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The Playlist

Review: Spy Tale 'A Most Wanted Man' Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams And More

  • By Cory Everett
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  • July 23, 2014 6:01 PM
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  • 5 Comments
A Most Wanted Man
As the line between television and film gets blurrier, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish exactly what makes something qualify to be a film at all. Particularly in the age of “Homeland” and “The Americans,” some may leave a slow-burning, understated spy caper like “A Most Wanted Man” wondering if it wouldn’t have been better served as a limited series on Netflix or HBO. And it will be a perfectly valid question. Based on the novel by John le Carré (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”), the film is the new anti-thriller from director Anton Corbijn and centers on the war on terror in Germany via a tapestry of several characters, chiefly Gunther (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a grizzled counter-terrorist intelligence officer stationed in Hamburg after a previous fuck up in Beirut.

Fantasia Review: ‘Open Windows’ Starring Elijah Wood & Sasha Grey

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • July 23, 2014 2:04 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Open Windows
When he burst onto the scene in 2007 with his Spanish debut feature “Timecrimes,” everyone saw a potential new big name from a nation with a knack for churning out directors who really know how (and really, really want) to thrill you. But Nacho Vigalondo’s follow up “Extraterrestrial” in 2011 was more of a whimper compared to the bang he started off with. This year, the hope is that his English language debut puts him back in gear. After a six year absence from the festival, Nacho Vigalondo is back at Fantasia to spook you into never looking at your computer screen the same way again, especially if there’s one too many windows open at the same time. To help him get an even bigger international boost, he’s got the support of an ex-porn star and an ex-hobbit. Unfortunately it feels like the rise keeps getting stunted because those who criticized "Timecrimes" for being a little muddled in its narrative, and "Extraterrestrial" all over the place in tone, will most likely feel carsick by the time “Open Windows” comes to a close.

Review: Luc Besson's 'Lucy' Starring Scarlet Johansson And Morgan Freeman

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • July 23, 2014 12:00 PM
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  • 11 Comments
Lucy
There's a moment in Luc Besson's “Lucy” when Scarlett Johansson's title character has cracked the code of existence like a videogame cheat. She goes Rust Cohle on who are appropriately the smartest minds of the world, explaining how numbers are just one of many false constructs that humans use to bring sense to a life of chaos. Which is amusing, since “Lucy” itself is all math—one beautiful superstar (a game Johansson), one Morgan Freeman (Morgan Freeman), a chase, some fights, superpowers, a brief moment of transcendence, gorgeous colors, all wrapped up in an 80-minute bow. Merely the presence of these elements are a delight, nevermind the inconsistently lyrical manner in which Besson combines them. It's basically the perfect summer movie, because it's designed to be.

Review: 'The Newburgh Sting' Explores The Thin Line Between Entrapment And Fighting The War On Terror

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 21, 2014 7:38 PM
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  • 5 Comments
The Newburgh Sting
In an era of mass surveillance, and increasingly broad rules of engagement given to law enforcement, you would think that the FBI wouldn't need to carefully manufacture cases against ordinary citizens to show that they're winning the so-called "war on terror." But that would be forgetting that in addition to maintaing the security of the nation, FBI officials are also concerned with their public image (hello Twitter), as well as their presentation in the mainstream press. In a 24 hour news cycle, you are only as effective as your last headline, and the documentary "The Newburgh Sting" paints a troubling portrait of an agency more concerned with their perception than with justice, all as part of a mission that broadly targets a religious group, rather than individuals whose fanaticism finds them both as outsiders at their mosques and society in general.

Review: Elderhood Documentary 'Alive Inside' Is Vital & Important

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • July 21, 2014 5:03 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Alive Inside
Elderhood. Is that even a thing? You grow from the innocence of childhood through the experiences of adulthood and then...you just get old. Nobody likes to talk about that. Kids dream about growing up so they can do all the adult things they see adults do, and adults wish they can turn back the clock and be kids again. Have you ever heard anyone say, “Man, I cannot wait to get old. I’m going to have the sweetest walker ever.” From Grandpa Simpson to reactions after an 82-year-old Clint Eastwood talked to an empty chair, American culture has always greeted old age as comic relief from a distance. But as one of the most insightful interviewees says in “Alive Inside,” “American Culture is wrong.”

