The Playlist

Review: 'Bad Ass' Adds Intriguing Dimension To Hit Viral Video, Then Squanders It With Tacky Exploitation Trappings

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • April 18, 2012 5:56 PM
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All hail VOD, the format giving new life to disreputable exploitation films. It was problematic to stock them on DVD shelves next to the likes of “Kangaroo Jack” and “The Chronicles Of Riddick.” Now, the cheapest, tackiest, most base thrills are only a click away, allowing an opportunistic indie like “Bad Ass” it’s moment to shine, giving the perfect level of exposure to this grungy shlockfest with a built-in limited shelf life.

Review: Mary Harron's 'The Moth Diaries' Is A Teen Vampire Tale Without Any Fangs

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 18, 2012 4:57 PM
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It's remarkably tough to get any film financed, at least one that doesn't have 3D talking animals from a popular cartoon series. So it's no surprise that some filmmakers, for all their best efforts, can go three, four, five or more years between pictures. Worryingly, it seems to be doubly true for female directors. Look at Kimberley Pierce, who's only made one film in the twelve years since "Boys Don't Cry," or Tamara Jenkins, for whom nearly a decade separated "Slums of Beverley Hills" and "The Savages," or even Kathryn Bigelow, who might be an Oscar-winner now, but had a six-year break before "The Hurt Locker." One of the key examples here is Mary Harron, who since her 1996 debut "I Shot Andy Warhol" had only made two other films: "American Psycho," and the biopic "The Notorious Bettie Page," the latter of which was five whole years ago. None of her films to date have been stellar, but she's always displayed more than enough filmmaking nous to make an upcoming Harron picture something to look forward to.

Review: Disneynature's 'Chimpanzee' Would Be Genuinely Amazing If Tim Allen Just Shut The Hell Up

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • April 18, 2012 2:56 PM
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The opening moments of Disneynature’s “Chimpanzee” are genuinely jaw dropping – an emerald green jungle, more lush and 3D than the otherworldly forests of Pandora, fans out across the screen, and we’re introduced to a young male chimpanzee, named Oscar, as intricate and bewildering as any CGI creation. And then…the narration starts. In a misguided bit of synergistic back-scratching, Buzz Lightyear himself Tim Allen provides the running commentary, which is so awful that it does the unthinkable – it actually unravels much of the natural beauty presented onscreen. It’s enough that the entire time you’re thinking, “Well, maybe there’ll be a silent version on the DVD.” It’s that ridiculously terrible.

Review: 'Goodbye First Love' Looks At Young Romance Without Affection

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • April 17, 2012 3:07 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Television and movies love to indulge us in pre-adulthood nostalgia. Whether the bait is loose (young hooligans causing a ruckus) or more specific and event-oriented (prom, which we've seen less of lately because, well, prom sucks), the powers that be tug at our heartstrings and force us to look back at a time free of major responsibilities and full of fresh experiences. The glazed schmaltz can be off-putting for some, but occasionally sincerity shines through, and we get something that captures the emotions extraordinarily well (for this writer's money, "The Virgin Suicides" and "The Girl" are uneven but nail certain feelings on the head). But if we look back without this fondness, what are these stories? Are they merely happenings that somehow affected the person we become, or are they just the product of naive children that didn't know better? Mia Hansen-Løve's "Goodbye First Love" attempts a critical look at a teenager's first relationship without wooing us first with their blithe beginnings, but has very little to say about the topic.

Review: Christianity & College Life Collide In Fresh 'Blue Like Jazz'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • April 12, 2012 6:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Most discerning moviegoers flinch when greeted with the prospect of a "Christian" film. Religion and mainstream cinema do not make comfortable bedfellows, as many films in this subgenre fit the very definition of "preaching to the choir," concerned not with challenging viewers as much as pandering to their most base instincts. "Blue Like Jazz," based on a book of autobiographical essays from writer and Christian Donald Miller, likely gives pause to those on the fence about religion-based material. Though this Kickstarter-funded effort, one that by far surpassed its budgetary goal on that website, actually plays like a real live movie, with actors, location, editing and proper music employed. Thank the Lord for small favors and damning praise!

