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The Playlist

Review: Underground Found Footage Horror Movie 'As Above, So Below'

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • August 29, 2014 1:40 PM
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  • 2 Comments
As Above, So Below
Up until now, Legendary Pictures has been a production company exclusively associated with high concept, big budget popcorn fare (they've been responsible for everything from Christopher Nolan's Batman movies to "Pacific Rim"), but with the success of "Paranormal Activity," and similarly low-cost genre material, the studio is branching out by going small. This week's "As Above, So Below," a grainy, archeology-themed found footage movie that uneasily mixes "Raiders of the Lost Ark" with "Flatliners," is the first effort under this new initiative. While the movie certainly has its share of thrills, it's clear that it lacks that zeitgeist-capturing magic that the best low-budget horror films offer. If Legendary is looking for a potential franchise, they might have to dig elsewhere.

Venice Review: 'She's Funny That Way' Starring Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Kathryn Hahn, Jennifer Aniston & Many Surprise Cameos

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • August 29, 2014 12:27 PM
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  • 1 Comment
She's Funny That Way aka Squirrel To The Nuts
If you've so much as read the headline of this review, you're probably already thinking too hard about Peter Bogdanovich's star-studded "She's Funny That Way," which is but a trifle, designed to melt in your mouth like candy floss. In fact, it goes out of its way to avoid anything that even faintly smacks of realism or meaningfulness; it just wants you to like it.

Venice Review: Ramin Bahrani’s ‘99 Homes’ Starring Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon And Laura Dern

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • August 28, 2014 6:52 PM
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  • 3 Comments
99 Homes
It opens with blood spatter; it will end with your blood boiling. Which is to say that Ramin Bahrani’s ferocious foreclosure drama “99 Homes” is exactly as effective as it needs to be. While neither subtle nor particularly nuanced, the blunt force trauma impact of its narrative never feels exploitative, being wholly justified by the importance of its themes.

Review: Installation-Worthy 'The Strange Color Of Your Body's Tears'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • August 28, 2014 6:43 PM
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  • 2 Comments
The Strange Color Of Your Body's Tears
Some movies are watched. “The Strange Color Of Your Body's Tears” is a movie you live inside. This new film from directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani touches you repeatedly, inappropriately, from the front and, delightfully, from the rear. To synopsize the film is folly, though it will be fun to see viewers try. This is the magic that Cattet and Forzani have weaved from their debut effort “Amer," a hypnotic trip down the giallo rabbit hole. Very few filmmakers today are working with a radical new vocabulary, but Cattet and Forzani are using genre of the past to toss us, shouting, into the future.
More: Reviews, Review

Review: Ari Folman's 'The Congress' Starring Robin Wright

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • August 28, 2014 6:07 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The Congress
Ari Folman's "The Congress," aka "Robin Wright at The Congress," aka "Reviewer's Nightmare," evokes Miyazaki and perhaps on-form Gilliam in its best moments, as well as lurching oddly into "Southland Tales" territory in its worst. It's a film we'd be happy to call a fascinating muddle were it not too overstretched to really support even that description. At the very least, however, should your copy of "Pink Floyd's The Wall" have worn out through overuse, we can see "The Congress" having a similar kind of life as a late-night stoner mindfuck.

Venice Review: Quentin Dupieux Returns With Droll Dreams-And-Movies Head-Trip ‘Reality’

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • August 28, 2014 1:28 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Reality
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And if it is broken, no harm in breaking it further. After the modest, cultier-than-thou successes of killer tire movie “Rubber” and lost dog odyssey “Wrong,” perpetual student filmmaker Quentin Dupieux returns with another iteration of his very narrowly defined field of expertise with “Reality.”

Venice Review: Xavier Beauvois’ Grave-Robbing Comedy ‘The Price of Fame’

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • August 28, 2014 11:34 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Amiable if overlong, "The Price of Fame," the new film from festival circuit fixture Xavier Beauvois, whose last film “Of Gods and Men” won the Grand Prix in Cannes 2010, is a serviceable addition to the surprisingly well-defined subgenre of the graverobbing comedy. Based on the true story of an inept plot to steal Charlie Chaplin’s grave and hold it for ransom, the film suffers from the same uneven tone that can often hound this sort of shaggy dog story,

Venice Review: 'The Act Of Killing' Director Joshua Oppenheimer’s ‘The Look of Silence’

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • August 27, 2014 6:37 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The Look of Silence
A stretch of placid water in rural Indonesia known as Snake River has borne witness to many unspeakable acts of killing. One such brutal butchering was of a young man called Ramli, caught on the wrong side of the country’s 1965 "communist purges" and messily executed, his remains thrown, along with those of countless others, into the water. “No one would buy fish,” chuckles one of the perpetrators —because everyone around knew the fish were feeding on human remains. If Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing” was a full-throated scream, his follow-up “The Look of Silence” is an ululating lament, a drawn-out wail of grief that sounds almost like a song, albeit a harrowing one.

Venice Review: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘Birdman’ With Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Ed Norton & More

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • August 27, 2014 7:44 AM
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  • 17 Comments
Birdman
Hubristic, humble, heartfelt and hotheaded, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” is phenomenal. The feverishly anticipated (not least by us) movie from Alejandro González Iñárritu blasted through its Venice premiere (it’s the opening film) in a gonzo rush —it's so exciting, so moment-to-moment enjoyable that to expect profundity would be greedy. And yet it delivers on that level as well; the film is as thoughtful and smart as it is infectiously absurd. And that's perhaps the biggest surprise of an endlessly surprising, inventive movie: whatever the sum of its elements, like how it launches and completes the “Keatonnaissance” in one fell swoop, or incredible camerawork that imperceptibly stitches together into (mostly) one long, seemingly cutless take, “Birdman” adds up to more. It’s borderline miraculous.

Review: Jack O'Connell Gives A Breakthrough Performance In Prison Film Classic 'Starred Up'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • August 26, 2014 6:05 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Starred Up
It was a glorious, freezing, snowy Monday evening at the Göteborg International Film Festival that yielded the first truly great film of 2014. “Starred Up” (which, fine, actually premiered at Telluride last year) is an instant classic of the prison movie genre, making a bona fide breakthrough star of its lead Jack O’Connell (best known for British TV series “Skins”), while propelling director David Mackenzie’s previously solid career (which included highlights “Hallam Foe” and “Young Adam”) straight to "boss" level in one fell swoop. And in case anyone forgets, the film confirms that however often you cast Ben Mendelsohn as a violent, unpredictable scumbag, he’ll find a way to amaze/terrify you every time. The superlative-averse might want to stop reading now, because there will be many coming up in the next several paragraphs.

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