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The Playlist

Review: Heady & Complex, 'The Bourne Legacy' Is A Fresh & Exciting Expansion Of The Franchise

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • August 7, 2012 1:25 PM
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  • 16 Comments
Like a game of high-octane chess played upon a moving train, Universal’s “The Bourne Legacy” is just as interested in engaging the mind as it is the senses with its visceral action set-pieces. And while one might argue the action drama's allegiances lie much deeper with engaging the former, this taut, complex, and yes, at times dense, action thriller is still an auspicious beginning to what presumably will kick off another series in the grand mythology of these clandestine and top-secret CIA black ops programs.

Recap: Walt Celebrates Birthday Number 'Fifty One' In Rian Johnson-Helmed Episode Of 'Breaking Bad'

  • By Cory Everett
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  • August 6, 2012 10:03 AM
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  • 4 Comments
We’re officially halfway through the first set of episodes in “Breaking Bad”’s bifurcated final season and episode 4 has really been the first opportunity for the audience to catch their collective breath. Directed by Rian Johnson (“Brick,” the upcoming “Looper”) -- who was responsible for the love-it-or-hate-it bottle episode “Fly” from Season 3 -- “Fifty-One” may be the calmest episode this season, but you can feel the storm coming (Bryan Cranston has said that the next episode will also be “the biggest episode we’ve ever done as far as scope and cost.”). But before they blow it up, they’re bringing it in and letting us focus on just how disconnected the characters have become from one another.

Review: Brilliant Animated Movie 'ParaNorman' Is One Of The Summer's Biggest (And Best) Surprises

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • August 4, 2012 10:44 AM
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  • 15 Comments
This summer has been full of big, glitzy animated movies from most of the major studios that have made tons of money but left audiences cold. None of them were particularly imaginative, entertaining or emotionally involving, instead choosing to coast on a steady stream of solid (if not exactly dazzling) images and a host of comfortingly familiar celebrity voices. And yet, at the tail end of the summer, along comes a movie proudly told in an old school animation style, from a tiny animation house and distributed by a studio known mostly for distributing arty fare like "Brokeback Mountain," that blows away all the slick studio confections both in terms of sheer visual wonder and (more surprisingly) emotional heft. Laika's stop-motion wonder "ParaNorman" isn't just the best animated movie of the summer, it's one of the best movies of the year. Period.

Review: 'Assassin's Bullet' Is A Spectacularly Inept Action Movie

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • August 2, 2012 10:59 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Even by the admittedly low standards of a basically direct-to-video, shot-in-Bulgaria action thriller starring Christian Slater and Donald Sutherland as a pair of weathered old spies, "Assassin's Bullet" is a fucking chore. It seems to have been created at some kind of magical nexus where sluggish plotting, technical ineptitude, and iffy performances meet. It's a smorgasbord of awfulness, but one that you can't even find yourself enjoying, in a guilty pleasure, can-you-honestly-believe-this? way. It would be lucky to be one of those movies they premiere on Cinemax on Friday nights starring actors who clearly owed the IRS something.

Review: 'Total Recall' A Derivative, Dim & Substance-Free Remake

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • August 2, 2012 8:00 AM
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  • 9 Comments
A pastiche of almost too many movies to count as a remake of just one, “Total Recall” is mindless, middling fare that fails to utilize – much less expand – the provocative concepts at the core of its iconic 1990 predecessor. Len Wiseman, whose “Die Hard” sequel effectively betrayed every one of the central tenets of that franchise (save for the casting of Bruce Willis), applies his personality-free technical proficiency to a re-imagining whose focus on what’s cool in the moment consistently undermines what any of it collectively means, not to mention why the hell audiences should care. Passable but uninspiring except for a standout performance from the never-better Jessica Biel, “Total Recall” plays directly into the hands of metaphor-wielding critics eager to highlight how a movie about a man recovering his memory can manage to be quite so forgettable.

Review: Director Jay Chandrasekhar's Tentative Sincerity Steps Undermined In Uneven, Sophomoric 'The Babymakers'

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • August 1, 2012 5:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
If you thought that “Knocked Up” was too mature a take on impending fatherhood, then “Babymakers” just might be the movie for you. Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, it follows the comical misadventures of a husband who is reluctant to discover whether or not his sperm is “confused” – and if so, how he’ll handle getting his wife pregnant. Marginally more sophisticated than Chandrasekhar’s efforts with the comedy troupe Broken Lizard, “Babymakers” starts off solidly before getting sidetracked by set pieces that take over the entire narrative – and ultimately reveal how little of one there was in the first place.

Review: 'Celeste And Jesse Forever' A Charming Tale Of Romance & Heartbreak In The Vein Of 'When Harry Met Sally'

  • By William Goss
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  • August 1, 2012 3:33 PM
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  • 0 Comments
If "(500) Days of Summer" is bound to be considered this generation’s "Annie Hall" (not its equal, mind you, but its closest equivalent), then it’s fair to claim that "Celeste and Jesse Forever" follows in the footsteps of "When Harry Met Sally," picking up where that film ended and proceeding to chronicle similar ups and downs in a close friendship verging on – or, rather, retreating from – full-blown romance.

Fantasia '12 Reviews: 'We Are Legion,' 'Alter Egos' & 'Nameless Gangster'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 31, 2012 11:02 AM
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  • 0 Comments
"We Are Legion: The Story Of Hacktavists" (dir. Brian Knappenberger, 2011) One of the greatest changes to activism in recent memory is the power of social media and the internet to mobilize, disseminate and even enact protest actions on a massive scale, all with the click of a mouse. As we have seen in events from the Arab Spring, Twitter and Facebook played huge roles for the citizens of those countries to both communicate with the outside world and organize their efforts. And while that might be the most high-profile example of the power of the online world to make massive change, moving much more below the radar are the loose knit, leaderless group of activists explored in "We Are Legion: The Story Of Hacktavists," a compelling, if wholly one-sided look at the rise of internet protest.

Review: Fernando Meirelles' International Love Story '360' May Leave His Fans Heartbroken

  • By Cory Everett
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  • July 31, 2012 10:01 AM
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  • 0 Comments
In a photo studio in Vienna, a sleazy photographer (Johannes Krisch) is coaxing a young Slovakian woman, Mirkha (Lucia Siposová), into posing for her first nude pictures. We soon find out this man is also a pimp, and the pictures are for luring clients on the internet. Her younger sister Anna (Gabriela Marcinkova) tries to persuade her to reconsider but Mirkha has her mind made up. She needs the money and wants to change her life. Her sister intones through darkly humorous voiceover, “If there’s a fork in the road, take it.” It’s a highly provocative opening for what ends up being just a so-so anthology of interwoven tales, even though director Fernando Meirelles ("City Of God," “The Constant Gardener”) assembles an impressive international cast for stories spanning Vienna, Paris, London, Bratislava, Rio, Denver and Phoenix.

Review: 'Gerhard Richter Painting' An Uneven Portrait Of Process & Fame

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 28, 2012 4:38 PM
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  • 1 Comment
If one were to compare Corinna Belz's "Gerhard Richter Painting" to music documentaries, it would fall somewhere between Sam Jones' "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" and Grant Gee's "Meeting People Is Easy." Eschewing the standard biographical framework, the film instead offers up a slice-of-life look at the 79-year-old artist that largely forgoes any context (for better or worse) as it dips into the banality of various show openings (like the Radiohead doc) and the fascinating method he uses to create his work (like the Wilco film). But unlike those aforementioned movies, if you don't know anything about the life and career of Gerhard Richter, your appreciation of what's captured will vary.

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