The Playlist

Review: Michael Mann & David Milch's 'Luck' Is Slow Out Of The Gate, But Eventually Builds Into A Gallop

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • January 28, 2012 1:32 PM
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  • 12 Comments
The above quote, from a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, illustrates one of the fundamental frustrations in watching "Luck," the new horse racing world drama on HBO. Birthed by Michael Mann and David Milch ("Deadwood," "NYPD Blue"), their creative clashes during the production are no secret, leading to a sharp line being drawn in terms of creative duties (nicely outlined by The Atlantic) that essentially saw Milch have total control on the scripts, while Mann oversaw everything on set (reportedly including a three-ring binder filled with detailed instructions from lighting to camera angles on how to shoot to show for the directors of each episode). The result is a series that is somewhat stilted, enegertically shot, but often lethargically paced, dropping the viewer into a world they will have to adapt and learn about quickly.
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Review: Katherine Heigl's 'One For The Money' Isn't Worth A Dime

  • By Jeff Otto
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  • January 28, 2012 8:41 AM
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  • 8 Comments
"One for the Money" brings Janet Evanovich’s beloved heroine Stephanie Plum to life on screen, a ditzy would-be bounty hunter who succeeds only in endangering the lives of anyone near her and dismissing the intelligence of audiences. Adapted from the 1994 novel of the same name, the story finds the down-on-her-luck Stephanie (Katherine Heigl) in desperate need of money. Out of options, she turns to her sleazeball cousin Vinnie (Patrick Fischler), who runs a bail bond business unoriginally named Vincent Plum’s Bail Bonds. He reluctantly sets her up as a bail recovery agent, figuring she’ll soon tire of the endeavor and find herself a more appropriate line of work. But Plum instead sets her sights on the biggest score, both professionally and personally. Turns out the highest-stake target is a former vice cop wanted for murder who also just happened to leave Ms. Plum high and dry after taking her virginity in high school. Hell hath no fury and blah, blah, blah...

Sundance Review: 'Keep The Lights On' A Moving & Engrossing Chronicle Of Two Men In Love

  • By Simon Abrams
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  • January 27, 2012 8:11 AM
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  • 0 Comments
With "Keep the Lights On," co-writer/director Ira Sachs has made a triumphant return to Sundance. His latest drama is a beautiful exploration of a relationship’s progression from start to finish. With great tact and depth of feeling, Sachs shows us that the most remarkable thing about any relationship is not the beginning or end but rather the maintenance of what could only unfairly be called a dysfunctional couple. Unlike Sachs’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning "Forty Shades of Blue," which focuses on a singular moment in a marriage’s disintegration, "Keep the Lights On" follows a couple as they struggle to stay together.

Sundance Review: Disappointing 'Robot And Frank' Is High Concept Sci-Fi That's Low On Ideas

  • By Cory Everett
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  • January 27, 2012 7:55 AM
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  • 0 Comments
In recent years Sundance has been hit with a handful of smart science fiction films tackling large themes within an extremely limited scope. From the $7000 “Primer” to the $5 million “Moon,” their respective filmmakers managed to put forth some interesting ideas without being hindered creatively by their minimal budgets. Last year’s breakout “Another Earth” may have suffered a bit from its great premise being pushed perhaps too far into the background of an otherwise standard grief drama. But it’s always a compromise between the resources that are available and how much of the hardware must actually be shown onscreen to create a believable world set in an alternate present or distant future. Arriving at a decision on what to cut and what needs to be shown must be agony for those films hoping to achieve any kind of scope. But in the best cases, smart filmmakers can use these restrictions to their advantage helping the films get their ideas across in the leanest way possible. This year’s sci-fi Sundance entry is “Robot And Frank,” a high concept, low-key heist film set in the near future.

Review: 'The Wicker Tree' Is Almost Weird Enough To Be Enjoyable...Almost...

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • January 26, 2012 4:00 PM
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  • 0 Comments
In the pantheon of horror films, 1973's "The Wicker Man" occupies a unique place. While well-reviewed at the time, it wasn't a commercial success, perhaps because, despite the appearance of Hammer horror alum Christopher Lee, it was a much folksier, more naturalistic approach to horror. Years later, defunct genre publication Cinefantastique described the film as "the 'Citizen Kane' of horror films," and ever since the movie has reached the rarified air of being a horror film that even movie snobs take very seriously. (There was, of course, the ill-fated 2006 remake that replaced the original's healthy suspicion of paganism with flat-out misogyny. Oh, and Nicolas Cage covered in bees.) So it makes a certain amount of sense why original writer/director Robin Hardy would return to "The Wicker Man" well with "The Wicker Tree," even though it's only tenuously connected to the original film, sharing more of a thematic link more than anything else, and none of the first film's visual sophistication or uneasy sense of dread.
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Review: 'Declaration Of War' Is The Swooning Of A First Love, The Shared Taste Of Tragedy, And How We Survive

