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The Playlist

SXSW '12 Review: Reverence Outweighs Insight In Kevin Macdonald's 2 1/2 Hour 'Marley' Documentary

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • March 11, 2012 7:00 PM
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  • 0 Comments
A long film detailing a tragically short life, on paper, Kevin Macdonald's Bob Marley documentary "Marley" has more than enough of a pedigree to justify its 2 1/2 hour running time. After all, it's a biopic of one of the most influential and evergreen musical pioneers of all time, being brought to us by the respected documentarian behind the thrilling "Touching the Void" and the Oscar-winning "One Day In September." But the truth is that film's exhaustive approach at some point becomes simply exhausting, with its sporadic moments of true inspiration, almost all directly connected with the music or Bob's early life, serving mostly to remind of how by-the-numbers the rest of the movie is. It purports to bring us the man behind the myth, but 150 minutes later, the flesh-and-blood Marley remains frustratingly out of reach, and the myth is still reverently intact.

SXSW '12 Review: 'Small Apartments' Is An Awkward, Entirely Unsatisfying Mixture Of Sweetness And Filth

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • March 11, 2012 5:54 PM
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  • 5 Comments
Swedish filmmaker Jonas Åkerlund used to be the kind of director whose every move was worth following. He started out building buzz for his career by making controversial music videos, helming the sensational, barely-seen "Smack My Bitch Up" clip for Prodigy and, way more successfully, the "Ray of Light" music video for Madonna (a clip that won a record seven prizes at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards). Even his lesser videos (like his Cardigans' "Favorite Game" clip) were compelling and vital compared to most pedestrian and run-of-the-mill music videos. Åkerlund's videos were often defined by a willingness to delve into the scuzzier aspects of life (like the Prodigy video and Metallica's "Turn the Page") – visually his style was slick but also grimy, lit up by garish neon lights and high contrast colorization.

SXSW '12 Review: 'The Hunter' Is An Eerie And Deeply Affecting Eco-Thriller

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • March 11, 2012 5:01 PM
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  • 3 Comments
In their 2006 book "Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger," authors Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson, then researchers at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, talked about becoming obsessed with a stuffed Tasmanian Tiger that they would walk by every day in the museum. It became "something akin to amorous fervor," and eventually they decided to take a trip to Tasmania to see if the tiger, which officially became extinct in 1936 when the lone survivor died at the Hobart Zoo, still existed, somewhere in the wild. It's the kind of mysterious animal – lithe, beautiful, angular – that inspires this kind of devotion, even decades after its extinction.

SXSW '12 Review: 'The Aggression Scale' Is Like 'Home Alone' With More Death (But Not As Fun As That Sounds)

  • By Alison Willmore
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  • March 11, 2012 4:33 PM
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  • 0 Comments
"The Aggression Scale" is like "Home Alone" with more death. If only it were as good a time as that description might lead you to believe. Directed by Steven C. Miller, who last made the Syfy Original "Scream of the Banshee," the movie is a schlocky pleasure when it finally gets around to delivering on its premise of a dysfunctional teen with violent tendencies taking on a group of thugs. But the build to that point is long, overly serious and reliant on actors and dialogue that aren't up to holding the screen through extended periods of talking or layering on of atmosphere. Character development is a quality of which genre films are often seriously in need, but it feels more like filler when your characters make no sense to begin with and most of them are just slaughter fodder.

SXSW '12 Review: At Its Best, Harmless 'Hunky Dory' Is Just That

  • By William Goss
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  • March 11, 2012 3:43 PM
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  • 0 Comments
It’s the summer of 1976, and between a conservative school administration and an unrelenting drought, things are beyond dry for Wales’ scrappier teens. It’s little wonder that they flock to the more permissive Miss Mae (Minnie Driver) and her glam-rock interpretation of Shakespeare’s "The Tempest" for the school play. Alas, "Hunky Dory" primarily concerns itself with familiar extracurricular woes and offers up much ado about nothing instead of a more rollicking or romantic coming-of-age story.

SXSW '12 Review: Guy Maddin's 'Keyhole' Beautiful And Brassy...But Frustratingly Sealed

  • By James Rocchi
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  • March 11, 2012 3:20 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Let us pause, then, to contemplate the fate and fortunes of the director who does not have his or her eye set on the five-picture deal, the glossy franchise, the production wing in the bungalow offices of some major studio; what becomes of the director who only wants to make art and make it well? Canada's Guy Maddin clearly has no eye on commercial success -- rumor has it that his next feature might actually be in color -- and instead prefers to stand at the edge and peer into the abyss to look for what's next. This is a unique vantage point, to be sure, but it's also perilous if one should fall; "Keyhole" is both too much and too little, a crowded smorgasbord of genre picture tropes and haunted house tricks that leaves your eyes and brain distended with both far too much to absorb and far too little to sustain.

SXSW '12 Review: Celebrity, Notoriety & Living In Public As 'Frankie Go Boom'

  • By James Rocchi
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  • March 11, 2012 3:10 PM
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  • 1 Comment
"Frankie Go Boom" opens with a home video from a long-ago washed-out suburban childhood, as Bruce tricks his brother Frankie into a pitfall prank that's both caught on tape and a trap for the two of them; flashing forward to adulthood -- or something like it -- Frankie (Charlie Hunnam) has exiled himself from everything, holing up in Death Valley to write. And Bruce (Chris O'Dowd, with a solidly American accent) is just getting out of rehab, convinced that the 'films' he makes -- really, just footage -- of disasters like the one that befell Frankie's wedding three years ago, mean he's a director, what with their huge online 'hit' numbers …

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.

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