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The Playlist

Review: 'Tai Chi Zero' An Uneven, But Playful & Enjoyable Piece Of Kung Fu Pop Art

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • October 17, 2012 9:01 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Just as the nation as a whole sneaks up on surpassing the United States of America as the world’s foremost superpower (if it hasn’t already), China has become more and more important to the movie world in the last few years. Grosses for the relatively few American movies released there are huge (“The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” both just opened to big numbers), helping blockbusters make coin overseas even if they tank at home, while Chinese financiers are getting more and more involved in production of movies (as in “Looper” or “Iron Man 3,” both partially produced by Chinese companies, and featuring scenes set in the nation). And now, is China starting to beat Hollywood at its own blockbuster game?

Review: Kids Are King In Winning Chess Doc 'Brooklyn Castle'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • October 17, 2012 6:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
It is often said that soccer is the world's game, because all you need is a ball, and anybody -- of any race or class or social standing -- can play. But if there was a close second, chess could arguably fill that slot. All you need is a board and someone to play with and you're good to go, and there is a case to be made that the mental dexterity needed to perform at the highest level equals that to any overhead volley on the pitch. However, it differs from sports in one key facet. While most other athletic competitions define success by statistics, chess celebrates problem solving and requires players to not necessarily eliminate their opponent's pieces but to craft the most cunning way to victory. But as audiences will see in the documentary "Brooklyn Castle," the problems the kids of I.S. 318 face go beyond the board into real life, and yet, what they learn from their bishops and pawns has indelibly marked them forever.

LFF Review: Strong Performances Carry An Otherwise Pedestrian 'Zaytoun'

  • By Joe Cunningham
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  • October 17, 2012 4:58 PM
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  • 0 Comments
How affected you are by the closing scenes of "Zaytoun" may depend on your pre-existing knowledge of the Lebanese Civil War and the Israeli incursion in the country. Nothing’s spelled out in "Zaytoun" other than pointing out the date and location -- Beirut, 1982 -- but that would place the events depicted in the film shortly before the Sabra and Shatila massacre so brutally recalled in 2008’s “Waltz With Bashir.” It’s not something that directly impacts upon the story told on screen, but that the film assumes knowledge of will fundamentally affect the emotional impact its final act carries for different viewers.

LFF Review: 'My Brother The Devil' A Fresh & Exciting Take On The Familiar Urban Crime Drama

  • By Joe Cunningham
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  • October 17, 2012 3:58 PM
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  • 0 Comments
British urban drama is fast becoming a crowded genre. It seems that every couple of months there’s a movie released depicting issues of drug abuse, violence and poverty in the council estates of one of London’s many recession hit suburbs. Well, in UK cinemas that is. Not many make it out of the country, and in fairness probably few deserve to. Sally El Hosaini’s debut feature is playing at the London Film Festival and will get a limited UK cinematic release in November, and it would be nice if it got the opportunity to travel further because it’s one of the better examples of the genre.

Review: 'Alex Cross' Is Cliché, Action Movie Finger Paint

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • October 17, 2012 8:45 AM
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  • 7 Comments
Apparently the Alex Cross character, originated by best-selling author James Patterson in an unending series of pulp novels, and brought to the screen twice before (in a pair of forgettable, moodily-lit Morgan Freeman thrillers), is a bankable enough property to re-launch a large-ish franchise around, because that's what the good folks at Summit have just done. The hook, this time, is that it's something of a prequel, just titled "Alex Cross," and that its star is Tyler Perry, who has made a fortune for himself starring in, writing and directing his very own movies. The problem is that Tyler Perry the actor is just as hammy and unfocused as Tyler Perry the filmmaker, and that "Alex Cross" is more boring than your average weeknight procedural, except much longer, dumber and more violent.

NYFF Review: 'Camille Rewinds' A Sweet Trifle Of A Time Travel Story

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • October 13, 2012 11:30 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The very first scene of “Camille Rewinds” features forty-something Camille (writer-director Noemie Lvovsky) lying in bed for a film crew, as she remains still while her throat is cut via movie magic, fake blood spurting from a pump hammered by a crew member. It’s just one of many deaths for the actress, a winking foreshadowing of the playfulness of the following film, and the malleability of what will become her identity. It’s also a commentary on forty-something actresses, and how the well usually dries up for performers who don’t want to be stuck playing mothers. If you would guess these are based in truth, you would be correct, and if you guessed these were fairly obvious points, then you’ve realized “Camille Rewinds” is as broad as the day is long.

NYFF Review: 'Casting By' A Wonderfully Entertaining Doc Shining A Light On The Art of Casting

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • October 13, 2012 10:31 AM
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In the early days, actors signed multi-film contracts and became “studio players.” This meant that they were wedded to each production company, assigned to a number of different films each year playing a role probably familiar to their last. Actors were cogs in a machine, and it was rare that someone worked their way up from small-time character actor to full-blown star. If you looked like a Leading Man, you became a Leading Man, or you were soon out of the business. There’s a whole generation of filmgoers that don’t understand that non-traditional casting is a relatively contemporary invention, and for them, the documentary “Casting By” should prove to be tremendously enlightening.

Review: Sam Mendes' 007 Film 'Skyfall' Sees James Bond Back To His Best

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • October 12, 2012 7:00 PM
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  • 16 Comments
Christopher Nolan is, famously (like many British directors), a big fan of the James Bond franchise. He said that he approached "Batman Begins" more like a Bond flick than a superhero movie, he directly nodded to one of 007's high watermarks in "Inception," and has publicly expressed interest in, at some point, directing one of the films in the franchise.

NYFF Review: Joachim LaFosse's 'Our Children' Staring Tahar Rahim Is Unbelievably Grim In Both Content And Form

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • October 12, 2012 6:30 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Some movies you don't exit, you escape. You crawl out from underneath them, they're so heavy and oppressive and immovably huge. "Our Children" is one such weighty mass. But instead of being a transformative, ultimately life-affirming experience, the way similarly bleak "Amour" and "Rust & Bone" are, "Our Children" is full of one-note grimness. Directed by Belgian film director Joachim LaFosse ("Nue Propriété," "Élève libre") there's nothing to be gained from the experience, and is a grim drag in both content and form. By the time it reaches its semi-shocking conclusion, groans erupted from our audience and the squeaking of hastily exited chairs could be heard.

Review: B-Movie Thrills Abound In 'The Thieves'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • October 12, 2012 8:59 AM
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  • 2 Comments
There’s not a single moment of Choi Dong-hoon’s “The Thieves” that stays still. Endlessly busy despite a robust 136-minute runtime, Korea’s highest grossing film in history should be more than familiar to western audiences. It’s a heist picture, one with a wide ensemble of moving parts which compliment each other as each heist is carried out with point men, lookouts, and movie-world gizmos, and like even the thinnest of these pictures, “The Thieves” is less interested in the characters than it is the elaborate stunts and gimmicks.
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