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Berlin Review: With 'Paradise: Hope' Director Ulrich Seidl Closes Out His Trilogy On A Softer Note

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 17, 2013 2:55 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The final instalment in his 'Paradise' trilogy (here are our reviews of parts 1 and 2, "Paradise: Love" and "Paradise: Faith"), "Paradise: Hope" sees Austrian director Ulrich Seidl in gentler, less provocative form, delivering what most found to be certainly the most approachable film of the three when it played at the Berlin Film Festival this week. And it seems that has been the trajectory of these films overall, from an excoriating and difficult-to-watch opener with 'Love,' through the similarly controversial but more blackly comic 'Faith,' and now to 'Hope,' in which Seidl turns in his least thematically challenging movie, giving free reign to his talent for absurdly humorous visuals and strays dangerously close to a territory that, for him at least, could be called "sweet."

Berlin Review: 'Night Train To Lisbon' Chugs And Clanks Along In Old-Fashioned, Uninspired Style

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 17, 2013 10:43 AM
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  • 1 Comment
In the very finest tradition of europudding, director Bille August's "Night Train To Lisbon" adapts an international bestselling book, takes place against the picturesque backdrop of a European capital, is half-told in flashback through a turbulent and dramatic period of history, and stacks the cast with notable European thesps. These include, Jeremy Irons, Jack Huston, Charlotte Rampling, Christopher Lee, Tom Courtenay representing the U.K.; from Germany, Martina Gedeck and August Diehl; Bruno Ganz of Switzerland; Lena Olin of Sweden; and representing France is Mélanie Laurent. However, bar Irons, this Babel tower of actors all play Portuguese nationals, and so while the films is told through English, they all speak with Portuguese accents.

Berlin Review: River Phoenix's Last Film 'Dark Blood' A Serviceable Movie, But A Fascinating Project

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 16, 2013 11:17 AM
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  • 1 Comment
River Phoenix died at in 1993 at just 23 years of age, and to a certain generation of then-teenage movie fans, of whom this writer was one, it was maybe the first of that kind of celebrity death, the kind you remember where you were when you heard about it. I was in a car with my mom, and I recall the radio report ended with a mention of Federico Fellini's death the same day (at 73 the Italian director, despite his greatness, was always going to be the Farrah Fawcett to Phoenix's Michael Jackson in the coincidental celebrity death stakes). Now 20 years on, the Berlin Film Festival is showing Phoenix's last film, "Dark Blood," by Dutch director George Sluizer (the original "The Vanishing" and his vastly inferior American remake) in unfinished form, and it makes for surprisingly thought-provoking viewing.

Review: 'Saving Lincoln' A Shoddily Assembled Biopic With Special Effects That Distract Instead Of Enhance

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • February 14, 2013 8:03 PM
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  • 10 Comments
Sports fans are familiar with that common, irrational howl: the too-invested fan who screams towards the field or at the screen, veins bulging in their forehead prompted by too much lubrication. How could you call that play? Why are you substituting the righthander from the bullpen? Do you not understand anything about clock management? While there remain hecklers in the movie theaters, they show comparative restraint, and we should count our blessings they can control themselves in front of the silver screen. How on Earth could you put the camera there, Tom Hooper? Ben Affleck, what are you thinking? Why am I watching Bradley Cooper out there when clearly Mark Wahlberg should be filling that roster spot?
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Review: ‘The Jeffrey Dahmer Files’ Is An Uneasy, Largely Unsuccessful Mixture of Fact And Fiction

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 14, 2013 7:33 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The title of the new true crime documentary “The Jeffrey Dahmer Files” is evocative and provocative. It suggests a couple of things, too. One, the word ‘Files’ insinuates that this is going to be a probing documentary, something that reaches into the storied history of one of America’s most infamous serial killers and dregs up new details or possibly even secrets, locked away in the titular files until just now. The title also suggests a certain amount of scope – that this will be a coalition of all of the files on Jeffrey Dahmer, maybe featuring interviews with dozens of the people who touched his life (investigators, neighbors, family members, friends). Instead, “The Jeffrey Dahmer Files” is neither; it’s an incredibly small documentary that often feels less complete than one of those hour-long specials they run on a loop on the ID Channel, often cripplingly hampered by a series of clumsy reenactments that do nothing but distract. The definitive Jeffrey Dahmer documentary is out there, but this isn’t it.

