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The Playlist

Cannes Review: Wes Anderson's 'Moonrise Kingdom' Is A Tender Triumph Of Design, Decor & Rich Emotion

  • By James Rocchi
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  • May 16, 2012 9:45 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" seems like an odd choice to open the 65th Cannes Film Festival, with its deadpan Americanism, retro-set timeline and movie-star cast; at the same time, Anderson is clearly influenced by the New Wave, both cinematically and personally, he's a distinctive authorial voice as a director (which is the essence of auteur theory) and while his films are defined by near-silent moments of comedy and human frailty, there's also something mournful and wounded about them. "Moonrise Kingdom," like all of Anderson's films, is a very beautiful and funny movie about grief and sorrow, and the never-was 1965 the film takes place in is both a meticulously-crafted triumph of design and decor and an emotionally rich setting, full of objects you could almost reach out and touch and feelings, yearnings, that reach out to you.

Review: 'Something Ventured' A Dry & Repetitive Look At The Money Behind Some Of The Biggest Tech Firms In History

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 15, 2012 10:01 AM
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  • 0 Comments
From the outset, Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine's "Something Ventured" probably isn't something everybody will enjoy. A documentary about venture capitalists, you need to already have something of an interest about the money that has powered some of the greatest technological advancements of the past forty or fifty years. But even for those who are curious about the coin behind the creative minds, this slim documentary (that runs under 90 minutes) quickly falls into a repetitive, narrow minded rut.
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Review: Jean Claude Van Damme & Cung Le Pic 'Dragon Eyes' Features Impressive Action, Empty Story

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • May 14, 2012 12:01 PM
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  • 5 Comments
Hong, the lead character in “Dragon Eyes,” might as well be a Man Without A Name when he wanders into the small town of St. Jude. He seeks a second chance, an opportunity to atone for past violent misdeeds seen in fuzzy flashback. It doesn’t take long for the viewer to realize this means a lot of people are about to be kicked in the face. One of the marquee titles from After Dark Action -- the new action imprint from Dark Castle and After Dark -- “Dragon Eyes” at least delivers on this aspect.

Review: 'Norman Mailer: The American' Is A Cliffs Notes Look At The Life Of A Literary Icon

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 12, 2012 12:36 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Provocative, rebellious, a genius and an undeniable force on the American literary landscape, Norman Mailer was an author, social commentator, filmmaker and a personality whose outsized figure nearly eclipsed his two Pulitzer prizes. He had enough experiences and adventures for three lifetimes, and the job of trying to capture him in a documentary and uncover what made him tick is a monumental task. But Joseph Mantegna's (not the actor), less than 90 minute film "Norman Mailer: The American" barely scratches the surface, giving a superficial, fast-forward look at his life, with a focus more on the tawdry and salacious, than the influence and inspiration behind the writer that was equally celebrated and vilified throughout his career.
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Review: 'The Tortured' Might As Well Describe The Audience For Twisted Pictures' Latest

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • May 11, 2012 3:02 PM
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  • 1 Comment
For most viewers, there's no way to take a look at that Twisted Pictures logo and feel at ease. Sure, it's intimidating all on it's own -- dark lowercase lettering separated by barbed-wire, inky shadows. But it's an entirely different sort of fear that emerges from the house that James Wan built. The company piggybacked off three "Saw" films before it decided to expand into other hoary, blood-soaked horror cheapies, most of them in the direct-to-video realm. With "Saw" over, however, Twisted Pictures still has a few leftovers from the torture porn trend, and one is 2010's "The Tortured," currently, finally receiving a VOD release.
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Review: A Breezy, But Meandering 'A Bag Of Hammers' Is Only Half A Movie

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • May 11, 2012 11:05 AM
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  • 0 Comments
There are ample pleasures of the half-movie. Features of the half-film include a lack of b-plot, a meandering tone, haphazard scenes, and a barely feature-length runtime. The reasons why productions result in half-movies usually come from vastly re-written scripts, overrunning schedules and/or eclipsing an allotted budget, but they tend to fade away into obscurity. “A Bag Of Hammers,” which opens in theaters showing actual whole movies this Friday, features a few likable actors and a strong score from Johnny Flynn, and so it qualifies as a breezy diversion of sorts. But is it a movie?

