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The Playlist

Review: Heightened Melodrama Carries Overheated 'Festival Of Lights'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • November 15, 2012 10:19 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The afterschool special is alive and well in immigration drama “Festival Of Lights,” an amateurish independent film tracking the evolution of one family in their path from Guyana to America, and the roots they leave behind. Forgive a generation of filmmakers, well-intentioned, but unaware that nuance and subtlety are missing from their arsenal, soldiering on with incidence. “Festival Of Lights” is nothing if not busy, hop-scotching around hot-button satellite issues to the main concern of immigration like Darren Aronofsky’s camera operator lost in the K-hole.
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Rome Review: Johnnie To's 'Drug War' Is A Gritty, Talky Procedural That Amps Up To A Bruising Climax

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 15, 2012 2:45 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Johnnie To is a prime example of a director whose name means one thing to overseas audiences, and quite another to those in his native Hong Kong. While his home fans know him as a prolific genre-hopping polyglot whose production company Milkyway Image is a force to be reckoned with on the national filmmaking scene, abroad, especially in the U.S., he's primarily known as an action/thriller director; a less-stylized John Woo. And so his newest film, "Drug War" ("Du Zhan"), which was a late "surprise" addition to the Rome Film Festival line-up, should export neatly.

Review: Big-Hearted & Hilarious 'Silver Linings Playbook' A Touchdown From David O. Russell

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • November 15, 2012 11:56 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Life hasn't been too kind lately for Pat Solitano. He's just been released from a court ordered stint in a mental hospital after severly beating the man he caught cheating with his wife. Diagnosed as bipolar with mood swings, Pat has a difficult journey ahead of him but he's optimistic. With a rallying cry of "Excelsior," he believes that you can take "all negativity and make it a silver lining." His outlook is positive and he hopes to rebuild himself to win his wife back who has a restraining order out on him. And so begins David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook," an enormously entertaining, crowd-pleasing winner from the director whose comedic edge has never been sharper.

Rome Review: 'A Glimpse Inside The Mind Of Charles Swan III' Displays The Flair & Flaws Of Roman Coppola's Approach

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 15, 2012 7:02 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Roman Coppola may only be on his second directorial feature, but as a music video and commercials director, and as a writer and frequent Wes Anderson collaborator, not to mention handling the second unit on various films from his famous family members, he has certainly amassed a wealth of filmic experience. All of which he brings to bear on "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III," which premieres tonight at the Rome Film Festival. Destined to be a crowd-pleaser, for its many celebrity cameos, quirky and apropos Liam Hayes music, and lovingly detailed 70s-influenced stylization, the films affords many glossy, knowing pleasures, and we found ourselves really wanting to love it. But that deeper level of engagement just didn't kick in for us, for two main reasons: the lack of a strong narrative through line and the lack of dimensionality to the central titular character. The film delivers on its title, but it turns out we need more than just a glimpse.

AFI Fest Review: 'The International Sign For Choking' Is Simultaneously Brash And Boring

  • By Emma Bernstein
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  • November 14, 2012 6:24 PM
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  • 4 Comments
“The International Sign for Choking,” the second feature from writer-director Zach Weintraub, is kind of like one of those short-term relationships that ends when you both decide that you don’t like each other enough to keep calling. You’re not entirely sure what the point of it all was, and maybe you even feel a little regretful that it happened, but since there’s nothing you can do about the past, you move on, hopefully to someone better. And this is precisely what we’d suggest regarding this film: stop trying to understand it – there isn’t much there that’s worth figuring out – and go see something else.

AFI Fest Review: 'The Most Fun I've Ever Had With My Pants On' Loses Its Way In This Overworked, Predictable Road Movie

  • By Emma Bernstein
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  • November 14, 2012 5:58 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Extremely personal films can prove problematic. In general, art can serve very well as a form of expression and catharsis, with the medium of film catering to this cause with particular success due to its multi-sensory stimulation. But when an individual’s emotional release begins to overwhelm or even engulf the story, it doesn’t make for exceptionally good entertainment. "The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had with My Pants On," – helmed by first timer Drew Denny, who also wrote, produced and stars in the film – is a beautifully shot and well-acted piece that is unfortunately marred by heavy-handedness and a lack of relatable characters. And what could be a wholly poignant and involving reconstruction of Denny’s own experience coping with the loss of her father slowly becomes an enmeshed, uninviting and distant self-reflection.

Review: Parker Posey Is Comedic Napalm In 'Price Check'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • November 14, 2012 1:03 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The frown of Parker Posey is like a map of comic chaos. The chief weapon amongst her considerable comic skills (the sarcastic smile is a close second), it does more than inform Posey’s characters, all of whom seem to be suffering some sort of cultural malaise. It’s so all-encompassing, as if her mouth breaks off to form an entirely separate face, that it serves as a promise of sorts: things are bad and are going to get worse, and no one’s going to feel it just as harshly as she will. In another era, Posey would have been our greatest silent film star. It’s merely the ersatz casting agents of today’s Hollywood that have limited her to bitter scolds in a host of studio projects and lead parts in indie pictures no one ever sees.

Review: 'Mea Maxima Culpa' A Provocative, Emotive, Dogged Investigation Into A Landmark Clerical Sex Abuse Case

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 14, 2012 12:01 PM
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  • 2 Comments
By turns moving, absorbing and downright rage-inducing, “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God” is celebrated documentarian Alex Gibney’s account of sexual abuse in St John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee during the '60s and '70s, which he then uses as a launchpad to follow the chain of culpability up the hierarchy of the Catholic Church right to the Vatican and the Papacy itself. As topics go, it doesn’t get much more incendiary, but Gibney’s (“Taxi to the Dark Side,” “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”) native intelligence and tendency to (mostly) downplay, means the film emerges as much more than the torch-and-pitchfork affair it could have been.

Rome Review: Peter Greenaway's 'Goltzius And The Pelican Company' Dazzles & Numbs The Mind In Almost Equal Measure

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 14, 2012 11:20 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Visually extraordinary, but narratively frustrating, "Goltzius and the Pelican Company," which showed here at the Rome Film Festival after premiering in The Netherlands, is every sumptuous inch a Peter Greenaway film. So those who are beguiled by the peculiar rhythms of his filmmaking -- which often give rise to a kind of tidal waxing and waning of the viewers' attention -- will be delighted by its richness, its erudition and its mischievousness. Detractors, however, may well be able to hold up this film as Exhibit A in the "too-clever-by-half" case against.

Rome Review: Walter Hill's Sylvester Stallone-Starrer 'Bullet To The Head' Is A Blast From The Past

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 14, 2012 7:54 AM
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  • 5 Comments
About as unreconstructed as it's possible to get, Walter Hill's first feature in 10 years, "Bullet to the Head," finds the veteran action director utterly mired in the tropes of the '80s R-rated action film. And we enjoyed the hell out of it. With nothing but the Himalayan crags of Sylvester Stallone's face to suggest the last 30 years of filmmaking ever happened, Hill has -- crafted seems the wrong word -- rammed together an action movie in which the plot is laughable, the quips are quippy and the action nasty -- no graceful, balletic, parkour bullshit here, just guns, fists, explosives and, gloriously, axes. This is gristly, muscly action, Stallone's aging sinews standing up remarkably well to the task of dispatching opponents fleshily against concrete, steel and marble surfaces when he's not simply shooting them.

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