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.

Pages

Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu July 2, 2015

Beyond A Voice And A Sad Story, 'Amy' Listens To A Life

Amy Winehouse
A24

Originally published on Thu July 2, 2015 6:54 pm

Booze, drugs, Svengalis galore, rampant co-dependence: The bare bones of a crash-and-burn rocker bio-pic poke through Asif Kapadia's richly absorbing documentary about the short, sharp life of Amy Winehouse. Here and there Amy flirts with prurience, but prurience is hard to avoid with a young woman who, willy-nilly, lived her private life in public. And if ever there was an artist whose life and work fed one another for better and worse, it was Winehouse.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu June 25, 2015

A Wavy Line Between Fantasy And Reality In 'The Little Death'

Kate Mulvany and Damon Herriman in The Little Death.
Magnolia Pictures

Ah, suburbia: the place where buried desires come out to play and wreak havoc with bourgeois conformity. Or at least they do in movies. There's no swinging in Josh Lawson's cheeky sex comedy, The Little Death, but the Bob and Carol and Ted et al. whose carnal breakouts it tracks are all mired in troubled unions that range from the humdrum to the bored and neglected to the disturbing. In all cases, orgasm is in great demand but in short supply, which accounts for the movie's sly title, translated from the French.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu June 18, 2015

One 'Overnight,' Two Couples, Countless Boundaries Violated

Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling in The Overnight.
John Geleserian The Orchard

Originally published on Thu June 25, 2015 5:31 pm

"I thought you wanted to loosen up," Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) asks Alex (Adam Scott) close to the end of Patrick Brice's The Overnight. "I do," Alex replies warily. "But I guess I'm just wondering what loosen up means at this point."

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu June 18, 2015

Difficult Times With A Difficult Father In 'Infinitely Polar Bear'

Mark Ruffalo, Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide in Infinitely Polar Bear.
Claire Folger Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Thu June 18, 2015 7:26 pm

Cam Stuart (Mark Ruffalo), the bipolar father of two at the center of Maya Forbes' amiable domestic comedy Infinitely Polar Bear, comes to us attired in a scarlet swimsuit with matching bandana as he bangs furiously on the window of a car containing his departing wife, Maggie (Zoe Saldana), and small daughters Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Faith (Ashley Aufderheide). When his family visits soon after, Cam is an institutionalized zombie, medicated to the gills, his weight ballooning from the side effects of Lithium.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu June 11, 2015

In One New York Apartment, Six Brothers See The World Through Film

Krsna Angulo, Jagadisa Angulo, Bhagavan Angulo, Mukunda Angulo, Narayana Angulo and Govinda Angulo in The Wolfpack.
Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri June 12, 2015 4:38 pm

Imagine going out into the world for the first time, armed only with a Quentin Tarantino script as a reference manual. That's the predicament, and the weird joy, of six teenage brothers who spent their childhood cooped up in a cramped apartment in a wild and woolly neighborhood of New York's Lower East Side.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:01 pm
Thu June 4, 2015

A Strong Central Performance Elevates A Pacifist's Story

Kit Harington and Alicia Vikander in Testament Of Youth.
Laurie Sparham Sony Picture Classics

Vera Brittain, an upper-crust Englishwoman whose experiences as a nurse in World War I turned her into a pacifist, was known to my generation primarily as the mother of Shirley Williams, a similarly feisty and beloved Labour Cabinet member who still sits in the House of Lords.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu May 28, 2015

Self-Improvement Gets Romantic In 'Results'

Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce in Results.
Ryan Green Magnolia Pictures

Kat, a personal trainer played with rabid verve by Cobie Smulders in the terrific new comedy Results, is a recognizable gym rat modestly enlarged for comical promise. "I lead with my butt," the dedicated workout queen tells a client, oblivious to the fact that he's already rather taken with that highly buffed part of her anatomy. She's obsessive and blunt and aggressive almost unto unbearable. It can safely be said that empowerment is not Kat's problem.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

A Journey Of Self-Discovery In 'When Marnie Was There'

