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The Playlist

TIFF Review: Tommy Lee Jones Shines In Otherwise Serviceable, Flawed 'Emperor'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 15, 2012 8:18 AM
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  • 1 Comment
"We must be seen as liberators, not conquerors," Tommy Lee Jones' crusty General MacArthur says in the opening moments of "Emperor," and that line of dialogue is about as thematically rich as the film gets. A modestly budgeted, respectfully executed post-WWII drama, the film is also entirely edgeless, and aside from a couple of swear words is ready to be shown in classrooms and on the History Channel in endless repeats. As a big-screen outing, it's a very minor war film, that traps one actor in a miscalculated character and doesn't give us enough of another, who is clearly the best thing in the picture overall.

Review: 'Snowman's Land' A Mildly Entertaining Hitman Farce

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • September 14, 2012 5:10 PM
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  • 0 Comments
It’s the folksy guitar score that early on reveals that the poker face of Tomasz Thomson’s “Snowman’s Land” is a put-on. First, it’s the twinkly strumming over scenes of muted violence, and then monotonous boredom, that reveals that “Snowman’s Land” wants you to like it, it wants you to consider that this might be a genius low key comedy: a contemporary hip hop mixing of one guitar theme helps illuminate this clearer. It’s a fairly inorganic request from a film like this, one which, when it works, affects a faint smile at best. But it’s a small world, and there simply isn’t a lot of room for that many quiet German hitman comedies. There’s no harm in picking this moment to grade on a curve.
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TIFF Review: Penn Badgley Is Solid In Otherwise Uneven 'Greetings From Tim Buckley'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 14, 2012 4:09 PM
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  • 3 Comments
While the film might not be quite as sweet and heady as drinking a glass of lilac wine, Penn Badgley's performance in "Greetings From Tim Buckley" does justice to the late Jeff Buckley, while also revealing that the "Gossip Girl" star has quite a few more talents than he's thus far been given credit for. But his swoop of wild hair and impressive vocal theatrics aside, the rest of the movie around him tells a trio of stories that never quite unite to land the emotional connection they're aiming for. 

Watch: Red Band Trailer for 'The Oranges' Starring Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener & Leighton Meester

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • September 13, 2012 10:43 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Featuring an ensemble cast, suburban setting, and humorous holiday shenanigans, “The Oranges” seemed initially to be heading toward “Christmas With The Kranks” territory as it approached its TIFF premiere last year. However, since the project's 2008 Black List inclusion by writers Jay Reiss and Ian Helfer, a steady buzz has grown into the film's well-received screenings and recent first trailer, and now comes an opportunity to see Allison Janney cut loose in the film's red-band offering.

TIFF Review: 'Free Angela & All Political Prisoners' A Fascinating Chronicle Of Justice & Strength

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 12, 2012 4:27 PM
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  • 1 Comment
"Black power means dignity," is a phrase that lingers from Shola Lynch's documentary about activist and scholar Angela Davis. And dignity is just one of the many qualities that one can attach to Davis, a bold and powerful figure whose own battle for justice and freedom is chronicled in "Free Angela & All Political Prisoners." A fascinating slice out of a turbulent time in an American history, this detailed doc is a compelling portrait of a legal case that found activism, politics, freedom of speech and more all dovetailing together into an event that not only captured the attention of the nation, but of people worldwide.

Review: 'Finding Nemo 3D' Is A Freshly Dimensionalized Take On A Certifiable Pixar Classic

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • September 12, 2012 11:00 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Last fall's surprise smash rerelease of Disney's "The Lion King," a gimmicky two-week promotional stunt designed sell the movie's Blu-ray release that turned into an extended, nearly $100-million-grossing juggernaut, opened the floodgates for 3D animated rereleases. There are two planned for the back end of this year alone: in December, Disney and Pixar will release "Monsters Inc." back into theaters in stereoscopic 3D, in part to promote the sequel due in theaters next summer. And this month sees the rerelease of "Finding Nemo," Andrew Stanton's maritime marvel, now with fish that really float in front of you. Just like in the case with "The Lion King" last year, the storytelling strength of the actual movie surpasses any amount of added technological wizardry.

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.

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