The Playlist

Review: David Ayer's 'Sabotage' Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olivia Williams, Mireille Enos & More

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • March 27, 2014 3:31 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Sabotage
With nary an Ahnold quip, "Sabotage," David Ayer's fetishistically violent action thriller, often feels like a misguided detour, a waste of goodwill amassed by the superior "End of Watch." Doing away with the concept that guided the 2012 cop drama but retaining and supercharging it's once-relatable hyper masculinity, "Sabotage" is wholly unpleasant, unfocused and downright ugly. Ayer's filmography has often cast an unflinching eye on battered, perforated bodies, but here the attention feels invasive and even a bit gleeful. Every wound is flaunted and a series of gruesome autopsies feature a hungry, roving camera, floating over the torn skin, the bloated flesh, stripping away the humanity. One character is literally reduced to ground meat and Ayer holds on the remains with an intent that is lost on us.

Review: Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah' Starring Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly & More

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • March 27, 2014 11:09 AM
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  • 20 Comments
Noah, Russell Crowe
Only a few pages long and with the barest of details, the Genesis tale of Noah’s Ark is one the original peaks of brevity. A succinct story of an apocalypse and its aftermath, one can easily see why the themes of death and rebirth attracted Darren Aronofsky to a film adaptation. But “Noah” is no mere second attempt at “The Fountain." It is instead a grounded journey outwards on ideas of regret, mercy, and revenge, and at 139 minutes the film makes every attempt, coherent or not, to thoroughly address each one.

Review: 'A Birder's Guide To Everything' With Kodi Smit-McPhee, James Le Gros, Katie Chang & Ben Kingsley

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • March 26, 2014 7:08 PM
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  • 1 Comment
A Birder's Guide To Everything
In general, teenage obsessions are generally fairly obvious—music, comics, movies, clothes—but there are always a few teens whose interests, at least at the time, seem completely inexplicable, to everyone but themselves. So, it's not quite a surprise that the high school birdwatching club in "A Birder's Guide To Everything" consists solely of David (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Timmy (Alex Wolff) and Peter (Michael Chen), three best friends surviving adolescence by sticking with each other, and keeping an eye on the sky. But feathered distractions can't keep the changes from coming in David's life, and one weekend will see him give chase to a rare bird, and making peace with both his past and future.

Review: Meditative, Haunting And Very Beautiful 'Hide Your Smiling Faces'

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • March 26, 2014 6:06 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Hide Your Smiling Faces
In a strangely beautiful and unnerving moment, "Hide Your Smiling Faces" opens up with an arresting visual: a close-up of a snake -- its mouth wrapped around a fish, slowly struggling to swallow it whole. It's disturbing, fascinating and the shot lingers with a sense of awe, curiosity and wonder. And it many ways, this remarkably captured moment sums up everything this striking debut feature is about.

Review: 'The Raid 2' Brings Better Fights, But Still A Slightly Reduced Echo Of Its Predecessor

  • By James Rocchi
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  • March 26, 2014 5:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The Raid 2
When “The Raid” started on the festival circuit in 2011 in Toronto, it was a bloody blast of fresh air, with incredible action sequences throughout an energetically and expressively shot film with amazing stunt work and bone-crushing fight scenes captured with fluid camerawork, long takes and a giddy sense of the new. Premiering in January at Sundance, “The Raid 2” presented filmgoers with a mix of good news—indeed, great news—and bad in that the fights, action and stunt choreography in the sequel are all a quantum leap forward thanks to the tireless and exhausting work of writer-director-editor Gareth Evans and his leading man Iko Uwais, who also designed the fight choreography alongside Yaya Ruhian.

Review: Frankly Funny And Original 'Blumenthal'

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • March 25, 2014 6:33 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Blumenthal
“Blumenthal” is a film about three Blumenthals. There’s Harold (Brian Cox), the famous playwright who died laughing at his own joke. There’s his brother, Saul (Mark Blum), an English professor who feels entitled to a bit of Harold’s success and has had some issues, ahem, not letting things… go. And there’s Saul’s son, Ethan (Seth Fisher), a pharmaceutical rep who’s obsessed with finding the perfect fit. He wears nurse’s shoes and can’t stand his girlfriend Christina’s (Mei Melancon) sloppy eating. At the beginning of this tale of three Blumenthals, Saul is sitting shiva for Harold, and Ethan has just dumped Christina. We also can’t forget Saul’s wife, Cheryl (Laila Robins), an actress assessing her age and her career in the wake of Harold’s death. All of our Blumenthals, in their own analytical/intellectual ways, are reeling out of control, trying to exert mind over (bodily) matter and failing miserably.

Review: Diego Luna's Well-Intentioned, Respectable & Paint-By-Numbers 'Cesar Chavez' Starring Michael Peña

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • March 25, 2014 6:05 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Chavez Micheal Pena
An intermittently compelling overview of a movement, but only a cursory portrait of a man, “Cesar Chavez,” directed by Diego Luna, is a well-intentioned, respectable and respectful biopic. But the conservative format of the film, that never goes beyond the kind of paint-by-numbers approach that stultifies so many entries in this genre, was a disappointment, as Luna’s first directorial feature, the small-scale but affectingly odd “Abel” promised better things to come, and at the very least, showed that Luna had a knack for creating characters who were lovable as much for their flaws as for their strengths.

Recap: 'Girls' Finale Season 3, Episode 12 Takes 'Two Plane Rides' As Boundaries Are Crossed

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • March 24, 2014 9:18 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Girls
If there has been an overarching theme to the third season of "Girls," it has been about boundaries. Whether it's trying to find success within them (Shoshanna's carefully plotted life plan), falling outside of them to disastrous effect (Jessa's addiction, Marnie's streak of bad decisions) or vacillating between the two (Hannah who can't help but step over lines of appropriateness any time her life is thrown into minor turmoil), the titular quartet have been both defining and stretching the limits of their young adult lives, and in the third season finale "Two Plane Rides," each of the girls are pushed into new territory as the framework that defined them is stripped away.

Review: Lovers Try To 'Stay' In Romance Starring Aidan Quinn & Taylor Schilling

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • March 23, 2014 10:57 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Stay
There's this old famous Irish saying that goes something like, “It's easy to halve a potato where there's love.” It's basically a much more Irish (and awesome) way of saying “sharing is caring.” The trouble is, what happens when the potato is rotten? Well, if you've been a keen observer of world news this year you may have come across a bizarre headline coming out of Siberia in January, which read that four people died after being exposed to poisonous gas emitting from rotten potatoes. It's a real thing.

Review: 'Blood Ties' Starring Billy Crudup, Clive Owen, Marion Cotillard And James Caan

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • March 23, 2014 10:15 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Blood Ties, Marion Cotillard
There’s no questioning the aesthetics of Guillaume Canet’s handsome-looking “Blood Ties.” Set in 1970’s New York City, the film revels in low-key details: the immaculate wardrobe, the music, the feel.

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