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The Playlist

Review: 'Total Recall' A Derivative, Dim & Substance-Free Remake

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • August 2, 2012 8:00 AM
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  • 9 Comments
A pastiche of almost too many movies to count as a remake of just one, “Total Recall” is mindless, middling fare that fails to utilize – much less expand – the provocative concepts at the core of its iconic 1990 predecessor. Len Wiseman, whose “Die Hard” sequel effectively betrayed every one of the central tenets of that franchise (save for the casting of Bruce Willis), applies his personality-free technical proficiency to a re-imagining whose focus on what’s cool in the moment consistently undermines what any of it collectively means, not to mention why the hell audiences should care. Passable but uninspiring except for a standout performance from the never-better Jessica Biel, “Total Recall” plays directly into the hands of metaphor-wielding critics eager to highlight how a movie about a man recovering his memory can manage to be quite so forgettable.

Review: Director Jay Chandrasekhar's Tentative Sincerity Steps Undermined In Uneven, Sophomoric 'The Babymakers'

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • August 1, 2012 5:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
If you thought that “Knocked Up” was too mature a take on impending fatherhood, then “Babymakers” just might be the movie for you. Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, it follows the comical misadventures of a husband who is reluctant to discover whether or not his sperm is “confused” – and if so, how he’ll handle getting his wife pregnant. Marginally more sophisticated than Chandrasekhar’s efforts with the comedy troupe Broken Lizard, “Babymakers” starts off solidly before getting sidetracked by set pieces that take over the entire narrative – and ultimately reveal how little of one there was in the first place.

Review: 'Celeste And Jesse Forever' A Charming Tale Of Romance & Heartbreak In The Vein Of 'When Harry Met Sally'

  • By William Goss
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  • August 1, 2012 3:33 PM
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  • 0 Comments
If "(500) Days of Summer" is bound to be considered this generation’s "Annie Hall" (not its equal, mind you, but its closest equivalent), then it’s fair to claim that "Celeste and Jesse Forever" follows in the footsteps of "When Harry Met Sally," picking up where that film ended and proceeding to chronicle similar ups and downs in a close friendship verging on – or, rather, retreating from – full-blown romance.

Fantasia '12 Reviews: 'We Are Legion,' 'Alter Egos' & 'Nameless Gangster'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 31, 2012 11:02 AM
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  • 0 Comments
"We Are Legion: The Story Of Hacktavists" (dir. Brian Knappenberger, 2011) One of the greatest changes to activism in recent memory is the power of social media and the internet to mobilize, disseminate and even enact protest actions on a massive scale, all with the click of a mouse. As we have seen in events from the Arab Spring, Twitter and Facebook played huge roles for the citizens of those countries to both communicate with the outside world and organize their efforts. And while that might be the most high-profile example of the power of the online world to make massive change, moving much more below the radar are the loose knit, leaderless group of activists explored in "We Are Legion: The Story Of Hacktavists," a compelling, if wholly one-sided look at the rise of internet protest.

Review: Fernando Meirelles' International Love Story '360' May Leave His Fans Heartbroken

  • By Cory Everett
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  • July 31, 2012 10:01 AM
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  • 0 Comments
In a photo studio in Vienna, a sleazy photographer (Johannes Krisch) is coaxing a young Slovakian woman, Mirkha (Lucia Siposová), into posing for her first nude pictures. We soon find out this man is also a pimp, and the pictures are for luring clients on the internet. Her younger sister Anna (Gabriela Marcinkova) tries to persuade her to reconsider but Mirkha has her mind made up. She needs the money and wants to change her life. Her sister intones through darkly humorous voiceover, “If there’s a fork in the road, take it.” It’s a highly provocative opening for what ends up being just a so-so anthology of interwoven tales, even though director Fernando Meirelles ("City Of God," “The Constant Gardener”) assembles an impressive international cast for stories spanning Vienna, Paris, London, Bratislava, Rio, Denver and Phoenix.

Review: 'Gerhard Richter Painting' An Uneven Portrait Of Process & Fame

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 28, 2012 4:38 PM
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  • 1 Comment
If one were to compare Corinna Belz's "Gerhard Richter Painting" to music documentaries, it would fall somewhere between Sam Jones' "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" and Grant Gee's "Meeting People Is Easy." Eschewing the standard biographical framework, the film instead offers up a slice-of-life look at the 79-year-old artist that largely forgoes any context (for better or worse) as it dips into the banality of various show openings (like the Radiohead doc) and the fascinating method he uses to create his work (like the Wilco film). But unlike those aforementioned movies, if you don't know anything about the life and career of Gerhard Richter, your appreciation of what's captured will vary.

Review: Danny Boyle's Witty, Subversive & Spectacular Opening Ceremony For London 2012 Olympics Was A Triumph

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • July 28, 2012 10:57 AM
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  • 38 Comments
We're not known for our love of sporting events here at The Playlist, but ever since it was announced that Danny Boyle would be the man in charge of the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics (following in the footsteps of "Hero" director Zhang Yimou, who shepherded the Beijing events), we've been intrigued. After all, Boyle, as a recent Oscar winner for "Slumdog Millionaire," is a serious A-lister now, and could get any film he wanted made. And while he's kept his oar in, shooting thriller "Trance," with James McAvoy, last year (he'll finish post-production on it once the Olympics are done), it did mean giving over a year or so of his life to the event at a time when he's never had more cachet.

Fantasia '12 Review: 'Toad Road' A Captivating Micro-Budget Horror Film

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • July 27, 2012 11:03 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Screwing with genre in a similar way that micro-budget relative Aaron Katz does, Jason Banker's "Toad Road" is an off-putting horror tale that abstains from the easy routes its kin generally take. We're first introduced to James (James Davidson) as he awakens in a niveous woodland, isolated and curiously disheveled. It's a crafty opening, establishing a certain uneasiness with an enduring take shot from afar. He manages to hail down a ride, but despite the stranger's prodding at why the man was out in the middle of nowhere alone, the protagonist keeps a lid on it.

Review: 'Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry' Charts The Rise Of A Multimedia Artist

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • July 26, 2012 6:58 PM
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  • 0 Comments
If you were not familiar with the multimedia artist Ai Weiwei, the title of the new documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” would almost seem like a countercultural taunt, perhaps with a hip-hop undercurrent. The reference is apt in regards to his art, which is at turns edgy agitprop and charmingly cheeky, much like the boundary stretching of early rap music. And with his moony eyes and mischievous grin, Ai Weiwei would not be out-of-place next to the politically-charged likes of the young Run DMC, or even Afrika Bambaataa.

Review: ‘The Watch’ Is A Lifeless Sci-Fi Comedy With Moments Of Spirited Improv

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • July 26, 2012 5:43 PM
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  • 4 Comments
From the outside, 20th Century Fox's comedy "The Watch" seems to have its cup runneth over with the talent at its disposal. The film stars the quartet of Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and celebrated British director/writer/comedian Richard Ayoade (director of “Submarine”). It's directed by Akiva Schaffer, the talented young filmmaker behind SNL's Digital Shorts -- arguably the only thing keeping the show relevant for the last five years -- and the screenwriters are "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express" scribes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. And with appearances by Will Forte, Billy Crudup, a quick Lonely Island group cameo and more, everything seems to be stacked in this comedy’s favor. But try as they might, this collective wattage of talented funny people are lost within a lifeless, tepid and uninspired comedy.

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