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The Playlist

Review: 'Life Of Pi' Is An Inspiring & Visually Stunning Tale Of Faith, Hope & Self-Discovery

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • November 20, 2012 4:37 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Taiwanese-born American film director Ang Lee’s career is difficult to pin down. He’s constructed nuanced and well-crafted dramas of various milieus and textures (from “The Ice Storm,” and “Sense and Sensibility” to the more erotic “Lust/Caution” and “Brokeback Mountain”) and orchestrated films of more action-oriented visual pizzazz and flair as well ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Hulk"). Perhaps bridging all of his eclectic interests, Lee configures a lovely and winning formula for the dazzling and emotionally rich “Life Of Pi.”

Review: Blood & Water Flow Freely In Jacques Audiard's Beautiful & Moving 'Rust & Bone'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • November 20, 2012 4:01 PM
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  • 0 Comments
What is it we do to survive? Who is it we love? Who is it we fight? What are the forces seen and unseen that push our lives in directions we could have never expected? These are the questions that Jacques Audiard tackles in his latest, "Rust And Bone," a beautiful, moving story of two fractured lives that somehow, together, combine into a single (if unconventional) whole.

Review: 'Red Dawn' Intermingles Inept Jingoism With Casual, Wrongheaded Racism

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • November 20, 2012 11:40 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Why is it that films that spend the longest time on the shelves feel so unfinished? Reportedly filmed three years ago, Dan Bradley’s strikingly incompetent “Red Dawn” is now being dumped in theaters, stitched together with scotch tape and falling apart at the seams, letting casual racism and misanthropy to spill out the sides.

Review: 'Inventing David Geffen' Is Wildly Entertaining, But Never As Insightful As It Should Be

  • By Christopher Schobert
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  • November 20, 2012 9:56 AM
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  • 3 Comments
David Geffen is so powerful, wealthy and connected that he could probably kill this review right now were he so inclined. He is a show business titan; a controversial figure who is revered—and feared—by equal measure. He is perhaps the closest thing we have to the kingpins of old, the Selznicks, the Zanucks. (How fitting that Geffen now lives in Jack Warner’s stunning old mansion.) But like Harvey Weinstein, what most differentiates Geffen from the other powers-that-be in his ranks is an ability to spot talent. As “American Masters: Inventing David Geffen” reveals, he helped break artists as far reaching as Laura Nyro, Jackson Browne, and even Guns N’ Roses.

Review: 'In The Family' A Sincere, Heartbreaking Indie Drama

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • November 18, 2012 11:49 AM
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  • 0 Comments
It’s tough for the drama. For every movie that is successfully earnest and sincere in its heartbreaking story, about fifty others are willed into the cinema that rest on familiar tropes, forced emotions lacking any legitimate heart, and a trusty sensational score that knows just when to blare. Their power is so considerable that it’ll make a pessimist out of even the least bitter moviegoer. But when that anomaly does come along, it needs to be held high, trumpeted so fiercely that it drowns out all of the other hollow tearjerkers. So here we shall declare Patrick Wang’s “In the Family” that able wonder to which we shall champion with fervor.

Rome Review: 'Hand In Hand' Is A Gently Surreal Parisian Romantic Comedy Featuring Your New French Crush

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 18, 2012 9:18 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Whimsical and high-concept, and featuring a standout performance from our new boyfriend Jérémie Elkaïm, who has just won Best Actor at the Rome Film Festival for this role (clearly the jury was crushin' on him too), "Hand in Hand" ("Main dans la Main") is a gentle, quirky take on the mystical and somewhat random power of attraction and love. By contrast with the artifice of the other French rom-com we reviewed in Rome, "Populaire," writer-director (and supporting star and Elkaïm's wife) Valérie Donzelli's lightness of touch evokes more the sensibility of a loved-up Miranda July in its attention to off-kilter but grounded detail.

Rome Review: '1942' Is A Long, Old-Fashioned But Absorbing Epic Of Chinese Historical Cinema

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 17, 2012 7:02 PM
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  • 5 Comments
If the appropriate length of a film were calculated in proportion to the scope of its subject, all 144 minutes of Feng Xiaogang's "1942" (also known as "Back to 1942"), which played In Competition at the Rome Film Festival, would be wholly justified. While the Henan Famine of the early 1940s is not a well-known tragedy outside China, the scale of the suffering, death and displacement it caused simply boggles the mind, the numbers are so colossal. And for the most part, Feng does an impressive job of memorializing the 3 million dead; "1942" is not an unqualified success, but it did retain our interest and engagement across its multiple story lines and over its expansive running time.

Rome Review: 'Tar' With James Franco Is A Dreamy Collage Of Pretty But Overfamiliar Aesthetics

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 17, 2012 1:53 PM
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  • 15 Comments
It's difficult to know quite what to make of 'Tar,' a multi-authored project seemingly coaxed into being by the sheer force of James Franco's current artistic cachet. Playing In Competition in the XXI sidebar of the Rome Film Festival, the film represents the work of twelve newbie directors -- NYU film students all -- and attempts to create an impressionistic interpretation of the work of poet CK Williams, who himself appears occasionally, reading from his collection. Championed by and starring Franco, amongst a starry cast including Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain, Henry Hopper, Bruce Campbell and Zach Braff, the film shifts around in time and mood, using four different actors (Franco one of them) to depict Williams at different stages in his life, with the scenes sometimes playing out with internal dialogue and mini-storylines, and other times played mute, with snatches of poetry voiced over.

Rome Review: Cesc Gay's 'A Gun In Each Hand' Is A Gem - A Sharp, Witty Look At Masculinity In Crisis

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 17, 2012 11:23 AM
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  • 4 Comments
Not, in fact, the Spaghetti Western from Spain (Paella Western?) that it sounds like, "A Gun In Each Hand" ("Una Pistola En Cada Mano"), which plays Out of Competition at the Rome Film Festival, is a contemporary comedy detailing a series of encounters in which pairs of friends, acquaintances, ex-spouses and potential lovers meet and talk and, well, that's about it. With a logline like that, you need to be sure your script delivers. Thankfully this one, co-written by director Cesc Gay, as is his wont, does; its portrait of a group of Spanish men in their forties is by turns gently scathing, comical and bittersweet, but it never feels anything less than true.

Rome Review: Anthology Film 'Centro Historico' Is Decent, Wearying, Excellent And Slight, In That Order

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 16, 2012 6:56 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Reviewing omnibus films, in which the component parts came from different directors, can be a tricky job because the decision needs to be made whether to review those contributions separately, or to take a helicopter view and treat a film which is being packaged as a feature, as a feature. "Centro Historico," which opened Out of Competition in the XXI sidebar of the Rome Film Festival, poses no such dilemma: the four films it contains are almost as different from one another as it possible to be, and so attempting any kind of synergistic look at the whole would be kind of a nonsense.

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