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The Playlist

SXSW '12 Review: Melissa Leo Shines In Minutely Observed, Minimalist 'Francine'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • March 11, 2012 2:14 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Evoking films like "Winter's Bone" and "Wendy and Lucy" in presenting a sparse, narrowly focused portrait of a lone female protagonist in adverse, not to say desperate circumstances, "Francine" is the kind of small film made for the festival circuit, and for which the festival circuit was made. It is no less reliant on a powerhouse central performance than its aforementioned forebears, if anything more so, as here extraneous detail is pared back almost to the point of nonexistence, leaving Melissa Leo front and center of every scene. It is a testament to her absolutely definitive portrayal that one simply cannot imagine what the film might have looked like with anyone else in the role. Some elegant framing and photography aside, the film lives and dies on her performance, and this being Leo, at her most vanity-less and instinctive, it mostly lives.

SXSW '12 Review: 'Tchoupitoulas' Is An Experimental, Dreamy Melange Of The Sights & Sounds Of New Orleans

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • March 11, 2012 2:02 PM
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  • 0 Comments
"Tchoupitoulas” is a documentary that doesn’t feel like a documentary – and that’s a good thing. This portrait of the famed New Orleans street is more of an experience, a sensation, a mood that washes over you. The new film from the Ross Brothers (Bill and Turner) is another step forward in their continued experimentation with documentary storytelling and expressiveness through film form. They shot footage over seven months in the city, capturing the essence of the town before they met three brothers, whose one wild night of prowling the town frames the story of this experience. The result is a dreamy melange of sound, light and color that gives you a taste of the gumbo pot that is the vibrant, unique city of New Orleans captured from the perspective of childlike wonder.

Weekend Box Office: 'The Lorax' Tops Again, While 'John Carter' Fulfills Its Prophecy & Underperforms, Underwhelms Domestically

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • March 11, 2012 1:01 PM
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  • 8 Comments
There's no real joy in reporting on a massive bomb. Mostly because, why hate? Usually the participants involved will cry into piles of hundred dollar bills why you return to your menial workday job, gloating seems like a waste of energy. It's especially disconcerting when it comes from someone like Andrew Stanton, who previously directed "Wall-E" and was making his transition to live-action with the uber-expensive "John Carter." Analysts have been predicting doom for a long time now, in a way fueling the negative buzz with their irresponsible reporting, leading to a soft opening only slightly surpasses similar boys-n-sand actioner "Prince Of Persia," and that's mostly due to 3D prices.

SXSW '12 Review: 'Sinister' Starring Ethan Hawke Is A Satisfying Old-School Horror, But Lacks Resonance

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • March 11, 2012 8:18 AM
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  • 2 Comments
As a horror movie that’s incredibly effective and yet evaporates pretty quickly once it’s over, Scott Derrickson’s “Sinister” defines the difference between "scary" and "haunting." Truthfully it’s a balance of a lot of things – ghost story versus murder mystery, found-footage “realism” versus pure fiction, theatricality versus raw emotion – but it exemplifies an era in which audiences, much less filmmakers, no longer distinguish between suspense and terror, which is why their payoffs work twice as brilliantly but linger half as long. Overproduced but occasionally deeply powerful, “Sinister” is a satisfying old-school thrill ride whose muscle eventually overpowers its brain.

SXSW '12 Review: 'Killer Joe' A Terrific Texan Tale With A Revelatory Matthew McConaughey Turn

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • March 11, 2012 12:45 AM
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  • 2 Comments
In recent years, film translations of stage hits haven't been as prevalent as they once were. You might get the occasional "Doubt" or "Rabbit Hole," for instance, but compared to the early days of the talkies, when a large proportion of movies were based on Broadway hits, it's been slim pickings; audiences and critics have learned that most attempts at stage-to-screen translation fail to make the material truly cinematic.

SXSW '12 Review: Director Jay Chandrasekhar's Tentative Sincerity Steps Undermined In Uneven, Sophomoric 'Babymakers'

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • March 11, 2012 12:23 AM
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  • 1 Comment
If you thought that “Knocked Up” was too mature a take on impending fatherhood, then “Babymakers” just might be the movie for you. Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, it follows the comical misadventures of a husband who is reluctant to discover whether or not his sperm is “confused” – and if so, how he’ll handle getting his wife pregnant. Marginally more sophisticated than Chandrasekhar’s efforts with the comedy troupe Broken Lizard, “Babymakers” starts off solidly before getting sidetracked by set pieces that take over the entire narrative – and ultimately reveal how little of one there was in the first place.

SXSW '12 Review: Todd Rohal's Third Feature 'Nature Calls' Is A Dull, Droning Wrong Number

  • By James Rocchi
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  • March 10, 2012 10:37 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Curiously squandering an immensely talented cast, Todd Rohal's "Nature Calls," written when the writer-director lived in Austin, had more humor and humanity and life in its 10-minute post-screening talk here at SXSW than it showed in its previous 98-minute running time. Starring Patton Oswalt and Johnny Knoxville as brothers -- in clear refutation of all we know about genetics -- "Nature Calls" pits Oswalt's dedicated scoutmaster, eager to take his scoutmaster father on one last camping trip, against Knoxville's black sheep son. You can imagine this premise leading to all kinds of hilarity.

SXSW '12 Review: 'Safety Not Guaranteed' A Grounded, Genuine, Oddly Effective Charmer

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • March 10, 2012 9:55 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Although at this point there are way too many stories about quirky man-children and the women who love them, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is an oddly effective little charmer. A film that harkens back to the magical-realism adventures of the 1980s rather than the twee dollhouse making of the last decade, Colin Trevorrow’s tale of a trio of journalists who investigate a personals ad from an oddball requesting a partner in a time-travel experiment is far more grounded, genuine, and moving than its conceit suggests. At the same time, there’s little that’s especially new or original about “Safety Not Guaranteed,” but it ekes out a victory over so much of its indie-darling competition simply by following through on the ideas it introduces.

Review: Julianne Moore Shines As Sarah Palin In HBO’s ‘Game Change’

  • By The Playlist
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  • March 10, 2012 9:18 PM
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  • 2 Comments
The debate about fair vs one-sided portraits aside -- the narrative of which has dominated the political conversation side of things so far -- "Game Change," Jay Roach's HBO film about Sarah Palin's effect on the 2008 Republican campaign to elect John McCain, is, by and large, an absorbing and entertaining docu-drama-like account of this period in election history. It's also perhaps one of the most effective political cautionary tales to date, an evidential A-Z portrait of what not to do when trying to pick a running mate.

SXSW '12: Joss Whedon Talks Challenges of The 'Avengers,' Potentially Resurrecting Old Horror Epic 'Goners,' And How 'Cabin In The Woods' Came To Be

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • March 10, 2012 4:03 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Today at South by Southwest, there was a panel with "Cabin in the Woods" director Joss Whedon (the screening the night before brought the house down – Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford were still talking about it today!), wherein the fan favorite writer/director talked about his intentions for the film, why he fled the Hollywood system (for at the very least distanced himself to the point where he's working parallel to it), the state of his big budget horror movie "Goners," the pluses and minuses of working with an inflated budget, and his personal little art film, "The Avengers."

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