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The Playlist

Karlovy Vary Review: Multiple Venice Winner ‘Still Life’ Starring Eddie Marsan

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 14, 2014 6:29 PM
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Still Life
Not wishing to start off on a total downer, let us say that for much of its running time, “Still Life” is just about bearable. Now that’s partly because, catching up with the four-time Venice award-winner [drops to knees, bellows “Why?” at the heavens] at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, we had started off well-disposed toward it. Not only did the Uberto Pasolini film (not to be confused with the 2006 Jia Zhang-ke film of the same name which also won at Venice) trail those laurels, but lead Eddie Marsan had just picked up Best Actor in a British Film in Edinburgh, and anyway, Marsan is one of our very favorite character actors, so the chance to see him take on such an inarguably central role was enticing. But only too soon the film wore our goodwill down to a tiny nub, with maudlin moment piling on mawkish turn, drenched in a minor-key Rachel Portman score so twee and sentimentalized that the obvious comparison would be an insult to syrup.

Karlovy Vary Review: Concert Movie ‘Björk: Biophilia Live’

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 14, 2014 12:01 PM
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Bjork: Biophilia Live
For better or worse, we do approach any new project from impish Icelandic enchantress Björk with an expectation of weird. And it’s an expectation that her Biophilia album and concert tour, of which this film is a record, clearly delivered on. Prologued by a David Attenborough voiceover, it's really an exhilarating, sometimes mystifying extended riff on one major theme: we are on the brink of a revolution that exists at the creative nexus of nature, music and technology.

Recap: ‘The Leftovers,’ Season 1, Episode 3, ‘Two Boats And A Helicopter’

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 13, 2014 11:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The Leftovers
With just two episodes so far, Damon Lindelof’s “The Leftovers” has already laid out a strong handful of mysteries, the central one being what exactly happened on October 14th that caused 2% of the world’s population to vanish. But as Lindelof has been stressing since even the show first aired, that instigating event is not the hook of the series. “If that’s why you’re watching the show, don’t watch the show,” Lindelof recently said. And as I’ve stressed over the past two recaps, “The Leftovers” is about the characters and consequences, and no better is this exemplified than in this week’s “Two Boats And A Helicopter,” which rewardingly breaks the format.

Karlovy Vary Review: Beautiful, Atmospheric Debut ‘Violent’ From Canadian Musician Andrew Huculiak

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 11, 2014 12:01 PM
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Violent
On the surface, there’s no real reason why “Violent,” the debut feature film from Canadian director Andrew Huculiak, should be set so specifically in Norway, and be led by a Norwegian actress whose dialogue and voiced-over thoughts are also in Norwegian. But as the film draws you in, or rather quietly casts its heady spell of sound and atmosphere around you, that eccentric choice begins to make a compelling kind of sense. Not only does Huculiak’s outsider’s eye give rise to some extraordinary cinematography (via DP, editor and co-writer Joseph Schweers), of Norway’s countryside, towns and cities, but thematically too it feels like, standing at this deliberate remove, the filmmakers can more easily shift between subjective, intimate moments and the broader, ontological themes they illustrate.

Review: 'Rage' Starring Nicolas Cage, Peter Stormare & Danny Glover

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • July 11, 2014 11:05 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Rage
If, for whatever reason, you find yourself in an argument with someone who is desperately trying to convince you that Nicolas Cage has returned to form with his brilliant performance in David Gordon Green’s “Joe," you’ll be able to shut them up thanks to Paco Cabezas. They can bring up all sorts of scenes as valid evidence of Cage’s buried talents, unearthed by his performance as Green’s titular protagonist, but you’ll only need one word for a comeback and it will be checkmate—“Rage."

