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The Playlist

Venice Review: Ulrich Seidl's 'Paradise: Faith' Is A Disarmingly Funny & Tender Examination Of Sex & Religion

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 31, 2012 3:33 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Trilogies can come in different forms. There’s Hollywood’s favourite variety – two sequels to a hit, that organically (“The Godfather”) or inorganically (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) expand on the original film’s success. There’s the single story that’s too big to fit into a single film, like “The Apu Trilogy” or Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings.” There’s the loosely thematically linked kind, like Park Chan-wook’s "vengeance trilogy," which share nothing but a central concern. And then there’s a trilogy like Krzysztof Kieślowski’s "Three Colors," which not only share a grand thematic tapestry, but also have crossovers between their characters.

Venice Review: Spike Lee's 'Bad 25' A Comprehensive & Warm Look At The Making Of Michael Jackson's Album

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 31, 2012 7:36 AM
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  • 0 Comments
A couple of years ago, before he set up his low-budget comeback film “Red Hook Summer," Spike Lee was planning another NYC-set project, “Brooklyn Loves MJ,” with the story taking place on the night of the death of pop superstar Michael Jackson in June 2009. Said to star Samuel L. Jackson, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie and more, the film never came together (although Lee told us recently that he hoped to get it going again), but the director’s been able to pay tribute to the late King of Pop in a couple of other ways. For one, he’s helped to organize a semi-annual Brooklyn Loves MJ party (although it didn’t take place this year or last for various reasons). And then there’s the director’s latest film, and his second of 2012, “Bad 25.” The subject matter is less weighty for the man behind such stirring docs as "4 Little Girls" and "When The Levees Broke," but the results are no less pleasing for this effort which delves into the making of Jackson's Bad, the fifth biggest-selling LP of all time.

Venice Review: Ramin Bahrani's 'At Any Price' A Patchy But Powerful Melodrama With A Fantastic Performance By Dennis Quaid

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 30, 2012 5:09 PM
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  • 4 Comments
The first three feature films by Ramin Bahrani – 2005’s “Man Push Cart,” 2007’s “Chop Shop” and 2008’s “Goodbye Solo” -- were extremely well-regarded by festival and art-house crowds (Roger Ebert called Bahrani “the director of the decade”), but barely made a dent on the wider cultural consciousness, receiving fairly limited releases and so far, making Bahrani a favourite of cinephiles, but far from a crossover success. But four years since his last film, Bahrani is back at Venice, the festival which made his name with “Man Push Cart,” for a film that threatens to push him towards the mainstream, with a starry cast and a distribution deal already in place from Sony Pictures Classics. And while perhaps not quite up there with the low-key, humanistic triumphs of his earlier films, “At Any Price” does seem likely to win him further and wider recognition.

Venice Review: Jonathan Demme's 'Enzo Avitabile, Music Life' Blends Great Musical Performances & Shallow Documentary

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 30, 2012 12:17 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Over the centuries, Italy has contributed countless things to international culture. It was of course, the center of the Roman empire, the birthplace of the Renaissance and Da Vinci, and gave the world Vivaldi, Verdi, Dante, Calvino, Fellini and Antonioni. But at least in the 20th and 21st century, music was not its strongest suit, as such. The county did birth the great film composer Ennio Morricone, and electronic pioneer Giorgio Moroder and the Italo Disco movement, but the number of Italian popular musicians who became internationally famous can, for the most part, be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Venice Review: Michael Shannon Vehicle 'The Iceman' Is A Tired Take On The Mob Flick

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 30, 2012 10:12 AM
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  • 6 Comments
Are we living in a post-gangster movie age? From the early talkies to the Oscar-winning success of “The Departed,” the genre has been ever-popular and responsible for seminal films from “White Heat” and “The Godfather” to “Goodfellas” and “Pulp Fiction.” But one struggles to think of a standout film in the genre since Scorsese's Oscar winner, with memorable mobsters now coming from television rather than the movies. We’re sure that someone will come along and give the form new life one of these days, but that reinvention of the wheel doesn’t come from Ariel Vroman’s “The Iceman,” which is decent enough, but fails to cover ground that hasn’t already been covered many times before.

Review: 'Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate' Adds 3D To Entertaining, Throwback Wuxia Tale

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • August 30, 2012 9:59 AM
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  • 1 Comment
In the wuxia drama “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate,” fists and feet fly as enemy combatants form and break alliances and backbones. The major innovation, in this case, is the 3D format, but make no mistake, this is a throwback. While action legend Tsui Hark’s latest whizzes and whirs with the dazzling sight of martial arts brawls happening in your lap, many accented by elaborate CG effects, 'Flying Swords' is most assuredly a product of its genre, with characters taking flight, projectiles being fired, and romances curled up into twisted knots.
More: Review, Jet Li

Review: 'Little Birds' Has All The Insight Of An After-School Special

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • August 29, 2012 6:29 PM
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  • 2 Comments
There's a misconception about some films that utilize a specific location by gussying it up to be a paradise on camera. Often, the results are "Little Birds," which was shot on location at the Salton Sea of California, a formative place for impetuous Lily (Juno Temple) and Alison (Kay Panabaker). The two teenage girls, both the result of trailer park lifestyles, spend their days visiting the saltine beach, admiring the view and dreaming of boys, handsome dark types who will whisk them away to what can be considered the "big city." They appreciate the picturesque landscape, as does the camera. Does the filmmaker?

Review: 'For a Good Time, Call...' Doesn't Satisfy

  • By Kimber Myers
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  • August 29, 2012 4:56 PM
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  • 2 Comments
"For a Good Time, Call..." could be alternately titled "What People Will Do for an Apartment in New York." And the answer is pretty much anything, whether that be running a phone sex business or living with someone you hate for spilling pee on you. Note that in the world of "For a Good Time, Call..." "anything" does not include looking for a place in (gasp!) Brooklyn.

Venice Review: 'Tai Chi 0' An Uneven, But Playful & Enjoyable Piece Of Kung Fu Pop Art

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 29, 2012 3:53 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Just as the nation as a whole sneaks up on surpassing the United States of America as the world’s foremost superpower (if it hasn’t already), China has become more and more important to the movie world in the last few years. Grosses for the relatively few American movies released there are huge (“The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” both just opened to big numbers), helping blockbusters make coin overseas even if they tank at home, while Chinese financiers are getting involved more and more in production of movies (as in “Looper” or “Iron Man 3,” both partially produced by Chinese companies, and featuring scenes set in the nation). And now, is China starting to beat Hollywood at its own blockbuster game?

Venice Review: Sarah Polley Examines Her Own Family In Lovely, Fascinating 'Stories We Tell'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 29, 2012 2:25 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Sarah Polley has a secret. It’s a secret that, remarkably, she kept under wraps to all but friends and family until the film screened at the Venice Film Festival this morning. It’s a secret that’s seemingly informed her two directorial efforts to date, “Away From Her” and “Take This Waltz,” and is the subject matter of her third film, and first documentary, “Stories We Tell.” And it’s a secret that’s led to her finest work as a director so far.

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