The Playlist

Review: ‘Tabu’ Is Magic Realism In Rapture, As Only The Language Of Cinema Can Tell It

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • December 26, 2012 12:12 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The following article is a reprint of our review that ran during the Toronto Interntional Film Festival. Keep an eye on this one too. It's been released very late in the year, but we suspect you'll be seeing it on many of our top 10 lists.

Review: Age & Illness Test Love In Michael Haneke's Unflinching 'Amour'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • December 22, 2012 9:19 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Michael Haneke makes it clear from the opening of the film exactly where he's going in "Amour." Kicking off with a literal bang, a team of police officers force open the door of a flat in France, and with masks over their mouths, they walk around the apartment, open the windows and finally find what they're looking for. A dead body, respectfully surrounded by flowers, lays in a bed. And in pure Haneke fashion, this is when he throws up the title card for "Amour," a movie that is, to put it simply, two hours of an elderly woman slowly dying.

Review: Rock 'N' Roll Dreams Are Fleeting & Familiar In David Chase's Uneven 'Not Fade Away'

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • December 21, 2012 4:47 PM
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  • 1 Comment
For a film that’s ostensibly set to the vibrant pulse of early ‘60s rock 'n' roll and blues -- The Rolling Stones, the early Beatles, Bo Diddley, etc. -- David Chase’s directorial debut, “Not Fade Away,” sure has a curious, circuitous and eventually long-winded tempo. Set in 1964, just a few months after the Kennedy assassination with Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement and the sexual revolution in the air, “The Sopranos” creator’s ambitions are decidedly simpler and much more small scale.

Review: Overwrought 'The Impossible' Drowns In A Sea Of Melodrama

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • December 21, 2012 11:05 AM
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  • 12 Comments
If "The Impossible" moves viewers to do anything, it may be to upgrade their life insurance policy to cover injuries due to tsunami. Following a wealthy family who encounter undeniable hardship, they are also blessed with the kind of luck and good fortune that only happens in the movies (or to people who can afford it). Except as director Juan Antonio Bayona takes great pains tell us, this is Based On A True Story (with the words "true story" then left to linger on their own before the movie begins). And while that may (almost) forgive some of the more happenstance developments in the film, it doesn't excuse the overbearing emotion and narrow focus of this overwrought picture.

Review: 'Monsters, Inc.' In 3D Is Just As Much Fun As It Was The First Time Around

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • December 21, 2012 10:20 AM
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  • 1 Comment
"Monsters, Inc." represented a lot of firsts for the Pixar animation studio. Released in the fall of 2001, it was the first film without the direct supervision of John Lasseter, who had directed the three previous films for the studio and remains its chief creative force. It was also the first of their films to not be set entirely in "our" world (instead it was located in a distinctly monstrous alternate universe); the first one to feature a human character in the lead, too (the young girl Boo). And it would be the last to be wed to the patented Pixar buddy movie formula, although subsequent films have incorporated that element to varying degrees. But it's easy to forget about all the groundbreaking qualities when watching "Monsters, Inc," in a newly 3D-ified version, on the big screen this week, and just get lost in all the crazy fun (again).

Review: 'The Guilt Trip' An Underdeveloped, Clichéd Road Trip Comedy Without Much Gas

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • December 20, 2012 6:40 PM
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  • 5 Comments
There are at least two movies opening this holiday season which seem like they were stolen from the script vault at Touchstone Pictures, circa 1992. The first, "Parental Guidance," features the heavyweight one-two punch of Billy Crystal and Bette Midler, concerns grandparents outwitted by their grandkids, and could play snugly in a double feature alongside "Father of the Bride Part II." And opening this week is "The Guilt Trip," another movie that tries to wring guffaws out of a similarly super-tired idea (taking a cross-country road trip with your unbelievably stereotypical and annoying Jewish mother).

Review: 'Barbara' A Fresh Look Into 1980s Germany, Focusing On Life & Love

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • December 18, 2012 7:26 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Though maybe a bit too stiff and straight-laced, "Barbara" is a frequently subtle, moderately interesting character study set in a grievous East Germany during the 1980s. What are especially nice are the painstaking ways that director Christian Petzold ("Jerichow," "Dreileben: Beats Being Dead") avoids obvious nods to the time period -- forget drenching the film in some kind of filter as a signifier (a la the once-abused-now-Instagram-friendly sepiatone), the filmmaker even refuses simple explanatory title cards and instead dresses the environment appropriately, offering hints of the current year in the background set pieces and radio programs. This kind of understated nature runs the entire feature; in fact, one of the most intriguing aspects of "Barbara" is the lack of narrative hand-holding, with the lead's main intent remaining a mystery for a good chunk of the movie. There are no twists to spoil, but admittedly, much of the film's pull anchors on its masterful use of low-key storytelling -- take a gander at the next paragraph at your own risk.
More: Barbara, Review

Review: Beat Classic 'On The Road' Comes To The Screen In Lustrous-But-Long-Winded Fashion

  • By James Rocchi
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  • December 18, 2012 6:34 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" has been heralded for decades: an important novel, a cultural signifier, a sociological landmark, a cracking good read. It's also been considered "unfilmable" -- but now Walter Salles ("The Motorcycle Diaries," "Dark Water") brings the novel to the screen, and "The Motorcycle Diaries" turns out to be a pretty good template for understanding how Salles has shot his adaptation. "On the Road," like 'Diaries,' is scenic and episodic, full of youth's passion but with a shade of the future yet to come dimming the brightness of its vision, as a charismatic young man travels with another young man, saying little but watching everything along the way.

Review: Judd Apatow's 'This Is 40' Is Sprawling And Undisciplined, But Emotionally Honest Too

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • December 18, 2012 12:30 PM
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  • 6 Comments
Hearing that writer/director Judd Apatow, arguably the most influential and highly regarded comedic talent in the past decade, was making a "sort-of sequel" to his smash "Knocked Up," it's easy to assume that his creative well has run dry. Why return to that world, only to focus on a pair of side characters (played by Paul Rudd and Apatow's wife, Leslie Mann), especially when Apatow seems particularly fascinated by the interpersonal relationships between modern day fuck-ups, which provide a nearly endless canvas to paint on. But that "sort-of sequel" is anything but an eager cash-grab or a creatively bankrupt ploy; Apatow is genuinely invested in these characters and scenarios. One of the main problems is that it's an unfocused movie without a narrative rudder; a collection of funny observations about marriage and family without much connective tissue or momentum in an ultimately small stakes story. Apatow indulges in his freeform tendencies to a particularly destructive degree with "This is 40," resulting in a movie whose ambitions are only equaled by its shortcomings.

Review: 'Jack Reacher' Is The Rare Franchise-Starter That Makes You Hungry For More

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • December 17, 2012 1:15 PM
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  • 6 Comments
Much of the hoopla surrounding "Jack Reacher," the first adaptation of the insanely popular series of Lee Child-penned thrillers, has had to do with the casting of the diminutive Tom Cruise in the title role. As described in the novels, Reacher is, physically speaking, a brute – close-cropped blonde hair, nearly seven-feet tall, well over 200 pounds. In one of the novels he literally crushes a dude's skull with his bare hands. By comparison, Tom Cruise could fit snugly into a standard-sized teacup, is slimmer than an iPhone 5, and has muddy brown hair. But one of the more miraculous things about "Jack Reacher," an altogether entertaining and completely surprising pulp romp, is how Cruise embodies the Reacher character in the way he moves, the way he glances, and the way he talks (or doesn't talk). It doesn't matter that Tom Cruise is the tiny, snuggly version of Jack Reacher. He is still, very much, Jack Reacher.

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