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The Playlist

SXSW Review: 'Short Term 12' A Heartrending, Heartwarming & Authentic Portrait of Life At A Foster Care Facility

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • March 10, 2013 5:00 PM
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  • 4 Comments
It’s Nate’s (Rami Malek) first day at the adolescent foster care facility Short Term 12, and his new coworker Mason (John Gallagher Jr., scruffy and soulful) is regaling the staff with a silly monologue about an unfortunate sharting incident he suffered in the line of duty. It's a funny tale, but it also lays out exactly what kind of people these workers are, willing to forego all bodily comfort in order to make sure these kids are okay. They’re a no nonsense bunch who’ve seen it all and remain unflappable, particularly supervisor Grace (Brie Larson), a steely and impenetrable young woman.

SXSW Review: Frighteningly Dull 'Haunter' Missing Vincenzo Natali's Usual Edge & Inventiveness

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • March 10, 2013 2:43 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Vincenzo Natali is one of those genre filmmakers who has the rare ability to inspire loyalty in his small but vocal fan base by maintaining an aura of utter fearlessness. The director of ingenious, high concept doodles like "Cube," "Cypher," and, most importantly, the envelope pushing, outrageously underrated "Splice," can literally go anywhere or do anything. Unlike his contemporaries, Natali isn't happy to ever be pigeonholed or pinned down. You go to his movies not because you know what to expect, but because what you end up seeing is so unexpected. All of this makes "Haunter," his new "reverse ghost story," one of the bigger disappointments of the South by Southwest Film Festival thus far – a dull, repetitive, utterly confounding chiller that had the usually uproarious SXSW midnight crowd as quiet as church mice.

SXSW Review: 'Evil Dead' Is A Grim, Humorless, Ultraviolent Update Of A Horror Classic

  • By Cory Everett
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  • March 9, 2013 4:38 PM
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  • 56 Comments
When the "Evil Dead" remake was first announced, everyone pretty much assumed that it was going to suck. This was something that star/producer Bruce Campbell acknowledged during the Q&A at last night's SXSW World Premiere. But after years of being assaulted with fan questions about a fourth installment, the trio behind the original (Campbell, writer/director Sam Raimi and producer Robert Tapert) probably felt it was their duty to give the fans what they wanted. And since they perhaps felt they were getting a little old for another go-round themselves – it's been 20 years since the third and previously final installment "Army Of Darkness" – a remake/reboot/"rebirth" must have seemed really the only way to go.

SXSW Review: Dated, Deeply Unfunny 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' Can't Conjure Comedy Magic

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • March 8, 2013 9:25 PM
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  • 9 Comments
Steve Carell and Olivia Wilde in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
There are some movies that seem hopelessly outdated, either because of their subject matter or filmmaking style (or both), and they're usually marked by having the unfortunate luck of cashing in on some zeitgeist-capturing craze or cultural moment slightly past its expiration date. But "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," a new "comedy" that stars Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi and Jim Carrey as bickering magicians, feels completely unmoored from societal trends and things that people are generally interested in. It seems to be trying to send up the Las Vegas showmen of the '60s and '70s while simultaneously trying to satirize the David Blaine and Criss Angel-style illusionists of the world, whose own mini-moment passed eons ago.

Review: 'Somebody Up There Likes Me' A Surprisingly Ambitious Deadpan Charmer

  • By William Goss
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  • March 8, 2013 2:49 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Bob Byington’s "Somebody Up There Likes Me" is about a guy who doesn’t grow up. In fact, he doesn’t even age over the film’s span of about three decades in his life. It may have something to do with a mysterious briefcase, the origins of which are only ever suggested by animated cloud interludes and the ethereal implications of the title itself. But that hardly matters, so long as Max (Keith Poulson) keeps bumbling through marriage, money and mortality.

Review: 'The Bitter Buddha' Captures The Brilliant Meta-Comedy & Existential Angst Of Eddie Pepitone

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • March 8, 2013 1:52 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Eddie Pepitone is a comedian of dualisms. At 52, he's the next big thing. He's a meditating vegan with rage issues. He enjoys swearing at LA drivers as much as he likes to feed squirrels in the park. This duality of character is what Steven Feinartz's documentary "The Bitter Buddha" (the title an oxymoron itself) attempts to convey about Pepitone, a man who is as delightful as he is loud, as incongruous as he is familiar, as buddha-like in nature and stature as he isn't.
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Review: 'The Silence' An Effectively Moody Murder Mystery

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • March 8, 2013 12:54 PM
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  • 1 Comment
A young girl in a summer dress bikes down an empty road, followed by a mysterious red four-door at the start of “The Silence.” It doesn’t take much detective work to know where this is going, the result being the horrific disappearance of young Sinnika. Eventually, her body is found dumped in the river, defiled but absent of evidence, though the movie has chosen us to see it’s in fact the work of wayward youth Peer, who gave in to his impulses as accomplice Timo sat and watched.

Review: 'The We & The I' Is A Testing, Patronizing Let-Down From Michel Gondry

  • By James Rocchi
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  • March 7, 2013 6:56 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Like some Gallic version of Tim Burton, Michel Gondry's initial promise has given way to a series of films whose diminishing returns demonstrate that he's a talented visualist without the capacity for, or worse, any interest in, telling an actual story. Gondry's defenders will, of course, point to the excellent "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," but the passage of years has made it abundantly clear that the credit for that film is entirely screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's; Gondry may have gotten out of the way of that script, but that's hardly a reason to celebrate his skills or capabilities, such as they are, beyond that. The messy "Be Kind, Rewind," the cutesy-creepy "The Science of Sleep," the noisome and needless "Green Hornet"...Gondry's name above a title has gone from being a reason to seek a film to being a reason to shun it.

Review: 'Dead Man Down' Is A Surprisingly Satisfying Revenge Movie That Combines B-Movie Aesthetics With European Artiness

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • March 7, 2013 4:50 PM
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  • 7 Comments
"Dead Man Down," the new revenge movie that marks the domestic debut of Niels Arden Oplev, the Norwegian director behind the original Swedish version of "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," doesn't have an extended title sequence. There are a couple of names of production companies and then the title and that's it. This is sort of strange, especially considering its impressive cast, which includes Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Isabelle Huppert and Terrence Howard. But everything about "Dead Man Down" is designed to catch you off guard, and most of the time it totally works, effortlessly mixing B-movie aesthetics with deeply contemplative European artiness. The result is a movie that is genuinely, totally unexpected.

Review: Faith & Love Collide In Cristian Mungiu's Powerful 'Beyond The Hills'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • March 6, 2013 7:01 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Can blind, unquestioning devout faith be just as corrupting as sin? Can love be as all consuming as evil? These are the big, broad themes being explored in Cristian Mungiu's deliberate and somewhat cryptic "Beyond The Hills," a very slow burn drama that finds both religious and emotional obsession crossing paths with tragic and haunting results.

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