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The Playlist

Review: 'The Lady' A Glossy, Poignant But Ultimately Underwhelming Portrait Of Pro-Democracy Activist Aung San Suu Kyi

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • April 10, 2012 2:00 PM
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  • 2 Comments
If there’s one thing that Luc Besson proved with “The Messenger,” it’s that his melodramatic, spectacle-laden sensibility is not particularly well-suited to serious or credible stories. Nevertheless, the director mostly abets himself of making the same mistakes twice with “The Lady,” a poignant if underwhelming portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese expat who became a pro-democracy activist in the late 1980s, as Rangoon struggled under the tyranny of a totalitarian military regime. Aided by terrific performances by David Thewlis and especially Michelle Yeoh as Suu Kyi, Besson’s “The Lady” is a glossy prestige picture that’s appropriately inspiring, but some may find its stiff-lipped nobility slightly too bloodless to leave a lasting impression.

Review: 'The Samaritan' Never Quite Overcomes Its Audacious, Questionable Twist

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • April 9, 2012 4:57 PM
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  • 8 Comments
It's difficult to discuss "The Samaritan" without revealing the noted plot turn nearly halfway through, but consider this an attempt. The Canadian thriller, currently available on VOD, concerns an ex-con named Foley. Foley's lost twenty five years in prison after murdering his partner, a decision borne out of Foley regretfully picking his own poison in a life-or-death situation. Living with the memory of killing his close associate and the idea that he essentally gave up a quarter of a century to live, Foley is unstuck in time, visiting his old stomping grounds the way the guilty frequent graveyards.

Review: 'Your Brother. Remember?' A Touching Trip Down Memory Lane

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • April 5, 2012 12:00 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Normally, something like Zachary Oberzan's “Flooding With Love for the Kid” is a concept to be scoffed at: the director, in the tiny confines of his apartment, adapted the novel “Rambo” was based on and played all of the characters himself. It sounds crude and generally unimpressive; a novelty destined for YouTube and nothing more. But ‘Flooding’ contains too much love, depth, and dedication to be so easily dismissed -- and though it likely still has its detractors (think of how many frustrated filmmakers bubbled with jealous ire), critics and audiences were tickled with Oberzan’s ability to not only nail the essence of childhood playtime, but to compose legitimately affecting sequences (you’ll laugh, you’ll cry) with so few resources.

Review: 'We The Party' Is An Overly Familiar Teen Romp That Tries To Be Something More

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • April 5, 2012 10:15 AM
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  • 0 Comments
"We the Party" has a poster that makes it look like a more urban entry in the popular "Step Up" franchise, but is hilariously tagged as being "From the Director of 'New Jack City,'" a movie that most of the cast and pretty much anyone they're targeting to watch the movie, have either forgotten about entirely or never seen because it's too fucking old. It is, however, quite evocative of "We the Party," a movie that tries to be edgier, more outrageous, and (oddly) more socially conscious than most teen movies, but ends up being just as tired and cliché (if not more so), combining familiar beats from every high school flick imaginable and shellacking them in the tired aesthetics of 1990s music videos.

Review: 'American Reunion' Is A Stale Slice Of 'Pie' That Coasts On Nostalgia & Cameos

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • April 4, 2012 6:05 PM
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  • 9 Comments
“American Reunion” begins with the franchise’s typical sexual misunderstanding played for casual sitcom laughs. Married couple Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are preparing for bedtime when she excuses herself to take a late night bath. Without saying a word, Jim watches her leave before visiting bookmarked porn sites on his laptop computer, pleasing himself with a sock filled with what can only be considered an excessive amount of lubrication. Through a few prepackaged pratfalls too implausible to properly explain, Jim and Michelle’s pre-pubescent son learns that Mommy and Daddy had been pleasuring themselves in separate rooms, and lack the self-awareness to properly shield themselves when caught. The camera stays fixed on the silent milieu of an embarrassed Michelle shrinking underneath the bubbles in her bathtub, and Jim clenching the bleeding tip of his crotch, the two of them separated by a shower handle excitedly dancing across the tiles. It is quite possibly the saddest opening scene in recent studio comedy history.

Review: 'ATM' Is An Impossibly Implausible, Hilariously Bad B-Movie

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • April 4, 2012 5:16 PM
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  • 27 Comments
Cheap, slapped-together run-of-the-mill B-movie thrillers are a dime a dozen. And their egregiousness is often not worthy of outrage or scorn because frequently the films are made on the cheap with a knowing eye towards making a buck with direct-to-DVD sales or foreign markets that don’t care about quality. Everyone is professional and yet (very) aware they’re not making art.

Review: French Thriller 'The Assault' Presents Propulsive Action, But Little Humanity

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • April 4, 2012 3:58 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Civic duty comes into play with Julien Leclercq's "The Assault", the new French actioner opening this week. Filmmaking is not a hobby, nor is it broad labor, and one has a responsibility to the truth, both superficially and subtextually. To damn "The Assault" with the accusation of irresonsibility is broad and not entirely civil. It's a blistering cinematic procedural, intense and upsetting in equal measures. And while, superficially, a procedural is "enough," both the art form and the true-life account of what's dramatized in the film demand more.
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Review: Guy Maddin's 'Keyhole' Beautiful And Brassy...But Frustratingly Sealed

  • By James Rocchi
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  • April 4, 2012 12:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Let us pause, then, to contemplate the fate and fortunes of the director who does not have his or her eye set on the five-picture deal, the glossy franchise, the production wing in the bungalow offices of some major studio; what becomes of the director who only wants to make art and make it well? Canada's Guy Maddin clearly has no eye on commercial success -- rumor has it that his next feature might actually be in color -- and instead prefers to stand at the edge and peer into the abyss to look for what's next. This is a unique vantage point, to be sure, but it's also perilous if one should fall; "Keyhole" is both too much and too little, a crowded smorgasbord of genre picture tropes and haunted house tricks that leaves your eyes and brain distended with both far too much to absorb and far too little to sustain.

Review: The (Mostly) Delightful 'Damsels In Distress' A Welcome Return By Whit Stillman

  • By James Rocchi
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  • April 4, 2012 11:05 AM
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  • 0 Comments
From the moment the Sony Pictures Classics logo pops up not in the usual blue -- but in cupcake frosting pink -- you know that Whit Stillman's first film in 13 years (!) is going to be something special. While word from Venice -- where the film closed the festival before heading to TIFF -- was good, the question to be answered was whether or not Stillman's style and cinematic persona would stand up in a filmmaking landscape that has changed immensely since "Last Days of Disco." Well, let there be no doubt: Stillman is just as enjoyable as when we last met him those many years ago and "Damsels In Distress" finds the director with lots (and lots and lots) left to say.

Review: 'Detention' Is Like A Narrative, Peyote-Fueled Manga Adaptation Of 'I Love The 90s'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • April 3, 2012 2:57 PM
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  • 0 Comments
What kind of movie is “Detention?” In this film, a young actor named Parker Bagley plays Billy Nolan, a high school jock who hides the truth from friends and enemies about his own half-fly DNA. He vomits acid and springs wings at inopportune moments after spending a large portion of his childhood trying to hide his alien mutation by wearing a giant television set over his hand. At the midway point of the film, we realize Billy Nolan is only a supporting character, and his fate is, in many ways, irrelevant to the resolution of the film.

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