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The Playlist

TIFF Review: Goran Paskaljevic's 'When Day Breaks' Is Well Shot, But Overly Sentimental

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • September 12, 2012 10:00 AM
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  • 4 Comments
“With this film, I’ve attempted to do something very complicated,” says Goran Paskaljevic during his introduction to the screening of "When Day Breaks." “To make a simple film.” One of Serbia’s most prominent filmmakers, Paskaljevic’s films have been premiering at TIFF since the 90s, and his brand new one, about a 70-year-old man learning about his true identity, follows suit. Believing that nowadays world cinema is lacking in emotion and true feeling, the director hopes that "When Day Breaks" will prove different. This envelope of hope however, was pushed too far.

TIFF Review: 'Song For Marion' Hits A Predictable, But Sour Note

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 12, 2012 9:00 AM
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  • 0 Comments
There is a certain strain of mid-budgeted British comedy -- films like "Calendar Girls," "Made In Dagenham," "Greenfingers," "The Full Monty" etc. -- that generally tends to find an audience on both sides of the ocean, make a modest profit, and then land on specialty cable where it lives on in reruns forever. They all have the easily recognizable stock characters, follow a famililar arc and culminate in manufactured emotion designed to make you feel good. And while it's hard to fault a film for being exactly what it sets out to be and nothing more, there is something almost offensive about how inoffensive the template guiding "Song For Marion" is.

TIFF Review: 'Great Expectations' Is A Handsome But Stodgy Literary Adaptation

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • September 12, 2012 12:02 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Adapted a dozen times for television and film (most memorably by David Lean back in 1946), the Charles Dickens classic "Great Expectations" is a tale ripe with thematic undercurrents, one that is more-than-ready for reinvention, interpretation, and reconfiguration. Sadly, no one told this to the makers of the new "Great Expectations" (among them writer David Nicholls and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" director Mike Newell) a stodgy staging of the original text that benefits from occasionally lively characterizations but very little in the way of effervescent freshness, which is desperately vital to a story that has been told so many damn times.

TIFF Review: 'A Late Quartet' Is A Soap Opera Symphony That Hits All The Wrong Notes

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 11, 2012 6:28 PM
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  • 7 Comments
Certainly, if a film pulls together a cast that includes Philip Seymour Hoffmam, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener, there's going to be something worth enjoying. And indeed, the trio give top shelf performances as we've always come to expect from them in "A Late Quartet." But it's just too bad that they're in service of Yaron Zilberman's film, which takes the unique focus of a string quartet in Manhattan, and puts it in the middle of a standard and unsatisfying soap opera, that spins off into one subplot too many.

TIFF Review: Unnerving ‘Lords of Salem’ Is Rob Zombie’s Best Film Yet

  • By Simon Abrams
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  • September 11, 2012 2:10 PM
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  • 18 Comments
“The Lords of Salem” is probably goth rocker-turned-filmmaker Rob Zombie’s best film, though it does often prove that the cinephile writer/director is a gifted tyro. At the same time, as his most formally mannered and tonally tempered film, Zombie’s latest also proves his versatility. Set in modern-day Salem, Massachusetts, the film follows the seduction of a disc jockey (Sheri Moon Zombie, Rob’s wife), whose family was cursed by a coven of centuries-old witches.

TIFF Review: 'Mr. Pip' Features A Fine Hugh Laurie Performance, But Fails On Most Other Levels

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • September 11, 2012 9:20 AM
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  • 1 Comment
From Andrew Adamson, the director who brought us the first two "Shrek" and "Narnia" movies, "Mr. Pip" is a rather feeble attempt at more serious subject matter than talking lions and animated ogres. A literary adaptation of a coming-of-age story, with links to Charles Dickens’ classic "Great Expectations," the film leaves you with the wish that Adamson would stick to fantasy -- at least in that world there’s some fun to be found.

TIFF Review: 'Arthur Newman' An Intentionally Listless Story About A Boring Everyman

  • By Simon Abrams
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  • September 11, 2012 9:00 AM
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  • 5 Comments
What if we are all Arthur Newman? This is the question that director Dante Ariola and screenwriter Becky Johnston beg in "Arthur Newman," their tepid, imaginatively uninvolved drama about two strangers that fall in love while trying to escape their banal past lives. Ariola and Johnston’s film follows a rag-tag couple, played by Colin Firth and Emily Blunt, who bond when they discover that they both want to run away from their respective families and create new lives for themselves. But because "Arthur Newman" is a drab, psychologically flat portrait of misfit lovers in the process of self-fashioning new identities, we never really learn who its two main characters aspire to be or in what new direction they want to take their lives.

TIFF Review: Overwrought 'The Impossible' Drowns In A Sea Of Melodrama

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 10, 2012 6:01 PM
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  • 16 Comments
If "The Impossible" moves viewers to do anything, it may be to upgrade their life insurance policy to cover injuries due to tsunami. Because as we watch the Bennett family get whisked away by helipcopter at the end of the film to the facilities of a hospital in Singapore, leaving the tragedy of the 2004 tsunami beneath them, all we could wonder is how everybody else in those dire circumstances are coping. Following a wealthy family who encounter undeniable hardship, they are also blessed with the kind of luck that only happens in the movies. Except as director Juan Antonio Bayona takes great pains tell us, this is Based On A True Story (with the words "true story" then left to linger on their own before the movie begins). And while that may (almost) forgive some of the more happenstance developments in the film, it doesn't excuse the overbearing emotion and narrow focus of this overwrought picture.

Review: 'Branded' Is An Incomprehensible Sci-Fi Mash-Up That Thinks It's Much More Clever Than It Actually Is

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • September 10, 2012 3:55 PM
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  • 2 Comments
The trailers for “Branded” promise a kind of the-world-is-not-what-it-seems science fiction head-turner in the vein of “The Matrix,” with an emphasis on the cultural fixation around name brands. They tantalizingly teased: What if, instead of giving you pleasure, those same brands were feeding off of you, in the most vile and sinister ways? Well, it turns out that the movie isn’t really about that. Instead, it’s about that and a whole bunch of other stuff, with filmmakers too undisciplined and untalented to either synthesize those ideas into a coherent plot nor the technical proficiency to pull it off with any kind of “well, at least it looks cool” finesse. The result isn’t just a muddled, unfocused, bloated mess - it’s a boring muddled, unfocused, bloated mess.

TIFF Review: Bloodless 'Byzantium' A Vampire Tale Without Fangs

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 10, 2012 12:29 PM
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  • 5 Comments
Between "Twilight" on the big screen, and "True Blood" and "Vampire Diaries" on the cable dial, among countless other books, graphic novels and more, if you're a fan of bloodsuckers, there's likely a flavor out there for you. And with countless other projects in the pipeline from Will Smith's directorial debut "The Redemption Of Cain" to Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive," there are still more versions of this undead character on the way. But let's just hope they are more involving and creative than Neil Jordan's "Byzantium." The director's second bite into the genre following "Interview With The Vampire" is disappointingly bloodless (figuratively) and fangless (literally).

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