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The Playlist

Review: 'Let The Bullets Fly' Entertains With Snappy Dialogue, Disappoints With An Indulgent Runtime

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • February 29, 2012 10:39 AM
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  • 1 Comment
With the Asian film market looking to put out blockbusters that can stand tall next to American behemoths, there occasionally comes a picture that owes as much to Sergio Leone as it does to, say, Michael Bay or Ridley Scott. Jiang Wen’s “Let The Bullets Fly” revels in breathtaking, breakneck pacing but still manages to feel like an absolute slog at 132 minutes, the middle weighing the film down to the point of viewer exhaustion. That said, “Bullets” is fit to stand in the company of Kim Ji-woon's triumphantly manic “The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” a film that is more stylish at the expense of character development, which Wen’s film piles on in swaths of intertwining dialogue delivered at a machine gun pace. It's not Atlman, to be sure, but it still feels more alive than tough guys in trench coats spitting words at each other across a godforsaken, arid landscape.

Review: 'This Is Not A Film' Is Jafar Panahi's Highly Moving Depiction Of His Own House Arrest

  • By Alison Willmore
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  • February 28, 2012 2:04 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The title of Jafar Panahi's "This Is Not A Film" is a nod to the fact that the 75-minute feature is shot on a DV camera and an iPhone, and consists mostly of Panahi and his collaborator and friend Mojtaba Mirtahmasb hanging out in the former's high-rise apartment over the course of a day. But it's also a postmodern jab at the lousy circumstances that led to its own existence -- this is not a film, because Panahi is banned from making films for the next two decades. He's under house arrest, awaiting news of his appeal of the six-year prison sentence he was given for his actions in support of Iran's opposition movement, forbidden from talking to the press and from leaving the country, silenced. For its premiere at Cannes, which Panahi wasn't, of course, able to attend, it was reportedly smuggled out on a USB stick hidden inside a cake. "This Is Not A Film" is about the realities of being deprived of your voice, and it's funnier and sadder than any summary of its contents suggests, a work that's an act of protest that ties itself into its filmmaker's past before becoming a vulnerable, melancholy ode to carrying on and hoping you won't be left behind as the world you've been denied rolls on outside your gates.

Book Review: 'Tales From Development Hell' An Uneven Look Behind The Curtain At Getting A Film Made

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 27, 2012 2:02 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Hollywood churns out roughly 400 movies per year, which is already a mind boggling figure, but becomes even more impressive when you think about the many hoops that need to jumped through just get a camera rolling. The vagaries of financing, locking down a cast, getting a script approved, protecting the film's creative integrity versus the business expectations of executives, balancing the egos of producers -- it's a minor miracle that as many movies get completed as they do. But for every movie that does get made, there are a handful more that don't for a variety of reasons, with some projects lingering around for years passing through multiple hands and directors without moving an inch. A recent example would be "Prisoners" which has been attached to directors Bryan Singer, Antoine Fuqua and Daniel Espinona at various points, with Christian Bale, Mark Wahblerg, Leondardo DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender all rumored to star along the way; the project is currently in the hands of "Incendies" director Denis Villeneuve. These what-could-have-been scenarios are always fascinating to explore and serve as the central concept of "Tales From Development Hell" by David Hughes, a book that unfortuantely is never quite compelling as you might hope.
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Review: 'No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos' An Inspiring & Moving Story About Friendship & Cinema

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 27, 2012 10:03 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Generally speaking, stories about Hollywood personalities tend to focus on players with larger than life egos, who used their bravado to make things happen. Or the tales center on the stars who luminous quailty made them legends. There is nothing that makes for a page-turning read or compelling documentary, than juicy behind the scenes stories, and the outsized rumors that linger around them. But you won't find anything salacious in "No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos" which makes it all the more refreshing and endearing. This is the kind of Hollywood story we don't hear often enough, one of true friendship and collaboration, of two likeminded souls whose dedication to each other, respect for the craft and filmmakers made them true legends in the field.
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Review: 'Exhausted' Is Spiritually Draining Shock Cinema

