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The Playlist

Review: 'Broken City' Is A Political Corruption Thriller That Never Quite Comes Together

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • January 16, 2013 5:38 PM
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  • 0 Comments
A lot of what's broken about "Broken City" -- the new political thriller by Allen Hughes, who with his brother Albert directed the highly influential inner-city dramas "Menace II Society" and "Dead Presidents" before veering off into more comic book-y territory with historical thriller "From Hell" and post-apocalyptic yarn "Book of Eli" -- is encapsulated by its opening sequence. Mark Wahlberg, as a gruff New York City cop (is there any other kind?), stands over a bullet-riddled body, his gun still smoldering, while the soundtrack (by "The Social Network" co-mastermind Atticus Ross) churns with a kind of industrial grind. Hughes seems to be attempting to reconcile the two halves of his career, in this scene and in the rest of the movie, wrangling his pointed look at inner city life with flashier Hollywood slickness and the result is utterly boring mush, anonymous and ambitionless.

Review: 'Delta Boys' Is A Bold, Gripping Documentary About The Oil Battles Of Nigeria

  • By Christopher Schobert
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  • January 15, 2013 5:57 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Andrew Berends’ gripping new documentary “Delta Boys” does something undeniably important: it puts human voices and faces behind the terms and datelines we run into almost every week in newspapers, on websites, and on cable new channel crawls. Words like “militant” and “rebels,” and places like Nigeria and the Niger Delta sadly mean little to most Westerners. It’s all happening, literally, in another part of the globe, a world far beyond our everyday existence. Berends, the award-winning filmmaker behind the acclaimed Iraq docs “The Blood of My Brother” and “When Adnan Comes Home” knows this. He understands our lack of knowledge, along with our naïveté. So his “Delta Boys” is, above all else, a teaching tool.

Review: 'A Haunted House' Weirdly Cannot Decide If It's A Parody Or Not

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • January 11, 2013 8:59 AM
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  • 5 Comments
In 2012, Channing Tatum cemented his position as a Hollywood A-Lister with a number of versatile roles in blockbusters that, more or less, heavily capitalized on his physicality. Obviously there was the obvious sexuality of “Magic Mike,” but there was also the commanding romantic desperation at the heart of “The Vow.” More strikingly was his rubbery turn in “21 Jump Street,” where the meatheaded actor properly utilized his thick, tight, hunky frame for the sake of elaborate slapstick comedy, creating laughs while utilizing a specific Female Gaze that both objectified him but made him also appealing to male viewers: lithe and sexual, he was still aggressive and mobile enough to be exciting to watch for the male demographic hoping for the elaborate physical shenanigans that make up most of the laughs in “21 Jump Street.”

Review: 'Zero Dark Thirty' Is A Dense & Intense National Security Procedural

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • January 10, 2013 4:30 PM
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  • 50 Comments
Spanning two presidential administrations and approximately eight years, “Zero Dark Thirty” is as dispassionate, clinical and grindingly thorough as an obsessed tactical procedural can get. But at two and a half hours, the hunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden is also as gripping and riveting as any film in this fact-finding methodology-based genre.

Review: 'Gangster Squad' An Aggressive, Opulent & Ultimately Wearisome Look At 1940s Los Angeles

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • January 7, 2013 9:01 AM
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  • 8 Comments
Manifest Destiny lies beside its essential hubris in the period actioner “Gangster Squad,” but beyond the swaggering idealism seen through eponymous hoodlum Mickey Cohen (played by Sean Penn), the film's saturated grab bag of glossy homage proves its final shortcoming. With his third feature, “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer frames 1940s Los Angeles -- morally compromised, glamorous, and a monument to protect and exploit on both sides of the law -- to adapt Paul Lieberman's true-crime articles into cinematic legend, but in lieu of any sharp insight into the period and its notorious figures, the film's brash, ultraviolent encounters instead build a showy exterior with nothing of import left standing.

Review: Australian Thriller 'Crawlspace' Checks Off All The Genre Boxes

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • January 4, 2013 4:01 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Today’s genre filmmakers seem to approach filmmaking as if they’re making a stew. Despite the freedom the science-fiction, action and horror genres give them, they continually return to the well of what’s been successful, borrowing recognizable concepts and ideas to work as a shorthand: you know how time travel works in “Back To The Future,” so we don’t much have to explain it. You know the dynamic involved in a last-man-standing scenario, so we won’t bother you with the details, you own all the corresponding DVDs. And another one of those greatest hits packages arrives in the form of Australian thriller “Crawlspace,” featuring enough popular sci-fi tropes to please those looking for something more than a bit familiar.
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Review: Earnest & Well-Intentioned ‘Promised Land’ Doesn’t Quite Convince

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • January 4, 2013 12:50 PM
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  • 4 Comments
If the narrative of the modern-day salesman in fiction is that of a man who believes in his business but finds his faith shaken once the white lies of his trade begin to grow, a man who loses his moral compass and finds himself along the way, then “Promised Land" doesn’t stray far from that mold. And at the crossroads of America, if big business represents greed, well then small-town communities must clearly represent strength and resolve.

Review: 'Texas Chainsaw 3D' Is Flatter Than Texas Roadkill

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • January 4, 2013 8:55 AM
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  • 8 Comments
Carl Mazzocone, the producer of the new horror remake/sequel "Texas Chainsaw 3D" (yes, the word "Massacre" isn't even part of the title – more on that in a minute), a former executive who oversaw the lucrative "Saw" series, has made it a point of saying how this is a true follow-up to Tobe Hooper's watershed original (1974's "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre"). The first part of a proposed six-film franchise (yes, seriously), Mazzocone and his confederates have also chosen to bypass every entry in the series since the original, including Hooper's own, highly underrated sequel, two additional films (one by original co-writer Kim Henkel), and a pair of glossy remakes shepherded by that king of the understatement, Michael Bay. But what makes "Texas Chainsaw 3D" so striking is that for a movie with such clear reverence for the original, it fundamentally misunderstands (or simply ignores) what made the first film such a groundbreaking classic.

Review: Dustin Hoffman's 'Quartet' Is An Amiable, Harmless Showcase For Brit Acting Talent

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • December 28, 2012 10:55 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Dustin Hoffman has taken 45 years as both one of our most acclaimed actors, and as a major box office draw, to step behind the camera. In fact, that's not strictly true; Hoffman was the original director of his terminally underrated 1978 crime picture "Straight Time," but struck by indecisiveness early in production, made way for Ulu Grosbard instead. But now, nearly 35 years on, the legendary star has finally completed his debut directorial effort, "Quartet," an adaptation of the play by Ronald Harwood ("The Pianist").

Review: ‘Tabu’ Is Magic Realism In Rapture, As Only The Language Of Cinema Can Tell It

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • December 26, 2012 12:12 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The following article is a reprint of our review that ran during the Toronto Interntional Film Festival. Keep an eye on this one too. It's been released very late in the year, but we suspect you'll be seeing it on many of our top 10 lists.

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