The Playlist

Review: David Wain's Easygoing 'Wanderlust' Is A Light, Shaggy, Scruffy & Diverting Comedy

  • By The Playlist
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  • February 22, 2012 3:41 PM
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  • 1 Comment
While it's their first collaboration, one would be completely excused if they believed writer/director David Wain ('Wainy Days," "Stella," "Role Models") and Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up," etc.) had been working together for years. Clearly kin-like comedic souls or brothers from another mother, Wain and Apatow have been drinking from the same sweet and sour pool for some time, "Role Models" especially feels like an Apatow production.

PIFF '12 Review: All Is Not What It Seems In Beautifully Shot 'The Loneliest Planet'

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • February 22, 2012 2:32 PM
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  • 2 Comments
It’s true that the “Loneliest Planet,” directed by Julia Loktev (“Day Night Day Night”), is the kind of film that works best if you know little to absolutely nothing about it going in. But then again, couldn’t that be said for just about every film? So before we write this review in to futility before it’s even started, let’s get the basics out there: a young couple (played wonderfully by Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg), engaged to be married, is backpacking in the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia. They hire a guide to lead them on a hike filled with stunning vistas, and…something happens that changes things, irrevocably.

Review: 'The Forgiveness Of Blood' A Tight, Taut, Grounded Dramatic Thriller

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • February 22, 2012 1:27 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Despite this country being home to a number of diverse cultures and ethnicities, American cinema (both indie and Hollywood) skews heavily toward the Exciting Stories Of The White Man. Of course, some of our favorite films fall into this extremely vague category, but it certainly would be nice to see different individuals represented on the silver screen. Filmmaker Joshua Marston seems to recognize this issue and does one better -- Los Angeles-bred, the director has journeyed to completely different countries for his feature films: Ecuador for "Maria Full of Grace" (story set in Colombia) and Albania for his latest, the taut and quiet thriller-drama "The Forgiveness of Blood." He's not simply given a pass solely for venturing out of the safe confines of home (in that sense, anyone with a plane ticket and a Canon 7D would be knighted); his work successfully showcases the life of each respective country without ever feeling exploitative, melodramatic or false. The years in between the two projects have allowed the director to sharpen his skills considerably, and “The Forgiveness of Blood” is an astute, finespun film with plenty of substance in its lean script.

Review: 'Tomorrow, When The War Began' Is A Fairly Engaging Australian Riff On 'Red Dawn'

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 22, 2012 10:58 AM
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  • 12 Comments
There's always been a kind of frayed-edged dangerousness to Australian cinema, a lawlessness that brought refreshing unpredictability to even the most tired of genres. The wildness that defines Australia, with its craggy rock formations and weird-ass creatures, seeps into its movies, to the point that even "Tomorrow, When the War Began," a fairly shopworn riff on "Red Dawn" (as filtered through untold modern young adult novels), feels more essential and engaging, if only for its earthy Australian-ness.
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Review: 'Raising Renee' Weighs Compassion & Responsibility In A Slight Documentary That Doesn't Dig Deep Enough

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 21, 2012 10:55 AM
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  • 0 Comments
At what point does loyalty to family trump personal ambition, and is the decision to put all aspects of your life on hold, for the responsibility of caring for a sibling, always the right decision? These are the questions that emerge, and are partially addressed, in Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan's "Raising Renee," a frustrating documentary that boasts the odd problem of being deeply intimate yet strangely distant at the same time.
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Berlinale 2012 Review: 'Comes A Bright Day' A Warm, Enjoyable, Romance When It Stops Trying To Be A Thriller

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 20, 2012 3:03 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Commercials director Simon Aboud takes to feature writing/directing with this London-set film detailing a young man's meet cute with the girl of his dreams, and the violent armed robbery that subsequently throws them together. If that description sounds a little schizophrenic, it's a quality that proves the film's making and its undoing; as a heightened situation that forces our leads to interact, pressure-cooker style, the robbery is an inspired setting, but when the thriller elements are foregrounded, the tonal contortions often prove too much, and the legs go from under it. However Craig Roberts, in his first lead since his breakout role in Richard Ayoade's "Submarine," heads up a totally huggable cast in Imogen Poots and Timothy Spall, with Kevin McKidd and Josef Altin (a now familiar face for "Game of Thrones" fans) on bad guy duties.

Berlinale 2012 Review: 'Electrick Children' An Offbeat Indie With A Trio Of Charming Young Leads

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 20, 2012 2:01 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Opening the Generation section of the 2012 Berlinale, which is designed to promote films for, by and/or about young people, we honestly weren't sure what to expect from "Electrick Children," the debut film from writer/director Rebecca Thomas. Colour us pleasantly surprised then to discover that the film is a genuinely enjoyable coming of age tale that compensates, and then some, for its narrative shortcomings with the winningness of the three central performances, from Rory Culkin, Liam Aiken and a luminous Julia Garner. It's really Garner's movie, and young though she is, she imbues a role that could easily have come across as prissy or doltish with a perfect combination of sweetness, naivete and stubbornness that sells even the less convincing nooks and crannies of the story.

Review: 'Life's Too Short' Another Comedic Look At Ego, Hubris & Humiliation From Ricky Gervais

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 19, 2012 12:12 PM
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  • 2 Comments
"I heard Ricky Gervais quit Twitter recently because it only has 140 characters. Well that's 139 more characters than he's ever come up with," zings an insulted Johnny Depp in the second episode of "Life's Too Short." And while the gag is hilarious (as is Depp), there is a small ring of truth of it. The multitasking actor, writer, producer and director (he takes on every job in this new series) has mined a very specific comedic niche, with characters like David Brent and Andy Millman, that finds the lives of ordinary middle-aged men at the mercy of their ego and hubris, with humiliation often following their thwarted schemes to move up the ladder or follow their dreams. And while Gervais is a bit player (along with longtime collaborator Stephen Merchant) in "Life's Too Short," the familiar traits and themes of his celebrated previous series is here in ample supply. That it still works to uproarious effect with a laser sharp wit and keen eye for observation, is a credit to Gervais' skill in perfectly capturing the anxieties and insecurities of men of a certain age.

Review: HBO's 'Eastbound & Down' Makes Its Long-Awaited Return With Hilarious, Promising Season 3 Opener

  • By Cory Everett
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  • February 19, 2012 10:00 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Kenny “Fucking” Powers is back. Fans of the HBO series can rejoice because “Eastbound & Down” makes its long-awaited return tonight after a brutal 15-month hiatus. The ongoing saga of burnout major league pitcher Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) whose bad behavior forced him into early retirement, the series began with Kenny returning to his hometown to become a middle school gym teacher.

Berlinale 2012 Review: Kirsten Sheridan's 'Dollhouse' Is A Dynamic, Delirious But Ultimately Downbeat Social Allegory

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 19, 2012 9:51 AM
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  • 5 Comments
As we all are with films set in cities we know well, this writer is particularly critical of films set, partially or wholly, in Dublin. So it's no mean praise when we state that Kirsten Sheridan's third feature, "Dollhouse," by turns riotous and menacing, is as accurate a portrait of the interactions, language and attitudes of a particular segment of Irish youth as we have seen on screen, probably ever. Set in a single location over the course of a single night's bacchanalian partying, the improvisational approach brings real authenticity to the proceedings, even as the film nods to "Lord of the Flies" and "A Clockwork Orange."

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