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The Playlist

Review: 'Ethel' Is A Powerful Personal Portrait Of Love & Liberalism

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • October 18, 2012 5:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Few American dynasties hold the same mystique as the Kennedy clan. Defined largely by professional triumph and personal heartache, the Kennedys are the closest thing the United States has to royalty, and as the years go by, the amount of historical miscellanea that is produced or unearthed about the family seems to grow exponentially. Even as the kings and queens of the dynasty grow old and die, which is a far less tragic exit than many members of the family, our nation's collective fascination deepens and intensifies. One of the latest pieces about the Kennedy empire is "Ethel," a film by Rory Kennedy, about her mother, Ethel Kennedy, wife of slain senator and presidential nominee Robert F. Kennedy.

Review: Life & Lust Find A Way In Well-Performed But Standard-Issue 'The Sessions'

  • By James Rocchi
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  • October 18, 2012 3:56 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Inspired by the life and writings of Mark O'Brien -- a polio-stricken but determined journalist and poet confined to an iron lung since age six -- "The Sessions" offers a less comprehensive look at O'Brien's life than Jessica Yu's excellent documentary "Breathing Lessons," but instead focuses on a small sliver of his life and living. In 1988, O'Brien, then 38, made a decision to explore his own sexuality -- despite his paralysis -- in part inspired by his research into a story on sex and disability. Unsure about his ability to forge a relationship -- and concerned, as he puts it to his Catholic Priest and confessor, that he's "approaching his use-by date," O'Brien looks into hiring a sex surrogate. The surrogate, Cheryl Cohen Greene, explains that she's not a prostitute, but a therapist -- she and Mark will have six sessions, and then terminate their relationship. It sounds complex. It gets more so.

LFF Review: Stephen Graham & Mark Strong Impress In Generic But Powerful Cop Thriller 'Blood'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • October 18, 2012 3:03 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The history of the British police movie is not a glorious one. Perhaps it's because (for the most part) UK coppers aren't allowed to carry firearms, which somewhat reduces the capacity for squib-happy action sequences. Or maybe it's the lack of glamorous locations for said shootouts, which can hardly compete with Manhattan or L.A. But after Edgar Wright imported the cop movie to rural Britain with "Hot Fuzz," we've seen a string of more straight-faced takes on the genre from the UK, including the Jason Statham vehicle "Blitz," '70s remake "The Sweeney," and the upcoming "Welcome To The Punch."

Review: 'Holy Motors' Is Beautiful Madness, Rabid And Resplendent

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • October 18, 2012 10:04 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Limousine movie sets. Raging erections. The theme from “Godzilla.” Eva Mendes’ armpits. Cross-dressing. Motion-capture cunnilingus. Mystical garages. Monkey marriages. Accordions. Disappointed fathers. Kylie Minogue. Murderous dopplegangers. Comedy. Tragedy. “Holy Motors.”

Review: 'Tai Chi Zero' An Uneven, But Playful & Enjoyable Piece Of Kung Fu Pop Art

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • October 17, 2012 9:01 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Just as the nation as a whole sneaks up on surpassing the United States of America as the world’s foremost superpower (if it hasn’t already), China has become more and more important to the movie world in the last few years. Grosses for the relatively few American movies released there are huge (“The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” both just opened to big numbers), helping blockbusters make coin overseas even if they tank at home, while Chinese financiers are getting more and more involved in production of movies (as in “Looper” or “Iron Man 3,” both partially produced by Chinese companies, and featuring scenes set in the nation). And now, is China starting to beat Hollywood at its own blockbuster game?

Review: Kids Are King In Winning Chess Doc 'Brooklyn Castle'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • October 17, 2012 6:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
It is often said that soccer is the world's game, because all you need is a ball, and anybody -- of any race or class or social standing -- can play. But if there was a close second, chess could arguably fill that slot. All you need is a board and someone to play with and you're good to go, and there is a case to be made that the mental dexterity needed to perform at the highest level equals that to any overhead volley on the pitch. However, it differs from sports in one key facet. While most other athletic competitions define success by statistics, chess celebrates problem solving and requires players to not necessarily eliminate their opponent's pieces but to craft the most cunning way to victory. But as audiences will see in the documentary "Brooklyn Castle," the problems the kids of I.S. 318 face go beyond the board into real life, and yet, what they learn from their bishops and pawns has indelibly marked them forever.

LFF Review: Strong Performances Carry An Otherwise Pedestrian 'Zaytoun'

  • By Joe Cunningham
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  • October 17, 2012 4:58 PM
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  • 0 Comments
How affected you are by the closing scenes of "Zaytoun" may depend on your pre-existing knowledge of the Lebanese Civil War and the Israeli incursion in the country. Nothing’s spelled out in "Zaytoun" other than pointing out the date and location -- Beirut, 1982 -- but that would place the events depicted in the film shortly before the Sabra and Shatila massacre so brutally recalled in 2008’s “Waltz With Bashir.” It’s not something that directly impacts upon the story told on screen, but that the film assumes knowledge of will fundamentally affect the emotional impact its final act carries for different viewers.

LFF Review: 'My Brother The Devil' A Fresh & Exciting Take On The Familiar Urban Crime Drama

  • By Joe Cunningham
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  • October 17, 2012 3:58 PM
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  • 0 Comments
British urban drama is fast becoming a crowded genre. It seems that every couple of months there’s a movie released depicting issues of drug abuse, violence and poverty in the council estates of one of London’s many recession hit suburbs. Well, in UK cinemas that is. Not many make it out of the country, and in fairness probably few deserve to. Sally El Hosaini’s debut feature is playing at the London Film Festival and will get a limited UK cinematic release in November, and it would be nice if it got the opportunity to travel further because it’s one of the better examples of the genre.

Review: 'Alex Cross' Is Cliché, Action Movie Finger Paint

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • October 17, 2012 8:45 AM
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  • 7 Comments
Apparently the Alex Cross character, originated by best-selling author James Patterson in an unending series of pulp novels, and brought to the screen twice before (in a pair of forgettable, moodily-lit Morgan Freeman thrillers), is a bankable enough property to re-launch a large-ish franchise around, because that's what the good folks at Summit have just done. The hook, this time, is that it's something of a prequel, just titled "Alex Cross," and that its star is Tyler Perry, who has made a fortune for himself starring in, writing and directing his very own movies. The problem is that Tyler Perry the actor is just as hammy and unfocused as Tyler Perry the filmmaker, and that "Alex Cross" is more boring than your average weeknight procedural, except much longer, dumber and more violent.

NYFF Review: Promising Alcoholism Drama ‘Flight’ Often Hits Rock Bottom

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • October 14, 2012 2:35 PM
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  • 4 Comments
After 12 years immersed (lost?) in the world of motion-capture, Robert Zemeckis re-emerges into live-action filmmaking for “Flight,” an engaging and initially very promising drama about alcoholism, redemption and forgiveness that grows uneven and long winded as it progresses, clocking in just under 2 hours and 20 minutes. Featuring a thrilling and terrifying opening, plus potent and moving elements of a conventional but admirable morality drama, “Flight" is often undone by its very unsubtle choices and its problematic and strained last act.

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