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • February 25, 2012 12:38 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Even in this day and age where DVD has brought so much to your doorstep, when countless streaming services allow you to screen the most challenging fare, one cannot neglect the feeling of sitting in a theater with others and sharing a communal shock. New York City is where you'd go to see an experimental, confrontational piece of anti-cinema, and 2008's nightmarish "Exhausted," making its American debut at the Gastropub reRun Theater tonight, absolutely fts the bill. You'll have many film experiences this year, but none may be quite so unforgettable.
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Review: 'Act Of Valor' Lives Out The Hopeless Nihilism Of The Modern Action Movie

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • February 23, 2012 6:34 PM
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  • 8 Comments
What have you done today? Probably nothing, says “Act Of Valor,” the new military recruitment film from directors 'Mouse' McCoy and Scott Waugh. A title card appears early explaining that the film is "based on real acts of valor,” which is a nice way of saying none of this is true, but it probably happened at some point in spirit, because you can’t snuff the spirit of heroism. Which is why “Act Of Valor” tries to trump all modern action pictures by claiming to be the real deal, down to the marketing-ready gimmick of casting actual Navy SEALs. Feeling inadequate yet?

Review: David Wain's Easygoing 'Wanderlust' Is A Light, Shaggy, Scruffy & Diverting Comedy

  • By The Playlist
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  • February 22, 2012 3:41 PM
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  • 1 Comment
While it's their first collaboration, one would be completely excused if they believed writer/director David Wain ('Wainy Days," "Stella," "Role Models") and Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up," etc.) had been working together for years. Clearly kin-like comedic souls or brothers from another mother, Wain and Apatow have been drinking from the same sweet and sour pool for some time, "Role Models" especially feels like an Apatow production.

Review: 'The Forgiveness Of Blood' A Tight, Taut, Grounded Dramatic Thriller

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • February 22, 2012 1:27 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Despite this country being home to a number of diverse cultures and ethnicities, American cinema (both indie and Hollywood) skews heavily toward the Exciting Stories Of The White Man. Of course, some of our favorite films fall into this extremely vague category, but it certainly would be nice to see different individuals represented on the silver screen. Filmmaker Joshua Marston seems to recognize this issue and does one better -- Los Angeles-bred, the director has journeyed to completely different countries for his feature films: Ecuador for "Maria Full of Grace" (story set in Colombia) and Albania for his latest, the taut and quiet thriller-drama "The Forgiveness of Blood." He's not simply given a pass solely for venturing out of the safe confines of home (in that sense, anyone with a plane ticket and a Canon 7D would be knighted); his work successfully showcases the life of each respective country without ever feeling exploitative, melodramatic or false. The years in between the two projects have allowed the director to sharpen his skills considerably, and “The Forgiveness of Blood” is an astute, finespun film with plenty of substance in its lean script.

Review: 'Tomorrow, When The War Began' Is A Fairly Engaging Australian Riff On 'Red Dawn'

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 22, 2012 10:58 AM
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  • 12 Comments
There's always been a kind of frayed-edged dangerousness to Australian cinema, a lawlessness that brought refreshing unpredictability to even the most tired of genres. The wildness that defines Australia, with its craggy rock formations and weird-ass creatures, seeps into its movies, to the point that even "Tomorrow, When the War Began," a fairly shopworn riff on "Red Dawn" (as filtered through untold modern young adult novels), feels more essential and engaging, if only for its earthy Australian-ness.
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Review: 'Raising Renee' Weighs Compassion & Responsibility In A Slight Documentary That Doesn't Dig Deep Enough

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 21, 2012 10:55 AM
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  • 0 Comments
At what point does loyalty to family trump personal ambition, and is the decision to put all aspects of your life on hold, for the responsibility of caring for a sibling, always the right decision? These are the questions that emerge, and are partially addressed, in Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan's "Raising Renee," a frustrating documentary that boasts the odd problem of being deeply intimate yet strangely distant at the same time.
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