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The Playlist

AFI Fest Review: 'Rise of the Guardians' Is An Animated Yuletide Treat

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • November 7, 2012 10:04 AM
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"Rise of the Guardians," the new DreamWorks Animation feature conceived by famed children's book author William Joyce, features, at its core, such an ingenious concept that it's hard to believe nobody's ever thought of it before. The plot concerns a kind of "Avengers"-style super-team made up of beloved childhood characters – Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), the Sandman (he doesn't speak but communicates through ghostly dreams), and the newest, most reluctant member of the team, Jack Frost (Chris Pine), who must band together to stop the spooky boogeyman Pitch (Jude Law) from annihilating childhood innocence in a more profoundly evil way than the Internet already has.

AFI Fest Review: Audacious 'Clip' Winds Up Overwhelmed By Its Own Despair

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • November 6, 2012 1:57 PM
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Maja Miloš’s debut feature film “Clip” continues to tour the festival circuit, including stopovers at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, Buenos Aires International Fesitval of Independent Cinema, Montreal’s Festival Du Nouveau Cinema and, most recently, in AFI’s “New Auteurs” selection. With its exposure overshadowed by the bigger international players, it still managed to impress the Dutch so much in Rotterdam that they bestowed upon it the KNF Award, “given to the best feature film in the official section that is yet to find distribution within the Netherlands.” And while all the signs pointed to a quality picture, audiences tolerance for the picture may depend on how much despair they can handle in one sitting.

Review: 'Miami Connection' Not A Rediscovered Schlock Classic, But Close

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • November 5, 2012 3:59 PM
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To understand the hyperbole being tossed around when so-bad-it’s-good obsessives talk about “Miami Connection,” it’s vital to acknowledge that the best “bad” movies have a great making-of story. The current reigning champ of the lot remains Tommy Wiseau’s incomparable “The Room” (sorry “Birdemic” fans, the film is possibly too inept to remain consistently entertaining during its two-hour runtime) but here comes Grandmaster Y.K. Kim and his baby, ostensibly the story of a martial arts-themed rock band that takes on drug-running, motorcycle gang ninjas. Let’s pause for a moment – yes, that does sound like a childhood dream come true, provided you grew up digesting schlock fare and dreaming of crossovers that were not to be. Yet, for all the hints of notorious greatness that the film racks up over the course of ninety occasionally glorious minutes, it’s not about to dethrone the established “classics."
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Review: 'How Do You Write A Joe Schermann Song' A Rewarding, Crowd-Pleasing Indie Musical

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • November 2, 2012 2:00 PM
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Discounting “The Muppets,” the movie musical has had a bit of a rough go as of late. Fans have a likely sumptuous, probably bloated "Les Misérables" to look forward to in December, a film that hopefully cleanses the palate of the disaster that was "Nine." Due to their grand scales and expensive price tags, they don't come along too often -- it's a huge gamble, and if Rob Marshall’s Oscar flunkee proves anything, it's that even successful Broadway shows don't mean a damn thing at the box office. So why not cut the fat?

AFI Fest Review: ‘Hitchcock’ A Breezy, Disposable Effort Saved By Anthony Hopkins & Helen Mirren’s Dedicated Performances

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • November 2, 2012 7:32 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Hypnotic, beautiful, and perilous in equal measure – one needn’t glance anywhere else but at the leading ladies of Alfred Hitchcock’s films to garner their intense influence, yet as dramatized in “Anvil!” director Sacha Gervasi’s loving biopic, “Hitchcock,” the real authority lingered off the set at home, shielding her husband quietly from failure and ruin. What follows is a peek behind the curtain on Hitchcock’s marriage to Alma Reville (the couple played by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren), while charting their pangs of jealousy and pressure during the turbulent making of “Psycho.”

Review: 'A Man's Story' A Refreshingly Honest & Candid Look At One Designer's Journey In The Fashion World

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • November 1, 2012 5:58 PM
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From the outside, the world of haute couture often seems ridiculous, and it certainly lives up to that reputation often. But lost among the magazine spreads, photo shoots, ad campaigns, red carpet parties and so on, is the reality that it's not only a very tough business to break into, it's just as hard to maintain visibility. It bears many similarities to the movie world in that regard, where today's hot screenwriter is tomorrow's trade paper footnote.

Review: Barry Levinson's 'The Bay' Is A Frightening Eco-Horror 'Jaws' Riff

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • November 1, 2012 5:00 PM
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Primarily known for his talky, small-scale comedic dramas, exemplified by his beloved "Diner," Vanity Fair recently made a compelling argument for this seminal Barry Levinson film influencing everything from "Seinfeld" and "Swingers" to Judd Apatow's comedy factory and feel-good Hollywood trifles like "The Natural." In light of this posit, this makes "The Bay," Levinson's new, highly squishy found-footage horror movie more than just a career left turn; it's more like he veered onto oncoming traffic. The only thing more surprising than Levinson making "The Bay," though, is how effectively creepy it is.

Review: 'A Late Quartet' Is A Soap Opera Symphony That Hits All The Wrong Notes

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • November 1, 2012 3:59 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Certainly, if a film pulls together a cast that includes Philip Seymour Hoffmam, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener, there's going to be something worth enjoying. And indeed, the trio give top shelf performances as we've always come to expect from them in "A Late Quartet." But it's just too bad that they're in service of Yaron Zilberman's film, which takes the unique focus of a string quartet in Manhattan and puts it in the middle of a standard and unsatisfying soap opera that spins off into one subplot too many.

Review: Promising Alcoholism Drama ‘Flight’ Often Hits Rock Bottom

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • November 1, 2012 2:56 PM
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  • 1 Comment
After 12 years immersed (lost?) in the world of motion capture, Robert Zemeckis re-emerges into live-action filmmaking for “Flight,” an engaging and initially very promising drama about alcoholism, redemption and forgiveness that grows uneven and long-winded as it progresses, eventually clocking in at just under 2 hours and 20 minutes. Featuring a thrilling, terrifying opening, plus many of the potent, moving elements that a conventional but admirable morality drama might boast, “Flight" is often undone by its very unsubtle choices and its problematic, strained last act.

Review: Rambling, Ragged 'This Must Be The Place' Isn't Nearly As Bad As You Feared

  • By James Rocchi
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  • November 1, 2012 2:03 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The initial first glimpses for "This Must Be the Place" promised disaster, with a pitch of Sean Penn playing a burned-out post-punk rocker on the hunt for Nazis, and advance photos where Penn's jet-black corona of hair and dour made-up jowls made him look less like someone who had imitated The Cure's Robert Smith and more like someone who had killed, skinned and eaten Smith before donning his coiffure and face in celebration.

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