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The Playlist

Review: 'Hotel Transylvania' An Energetic Halloween Treat That Brings Chaos, But Lacks Character

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • September 25, 2012 2:05 PM
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  • 0 Comments
For some reason (and we're convinced it was a cosmic misunderstanding), the various studios are releasing three horror-themed animated films in three consecutive months. Last month, we got the marvelous (and unfairly marginalized) "ParaNorman," next month we have Tim Burton's triumphant "Frankenweenie," and this week we have "Hotel Transylvania," about a gothic safe haven for all manner of things that go bump in the night. To set itself apart from the pack, "Hotel Transylvania" has opted to forgo any intentional spookiness and focus purely on comedy – mostly of the broad, physical variety. And while "Hotel Transylvania" doesn't have the eeriness or resonance of the other two films, it is admirably energetic – a pinball machine of a movie, one that's painted with cartoon monsters and really, really loud.

Review: 'Masquerade' Is Only A Somewhat Convincing View Of Hypothetical History

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • September 21, 2012 4:02 PM
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  • 0 Comments
When King Gwang-hae ruled over Korea, landowners were the only ones taxed, and peasants and middle-class citizens suffered under his rule. But there’s a sliver of that moment in time where, during his eighth year of ruling, his policies changed, favoring the commoner over aristocracy, honoring the sacrifices of others instead of punishing the weak. With portions of the historical record missing, one can see how easily some historians can hypothesize what occurred during this brief period. Unfortunately we’ve been cheated out of another gnarly Lindsay Lohan body swap comedy, so we’ll make do with “Masquerade.”
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Review: 'War Of The Buttons' Feels Like An Early '90s Miramax Reject

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • September 21, 2012 9:59 AM
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  • 1 Comment
It’s World War II, and France faces a hostile Nazi occupation. You wouldn’t know it from the children, however, as “War of the Buttons” uses the war as a macro-micro contrast with the tale of a group of youths protecting their territory from a group of would-be mini-hooligans. The troops may be coping with casualties on all sides, and regular French citizens deal with day-to-day bullying by Gestapo strongmen attempting to suss out Jewish citizens in hiding, but none seem aware of the War of the Buttons.

Review: 'Head Games' A Rich, Eye-Opening & In Depth Look At The Concussion Crisis In Sports

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 21, 2012 9:04 AM
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  • 0 Comments
It takes just under twenty minutes in Steve James' riveting documentary "Head Games" until we see a brain getting sliced open. And while that's the lone visually queasy moment in the movie, the startling facts and figures presented in the film may still make your stomach churn. Given that the movie the comes from the man behind excellent films like "Hoop Dreams" and "The Interrupters," it's no surprise that his latest effort is another comprehensive and focused piece of filmmaking. But everything else about the movie is a true eye-opener, with James zeroing in on one of the most important topics that faces the future of sports and atheletes at all levels, that the industry, players and spectators continue to ignore.

Review: 'House At The End Of The Street' Is Like 'Twilight' Meets 'The Devil's Rejects' (And Totally Awful)

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • September 21, 2012 8:03 AM
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  • 10 Comments
All of the promotional materials for the woeful new horror film "House at the End of the Street" promote it as your standard cheap-o chiller – a plucky blonde with a fondness for clingy cotton T-shirts, Jennifer Lawrence is doggedly menaced by backwoods psychos after leaving her urban upbringing for a life of rural serenity. Except that's not what it is. No. It's far, far worse. Instead, "House at the End of the Street" is like one of the "Twilight" films mixed with "The Devil's Rejects," full of half-baked psychology, borderline inept filmmaking, and an undercurrent of deeply ugly misogyny that is scary, but not in the way the creative team intended. Forget about what happens in the movie, the mere act of watching "House at the End of the Street" is an act of torture.

Fantastic Fest Review: Tim Burton's 'Frankenweenie' Is A Rousing Return To Form

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • September 20, 2012 8:45 PM
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  • 6 Comments
For the last decade or so, visionary filmmaker Tim Burton, once known for original concoctions like "Edward Scissorhands," has gotten very good at taking studio assignments for pre-existing properties that seem to roughly fit within his wheelhouse ("Planet of the Apes," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Alice in Wonderland") and applying just enough of his unique sensibilities, to make these properties seem fresh and easily marketable. It says something, then, that Burton's best, most enjoyable, and most emotionally resonate film in years is actually an adaptation of one of his very first projects: "Frankenweenie," originally a live action short he made while working as an animator for Disney, reanimated now as a brilliant black-and-white 3D stop-motion monster.

Review: '17 Girls' Neglects Thematic Weight In Favor Of True Story Melodramatics

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • September 20, 2012 6:58 PM
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  • 0 Comments
In film, there is a natural hostility towards youth. Part of this comes from the obvious fact that most cinematic stories are reflected through the eyes of an adult storyteller. Or Michael Bay. But this also comes from the fact that cinema has it’s own limitations as to what it can capture, and developing youngsters, filled with contradictory beliefs and attitudes, sometimes irrationally exuberant or overwhelmingly downcast, do not make reliable figureheads for onscreen drama. These inherent limitations ghettoize most films about youth, placing a ceiling on recognizable human drama that can be evoked from still-fertile, erratic minds. That makes it even more difficult when a topic like the controversial one that drives “17 Girls” enters the conversation, as it stems from a true story that defies any sort of adult sensibility.

Review: 'I'm Carolyn Parker' Tells The Story Of Post-Katrina New Orleans Through The Eyes Of One Resilient Woman

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 20, 2012 3:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
It has been seven years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and the impact is still being felt both locally and nationally. The event is still a touchstone for conversations about race, class and government, one that usually pits the haves against the have nots. But in truth, the story of how New Orleans and its residents continue to live and rebuild is something much more layered and complex, with the past playing a prominent role in how to shape the future. And for director Jonathan Demme, he found a way to delve into the many sides of post-Katrina life by telling it through the eyes of Carolyn Parker. Joining her from months after the floods and tracking her life for years afterward, "I'm Carolyn Parker" is an insightful and at times moving eye on the ground of the day-to-day struggles that are still common for many in the city.

Review: 'Three Stars' An Interesting Look At What It Takes To Run A Michelin-Starred Restaurant

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 19, 2012 7:04 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The perception of food and how we interact with it in our daily lives is at an interesting crossroads in the media. For the most part, the message of the moment is about keeping things organic and simple, using the best ingredients on hand, sourced locally if at all possible. On the other end of the spectrum, reality TV pushes a mixed message of preparing high end, highly crafted food, but as fast as possible. From the top shelf "Top Chef" to the lowly "Hell's Kitchen," they both have the same goal of spotlighting refined eating and, eventually, positioning participants on a path to earn a coveted Michelin star, should their career take them on a path to work on that level. And Lutz Hachmeister's documentary, "Three Stars," explores what it takes to earn those coveted honors, and even more, what's required to keep it.

Review: Emotional & Inspiring 'How To Survive A Plague' Is One Of The Best Documentaries Of The Year

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • September 19, 2012 6:27 PM
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  • 0 Comments
It can seem like ancient history to the millenial generation, but many remember the all-too-harrowing realities of the AIDS crisis and the subsequent social movement that arose out of the desperation and fear of imminent death faced by young, vibrant individuals with a fierce will to live. This movement has been inscribed in history by the new documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” from first-time filmmaker David France, an award-winning journalist who covered the crisis from a fly on the wall standpoint from the beginning. The film is skillfully crafted from hours of archival footage shot on the front lines -- on the streets at protests, at ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) meetings, in the halls of international health conferences, on the lawn of the White House -- and from eyewitness accounts of key members of the movement.

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