Review: The Shorter U.S. Theatrical Cut Of Michel Gondry's 'Mood Indigo'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • July 21, 2014 12:02 PM
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  • 0 Comments
“Mood Indigo,” the latest from the Michel Gondry dream factory, is something of a cinephile's movie. The playful whimsy merchant might be closing a book or opening a new one, since the picture almost feels transitional. All the Gondry staples are there – the dreams that fold into reality, the un-acknowledged fantasy, the entirely-too-pleased-with-itself practical effects. But this feels different. Some will find this romantic fantasy the ur-Michel Gondry text, indulging in all his worst tendencies. But if anything, this is like the head-in-the-clouds fantasist finally closing his beloved sketchbook and facing the rest of the world.

Recap: 'The Leftovers' Season 1, Episode 4 'B.J. And The A.C.'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 20, 2014 11:00 PM
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  • 10 Comments
The Leftovers
"There is no family," Patti Levin (Ann Dowd) mysteriously and somewhat gravely writes on her notepad, and it's a theme that will come to bear in "B.J. And The A.C." Christmas has arrived in Mapleton, and all police chief Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) wants is a little bit of peace for the holiday. And so he has reached out to Patti and the GRs to ask for a simple favour. There is a Christmas dance coming up, a fundraiser for the new library, and he would appreciate it if the GRs kept their distance. But his request comes with a threat — if they do show up, and things turn ugly, he won't step in to protect them like he has in the past. Levin's enigmatic is answer is the aforementioned quote, leaving Kevin to counter in exasperation, "What the fuck does that mean?" And the town will soon find out.

Fantasia Review: Takashi Miike's Enjoyably Wacky 'The Mole Song – Undercover Agent Reiji'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 19, 2014 9:50 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The Mole Song – Undercover Agent Reiji
Takashi Miike works at a rate that is as prolific as it is uneven, usually directing multiple movies per year, in a wide range of styles from comedies to family films to straight ahead police procedurals (like the dreadful Cannes Competition entry "Shield Of Straw"). And so, it's never quite certain which Miike you'll get with each film — the committed genre filmmaker ripping pages from the rulebook or the workmanlike director doing a gig to pay next month's mortgage. The manga adaptation "The Mole Song – Undercover Agent Reiji" finds Miikie in a third mode, not quite reinventing the wheel, but simply having a blast with the material, mixing styles and creating something so outlandish it's much easier to roll with it than put up any kind of resistance.

Review: Woody Allen’s ‘Magic In The Moonlight’ Starring Colin Firth & Emma Stone

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • July 18, 2014 9:02 AM
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  • 14 Comments
Magic In The Moonlight
“Cloquet hated reality but realized it was still the only place to get a good steak,” Woody Allen once wrote in the 1977 short story "The Condemned"—as good as any an example of a raison d’etre for the glib, witty and yet philosophical filmmaker. But also a good exemplar of his outlook on life; bleak and yet slightly hopeful (and always with a dash of wit). Allen’s preoccupation with death and his own mortality is well-documented in his films and prose. And part of that obsession may have been escaping the harshness of reality. But behind all the existential dread that troubled characters like Alvy Singer or Isaac from “Manhattan” really lay the question: is that all there is, this misery of life? Or could there be something more?

Review: 'The Purge: Anarchy' Starring Frank Grillo

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • July 17, 2014 9:03 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The Purge: Anarchy
It doesn't take a thinking person more than ten seconds to poke holes in the premise of “The Purge." It also doesn't take one to see the seductive hook of the material: Americans acting upon some sort of birthright to behave like animals, to let loose the chains of propriety and savagely end each other. “The Purge: Anarchy” takes place in 2023, and the surprise isn't that the American dream has become, “Fend for yourself, leave others behind.” No, the surprise is in why this sentiment necessitates the film taking place nine years in the future.

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