The Playlist

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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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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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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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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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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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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Review: 'Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding' Is A Fun, Easy Trip Upstate

  • By Emma Bernstein
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  • June 7, 2012 9:58 AM
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There are moments during certain romantic comedies when you might find yourself throwing up your hands and growling, “come on!” under your breath. And with good reason: the improbability of plotlines and inconsistencies of characters are enough to drive even the sappiest of us screaming from the theaters, scouring the streets for the realism and even cynicism that seems to have deserted us over the course of the film. “Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding,” from director Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy,” “Tender Mercies”), is not one of these kinds of rom-coms. At least, not entirely. Though wildly predictable from the outset, and undoubtedly sentimental in its bits of hippie-dippie, lovey-dovey wisdom, the movie doesn’t stray too far from the real world, and ultimately drives home an honest and applicable moral about accepting your family, warts and all.

Review: 'iLL Manors' An Uneven But Honest Attempt At A True Depiction Of Young Urban Life In Britain

  • By Joe Cunningham
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  • June 6, 2012 2:02 PM
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Britain isn’t exactly awash with artists pumping out protest songs any more. Back in 1977 during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, The Sex Pistols were sailing down the Thames to the tune of “God Save The Queen,” but 35 years later during her Diamond Jubilee there was a flotilla heading down the Thames and Madness performing on the roof of Buckingham Palace instead. Plan B, or Ben Drew as he’s also known, could just be the closest we have in the 21st Century to anything resembling The Sex Pistols. Sneaking into the mainstream back in 2010 with his soulful sophomore album The Defamation of Strickland Banks, Drew may be uniquely placed to send out the kind of message to a wider audience in a nation which experienced widespread rioting little under twelve months ago.

Review: Todd Solondz's 'Dark Horse' Deconstructs Man-Child Comedies, Mostly Toothlessly

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • June 6, 2012 9:59 AM
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If there's one theme that's been prevalent -- nay omnipresent -- in American comedy (and some dramas) in the last half-decade or so, it's that of arrested development: the male (for they are usually male) who's been so coddled by parents, by society, by expectations, that he remains locked in a state of permanent adolescence. Forty is the new thirty. Thirty is the new twenty. Twenty is the new fourteen. Thematically, It's been everywhere from "Failure to Launch" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" to "Greenberg" and "Blue Valentine," and it might even apply to you. But at this point, is there anything new to say about the phenomenon?

Review: 'Bel Ami' Starring Robert Pattinson Fails To Seduce

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • June 5, 2012 1:00 PM
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  • 3 Comments
We watch a man in ragged clothes look longingly through the window of a fancy Belle Epoque Parisian restaurant. Later, the hungry man in his mean garret relives the moment, jealousy and bitterness at the injustice of his situation playing across his face. Did we mention the man is played by Robert Pattinson?

Book Review: 'Hollywood Movie Stills' Is A Beautiful Look Back At The Golden Age Of Cinema

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • June 5, 2012 10:01 AM
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  • 1 Comment
There's no such thing anymore as the "art" of the movie still, with images from movies now part and parcel of carefully orchestrated marketing or sales plans driving the films. They are, generally speaking, grist for the mill, and while the first look at an imminent blockbuster or secretive project can provide a temporary thrill, the sheer overwhelming pervasiveness and availability of images, all at the click of a button, means that enjoyment is a temporary thing. Movie stills aren't about the glamor of a production anymore, so much as placeholders until we can see the actual movie. And that's not to cast judgment on how things work -- after all, we're a movie blog and very much perpetrators of the cycle -- but how images from movies are used and how they are perceived, from inside the studio and out, has changed dramatically.
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