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The Playlist

AFI Fest Review: 'The Most Fun I've Ever Had With My Pants On' Loses Its Way In This Overworked, Predictable Road Movie

  • By Emma Bernstein
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  • November 14, 2012 5:58 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Extremely personal films can prove problematic. In general, art can serve very well as a form of expression and catharsis, with the medium of film catering to this cause with particular success due to its multi-sensory stimulation. But when an individual’s emotional release begins to overwhelm or even engulf the story, it doesn’t make for exceptionally good entertainment. "The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had with My Pants On," – helmed by first timer Drew Denny, who also wrote, produced and stars in the film – is a beautifully shot and well-acted piece that is unfortunately marred by heavy-handedness and a lack of relatable characters. And what could be a wholly poignant and involving reconstruction of Denny’s own experience coping with the loss of her father slowly becomes an enmeshed, uninviting and distant self-reflection.

Review: Parker Posey Is Comedic Napalm In 'Price Check'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • November 14, 2012 1:03 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The frown of Parker Posey is like a map of comic chaos. The chief weapon amongst her considerable comic skills (the sarcastic smile is a close second), it does more than inform Posey’s characters, all of whom seem to be suffering some sort of cultural malaise. It’s so all-encompassing, as if her mouth breaks off to form an entirely separate face, that it serves as a promise of sorts: things are bad and are going to get worse, and no one’s going to feel it just as harshly as she will. In another era, Posey would have been our greatest silent film star. It’s merely the ersatz casting agents of today’s Hollywood that have limited her to bitter scolds in a host of studio projects and lead parts in indie pictures no one ever sees.

Review: 'Mea Maxima Culpa' A Provocative, Emotive, Dogged Investigation Into A Landmark Clerical Sex Abuse Case

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 14, 2012 12:01 PM
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  • 2 Comments
By turns moving, absorbing and downright rage-inducing, “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God” is celebrated documentarian Alex Gibney’s account of sexual abuse in St John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee during the '60s and '70s, which he then uses as a launchpad to follow the chain of culpability up the hierarchy of the Catholic Church right to the Vatican and the Papacy itself. As topics go, it doesn’t get much more incendiary, but Gibney’s (“Taxi to the Dark Side,” “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”) native intelligence and tendency to (mostly) downplay, means the film emerges as much more than the torch-and-pitchfork affair it could have been.

Rome Review: Walter Hill's Sylvester Stallone-Starrer 'Bullet To The Head' Is A Blast From The Past

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 14, 2012 7:54 AM
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  • 5 Comments
About as unreconstructed as it's possible to get, Walter Hill's first feature in 10 years, "Bullet to the Head," finds the veteran action director utterly mired in the tropes of the '80s R-rated action film. And we enjoyed the hell out of it. With nothing but the Himalayan crags of Sylvester Stallone's face to suggest the last 30 years of filmmaking ever happened, Hill has -- crafted seems the wrong word -- rammed together an action movie in which the plot is laughable, the quips are quippy and the action nasty -- no graceful, balletic, parkour bullshit here, just guns, fists, explosives and, gloriously, axes. This is gristly, muscly action, Stallone's aging sinews standing up remarkably well to the task of dispatching opponents fleshily against concrete, steel and marble surfaces when he's not simply shooting them.

DOC NYC Review: 'Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost)' A Quotidian Portrait Of A Musician On The Road

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • November 13, 2012 5:00 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Son and namesake of an illustrious country singer, Bobby Bare Jr. made the differences between him and his patriarch very clear when his band released an album on Immortal Records (Korn, Incubus). Since then he’s been furiously touring as a solo artist, rocking with various backing bands and making just enough money to keep the roof over his family’s head. “Don’t Follow Me (I’m Lost)” chaperones a series of concerts in 2010 (timed with the release of the artist’s A Storm, A Tree, My Mother's Head) while providing a succinct idea of Bobby’s character and musical career. Mostly, though, it deals with the musician’s struggle to continue his modestly successful creative career while juggling his responsibilities as a parent, with four kids and a new wife at home.