Review: 'God Bless America' Looks Incendiary, But Is Actually A Self-Congratulatory One-Note Screed

  • By The Playlist
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  • May 11, 2012 10:04 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Former shrill-voiced comedian turned acidic writer/director/satirist Bobcat Goldthwait may just be one of the most simultaneously electric and frustrating indie filmmakers working today. When it comes to deliciously wicked and acerbic premises, there might not be a better conceptualist. A devilishly arch comedic mind, Goldthwait has thus far come up with three succulently mordant, often morally taboo narrative inventions: a girl who tries to repair her relationship after she reveals to her partner she's engaged in sexual acts with her dog ("Sleeping Dogs Lie"); a struggling and untalented author who parlays his son's fake suicide note into a writing career ("World's Greatest Dad") and his latest, "God bless America," a pitch black societal missive about a disenfranchised man and an all-too-willing and fed-up teenage girl who go on a cross-country killing spree aimed at the shallow, the insipid and the repellently vacuous.

Review: Sacha Baron Cohen's 'The Dictator' Rules With Comic Authority & Big Laughs

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 10, 2012 10:11 PM
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  • 13 Comments
At a first glance, Sacha Baron Cohen's "The Dictator" almost seems too easy. Another accent, another elaborate costume, more manscaping and this time with the softball target of despotic leaders -- it almost seemed as if the comic actor was pouring an ocean of fish into a tiny thimble and then pointing a comedy bazooka at it. And for the first fifteen to twenty minutes, "The Dictator" is kind of that obvious, and as a result, a bit uneven. But once the movie really finds its groove, Cohen's latest character creation easily stands up with his best work. Frequently laugh out loud funny, button pushing, and the rare comedy that actually gets more enjoyable as it goes on, "The Dictator" delivers the goods. All hail Admiral General Aladeen!

'Bonsai' Is A Chilean Slacker-Romance Of Love & Language That's Small, Swift & Smart

  • By James Rocchi
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  • May 9, 2012 6:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Cannes, more so than other film festivals, feels like the 10 days of nutrition offered in the hopeful attempt to make up for the other 355 days of dessert modern movie going offers us. Abandonment, murder, suicide, prostitution -- these are the concerns of all too many films in the competition and sidebars here at Cannes. A film like Christián Jiménez's "Bonsái," in the Un Certain Regard selection -- seemingly slight, seemingly light, small in scope and scene -- is exactly the kind of film that whispers when other films shout and gets overlooked in the hue and cry. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't speak the truth, or that what it's saying isn't heartfelt, articulate and funny. You have to lean into a film like "Bonsái" so you can see how intricate, simple and elegant it is, even at what seems like a smaller scale.
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Review: 'I Wish' The Rare Example Of A Great Kids Film That Actually Understands Kids

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • May 9, 2012 4:02 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The frustrating thing about most modern "kids films" is that many filmmakers seem like lost balls in tall grass when it comes to portraying what makes children tick. Perhaps it's tougher than we imagine to capture the youth/kid experience, but is it just us or does it seem like nearly all child characters in movies exist in some bizarro world where they're smarter than the all the adults, know just the right thing to say at every moment and hardly ever act like, you know, kids? (See every American indie and Hollywood rom-com from the last 10 years for examples of this annoying, ridiculous trend.) That's why, when a thoughtful, intelligent director takes the reins of such a film, one that actually remembers and respects what it was like to be a kid, the result can be so refreshing. In the best examples of the genre from recent memory -- "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Super 8" (which, this writer only found to be half a great movie, the great half being the portion involving kids being kids, making movies; it's impossible to deny the skill of those actors and their characterizations) -- the filmmakers decided from the outset to make a proper film first and foremost. The fact that the story is played out with children as our main characters is almost a moot point. Almost.
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