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.

If you've read Peter Carey's marvelous 2001 True History of the Kelly Gang, you'll be aware going into a faithful new film adaptation of the novel that the word "true" is a signal to literary mischief and sly tampering with received history. Director Justin Kurzel and writer Shaun Grant mirror Carey's grimly playful take on the myths that have grown around Ned Kelly, leader of the notorious Australian Kelly Gang.

Pressed upon by a demanding mother and a school principal with an amply stuffed shirt, Selah (Lovie Simone), a black graduating senior, plays queen bee over five warring student factions at a pricey but ethnically diverse boarding school that's quite literally covered in ivy. Each faction has its own subculture, its own exchange currency and its own turf to defend. Selah's group, the Spades, dispenses cash, booze and pills to those who offer fealty, and an occasional roughing up to those who don't.

Note: Resistance will be released on video-on-demand and streaming services on Friday, March 26.

Late in Eliza Hittman's Never Rarely Sometimes Always, 17-year-old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), who is pregnant and in all kinds of trouble, calls her mother from a public bathroom far from her Pennsylvania coal-town home. Her mother asks where she is in a quavering child's voice. After a pause Autumn hangs up, inspects herself in the bathroom mirror, and squares her shoulders.

As we hurtle closer to a time when little kids will look up from their tablets to inquire, "What was a book, Mommy?" much as they now ask, "What's a record player?," it may cheer you to learn, from a charming new documentary about bookselling, that while the middle-aged tend to play on Kindles these days, millennials are to be seen in droves reading print books on the New York subway.

As monstrous cinematic moguls go, Sir Richard McCreadie, CEO of many a failed British cut-rate clothing chain, is no Citizen Kane. Played with casual brio by Steve Coogan in Michael Winterbottom's genre-confounding Greed, Sir Richard is not what you'd call a brooder. To him, self-doubt — indeed introspection of any sort — is a loser's game.

My first time around with Ordinary Love, I saw two great actors doing their damnedest to breathe life into a pedestrian cancer weepie. I watched it again and saw two great actors bringing grace and depth to an imperfect but affecting chamber piece that takes it for granted that we can handle a de-sanitized drama about a long-married couple doing their best to cope with life-threatening illness. The film is not especially graphic, but unlike most others of its kind, this one trusts us to stick with the slew of treatments that often hurt more than the disease.

The premise of Makoto Shinkai's captivating new anime, Weathering With You, plays out just a whisker away from the storyline of his 2017 smash hit Your Name, about a teenage boy and girl who switch bodies, time and place. In both films a country boy moves to the big city and meets a mystery girl with special powers. Here the two, both refugees from less than adequate families, get caught up in a galloping plot of rescue, redemption and growing up, wrapped in a love story drawn from ancient Japanese legend.

A melodrama to its high-strung core, Karim Aïnouz's Invisible Life is rich in outsized emotions, most of them pouring out of two devoted young Brazilian sisters forcibly separated through the multiple follies of their authoritarian father. If love — sisterly, carnal, maternal, you name it — blazes on the front burner of this intermittently gratifying tale (based on a 2005 novel by Martha Batalha) of domestic woe, destructive patriarchy marches right along behind, ready to stomp on the slightest push for female autonomy or self-definition.

When we meet Alice (Emily Beecham), a single mother and bio-engineer devoted to her work in the effectively creepy indie Little Joe, she's busy propagating a plant whose smell will make all interested smellers happy. So far so plausible: Tampering with nature in the name of the public good — or because we can — is all the rage in life and in movies. Around Alice, apparently normal workplace stuff is going on. A pompous boss (David Wilmot) asserts his authority just because. An ostentatiously diplomatic young assistant with big hair (Phénix Brossard) lurks.

For better and worse, class pride has always run a deep vein through British society, upstairs and down. Not so the United States, where the mere mention of social class often triggers strenuous manifestos about meritocracy and equal opportunity. Which may be why attempts to reproduce Michael Apted's long-running Up anthology — inquiring into the persistence of social hierarchy in post-World War II Britain — have so far failed this side of the Atlantic. For those who think Downton Abbey is pretty much a documentary, the Up series is the perfect antidote.

On the face of it, director Marielle Heller's exhilaratingly impolite indie resume doesn't make her an intuitive fit for a movie about the nicest man in the world — let alone a big studio picture starring nice Tom Hanks.

In a deliciously digressive sequence of the rollicking Ford v Ferrari, Mollie (Outlander's Caitriona Balfe), the otherwise supportive wife of test car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), treats her husband to a taste of his own medicine after he unilaterally takes what ought to have been a joint family decision. Exasperated, Mollie propels Ken into a hair-raising speed-ride through hairpin bends in the staid family car. The joke is that Ken, a congenital speed freak who also loves his wife to distraction, is terrified and begs her to slow down.

An extended family gathers with assorted significant others in a beautiful countryside retreat. Troubles are shared, grudges and loves declared and forsworn, regrets — they have a few.

Late in Pedro Almodóvar's wonderful new drama, Pain and Glory, there comes a tough and tender flashback in which a filmmaker hears from his elderly mother (Julieta Serrano) that the neighbors don't like being portrayed in his movies. "I don't like auto-fiction," she adds with a note of acid reproof we rarely hear from the devoted maters, blood and surrogate, who people Almodóvar's movies.

Pages