The Playlist

Review: 'Friends With Kids' Is, Sadly, A Conventional Look At Unconventional Relationships

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • March 8, 2012 2:58 PM
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  • 3 Comments
The concept of the nuclear family has become something of an outdated notion. With children now found in a wide array of living situations -- single parents, gay parents, adoptions, etc. -- the "ideal" of a child being raised by a mommy and a daddy is shifting, with a newer idea of just two good parents -- whomever they may be -- being of the utmost importance. The film world is slowly beginning to recognize and write stories that reflect the changing times. Of course, "The Kids Are All Right" is one of the best movies to present an unconventional family, while "The Switch" represents what happens when you try to approach this kind of thematic material without anything to say. Jennifer Westfeldt's ("Kissing Jessica Stein") latest effort behind the camera, "Friends With Kids," finds the actress/writer/director oscillating between an intelligent look at modern relationships and a conventional rom-com, to mixed results.

Review: 'Jiro Dreams Of Sushi' A Fascinating (If Sometimes Jarring) Profile Of A Master Chef

  • By Simon Abrams
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  • March 6, 2012 4:01 PM
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There’s something weirdly off-putting about the music cues in "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," a documentary-cum-character study of an 85-year-old sushi “shokunin” or craftsman. Octogenarian Jiro Ono is the cheeriest of workaholics. He can’t imagine retiring, at least not until he’s either too ugly or too infirm to serve his patrons. Simply put, Ono loves his demanding job as the head chef at Sukiyabashi Jiro, his own 10-seat, Ginza-based sushi bar. Sukiyabashi Jiro is the smallest restaurant to be given a three-star rating by the Michelin Guide.

Review: 'Convento' Is An Intriguing & Moving Look At Art And Life

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • March 6, 2012 1:05 PM
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The Zwanikken clan story is not your Daddy’s family tales. Back in 1980 Geraldine and Kees (ballerina and photographer respectively) needed a creative spark to their battery, and together with their two children (Christiaan and Louis) they abandoned Holland for a decrepit convent in a remote Portuguese village, rebuilding the monastery as both a home and workshop for their varying endeavors. Situated between two rivers, the building's water wheel was put back to use and the land was soon fit to live off. Their work in art continued, with Christiaan following in their footsteps (unlike his sibling, Louis, a quieter lad who enjoys giving tours around the compound and writing poetry) in a unique way -- using junk electronics and the skeletons of long-gone animals, the deceased creature is reborn mechanically and controlled by computers, ranging from a donkey that moves water between two points and a bird that sings eerie tunes. This work has been part of various exhibitions all over the world, and the "biomechanoid zoologist" splits his time between the convent and studios in both Amsterdam and NYC.

Review: 'Attenberg' Is A Strange And Unique Experience

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • March 6, 2012 12:04 PM
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Thanks to the hard-working welcoming committee of Athina Rachel Tsangari's "Attenberg," we are at first introduced to a white wall, where cracks and stains abound. Two young women, Marina (Ariane Labed) and Bella (Evangelina Randou, "Kinetta") dip into the frame, briefly conversing before launching into an unattractive and aggressive tongue union. They detach, with Bella asking if Marina would like to continue her lesson -- but the student claims to no longer have any "spit left." Smelling bullshit from a mile away, Bella teases her but is unsuccessful in her attempt to persuade her friend to resume education. Instead, they get on all fours and act like animals, swiping at one another before finally walking out of the shot. We're left, again, with that bland wall, only now the camera has pulled out a bit further to reveal some small windows and not-particularly-healthy grass. Only one question remains in our heads -- what the hell are the independent Greek filmmakers smoking?

