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The Playlist

Santa Barbara Review: 'Blumenthal' A Funny & Original Work That Heralds The Arrival Of A Unique New Voice In Seth Fisher

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • February 2, 2013 10:54 AM
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  • 0 Comments
“Blumenthal” is a film about three Blumenthals. There’s Harold (Brian Cox), the famous playwright who died laughing at his own joke. There’s his brother, Saul (Mark Blum), an English professor who feels entitled to a bit of Harold’s success and has had some issues, ahem, not letting things… go. And there’s Saul’s son, Ethan (Seth Fisher), a pharmaceutical rep who’s obsessed with finding the perfect fit. He wears nurse’s shoes and can’t stand his girlfriend Christina’s (Mei Melancon) sloppy eating.

Review: David Fincher's 'House Of Cards' Is A Beautiful, Bedazzling Political Thriller (At Least In Its First Two Episodes)

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 1, 2013 12:27 PM
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  • 4 Comments
When Netflix announced that they would get into the scripted programming game, with three high profile projects all lined up for the first half of 2013 (including the Eli Roth literary-based Gothic horror project "Hemlock Grove" and the hopefully rapturous return of oddball comedy classic "Arrested Development"), it seemed that the possibilities, in theory, were endless. Netflix would be unburdened by the restraints, in both content and form, of the tired old ad revenue-dependent television model (premium cable, while remaining fuzzier, still depends on subscribers), free to provocatively reshape our formalized notion of "television" and "shows." Except, that didn't happen. At least not yet. It's first big, splashy original production, a David Fincher, Kevin Spacey and Eric Roth produced remake of the British miniseries "House Of Cards," doesn't take any bold structural or stylistic detours. But it is totally fucking brilliant just the same.

Review: 'Side Effects' A Satisfying, Twisty Psychodramatic Thriller From Steven Soderbergh

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 1, 2013 9:00 AM
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  • 4 Comments
"Side Effects," a twisty-turny psychodrama and thriller, will occupy a special place in the Steven Soderbergh oeuvre. Since his highly influential debut "sex, lies, and videotape" single-handedly launched the American independent film revival, his body of work has included 26 films that have covered an absurd amount of topical ground, nevermind all the genres he's dipped into. If all goes according to plan, "Side Effects," will be the last Steven Soderbergh movie ever released theatrically. In some ways this puts an almost unfair amount of pressure on the complex little thriller, especially considering that the film may be better suited for premium cable than his upcoming HBO Liberace biopic "Behind the Candelabra." The picture's conspiratorial late-night tone and fleshy after hours luridness was practically built for watching at night, when our parents think we've gone off to bed (think '80s films directed by folks like Adrian Lyne). Like much of his recent output, "Side Effects" is a somewhat slight genre exercise, but given that it's Soderbergh, it's stylistically unparalleled, totally gripping and occasionally devastating in its emotional presentation thanks to its two leads Rooney Mara and Jude Law.

Review: Walter Hill's Sylvester Stallone-Starrer 'Bullet To The Head' Is A Blast From The Past

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • January 30, 2013 6:57 PM
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  • 1 Comment
About as unreconstructed as it's possible to get, Walter Hill's first feature in 10 years, "Bullet to the Head," finds the veteran action director utterly mired in the tropes of the '80s R-rated action film. And we enjoyed the hell out of it. With nothing but the Himalayan crags of Sylvester Stallone's face to suggest the last 30 years of filmmaking ever happened, Hill has -- crafted seems the wrong word -- rammed together an action movie in which the plot is laughable, the quips are quippy and the action nasty -- no graceful, balletic, parkour bullshit here, just guns, fists, explosives and, gloriously, axes. This is gristly, muscly action, Stallone's aging sinews standing up remarkably well to the task of dispatching opponents fleshily against concrete, steel and marble surfaces when he's not simply shooting them. There is absolutely nothing defensible about the movie's leering treatment of women, or the casual racism played frequently for laughs, or even the utter nihilism of its hero, but it's so patently unrepentant, and so oddly even-handed in having all of its characters seem mindbendingingly dumb, that it kind of gets a pass.