Berlin Review: Giuseppe Tornatore's 'The Best Offer' Is A Campy, Overcooked Mess

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 14, 2013 11:04 AM
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  • 14 Comments
If director Giuseppe Tornatore has had an up-and-down time of it since his breakthrough, 1988's almost universally adored, Oscar-winning "Cinema Paradiso," it has to be said that his most recent film, "The Best Offer," marks a definite low point, even as one of the downs. But that's probably what's going to happen when you take a cast, including Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess and Donald Sutherland, that mostly seems as though they don't belong on the same planet, let alone in the same film, stick them in a pointlessly convoluted plot that's ludicrously unbelievable from start to finish, and drench the whole lot in a hysterically screechy score from Ennio Morricone. The resulting film is such a campy mess that for a while it's possible to see it having some sort of life as a kitsch cultish artifact, like an overplotted TV movie from the eighties. But then it goes on for an interminable 124 minutes, and even that dubious hold on our interest is lost.

Review: It's Ad Men vs. Bad Men In Pablo Larrain's Exciting, Funny, Moving 'No' Starring Gael Garcia Bernal

  • By James Rocchi
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  • February 13, 2013 8:02 PM
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  • 2 Comments
"No" is exactly the kind of film you hope to stumble across -- a film that hadn't been on your radar until buzz from too many quarters too diverse to be ignored made you seek it out, discovering a film that's extraordinarily well-made, superbly acted, funny, human, warm, principled and, yes, as enthrallingly entertaining as it is fiercely moral and intelligent. Set in Chile in 1988, "No" stars Gael Garcia Bernal as Réne, a "creative" at an ad agency. At the start of the film, he's explaining to a group of clients how this spot he's about to show them represents the new, young feeling of Chile, and how it's in tune with the youth of that country and their needs. And then he rolls … a soda commercial, full of shoulderpad-wearing rockers, exultant crowds of youth, and a mime.

Review: Korean Action Flick 'The Berlin File' is Mostly Fun, Always Silly & Rather Inconsequential

  • By Christopher Schobert
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  • February 13, 2013 6:02 PM
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  • 1 Comment
To paraphrase Mugatu from "Zoolander," Berlin, the setting for the enjoyable sub-“Bourne” Korean action flick “The Berlin File,” is so hot right now. No less than David Bowie has returned to the city in his seemingly dropped-from-the-sky comeback single, “Where Are We Now?” Shortly thereafter came the news that a Bowie-and-Iggy-do-Berlin film was in development. The Berlin International Film Festival is still underway, and made major news with the debut of the “international cut” of Wong Kar-Wai’s forever-in-the-works “The Grandmaster.”
More: Review

Review: John McClane Becomes A Non-Entity In The Faceless & Tedious McActioner 'A Good Day To Die Hard'

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • February 13, 2013 5:28 PM
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  • 11 Comments
If you were to tell the even the average civilian who frequented movies that the script for "A Good Day To Die Hard" was actually just another generic actioner found in a studio pile and then subsequently retrofitted to fit the "Die Hard" brand, said average schmoe would have no reason to doubt you. In fact, this was exactly the case for both “Die Hard With A Vengeance” -- originally called “Simon Says” -- and "Live Free Or Die Hard," which started as "WW3.com" (seriously) with neither originally conceived for the franchise. That is to say there’s almost nothing distinguishable that identifies this particular story with the John McClane (Bruce Willis) narrative -- that of an everyman New York cop who often finds himself a magnet for trouble -- other than gigantic broad strokes. This is how largely anonymous and colorless, "Die Hard 5" aka “A Good Day To Die Hard” truly is. Set in Russia for seemingly random (and antiquated) reasons and featuring a father/son dynamic that's uninspired and banal, the fifth installment of this series takes a weak, half-baked story and simply grafts it onto John McClane's ongoing adventures, but for no discernible reason other than to keep said adventures going.

Review: 'Beautiful Creatures' A Stylish Southern Gothic Riff On 'Twilight' That Gets Tangled In Its Own Mythology

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 13, 2013 11:20 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Just as the "Harry Potter" franchise begat a number of costly imitators that failed to catch on (just think: "Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events," "The Spiderwick Chronicles," "Cirque du Freak"), so too will the unstoppable "Twilight" franchise breed countless would-be successors, each with some kind of otherworldly overtones and always with star-crossed lovers that defy the odds to be together (hello, "I Am Number Four"). Earlier this month we had zombies-in-love lark "Warm Bodies" and now we get "Beautiful Creatures," which transplants the Pacific Northwest setting of "Twilight" for the earthy Deep South and swaps that series' emphasis on vampires and werewolves for some much-needed attention to witches. Also, it's the kind of movie that heavily features not only Civil War flashbacks but also modern day kids participating in Civil War battlefield recreations. I do declare!

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