Ella Taylor

Ella Taylor is a freelance 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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Movie Reviews
6:03 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

Meet Brandon Darby, Grass-Roots Activist (And FBI Rat)

Brandon Darby, a onetime leftist activist who eventually became an FBI informant, has had his share of both detractors and admirers — many of whom appear in a new documentary about his life and work.
Music Box Films

Originally published on Fri September 13, 2013 9:13 am

For a while in Jamie Meltzer's mesmerizing documentary Informant, I wondered whether subject Brandon Darby, the lefty activist turned FBI informer, was being played by an actor.

But no: It's Darby, and he's a handsome fellow, with haunted eyes blazing out of a bone structure to die for, and with a Montgomery Clift dimple in his chin. Staring straight into the camera, he testifies with the intense calm of a messiah or a madman, which all too often comes to the same thing. Among other things, this powerfully confused man is a study in American extremity.

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Movie Reviews
11:10 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Dentist, Heal Thy Sister (And Vice Versa)

Reach Out And ... What Was It Again? Josh Pais and Rosemarie DeWitt are a brother and sister with serious life changes to negotiate in Touchy Feely.
Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri September 6, 2013 2:40 pm

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Mommy Issues, Or: It's Always Sonny In Cougartown

It's a family film: Xavier Samuel and Robin Wright play one of two intergenerational couples at the center of Anne Fontaine's Adore, a film that dares to ask: "Does it count as a mommy issue if you're sleeping with her lifelong best friend?"
Exclusive Media

Originally published on Mon September 9, 2013 9:48 am

Overused and much misused, the word "provocative" has become a double-edged sword, especially when it's swung in the direction of independent cinema. At its best, the genuinely provocative film — off the top of my head, anything by Bunuel, Shaun of the Dead, Holy Motors -- shocks in order to expand our vision of the world it encompasses. At its most dispiriting, it's an exercise in cheap thrillage, designed to goose a presumptively stuffy bourgeois audience while positioning a director as some sort of iconoclast.

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Movie Reviews
6:24 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

'Closed Circuit' Targets Big Brother, But Swings Pretty Wide

Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall play lawyerly allies with a complicated past — one that threatens to increase their present peril — in the surveillance-state thriller Closed Circuit.
Jay Maidment Focus Features

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 6:28 pm

A massive explosion rocks a covered market, but Central London still looks mighty handsome in the British thriller Closed Circuit. So does the actress Rebecca Hall. Decked out in blacks, creams and grays, she and her city both are sleek, elegant and more than a little forbidding, even if they're softened by pockets of olde worlde soul.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

In 'Drinking Buddies,' Drifting Through The Suds

Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) work together at a Chicago brewery — and teeter on the brink of a relationship. But in this film, the work is more compelling than the play.
Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 2:07 pm

"She's so pretty, she could be in any movie," a fan gushed after a screening of Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies. There's a lot more to Olivia Wilde than her feline loveliness, which, combined with a challenging stare that dares you to dismiss her as fluff, reminds me of a young Michelle Pfeiffer. But not much of that is allowed out to play in this strained comic drama about two young couples struggling to answer universal questions in particular ways.

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Opinion
4:42 am
Sun August 18, 2013

Forget The Tea: Delightful Debauchery In British Pop Culture

JJ Feild plays an actor who plays Mr. Darcy in the movie Austenland.
Fickle Fish Films

Originally published on Sun August 18, 2013 5:20 pm

The raucous comedy Austenland, in theaters this week, pokes fun at Americans' reverence for what they have been taught to see as a gracious British heritage — muslin, bonnets, tea time at the stately home with the blue-bloods, good manners.

As well it might. For most of the English 99-percenters I grew up with, heritage meant feet up in front of the telly, watching Top of the Pops.

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Movie Reviews
4:47 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

To 'Austenland,' Where Jane Jokes Go To Die

Keri Russell's Jane Hayes daydreams of the Regency life, complete with suitors as handsome and rough-hewn as Bret McKenzie's Martin, in Austenland, a big-screen adaptation of the Shannon Hale novel.
Giles Keyte Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 5:45 pm

Austenland, a clunky broadside aimed at the cult of Jane Austen, is worth seeing primarily for its end credits, a mix of pop oil and water so joyfully dippy it might have produced a stifled giggle even in Herself.