Review: 'Silent House' Manages Some Surrealistic Thrills Inside Some Rigid Technical Restraints

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • March 6, 2012 10:01 AM
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"Silent House" has a nifty hook – it's being billed as a "real time" (probably not) horror movie filled in a single, unified shot (again: there are eight separate shots, but that's still pretty impressive). In a way it's a stylish extension of the current found footage craze, as we're locked into a single character (played, with believable intensity, by Elizabeth Olsen) as she scurries around a dilapidated lake house, but it also allows for far more flowery filmmaking (particularly in the film's freaky final act). What makes "Silent House" such an exceptional little genre treat is that, locked into a very rigid technical framework, filmmakers Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, have gone out of their way to make a genuinely scary, occasionally surreal, intensely imaginative thriller. What could have simply been an exercise ends up being truly engaging.

Review: 'Holy Rollers' A Compelling Doc About A Group Of Blackjack Playing Christians

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • March 5, 2012 11:02 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The word of the Bible versus its actual intent has been the manna for religious leaders and their followers for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The result has been interpretations that run the gamut from the radical, to the conservative to the open-ended. But for most Christians, their concerns with the Bible and how it applies to their runs to the purely practical, and within those pages they seek guidance on how to navigate the murky waters of everyday life. A relationship with God is a constant negotiation, and the documentary "Holy Rollers: The True Story Of Card Counting Christians" (not to be confused with the Jesse Eisenberg movie of the same name) is fascinating look a group of young Christians who embark on a seemingly very un-Christian endeavor.
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Review: Taika Waititi's 'Boy' A Whimsical & Unique Coming-Of-Age Tale From New Zealand

  • By John Lichman
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  • March 3, 2012 9:29 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Taika Waititi’s whimsical, sophomore effort “Boy” is a coming-of age tale that drops us into 1984, and follows the titular Boy (James Rolleston), named after his absentee father, Alamein (Waititi). He lives with his grandmother, younger brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) and four cousins who act as adorable window dressing around their rundown farm. When his grandmother leaves for a funeral, Alamein -- newly freed from prison -- returns to their home with two hooligans in tow to crash, with plans to find a pile of money he buried years earlier. Meanwhile, Boy hopes that with his father back in his life, he will take them away and they can be a family.
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Review: 'Being Flynn' With Paul Dano & Robert De Niro Is A Checklist Of Narrative Shortcuts

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • March 1, 2012 5:58 PM
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  • 4 Comments
What's in a title? There's something both extremely specific and entirely universal about the one for "Another Bullshit Night In Suck City," an autobiographical book from Nick Flynn, suggesting everyday life becoming a Moebius strip of inevitability in the futile search for truth. In its film form, however, 'Suck City' has instead become "Being Flynn," which, aside from commercial suicide, means next to nothing after watching the film either. Most of this has to do with the fact that Nick Flynn, the casual junkie and sometimes poet layabout who somewhat accidentally finds his voice as a writer, is a fairly unremarkable, uninteresting guy.

Review: 'Project X' A Wild Party That Can't Sustain The Buzz

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • March 1, 2012 5:05 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Despite the plodding narrative veering wildly between stagnant humor and maudlin interjections, Todd Phillips’ "Due Date" demonstrates in one scene both the appeal and increasingly mean-spirited worldview that the filmmaker has traded in following the success of "The Hangover." It comes when Robert Downey Jr., provoked repeatedly by a bratty child, unleashes a swift punch out of nowhere to his gut, a calm look of manic glee in the actor’s eye as the boy crumples to the floor.

Review: 'The Salt Of Life' Is A Breezy, Charming Comedy About Growing Old

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • March 1, 2012 4:14 PM
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  • 0 Comments
To be sure, Grampa Simpson would be conflicted with “The Salt of Life.” On the one hand, he’d certainly appreciate that Gianni, the recently retired protagonist of the film, is by no means vibrant or fun loving (even if he is lovable), and he’s clearly a bit resentful and bitter with the natural passing of time. But on the other, one could easily describe Gianni as the kind of ubiquitous “sex maniac” he complains of in the quote above, from a Season 1 episode. Whether Abe would approve or not, though, we found this breezy, but never slight Italian comedy to be a real treat.

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