Review: Ron Howard's Concert Documentary 'Made In America' Featuring Jay Z

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • July 11, 2014 10:02 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Made In America
The Made in America Festival is a two-day music festival that began in 2012 in Philadelphia and the visionary behind it is Jay Z, the rapper and entrepreneur who was, at least back then, in the process of stretching his multimedia empire far beyond rap albums. Instead of selling out arenas, he was buying them. And Made in America seemed like the perfect example of the kind of things Jay Z was now attempting; the hip hop equivalent of diversifying your portfolio. But there was also something deeply personal about the Made in America Festival, and the metaphoric component of the project's inception is explored artfully in Ron Howard's gripping new documentary entitled, appropriately enough, "Made in America."

Review: Martha Stephens And Aaron Katz's 'Land Ho! Is Easy To Admire, Yet Restrained

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • July 10, 2014 6:32 PM
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Land Ho!
Disenchanted, though you wouldn’t know it at first, the lively and unruly Mitch is aware that his favorite ex-brother-in-law—the mild mannered Colin—is in the dumps following the demise of his second marriage. Having recently retired from life as a doctor, Mitch drops by to tell Colin he has a surprise: an all-expenses paid trip to Iceland. Colin attempts to politely decline, content with moping around, but Mitch won’t take no for an answer, and much to his chagrin he is soon packing his bags for Reykjavik. Hitting luxury hotels, trendy hot spots, beautiful spas, fancy restaurants, relaxing hot springs and some of the beautiful and exotic sights of Iceland, Mitch and Colin catch up, renew their old friendship and discuss the obstacles they’ve faced in life while trying to make sense of it all. For the introverted Aussie that is Colin, that kind of introspection is not always healthy. For the Kentucky-drawling, skirt-chasing Mitch, it's simply “doobification” time (eg. smoking copious joints).

Review: 'Closed Curtain' Directed by Jafar Panahi And Kambuzia Partovi

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • July 10, 2014 12:25 PM
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Closed Curtain
It’s damn near impossible to reflect on Jafar Panahi’s latest directorial effort/rebellion, “Closed Curtain,” without considering the facts of his current life. After being arrested and imprisoned multiple times in the last few years, the Iranian government has prohibited Panahi from leaving the country and slapped the man with a 20-year ban on any sort of filmmaking. His torture was palpably captured in “This Is Not A Film,” a work created on cheap digital equipment that served not only as a diary for the filmmaker but as a defiant proclamation: his voice would not be silenced.

Review: Richard Linklater's 'Boyhood' Is A Remarkable Time-Spanning Achievement

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • July 9, 2014 6:07 PM
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  • 5 Comments
Boyhood
Last night in Park City, director Richard Linklater made cinematic history with the groundbreaking “Boyhood,” a time capsule-like exploration of childhood and family shot over the course of 12 years. And it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before, though the closest analogue might be the ambitious “Up Series," Michael Apted’s documentary series that revisits the same family every 7 years to catch up with where they are in life. Evincing many lucid and extemporaneous qualities, Linklater doesn’t do catching up though, as “Boyhood” feels much less like a greatest hits package and more analogous to being in the moment, watching the sprawling, occasionally dull home videos of family over more than a decade’s time. Warm, soulful, funny and quietly insightful, “Boyhood” shines in its engrossing, experiential understanding and it’s a special achievement that should be cherished and acknowledged.

Karlovy Vary Review: David Lambert’s Sexually Frank, Emotionally Wise ‘All Yours’

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 9, 2014 1:31 PM
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  • 1 Comment
All Yours
A truncated stay has meant we haven’t been able to see as many competition titles here at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival as we would have liked, but we can say it got off to a very promising start with this small-scale serio-comic drama, the second feature from “Beyond the Walls” director David Lambert. From the potentially grim premise of a young Argentinian man in such dire straits and with such a lack of prospects that he offers himself via the internet to anyone who will send him a plane ticket, the film then spins off into surprisingly gentle, non-judgy, non-cautionary tale directions, albeit sprinkled with some fairly graphic sex scenes, mostly gay, occasionally straight.

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