The Playlist

Review: Documentary ‘Enemies Of The People’ A Frequently Gripping Search For Justice In The Cambodian Killing Fields

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • January 16, 2012 11:20 AM
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The worst of human history has a way of bubbling under the surface, burying under the skin of collaborators, killers and leaders. Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime, responsible for approximately two million deaths, has remained in the country's national psyche in a uniquely chilling manner. The Cambodians who carried out Pol Pot’s systematic removal of intellectuals, political dissidents and anyone who seemed like a possible threat, now live in relative peace, often in close proximity to the people whose families they decimated by hand. “Enemies of the People,” an investigative documentary driven by Camdobian journalist Thet Sambath and co-director Rob Lemkin, attempts the extraordinary – Sambath wishes to elicit confessions from the mouths of former killers, in particular an elderly, partially toothless family man named Nuon Chea. Chea was once known as Brother Number Two – Pol Pot was Brother Number One.
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Review: Spanish Oscar Contender 'Black Bread' A Melodramatic, Yet Compelling Story Of Post-Spanish Civil War Life

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • January 16, 2012 10:03 AM
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Somewhere in the mouth of a vast, dreary weald, a merchant trucks along with his wares. He stops briefly to check his wagon but is startled by some rustling nearby. At this point, even the most novice movie-goer can figure out that this man won't make it out of these woods alive. In a sequence that would make Michael Haneke proud, the masked attacker bursts in for the kill, following his act of brutality by taking the horse and wagon to a cliff, bashing the animal in the face, and sending it down the precipice. Bright-eyed Andreu (Francesc Colomer, who looks like the young death row kid from Werner Herzog's "Into The Abyss") stumbles upon the wreckage, and to make matters even more frightening, he finds a friend in the cart already on the brink of death. The boy can only muster up a single word, "Pitorliua" -- the name of a spirit said to reside in a nearby cave. Andreu reports the death to his family, but he can't figure out where Pitorliua fits in this puzzle. It's this mystery that propels the whole of "Black Bread" along, though its driving force is often hindered by other extraneous elements -- quite often there is too much going on and it gives things an overwhelming, cluttered feel.

Review: Lynne Ramsay's 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' Is Bleak, But Haunting

  • By James Rocchi
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  • January 13, 2012 2:19 PM
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  • 8 Comments
"We Need to Talk About Kevin" is one of the most beautifully bleak psychological fake-outs the cinema's given us in years, as Lynne Ramsay ("Ratcatcher," "Morvern Callar") directs an adaptation of Lionel Shriver's 2003 novel. At first blush, Ramsay's film would appear to be a look into the genesis and reasons behind the title teen's killing spree; the film we get is something different entirely, an exploration of loss and pain and grief through the eyes of the mother (Tilda Swinton) left shattered and battered in the wake of her son's irrational, irredeemable actions.

Review: 'Don't Go In The Woods' A Horror/Musical That Hits A Sour Note

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • January 13, 2012 2:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Sometimes your headlines write themselves. When a film features a warning right in the title, that’s playing with fire. In the case of Vincent D’Onofrio's woeful directorial debut, the warning is more than prophetic. Based on a script by Sam Bisbee and Joe Vinciguerra and a story by D’Onofrio, “Don’t Go In The Woods” is an earnest attempt to marry musical and horror, two genres that already have quite a bit in common. Both tend to invest in stagy, big-time emotions and feature grandiose payoffs, but while musicals deliver vocal triumphs, horror dishes it out in blood and guts, arterial sprays and all that good stuff. D’Onofrio's film features a great deal of occasionally decent but consistently navel-gazing songs and a precious few craniums caved in via sledgehammer during its exhaustingly paced eighty-six minute runtime.
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Review: 'Fake It So Real' An Intimate Look At An Independent Wrestling Federation

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • January 13, 2012 1:01 PM
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“People say jazz is the great American art form. Jazz is dead. I think wrestling is the great American art form." - PITT

