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The Playlist

Review: 'Hit And Run' Would Be A Fun Action Comedy If It Weren't For All That Comedy

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • August 22, 2012 2:02 PM
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  • 3 Comments
The fact that Charlie Bronson is the name of Dax Shepherd’s protagonist in the Shepherd-co-directed, Shepherd-written and Shepherd-starring “Hit and Run” tells you everything you need to know about the film. Particularly considering the film’s Bronson, a former getaway driver in deep trouble with a colorful gang of criminals, isn’t even using his real name. No, Bronson is the name he chose to gift himself upon entering witness protection, feeling his own name was unsatisfactorily macho. It’s also a reference upon a reference upon a reference -- he’s chosen to name himself after the British criminal who renamed himself Charles Bronson, whom we’ve already seen in the film “Bronson.”

Review: 'Samsara' Tells The Story Of Our World With Stunning Visuals & Spiritual Heft

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • August 22, 2012 10:56 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Just what is a non-verbal documentary anyway? If you appreciated the silent visual storytelling of "The Artist" or the cinematic majesty of Terrence Malick's nature cinematography in "The Tree of Life," or, if you're a fan of the cult 1992 documentary "Baraka," you'll be a fan of "Samsara," the latest effort from that film's director, Ron Fricke. Using the Tibetan word for "the ever turning wheel of life" as its title, the film chronicles the birth, life, death, destruction and rebirth cycles that occur on our planet in ways big and small.
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Review: The 'Little White Lies' That Bind Are Explored In This Leisurely Gallic Dramedy

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • August 21, 2012 5:01 PM
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  • 3 Comments
The nature of what keeps a long-term friendship together over the years is somewhat ephemeral. There is the trust and confidence that comes with knowing someone intimately, seeing them at their best and worst, and being there for them without judgment. But it's also built on shared values, small moments and significant times shared, building a collective history that binds dates and places with deep emotional resonance. But, everyone also has their secrets, and even the best of friends will often keep their own fears or secret desires to themselves, not only for the sake of a friendship but for their own private reasons as well. Now take all of that and multiply it a few times for a circle of friends, who have know each other for years and are now in their mid-thirties and you enter the world of Guillaume Canet's "Little White Lies," a sprawling dramedy that follows a few weeks in the lives of a close knit group going through some monumental changes.

Review: 'The Revenant' Is A Topical Horror-Lover's Dream

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • August 21, 2012 1:02 PM
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  • 2 Comments
The point of using horror films as allegory, political or otherwise, is twofold. There are the obvious benefits of allegorizing, which allow you to disguise your intentions using coded language, cinematic or otherwise. And then there’s the genre sledgehammer, which comes down with righteous anger, coating the topic in sticky gore, surrounding it with stacks of disembodied heads, and, for those who aren’t squeamish, illuminating the filmmaker’s point of view by rendering it actively unpleasant, and therefore impossible to ignore. In this fashion, few could have predicted that one of the most vital films about our post-9/11 occupation of the Middle East would be Kerry Prior’s inventive, disgusting, and unsettling “The Revenant.”

MIFF '12 Reviews: Miguel Gomes' 'Tabu' & Kim Nguyen's 'War Witch'

  • By Simon Dang
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  • August 20, 2012 2:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Gomes' Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear winner is an evocative, lyrical two-chapter love story separated by decades and continents that transcends what initially seems to be nothing more than an experiment in style over substance. Beginning in modern day-ish Lisbon, we are introduced to Aurora, an old woman mentally and physical deteriorating, in an equally frightening and hilarious performance by Laura Soveral. On her death bed, Aurora mentions a lover's name which is written off by two companions (her maid and an empathetic neighbour) as nonsense but, upon discovery of this man's actual existence and his arrival to the hospital, the film transports into a dreamy, fairytale-like flashback to the pair's African-set romance that audaciously couples the existing black and white, 4:3 and 16mm photography with a world where there's little-to-no spoken dialogue and narrated by Gian Luca (Carlotta Cotta with v.o. by Gomes himself) -- a character abrutly introduced only seconds before.

