The Playlist

Review: 'Oculus' Delivers Good Old-Fashioned Haunted House Spookiness

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • April 9, 2014 5:45 PM
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Oculus
If there's one certainty in the horror genre, it's that trends will come and go. Some strain of horror will be popular for a few years, then disappear just as quickly, waiting for its moment of reinvention or cultural relevance. The genre's recent past has been dominated by two forces: the torture-porn subgenre, in which our anxieties about war atrocities translate, somewhat clumsily, to movies where people spend whole running times getting pieces of their bodies lobbed off. The other, equally powerful force in horror movies has been the "found footage" genre, again translating our cultural queasiness when it comes to technology and turning it into something positively supernatural. But thanks to last summer's surprise blockbuster "The Conjuring," it looks like those are being shoved aside in favor of good old-fashioned haunted house spookiness. "Oculus" is a perfect example of this newly relevant style, and the results are damn scary.

Review: 'Rio 2' Featuring The Voices Of Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Jamie Foxx And Andy Garcia

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • April 9, 2014 2:25 PM
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Rio 2
These days, the potential for animated films is seemingly limitless. In the past few months, we've seen Disney's boldly contemporary fairy tale "Frozen" deservedly become the highest grossing animated movie of all time, while Hayao Miyazaki was able to delicately frame the story of a man who made war machines as a love letter to artistic pursuit with "The Wind Rises," and "The Lego Movie" transcended its commercial base to become a dazzlingly funny and heartfelt movie about the true power of imagination. So it's such a shame, then, that a movie like Blue Sky Studios' "Rio 2" comes along – a visually stunning, wholly empty experience that fails to conjure any emotion stronger than an impassive shrug.

Review: 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx & Dane DeHaan

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 8, 2014 7:03 PM
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  • 44 Comments
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Jamie Foxx
As far as superhero reboots go, "room for improvement" was probably the best way to sum up 2012's "The Amazing Spider-Man." Certainly financially, the film made a very healthy $750 million worldwide, but that's still less than any of the three Sam Raimi films that preceded it. And creatively, the film had some strong building blocks—an increased emphasis on romance, a hugely appealing central pairing in Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone (plus support from ringers like Sally Field and Martin Sheen), a bright sense of humor, a fresh-ish take on the characters—but a patchy script, disappointing action and lackluster villain meant that there was plenty of opportunity for a sequel to prove itself worth of the title "amazing."

Review: Documentary 'I Am Divine' Shines A New Light On John Waters' Most Notorious Collaborator

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • April 8, 2014 5:03 PM
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I Am Divine
Even if you've stayed away from every John Waters film ever made, the chances of not knowing who Divine was are slim. The image of a 300-pound drag queen wearing a skin-tight red dress with candy-colored wig, bombastic face make-up, and pointing a gun at everything society consumes to be beautiful has been burnt deep enough into the culture to be instantly recognizable. Whether you've actually seen "Pink Flamingos" or not is temporarily beside the point. Loud, proud, and outrageous in every entertaining sense of the word; Divine has become—largely thanks to his work with Waters—a symbol for the countercultural movement in the '60s and '70s, and the personification of the “fuck you, you fucking fucks” angst towards society's norms. Jeffrey Schwartz's documentary on the man behind the queen, which has been raising dust at festivals around the world, works so well because you don't need to have seen a single John Waters film to connect and feel truly inspired after watching the kind of life Harris Glenn Milstead led.

