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The Playlist

Review: 'Leviathan' An Otherworldly Peek At A Life At Sea

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • March 1, 2013 11:04 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Every sound in “Leviathan” is a shuddering staccato. Every visual wears darkness like a cloak. With absolutely no context, there’s no awareness of what’s up or down. When it is promoted, the ads will suggest “Leviathan” is a documentary, and a scan of the press notes will reveal exactly where the film is set, and what’s taking place onscreen. But those peripheral elements are not the text, they are distraction. The experience of “Leviathan” is wholly singular, without context, enveloping and immersive. In some ways, it might very well be the most terrifying picture of the year.
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Recap: 'Parade's End' Brings Dense Miniseries To A Quiet Close In Finale

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • March 1, 2013 10:00 AM
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  • 5 Comments
As my colleagues have written in their recaps of the first four episodes of "Parade's End," there is much to admire in the five-part miniseries. From the dense, multi-threaded and layered script from Tom Stoppard, to the sumptuous direction from Susanna White and a cluster of great performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Adelaide Clemens, Stephen Graham and Rupert Everett. And at the middle of it all, perhaps one of the most buttoned up leading men we've seen in quite some time on the small screen, Christopher Tietjens. It would almost be laughable at how much his life has taken a downward turn since we met him at the start of the first episode, if it weren't so tragic. As an era fades, so too does a particular way of English, gentlemanly life, and Tietjens will hold on to it until it nearly destroys him. But after seeing nearly every facet of his life crumble and corrupted, you yearn for Christopher -- as his wife Sylvia long has -- to finally submit to some kind of emotion. To break free and reclaim his life. And while he doesn't quite do that in the finale, his victory such as it is, is satisfying in the way the character deserves.

Review: 'Oz The Great And Powerful' Dresses Up Dull Prequel Story With Special Effects Wizardry

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • March 1, 2013 9:00 AM
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  • 15 Comments
We’re coming up on 75 years since MGM’s Technicolor wonder “The Wizard Of Oz” first enchanted audiences on screen, and at the time it was already the fourth movie based on the works of L. Frank Baum. Of course, it has become not only the best known version, but an American cinema classic and icon, and so the prospect of a prequel is always one that was greeted with some wariness. There’s not only the pressure of living up to a film that has been beloved by generations of filmgoers, but there's also the often undiscussed issue of whether or not adding backstory and additional mythology is simply answering a question no one asked. As studios continue to mine fables, fairy tales and comics for franchises, it’s a query they will continue to grapple with, but as for the results cooked up in Disney and director Sam Raimi’s “Oz The Great And Powerful,” it’s a lot of smoke and light, without much behind it.

Review: Silly & Cartoonish 'Stoker' Is A Garish Misfire For Park Chan-Wook

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • February 28, 2013 7:20 PM
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  • 14 Comments
One could argue there's nothing subtle about the movies made by South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook, the director behind "Oldboy," including the celebrated 'Vengeance Trilogy' and the loopy vampire movie, "Thirst." Violence reigns in his films, cameras pirouette like self-conscious characters in his ensemble, and style is king. But in the past, especially in "Oldboy" and "Sympathy For Lady Vengeance," his penchant for the outrageous and over-the-top always included sublime, comically brutal and sometimes even emotionally devastating conclusions that could leave the jaw agape. Style was always in service of a story and characters.

Review: Mark Webber's 'The End of Love' Moves With Minor-Key Moments & Undersold Skill

  • By James Rocchi
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  • February 28, 2013 6:04 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Written, directed by and starring Mark Webber -- whose acting filmography runs from "Kids" to "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" -- "The End of Love" is hardly a work of revelation. At the same time, it's surprisingly well-executed, nicely performed and manages to combine a warm and gentle sense of the rhythms of life with a cold and bright-eyed look at the world and its lead's flaws and character. Following his earlier directorial effort, "Explicit Ills," Webber plays Mark, an aspiring actor and successful fuck-up. We see him woken by his two-and-a-half-year-old son, Isaac (Isaac Love). Mark asks Isaac what he wants for breakfast -- cereal? Isaac is intent: "Oatmeal." Mark shoots him an askance glance: "But oatmeal takes longer than cereal, buddy.…"

Review: '21 And Over' Is A Derivative, Wholly Unfunny Ode To College Shenanigans

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 28, 2013 4:08 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The mythic college experience, the one dramatized in countless movies and television shows with a kind of oversized affection, involves a certain amount of reckless dangerousness, along with the all-important three B's – booze, brawling, and breasts. "21 and Over," a new comedy written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, whose marginal notoriety came from writing the script that would eventually become "The Hangover," is one such movie, in which the cinematically heightened, beer-soaked college experience is a defining moment that trumps everything, including basic human decency.

