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The Playlist

Sundance Review: 'Kill Your Darlings' Illuminates An Uncovered Corner Of Beat Generation History With Mixed Results

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • January 19, 2013 9:00 AM
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  • 6 Comments
When any filmmaker decides to chronicle a largely undocumented or unknown corner of history revolving around famous cultural figures, a question that can raise its head is: what's underneath the surface that compels the director to make the story?

Review: 'The Last Stand' Heralds The Return Of Arnold Schwarzenegger In A Big, Brash & Ultimately Overlong Slog

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • January 17, 2013 10:40 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Arnold Schwarzenegger casts a giant shadow in his first full-fledged return to the big screen, and Korean auteur Kim Jee-woon kowtows in turn, churning out the stylishly anonymous "The Last Stand," a hopefully-timeless throwback to the iron-jawed heroes of Arnie's yesteryear. The film that ends up on screen zigs and zags in fits and starts, only to come alive during a frenetic half hour that features a small-town showdown nearly worth the price of admission alone. It's the remaining hour and thirty minutes that drags the fireworks down -- the leaden dialogue and morsels of character development do the film no favors, and when the pacing halts so that Forest Whitaker's Agent Bannister can deliver another bit of shameless exposition, "The Last Stand" begins to sag and sigh, not unlike the superstar at the heart of it.

Review: Silly Horror Fairy Tale 'Mama' Is Another Misfire For The Guillermo Del Toro Presents Brand

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • January 17, 2013 10:00 AM
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  • 6 Comments
The opening scrawl for “Mama” certainly sets the stage for another familiar horror tale in the Guillermo del Toro mold. Text is scribbled over black, declaring the story happened “once upon a time…” and then the film starts, and it’s pretty much all downhill from there. Riddled with clunky exposition, an abundance of horror movie clichés, and marked by a careless attitude towards even a basic internal logic, writer-director Andrés Muschietti’s debut feature – based off his 2008 short film of the same name – is deserving of its January dumping ground release.

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.

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