Ella Taylor

Ella Taylor is a free-lance film critic, book reviewer and feature writer living in Los Angeles.

Born in Israel and raised in London, Taylor taught media studies at the University of Washington in Seattle; her book Prime Time Families: Television Culture in Post-War America was published by the University of California Press.

Taylor has written for Village Voice Media, the LA Weekly, The New York Times, Elle magazine and other publications, and was a regular contributor to KPCC-Los Angeles' weekly film-review show FilmWeek.

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5:44pm

Thu September 13, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Master' Actors Deliver Glimpse Into Cult Life

Originally published on Fri September 14, 2012 1:12 pm

Navy veteran Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix) falls under the influence of cult leader Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in The Master.
Phil Bray The Weinstein Co.

Overheard after a screening of The Master:

"So I guess this is an unfinished print?"

"Nope. This is the one they're rolling out."

And it's true that there are moments, especially toward the end of its meandering 137 minutes, when The Master feels like a series of brainy but disconnected thoughts about 20th-century America. That's how writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson works, and for those who don't insist on coherence or closure in narrative any more than they do in life, it's part of the thrilling madness of his method.

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5:03pm

Thu September 6, 2012
Movie Reviews

'The Words': Serious Questions, Meet Sappy Romance

Originally published on Thu September 6, 2012 5:33 pm

Frustrated author Rory (Bradley Cooper) and his wife, Dora (Zoe Saldana), come into possession of a manuscript that Rory decides to pass off as his own.
Jonathan Wenk CBS Films

Bradley Cooper has the wolfish grin and raffish charm of a cardsharp — or a baby hedge-fund manager. So at first you may find him a tough sell as a writer of prose so sensitive and "interior" that even an admiring old-school editor tells him it's unpublishable.

Hold on, though. The writer has moral flaws, and a name, Rory Jansen, that's better suited to a designer of racy swimwear than a crafter of lambent sentences about the inner workings of the psyche.

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2:32pm

Tue September 4, 2012
Movie Reviews

Chilling Future Awaits 'Girl Model' Recruits

Originally published on Tue September 4, 2012 4:38 pm

Nadya Vall, a 13-year-old Russian girl who is sent off to Tokyo to become a model, is hoping to satisfy her parents' desire to afford a larger home.
First Run Features

In Girl Model, an alarming documentary about the trafficking of Russian child models to the Japanese fashion market, a garrulous modeling agent explains his philosophy: To expiate his own past bad behavior, he says with papal solemnity, he approaches model recruitment as a religious calling, not to mention a fatherly responsibility to do right by the girls, give them a better life than they have now and protect them from harm.

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5:03pm

Thu August 30, 2012
Movie Reviews

'For A Good Time': More (Dirty) Talk, Less Action

Lauren (co-writer Lauren Anne Miller) and Katie (Ari Graynor) are reluctant roommates turned business partners in For a Good Time, Call ....
Ryder Sloane Focus Features

Hot topic du jour, discuss: Do women rule the world?

First the girls took over the schools, with their stellar grades and all. Then they got the lion's share of the jobs. (Not quite true, but the claim generates Web punditry by the ton.)

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5:03pm

Thu August 23, 2012
Movies

For Chinese-American Adoptees, Matters Of Identity

Fang "Jenni" Lee, raised in Berkeley, Calif., returns to China to help broker the adoption of another little girl.
Linda Goldstein Knowlton Long Shot Factory

Of the roughly 80,000 Chinese children adopted in the United States since 1979, almost all are girls, abandoned at birth by their parents because of China's one-child policy, coupled with inheritance laws that favor boys.

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5:03pm

Tue August 21, 2012
Movies

A Put-Upon Hardbody, But A 'Teddy Bear' At Heart

Originally published on Wed August 22, 2012 8:33 pm

Bodybuilder Dennis (Kim Kold) and gym owner Toi (Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard) share a tender moment.
Film Movement

Set in contemporary Denmark and in Thailand, Mads Matthiesen's Teddy Bear is a sweetly muted domestic drama struggling to contain a fierce and ancient folk tale.

The hero, Dennis — a 300-pound bodybuilder with a lovable touch of Shrek — has an absent father and a tiny witch of a mother whose parenting is a twisted cocktail of dominatrix and coquette. (If your mother conducted bathroom business with you alongside at age 38, you'd have issues too.)

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5:06pm

Thu August 16, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Why Stop Now': Loose Ends, Tied Up Too Neatly

Originally published on Tue August 21, 2012 12:31 pm

Eli (Jesse Eisenberg) and his mother, Penny (Melissa Leo), fall in with Penny's inept drug dealer, Sprinkles (Tracy Morgan), in the trite new indie drama Why Stop Now.
Jacob Hutchings IFC Entertainment

What's an American family these days? Many different things, but while television — a domestic medium to its marrow — has an affectionate finger on the pulse of the changing modern family, movies often seem stuck in a sorry dysfunction held over from the late 1960s, when we awoke to find that jolly Beaver Cleaver had morphed into miserable Benjamin Braddock, and while Mrs. Robinson tippled discreetly in the bedroom, Father, far from knowing best, went clueless or missing.

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5:03pm

Thu August 9, 2012
Movie Reviews

Iranian 'Wave' Rises To Euphoria, Crashes In Despair

An Iranian woman mourns in The Green Wave, a documentary that mixes live action and animation to tell the story of the protests that erupted in the country during its 2009 elections.
Dreamer Joint Venture

Late in The Green Wave, a soulful look back at the brief 2009 people's movement for democratic elections in Iran, a former United Nations prosecutor and human rights activist observes that the protest, despite being brutally quelled by the forces of President Ahmadinejad, was "a tidal wave" that would sweep through the Middle East.

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5:03pm

Thu August 2, 2012
Movie Reviews

'360': Intertwined Lives In A Connected Europe

Michael (Jude Law) and Rose (Rachel Weisz) are two of the many characters in 360, a film about interconnected European lives from the director of City of God and The Constant Gardener.
Phil Fisk Magnolia Pictures

For all the glum punditry about our brave new world of connected disconnection, there are endless possibilities for free play — though you'd never know it from the sorry crew of malcontents in 360, an ambitious post-millennial take on Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde.

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5:03pm

Thu July 26, 2012
Movie Reviews

An Unwitting Folk Hero Finds A Spotlight At Last

Originally published on Fri July 27, 2012 3:06 pm

In the 1960s, protest singer Rodriguez didn't find an audience in the United States. Unbeknownst to him, though, one of his albums became a massive success in South Africa. Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul tracks him down in Searching for Sugar Man.
Hal WIlson Sony Pictures Classics

In 1968, two music producers went to a Detroit dive called The Sewer to hear a Mexican-American protest singer with a small cult following.

The producers' client list was mostly Motown, but they immediately signed Rodriguez (full name Sixto Rodriguez), whose stirring lyrics they hoped would speak to disenfranchised outsiders of all stripes and their champions.

Together, they made two albums — one of which, Cold Fact, provides the soundtrack for the thrilling new documentary Searching for Sugar Man.

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