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The Playlist

Review: Twisty, Action-Packed NYC Noir 'Safe' Is The Finest Jason Statham Actioner Yet

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • April 24, 2012 10:59 AM
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  • 9 Comments
The de-evolution of the modern b-action movie is disheartening. The genre has been bisected by traditionalists and new-school practitioners. The old-school, red meat types like Sylvester Stallone and their ilk believe that real men doing real stunts and delivering brutal blows is the way to go, big tough guys in big tough situations, without any youngbloods or fancy gizmos. The more contemporary action filmmaker, however, spikes the punch, utilizing heavy-duty CGI to turn Tobey Maguire into Dolph Lundgren, Cameron Diaz into Jackie Chan. Neither side seems to understand that you don't need to be Dostoyevsky to infuse the same old tropes with just a little respect for characters, stories, suspense, and high stakes. It's the story, stupid. Believe in it.

Tribeca Review: 'Persepolis' Follow-Up 'Chicken With Plums' Is Amiable & Pretty, But Twee & Thin

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 24, 2012 10:40 AM
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  • 0 Comments
It can be difficult to shift from animation to live-action direction; the processes are very different, and even an accomplished animation helmer can sometimes be undone once they're faced with cameras, actors and the breakneck schedule of a feature film shoot, as opposed to the multi-year process that produces a feature cartoon. Some have managed it, Tim Burton being the most obvious example (at first, anyway...) and Pixar dons Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton are both hoping to make the leap in the next few months. But it's got to be even harder to go from working in graphic novels, to animation, to live-action, but that's been the path for Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud in the last few years.

Tribeca Review: The Deeply Insufferable 'Giant Mechanical Man' Is Quintessential Indie Film Hell

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • April 24, 2012 9:01 AM
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  • 25 Comments
There’s a special sort of Hell where films like “The Giant Mechanical Man” play, with the same ideas and tropes repeated around the clock, with the mistaken assumption that they’re endearing or, even worse, adorable. It’s the sort of picture that gives independent films a bad name, the type of film that invites jackholes coming out of “Transformers 7” to say, “I ain’t seeing that faggy indie shit!” In reality, there’s a very good chance “Transformers 7” could very well be less obnoxious than “The Giant Mechnical Man.”

Tribeca Review: 'Alekesam' Feels Less Like A Short Doc And More Like An Overlong Album Promo For Sal Masekela

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • April 23, 2012 6:02 PM
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  • 1 Comment
At 35 minutes, "Alekesam" is a short documentary with a subject that could probably fill a Ken Burns-style PBS miniseries, full of political unrest, social uprisings, and jazz music: Hugh Masekela, a musician and activist who fought against apartheid (he was exiled from South Africa for more than 30 years), struggles to reconnect with his son Sal Masekela, a former ESPN commentator who is just now embarking on his own musical career. But while the doc tries to focus on the tenuous emotional connection between a distant father and a resistant son, it ends up coming across more as a fluffy promotional piece for Sal's new album than anything genuinely probing or insightful.

Tribeca Review: ESPN Doc ‘Benji’ Is A Tragic Portrait Of Promising Hoop Dreams Unfulfilled

  • By The Playlist
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  • April 23, 2012 4:58 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Something that all hardcore sports fans, but cinephiles may not be fully aware of: ESPN’s “30 For 30” series of documentaries on various touchstone moments in sports history are all by and large, riveting and dramatic pieces of work worth watching regardless if you’re a sports fan are not. While that particular series, which was by co-conceived by ESPN columnist Bill Simmons, is now over, the range of talent it secured, directors like Spike Lee, Richard Linklater, Barry Levinson, Steve James ("Hoop Dreams"), Peter Berg, Barry Levinson, was no joke (the Zimbalist brothers' "The Two Escobars,” being one of this writer’s absolute favorites; a terrifically gripping documentary).

SFIFF Review: 'The Fourth Dimension' A Mostly Humorous Collection Of Shorts With Harmony Korine's Most Comically Focused Effort To Date

  • By Sean Gillane
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  • April 23, 2012 4:03 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Last Friday night, the San Francisco International Film Festival hosted the world premiere of “The Fourth Dimension,” a production born out of a partnership between Vice Films and Grolsch Film Works.

Tribeca Review: 'Freaky Deaky' Is A 1970s-Set Farce Where The Afros Outnumber The Laughs

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • April 23, 2012 3:21 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Just when you thought filmmakers had milked every gag possible from setting a movie in the 1970s, along comes writer/director Charles Matthau to prove that theory correct in the moribund Elmore Leonard adaptation “Freaky Deaky.” Though the source material takes place in 1988, Matthau heard the call of polyester and fur and answered be relocating the film to the seventies, resulting in a film drowning in cornball aesthetics, extravagant living room furniture, funk music out of a bad porno and loud fashion under the guise of mise en scene.

Tribeca Review: 'Rubberneck' Is A True Crime Tale That's Truly Dull

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • April 23, 2012 3:02 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Chances are, if the movie doesn't feature a dolphin with a prosthetic tail on the poster, and it carries "inspired by true events" disclaimer, then it's going to be something about murder, mayhem, or the decades-long search for the Zodiac killer. So by announcing that your movie is inspired by true events, what could have been an unsettling reveal instead becomes a waiting game: who is going to get killed, how long is it going to take, and why have you never read about it before? It may add a slight bit of tension, but it's at the cost of almost everything else. Such is the case with "Rubberneck," written, directed, and starring Lena Dunham confederate Alex Kaprovsky, which has an intriguing-enough true crime premise but ends up coming across like something you'd stumble upon on Lifetime one Sunday afternoon (but without all the laughs of, say, "Drew Peterson: Untouchable").

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

  • By Brandon Harris
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  • April 23, 2012 2:04 PM
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  • 0 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 oddball collaboration with lauded documentarian Ian Olds, whose "The Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi" was a hit in Rotterdam in 2009.

Tribeca Review: 'Sleepless Night' A Deceptively Simple Thriller That Packs A Punch

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • April 23, 2012 1:03 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Containment thrillers can often be limited by the landscape of their locale, but in the French film “Sleepless Night,” the nightclub where corrupt cop Vincent (Tomer Sisley) races to rescue his son is expansive enough to make it seem like a mini-mall. Writer-director Frederic Jardin somehow manages to squeeze every last drop of claustrophobia from the massive, multilevel building, even after he’s filled it wall-to-wall with clubgoers, diners, socialites, and especially the odd assortment of cops and crooks who all have a stake in Vincent’s future. Although it’s quite deservedly scheduled for an American remake via the folks at Warner Brothers, “Sleepless Night” is the kind of entertainment that requires little translation to succeed, as its characters and story are so cleanly and cleverly designed that they would work in virtually any language.

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