The Playlist

SXSW '12 Review: Celebrity, Notoriety & Living In Public As 'Frankie Go Boom'

  • By James Rocchi
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  • March 11, 2012 3:10 PM
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  • 1 Comment
"Frankie Go Boom" opens with a home video from a long-ago washed-out suburban childhood, as Bruce tricks his brother Frankie into a pitfall prank that's both caught on tape and a trap for the two of them; flashing forward to adulthood -- or something like it -- Frankie (Charlie Hunnam) has exiled himself from everything, holing up in Death Valley to write. And Bruce (Chris O'Dowd, with a solidly American accent) is just getting out of rehab, convinced that the 'films' he makes -- really, just footage -- of disasters like the one that befell Frankie's wedding three years ago, mean he's a director, what with their huge online 'hit' numbers …

SXSW '12 Review: Melissa Leo Shines In Minutely Observed, Minimalist 'Francine'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • March 11, 2012 2:14 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Evoking films like "Winter's Bone" and "Wendy and Lucy" in presenting a sparse, narrowly focused portrait of a lone female protagonist in adverse, not to say desperate circumstances, "Francine" is the kind of small film made for the festival circuit, and for which the festival circuit was made. It is no less reliant on a powerhouse central performance than its aforementioned forebears, if anything more so, as here extraneous detail is pared back almost to the point of nonexistence, leaving Melissa Leo front and center of every scene. It is a testament to her absolutely definitive portrayal that one simply cannot imagine what the film might have looked like with anyone else in the role. Some elegant framing and photography aside, the film lives and dies on her performance, and this being Leo, at her most vanity-less and instinctive, it mostly lives.

SXSW '12 Review: 'Tchoupitoulas' Is An Experimental, Dreamy Melange Of The Sights & Sounds Of New Orleans

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • March 11, 2012 2:02 PM
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  • 0 Comments
"Tchoupitoulas” is a documentary that doesn’t feel like a documentary – and that’s a good thing. This portrait of the famed New Orleans street is more of an experience, a sensation, a mood that washes over you. The new film from the Ross Brothers (Bill and Turner) is another step forward in their continued experimentation with documentary storytelling and expressiveness through film form. They shot footage over seven months in the city, capturing the essence of the town before they met three brothers, whose one wild night of prowling the town frames the story of this experience. The result is a dreamy melange of sound, light and color that gives you a taste of the gumbo pot that is the vibrant, unique city of New Orleans captured from the perspective of childlike wonder.

SXSW '12 Review: 'Sinister' Starring Ethan Hawke Is A Satisfying Old-School Horror, But Lacks Resonance

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • March 11, 2012 8:18 AM
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  • 2 Comments
As a horror movie that’s incredibly effective and yet evaporates pretty quickly once it’s over, Scott Derrickson’s “Sinister” defines the difference between "scary" and "haunting." Truthfully it’s a balance of a lot of things – ghost story versus murder mystery, found-footage “realism” versus pure fiction, theatricality versus raw emotion – but it exemplifies an era in which audiences, much less filmmakers, no longer distinguish between suspense and terror, which is why their payoffs work twice as brilliantly but linger half as long. Overproduced but occasionally deeply powerful, “Sinister” is a satisfying old-school thrill ride whose muscle eventually overpowers its brain.

SXSW '12 Review: 'Killer Joe' A Terrific Texan Tale With A Revelatory Matthew McConaughey Turn

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • March 11, 2012 12:45 AM
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  • 2 Comments
In recent years, film translations of stage hits haven't been as prevalent as they once were. You might get the occasional "Doubt" or "Rabbit Hole," for instance, but compared to the early days of the talkies, when a large proportion of movies were based on Broadway hits, it's been slim pickings; audiences and critics have learned that most attempts at stage-to-screen translation fail to make the material truly cinematic.

SXSW '12 Review: Director Jay Chandrasekhar's Tentative Sincerity Steps Undermined In Uneven, Sophomoric 'Babymakers'

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • March 11, 2012 12:23 AM
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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.

SXSW '12 Review: Todd Rohal's Third Feature 'Nature Calls' Is A Dull, Droning Wrong Number

  • By James Rocchi
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  • March 10, 2012 10:37 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Curiously squandering an immensely talented cast, Todd Rohal's "Nature Calls," written when the writer-director lived in Austin, had more humor and humanity and life in its 10-minute post-screening talk here at SXSW than it showed in its previous 98-minute running time. Starring Patton Oswalt and Johnny Knoxville as brothers -- in clear refutation of all we know about genetics -- "Nature Calls" pits Oswalt's dedicated scoutmaster, eager to take his scoutmaster father on one last camping trip, against Knoxville's black sheep son. You can imagine this premise leading to all kinds of hilarity.

SXSW '12 Review: 'Safety Not Guaranteed' A Grounded, Genuine, Oddly Effective Charmer

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • March 10, 2012 9:55 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Although at this point there are way too many stories about quirky man-children and the women who love them, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is an oddly effective little charmer. A film that harkens back to the magical-realism adventures of the 1980s rather than the twee dollhouse making of the last decade, Colin Trevorrow’s tale of a trio of journalists who investigate a personals ad from an oddball requesting a partner in a time-travel experiment is far more grounded, genuine, and moving than its conceit suggests. At the same time, there’s little that’s especially new or original about “Safety Not Guaranteed,” but it ekes out a victory over so much of its indie-darling competition simply by following through on the ideas it introduces.

SXSW '12 Review: 'God Bless America' A Funny, Insightful & Outrageous Indictment Of Contemporary Culture

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • March 10, 2012 12:01 AM
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  • 5 Comments
At the movies, righteous anger is in painfully short supply these days, but writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait manages to harness all of his (and more than a little bit of ours) in “God Bless America,” a scathingly funny indictment of the vagaries of contemporary U.S. culture. Compiling an encyclopedic list of offenses unleashed upon the world through the entertainment industry, the pretense of political discourse, and the increasing indignities of human interaction, Goldthwait crafts a revenge fantasy that’s smart, specific, and imminently sympathetic, even when its characters retaliate in admittedly extreme or inappropriate ways. Desperate for a time before TMZ without purely succumbing to rose-colored nostalgia, “God Bless America” is a twisted but troublingly accurate chronicle of contemporary inhumanity, viewed through the eyes of a man no longer capable of ironic detachment.

SXSW '12 Review: 'The Cabin In The Woods' Is A Smart, Witty Blast For Genre Fans

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • March 9, 2012 9:45 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Almost no genre (bar perhaps the romantic-comedy) revolves around formula as heavily as the horror film. Obviously there are sub-categories: the haunted-house film, the zombie flick, the vampire movie. But a disproportionate amount of the involves a group of horny teens going to a remote location, taking off clothes, making stupid decisions, and getting picked off one by one, whether by a man in a mask, or by some kind of supernatural creature or force. So on hearing the title, and indeed basic premise, of "The Cabin In The Woods," it's hard not to be a little downhearted. Is this the same old cheapo horror flick we've seen dozens, if not hundreds of times?

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