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The Playlist

Review: ‘Albatross’ Is A By-The-Numbers Coming Of Age Tale, But 'Downton Abbey' Star Jessica Brown Findlay Is One To Watch

  • By The Playlist
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  • January 11, 2012 10:02 AM
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Featuring “Like Crazy” up-and-comer Felicity Jones alongside Julia Ormond and German actor Sebastian Koch ("The Lives of Others"), the British indie film "Albatross" possesses a pretty impressive cast, especially considering the director Niall MacCormick (U.K. TV and BBC films "The Song of Lunch," "Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley" and "Wallander") is making his feature film debut.

Review: Go And Say Ten Hail Marys Instead Of Bothering With 'The Devil Inside'

  • By William Goss
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  • January 6, 2012 10:59 AM
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In theory, the fundamental effectiveness of horror should spring from a willful dissonance between a sense of normalcy and the discord of the story’s events…but what happens when that sense of discord itself becomes all too familiar? Among the many problems of "The Devil Inside" is a slavish two-fold adherence to the routine of modern horror films – specifically, the tropes of the demonic-possession genre and those of the faux-documentary approach. When director William Brent Bell and co-writer Matthew Peterman, the brains behind the equally turgid "Stay Alive," aren’t evoking every single exorcism movie this side of, well, "The Exorcist," they’re dutifully aping the decade-old wave of imitation spawned by the success of "The Blair Witch Project" and fueled more recently by the "Paranormal Activity" franchise.

Review: 'Norwegian Wood' Is Depressingly Beautiful...Or Beautifully Depressing

  • By Kimber Myers
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  • January 5, 2012 1:56 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The most depressing day of 2012 is supposed to be January 16, taking into account things like gloomy weather, fading Christmas joy and general Monday malaise. However, what hasn't been considered in that theory is that Tran Ang Hung's "Norwegian Wood" actually comes out a full 10 days before the supposed most depressing day of the year, giving the 16th a run for its money. Like its source material from Haruki Murakami, this is a beautiful film that exquisitely captures grief and sadness, and unsurprisingly, it probably won't help you if you're suffering from seasonal affective disorder.

Review: 'Louder Than A Bomb' An Entertaining, Soulful Look At The High School Slam Poetry Scene

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • January 5, 2012 12:56 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Slam poetry. It can be a misunderstood art form, exalted in places like Def Poetry Jam, or snubbed as a silly high school phase. But what Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel's documentary "Louder Than A Bomb" does so well, is point out how something like slam poetry can offer an outlet, and a way out, for kids trapped in their circumstances. The film follows the Chicago area high school slam poetry competition of the same name, during a particularly dramatic and glorious run in the fall of 2007 and spring of 2008. Focusing on four teens from different Chicago high schools and their experiences with the Louder Than A Bomb competition, the film offers a look into this world and the impact it has on the lives of its participants. The four teen poets-- Lamar, Nova, Nate and Adam-- are clearly the standouts of the competition itself, true success stories for what their high school slam poetry teams have done for them. Framed as a real competition doc, it's an entertaining, soulful look at this significant event in the lives of these young people.
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Review: 'Once Upon A Time In Anatolia' A Masterful, Slow-Burn Epic

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • January 5, 2012 12:05 PM
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Minimalist art filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan spent a long time crafting very personal and breathtakingly photographed tales. His work has never been big on plot, nor have they ever been anything other than glacially paced. Indeed, his general aesthetic isn't very welcoming to the impatient, though those willing to give their attention are always struck by something special. His black and white debut "The Town" is a real toughie, containing less of a story and more of a collection of moments -- but without the presence of a narrative, Ceylan is free to discover and exhibit universal beauty that isn't dependent on deep characters or drama. A "scene" in a classroom becomes magical when a feather floats into the room, with a few children continually blowing it to stay in the air. Let the tales be told elsewhere, because without being too pretentious, this was life he was capturing in its most undiluted form.

Review: 'Roadie' A Compelling Portrait Of The Sad Aftermath Of A Failed Life On The Road

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • January 5, 2012 10:00 AM
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For some, life is a series of indignities. One second too slow, one step too far, and our dreams go unfulfilled. In every bar in the country, there is someone drinking away his regrets, trying to make peace with the records they didn’t break and the hearts they didn’t soothe. Michael Cuesta’s “Roadie” is a film about one of those men.
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Review: 'John Mellencamp: It’s About You’ Is An Amateur, Empty Music Documentary

  • By Ryan Sartor
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  • January 4, 2012 1:02 PM
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  • 0 Comments
“John Mellencamp: It’s About You” is a documentary directed, shot and edited by professional photographer Kurt Markus and his son, Ian Markus. The film’s title refers to a debate between Mellencamp and Kurt as to whom the subject of the film would be. Mellencamp wanted the movie to be about Kurt; Kurt wanted it to be about Mellencamp, but by the end of its seventy-nine minute running time, the debate’s winner is as unclear as the movie’s point, purpose, or reason for existing. It’s a film that really should have stayed on the cutting room floor and likely would have were it not for John Mellencamp’s name in the title. At the beginning of the doc, Kurt admits that neither he nor his son know anything about filmmaking. The man is not kidding.
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Review: 'The Hunter' A Fantastic, Grim Thriller Targeting Modern Iran

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • January 4, 2012 10:02 AM
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We've come to expect more than a few things from Iran in recent years, and that goes for its cinema as well (at least the films we actually get to see). The country's most notable movies employ a naturalistic aesthetic, blend fact and fiction, indulge in minimalism and, in that sense, "The Hunter" is a pretty large anomaly. Rafi Pitts's fourth narrative shares genes not with Abbas Kiarostami, but with the nonexistent birth child of Michael Haneke and Nuri Bilge Ceylan -- it's a quiet and patient thriller, complete with an eye for the country's terrain and how its nasty urban dwellings, cold environment, and abominable social/political climate affect its inhabitants. Like the Turkish auteur, there are small moments of truth that touch deeply, and similar to our Austrian grandfather, there are strategic, alarming bursts of violence sprinkled throughout. In short, "The Hunter" is the first must-see of 2012.

Review: 'Pariah' Is So Much More Than Just This Year's 'Precious'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • December 28, 2011 10:14 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Listen, we understand that sometimes in order to get some attention, indie films need glib comparisons and word out of Sundance this year was that Dee Rees' "Pariah" was this year's "Precious." However, not only is "Pariah" nothing like "Precious", it is so much better and so much more rewarding than anything Lee Daniels "achieved" with his hysterical, exploitative, ghetto soap opera porno. Real in ways few movies ever are, "Pariah" mixes the coming out and coming-of-age story and pitches it against the backdrop of an African-American family adapting to the shifting cultural sexual tides. The result is a film that is warm and raw, sometimes both at the same time, and is easily one of our favorites of the year.

Review: There's A Reason You Didn't Know Alien Invasion Pic 'The Darkest Hour' Was Already In Theaters

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • December 27, 2011 2:35 PM
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  • 5 Comments
In post-apocalyptic movies, it’s tough to know whether concentrated ensembles, empty cities and unpopulated streets are a sign of terrific production design or low-budget shortcutting. In either case, there’s a distinct absence of both extras and ideas in “The Darkest Hour,” a mediocre bit of holiday counterprogramming whose novelty value is limited to its Russian locale and the idea that even a handful of genuinely talented young actors could inject some life into a derivative, uninspired, anemic alien-invasion movie.

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