The Playlist

Review: 'Lincoln' Is A Handsomely Shot, Immaculately Acted & Terribly Dull Historical Biopic

  • By Drew Taylor
  • |
  • November 13, 2012 1:44 PM
  • |
  • 50 Comments
Steven Spielberg directing a biopic on Abraham Lincoln, even one that concerns the President's last four months in his second term, is something that positively oozes with endless possibilities. This is, after all, a filmmaker who has turned his virtuosic eye onto past historical injustices like the Holocaust ("Schindler's List") and the aftermath of the Munich Olympics massacre ("Munich"), who has always had a keen interest in the African American experience ("The Color Purple," "Amistad"). Imagine what he could do with the actual Civil War! Well, it turns out, very little. "Lincoln," for all its technical accomplishment, fine performances, and intricate script work, is something of a lifeless bore. It's in desperate need and short supply of the very Spielberg-ian dazzle that it was assumed he would bring to the project.

Doc NYC Review: Jared Leto's 'Artifact' Is A Compelling Portrait Of A Music Industry Under Water

  • By Drew Taylor
  • |
  • November 12, 2012 5:47 PM
  • |
  • 13 Comments
It's sort of hard to sympathize with one of the world's most handsome actors, who regularly moonlights as a Goth prince rock star, even when his spiteful record label decides to sue him and his band for the whopping sum of $30 million. This is the fate that befell Jared Leto and his shockingly popular pop rock band 30 Seconds to Mars, as they were about to begin work on their third album, This Is War. "Artifact," which recently won the BlackBerry People's Choice Documentary Award at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and was directed by Leto under a Seussian pseudonym, is something of an accomplishment, not just because of its surprisingly sturdy filmmaking but also because it turns Leto into, if not a likable center for a documentary, then at least a compelling guide through the current state of the music industry, in all its wretched decay.

Review: 'Coldplay Live 2012' Endearingly Captures The Energy Of The World's Biggest Band

  • By Drew Taylor
  • |
  • November 12, 2012 3:04 PM
  • |
  • 12 Comments
If there's a way you can be the world's biggest pop band and still be underrated, well, Coldplay have figured out how. Their five albums, which always manage to be solidly artistic and hugely accessible, have sold tens of millions of copies, no small feat in the age of the crumbling music industry, and yet their detractors say that they're boring and dull, two charges that cannot be leveled against "Coldplay Live 2012." A new concert documentary that charts their tour in support of last year's Mylo Xyloto album, 'Live 2012,' like this year's other two great concert docs ("Shut Up and Play the Hits" and "Katy Perry: Part of Me") is a boundlessly energetic, utterly endearing chronicle. Hands in the air, people.
More: Review

Doc NYC Review: 'My Amityville Horror' Is A Disturbing Mixture Of The Paranormal And The Psychological

  • By Drew Taylor
  • |
  • November 12, 2012 2:01 PM
  • |
  • 2 Comments
In 1975, George and Kathy Lutz (along with Kathy's three children from a previous marriage), moved into a huge house in Amityville, a tony Long Island suburb. In less than a month, the family would abandon their possessions and leave the house, later claiming it had been the source of a number of supernatural disturbances – including the appearance of a floating, wolf-headed pig; demonic possession; and swarms of ghostly black flies.

AFI Fest Review: Kim Nguyen's 'War Witch' a Haunting, Brutal Surrealist Fable Matched by Powerful Lead Performances

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
  • |
  • November 11, 2012 9:06 AM
  • |
  • 1 Comment
Before any political or societal context enters the brutal cinematic depictions seen in “Come and See” and “City of God,” each effort can first speak clearly enough from the image of a child holding a firearm. Gawky, nervous, and with an expression of terrified power, the isolated sight holds many questions to a decayed rationality and natural order, but as Canadian director Kim Nguyen's shows within his searing look at African child soldiers, “War Witch," those two aspects are the first to be excised in warfare. Blending a surrealist perspective of battle-tinged faith with the harrowing tale of one girl's resilience, the film is a laser-focused fable threatened occasionally by its drifts into character shorthand, but equaled by a wrenching lead performance by Rachel Mwanza that results in one of the finest of the year.