Review: Oscar Nominated 'War Witch' A Haunting, Brutal Surrealist Fable Matched by Powerful Lead Performances

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • February 27, 2013 5:30 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Before any political or societal context enters the brutal cinematic depictions seen in “Come and See” and “City of God,” each effort can first speak clearly enough from the image of a child holding a firearm. Gawky, nervous, and with an expression of terrified power, the isolated sight holds many questions to a decayed rationality and natural order, but as Canadian director Kim Nguyen's shows within his searing look at African child soldiers, “War Witch," those two aspects are the first to be excised in warfare. Blending a surrealist perspective of battle-tinged faith with the harrowing tale of one girl's resilience, the film is a laser-focused fable threatened occasionally by its drifts into character shorthand, but equaled by a wrenching lead performance by Rachel Mwanza that results in one of the finest of the year.

Recap: Benedict Cumberbatch & Rebecca Hall Shine In First 2 Parts Of Period Miniseries 'Parade's End'

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • February 27, 2013 10:00 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The specter of "Downton Abbey" has been present in the run up to the broadcast of BBC and HBO's new period drama "Parade's End." Both are lavish period tales set before, during and after World War I. But in fact, the comparisons are a little overblown. 'Downton' and "Parade's End" (an adaptation of Ford Madox Ford's cycle of novels, often labelled as among the finest literary achievements of the 20th century, written for the screen by the great Sir Tom Stoppard, and directed by Susanna White, who was also behind "Bleak House" and "Generation Kill") might share a loose genre, but on the strength of the first episode, they couldn't be more different. 'Downton' is a soap, for better or worse, while "Parade's End" is a fearsomely intelligent, deceptively funny epic that, if it can keep up this level of quality, will likely be one of the best things on television all year.

Review: ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’ An Unexceptional, But Still Satisfying Fairy Tale Blockbuster

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 26, 2013 7:01 PM
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  • 6 Comments
Hollywood’s race to bring fairy tales to the big screen over the last few years, hasn’t had the best results, at least creatively. While “Alice In Wonderland” made a still unbelievable $1 billion worldwide, it simply wasn’t good, and subsequent efforts like “Red Riding Hood,” “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White & The Huntsman” brought high concepts and diminished returns. Part of the problem has been an issue of approach, with fairy tale films either choosing to aim for kids, or go dark for tweens, with very little middleground. But that’s a problem screenwriters Christohper McQuarrie, Darren Lemke and Dan Studney solve with “Jack The Giant Slayer,” a movie that aims for that soft, MOR mainstream audience, but takes its source material and executes its modest ambitions into a satisfying big screen adventure.

Review: 'Dark Skies' Is An Effective Alien Abduction Chiller Undone By An Ending That Fails To Deliver On Its Promise

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 22, 2013 9:02 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Alien abduction, the supposedly true phenomena wherein everyday citizens are stolen from their beds, experimented on, and returned, is a truly frightening idea – one whose super-scary possibilities have only really been explored in a handful of movies ("Communion," with Christopher Walken, most famously; the ingeniously structured "Fire In The Sky" most effectively). The ultimate alien abduction movie, something that could do for peaceful nighttime slumbers what "Jaws" did for a day at the beach, has yet to be produced and "Dark Skies," a new sci-fi horror thingee that grafts the alien abduction theme onto what is essentially a loose remake of "Poltergeist," certainly attempts such a feat. And it is pretty scary. Unfortunately, all its hard work is undone by a bewilderingly goofy ending that is roughly the cinematic equivalent of an unwanted anal probe.

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