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The Playlist

Fantasia '12 Review: 'Toad Road' A Captivating Micro-Budget Horror Film

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • July 27, 2012 11:03 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Screwing with genre in a similar way that micro-budget relative Aaron Katz does, Jason Banker's "Toad Road" is an off-putting horror tale that abstains from the easy routes its kin generally take. We're first introduced to James (James Davidson) as he awakens in a niveous woodland, isolated and curiously disheveled. It's a crafty opening, establishing a certain uneasiness with an enduring take shot from afar. He manages to hail down a ride, but despite the stranger's prodding at why the man was out in the middle of nowhere alone, the protagonist keeps a lid on it.

Review: 'Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry' Charts The Rise Of A Multimedia Artist

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • July 26, 2012 6:58 PM
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  • 0 Comments
If you were not familiar with the multimedia artist Ai Weiwei, the title of the new documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” would almost seem like a countercultural taunt, perhaps with a hip-hop undercurrent. The reference is apt in regards to his art, which is at turns edgy agitprop and charmingly cheeky, much like the boundary stretching of early rap music. And with his moony eyes and mischievous grin, Ai Weiwei would not be out-of-place next to the politically-charged likes of the young Run DMC, or even Afrika Bambaataa.

Review: ‘The Watch’ Is A Lifeless Sci-Fi Comedy With Moments Of Spirited Improv

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • July 26, 2012 5:43 PM
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  • 4 Comments
From the outside, 20th Century Fox's comedy "The Watch" seems to have its cup runneth over with the talent at its disposal. The film stars the quartet of Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and celebrated British director/writer/comedian Richard Ayoade (director of “Submarine”). It's directed by Akiva Schaffer, the talented young filmmaker behind SNL's Digital Shorts -- arguably the only thing keeping the show relevant for the last five years -- and the screenwriters are "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express" scribes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. And with appearances by Will Forte, Billy Crudup, a quick Lonely Island group cameo and more, everything seems to be stacked in this comedy’s favor. But try as they might, this collective wattage of talented funny people are lost within a lifeless, tepid and uninspired comedy.

Review: 'Ruby Sparks' A Delightful Romantic Comedy That Tugs At The Heartstrings & Rings Of An Instant Classic

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • July 26, 2012 5:11 PM
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  • 1 Comment
It’s been six long years since Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ narrative feature debut, the much beloved “Little Miss Sunshine.” But the directing duo is back with a new film, “Ruby Sparks,” and with it, they prove that some things are worth the wait. With a script by its 28-year-old star, Zoe Kazan, and co-starring her real-life boyfriend Paul Dano, “Ruby Sparks” is a winning, charming yet bittersweet exploration of love and relationships, those that exist in both reality and fantasy.

Review: 'Klown' Flirts With The Darkness That American Grossout Comedies Barely Acknowledge

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • July 26, 2012 10:02 AM
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  • 3 Comments
There’s a chance you got away with bringing your mother or father to one of the bawdy “The Hangover” films, with their boys-club jokes regarding sex, drugs, alcohol and homophobia. You’re probably not going to be able to pull off the same stunt with “Klown,” which takes the formula of upper middle class men behaving badly to increasingly disturbed, disgusting places. Of course, it’s because of the film’s casually profane tone and commitment to pushing the boundaries of taste and acceptability that makes “Klown” a step above “The Hangover,” a lack of fear towards the lawlessness with which those films only flirt.

Review: 'First Position' A Warm Portrait Of Talented Kids With Big Ambition

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 21, 2012 8:11 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The world of ballet largely exists in somewhat rareified air, and doesn't often enter the wider pop cultural sphere, and thus it's a pleasant surprise that Bess Kargman's "First Position" is so immediately engaging. A documentary about a ballet contest might not seem inherently dramatic or even interesting for anyone who doesn't particularly enjoy dance, but by finding the human stories and letting the often breathtaking physicality speak for itself, "First Position" is a simple, but effective portrait of ambition and determination in an art form where the stakes are high and the rewards are few.

Review: Visceral 'The Dark Knight Rises' Is A Cinematic, Cultural & Personal Triumph

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • July 16, 2012 3:00 AM
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  • 55 Comments
In a season filled with big movies that somehow ask even bigger questions, “The Dark Knight Rises” feels like the superego to its competition’s id. An action opus that manages at to be both viscerally and intellectually engaging, Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated third Batman film comes full circle, examining both the Dark Knight and the society that produced him without sacrificing any of the sweeping thrills for which the series is known. A literate, thoughtful and invigorating finale, “The Dark Knight Rises” delivers everything audiences ask for and then some, albeit in fewer of the ways that they might expect.

Review: Michael Winterbottom's 'Trishna' Is Picturesque, But Entirely Lacking In Passion

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • July 12, 2012 2:02 PM
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  • 5 Comments
Over his career, Michael Winterbottom has hopped frequently from genre to genre, from subject matter to subject matter, rarely covering the same territory twice. But one of the few things he has returned to is the work of Thomas Hardy. The late 19th century British author has so far inspired two of the director's films: 1995's "Jude," an adaptation of "Jude the Obscure" with Kate Winslet, and "The Claim," a version of "The Mayor of Casterbridge" moved to a Californian mountain Western setting.

Review: Daniel Espinosa's 'Easy Money' An Absorbing Crime Tale With Electricity Pumping Through Its Veins

  • By The Playlist
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  • July 12, 2012 12:56 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Before we even get into a review of the twisty Swedish thriller, "Snabba Cash," retitled "Easy Money" for North American audiences by The Weinstein Company who has picked it up for U.S. release, one has to to first note its trajectory.

Comic-Con '12 Review: 'Dredd' A Visually Strong, Engaging But Ultimately Empty Cinematic Experience

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • July 12, 2012 8:27 AM
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  • 18 Comments
Remakes and reboots always seem to demand comparisons to their predecessors, but “Dredd” evokes a slightly different relationship: What Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” is to George Romero’s original, Pete Travis’ film is to, no, not Danny Cannon’s 1995 film “Judge Dredd,” but Paul Verhoeven’s “Robocop.” In both cases, gifted visual stylists took fertile, socially-conscious subject matter, pared out the cultural commentary, and left behind an engaging, if empty, cinematic experience.

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