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The Playlist

Review: Waterlogged 'Battleship' Is A Cynical, Nonsensical & Boring Blockbuster

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • May 17, 2012 11:00 AM
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  • 17 Comments
Expectations are a tricky thing with films. In an age where every teaser, trailer, teaser-for-a-trailer, poster and publicity still are pored over endlessly, many go into a film thinking they know what they'll think afterwards. This can lead to hopes being crushed, or sometimes, for a film that you'd previously dismissed turning out to be a pleasant surprise -- only last summer, we were dreading "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," only to discover that it was perhaps the best blockbuster of the season. Honestly, very little makes us happier than such a film: a picture that's been mis-marketed that turns out be an absolute treat, that is an entirely different beast to what you thought it was going to be.

Cannes Review: 'The We & The I' Is A Testing, Patronizing Let-Down From Michel Gondry

  • By James Rocchi
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  • May 17, 2012 7:41 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Like some Gallic version of Tim Burton, Michel Gondry's initial promise has given way to a series of films whose diminishing returns demonstrate that he's a talented visualist without the capacity for, or worse, any interest in, telling an actual story. Gondry's defenders will, of course, point to the excellent "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," but the passage of years has made it abundantly clear that the credit for that film is entirely screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's; Gondry may have gotten out of the way of that script, but that's hardly a reason to celebrate his skills or capablities, such as they are, beyond that. The messy "Be Kind, Rewind," the cutesy-creepy "The Science of Sleep," the noisome and needless "Green Hornet" ... Gondry's name above a title has gone from being a reason to seek a film to being a reason to shun it.

Cannes Review: Blood & Water Flow Freely In Jacques Audiard's Beautiful & Moving 'Rust & Bone'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 17, 2012 6:44 AM
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  • 11 Comments
What is it we do to survive? Who is it we love? Who is it we fight? What are the forces seen and unseen that push our lives in directions we could have never expected? These are the questions that Jacques Audiard tackles in his latest "Rust And Bone," a beautiful, moving story of two fractured lives that somehow, together, combine into a single (if unconventional) whole.

Cannes Review: Wes Anderson's 'Moonrise Kingdom' Is A Tender Triumph Of Design, Decor & Rich Emotion

  • By James Rocchi
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  • May 16, 2012 9:45 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" seems like an odd choice to open the 65th Cannes Film Festival, with its deadpan Americanism, retro-set timeline and movie-star cast; at the same time, Anderson is clearly influenced by the New Wave, both cinematically and personally, he's a distinctive authorial voice as a director (which is the essence of auteur theory) and while his films are defined by near-silent moments of comedy and human frailty, there's also something mournful and wounded about them. "Moonrise Kingdom," like all of Anderson's films, is a very beautiful and funny movie about grief and sorrow, and the never-was 1965 the film takes place in is both a meticulously-crafted triumph of design and decor and an emotionally rich setting, full of objects you could almost reach out and touch and feelings, yearnings, that reach out to you.

Review: Jean Claude Van Damme & Cung Le Pic 'Dragon Eyes' Features Impressive Action, Empty Story

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • May 14, 2012 12:01 PM
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  • 5 Comments
Hong, the lead character in “Dragon Eyes,” might as well be a Man Without A Name when he wanders into the small town of St. Jude. He seeks a second chance, an opportunity to atone for past violent misdeeds seen in fuzzy flashback. It doesn’t take long for the viewer to realize this means a lot of people are about to be kicked in the face. One of the marquee titles from After Dark Action -- the new action imprint from Dark Castle and After Dark -- “Dragon Eyes” at least delivers on this aspect.

Review: 'Norman Mailer: The American' Is A Cliffs Notes Look At The Life Of A Literary Icon

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 12, 2012 12:36 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Provocative, rebellious, a genius and an undeniable force on the American literary landscape, Norman Mailer was an author, social commentator, filmmaker and a personality whose outsized figure nearly eclipsed his two Pulitzer prizes. He had enough experiences and adventures for three lifetimes, and the job of trying to capture him in a documentary and uncover what made him tick is a monumental task. But Joseph Mantegna's (not the actor), less than 90 minute film "Norman Mailer: The American" barely scratches the surface, giving a superficial, fast-forward look at his life, with a focus more on the tawdry and salacious, than the influence and inspiration behind the writer that was equally celebrated and vilified throughout his career.
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Review: 'The Tortured' Might As Well Describe The Audience For Twisted Pictures' Latest

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • May 11, 2012 3:02 PM
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  • 1 Comment
For most viewers, there's no way to take a look at that Twisted Pictures logo and feel at ease. Sure, it's intimidating all on it's own -- dark lowercase lettering separated by barbed-wire, inky shadows. But it's an entirely different sort of fear that emerges from the house that James Wan built. The company piggybacked off three "Saw" films before it decided to expand into other hoary, blood-soaked horror cheapies, most of them in the direct-to-video realm. With "Saw" over, however, Twisted Pictures still has a few leftovers from the torture porn trend, and one is 2010's "The Tortured," currently, finally receiving a VOD release.
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Review: A Breezy, But Meandering 'A Bag Of Hammers' Is Only Half A Movie

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • May 11, 2012 11:05 AM
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  • 0 Comments
There are ample pleasures of the half-movie. Features of the half-film include a lack of b-plot, a meandering tone, haphazard scenes, and a barely feature-length runtime. The reasons why productions result in half-movies usually come from vastly re-written scripts, overrunning schedules and/or eclipsing an allotted budget, but they tend to fade away into obscurity. “A Bag Of Hammers,” which opens in theaters showing actual whole movies this Friday, features a few likable actors and a strong score from Johnny Flynn, and so it qualifies as a breezy diversion of sorts. But is it a movie?

'Bonsai' Is A Chilean Slacker-Romance Of Love & Language That's Small, Swift & Smart

  • By James Rocchi
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  • May 9, 2012 6:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Cannes, more so than other film festivals, feels like the 10 days of nutrition offered in the hopeful attempt to make up for the other 355 days of dessert modern movie going offers us. Abandonment, murder, suicide, prostitution -- these are the concerns of all too many films in the competition and sidebars here at Cannes. A film like Christián Jiménez's "Bonsái," in the Un Certain Regard selection -- seemingly slight, seemingly light, small in scope and scene -- is exactly the kind of film that whispers when other films shout and gets overlooked in the hue and cry. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't speak the truth, or that what it's saying isn't heartfelt, articulate and funny. You have to lean into a film like "Bonsái" so you can see how intricate, simple and elegant it is, even at what seems like a smaller scale.
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Review: 'I Wish' The Rare Example Of A Great Kids Film That Actually Understands Kids

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • May 9, 2012 4:02 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The frustrating thing about most modern "kids films" is that many filmmakers seem like lost balls in tall grass when it comes to portraying what makes children tick. Perhaps it's tougher than we imagine to capture the youth/kid experience, but is it just us or does it seem like nearly all child characters in movies exist in some bizarro world where they're smarter than the all the adults, know just the right thing to say at every moment and hardly ever act like, you know, kids? (See every American indie and Hollywood rom-com from the last 10 years for examples of this annoying, ridiculous trend.) That's why, when a thoughtful, intelligent director takes the reins of such a film, one that actually remembers and respects what it was like to be a kid, the result can be so refreshing. In the best examples of the genre from recent memory -- "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Super 8" (which, this writer only found to be half a great movie, the great half being the portion involving kids being kids, making movies; it's impossible to deny the skill of those actors and their characterizations) -- the filmmakers decided from the outset to make a proper film first and foremost. The fact that the story is played out with children as our main characters is almost a moot point. Almost.
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