When Marnie Was There
2014 GNDHDDTK

The adolescent girl at the heart of Hiromasa Yonebayashi's haunting When Marnie Was There has the cropped dark hair, wide eyes and square-peg awkwardness that will be familiar to fans of Studio Ghibli animated movies. Unlike the feisty, willful sprites of Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away and many other Ghibli treasures though, Anna is a cowed, sensitive soul with artistic leanings. At school she's friendless and bullied.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:01 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

Bad Karma In 'Every Secret Thing'

Dakota Fanning in Every Secret Thing.
Starz Digital

Every Secret Thing, a clammy little thriller about missing babies and bad family karma, bristles with heavy female artillery on both sides of the camera, most of it working unaccustomed turf. The script, adapted from a detective novel by Laura Lippman, is by Nicole Holofcener, whose usual territory is wisecracking urban comedies. The executive producer is actress Frances McDormand, who got the project off the ground and recruited documentary filmmaker Amy Berg to direct.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu May 7, 2015

'Saint Laurent,' A Radical Man Of Fashion

Gaspard Ulliel as Yves Saint Laurent.
Carole Bethuel Mandarin Cinema-EuropaCorp-Orange Studio-Arte France Cinema-Scope Pictures, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 6:06 pm

Early on in Bertrand Bonello's extravagantly imagined portrait of designer Yves Saint Laurent, strict orders come down from the Great One to the stressed-out sewing room, or whatever they call it in that etherized milieu. The tone is hushed but the message is clear: the stitching's all wrong; it must be put right; it must be put right now. In every other respect, Bonello's film has nothing — believe me, nothing — in common with The Devil Wears Prada.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:33 pm
Thu April 30, 2015

Revisiting The Melodrama Of 'Far From The Madding Crowd'

Matthias Schoenaerts and Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd.
Alex Bailey Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

A fierce spirit ahead of her Victorian time, vacillating between love, sex and business in choosing a partner to run the farm she refuses to see go under, Far From the Madding Crowd's Bathsheba Everdene is also a woman for the ages and therefore amenable to endless re-imagining, up to and including Katniss Everdeen. All in white and gamboling through green meadows with adorable lambs and a very hot Alan Bates, Julie Christie made an unforgettable Bathsheba in John Schlesinger's 1967 steamed-up adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 1874 pastoral novel.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Two Unmoored Souls Too Gloomily Drawn In 'Felix And Meira'

Hadas Yaron and Luzer Twersky in Felix and Meira.
Oscilloscope

In the 2012 drama Fill the Void, Israeli actress Hadas Yaron was incandescent as an Ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv girl who, following the sudden death of her beloved older sister, is pressured by rabbis and relatives to marry her brother-in-law in order to preserve family unity. She suffers agonies over the decision, but never doubts the legitimacy of the Hasidic community that sustains her.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

'The Sisterhood Of Night' Wonders What These Girls Are Up To

Olivia DeJonge, Georgie Henley, Willa Cuthrell, and Kara Hayward in The Sisterhood Of Night.
Olivia Bee The Sisterhood Of Night

For a while The Sisterhood of Night, a spry, heartfelt first feature about teenage girls doing strange things in woods by night, appears to traffic in every easy cliché we adults use to bind female adolescents into knowable aliens. Led by charismatic underachiever Mary (played by former Narnia child Georgie Henley, all grown into a slightly unsettling resemblance to the young Eileen Brennan), a growing band of girls in a small Hudson Valley town take to the forest after dark, apparently to grow a satanic cult or something.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

Lost Art Is Reclaimed In 'Woman In Gold'

Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds star in Woman in Gold.
Robert Viglasky Weinstein Company

Originally published on Fri April 3, 2015 5:17 pm

Gustav Klimt's famous painting of a dark-eyed beauty encased in shimmering gold lozenges is often dismissed by art critics as a disappointing excursion into kitsch by the avant-garde Austrian painter. But the portrait, commissioned by a wealthy Jewish family not long before the outbreak of World War II, has brought visceral pleasure to countless owners of postcards, posters and key-rings who have yet to set foot in New York's Neue Galerie, where the original hangs today.