Review: Xavier Gens' 'The Divide' Is Silly, Clichéd Apocalyptic Trash

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • January 12, 2012 7:01 PM
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It seemed, to us at least, that there was a strangely apocalyptic cloud that was cast over many of the SXSW film festival selections in 2011 – things like "Bellflower" all the way up to "Attack the Block" had a definite "end of days" feel. "The Divide" might have been the one movie to attack the material with the most heads-on gusto, however, with the opening scene bringing New York City to waste with a hail of comet-like missiles. It's a striking image, for sure, but there's not much that equals it in the movie's labored, two-hour running time, either in terms of visual sophistication or crafting a sense of apocalyptic gloom. Instead, you'll be wondering why everything's so over-lit after the world's ended and why anyone would behave the way the characters do.

Review: Don't Let The Awkward & Clumsy 'Loosies' Pick Your Pocket

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • January 12, 2012 5:59 PM
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The poster for “Loosies,” a new film written, produced, and starring Peter Facinelli, best known for his role as the big daddy vampire in the “Twilight” movies, makes it look incredibly dangerous and edgy despite the fact that its name suggests some son-of-“Porky’s” sex comedy (it’s a reference to buying single cigarettes, which we all know is both illegal and fairly commonplace). The poster is doused in dark, brooding colors and even has Michael Madsen, part of the movie’s all-star B-grade supporting cast, brandishing a gun (while wearing sunglasses no less). But the movie itself is a much lighter, more amiable affair, much more so than its Photoshopped-to-shit poster suggests. And that’s part of the problem.

Review: 'Beauty and the Beast 3D' Is The Same Great Movie, With Some Added 3D Charm

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • January 12, 2012 4:59 PM
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  • 2 Comments
It's easy to forget, what with the endless string direct-to-video sequels and long-running musical and theme park omnipresence, what a big deal "Beauty and the Beast" was when it first opened in 1990. But it was. It screened at the 1991 New York Film Festival in an incomplete form (the next time they would show a movie like that was last year, with the rough-around-the-edges version of Martin Scorsese's "Hugo") to a rapturous response and became the first animated movie ever nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award. It cemented that period, which began with 1989 "The Little Mermaid" and concluded (unofficially) a decade later with "Tarzan" in 1999, as the second golden age of Disney feature animation. And now it's back, with a fresh coat of 3D paint. Like this past fall's 3D presentation of "The Lion King," it's less a whole new experience than a slightly different one and the main reason for seeing it isn't the newly immersive effects but the profound awesomeness of the original movie. It still gets you.

Review: The Choir Of 'Joyful Noise' Preaches To Itself

  • By William Goss
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  • January 12, 2012 12:00 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Your friend and mine Roger Ebert has often said that the matter isn’t what a movie is about, but rather how it is about it. "Joyful Noise" is ostensibly about a small-town Georgia church choir competing against others in a nationwide gospel competition. It’s about a dying town in need of some community pride. It’s about the newly named leader of said choir battling with the widow of her recently deceased predecessor. It’s about that widow’s recently arrived and perpetually restless teenage grandson. It’s also about an all-but-single mother caring for both a son with Asperger’s and a daughter interested in all the wrong boys while their father, her husband, is enlisted in the military. It’s also somehow about a choir member who unfortunately earns a reputation on the gospel circuit for killing the men with which she lays. And it is about all of these things poorly.
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Review: In 'Contraband' The Humans Aren't Nearly As Compelling As The Bullet Holes

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • January 11, 2012 6:30 PM
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Chris Farraday, the protagonist of “Contraband,” is a popular movie construct. Handsome, wide-shouldered, and with a movie-star smile, he’s tough enough to have done some Very Bad Things, but also principled enough to be retired by the time we meet him. Chris is an ex-drug smuggler, and the life doesn’t seem to have done much for him. Clad in form-fitting jeans and tee-shirts, he still hangs out at the same ratty bars with his low-life former criminal acquaintances. It’s a character as walking, talking movie shorthand: we know what he was, what he is, and, likely, what he’ll have to become again.

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