The Playlist

Review: 'The Woman In The Fifth' Is A Meandering Literary Mystery With Obvious Answers

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • June 12, 2012 3:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Sometimes you just get stuck with some leading men. The rakishly handsome Ethan Hawke, currently starring in “The Woman In The Fifth,” has retained that youthful insouciance despite his mature action star frame. He’s compelling when in motion, clearly a thoughtful actor who can convey several conflicting emotions. In conversation, however, he’s still got that inward intellectual curiosity, as if he’s wondering, what am I, and what is happening around me? No current actor quite clearly portrays dead-serious befuddlement quite like Hawke, who seems equally at home (which is to say perplexed) contemplating the secrets of the universe as he does programming the DVR.

Review: Pixar's 'Brave' Is A Powerful But Wobbly Feminist Fairy Tale

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • June 11, 2012 12:00 PM
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  • 35 Comments
There are a lot of firsts associated with "Brave," Disney/Pixar's new feature, set in the misty Scottish highlands. It's the studio's first period piece ("The Incredibles'" captivating retro-futurism doesn't count, it seems), their first fairy tale, and their first film led by a female character (in this case Princess Merida, voiced with strength and conviction by Kelly Macdonald). It was, at one point, also the studio's first movie directed by a woman (Brenda Chapman). And it's these firsts, combined with a charming atmosphere and layers of genuine heart, that make you want to love "Brave" more than you actually do. Because for all these breakthroughs, "Brave" feels hopelessly safe, less a Pixar trailblazer than yet another entry in the Disney princess line of films and products. Brave it is not.

Review: 'Tahrir' Is A Must-See Account Of The Egyptian Uprising

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • June 11, 2012 11:00 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The "Arab Spring" -- a term frequently used to describe the various countries in the Middle East rising against their much-maligned leaders -- rages on in full force. Though the wave of revolution is powerful, the media tends to be very selective in its coverage, focusing on one country before quickly moving onto another. You can't blame someone if they just assumed Egypt was just dandy now given the lack of coverage, as Libya's the new paramour.
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Brooklyn Film Festival Review: 'Old Dog' A Bold, Uncompromising Tibetan Tale

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • June 9, 2012 11:17 AM
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  • 2 Comments
And so the Tibetan new-wave cometh. Though merely a tiny ripple for now (consisting of about two filmmakers), the homelanders are showing a different side of their environment, one overlooked by features such as “Seven Years in Tibet” or the blockbusters currently burning the region’s box office. Pema Tseden’s “Old Dog” doesn’t include any of the flourishing beauty that the aforementioned Brad Pitt vehicle does, instead opting to showcase a dismal, despairing area where the cities look like post-apocalyptic wastelands and the countrysides don’t seem to contain a speck of life. While his outlook on things is unrelentingly critical, he’s not being negative for the sake of it -- there’s some true passion behind this work, and Tseden is a director with plenty to say on all topics, ranging from the younger generation's lack of connection to their heritage to the troubling relationship between Tibet and China. All is told in a subtle way, with a minimal plot and quiet, patient long takes -- which is also another way of saying that his modus operandi isn’t likely to please everyone, but for those that admire the work of filmmakers like Jia Zhangke, another remarkable talent has emerged.

Review: After Dark Action Pics 'El Gringo,' 'The Philly Kid,' 'Stash House' & 'Transit' An Unven Offering Of Genre Fare

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • June 9, 2012 11:04 AM
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  • 1 Comment
After Dark has been busy releasing a full slate of genre fare, and today we take a look at the After Dark Action lineup which dropped no less than four new movies in May. They each had a brief theatrical run are now available on VOD. Read on below to hear our thoughts on these movies featuring Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins, Jim Caviezel and more.

Brooklyn Film Festival: Short Film Block Reveals Some Promising New Talent

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • June 9, 2012 10:38 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Despite the insistence of a Brooklynite to quack in between films, the short showcase put on by the Brooklyn Film Festival was an invigorating experience; a presentation of some truly talented individuals who will likely impress many when their features eventually unfurl.

