The Playlist

Review: 'The Secret World Of Arrietty' Is A Beautiful, Whimsical & Heartfelt Fable From Studio Ghibli

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 15, 2012 1:00 PM
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The charmingly simple conceit behind Mary Norton's children's fantasy novel series "The Borrowers" is that there are a race of tiny people, no bigger than a stack of quarters or a human thumb, that live underneath your floorboards, sneaking into your home at night to "borrow" things essential to their survival. While this doesn't explain the mystery of the missing sock, it does give a nifty explanation to misplaced household items, told with a twinkly kind of magic that's easy to believe in, especially at a time in your life when you too are smaller than most people

Review: 'Michael' A Provocative, Yet Banal Portrait Of A Monster

  • By Alison Willmore
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  • February 15, 2012 11:58 AM
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Trace it to the 2006 Natascha Kampusch case or the even more terrible 2008 Elisabeth Fritzl one reverberating through into fiction, but longterm kidnapping is having a moment. Despite apparently opening with a card that claims otherwise, the incidents seem unavoidable inspirations for Frédéric Videau’s "A Moi Seule," which just had its premiere in Berlin, a film that tracks through the eight-year relationship between an man and the girl he kidnaps and hides in his basement. Emma Donoghue's acclaimed 2010 novel "Room" is narrated by a five-year-old kid who's lived his entire life in the claustrophobic space in which he and his mother have been imprisoned. And Markus Schleinzer's "Michael," which opens in New York this week after bowing at Cannes last year, gazes impassively at five months in the life of the title character, played by Michael Fuith, who's been holding a 10-year-old boy named Wolfgang (David Rauchenberger) in a soundproofed room in his house.
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Berlinale 2012 Review: Brillante Mendoza Takes Us All 'Captive' In Vital, Bruising Kidnap Tale

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 15, 2012 11:04 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Recipient of one of the more controversial Cannes Best Director awards of recent memory (for "Kinatay," a film we found problematic, to say the least) Filipino director Brillante Mendoza returns to screens and to the festival circuit with "Captive," which marks, if not a departure from his previous style, then a welcome evolution of it. Based on real events, it is an account, by turns thrilling, moving, and harrowing, of the kidnapping ordeal of a group of holidaymakers from a resort in the Philippines; an ordeal which lasts over a year for some.

Berlinale 2012 Review: 'Farewell, My Queen' Introduces Lesbianism Into The Marie Antoinette Story To No Great Effect

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 15, 2012 9:56 AM
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In the land of the costume drama, truly, films about Marie Antoinette are Queen, promising lavish sets, romantic intrigue and shocking decadence -- but they don't always deliver. Director Benoit Jacquot's uninspiring take on the period opened the Berlin Film Festival days ago, but something about the film's lack of urgency must be contagious, and we're only getting around to reviewing it now. While the movie does boast admirable elements (more on those below) overall, despite some showy trappings it is a frustratingly empty experience, built around a character whose blankness is supposed to be a virtue, but ends up costing the film dearly in terms of identification and interest.

Review: 'Thin Ice' With Greg Kinnear & Alan Arkin An Irritating, Shrill Comedy Devoid Of Laughs

  • By Simon Abrams
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  • February 14, 2012 2:00 PM
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When the screenwriters of “Thin Ice” finally play their hand and reveal their film’s obvious twist ending, that dumb plot point almost eclipses all the other lousy things that came before it. But make no mistake, “Thin Ice” is nothing if not consistently lousy. Set in frigid Kenosha, Wisconsin, the film follows Mickey Prohaska (Greg Kinnear), a shifty and increasingly desperate insurance salesman as he tries to con his way to a tropical vacation. Mickey is the leader of a parade of unlikable, uniformly histrionic and very unfunny characters. Living and being around the residents of Kenosha is nightmarish, but not in the humorous, neo-noir-inflected way that director Jill Sprecher (“Thirteen Conversations About One Thing”) and her co-writer Karen Sprecher want us to think.

Berlinale 2012 Review: 'Jayne Mansfield's Car' Finds A Solid Cast At The Wheel, But Not A Whole Lot Of Gas In The Tank

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 14, 2012 10:04 AM
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  • 1 Comment
A distinctly American, humanist drama, one that somewhat makes up in performances of warmth and generosity what it may lack in originality, "Jayne Mansfield's Car," which just enjoyed its World Premiere at the 2012 Berlinale, finds director and star Billy Bob Thornton showing a certain spiritual kinship with fellow director/actors Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford. Off-key directorial choices, and a frustrating lack of narrative and characterisation consistency prevent the film from ever coalescing into something as satisfying as Clint is able to deliver, at his best, and for better or worse, it doesn't have the grander ambitions of a Redford effort, but the films of all three, are to a certain degree built as temples to the performances, sometimes to a fault.

Review: 'The Loving Story' An Eye-Opening Portrait Of Quiet Heroism In The Face Of Injustice

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 13, 2012 6:56 PM
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At the movies, heroes often save the day, get the girl and say all the best lines, but in real life, that's rarely the case. For Richard and Mildred Loving it was their quiet resolve, and the simple motivation that they were stuck in an unfair and injust situation, that saw them battle for years to attain the very simple right to live together, as husband and wife, in their home state of Virginia. "The Loving Story" is a respectful and at times, eye-opening chronicle of their pursuit to be able to live an honest life.
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Berlinale 2012 Review: Reverence Outweighs Insight In Kevin Macdonald's 2 1/2 Hour 'Marley' Documentary

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 13, 2012 2:03 PM
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  • 1 Comment
A long film detailing a tragically short life, on paper, Kevin MacDonald's Bob Marley documentary "Marley" has more than enough of a pedigree to justify its 2 1/2 hour running time. After all, it's a biopic of one of the most influential and evergreen musical pioneers of all time, being brought to us by the respected documentarian behind the thrilling "Touching the Void" and the Oscar-winning "One Day In September." But the truth is that film's exhaustive approach at some point becomes simply exhausting, with its sporadic moments of true inspiration, almost all directly connected with the music or Bob's early life, serving mostly to remind of how by-the-numbers the rest of the movie is. It purports to bring us the man behind the myth, but 150 minutes later, the flesh-and-blood Marley remains frustratingly out of reach, and the myth is still reverently intact.

Review: 'Perfect Sense' An Uneven Mix Of Romance & Apocalypse

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 12, 2012 10:10 AM
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  • 3 Comments
If you thought the fast spreading virus in "Contagion" was bad, Steven Soderbergh's film has got nothing on David Mackenzie's "Perfect Sense." A romance, sci-fi tale and apocalyptic vision of the breakdown of humanity all rolled into one, there is no source for the virus which moves quicky and mysteriously around the world. It just happens, and the effects are devastating. Anyone stricken with the virus begins to lose each of their senses, one by one over the course of days and weeks. There is no cure and there is no way to stop it, and it's against this backdrop that romance, against all odds, begins to flourish.

Rotterdam Review: 'Francophrenia' A Fascinating Doc/Fiction Profile Of James Franco As James Franco

  • By Brandon Harris
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  • February 10, 2012 4:00 PM
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  • 2 Comments
James Franco's ongoing experimentation with the limits of his own celebrity are like little else popular culture has produced of late. While his hijinks within academia and beyond are well documented (he's working on a Film MFA at NYU and an English PhD from Yale, while being a movie star, reediting My Own Private Idaho, writing essays for N+1 and occasionally doing some performance art with Laurel Nakadate), they come to a startling head in his Francophrenia (or: Don't Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby is), a daringly odd ball collaboration with lauded documentarian Ian Olds, who's The Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi was a hit in Rotterdam in 2009.

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