The Playlist

Review: 'Transcendence' Starring Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara & Morgan Freeman

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • April 16, 2014 12:03 AM
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  • 14 Comments
Transcendence
We are the company we keep, and in the case of Wally Pfister, he and his professional cronies are some of the most iconic around. As DP alongside Christopher Nolan, his outlook working with key actors promises a certain atmosphere, a unique method. So here we are: a gloomy thriller trying to ground its at-times-daffy premise, emphasis on a grieving protagonist, with supporting turns from Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy. These aren’t rumored plot details from Nolan’s “Interstellar,” however. No, in mounting his feature directorial debut, “Transcendence,” Pfister has chosen to tackle familiarity head on, carving out a new arena for himself while rigging the grounds with pitfalls at every step.

Review: Patrice Leconte's Edgeless Drama 'A Promise' Starring Rebecca Hall

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 15, 2014 6:28 PM
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  • 3 Comments
A Promise
He’s fallen out of favor a bit in the last few years, but there was a time when Patrice Leconte was one of the most popular foreign filmmakers in the U.S. While he was never a favorite with the hipper critics, over the 1990s and early 2000s, films like “Ridicule,” “ The Girl On The Bridge,” “The Man On The Train” and “Intimate Strangers” became staples on the festival circuit, won BAFTAs and Cesars, and became sizeable arthouse hits.

Review: 'Fading Gigolo' Starring John Turturro & Woody Allen Is Breezy And Inoffensive

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • April 15, 2014 5:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Fading Gigolo
"Do you ever just get down on your knees and thank god that you know me and have access to my dementia?" George Constanza asks when his scheme to get Jerry out of a relationship by having him claim he wants to have a menage a trois, winds up with woman actually being into the idea. It's a hilarious scene because not only does it acknowledge one of the ultimate male fantasies, but when moments later Jerry says he can't go through it, it also underscores that it's a long way from fantasy to reality. There's little of that wonderment or fear in John Turturro's odd, uneven and yet engaging "Fading Gigolo," a film that starts as a sex comedy but becomes something else entirely, as ideas for what would've been two really good separate films are combined into one merely adequate picture.

Recap: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 4, Episode 2, ‘The Lion And The Rose’ Is A Nice Day For A Westeros Wedding

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • April 13, 2014 10:00 PM
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  • 80 Comments
Game Of Thrones
If there is one piece of advice in the land of Westeros, it is DO NOT ACCEPT AN INVITATION TO A WEDDING. Also, don’t get married, don’t participate in weddings, just never go anywhere or do anything. I’m starting to wonder if George R.R. Martin is an anti-marriage advocate or something. I do think that “The Lion and The Rose” (directed by Alex Graves) one-ups “The Red Wedding” in terms of sheer shock value, and I will get into that later, but let’s check in with the rest of the gang before we delve into the wedding business.

Review: Reserved & Quiet 'Hateship Loveship' Starring Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce, Nick Nolte & Hailee Steinfeld

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • April 12, 2014 8:01 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Hateship, Loveship
Following the smash success of "Bridesmaids," Kristen Wiig has actively subverted the obvious expectations of the career choices that would follow a hit film. The actress has largely gravitated toward small-scale projects ("Girl Most Likely," "Friends With Kids"), in roles that still fit within her wheelhouse, but also allow an opportunity for Wiig to exercise the kind of acting chops that more mainstream fare doesn't afford very often. But "Hateship Loveship" is Wiig's most atypical role and turn to date, leading an ensemble cast in a drama about a family adrift in the wake of death, and the one woman who manages to keep them from completely splitting apart.