Recap: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Returns With Strong Season 4 Opener, ‘Two Swords’

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • April 6, 2014 10:23 PM
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  • 11 Comments
Game Of Thrones
Welcome back, Gameheads, Throne Bones, Red Wedding Guests, et al. I am back to bring you the most ridiculous (but most entertaining! Hopefully!) recaps of “Game of Thrones,” and I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with bated breath! This is THE destination for Throne Games discussion, tell all your friends! A programming note: I haven’t read the books, so I welcome any and all fact-checking and fact-clarification, but just remember that the show leaves some stuff unclear week-to-week, and a woman only has so much time to delve into the “Game of Thrones” wiki, though I do my darndest. At any rate, I welcome all corrections, omissions, comments, but not complaints, because that’s my prerogative. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Review: IMAX Nature Documentary 'Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar'

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • April 4, 2014 11:18 AM
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Island of Lemurs: Madagascar
The nature documentary, invented by Walt Disney himself and maintained, in the years since, by various filmmakers, philanthropists, and causes, has seen something of a resurgence in recent years, mostly thanks to the annual DisneyNature documentary that focuses on some exotic (but still cuddly) aspect of the animal kingdom. (This year's entry, being released later this month, is "Bears"). But that doesn't mean that Disney, founder of the genre and pioneer since, has cornered the market on the nature documentary. In the fallow years between its invention and the recent initiative, the best nature documentaries were typically seen in large-format IMAX theaters. Together with Warner Bros, IMAX released documentarian's David Douglas' genuinely gripping monkey tale "Born to Be Wild" in 2011, and that same team has reassembled for this week's enthralling "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar."

Review: Season 1 Of 'Doll & Em' A Low Key, Charming Look At Friendship And Celebrity

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • April 4, 2014 10:04 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Doll & Em
The word "famous" probably isn't one that you would use to describe Emily Mortimer. Respected and talented, her impressive range of work includes movies with folks like Martin Scorsese, David Mamet, Woody Allen, Kenneth Branagh, Nicole Holofcener and more, and though you would probably recognize her on the street, her name might not ring many bells with the average filmgoer. Which is what makes the premise of "Doll & Em" all the more clever, with Mortimer playing a fictionalized version of herself, that uses the backdrop of Hollywood to tell a story not about the business necessarily, but about how the dynamics of friendship can be strained when one of them is living out her dreams and the other....well, isn't.

Review: ‘In The Blood’ Starring Gina Carano, Cam Gigandet & Danny Trejo

  • By Chase Whale
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  • April 4, 2014 8:30 AM
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  • 1 Comment
in The Blood, Gina Carano
With the endless barrage of action films fighting for our attention these days, it's rare to find one anchored by a woman. It's even more rare to find a lead who continually ignores consequences in her search for vengeance, but real life Mixed Martial Arts champion Gina Carano is just that kind of leading lady. Whether it's duking it out with underworld goons or raining down a world of pain on those who threaten her family -- this is one violent femme on a mission.

Review: Apocalyptic 'Goodbye World' Starring Adrian Grenier, Kerry Bishé, Mark Webber & Gaby Hoffmann

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • April 3, 2014 6:27 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Blame it on the Mayans, maybe, but 2012 and 2013 have seen a host of films with apocalypse on the brain, from big budget action flicks to meta-comedies like “This Is The End,” to smaller, more realistic dramedies like “It’s A Disaster." Director Denis Henry Hennelly’s “Goodbye World” falls more in line with the latter, situating a group of seven college friends in a Northern California cabin in the wake of a cyber attack. While it has its funny moments, it’s definitely not a comedy, but it seeks to acknowledge the weird ways in which people react to times of crisis, especially amongst this particular group, with their complicated personal histories. Will they implode from their own internal strife or outside threats?

New Directors/New Films Review: Radical, Thrilling 'The Strange Color Of Your Body's Tears'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • April 3, 2014 5:15 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The Strange Color Of Your Body's Tears
Some movies are watched. “The Strange Color Of Your Body's Tears” is a movie you live inside. This new film from directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani touches you repeatedly, inappropriately, from the front and, delightfully, from the rear. To synopsize the film is folly, though it will be fun to see viewers try. This is the magic that Cattet and Forzani have weaved from their debut effort “Amer," a hypnotic trip down the giallo rabbit hole. Very few filmmakers today are working with a radical new vocabulary, but Cattet and Forzani are using genre of the past to toss us, shouting, into the future.

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