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Review: 'Would You Rather' See This Movie, Or Make A Better Use Of Your Ten Bucks?

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • February 8, 2013 4:00 PM
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  • 5 Comments
Several filmmakers have their own insight into what the recession has done to the middle class. Few of them have as much anger as David Guy Levy, director of “Would You Rather,” a sinister new thriller opening in theaters this Friday. No, Levy thinks of the general public as prey not to be hunted, but to be toyed with. Why eat the poor, when they can provide entertainment? It’s not the most optimistic outlook, admittedly.

Berlin Review: Matt Porterfield’s ‘I Used To Be Darker’ Has Empathy To Burn But Lacks Urgency

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 8, 2013 2:16 PM
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  • 0 Comments
In between the big events that mark our lives -- the births, the deaths, the falling-in-loves, the breaking-ups, the runnings-away, the reconciliations -- there often exists a kind of pause moment. And it’s one such moment that Matt Porterfield’s Sundance-approved third feature, “I Used to be Darker,” which plays at the Berlin Film Festival today, deals with; a caesura that punctuates the Big Life Business that is going on in the disparate lives of one fragmented family.

Berlin Review: Joshua Oppenheimer’s 'The Act Of Killing' Is A Constantly Astounding, Terrifying Masterpiece

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 8, 2013 12:44 PM
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  • 10 Comments
Holy fucking shit. All apologies for incoherence in the following review but having just emerged from Joshua Oppenheimer’s shattering documentary “The Act of Killing,” which screened here in Berlin this morning, I am still shaking. I may not be in the best state to write about it, in fact, but there’s no way I can think about anything else, so I’m going to try. “The Act of Killing” is truly one of the most intensely unsettling, frightening, riveting films I've seen, maybe ever.

Review: Lifers Imitate Art In Prison-Set Shakespearean Docudrama 'Caesar Must Die'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 8, 2013 9:57 AM
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  • 0 Comments
In a prison in Rome, real-life convicts prepare to mount a production of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” and as the night of the public performance draws nearer, their real lives and the play’s narrative conflate to the point of indistinguishability. So runs an approximate logline for the Taviani brothers’ “Caesar Must Die," the Golden Bear and Ecumenical Jury Prize winner from the Berlin International Film Festival in 2012. And given that summation, it’s easy to see why it won – there are few themes more festival-friendly than the interrelatedness of art and life. But there’s a difference between suggesting that such a relation exists and exploring or commenting on its nature, a difference the veteran directors, and the more breathless of the film’s admirers, seem only sporadically to acknowledge.

Berlin Review: Wong Kar Wai's 'The Grandmaster' Is Occasionally Mesmerizing, Mostly Muddled

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 7, 2013 2:05 PM
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  • 14 Comments
Perhaps the best place to begin a review of Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster” is at the end -- or a few minutes after. An epilogue of sorts, which happens suddenly and far enough into the credits that maybe half the audience was watching it from the stairs, serves as a pretty representative microcosm of everything that is right about the film, and everything that is not.

Review: 'Identity Thief' Joylessly Steals Nearly Two Hours Of Your Life

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 7, 2013 9:18 AM
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  • 5 Comments
When studios screen comedies for critics, there is typically an audience there, no matter how far in advance the screening. The reason, of course, is that an audience responding to a comedy in a positive way has a kind of transformative power – laughing and having fun with your fellow moviegoers is something that you actively want to engage in. And it is a good barometer for whether or not the movie will be a success – when we saw "Ted" last summer, we weren't too crazy about it, but the audience went ape shit. (This translated to one of the biggest R-rated comedies ever.) At a recent screening of "Identity Thief," the new high-concept road movie from Universal, a packed audience responded politely but not enthusiastically.

Review: 'Lore' Is An Evocative & Enigmatic Look At Post-WWII Moral & Emotional Fallout

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 6, 2013 8:04 PM
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  • 1 Comment
With her beautiful and expressive debut feature film "Somersault," writer/director Cate Shortland established herself as a filmmaker with a sharp sense of the emotional complexities of young women. And now, eight years later, she returns with belated follow-up effort "Lore," another tale of a young woman not only navigating her burgeoning sexuality, but the emotional and moral fallout of post-World War II Germany, all while she battles to keep her family together and alive as power in the country changes hands.
More: Lore , Review

Review: Jet Li's 'The Sorcerer & The White Snake' Is Wuxia-Lite, With Bad Action & CG

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • February 6, 2013 7:03 PM
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  • 0 Comments
It might have a highbrow reputation (something anyone who's caught one of the sidebars can confirm), but that doesn't mean that the organizers of the Venice Film Festival [ed. where we first saw the movie in 2011 -- this is a slightly edited reprint of that review] don't like to watch a little ass get kicked sometimes. 2010, in fact, was something of a banner year for action at the festival, with "13 Assassins" and 'Detective Dee' in competition, and "Machete," "The Town," "Reign of Assassins" and "Legend of the Fist" all playing out of it. 2011 was a little lighter on the chop-socky, but if there was a single film that let film critics scratch their face-punch itch, it was the Jet Li vehicle "The Sorcerer & The White Snake." Directed by Tony Ching, who not only helmed the classic "A Chinese Ghost Story," but also served as action director/choreographer on the high octane likes of "Shaolin Soccer," "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers," expectations were high that at the very least that we'd see some spectacular fight sequences, and possibly even something that transcends the genre.

Review: 'A Glimpse Inside The Mind Of Charles Swan III' Displays The Flair & Flaws Of Roman Coppola's Approach

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 5, 2013 6:59 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Roman Coppola may only be on his second directorial feature, but as a music video and commercials director, and as a writer and frequent Wes Anderson collaborator -- not to mention handling the second unit on various films from his famous family members -- he has certainly amassed a wealth of filmic experience. All of which he brings to bear on "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III." Destined to be a crowd-pleaser because of its many celebrity cameos, quirky and apropos Liam Hayes music, and lovingly detailed 70s-influenced stylization, the film affords many glossy, knowing pleasures, and we found ourselves really wanting to love it. But that deeper level of engagement just didn't kick in for us for two main reasons: the lack of a strong narrative through line and the lack of dimensionality to the central titular character. The film delivers on its title, but it turns out we need more than just a glimpse.

Göteborg Review: Volker Schlöndorff’s ‘Calm At Sea’ Is A Wrenching WWII Tale Told In Capable But Old-Fashioned Style

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 5, 2013 6:02 PM
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  • 0 Comments
A story that is apparently very famous all over France -- that of Guy Moquet, a 17 year-old boy executed by the Nazis as part of a reprisal for the assassination of one of their officers -- forms the heart of veteran German director Volker Schlondorff’s latest film, which screened at the Göteborg International Film Festival last week. Titled “Calm at Sea” and based on primary source documents from the period (the letters, diaries and reports left by the participants, the writing of which often forms part of the onscreen action), the film is a solid piece of historical reconstruction, that despite never quite reaching any heights of inspiration, nonetheless builds to a surprisingly moving finale.

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