Review: 'Draft Day' With Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner And Denis Leary

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • April 11, 2014 12:35 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Draft Day
There have been countless movies made about football, but there has never been a movie made about the NFL Draft–that magical day when sports franchises from around the country vie for the hottest college players in an intense, all-day affair that combines the showmanship of a Vegas show (complete with costumed players walking onto a brightly lit stage) and the number-crunching intensity of a last minute tax audit. Thankfully, the new Ivan Reitman movie “Draft Day,” starring Kevin Costner as a high strung general manager of the Cleveland Browns, repositions this mixture of pageantry politicking as a thrilling analytic free-for-all; it’s “Moneyball” as directed like an episode of “24.”

Review: 'The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden' Tells A Tale Tale, But Doesn't Quite Thrill

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • April 11, 2014 8:33 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden
As far as documentary subjects go, it doesn't get much juicier than the tale that launches "The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden." In the early 1930s, Friedrich Ritter and his mistress Dore Strauch split from their respective partners, left Germany and headed to the tiny, uninhabited, untamed Floreana Island in the Galapagos, where they dreamed of building a bucolic life, where they would rest, study philosophy and be able to pursue intellectual matters without the interruption of modern living. But those hopes are dashed when they are soon followed by others who come to the island, with scandal and possibly murder not far behind, with a yarn that is as unbelievable now as it probably was back then. But what should be a gripping, true crime/mystery story gets often bogged down by a lack of focus from filmmakers Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller, who don't always realize the central saga can stand well enough on its own.

Review: Jim Jarmusch's Cultured & Cool 'Only Lovers Left Alive' Starring Tom Hiddleston & Tilda Swinton

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • April 10, 2014 6:21 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Only Lovers Left Alive
From the very first opening titles, written in a Germanic font that immediately conjures everything from “Triumph of the Will” to images of big-busted ladies screaming in campy close-up in 1970s cheapie horrors (it may be the only time in Cannes that a film got a big laugh for a typeface) it’s perfectly clear that the Jim Jarmusch in whose company we’re about to spend a couple of hours is not the wilfully obscure surrealist of “The Limits of Control,” nor the considered, melancholic philosopher behind “Dead Man,” nor even the oddball ragtag troubadour of “Down By Law." In fact, “Only Lovers Left Alive,” Jarmusch’s take on the vampire myth starring recent muse Tilda Swinton and Tom “fast becoming everyone’s favorite actor” Hiddleston, finds the maverick filmmaker on playful, referential and mischievous form with hugely enjoyable, if not exactly weighty or important, results.

Review: David Gordon Green's Muscular & Textured 'Joe' Starring Nicolas Cage & Tye Sheridan

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 10, 2014 5:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Joe, Nicolas Cage
“Joe” unites a pair of talents somewhat on the comeback trail. David Gordon Green’s once-lofty critical reputation—the filmmaker was once lauded as a successor to Terrence Malick—took something of a hit after a left-turn into poorly-received studio comedies like “Your Highness” and "The Sitter," but this year’s “Prince Avalanche” seemed to mark a return to the lo-fi indies he made his name with. Meanwhile, Nicolas Cage’s status as a major star and as one of his generation’s most acclaimed actors has been threatened in recent years by a series of low-rent pictures, seemingly taken for the paycheck alone, which have seen the actor increasingly descend into either self-parody, or deep boredom.

Review: Conventional, Flawed 'The Railway Man' Starring Colin Firth And Nicole Kidman

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • April 9, 2014 6:13 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The Railway Man
"The Railway Man" tells the true story of a World War II veteran mentally broken by his experiences in the war, living a lonely, isolated life, and trying to come to grips as best he can with the terror and memories that still haunt his mind. But you'd be forgiven after watching the opening portion of the film for mistaking it with a Colin Firth romantic comedy, set against the backdrop of England's lovely countryside. Going full adorkable, complete with mussed hair and oversized glasses (which we suppose would make him a hipster now), Eric (Firth) is at first glance a lovable, mild-mannered eccentric. He keeps to himself, but he's obsessed with trains—souvenirs, schedules, model numbers—he knows it all. But when Patti, played by Nicole Kidman, crosses into his single-minded field of vision, it's understandable that he finds something new worth paying attention to.

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