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The Playlist

SXSW '12 Review: 'The Hunter' Is An Eerie And Deeply Affecting Eco-Thriller

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • March 11, 2012 5:01 PM
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  • 3 Comments
In their 2006 book "Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger," authors Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson, then researchers at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, talked about becoming obsessed with a stuffed Tasmanian Tiger that they would walk by every day in the museum. It became "something akin to amorous fervor," and eventually they decided to take a trip to Tasmania to see if the tiger, which officially became extinct in 1936 when the lone survivor died at the Hobart Zoo, still existed, somewhere in the wild. It's the kind of mysterious animal – lithe, beautiful, angular – that inspires this kind of devotion, even decades after its extinction.

SXSW '12 Review: 'The Aggression Scale' Is Like 'Home Alone' With More Death (But Not As Fun As That Sounds)

  • By Alison Willmore
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  • March 11, 2012 4:33 PM
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  • 0 Comments
"The Aggression Scale" is like "Home Alone" with more death. If only it were as good a time as that description might lead you to believe. Directed by Steven C. Miller, who last made the Syfy Original "Scream of the Banshee," the movie is a schlocky pleasure when it finally gets around to delivering on its premise of a dysfunctional teen with violent tendencies taking on a group of thugs. But the build to that point is long, overly serious and reliant on actors and dialogue that aren't up to holding the screen through extended periods of talking or layering on of atmosphere. Character development is a quality of which genre films are often seriously in need, but it feels more like filler when your characters make no sense to begin with and most of them are just slaughter fodder.

SXSW '12 Review: At Its Best, Harmless 'Hunky Dory' Is Just That

  • By William Goss
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  • March 11, 2012 3:43 PM
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  • 0 Comments
It’s the summer of 1976, and between a conservative school administration and an unrelenting drought, things are beyond dry for Wales’ scrappier teens. It’s little wonder that they flock to the more permissive Miss Mae (Minnie Driver) and her glam-rock interpretation of Shakespeare’s "The Tempest" for the school play. Alas, "Hunky Dory" primarily concerns itself with familiar extracurricular woes and offers up much ado about nothing instead of a more rollicking or romantic coming-of-age story.

SXSW '12 Review: Guy Maddin's 'Keyhole' Beautiful And Brassy...But Frustratingly Sealed

  • By James Rocchi
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  • March 11, 2012 3:20 PM
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  • 2 Comments
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.

SXSW '12 Review: Celebrity, Notoriety & Living In Public As 'Frankie Go Boom'

  • By James Rocchi
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  • March 11, 2012 3:10 PM
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  • 1 Comment
"Frankie Go Boom" opens with a home video from a long-ago washed-out suburban childhood, as Bruce tricks his brother Frankie into a pitfall prank that's both caught on tape and a trap for the two of them; flashing forward to adulthood -- or something like it -- Frankie (Charlie Hunnam) has exiled himself from everything, holing up in Death Valley to write. And Bruce (Chris O'Dowd, with a solidly American accent) is just getting out of rehab, convinced that the 'films' he makes -- really, just footage -- of disasters like the one that befell Frankie's wedding three years ago, mean he's a director, what with their huge online 'hit' numbers …

SXSW '12 Review: Melissa Leo Shines In Minutely Observed, Minimalist 'Francine'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • March 11, 2012 2:14 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Evoking films like "Winter's Bone" and "Wendy and Lucy" in presenting a sparse, narrowly focused portrait of a lone female protagonist in adverse, not to say desperate circumstances, "Francine" is the kind of small film made for the festival circuit, and for which the festival circuit was made. It is no less reliant on a powerhouse central performance than its aforementioned forebears, if anything more so, as here extraneous detail is pared back almost to the point of nonexistence, leaving Melissa Leo front and center of every scene. It is a testament to her absolutely definitive portrayal that one simply cannot imagine what the film might have looked like with anyone else in the role. Some elegant framing and photography aside, the film lives and dies on her performance, and this being Leo, at her most vanity-less and instinctive, it mostly lives.

SXSW '12 Review: 'Tchoupitoulas' Is An Experimental, Dreamy Melange Of The Sights & Sounds Of New Orleans

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • March 11, 2012 2:02 PM
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  • 0 Comments
"Tchoupitoulas” is a documentary that doesn’t feel like a documentary – and that’s a good thing. This portrait of the famed New Orleans street is more of an experience, a sensation, a mood that washes over you. The new film from the Ross Brothers (Bill and Turner) is another step forward in their continued experimentation with documentary storytelling and expressiveness through film form. They shot footage over seven months in the city, capturing the essence of the town before they met three brothers, whose one wild night of prowling the town frames the story of this experience. The result is a dreamy melange of sound, light and color that gives you a taste of the gumbo pot that is the vibrant, unique city of New Orleans captured from the perspective of childlike wonder.

SXSW '12 Review: 'Sinister' Starring Ethan Hawke Is A Satisfying Old-School Horror, But Lacks Resonance

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • March 11, 2012 8:18 AM
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  • 2 Comments
As a horror movie that’s incredibly effective and yet evaporates pretty quickly once it’s over, Scott Derrickson’s “Sinister” defines the difference between "scary" and "haunting." Truthfully it’s a balance of a lot of things – ghost story versus murder mystery, found-footage “realism” versus pure fiction, theatricality versus raw emotion – but it exemplifies an era in which audiences, much less filmmakers, no longer distinguish between suspense and terror, which is why their payoffs work twice as brilliantly but linger half as long. Overproduced but occasionally deeply powerful, “Sinister” is a satisfying old-school thrill ride whose muscle eventually overpowers its brain.

SXSW '12 Review: 'Killer Joe' A Terrific Texan Tale With A Revelatory Matthew McConaughey Turn

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • March 11, 2012 12:45 AM
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  • 2 Comments
In recent years, film translations of stage hits haven't been as prevalent as they once were. You might get the occasional "Doubt" or "Rabbit Hole," for instance, but compared to the early days of the talkies, when a large proportion of movies were based on Broadway hits, it's been slim pickings; audiences and critics have learned that most attempts at stage-to-screen translation fail to make the material truly cinematic.

SXSW '12 Review: Director Jay Chandrasekhar's Tentative Sincerity Steps Undermined In Uneven, Sophomoric 'Babymakers'

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • March 11, 2012 12:23 AM
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  • 1 Comment
If you thought that “Knocked Up” was too mature a take on impending fatherhood, then “Babymakers” just might be the movie for you. Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, it follows the comical misadventures of a husband who is reluctant to discover whether or not his sperm is “confused” – and if so, how he’ll handle getting his wife pregnant. Marginally more sophisticated than Chandrasekhar’s efforts with the comedy troupe Broken Lizard, “Babymakers” starts off solidly before getting sidetracked by set pieces that take over the entire narrative – and ultimately reveal how little of one there was in the first place.

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