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The Playlist

Review: At Its Best, Harmless 'Hunky Dory' Is Just That

  • By William Goss
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  • March 21, 2013 7:03 PM
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It’s the summer of 1976, and between a conservative school administration and an unrelenting drought, things are beyond dry for Wales’ scrappier teens. It’s little wonder that they flock to the more permissive Miss Mae (Minnie Driver) and her glam-rock interpretation of Shakespeare’s "The Tempest" for the school play. Alas, "Hunky Dory" primarily concerns itself with familiar extracurricular woes and offers up much ado about nothing instead of a more rollicking or romantic coming-of-age story.

Review: 'Eden' Is A Gripping Sex Slavery Drama That Isn't As Dour As It Sounds

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • March 21, 2013 6:01 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Often the problem when making an 'issue' movie, wherein you tackle some far-reaching social, systemic, or religious injustice, is that scope often becomes too burdensome, with the given topic often begging for thoughtful, intimate conversation and not the broad strokes that cinema offers. The best issue movies, things like Steven Soderbergh's multi-layered "Traffic," make the central concern seem both universal and incredibly personal, often setting aside crass moralization (the stuff "Crash" was mired in – hey, racism still exists, everybody!) for actual entertainment. "Eden," the Narrative Feature winner at SXSW in 2012, similarly tackles the issue of sex slavery, but it does so in a way that never feels too clumsy or overarching. Instead, it's a character study with thriller elements; it exposes you to a horrible underworld without ever beating you over the head with it.
More: Eden, Review

Review: 'Olympus Has Fallen' A Thin, High-Concept Actioner Without Much Bite

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • March 21, 2013 9:56 AM
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  • 2 Comments
The new big budget, bullet-riddled actioner "Olympus Has Fallen" has a premise so painfully obvious that it's amazing nobody thought of it before, especially in the creatively bankrupt atmosphere of Hollywood. The plot is essentially "Die Hard" in the White House, with a similarly smart-ass loner (Gerard Butler) trapped in a massive building full of heavily armed terrorists, holding one very important man hostage (Aaron Eckhart, trading up from his district attorney position in "The Dark Knight" to President of the United States here). Unfortunately, "Olympus Has Fallen" fails to capture even a glimmer of the greatness of "Die Hard," instead coming across as a loud, crass, unpleasantly violent movie whose politics are muddier than its gauzy cinematography. (It should be noted, however, that it is markedly superior to the last actual "Die Hard" movie, the borderline unwatchable "A Good Day to Die Hard." Still.)

Review: ‘New World’ A Familiar, But Satisfying & Well-Executed ‘The Departed’-Esque Thriller

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • March 20, 2013 8:23 PM
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On the page, the set up for Park Hoon Jeong’s “New World” is almost a cliché, the story pivoting around a cop caught in deep cover in the midst of a crime syndicate, looking for a way to the end assignment, only for forces on both sides of the law to squeeze him to a breaking point. In Hollywood, both “Donnie Brasco” and “The Departed” popularized the concept in the recent years, with the latter a remake of “Infernal Affairs” which itself spawned a trilogy. So the question for “New World” is: does it bring anything new to the equation? Nope. Does it do this formula well? Yep.

Review: 'Gimme The Loot' Paints An Affectionate Portrait Of The Foibles Of Inner City Youth

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • March 20, 2013 7:22 PM
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The streets of New York City are alive in the SXSW hit "Gimme The Loot," the endearing and charmingly unpretentious first feature from director Adam Leon. The film seems to move to the beat of jangling spray paint cans, particularly those in the deep pockets of Malcolm and Sofia. These two high schoolers, first seen stealing a cache of spraypaint bottles from a local marketplace, have a dedicedly old-fashioned plan, one that would make any New Yorker smile and shake their head -- they're going to "bomb" the Mets' apple in Citifield.

Review: Animated 'The Croods' Sacrifices Story & Character On Altar Of Impressive 3D Visuals

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • March 20, 2013 6:21 PM
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We suspect our reaction may be out of step with the general consensus of press at our Berlin Film Festival screening of the "The Croods" (where we first saw the film back in February) if the guffaws and applause were anything to go by, but really that had us kind of baffled. The DreamWorks film, from writer/directors Chris Sanders ("How to Train Your Dragon," "Lilo & Stitch") and Kirk Di Micco ("Space Chimps"), features a starry voice cast in Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman and Clark Duke, and an appropriately high concept: the Croods are a family of cavemen who have to evolve suddenly when faced with cataclysmic natural disasters and the arrival of a young Homo Sapiens with the ability to make fire.

Review: 'Come Out And Play' Is A Xeroxed Horror Remake Disguising A New Director's Vanity Plate

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • March 19, 2013 2:01 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Who in the hell is Makinov? The single-named director, who has appeared online in masked garb speaking power to his vague filmmaking manifesto, has placed his name all over “Come Out And Play,” an overly respectful remake of the infamous '70s cult chiller “Who Can Kill A Child?” The film opens with a smash cut not unlike a Michael Mann film, before eventually ignoring all credits and spotlighting the film’s title across the screen in huge font: “Makinov’s Come Out And Play.” When the film closes on a would-be shocker ending, the screen-filling credit is an offhanded “Made By” and then, in bulleted lettering, “M-A-K-I-N-O-V.”

Review: 'Admission' With Tina Fey & Paul Rudd A Low-Stakes Drama Mixed With Toothless Social Satire

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • March 19, 2013 9:57 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Some people don’t seem to realize that the type of stories being told in film needs to change. Small-scale tales of middlebrow intimacy and minor dramatic conflict used to have a home in the cinemas, where they would play to audiences who didn’t have a surplus of entertainment options. Today, the problem isn’t that these stories are no longer relevant commercially or creatively -- they still are -- but that they lack the incisive filmmakers necessary to guide them properly to the big screen. Case in point: Paul Weitz’s toothless, sleepy “Admission,” which portrays the topsy-turvy life of a Princeton admissions officer who has to cope with widening standards and new methods of evaluation in regards to new students.

SXSW Review: 'Cheap Thrills' Is Like 'The Hangover' Taken To An Absurdly Nihilistic Degree

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • March 18, 2013 8:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
It was only a matter of time before the recent hyper-raunchy comedy style exemplified by "The Hangover," would take a dark, seedily indie-movie turn. And that's what "Cheap Thrills," which was one of the few movies to acquire distribution at the South by Southwest Film Festival, really is: it's the hysterical, son-of-"Jackass" tomfoolery of "The Hanger" taken to an absurdly nihilistic degree. For the most part, it works, despite some tonal wobbliness, although it should be noted that "Cheap Thrills" is not for the squeamish or easily offended.

SXSW Doc Review Recap: Snoop Lion In 'Reincarnated,' Alex Winter's 'Downloaded' & More

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • March 18, 2013 7:48 PM
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If the South by Southwest Film Festival was burdened by anything this year, it was an abundance of quality documentaries. It seemed that, while the narrative side of things was surprisingly sparse (where was the "21 Jump Street" or "The Raid" of this year?), the documentary selection was stronger than ever – there were more buzzed-about entries than we had time for, quite frankly (sorry "Medora!"), and almost everything we saw impressed us to one degree or another. Here is a quick rundown of a handful of key SXSW documentaries – "Lunarcy!," about people obsessed with the moon; "Downloaded," which aims to be the definitive documentary about file sharing program Napster; "Twenty Feet from Stardom," which charts the history of pop music from the backup singers' point of view; "Reincarnated," about Snoop Dogg's transformation into reggae titan Snoop Lion; and "I Am Divine," about director John Waters' corpulent muse, cross-dressing sensation Divine.

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