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The Playlist

"For Me, There Was No Character": Isabelle Huppert Discusses The Making Of Brillante Mendoza's 'Captive'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 16, 2012 2:06 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Few actresses are quite as fearless as Isabelle Huppert. She's been a near-legend for going on forty years, but has never taken a paycheck job, preferring to seek out challenging work with some of international cinema's most uncompromising auteurs. And that's embodied neatly in "Captive," her collaboration with Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza, which just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival.

Berlinale 2012 Review: Keanu Reeves Doc 'Side By Side' A Treat For Cinephiles On All Sides Of The Digital Debate

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 15, 2012 3:42 PM
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  • 9 Comments
Doing an impressive job of tracing the evolution of filmmaking technology (not just the cameras but the editing, post-production, distribution, exhibition, even the archiving aspects of it) from 1895 to the present day, “Side by Side” is an old school talking-head documentary on the subject of digital filmmaking vs. photochemical filmmaking. It sounds pretty dull as a logline, but stacked with gossipy, informal anecdotes and opinions from many of the most respected directors, cinematographers, editors, execs, VFX artists and digital wizards in the industry, it proves instead to be highly entertaining and informative, and by its close has presented a thoroughly diverting overview of the debate. Then again, we are massive geeks about this sort of thing.

Berlinale 2012 Review: Brillante Mendoza Takes Us All 'Captive' In Vital, Bruising Kidnap Tale

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 15, 2012 11:04 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Recipient of one of the more controversial Cannes Best Director awards of recent memory (for "Kinatay," a film we found problematic, to say the least) Filipino director Brillante Mendoza returns to screens and to the festival circuit with "Captive," which marks, if not a departure from his previous style, then a welcome evolution of it. Based on real events, it is an account, by turns thrilling, moving, and harrowing, of the kidnapping ordeal of a group of holidaymakers from a resort in the Philippines; an ordeal which lasts over a year for some.

Berlinale 2012 Review: 'Farewell, My Queen' Introduces Lesbianism Into The Marie Antoinette Story To No Great Effect

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 15, 2012 9:56 AM
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  • 0 Comments
In the land of the costume drama, truly, films about Marie Antoinette are Queen, promising lavish sets, romantic intrigue and shocking decadence -- but they don't always deliver. Director Benoit Jacquot's uninspiring take on the period opened the Berlin Film Festival days ago, but something about the film's lack of urgency must be contagious, and we're only getting around to reviewing it now. While the movie does boast admirable elements (more on those below) overall, despite some showy trappings it is a frustratingly empty experience, built around a character whose blankness is supposed to be a virtue, but ends up costing the film dearly in terms of identification and interest.

Billy Bob Thornton Says 'Bad Santa 2' Will Shoot This Fall For Christmas 2013 Release; 'And Then We Drove' Will Lens This Summer

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 14, 2012 1:32 PM
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  • 1 Comment
It has been a while since we heard anything about the long developing "Bad Santa 2," the sequel to the hit R-rated comedy that has yet to be topped for holiday raunch. Nearly a year ago it was confirmed that Billy Bob Thornton would be returning to reprise the role of Willie, while over the summer it was revealed that Dimension Films had hired two writers -- Johnny Rosenthal and John Phillips -- to each write separate scripts with the winning screenplay getting the thumbs up to go into production. Well, things have been quiet for a while but it looks like "Bad Santa 2" may finally be going in front of cameras.

Berlinale 2012 Review: 'Jayne Mansfield's Car' Finds A Solid Cast At The Wheel, But Not A Whole Lot Of Gas In The Tank

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 14, 2012 10:04 AM
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  • 1 Comment
A distinctly American, humanist drama, one that somewhat makes up in performances of warmth and generosity what it may lack in originality, "Jayne Mansfield's Car," which just enjoyed its World Premiere at the 2012 Berlinale, finds director and star Billy Bob Thornton showing a certain spiritual kinship with fellow director/actors Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford. Off-key directorial choices, and a frustrating lack of narrative and characterisation consistency prevent the film from ever coalescing into something as satisfying as Clint is able to deliver, at his best, and for better or worse, it doesn't have the grander ambitions of a Redford effort, but the films of all three, are to a certain degree built as temples to the performances, sometimes to a fault.

Berlinale 2012 Review: Reverence Outweighs Insight In Kevin Macdonald's 2 1/2 Hour 'Marley' Documentary

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 13, 2012 2:03 PM
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  • 1 Comment
A long film detailing a tragically short life, on paper, Kevin MacDonald's Bob Marley documentary "Marley" has more than enough of a pedigree to justify its 2 1/2 hour running time. After all, it's a biopic of one of the most influential and evergreen musical pioneers of all time, being brought to us by the respected documentarian behind the thrilling "Touching the Void" and the Oscar-winning "One Day In September." But the truth is that film's exhaustive approach at some point becomes simply exhausting, with its sporadic moments of true inspiration, almost all directly connected with the music or Bob's early life, serving mostly to remind of how by-the-numbers the rest of the movie is. It purports to bring us the man behind the myth, but 150 minutes later, the flesh-and-blood Marley remains frustratingly out of reach, and the myth is still reverently intact.

Berlinale 2012: Léa Seydoux On 'Farewell My Queen,' American Filmmaking & The Classic French Cinema She Loves

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 11, 2012 11:43 AM
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  • 2 Comments
French actress Léa Seydoux has been bringing her Gallic brand of beauty and skill to Hollywood films for a few years now. But while she was reportedly on one of the shortlists to play Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" she has yet to lead a U.S.-made film, and instead has been slowly increasing her confidence in English-speaking roles by working in smaller parts for well-respected directors like Ridley Scott, Quentin Tarantino and Woody Allen.

First Look: Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Frances O'Connor & More In 'Jayne Mansfield's Car'

  • By Simon Dang
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  • February 9, 2012 1:05 PM
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  • 4 Comments
With a premiere at the Berlin Film Festival imminent, we now have our first look at the huge ensemble cast in Billy Bob Thornton's latest effort behind the camera with post-war family drama "Jayne Mansfield's Car."

Berlinale 2012 Review: Restrained Werner Herzog Still Shines In Gripping 'Death Row' Series

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 9, 2012 12:05 PM
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  • 2 Comments
The prologue of each of the four episodes of “Death Row” is the same: a restless camera prowls through the dismal ante-room, holding cell and injection chamber of an unnamed execution facility, while director Werner Herzog tells us in his familiar teutonic monotone that, as a German and a guest of the United States, he “respectfully disagree[s]” with the death penalty, legal in 34 states, and performed regularly in 16. And so he sets out his stall up front. What's perhaps surprising, however, is that what he then delivers is neither polemical nor propagandistic in its approach; Herzog's storytelling instincts trump his didactic ones here, to compelling effect. Having already tackled this subject in his feature-length “Into The Abyss” (the central figure of which makes a fleeting appearance here in the "Joseph Garcia and George Rivas" section), it's clear that in exploring the stories of these condemned men and women, Herzog has found a rich vein to mine, and he brings to this latest endeavor, a four-part TV series for Investigation Discovery, an uncharacteristic restraint. His even-handedness serves the subject matter well, largely refuting any accusations of liberal whitewashing before they can even be made. What he delivers instead is a series of nuanced, meticulous and gripping portraits of several death row inmates, unflinchingly portrayed, mostly in their own words and those of the men and women who arrested, reported on, prosecuted and/or defended them.

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