DOC NYC Review: 'Shenandoah' A Sharp Look At A Community With Skeletons In The Closet

  • By Christopher Bell
  • |
  • November 9, 2012 4:01 PM
  • |
  • 0 Comments
There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of Shenandoah, PA, but its landscape and demeanor should feel familiar. Formerly a bustling coal-mining town, the area is now a bit destitute... but you wouldn’t know it from the warmth emanating from its inhabitants, nor from the exuberant passion the community displays during events such as their Christmas celebration or the local football games. There is unity, a we’re-all-in-this-together mentality that keeps the people from hanging up their gloves and calling it a day.

Doc NYC Review: 'Persistence of Vision' Is A Heartbreaking Account Of A Thwarted Animated Masterpiece

  • By Drew Taylor
  • |
  • November 9, 2012 2:05 PM
  • |
  • 2 Comments
When Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis needed a team to provide animation for their ambitious hybrid "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," they didn't turn to their own team at Disney Feature Animation who, with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," singlehandedly invented the animated feature (and was responsible for the medium's continued popularity). Instead, Spielberg and company turned to Richard Williams, an eccentric, Canadian-born animator who ran an animation studio and ad agency in London and who, quite recently, had been responsible for developing a technology to shade animated characters that were inserted into live action plates. The collaboration was a rousing success, netting Williams a pair of Oscars, but his directorial debut, "The Thief and the Cobbler," wasn't so lucky. "Persistence of Vision" explores the monomania of a man determined to push the envelope of the medium, until the envelope explodes.

Review: Coen-Derived Caper Comedy 'Gambit' Features A Game Colin Firth, But That's About It

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
  • |
  • November 9, 2012 12:58 PM
  • |
  • 2 Comments
Of all the genres to try and pull off, the romantic caper flick -- think "To Catch A Thief," or "Charade," or even "Ocean's Eleven" -- is one of the trickiest. For such a film to work out, it's got to be as light as a feather and feel entirely effortless, and all too many films aiming to hit that sweet spot end up feel entirely effort-ful. But if anyone feels like they might be suited to that sort of thing, it would be the Coen Brothers, who penned the script for the remake of a minor classic of the genre, the 1966 Michael Caine/Shirley MacLaine film "Gambit." Have they pulled off?

Review: Todd Rohal's Third Feature 'Nature Calls' Is A Dull, Droning Wrong Number

  • By James Rocchi
  • |
  • November 8, 2012 6:31 PM
  • |
  • 1 Comment
Curiously squandering an immensely talented cast, Todd Rohal's "Nature Calls," written when the writer-director lived in Austin, had more humor and humanity and life in its 10-minute post-screening talk here at SXSW than it showed in its previous 98-minute running time. Starring Patton Oswalt and Johnny Knoxville as brothers -- in a clear refutation of all we know about genetics -- "Nature Calls" pits Oswalt's dedicated scoutmaster, eager to take his scoutmaster father on one last camping trip, against Knoxville's black sheep son. You can imagine this premise leading to all kinds of hilarity.

Review: 'Citadel' Is A Sometimes Scary, Sometimes Silly Entry In the Hoodie Horror Sub-Genre

  • By Drew Taylor
  • |
  • November 8, 2012 6:00 PM
  • |
  • 2 Comments
Over the last few years an interesting subgenre has developed in British horror – dubbed "hoodie horror" by the press and named after the young, urban kids who wear hooded sweatshirts – these films are set primarily in England's low income housing "estates" and played up the fears of "Broken Britain," a term coined by conservative newspaper The Sun, to describe the country's perceived social and moral bankruptcy. Everything from the Michael Caine revenge thriller "Harry Brown" to last year's gleeful SXSW smash "Attack the Block" have used elements of this subgenre. "Citadel," which won the Midnight award at the fest, further explores the fears and anxieties of urban Britain (and Ireland), and the results are sometimes scary, sometimes silly, and always politically questionable.
More: Citadel, Review

Email Updates

Recent Comments