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The Playlist

Review: 'In the Land of Blood and Honey' A Harrowing But Sometimes Inelegant Directorial Debut from Angelina Jolie

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • December 19, 2011 12:45 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Angelina Jolie's presence in "In the Land of Blood and Honey," a film she directed but wisely chose not to star in, is both a gift and a curse. On the gift end, it's a megawatt star bringing some serious attention to an incident in our recent history that has either been glossed over, underreported, barely acknowledged or forgotten about completely – the atrocities in Bosnia and Herzegovina that brought ethnic cleansing back to Europe for the first time since World War II. Conversely, there will be those who claim, since Jolie is fabulous and wealthy and drop-dead sexy (besides being a U.N. ambassador and outspoken human rights advocate), that she has no business portraying what is still an incredibly raw part of the very recent past. For the most part, though, Jolie tells a compelling, tragic story, framed inside of an unlikely romance, and pulls it off without pulling any punches.

Review: 'Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close' Is Often Moving But Insufficiently Effective

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • December 18, 2011 5:30 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Oskar Schell, the protagonist of "Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close," isn’t like other boys. Sure, he likes laughing and junk food and having a good time like the other kids. But this overly precocious ten year old is more of an Encyclopedia Brown in training. With the guidance of his father, he pieces together the mysteries of history, breaking down everyday life into a puzzle. The unspoken tragedy of this is that Oskar doesn’t have a life. What makes up his existence is the notion of an interconnected web attaching his life experiences as if they all influenced another, domino-style. He’s a ten year old boy who doesn’t appear to have many friends, aside from his overactive father.

Review: 'Corman's World' Is A Dazzling Portrait Of An Exploitation Auteur

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • December 16, 2011 11:05 AM
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  • 1 Comment
In Alex Stapleton's dazzling, honest, oddly emotional new documentary "Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel," Roger Corman, the now-85-year-old filmmaker behind such films as "Little Shop of Horrors" and "Death Race 2000," is depicted as a doggedly independent, skinflint-y genius. Through a series of lively interviews with some of Corman's most talented protégés (among them Joe Dante, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Ron Howard and Jonathan Demme) and even livelier clips from his films, the case is made that Corman not only trained and equipped the current batch of living auteurs but that he fundamentally reshaped the Hollywood landscape in profound ways that are still felt today.

Review: Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse' An Awards Bait Movie Overloaded With Nostalgia & Sentiment

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • December 16, 2011 10:02 AM
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  • 10 Comments
If David Thomson was accurate when he said of Tom Hanks, “he carries the automatic sentiment of a dog in a film about people,” then the hero of Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” is the equine equivalent of Tom Hanks: among his human counterparts he attracts such instantaneous concern and compassion that audiences are helpless but to sympathize with him. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean you’ll care about the film itself as automatically, because here, Spielberg dials up the sentimentality to almost unbearable levels. His film version of the 1982 novel by Michael Morpungo, which became, in 2007 Nick Stafford’s stage play, comes to us overloaded with nostalgia both historical and cinematic as well as a joylessly persistent sense of nobility. “War Horse” is the type of film for which the term “Oscar bait” was invented, precisely because it feels like there’s no motivation for it to exist except to win awards.

Review: 'Carnage' Is Fun While It Lasts, But Insubstantial & Anonymous

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • December 15, 2011 2:35 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Compared to his last film, Roman Polanski's "Carnage" must have been a breeze. Not that the shoot for "The Ghost Writer" was "Fitzcarraldo" or anything, but, famously, the project hit a major speed bump in September 2009, while the film was in post-production, when the helmer was arrested in Zurich, and deportation proceedings were begun against him for the statutory rape case that has overshadowed the last thirty-odd years of his career. The Swiss authorities decided not to hand Polanski over, but he still spent months in prison, and was forced to complete post on his Robert Harris adaptation from there.

Marrakech Film Festival '11 Reviews: 'Land of Oblivion' Starring Olga Kurylenko & '180°' The Swiss-German Version Of 'Crash' (Basically)

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 13, 2011 3:23 PM
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  • 0 Comments
"Land of Oblivion" It is 25 years ago in the small Ukrainian town of Pripyat. People are fishing. A boy goes to look at the tree he and his father planted. A woman prepares for her wedding. And then it starts to rain - not, in itself, a doom-laden event, except if you know that Pripyat was essentially the ground zero town for the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, and what we are really watching is more like a snapshot of Pompeii in the days before Vesuvius erupted.

Review: David Fincher’s ‘Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ Is An Intense But Dispassionate Thriller

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • December 13, 2011 12:21 AM
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  • 18 Comments
Looking at “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” it’s hard not to think of the dark thriller cum procedural as director David Fincher’s “The Departed." Notwithstanding both films being inspired by/remade from acclaimed foreign predecessors, Fincher and Scorsese alike seem to be saying with them, “You wanted me to do this kind of movie? Well, here it is, motherfuckers.”

Review: 'The Sitter' Is A Rough, But Absurdist Romp & Serves As a Natural End Point For David Gordon Green's Comedy Exploration

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • December 12, 2011 5:56 PM
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  • 1 Comment
While formulaic and lazy in its plotting, employing clichés upon clichés and opportune plot conveniences at every turn, David Gordon Green’s scrappy, loose and rough-around-the-edges mainstream comedy, “The Sitter,” is still by and large, an enjoyable little lark thanks to a strong dollop of WTF? absurdisms to round out its corners. And at a brisk 81 minutes, while largely forgettable, it’s still easy to stay engaged in a picture that appears to act as an homage to ‘80s perilous adventure films such as “Adventure’s In Babysitting” and “Risky Business” therefore using mechanical tropes by design.

Marrakech Film Festival '11 Review: There's A Reason They Don't Make 'Em Like 'Black Gold' Any More

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 12, 2011 1:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Left in a strange kind of limbo, partly due to a delay in finding U.S. distribution, and therefore a large swathe of the Western audience to whom it rather panders, Jean-Jacques Annaud's period sand saga "Black Gold" makes an odd addition to a festival line-up.

Review: 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows' An Engaging, Entertaining Sequel Brimming With Charisma & Top Notch Action

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • December 9, 2011 11:28 AM
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  • 3 Comments
If “Sherlock Holmes” was the first movie to properly capitalize on Robert Downey Jr.’s career resuscitation after “Iron Man” became a mega-success, then “A Game Of Shadows,” its follow up, is the first sequel to understand how to sustain his appeal without allowing him to eat away at the scenery. Taking an “if it ain’t broke…” attitude towards the original’s combination of snooty deduction, seismic action and borderline silly bromance, Guy Ritchie’s stylish over-plotting actually works to a film’s benefit for once, because it keeps Downey’s febrile charisma in check even as the film expands the visceral, intellectual and even political stakes of its Victorian-by-way-of-MMA universe.

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