comments
After the critical and commercial success of "Bridesmaids," and an escalation in the discussion of women's place in comedy both in the more niche-y blogosphere and in mainstream popular culture (illuminated most wonderfully earlier this year in a gonzo episode of "30 Rock"), "Bad Teacher," about a foul-mouthed, irresponsible, self-centered, drug-addled teacher (who also happens to be a woman) seems particularly well-timed. And while the comedy is periodically laugh-out-loud, shoot-soda-out-of-your-nose funny, it also ultimately feels like a missed opportunity; like a substitute that breezes out of your life a semester too soon without ever making much of an impact.

Review: 'If A Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front' Is A Compelling Eco-Terrorism Doc

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • June 21, 2011 3:26 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Of all the "issue" documentaries that have come out in the past few years about our environment, one that hasn't been broached, in any kind of thorough way, has been eco-terrorism. Part of this undoubtedly has to do with the propagation of the image of environmentalists as peace-loving, hippy dippy folks who would rather hold up signs and play hacky sack (while on break from Hampshire College) than burn out a building or engage in Palahniuk-ian fits of mischief and violent rebellion. But an even bigger reason why the subject hasn't been tackled in any kind of in-depth way must surely be the thorny, morally complicated issue of eco-terrorism; at times their aims are understandable and their tactics not much different than those they're rallying against, but there's an intensity to their methods that leaves some feeling uncomfortable, and anything involving the word "terrorist" is a tough sell.
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Review: 'Cars 2' Features All New Parts, But With Less Than Pleasing Results

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • June 21, 2011 2:01 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Brightly colored, heartwarming, and making expansive narrative sweeps with an incredibly limited running time, it's the kind of bold, splashily produced film that has rarely graced multiplex screens this summer. But its biggest accomplishment might be that it reunites us with old friends (some of them more familiar than others); the cinematic equivalent of a warm, cathartic (but never saccharine or overtly sentimental) hug.

L.A. Film Fest Reviews: 'The Bad Intentions' Is A Brilliant & Funny Coming Of Age Story

  • By James Rocchi
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  • June 20, 2011 3:27 AM
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  • 2 Comments
'The Fatherless' Is Well-Shot And Competent, But Little MoreAnnouncing a great new voice in the world of cinema, Rosario Garcia-Montero's "The Bad Intentions" is a brilliant coming-of-age story that's funny, subtle, touching, and one of the best films of the year. Growing up in a bourgeois house in 1981 Lima, 8 year old Cayetana de la Heros spends a lot of time with herself. She is perhaps the most morose little girl seen on screen in a long time, idolizing Peruvian independence heroes from the past, focusing in particular on how they met their end. She finds out that her mother is pregnant with another child and somehow decides that the day the new child is born is the day she is going to die (she isn't planning suicide, she just thinks that this will inevitably happen).
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