Review: 'How To Grow A Band' A Decent Portrait Of Musician Chris Thile And Punch Brothers

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • April 12, 2012 1:58 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Subject Chris Thile lets us in on a little Irish saying, told to him by his ex-father-in-law: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Should we expect that the following documentary will be a dubious account of progressive bluegrass band Punch Brothers? It’s a peculiar way to start things off (especially for a meat-and-potatoes band documentary -- this isn’t “F For Fake”), suggesting that what’s to come may not exactly be the straight story, but at least will be an enjoyable one. “How To Grow A Band” does prove to be entertaining even if you’re not already aware of musician Thile’s various exploits, though in its effort to “tell a good story” without the pesky thing called truth (in this case a feel-good story of a band experimenting and coming out on a top), it often overlooks any legitimate tension brewing in the band.

Review: 'The Three Stooges' A Limp Homage To A Legendary Comedy Trio

  • By Simon Abrams
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  • April 12, 2012 1:16 PM
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  • 9 Comments
There doesn't seem to be a single pressing reason for the Farrelly Brothers to have made a Three Stooges-less movie titled "The Three Stooges." Bobby and Peter Farrelly's love of the Stooges is well-known, but they should have left well enough alone after "Dumb and Dumber," a superior and certainly easier to swallow Stooges homage. For starters, the three comedians in the Farrellys' new and more direct tribute's title roles just don't have any comedic chemistry. Geographically, the Farrellys' trio may be close-knit but beyond that, there's nothing to suggest that Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos are an organically united group. It should be noted that there's also nothing categorically wrong with the Farrellys reusing their idols' routines. But if the actors playing the Stooges can't form a good, cohesive troupe of comedians, resurrecting Moe, Larry and Curly is pointless.

Review: 'L!fe Happens' One Tiresome Subplot At A Time, None Of Them Worthwhile

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • April 11, 2012 3:55 PM
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In a recent New York Times profile by Margy Rochlin, Krysten Ritter, ex-model and co-writer/star of “L!fe Happens,” talks about the film as her labor of love. She flinches when mixed reviews are mentioned, claiming the film “shouldn’t be reviewed” and “All that anybody should say about this film is ‘Good for you, girls, go get ‘em.’ -- and that it’s adorable.”

Review: 'Monsieur Lazhar' A Meek & Restrained Crowd Pleaser

  • By Alison Willmore
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  • April 11, 2012 1:03 PM
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When "A Separation" won the Academy Award for best foreign language film last month, I was thrilled -- Asghar Farhadi's splendid domestic drama is one of the best things I've seen in the past few years. But it also came as a genuine surprise, because I was convinced the Canadian film "Monsieur Lazhar" was going to win. Gentle and understated, Philippe Falardeau's film is a classy crowd-pleaser, the kind of mild effort that makes people shake their heads imagining what awfulness would be done to it in an American remake. It is also nothing to write home about, though it features a strong turn from Mohamed Saïd Fellag, who plays the title character, and some very good child performances.

Review: 'The Cabin In The Woods' Is A Smart, Witty Blast For Genre Fans

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 11, 2012 12:03 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Almost no genre (bar perhaps the romantic-comedy) revolves around formula as heavily as the horror film. Obviously there are sub-categories: the haunted-house film, the zombie flick, the vampire movie. But a disproportionate amount of them involves a group of horny teens going to a remote location, taking off clothes, making stupid decisions, and getting picked off one by one, whether by a man in a mask, or by some kind of supernatural creature or force. So on hearing the title, and indeed basic premise, of "The Cabin In The Woods," it's hard not to be a little downhearted. Is this the same old cheapo horror flick we've seen dozens, if not hundreds of times?

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