The Playlist

TIFF Review: Penn Badgley Is Solid In Otherwise Uneven 'Greetings From Tim Buckley'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 14, 2012 4:09 PM
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  • 3 Comments
While the film might not be quite as sweet and heady as drinking a glass of lilac wine, Penn Badgley's performance in "Greetings From Tim Buckley" does justice to the late Jeff Buckley, while also revealing that the "Gossip Girl" star has quite a few more talents than he's thus far been given credit for. But his swoop of wild hair and impressive vocal theatrics aside, the rest of the movie around him tells a trio of stories that never quite unite to land the emotional connection they're aiming for. 

TIFF Review: 'Free Angela & All Political Prisoners' A Fascinating Chronicle Of Justice & Strength

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 12, 2012 4:27 PM
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  • 1 Comment
"Black power means dignity," is a phrase that lingers from Shola Lynch's documentary about activist and scholar Angela Davis. And dignity is just one of the many qualities that one can attach to Davis, a bold and powerful figure whose own battle for justice and freedom is chronicled in "Free Angela & All Political Prisoners." A fascinating slice out of a turbulent time in an American history, this detailed doc is a compelling portrait of a legal case that found activism, politics, freedom of speech and more all dovetailing together into an event that not only captured the attention of the nation, but of people worldwide.

Review: 'Finding Nemo 3D' Is A Freshly Dimensionalized Take On A Certifiable Pixar Classic

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • September 12, 2012 11:00 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Last fall's surprise smash rerelease of Disney's "The Lion King," a gimmicky two-week promotional stunt designed sell the movie's Blu-ray release that turned into an extended, nearly $100-million-grossing juggernaut, opened the floodgates for 3D animated rereleases. There are two planned for the back end of this year alone: in December, Disney and Pixar will release "Monsters Inc." back into theaters in stereoscopic 3D, in part to promote the sequel due in theaters next summer. And this month sees the rerelease of "Finding Nemo," Andrew Stanton's maritime marvel, now with fish that really float in front of you. Just like in the case with "The Lion King" last year, the storytelling strength of the actual movie surpasses any amount of added technological wizardry.

TIFF Review: 'Song For Marion' Hits A Predictable, But Sour Note

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 12, 2012 9:00 AM
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  • 0 Comments
There is a certain strain of mid-budgeted British comedy -- films like "Calendar Girls," "Made In Dagenham," "Greenfingers," "The Full Monty" etc. -- that generally tends to find an audience on both sides of the ocean, make a modest profit, and then land on specialty cable where it lives on in reruns forever. They all have the easily recognizable stock characters, follow a famililar arc and culminate in manufactured emotion designed to make you feel good. And while it's hard to fault a film for being exactly what it sets out to be and nothing more, there is something almost offensive about how inoffensive the template guiding "Song For Marion" is.

TIFF Review: 'Great Expectations' Is A Handsome But Stodgy Literary Adaptation

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • September 12, 2012 12:02 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Adapted a dozen times for television and film (most memorably by David Lean back in 1946), the Charles Dickens classic "Great Expectations" is a tale ripe with thematic undercurrents, one that is more-than-ready for reinvention, interpretation, and reconfiguration. Sadly, no one told this to the makers of the new "Great Expectations" (among them writer David Nicholls and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" director Mike Newell) a stodgy staging of the original text that benefits from occasionally lively characterizations but very little in the way of effervescent freshness, which is desperately vital to a story that has been told so many damn times.

TIFF Review: 'A Late Quartet' Is A Soap Opera Symphony That Hits All The Wrong Notes

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 11, 2012 6:28 PM
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  • 7 Comments
Certainly, if a film pulls together a cast that includes Philip Seymour Hoffmam, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener, there's going to be something worth enjoying. And indeed, the trio give top shelf performances as we've always come to expect from them in "A Late Quartet." But it's just too bad that they're in service of Yaron Zilberman's film, which takes the unique focus of a string quartet in Manhattan, and puts it in the middle of a standard and unsatisfying soap opera, that spins off into one subplot too many.

TIFF Review: Unnerving ‘Lords of Salem’ Is Rob Zombie’s Best Film Yet

  • By Simon Abrams
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  • September 11, 2012 2:10 PM
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  • 18 Comments
“The Lords of Salem” is probably goth rocker-turned-filmmaker Rob Zombie’s best film, though it does often prove that the cinephile writer/director is a gifted tyro. At the same time, as his most formally mannered and tonally tempered film, Zombie’s latest also proves his versatility. Set in modern-day Salem, Massachusetts, the film follows the seduction of a disc jockey (Sheri Moon Zombie, Rob’s wife), whose family was cursed by a coven of centuries-old witches.

TIFF Review: 'Mr. Pip' Features A Fine Hugh Laurie Performance, But Fails On Most Other Levels

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • September 11, 2012 9:20 AM
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  • 1 Comment
From Andrew Adamson, the director who brought us the first two "Shrek" and "Narnia" movies, "Mr. Pip" is a rather feeble attempt at more serious subject matter than talking lions and animated ogres. A literary adaptation of a coming-of-age story, with links to Charles Dickens’ classic "Great Expectations," the film leaves you with the wish that Adamson would stick to fantasy -- at least in that world there’s some fun to be found.

TIFF Review: 'Arthur Newman' An Intentionally Listless Story About A Boring Everyman

  • By Simon Abrams
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  • September 11, 2012 9:00 AM
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  • 5 Comments
What if we are all Arthur Newman? This is the question that director Dante Ariola and screenwriter Becky Johnston beg in "Arthur Newman," their tepid, imaginatively uninvolved drama about two strangers that fall in love while trying to escape their banal past lives. Ariola and Johnston’s film follows a rag-tag couple, played by Colin Firth and Emily Blunt, who bond when they discover that they both want to run away from their respective families and create new lives for themselves. But because "Arthur Newman" is a drab, psychologically flat portrait of misfit lovers in the process of self-fashioning new identities, we never really learn who its two main characters aspire to be or in what new direction they want to take their lives.

TIFF Review: Overwrought 'The Impossible' Drowns In A Sea Of Melodrama

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 10, 2012 6:01 PM
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  • 16 Comments
If "The Impossible" moves viewers to do anything, it may be to upgrade their life insurance policy to cover injuries due to tsunami. Because as we watch the Bennett family get whisked away by helipcopter at the end of the film to the facilities of a hospital in Singapore, leaving the tragedy of the 2004 tsunami beneath them, all we could wonder is how everybody else in those dire circumstances are coping. Following a wealthy family who encounter undeniable hardship, they are also blessed with the kind of luck that only happens in the movies. Except as director Juan Antonio Bayona takes great pains tell us, this is Based On A True Story (with the words "true story" then left to linger on their own before the movie begins). And while that may (almost) forgive some of the more happenstance developments in the film, it doesn't excuse the overbearing emotion and narrow focus of this overwrought picture.

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