Review: '5 Broken Cameras' Moves Immensely But Not Without Raising Crucial Questions

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • June 9, 2012 10:18 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Sometimes, context is everything. “5 Broken Cameras,” a film by Palestinian citizen Emad Burnat and Israeli citizen Guy Davidi, offers some context but mostly evidence for the brutal, overly aggressive Israeli army response to non-violent demonstrations. You watch with gnawing unease as soldiers lob tear gas with abandon, scattering protestors, who sometimes respond with volleys of rocks and seemingly whatever else falls underhand. It’s all wrenching, and immediately, whether the filmmakers intended for the film to or not, drafts a line between “good” and “bad,” simple as those terms may be. Yet for all it’s emotional pull, the drama inherent in a group of peasants (Burnat self-identifies as one) attempting to stage non-violent demonstrations in the face of unyielding odds, “5 Broken Cameras” begs for context beyond what is given via narration from Burnat, who is prone to flights of philosophy that would make Herzog proud.
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Brooklyn Film Festival Review: '[s]comparse' Is An Interesting If Unadventurous Documentary

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • June 9, 2012 9:57 AM
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  • 0 Comments
There's a small Italian island in between Sicily and Africa that, for years, has served as a stepping stone for African immigrants looking for a brighter future. Recently, a large film production took to this haven in order to tell a fictional account of these people -- though, as it turns out, the migrants play second fiddle to a white character who leads the narrative. Camera in tow, Antonio Tibaldi documents the behind-the-scenes riff raffs, shooting both the African extras and the local townspeople as they display their respective frustrations with the grandiose movie attempting to tell their story. "[s]comparse" has plenty of intelligent, great ideas -- for example, the movie shoot is treated like an unwanted foreigner by the natives, opening up plenty of interesting layers -- but is brought down by its conventional, repetitive structure.

Review: 'Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted' Is Surprisingly Satisfying And Frantically Fun (If Wildly Uneven)

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • June 8, 2012 1:20 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The "Madagascar" franchise, with its skeletal, if somewhat clever plot mechanics (animals from the Central Park zoo are mistakenly shipped to exotic lands – first Madagascar, then Africa proper – all the while longing for their urban environments), and characters almost exclusively defined by outdated ethnic stereotypes (mostly tired New Yorkers-as-neurotic-Jews-or-loud-African-Americans stuff), is arguably the least ambitious or satisfying of DreamWorks Animation’s admittedly low-wattage carousel of animated tent poles (which now include “Shrek” and its off-shoots, “How to Train Your Dragon,” and “Kung Fu Panda”). And while “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” isn’t some kind of triumph, it is a surprisingly satisfying romp, especially when it keeps its manic pacing up.

Review: 'Paul Williams: Still Alive' Is A Wonderfully Weird, Surprisingly Moving Tribute To A Forgotten Musical Icon

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • June 7, 2012 2:56 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Does the name Paul Williams mean anything to you? Does it ring a bell? No? How about these songs: "Rainbow Connection," "Evergreen," "We've Only Just Begun," "Old Fashioned Love Song"? Williams is the legendary singer-songwriter behind those tunes and a former '70s superstar and personality who made appearances on just about every variety show, sitcom and talk show during that era of silly decadence. Maybe you know him from his cult classic movie "Phantom of the Paradise." With his diminutive stature, blond bowl cut and ever-present tinted aviators, he's not exactly the most glamorous '70s celeb, but he is one of the most distinctive and is beloved by the fans who have managed to remember him through the years. In the new documentary "Paul Williams: Still Alive," director Steve Kessler, one of those fans from the '70s, is surprised to discover Williams is still alive and kicking, and sets out to get to know Williams and see how he's doing after all these years. The result is a documentary that is moving, heartwarming and a delightful exploration of a truly unlikely friendship.
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