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Watch: Trailer For SXSW & Berlin Pic 'Electrick Children' & A Quick Chat With Star Julia Garner

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 22, 2012 10:02 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Seeming even younger than her 18 years, Julia Garner, the lead in Rebecca Thomas' debut feature "Electrick Children" (reviewed here) delivers one of those performances that marks a new star in the ascendant. Juggling upcoming roles and sweetly new to the world of press junkets and promotion, we spoke briefly with Garner at the Berlin Film Festival where the film played to a very warm reception on the opening night of the Generation Section.

Melissa Leo Talks 'Francine,' The "Sacred Territory" Of Acting & What She's Looking At Next

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 21, 2012 11:55 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Having experienced something of a mid-career breakout with her Oscar-winning supporting role in "The Fighter," Melissa Leo's name has fast become something of a hallmark of quality. Recently she has lent her talents for startlingly authentic portrayals to the likes of "Treme," "Mildred Pierce" and Kevin Smith's "Red State," but in the Berlin Film Festival favorite "Francine" (our review is here) she lands a rare leading role in a feature, albeit a small, narrowly focused one.

Billy Bob Thornton On 'Jayne Mansfield's Car': The Major Change He Made In The Edit, '60s Muscle Cars And More

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 21, 2012 9:57 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Contrary to his fearsomely eccentric reputation, we are happy to report that in person, writer/director/actor Billy Bob Thornton is a charmer. Attending The Berlin Film Festival for the premiere of his first directorial outing in over a decade "Jayne Mansfield's Car" (you can read our review here), he won over press left and right with his mixture of soft-spoken Southern gentlemanliness, and frank rebuttals of some of the more outre rumours that have dogged him throughout his career.

Berlinale 2012 Review: 'Anton Corbijn Inside Out' Presents An Impressionist Portrait Of The Artist As A Solitary Man

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 18, 2012 3:06 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Wisely not attempting to go the standard-issue bio doc route with a subject who is clearly anything but standard-issue "Anton Corbijn Inside Out," as the title suggests, instead takes a more impressionistic, intimate approach to the celebrated photographer and filmmaker, and in the process creates a thoughtful film that is as much a homage to the creative process as it is a tribute to a man.

Berlinale 2012 Review: 'A Royal Affair' Is A Good-Looking But Unadventurous Period Drama Elevated By Fine Performances

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 17, 2012 7:12 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Considering how very few people on earth we would rather watch on a movie screen than Mads Mikkelsen, colour us baffled to find ourselves slightly out of step with the rapturous reception accorded his latest film, the Danish-language period drama "A Royal Affair." Premiering tonight in Berlin, the film apparently drew cheers from press (though not in our auditorium), and has, in the few hours since, been hailed by some as the saviour of the competition. The film we saw, however, was a perfectly decent, lavishly mounted costume drama, probably above average for this sort of thing, but hardly earth-shattering and certainly not the best film we've seen so far.

Berlinale 2012 Review: Keanu Reeves Doc 'Side By Side' A Treat For Cinephiles On All Sides Of The Digital Debate

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 15, 2012 3:42 PM
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  • 9 Comments
Doing an impressive job of tracing the evolution of filmmaking technology (not just the cameras but the editing, post-production, distribution, exhibition, even the archiving aspects of it) from 1895 to the present day, “Side by Side” is an old school talking-head documentary on the subject of digital filmmaking vs. photochemical filmmaking. It sounds pretty dull as a logline, but stacked with gossipy, informal anecdotes and opinions from many of the most respected directors, cinematographers, editors, execs, VFX artists and digital wizards in the industry, it proves instead to be highly entertaining and informative, and by its close has presented a thoroughly diverting overview of the debate. Then again, we are massive geeks about this sort of thing.

Berlinale 2012 Review: Brillante Mendoza Takes Us All 'Captive' In Vital, Bruising Kidnap Tale

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 15, 2012 11:04 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Recipient of one of the more controversial Cannes Best Director awards of recent memory (for "Kinatay," a film we found problematic, to say the least) Filipino director Brillante Mendoza returns to screens and to the festival circuit with "Captive," which marks, if not a departure from his previous style, then a welcome evolution of it. Based on real events, it is an account, by turns thrilling, moving, and harrowing, of the kidnapping ordeal of a group of holidaymakers from a resort in the Philippines; an ordeal which lasts over a year for some.

Berlinale 2012 Review: 'Farewell, My Queen' Introduces Lesbianism Into The Marie Antoinette Story To No Great Effect

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 15, 2012 9:56 AM
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  • 0 Comments
In the land of the costume drama, truly, films about Marie Antoinette are Queen, promising lavish sets, romantic intrigue and shocking decadence -- but they don't always deliver. Director Benoit Jacquot's uninspiring take on the period opened the Berlin Film Festival days ago, but something about the film's lack of urgency must be contagious, and we're only getting around to reviewing it now. While the movie does boast admirable elements (more on those below) overall, despite some showy trappings it is a frustratingly empty experience, built around a character whose blankness is supposed to be a virtue, but ends up costing the film dearly in terms of identification and interest.

Berlinale 2012 Review: 'Jayne Mansfield's Car' Finds A Solid Cast At The Wheel, But Not A Whole Lot Of Gas In The Tank

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 14, 2012 10:04 AM
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  • 1 Comment
A distinctly American, humanist drama, one that somewhat makes up in performances of warmth and generosity what it may lack in originality, "Jayne Mansfield's Car," which just enjoyed its World Premiere at the 2012 Berlinale, finds director and star Billy Bob Thornton showing a certain spiritual kinship with fellow director/actors Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford. Off-key directorial choices, and a frustrating lack of narrative and characterisation consistency prevent the film from ever coalescing into something as satisfying as Clint is able to deliver, at his best, and for better or worse, it doesn't have the grander ambitions of a Redford effort, but the films of all three, are to a certain degree built as temples to the performances, sometimes to a fault.

Berlinale 2012 Review: Restrained Werner Herzog Still Shines In Gripping 'Death Row' Series

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 9, 2012 12:05 PM
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  • 2 Comments
The prologue of each of the four episodes of “Death Row” is the same: a restless camera prowls through the dismal ante-room, holding cell and injection chamber of an unnamed execution facility, while director Werner Herzog tells us in his familiar teutonic monotone that, as a German and a guest of the United States, he “respectfully disagree[s]” with the death penalty, legal in 34 states, and performed regularly in 16. And so he sets out his stall up front. What's perhaps surprising, however, is that what he then delivers is neither polemical nor propagandistic in its approach; Herzog's storytelling instincts trump his didactic ones here, to compelling effect. Having already tackled this subject in his feature-length “Into The Abyss” (the central figure of which makes a fleeting appearance here in the "Joseph Garcia and George Rivas" section), it's clear that in exploring the stories of these condemned men and women, Herzog has found a rich vein to mine, and he brings to this latest endeavor, a four-part TV series for Investigation Discovery, an uncharacteristic restraint. His even-handedness serves the subject matter well, largely refuting any accusations of liberal whitewashing before they can even be made. What he delivers instead is a series of nuanced, meticulous and gripping portraits of several death row inmates, unflinchingly portrayed, mostly in their own words and those of the men and women who arrested, reported on, prosecuted and/or defended them.

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