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The Playlist

Review: ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ Rallies From A Goofy Opening To Become Another Thrilling, If Familiar, Action-Adventure Epic

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • December 4, 2012 12:00 AM
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  • 9 Comments
At almost three hours, Peter Jackson’s fourth foray into the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is initially worrisome and typically self-indulgent. An extremely jarring 48 fps look -- which looks like an odd "Masterpiece Theater" in HD -- is unsettling, and the opening is slow-going and tepidly genteel, taking its time with two prologues, one that includes an aged Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) and Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). And while “The Lord Of The Rings” films always sported a jovial and light-hearted tone, 'The Hobbit' (set some 60 years before the events of ‘LOTR’) ratchets up the goofiness to a near unfortunate level (yes, the source material is more of a kids' book, but even this is a little much).

Review: A Look Into A Nightmare Indie Shoot In 'Addicted To Fame'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • December 3, 2012 7:31 PM
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  • 2 Comments
When the laymen thinks “filmmaker” they imagine Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, or even versatile hyphenated talents like George Clooney. Rarely do they see the true face of that profession, the scads of video nerds who toil away at thankless jobs on television and in commercials, getting the same competent work done with the same substandard material every day. When these men and women graduate into feature films, it’s by fluke, and the work they essay is usually unseen, underappreciated, and forgotten by the time they’ve moved on to more lucrative non-entertainment jobs. David Giancola is one of those directors, and “Addicted To Fame” is the curious story of the end of his career.
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Review: 'Silent Night' Is Like Getting A Blood-Splattered Lump Of Coal In Your Stocking

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • November 29, 2012 8:55 PM
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  • 3 Comments
The "holiday horror" subgenre is a weird one indeed, requiring a fine tonal balancing act that involves wedding jolly Christmas cheer with bloody visceral scares. There's something about the phony brightness holidays that brings out some really fucked-up shit, and it's a well that many films have attempted, among them the sardonic "Christmas Evil" (one of John Waters' favorite films); the inky "Black Christmas," directed by Bob Clark (who also did "A Christmas Story"); and an episode of "Tales from the Crypt" that Robert Zemeckis directed about an escaped lunatic dressed like Santa Claus. (The less said about the Bill Goldberg-starring "Santa's Slay," the better.) One of the more straightforward holiday horror entries was 1984's "Silent Night, Deadly Night," an easily forgettable slasher film wrapped in Christmas lights and tinsel. Well, that film has been given the remake treatment, re-titled "Silent Night," and shoved into theaters and home video (a perfect stocking stuffer!) just in time for the yuletide spirit to melt your skull with a homemade flamethrower. Ho ho no.

Review: 'King Kelly' Is A Scabrous Look At A Generation's Narcissism

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • November 29, 2012 8:02 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The early moments of “King Kelly,” a new found-footage movie shot entirely on the iPhone, announces it’s intentions and attitudes right off the bat. The first images are of a crowded, low-rent internet chat-room, where we’re confronted with the sight of a half-nude nubile blonde who vacuously pleads for “tips” as she masturbates. We’re trapped, and the audience is going to have to watch her show, watch her pleasure herself for her gain, your satisfaction being entirely secondary. This is King Kelly, and she’ll be the first to tell you that she’s the voice of this generation.

Review: German Rom-Com 'What A Man' Feels Like A Remake Of A Terrible '90s American Movie That Never Happened

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • November 29, 2012 7:02 PM
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  • 8 Comments
Fetishize it all you want: foreign audiences aren’t that much more selective than American ones. Box office trends have cemented this: garbage like the “Twilight” series steadily earned more internationally than stateside, a pattern mimicked by most generic blockbusters, particularly with the overseas embrace of the tacky 3D format. Of course, one could argue that “Twilight” is an American brand corrupting the world, but it would neglect homegrown offal like “What A Man,” a German time-waster brought to our shores by Fox International, one that reflects that the cheap seats are the same in any language.
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Review: 'California Solo' Mixes Authentic Drama With Artificial Filler

