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Review: 'Rubberneck' Is A True Crime Tale That's Truly Dull

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 21, 2013 7:56 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Chances are, if the movie doesn't feature a dolphin with a prosthetic tail on the poster and it carries "inspired by true events" disclaimer, then it's going to be something about murder, mayhem or the decades-long search for the Zodiac killer. So by announcing that your movie is inspired by true events, what could have been an unsettling reveal instead becomes a waiting game: who is going to get killed, how long is it going to take, and why have you never read about it before? It may add a slight bit of tension, but it's at the cost of almost everything else. Such is the case with "Rubberneck," written, directed and starring Lena Dunham confederate Alex Karpovsky, which has an intriguing-enough true crime premise but ends up coming across like something you'd stumble upon on Lifetime one Sunday afternoon (but without all the laughs of, say, "Drew Peterson: Untouchable").

Review: 'Stand Off' Is An Insufferable Comic Take On The British Gangster Movie

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 21, 2013 6:58 PM
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  • 2 Comments
The original title of "Stand Off" was "Whole Lotta Sole," and its the kind of gratingly obnoxious flourish that makes you hate the movie immediately. First of all it sits in your mouth like a blob of half-chewed gummy bears; secondly, it sounds like a direct-to-video independent movie produced in the mid-'90s that the Weinsteins picked up on a whim; and thirdly its implied double meaning – it's the name of a fish market in the film but its phonetic weight means something too ("whole lot of soul") – is meant to deepen the movie but instead leaves you even more irritated. The movie is pretty much exactly like that – it tries to sugarcoat the British gangster movie (and we're using the "British" term pretty broadly; it's set in Belfast) and leaves you totally annoyed and unsatisfied.

Review: 'Girls' Star Alex Karpovsky's 'Red Flag' Is A Hilarious Meta Dark Comedy That Showcases Some Promising Talent

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • February 20, 2013 7:05 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Watching “Red Flag” at a film festival is a delightfully meta affair, a darkly funny autobiographical road movie from "Girls" and "Tiny Furniture" star Alex Karpovsky. Yes, he's not just one of Dunham's boys on the hit HBO show, he's also a promising filmmaker in his own right, and he plants his 'Flag' definitively.

Review: 'Snitch' A Big, Dumb Action Movie Masquerading As Important Social Drama

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 20, 2013 5:58 PM
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  • 8 Comments
Dwayne Johnson, a wrestler-turned-actor formerly known as The Rock, is an oversized personality more befitting a cartoon than a live action movie. He's got a frame that can barely fit through a traditional doorway and an unparalleled ability to convey a host of emotions just in the way that he chooses to stand. His best performances (as a bounty hunter in "The Rundown" or a dogged federal agent in "Fast Five") have taken advantage of both his size and his willingness to manipulate his stature for the sake of the role (in "Southland Tales" his performance seems almost entirely based on Bugs Bunny). He's a physical performer unburdened by the tangled psychology that trips up most actors. However, in "Snitch," the dreary new "based on a true story" action movie about undercover drug informants, Johnson's physicality is restrained, neutered and muted. He's a comic book hero forcibly wedged into a postage stamp.

Berlin Review: With 'Paradise: Hope' Director Ulrich Seidl Closes Out His Trilogy On A Softer Note

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 17, 2013 2:55 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The final instalment in his 'Paradise' trilogy (here are our reviews of parts 1 and 2, "Paradise: Love" and "Paradise: Faith"), "Paradise: Hope" sees Austrian director Ulrich Seidl in gentler, less provocative form, delivering what most found to be certainly the most approachable film of the three when it played at the Berlin Film Festival this week. And it seems that has been the trajectory of these films overall, from an excoriating and difficult-to-watch opener with 'Love,' through the similarly controversial but more blackly comic 'Faith,' and now to 'Hope,' in which Seidl turns in his least thematically challenging movie, giving free reign to his talent for absurdly humorous visuals and strays dangerously close to a territory that, for him at least, could be called "sweet."

