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The Playlist

Review: 'Hercules' Starring Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane And John Hurt

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • July 25, 2014 9:00 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Hercules
There are cheap costumes, cartoonish special effects and endless nonsense monologues in Brett Ratner's “Hercules." Ergo, there's also Ian McShane. HBO's "Deadwood" blew up the journeyman actor's career, making him a must-have accessory in the eyes of all casting agents. But since the end of that show, where he essayed the role of the iconic Al Swearengen, he's been lost in an increasingly inessential sea of special effects-heavy blockbusters, from “Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” to “Jack The Giant Slayer," from “The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising” to “Snow White And The Huntsman." You figure the qualifications for McShane appearing in your movie involve the least amount of acting possible. “Hercules” may be the first film where, finally, everyone is on the exact same page as McShane.

Review: Award Winning Documentary 'The Kill Team'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • July 24, 2014 7:01 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The Kill Team
There's a stomach-turning sadness at the heart of "The Kill Team," Dan Krauss' austere documentary about a soldier trapped in the cycle of violence perpetrated by a group of soldiers indicted on charges of violence against innocents in 2010. While the media was more than ready to discuss a culture of violence, utilizing "Kill Team" as a fashionable headline-filler, Krauss' film places the spotlight on Pvt. Adam Winfield. Like the upcoming "We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks," which places a strong focus on walking security breach Bradley Manning as a square peg, "The Kill Team" paints a portrait of Winfield as an overly earnest young fellow far out of his league when paired with soldiers that, when armed, simply became Boys With Guns.

Review: Marvel's 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper & Vin Diesel

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • July 24, 2014 4:00 PM
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  • 14 Comments
Guardians Of The Galaxy
Now, they’re all over t-shirts and lunchboxes, but back in 2008 when Marvel Studios were kicking off as their own self-producing entity, their characters weren’t all that well known. Captain America was probably the most familiar (along with the Hulk), but Iron Man and Thor and Nick Fury and co. were, while obviously known and loved by comic fans, pretty unrecognizable to general audiences, who knew more immediately iconic characters like Batman, Superman and Spider-Man, far better. Now, the roster of The Avengers are all household names, but with Spidey, X-Men and the Fantastic Four still under the clutches of other studios, and contracts on the original actors running out, Marvel are being forced to turn to some of their more obscure properties.

Review: Joe Swanberg's Engaging, Truthful 'Happy Christmas' With Melanie Lynskey, Anna Kendrick & Mark Webber

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • July 24, 2014 12:05 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Happy Christmas
As perhaps the poster boy for independent cinema in the last seven to eight years, it’s crazy to realize that lo-fi filmmaker Joe Swanberg has never been in competition at the Sundance Film Festival before. While two of his films have played in Park City previously (though one was a short segment in “V/H/S”), Swanberg and his zeitgeist-defining mumblecore movement (read: indie filmmaking with a cute name and perhaps even lower budgets than audiences were used to at the time), were actually embraced by the SXSW Film Festival and not the indie-defining organizers in Utah.

Fantasia Review: John McNaughton's 'The Harvest' Starring Michael Shannon & Samantha Morton

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • July 24, 2014 10:01 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The Harvest
Discounting some scattered television work, director John McNaughton has been off the grid for 13 years as far as features go. Even then, you’d have to go back all the way to 1998 and “Wild Things” to find the last movie he’s made with any kind of traction, with a certain swimming pool scene featuring Denise Richards and Neve Campbell doing the rounds on an assortment of seedy list articles. And you’d have to rewind the tape even further to 1986’s “Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer,” to find the McNaughton film most likely to remain the ace in the cult director’s deck so far. In “The Harvest” McNaughton returns to add to the rich cinematic tradition depicting depraved parenting, and gets the best possible welcome back party at Montreal’s genre film festival Fantasia.