Review: 'Lincoln' Is A Handsomely Shot, Immaculately Acted & Terribly Dull Historical Biopic

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • November 13, 2012 1:44 PM
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  • 50 Comments
Steven Spielberg directing a biopic on Abraham Lincoln, even one that concerns the President's last four months in his second term, is something that positively oozes with endless possibilities. This is, after all, a filmmaker who has turned his virtuosic eye onto past historical injustices like the Holocaust ("Schindler's List") and the aftermath of the Munich Olympics massacre ("Munich"), who has always had a keen interest in the African American experience ("The Color Purple," "Amistad"). Imagine what he could do with the actual Civil War! Well, it turns out, very little. "Lincoln," for all its technical accomplishment, fine performances, and intricate script work, is something of a lifeless bore. It's in desperate need and short supply of the very Spielberg-ian dazzle that it was assumed he would bring to the project.

Doc NYC Review: Jared Leto's 'Artifact' Is A Compelling Portrait Of A Music Industry Under Water

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • November 12, 2012 5:47 PM
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  • 14 Comments
It's sort of hard to sympathize with one of the world's most handsome actors, who regularly moonlights as a Goth prince rock star, even when his spiteful record label decides to sue him and his band for the whopping sum of $30 million. This is the fate that befell Jared Leto and his shockingly popular pop rock band 30 Seconds to Mars, as they were about to begin work on their third album, This Is War. "Artifact," which recently won the BlackBerry People's Choice Documentary Award at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and was directed by Leto under a Seussian pseudonym, is something of an accomplishment, not just because of its surprisingly sturdy filmmaking but also because it turns Leto into, if not a likable center for a documentary, then at least a compelling guide through the current state of the music industry, in all its wretched decay.

Review: 'Coldplay Live 2012' Endearingly Captures The Energy Of The World's Biggest Band

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • November 12, 2012 3:04 PM
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  • 12 Comments
If there's a way you can be the world's biggest pop band and still be underrated, well, Coldplay have figured out how. Their five albums, which always manage to be solidly artistic and hugely accessible, have sold tens of millions of copies, no small feat in the age of the crumbling music industry, and yet their detractors say that they're boring and dull, two charges that cannot be leveled against "Coldplay Live 2012." A new concert documentary that charts their tour in support of last year's Mylo Xyloto album, 'Live 2012,' like this year's other two great concert docs ("Shut Up and Play the Hits" and "Katy Perry: Part of Me") is a boundlessly energetic, utterly endearing chronicle. Hands in the air, people.
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Doc NYC Review: 'My Amityville Horror' Is A Disturbing Mixture Of The Paranormal And The Psychological

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • November 12, 2012 2:01 PM
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  • 2 Comments
In 1975, George and Kathy Lutz (along with Kathy's three children from a previous marriage), moved into a huge house in Amityville, a tony Long Island suburb. In less than a month, the family would abandon their possessions and leave the house, later claiming it had been the source of a number of supernatural disturbances – including the appearance of a floating, wolf-headed pig; demonic possession; and swarms of ghostly black flies.

AFI Fest Review: Kim Nguyen's 'War Witch' a Haunting, Brutal Surrealist Fable Matched by Powerful Lead Performances

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • November 11, 2012 9:06 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Before any political or societal context enters the brutal cinematic depictions seen in “Come and See” and “City of God,” each effort can first speak clearly enough from the image of a child holding a firearm. Gawky, nervous, and with an expression of terrified power, the isolated sight holds many questions to a decayed rationality and natural order, but as Canadian director Kim Nguyen's shows within his searing look at African child soldiers, “War Witch," those two aspects are the first to be excised in warfare. Blending a surrealist perspective of battle-tinged faith with the harrowing tale of one girl's resilience, the film is a laser-focused fable threatened occasionally by its drifts into character shorthand, but equaled by a wrenching lead performance by Rachel Mwanza that results in one of the finest of the year.

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