Review: Love In Israel Has No Easy Answers In 'The Matchmaker'

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • August 17, 2012 3:30 PM
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  • 1 Comment
There is a colloquialism particular to Israel – “sabra” – which denotes a prickly, weathered desert plant sporting a tough exterior but a soft and sweet interior. More curious is how this word has been put to use – as a distinction between the native-born Israeli and immigrants communicating in heavily accented Hebrew, their emotional and cultural baggage forever trailing behind them. The children of Holocaust survivors who’d journeyed to Israel were born Sabras and they would live out their childhoods in the shadow of their parents' great cataclysm.
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Review: ‘The Master’ Proves A Brave, Sensual Yet Detached Triumph For Paul Thomas Anderson

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • August 17, 2012 7:32 AM
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  • 25 Comments
Even amongst its most wrenching scenes of unfettered anger and broken loyalty, a volatile sensuality nonetheless invades every frame of Paul Thomas Anderson’s arresting “The Master.” Populated by characters certain in their sexual and loving instincts yet stubborn in claiming responsibility for them, the film holds an unseen, persuasive force just off-screen to keep each on edge, never fully comfortable in their own skin. However, while the film’s narrative may point to faith as a cause and cure, the end result focuses instead on the reverberating pain in one’s past, and the oblique, often-maddening ways it manifests in the present through incredible performances and direction.

Review: Disappointing 'Robot & Frank' Is High Concept Sci-Fi That's Low On Ideas

  • By Cory Everett
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  • August 16, 2012 3:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
In recent years, Sundance has been hit with a handful of smart science fiction films tackling large themes within an extremely limited scope. From the $7,000 “Primer” to the $5 million “Moon,” their respective filmmakers managed to put forth some interesting ideas without being hindered creatively by their minimal budgets. Last year’s breakout, “Another Earth,” may have suffered a bit from its great premise being pushed perhaps too far into the background of an otherwise standard grief drama. But it’s always a compromise between the resources that are available and how much of the hardware must actually be shown onscreen to create a believable world set in an alternate present or distant future. Arriving at a decision on what to cut and what needs to be shown must be agony for those films hoping to achieve any kind of scope. But in the best cases, smart filmmakers can use these restrictions to their advantage helping the films get their ideas across in the leanest way possible. This year’s sci-fi Sundance entry was “Robot & Frank,” a high concept, low-key heist film set in the near future.

Review: 'Painted Skin: The Resurrection' Spotlights Imaginative Special Effects In Derivative Story

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • August 16, 2012 11:00 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Today’s generation of filmgoers and filmmakers forget that at the very heart of the first cinematic techniques known as “special effects,” there was a shade of mystery and mysticism as well. This otherworldliness made visual sleight of hand seem like an extra-sensory experience, allowing films to transport the viewer into another realm. However, the proliferation of computers and CGI, and the ease of which such imagery could be achieved, created something of a dulling-down of sensibilities. Now, thanks to a decade of DVD armchair critics, if a “special effect” doesn’t approach real world “plausibility” (those dragon scales have to resemble the features of a lizard!) it somehow doesn’t pass muster. Yesterday’s mysticism is today’s manufactured reality.
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Review: Rebecca Hall Chiller 'The Awakening' Is Flawed, But Also Kind Of A Blast

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 16, 2012 10:01 AM
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  • 2 Comments
All too often, the horror genre is at the less respectable end of the critical spectrum, with cheap, gory exploitation fare designed to bring in hordes of teenagers on opening weekend, and not do much beyond that. But there have been exceptions over the years, in the form of a classier kind of scare fest, a tradition that goes back to films like "The Innocents," and that is currently kept alive by international filmmakers like Guillermo Del Toro, Alejandro Amenabar and Juan Antonio Bayona.

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