Review: Spy Tale 'A Most Wanted Man' Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams And More

  • By Cory Everett
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  • July 23, 2014 6:01 PM
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  • 5 Comments
A Most Wanted Man
As the line between television and film gets blurrier, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish exactly what makes something qualify to be a film at all. Particularly in the age of “Homeland” and “The Americans,” some may leave a slow-burning, understated spy caper like “A Most Wanted Man” wondering if it wouldn’t have been better served as a limited series on Netflix or HBO. And it will be a perfectly valid question. Based on the novel by John le Carré (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”), the film is the new anti-thriller from director Anton Corbijn and centers on the war on terror in Germany via a tapestry of several characters, chiefly Gunther (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a grizzled counter-terrorist intelligence officer stationed in Hamburg after a previous fuck up in Beirut.

Fantasia Review: ‘Open Windows’ Starring Elijah Wood & Sasha Grey

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • July 23, 2014 2:04 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Open Windows
When he burst onto the scene in 2007 with his Spanish debut feature “Timecrimes,” everyone saw a potential new big name from a nation with a knack for churning out directors who really know how (and really, really want) to thrill you. But Nacho Vigalondo’s follow up “Extraterrestrial” in 2011 was more of a whimper compared to the bang he started off with. This year, the hope is that his English language debut puts him back in gear. After a six year absence from the festival, Nacho Vigalondo is back at Fantasia to spook you into never looking at your computer screen the same way again, especially if there’s one too many windows open at the same time. To help him get an even bigger international boost, he’s got the support of an ex-porn star and an ex-hobbit. Unfortunately it feels like the rise keeps getting stunted because those who criticized "Timecrimes" for being a little muddled in its narrative, and "Extraterrestrial" all over the place in tone, will most likely feel carsick by the time “Open Windows” comes to a close.

Review: Luc Besson's 'Lucy' Starring Scarlet Johansson And Morgan Freeman

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • July 23, 2014 12:00 PM
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  • 11 Comments
Lucy
There's a moment in Luc Besson's “Lucy” when Scarlett Johansson's title character has cracked the code of existence like a videogame cheat. She goes Rust Cohle on who are appropriately the smartest minds of the world, explaining how numbers are just one of many false constructs that humans use to bring sense to a life of chaos. Which is amusing, since “Lucy” itself is all math—one beautiful superstar (a game Johansson), one Morgan Freeman (Morgan Freeman), a chase, some fights, superpowers, a brief moment of transcendence, gorgeous colors, all wrapped up in an 80-minute bow. Merely the presence of these elements are a delight, nevermind the inconsistently lyrical manner in which Besson combines them. It's basically the perfect summer movie, because it's designed to be.

Review: 'The Newburgh Sting' Explores The Thin Line Between Entrapment And Fighting The War On Terror

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 21, 2014 7:38 PM
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  • 5 Comments
The Newburgh Sting
In an era of mass surveillance, and increasingly broad rules of engagement given to law enforcement, you would think that the FBI wouldn't need to carefully manufacture cases against ordinary citizens to show that they're winning the so-called "war on terror." But that would be forgetting that in addition to maintaing the security of the nation, FBI officials are also concerned with their public image (hello Twitter), as well as their presentation in the mainstream press. In a 24 hour news cycle, you are only as effective as your last headline, and the documentary "The Newburgh Sting" paints a troubling portrait of an agency more concerned with their perception than with justice, all as part of a mission that broadly targets a religious group, rather than individuals whose fanaticism finds them both as outsiders at their mosques and society in general.

Review: Elderhood Documentary 'Alive Inside' Is Vital & Important

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • July 21, 2014 5:03 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Alive Inside
Elderhood. Is that even a thing? You grow from the innocence of childhood through the experiences of adulthood and then...you just get old. Nobody likes to talk about that. Kids dream about growing up so they can do all the adult things they see adults do, and adults wish they can turn back the clock and be kids again. Have you ever heard anyone say, “Man, I cannot wait to get old. I’m going to have the sweetest walker ever.” From Grandpa Simpson to reactions after an 82-year-old Clint Eastwood talked to an empty chair, American culture has always greeted old age as comic relief from a distance. But as one of the most insightful interviewees says in “Alive Inside,” “American Culture is wrong.”

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