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The Playlist

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.

Rome Review: ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2’ Probably A High Point For The Franchise, Still A Low For Cinema

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 13, 2012 5:58 PM
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  • 20 Comments
The final installment of Stephenie Meyers' 'Twilight Saga' has hit the screen with an audible, if Italian-accented "Squee!" here in its packed hormonal World Premiere at the Rome Film Festival. Destined to make a jillion dollars in its first six minutes of release, the film is already such a juggernaut that voicing an opinion on whether it's any good is a little like examining the fenderwork on the 20-wheeler that's bearing down on you at 100mph: it doesn't matter, because either way, you're going to be flattened. But hardy fools that we Playlisters are, we're going to damn well tell you what we think anyway: "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" is as thrilling, scary and swooningly romantic as this series gets. But it's still dire.

DOC NYC Review: 'Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost)' A Quotidian Portrait Of A Musician On The Road

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • November 13, 2012 5:00 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Son and namesake of an illustrious country singer, Bobby Bare Jr. made the differences between him and his patriarch very clear when his band released an album on Immortal Records (Korn, Incubus). Since then he’s been furiously touring as a solo artist, rocking with various backing bands and making just enough money to keep the roof over his family’s head. “Don’t Follow Me (I’m Lost)” chaperones a series of concerts in 2010 (timed with the release of the artist’s A Storm, A Tree, My Mother's Head) while providing a succinct idea of Bobby’s character and musical career. Mostly, though, it deals with the musician’s struggle to continue his modestly successful creative career while juggling his responsibilities as a parent, with four kids and a new wife at home.

Review: 'Lincoln' Is A Handsomely Shot, Immaculately Acted & Terribly Dull Historical Biopic

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • November 13, 2012 1:44 PM
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  • 50 Comments
Steven Spielberg directing a biopic on Abraham Lincoln, even one that concerns the President's last four months in his second term, is something that positively oozes with endless possibilities. This is, after all, a filmmaker who has turned his virtuosic eye onto past historical injustices like the Holocaust ("Schindler's List") and the aftermath of the Munich Olympics massacre ("Munich"), who has always had a keen interest in the African American experience ("The Color Purple," "Amistad"). Imagine what he could do with the actual Civil War! Well, it turns out, very little. "Lincoln," for all its technical accomplishment, fine performances, and intricate script work, is something of a lifeless bore. It's in desperate need and short supply of the very Spielberg-ian dazzle that it was assumed he would bring to the project.

Rome Review: 'Marfa Girl' Hints At Larry Clark's Possible Evolution As A Filmmaker

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • November 13, 2012 11:37 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Teenagers fuck, get each other pregnant, fight, take drugs, and are disaffected. So far, so very, very Larry Clark. But “Marfa Girl” which premiered at the Rome Film Festival last night, also foregrounds elements that haven’t historically cropped up quite so regularly in the filmmaker’s back catalog, like race relations, spirituality, and adults defined in ways other than their effect on teens, including, rarest of all, a functional and mutually loving parent/child relationship. It also boasts an intriguing structure whereby you might think it’s business as usual for the first two thirds, until in the final act, tension that you hadn’t really been aware of building comes to a head, almost the way you might expect in a genre film -- a psychological thriller or a horror perhaps -- as the bad guy gets what’s coming to him and the harmonious community is thus exorcised of its chief demon.

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