Berlin Review: 'Night Train To Lisbon' Chugs And Clanks Along In Old-Fashioned, Uninspired Style

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 17, 2013 10:43 AM
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  • 1 Comment
In the very finest tradition of europudding, director Bille August's "Night Train To Lisbon" adapts an international bestselling book, takes place against the picturesque backdrop of a European capital, is half-told in flashback through a turbulent and dramatic period of history, and stacks the cast with notable European thesps. These include, Jeremy Irons, Jack Huston, Charlotte Rampling, Christopher Lee, Tom Courtenay representing the U.K.; from Germany, Martina Gedeck and August Diehl; Bruno Ganz of Switzerland; Lena Olin of Sweden; and representing France is Mélanie Laurent. However, bar Irons, this Babel tower of actors all play Portuguese nationals, and so while the films is told through English, they all speak with Portuguese accents.

Berlin Review: River Phoenix's Last Film 'Dark Blood' A Serviceable Movie, But A Fascinating Project

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 16, 2013 11:17 AM
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  • 1 Comment
River Phoenix died at in 1993 at just 23 years of age, and to a certain generation of then-teenage movie fans, of whom this writer was one, it was maybe the first of that kind of celebrity death, the kind you remember where you were when you heard about it. I was in a car with my mom, and I recall the radio report ended with a mention of Federico Fellini's death the same day (at 73 the Italian director, despite his greatness, was always going to be the Farrah Fawcett to Phoenix's Michael Jackson in the coincidental celebrity death stakes). Now 20 years on, the Berlin Film Festival is showing Phoenix's last film, "Dark Blood," by Dutch director George Sluizer (the original "The Vanishing" and his vastly inferior American remake) in unfinished form, and it makes for surprisingly thought-provoking viewing.

Review: 'Saving Lincoln' A Shoddily Assembled Biopic With Special Effects That Distract Instead Of Enhance

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • February 14, 2013 8:03 PM
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  • 10 Comments
Sports fans are familiar with that common, irrational howl: the too-invested fan who screams towards the field or at the screen, veins bulging in their forehead prompted by too much lubrication. How could you call that play? Why are you substituting the righthander from the bullpen? Do you not understand anything about clock management? While there remain hecklers in the movie theaters, they show comparative restraint, and we should count our blessings they can control themselves in front of the silver screen. How on Earth could you put the camera there, Tom Hooper? Ben Affleck, what are you thinking? Why am I watching Bradley Cooper out there when clearly Mark Wahlberg should be filling that roster spot?
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Review: ‘The Jeffrey Dahmer Files’ Is An Uneasy, Largely Unsuccessful Mixture of Fact And Fiction

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 14, 2013 7:33 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The title of the new true crime documentary “The Jeffrey Dahmer Files” is evocative and provocative. It suggests a couple of things, too. One, the word ‘Files’ insinuates that this is going to be a probing documentary, something that reaches into the storied history of one of America’s most infamous serial killers and dregs up new details or possibly even secrets, locked away in the titular files until just now. The title also suggests a certain amount of scope – that this will be a coalition of all of the files on Jeffrey Dahmer, maybe featuring interviews with dozens of the people who touched his life (investigators, neighbors, family members, friends). Instead, “The Jeffrey Dahmer Files” is neither; it’s an incredibly small documentary that often feels less complete than one of those hour-long specials they run on a loop on the ID Channel, often cripplingly hampered by a series of clumsy reenactments that do nothing but distract. The definitive Jeffrey Dahmer documentary is out there, but this isn’t it.

Berlin Review: Giuseppe Tornatore's 'The Best Offer' Is A Campy, Overcooked Mess

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 14, 2013 11:04 AM
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  • 16 Comments
If director Giuseppe Tornatore has had an up-and-down time of it since his breakthrough, 1988's almost universally adored, Oscar-winning "Cinema Paradiso," it has to be said that his most recent film, "The Best Offer," marks a definite low point, even as one of the downs. But that's probably what's going to happen when you take a cast, including Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess and Donald Sutherland, that mostly seems as though they don't belong on the same planet, let alone in the same film, stick them in a pointlessly convoluted plot that's ludicrously unbelievable from start to finish, and drench the whole lot in a hysterically screechy score from Ennio Morricone. The resulting film is such a campy mess that for a while it's possible to see it having some sort of life as a kitsch cultish artifact, like an overplotted TV movie from the eighties. But then it goes on for an interminable 124 minutes, and even that dubious hold on our interest is lost.

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