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The Playlist

SXSW '12 Review: 'Electrick Children' An Offbeat Indie With A Trio Of Charming Young Leads

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • March 9, 2012 9:01 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Opening the Generation section of the 2012 Berlinale, which is designed to promote films for, by and/or about young people, we honestly weren't sure what to expect from "Electrick Children," the debut film from writer/director Rebecca Thomas. Colour us pleasantly surprised then to discover that the film is a genuinely enjoyable coming of age tale that compensates, and then some, for its narrative shortcomings with the winningness of the three central performances, from Rory Culkin, Liam Aiken and a luminous Julia Garner. It's really Garner's movie, and young though she is, she imbues a role that could easily have come across as prissy or doltish with a perfect combination of sweetness, naivete and stubbornness that sells even the less convincing nooks and crannies of the story.

Review: 'Sound Of Noise' A Clever, Unique & Musical Heist Film

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • March 9, 2012 5:01 PM
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  • 1 Comment
“This is a gig!” screams a gang of masked assailants as they enter a busy Swedish bank. The customers are pushed and prodded, forced into a corner, hiding behind their ruffled suits as the perpetrators begin to activate the shredders, printing cash and destroying it in front of them, an activity that involves the ruffling of dollars, the tapping of keyboards, the clang of coins against glass, and yes, maybe some added percussive activities. It’s music, and it’s only one of many “attacks” from this ambitious group.

Review: 'The Ballad Of Genesis & Lady Jaye' Is A Fascinating Love Story Cum Examination Of Fluid Identity & Pandrogeny

  • By The Playlist
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  • March 9, 2012 12:43 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Going beyond mere ideas of pansexuality, gender reassignment and transgenderdom, the documentary "The Ballad of Genesis & Lady Jaye" centers on the relatively unique notion of pandrogeny -- the concept of a man and woman shedding their individuality and appearance and becoming one and the same, in part through plastic surgery. Raising all kinds of fascinating questions about the notions of identity, the Marie Losier-directed documentary is often bizarre, trangressive and ideologically challenging, but always engrossing.

Review: 'Good For Nothing' A Straight-Faced Modern Western, No Gimmicks Allowed

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • March 8, 2012 8:58 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Westerns get a new accent in New Zealand's "Good For Nothing". Enter the universe of this film, and you'll soon know that it's a man's world, with dusty cheeks, spit-slinging bad guys, and danger rattling like a snake around every corner. The gents don't fool around, which explains why the tagline reads "This Ain't No Place For A Lady". And yet, a lady we see at the film's start, an Englishwoman who sets her dainty, proper feet on violent soil, within seconds in the clutches of a violent marauder whose closeness only makes the class chasm separating them grow wider.
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Review: 'Salmon Fishing In The Yemen' Is All Heart and No Brain

  • By Kimber Myers
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  • March 8, 2012 5:59 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Picking on "Salmon Fishing In The Yemen" makes us feel like a bit of a bully, as though we're mercilessly teasing that super nice but incredibly dumb girl in class. It's an affable, inoffensive British comedy that just wants you to like it so much that you can't help but snicker behind its back. Or are we the only ones who are that cruel?

Review: 'Friends With Kids' Is, Sadly, A Conventional Look At Unconventional Relationships

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • March 8, 2012 2:58 PM
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  • 3 Comments
The concept of the nuclear family has become something of an outdated notion. With children now found in a wide array of living situations -- single parents, gay parents, adoptions, etc. -- the "ideal" of a child being raised by a mommy and a daddy is shifting, with a newer idea of just two good parents -- whomever they may be -- being of the utmost importance. The film world is slowly beginning to recognize and write stories that reflect the changing times. Of course, "The Kids Are All Right" is one of the best movies to present an unconventional family, while "The Switch" represents what happens when you try to approach this kind of thematic material without anything to say. Jennifer Westfeldt's ("Kissing Jessica Stein") latest effort behind the camera, "Friends With Kids," finds the actress/writer/director oscillating between an intelligent look at modern relationships and a conventional rom-com, to mixed results.

Review: 'Jiro Dreams Of Sushi' A Fascinating (If Sometimes Jarring) Profile Of A Master Chef

  • By Simon Abrams
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  • March 6, 2012 4:01 PM
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  • 0 Comments
There’s something weirdly off-putting about the music cues in "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," a documentary-cum-character study of an 85-year-old sushi “shokunin” or craftsman. Octogenarian Jiro Ono is the cheeriest of workaholics. He can’t imagine retiring, at least not until he’s either too ugly or too infirm to serve his patrons. Simply put, Ono loves his demanding job as the head chef at Sukiyabashi Jiro, his own 10-seat, Ginza-based sushi bar. Sukiyabashi Jiro is the smallest restaurant to be given a three-star rating by the Michelin Guide.

Review: 'Convento' Is An Intriguing & Moving Look At Art And Life

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • March 6, 2012 1:05 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The Zwanikken clan story is not your Daddy’s family tales. Back in 1980 Geraldine and Kees (ballerina and photographer respectively) needed a creative spark to their battery, and together with their two children (Christiaan and Louis) they abandoned Holland for a decrepit convent in a remote Portuguese village, rebuilding the monastery as both a home and workshop for their varying endeavors. Situated between two rivers, the building's water wheel was put back to use and the land was soon fit to live off. Their work in art continued, with Christiaan following in their footsteps (unlike his sibling, Louis, a quieter lad who enjoys giving tours around the compound and writing poetry) in a unique way -- using junk electronics and the skeletons of long-gone animals, the deceased creature is reborn mechanically and controlled by computers, ranging from a donkey that moves water between two points and a bird that sings eerie tunes. This work has been part of various exhibitions all over the world, and the "biomechanoid zoologist" splits his time between the convent and studios in both Amsterdam and NYC.

Review: 'Attenberg' Is A Strange And Unique Experience

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • March 6, 2012 12:04 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Thanks to the hard-working welcoming committee of Athina Rachel Tsangari's "Attenberg," we are at first introduced to a white wall, where cracks and stains abound. Two young women, Marina (Ariane Labed) and Bella (Evangelina Randou, "Kinetta") dip into the frame, briefly conversing before launching into an unattractive and aggressive tongue union. They detach, with Bella asking if Marina would like to continue her lesson -- but the student claims to no longer have any "spit left." Smelling bullshit from a mile away, Bella teases her but is unsuccessful in her attempt to persuade her friend to resume education. Instead, they get on all fours and act like animals, swiping at one another before finally walking out of the shot. We're left, again, with that bland wall, only now the camera has pulled out a bit further to reveal some small windows and not-particularly-healthy grass. Only one question remains in our heads -- what the hell are the independent Greek filmmakers smoking?

Review: 'Silent House' Manages Some Surrealistic Thrills Inside Some Rigid Technical Restraints

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • March 6, 2012 10:01 AM
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  • 0 Comments
"Silent House" has a nifty hook – it's being billed as a "real time" (probably not) horror movie filled in a single, unified shot (again: there are eight separate shots, but that's still pretty impressive). In a way it's a stylish extension of the current found footage craze, as we're locked into a single character (played, with believable intensity, by Elizabeth Olsen) as she scurries around a dilapidated lake house, but it also allows for far more flowery filmmaking (particularly in the film's freaky final act). What makes "Silent House" such an exceptional little genre treat is that, locked into a very rigid technical framework, filmmakers Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, have gone out of their way to make a genuinely scary, occasionally surreal, intensely imaginative thriller. What could have simply been an exercise ends up being truly engaging.

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