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • November 29, 2012 5:57 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Sometimes a life has to wash its hands of its best attributes in order to move on. So it goes for Lachlan (Robert Carlyle), the protagonist of “California Solo.” Doing modest work for a farmer’s market slightly off the grid, Lachlan’s youthful good looks have abandoned him, his wiry frame now dedicated to lifting barrels of radishes instead of strumming guitars. The days of starring in Brit-rock band The Cranks have been left behind, and Lachlan now nurses mysterious wounds from a career that ended in tragedy. When invited to celebrate his band’s legacy, he says, “I don’t do anything like that anymore.” Prompted further, he tersely says, “Anything interesting.”

Review: 'Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning' Combines Art House Intentions & Strong Action In A Franchise Return To Form

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • November 28, 2012 7:58 PM
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  • 9 Comments
The first “Universal Soldier,” a tacky studio star vehicle that introduced us to director Roland Emmerich, debuted to the public as a Clinton-era signifier. It featured two resurrected soldiers eternally at war, products of a system that would allow them to kill and kill again over the years, brought back to be the new world‘s attack dog heroes. An ending to that film assured us that these war-like tendencies could be either deprogrammed or eliminated entirely, as one heroic fighter (Luc Deveraux, as played by Jean-Claude Van Damme) learned to love, and one villainous antagonist (Andrew Scott, as played by Dolph Lundgren) learned to accept dismemberment. Context was the key, context which was essentially eliminated in two dirt-cheap cable sequels and a quickie theatrical follow-up, but not direct-to-DVD installment, “Universal Soldier: Regeneration.”

Review: 'New Jerusalem' A Hypnotic Film Experience About Friendship And Religion

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • November 28, 2012 7:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Despite a rather large and enthusiastic critical embrace of American neo-neo realism ("Wendy and Lucy," "Goodbye Solo," "Ballast," and a few others), there haven't been many (if any) new players entering the field. By contrast, mumblecore micro-indies are cropping up like corn, with young directors seizing the "me too" attitude and grabbing shitty cameras to capture characters in apartments talking about relationships or focusing on their own inadequacies. Some are different, some are great, and like anything, you have to wade through the shit (which still get perplexing amounts of overenthusiastic quotes) in order to find the few artists pushing for something more. The neo-neo's are fewer in number, but they're generally all worthwhile in some way, using their own brand of minimalism not to film conversations, but to start them.

Review: 'Beware Of Mr. Baker' Is A Rollicking, Dangerous & Ultimately Transcendent Ride With Cream Drummer Ginger Baker

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • November 28, 2012 6:03 PM
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  • 0 Comments
This year’s SXSW had a few strong themes running throughout its selections. In the documentary category, this was seen in the numerous films about '70s rock icons such as “Paul Williams: Still Alive,” “Marley,” the preview of “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me,” and heck, even “Bad Brains: A Band in DC” fits into this category. But the Documentary Feature winning film, “Beware of Mr. Baker,” about Cream drummer Ginger Baker, certainly earned its award, as it blows those other (quite remarkable) films out of the water, starting with one vicious rap to the nose.

Review: Brilliant & Angry 'Killing Them Softly' Is The Anti-Thriller For Our Times

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • November 28, 2012 12:03 PM
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  • 6 Comments
"What is that American promise? It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have obligations to treat each other with dignity and respect," Barack Obama said at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. And that section of the speech opens Andrew Dominik's seething "Killing Them Softly," as he cuts the audio between white noise and the silent black title screen, signifying the blind emptiness of Obama's statement and the thematic current he'll be taking for the film. We are not a changed nation. We are not a nation of equals. The government are a bunch of children who need to be led by the hand into any decision-making process and Americans at both the top and bottom rungs of the ladder all have their share of the blame to take. Uncompromising and uncommercial, divisive and brave, "Killing Them Softly" bitterly boils at the state of the nation.

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