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Review: Low-budget 'My Stretch of Texas Ground' takes the high road on terror at the border

Los Angeles Times

Given that some outrage-stirring politicians have begun recounting details from action movies like "Sicario" as though they were hard facts, certain viewers may bristle at the very idea of the low-budget thriller "My Stretch of Texas Ground," which imagines a scenario where a terrorist cell sneaks an assassin across the Mexican border to take out a U.S. senator. But director Erich Kemp and screenwriter Ralph Cinque are surprisingly even-handed in their depiction of international crime and its consequences. By opening with multiple discussions of drone attacks and "enhanced interrogation," "My Stretch of Texas Ground" creates a context for its central stand-off, between a shrewd killer, Abdul (Junes Zahdi), and a wise small-town sheriff, Joe Haladin (Jeff Weber). If anything, the film's main problem is that it feels more like a debate than a cop picture, with too much of its leisurely running time set aside for airing different points of view, and too little for shootouts and chases. The other big stumbling block is that the production often borders on the amateurish, with weak acting, flat lighting and poor sound.


Tomi Adeyemi, Janelle Monáe and Boots Riley among this year's Nebula Awards nominees

Los Angeles Times

The finalists for the 2018 Nebula Awards, considered some of the most prestigious in science fiction and fantasy, were announced on Wednesday, with novelists Tomi Adeyemi and Justina Ireland, filmmaker Boots Riley and musician Janelle Monáe among the nominees. Adeyemi and Ireland were nominated in the young adult category, Adeyemi for "Children of Blood and Bone" and Ireland for "Dread Nation." Both books gained critical acclaim upon their release, and Adeyemi's book was the inaugural pick for Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" book club. The two authors are joined in the category by Roshani Chokshi's "Aru Shah and the End of Time," A.K. DuBoff's "A Light in the Dark," Rachel Hartman's "Tess of the Road" and Henry Lien's "Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword." Finalists in the novel category included Mary Robinette Kowal's "The Calculating Stars" and R.F.


Armani Beauty pops up in West Hollywood

Los Angeles Times

Armani Beauty unveiled its first dedicated pop-up in West Hollywood earlier this month, celebrating its unveiling with a roster of celebrities, including Dakota Fanning and Katherine Schwarzenegger, and a handful of product exclusives. The all-red 2,000-square-foot Armani Box is so far the only place in the U.S. to have the brand's new Power Fabric High Coverage Stretchable Concealer and the Foundation Balm, which will roll out nationally in March. Also, there's a vending machine on hand that delivers take-home samples as well as other technology such as mirrors that show the shopper what a particular lip color will look like on the person. Tim Quinn, Giorgio Armani Beauty celebrity makeup artist, said the Melrose Place location was "an iconic spot for someone to discover" and that although the offering was "soup to nuts, skin care through fragrance," the pop-up has a focused and curated feel. "The brand is known for foundation," said Quinn, adding that he often recommends his clients have three different foundations -- one each for weekends, evenings and workdays.


If Chicago O'Hare is on your flight plan, you could be in trouble

Los Angeles Times

Chicago O'Hare International Airport had the highest number of flight disruptions Wednesday morning as a massive winter storm made its way across the U.S. It will bring snow, rain and an "icy mix" to parts of the Midwest and East on Wednesday evening. As of Wednesday morning, more than 2,000 flights in the Midwest and Northeast had been canceled, and another 3,000 delayed because of the storm, according to FlightAware. The flight-tracking website showed Chicago O'Hare as the worst place for disruptions between 7 and 11 a.m. CST, with 51 flights canceled and 163 delayed. Baltimore-Washington, Reagan National and Dulles airports in the Washington area also showed significant flight problems, with a combined total of 84 flights canceled and 51 delayed as of Wednesday morning.


Box office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' leads underwhelming Presidents Day weekend

Los Angeles Times

This year's Presidents Day weekend box office pales in comparison with last year's record-setting result, which was buoyed by the runaway success of "Black Panther." In contrast, this year's box office is down 57.7% week-to-week from last year and down 19.7% year-to-date. In first place, Fox's "Alita: Battle Angel," which opened on Thursday, earned an estimated $27.8 million over the three-day weekend and is expected to earn $33 million Friday-Monday, and $36.5 million for five days, according to figures from measurement firm Comscore. The $175-million film was originally to be directed by James Cameron as early as 2004 before he refocused his attention on an "Avatar" sequel. In 2015, Robert Rodriguez was named director with Cameron remaining onboard as a producer.


Don't fear automation and artificial intelligence. Humans will always be in control -- and employed

Los Angeles Times

The increased productivity gains from automation and the resulting increased leisure time could potentially be a tremendous social good that benefits everyone with greater wealth and more free time to enjoy it -- but only in an economic system structured for equitable distribution of those gains. For this to occur, public administration is required, either in the form of significant public oversight of private capital markets or some degree of socialization.


Three up, three down: Rays use divergent tactics; Red Sox have rat issues

Los Angeles Times

Old school, new school: The Tampa Bay Rays have two pitchers who have started 20 games this year. One is their ace, Blake Snell, whose 2.03 earned-run average ranks second in the American League. The other is Ryne Stanek, a reliever turned “opener” — in his case, a right-hander who works the first inning or so, followed by a left-hander. In a year in which the Rays lost starters Anthony Banda, Jose DeLeon and Brent Honeywell to Tommy John surgery and traded starters Chris Archer and Nathan Eovaldi, the team leads the AL in ERA since May 19, when Sergio Romo debuted as Tampa Bay’s first “opener.” There is no pitching statistic more derided in sabermetrics than wins for a pitcher.


Homages to space odysseys and science fiction will be a main attraction at 10th annual Burbank International Film Festival

Los Angeles Times

Those attending the 10th annual Burbank International Film Festival will see homages to some of the greatest science fiction movies ever made, such as velociraptors from "Jurassic Park" and the DeLorean time machine from "Back to the Future."


The people who pay for the gig economy

Los Angeles Times

To the editor: The op-ed makes the meaning of the gig economy very clear: owners and investors make gigamillions and the workers who support them can't make rent. While the owners are crowing the financial benefits to the drivers, some drivers are sleeping and eating in their cars because they have to. And let's not forget that these rideshare companies, which tout the opportunities they are providing to their "non-employees," are the same entities aggressively funding the development of self-driving cars so that they can totally eliminate the nuisance of dealing with the people they now rely on for their success.


Tinder co-founders and execs file $2-billion lawsuit accusing the dating app's owner of cheating

Los Angeles Times

The plaintiffs, who include Tinder co-founders Sean Rad, Justin Mateen and Jonathan Badeen, allege that IAC and Match repeatedly falsified financial information to lowball the app's valuation. That prevented bigger payouts to the co-founders and executives, the suit says.