Review: 'Warm Bodies' Exhumes A Zombie Romance Without Much Of A Pulse

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • January 29, 2013 4:51 PM
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  • 6 Comments
Credit where credit is due, “Warm Bodies” does at the very least bring a zombie to the big screen that we’ve never seen before: one seemingly caught in the grip of an existential crisis. When we first meet the undead R (Nicholas Hoult) he’s literally and figuratively shuffling through life. His decayed state has also robbed him of his memory (he can’t remember his name, hence the initial), he’s not quite sure when his zombie life began and his “hoodie would suggest I was unemployed.” This is part of the pleasingly sardonic opening to the movie (you can watch the first four minutes right here), but unfortunately, it’s a tone that eventually evaporates from “Warm Bodies” in favor of something far more conventional.

Review: 'Stand Up Guys' Strands A Handful Of Legends In A Lame Up-All-Night Comedy

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • January 29, 2013 10:57 AM
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  • 2 Comments
It’s impossible to walk out of “Stand Up Guys” without doing an impersonation of William Hurt in “A History Of Violence,” pressing fingers to your temple and asking, “How do ya fuck that up?” It’s like stocking a team with proven performers and hoping that everything else will work itself out at the end, including a rickety script, indifferent direction, and a plot that pretends its final act is anything other than a cliché-hugging inevitability. As far as superstar combinations, “Stand Up Guys” is less the dramatic turnaround of the 2008 Boston Celtics, and more like the floundering 2013 Los Angeles Lakers.

Santa Barbara Review: Dave Grohl’s ‘Sound City’ Is A Loving Celebration Of Great Musicianship And A Glorious Tribute To Tape

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • January 29, 2013 9:56 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Thank God for Dave Grohl. Everyone’s favorite Foo Fighter and the most cheerful member of Nirvana, his irrepressible energy and sheer delight in rocking the F out shines during his loving remembrance of the legendary Los Angeles recording studio Sound City in his debut documentary feature of the same name. Ostensibly a memorial to the studio that spawned such albums as Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers catalog, and Nirvana’s Nevermind, among many, many other classic rock albums, the film also celebrates the craft and collaboration borne of this kind of specific recording process.

Recap: 'Girls' Tries Cocaine & Discovers A Bad Friend

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • January 28, 2013 10:05 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The first season of "Girls" was both entertaining and refreshing simply by the virtue of Lena Dunham's voice, which found a milieu of New York City life for young women that was perhaps more real and honest than anything we've seen on television in quite some time. Spanning flawed to fabulous, sometimes in the same episode, these characters were not only three dimensional and complex, so too were the episodes around them, which rarely fell back on novelty gimmicks.

Göteborg Review: Norway’s Oscar-Nominated 'Kon-Tiki' Is A Fun Tale Of High Adventure But No More Than That

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • January 27, 2013 3:10 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 raft trip from Peru to Polynesia, which forms the story of “Kon-Tiki,” the opening film of the Göteborg International Film Festival, is already the stuff of legend – particularly in this part of the world. Heyerdahl’s own 1950 book was an international bestseller (indeed this writer remembers a battered paperback knocking around her childhood home), and the documentary he filmed during the trip itself won an Academy Award back in 1951. Which makes it a pleasing narrative to have this film, over six decades later, achieve a similar feat in getting nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar.

Sundance Review: 'Emanuel And The Truth About Fishes' Is A Frustrating Sea Of Clichés

  • By Cory Everett
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  • January 27, 2013 12:11 PM
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  • 5 Comments
There is a widely held stereotype that the Sundance Film Festival is just dour, depressing films – dramas about addiction and family dysfunction and infidelity and incest and on and on – and outside of the occasional “Little Miss Sunshine”-type breakout, the festival wouldn’t really hold much interest for a large portion of the viewing public. Of course festivalgoers know this is not the case at all and if you dig deep enough into any category you’ll find a wide array of films from comedies to dramas to science fiction to any combination thereof.

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