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • January 26, 2012 2:05 PM
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  • 0 Comments
This Friday, multiplexes will sport the battered, wearied visage of Liam Neeson in "The Grey." As the poster has reminded moviegoers for weeks, this is a man about to embark on the challenge of his life, a struggle that will define every day he's ever lived, and the ones he might still grow to experience. "Live or die on this day" the tagline reads. But while the lanky action superstar will fight for his life versus a sea of computer-generated wolves in the Joe Carnahan film, the French picture "Declaration Of War" presents a much more significant, much more dire situation. And, like the protagonist of "The Grey," the characters in this film are prepared to lift their fists and face whatever challenges approach head-on.
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Sundance Review: 'Nobody Walks' Is A Sensual, Emotionally Complex Film With Humor & Humanity

  • By Cory Everett
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  • January 26, 2012 8:30 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Martine (Olivia Thirlby), a 23 year-old New York artist arrives in L.A. to complete a short film for an upcoming exhibit. We see her embracing a lover in the airport parking lot and just before things get too carried away she puts on the brakes and tells him that it was nice meeting him on the plane. This girl is going to be trouble. The opening credits roll as Martine makes her way from the airport, gazing out the window to take everything in as the city rushes by. With a synthy score by Brooklyn duo Fall On Your Sword (who also scored last year’s Sundance hit “Another Earth” as well as director Ry Russo-Young’s first film “You Won’t Miss Me”), L.A. seems really cool. Coming from the confined apartments and gray skies of NYC (in the winter anyway) the wide open spaces of the west coast start to look really attractive. Martine arrives at the beautiful Silverlake house of therapist Julie (Rosemary DeWitt) and sound designer Peter (John Krasinski) who, due to a loose family connection, have agreed to put her up while Peter can helps her complete her film. Julie has two kids from a previous marriage and Peter as portrayed by the always affable Krasinski, decked out in hoodies and sneakers, seems more like a cool older brother than a step-dad.

Sundance Review: Life, And Lust, Find A Way In Well-Performed But Standard-Issue 'The Surrogate'

  • By James Rocchi
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  • January 25, 2012 8:52 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Inspired by the life and writings of Mark O'Brien -- a polio-stricken but determined journalist and poet confined to an iron lung since age six -- "The Surrogate" offers a less comprehensive look at O'Brien's life than Jessica Yu's excellent documentary "Breathing Lessons," but instead focuses on a small sliver of O'Brien's life and living. In 1988, O'Brien, then 38, made a decision to explore his own sexuality -- despite his paralysis - in part inspired by his own research into a story on sex and disability. Unsure about his ability to forge a relationship -- and concerned, as he puts it to his Catholic Priest and confessor, that he's "approaching his use-by date," O'Brien looks into hiring a sex surrogate. The surrogate, Cheryl Cohen Greene, explains that she's not a prostitute, but a therapist -- she and Mark will have six sessions, and then terminate their relationship. It sounds complex. It gets more so.

Sundance Review: 'Liberal Arts' Is A Mostly Charming Sophomore Effort From Writer/Director Josh Radnor

  • By Cory Everett
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  • January 25, 2012 8:37 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Every young filmmaker dreams of getting their debut into Sundance and hopes that if it goes over well, they can turn that buzz into a distribution deal with a successful theatrical run not far behind. But getting in to the festival is only the beginning. Even if your film is a hit, Sundance audiences are not always the most reliable indicator of what will click with audiences outside the buzzy confines of Park City. Just ask “How I Met Your Mother” actor Josh Radnor, whose debut film as a writer/director "Happythankyoumoreplease" received the audience award back in 2010 only to hit theaters over a year later and fizzle with critics and audiences (though the film has developed a following since becoming available on Netflix Instant). Radnor is back this year with his sophomore effort "Liberal Arts," which has already garnered comparisons to some of his cinematic idols and received not one but two standing ovations during festival screenings. Whether that buzz will translate into a wider audience is anybody's guess but right now things are looking pretty good for the actor-turned-filmmaker.

Sundance Review: 'Bachelorette' Is The Movie For Anyone Who Wished 'Bridesmaids' Was More Like 'The Hangover'

  • By Cory Everett
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  • January 24, 2012 10:03 PM
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  • 15 Comments
Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's Gary Sanchez Productions, "Bachelorette" is the movie for all those people that wished "Bridesmaids" was more like "The Hangover." Three bridesmaids embark on a non-stop parade of debauchery fueled by coke, booze, and pills that make "The Hangover" dudes seem kind of like pussies. Kirsten Dunst plays Queen Bee Regan, leader of the "B-Faces" (short for "bitch faces"), a group of high school friends now in their early '30s scattered across the country in various stages of their lives. This crew includes promiscuous cokehead Gena (Lizzy Caplan), spacey retail worker Katie (Isla Fisher) and Becky ("Bridesmaids" scene stealer Rebel Wilson), a girl who was known as "Pig Face" in high school. Improbably, Becky becomes the first of the group to get engaged, to one of NYC's most wealthy men, and this confuses Regan -- who works with sick kids, keeps a perfect figure, and does everything she thinks she should to be the first one to walk down the aisle -- to no end. She tries (with all the muscles in her face) to remain supportive as she receives the news, but it's painfully clear she is not happy about it.

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