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Movie Reviews
4:52 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

For Two Mismatched Newlyweds, A Very Odd 'Year'

The typical romantic comedy might end with the wedding, but for Josh (Rafe Spall) and Nat (Rose Byrne), that's just the beginning of the story of I Give It a Year.
Jules Heath Magnolia

Originally published on Thu August 8, 2013 5:55 pm

I Give It a Year is about what you'd expect from the warped mind of Dan Mazer — Sacha Baron Cohen's close collaborator on Da Ali G Show­, Borat and Bruno. Which is to say: a raucously funny comic romance that's deaf and blind to the blithe spirit of romantic comedy.

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Movie Reviews
5:26 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

Poseidon's Little Squirt Is Back, And He's Still At Sea

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman of Perks of Being a Wallflower) and his pal Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) are two of the unusually talented teens resident at Camp Half-Blood, a summer retreat for — well, demigods, not to put too fine a point on it.
Fox

Returning from sleep-away camp, my teenage daughter, who'd hitherto declared reading a foreign pursuit, announced that she was now a "bookie." Ruthlessly suppressing my inner jig, I nodded casually and asked how this literary epiphany had come about. A cabin full of reader-girls, it seemed, had turned her on to Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. And so it came to pass that, over the next few weeks, my child holed up at the library and indulged a burgeoning obsession with Greek mythology.

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Movies
12:28 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Emotional Terrorism, From The Shelter Of Home

Andre (Niels Arestrup) shares a home with his Moroccan-born adopted son Mounir (Tahar Rahim), who has struggled to find work outside his father's home-based medical practice.
Distrib Films

Our Children, a quietly devastating Belgian domestic drama, opens with a shattered young woman on an IV drip. Then the action moves swiftly back to that same woman, radiantly in love and eager to tell Andre, the man her beloved calls father, that she's planning to marry his boy.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

For Old-School Kvetch Comics, A Catskills Cradle

Jackie Mason is one of a host of comedians interviewed in When Comedy Went to School, a documentary about a generation of Jewish comics and the Catskills resorts that nurtured them.
International Film Circuit

For the charming but skin-deep documentary When Comedy Went to School, filmmakers Mevlut Akkaya and Ron Frank gained enviable access to pioneer stars of Borscht Belt standup.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

Cate Blanchett, Trifling With The Kindness Of Strangers

Sony Classics

Originally published on Thu July 25, 2013 4:32 pm

Jasmine, once a wealthy Manhattan socialite, comes to us a jabbering wreck in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine. We meet her staggering off a plane in San Francisco to stay with her down-market sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins).

The bottom has fallen out of Jasmine's glamorous world, in which she oozed style and made the trains run on time for her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), a financier who gave lavishly to charity with others' money. The name Madoff never comes up, but Hal went to jail, Jasmine is left with mountains of debt, and it's not hard to do the math.

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Movie Reviews
6:04 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

A 'Girl Most Likely,' Unlikely To Succeed

Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening are daughter and mother in a dysfunctional-family comedy about a playwright whose life needs a reboot — and the people who help her push the button.
Roadside Attractions

In Girl Most Likely, a likable but warmed-over comedy about rediscovering the nutso family you thought was holding you back, the gifted Kristen Wiig plays Imogene, a playwright on the skids after a brief sojourn into minor Manhattan celebrity.

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Movie Reviews
5:08 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

Strange Doings Among Chess-Mad '80s Coders

Patrick Riester plays one of the alpha geeks competing in a game-writing tournament in Computer Chess, a willfully odd comedy from mumblecore pioneer Andrew Bujalski.
Kino Lorber

Originally published on Wed July 24, 2013 4:33 pm

"I don't mind putting something pleasant out into the world," said filmmaker Andrew Bujalski in a recent New York Magazine interview.

You don't hear that too often outside the sphere of general-audience entertainment, let alone from a writer-director widely credited with pioneering mumblecore, the slackerish mini-movement that never really was.

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Movie Reviews
4:00 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Almodovar, Extending An Invite To The Mile High Club

When their aircraft develops mechanical trouble, three flight attendants — Fajas (Carlos Areces), Ulloa (Raul Arevalo) and Joserra (Javier Camara) — set out to put passengers at ease ... using some unorthodox methods.
Sony Classics

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 5:54 pm

I'm So Excited! a less-than-exciting new romp from the great Pedro Almodovar, dusts off one of the hoariest plot tricks in the farceur's playbook: Trap a bunch of upstanding citizens in a confined space with no exit, and watch their ids — along with their secrets and lies — come out to play.

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