Read more
Movie Reviews
11:51 am
Fri March 27, 2015

A Photographer's Eye For Tragedy And Hope In 'Salt Of The Earth'

Elephant in Kafue National Park, Zambia, 2010.
Sebastiao Salgado Amazonas Images/Sony Pictures Classics

The Salt of the Earth, a documentary about famed photographer Sebastiao Salgado, ends with tranquil images of his family farm in Brazil, a leafy earthly paradise restored from the ravages of severe drought. That's where Salgado went to recover from his experiences in war-torn Rwanda, and, perhaps, a life spent bringing back pictures of the self-inflicted horrors of mankind: genocide, drought, famine and the unspeakable suffering they bring to those caught in their wake.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Don't Give Up Too Easily On The Scruffy 'Danny Collins'

Singer Danny Collins (Al Pacino) with his manager Frank Grubman (Christopher Plummer).
Bleecker Street

Originally published on Fri March 20, 2015 1:03 pm

Al Pacino as a jaded, aging rocker re-juiced by a road trip to settle accounts with himself and his long-lost family? By all means roll your eyes — the star has one brow goofily raised himself — but don't give up on Danny Collins. In a (slightly) lower key than he's wont to play, Pacino puts a sweet spin on Danny that makes him more worth attending to than you might expect from the drifting geezer we meet, decked out in regulation gold chains and a bleary cocaine haze.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu March 12, 2015

Lesser-Known Players Get Their Bows In 'The Wrecking Crew'

George Harrison and Joe Osborn in The Wrecking Crew.
Magnolia Pictures

In the mid-1960s, pop music moved its center of gravity from New York to Los Angeles. It was a seismic shift, but growing up in the cold drizzle of post-World War II London, what did I know from the West Coast Sound? I was just a rapt kid with my ear glued to Top-40 radio, dreaming of sun, surf and sex via the Beach Boys, the Mamas and Papas, Sam Cooke, The Supremes. In my fevered imagination, Spector's towering "wall of sound" had to have been recorded in a cathedral.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

Weeping, Shooting And A Belly Full Of Gum In 'October Gale'

Scott Speedman and Patricia Clarkson in October Gale.
Jeremy Benning IFC Films

At 55 years old, Patricia Clarkson retains the golden glow and throaty delivery of a siren out of 1940s women's melodrama. But her home turf lies along the edgier margins of indie cinema (High Art, Far From Heaven, The Station Agent) and television (Six Feet Under, Parks and Recreation). There, Clarkson has thrived as a character actress who can do arch, sinister, smart, sexy, goofy and wistful on demand.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

'The Rewrite': Hugh Grant Operating At Maximum Hugh Grant

Marisa Tomei and Hugh Grant star in The Rewrite.
Anne Joyce Watch Image

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 1:57 pm

Even when he's walking through the shambling shtick he can do in his sleep, Hugh Grant always gives good value.

In Marc Lawrence's sweetly undemanding new comedy The Rewrite, the British actor is in familiar mode, rumpled and stammering as Keith Michaels, a once-successful screenwriter now left behind in Hollywood's mad scramble for "edgy comedies with a kick-ass young woman." Down to his last option, Keith reluctantly accepts a gig as a writer-in-residence at a public university in upstate New York.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:04 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

A Parisian Finds Her Place In A Rarely Seen Part Of 'Girlhood'

Karidja Toure in Girlhood.
Strand Releasing

Early on in Celine Sciamma's striking Girlhood, a deft twist confounds what you might expect from a teen movie set in a mostly black, poverty-stricken suburb of Paris. Shut out of conventional paths to realize her ambition to be "like others, normal" and fed up with the tyranny of a bullying older brother at home, 16-year-old Marieme (Karidja Toure) takes up with a gang of tough-talking girls whose charismatic leader, Lady (Assa Sylla), fights other girls and wields a knife.

Read more

Pages