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The Playlist

Review: 'Being Flynn' With Paul Dano & Robert De Niro Is A Checklist Of Narrative Shortcuts

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • March 1, 2012 5:58 PM
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  • 4 Comments
What's in a title? There's something both extremely specific and entirely universal about the one for "Another Bullshit Night In Suck City," an autobiographical book from Nick Flynn, suggesting everyday life becoming a Moebius strip of inevitability in the futile search for truth. In its film form, however, 'Suck City' has instead become "Being Flynn," which, aside from commercial suicide, means next to nothing after watching the film either. Most of this has to do with the fact that Nick Flynn, the casual junkie and sometimes poet layabout who somewhat accidentally finds his voice as a writer, is a fairly unremarkable, uninteresting guy.

Review: 'Project X' A Wild Party That Can't Sustain The Buzz

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • March 1, 2012 5:05 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Despite the plodding narrative veering wildly between stagnant humor and maudlin interjections, Todd Phillips’ "Due Date" demonstrates in one scene both the appeal and increasingly mean-spirited worldview that the filmmaker has traded in following the success of "The Hangover." It comes when Robert Downey Jr., provoked repeatedly by a bratty child, unleashes a swift punch out of nowhere to his gut, a calm look of manic glee in the actor’s eye as the boy crumples to the floor.

Review: 'The Salt Of Life' Is A Breezy, Charming Comedy About Growing Old

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • March 1, 2012 4:14 PM
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  • 0 Comments
To be sure, Grampa Simpson would be conflicted with “The Salt of Life.” On the one hand, he’d certainly appreciate that Gianni, the recently retired protagonist of the film, is by no means vibrant or fun loving (even if he is lovable), and he’s clearly a bit resentful and bitter with the natural passing of time. But on the other, one could easily describe Gianni as the kind of ubiquitous “sex maniac” he complains of in the quote above, from a Season 1 episode. Whether Abe would approve or not, though, we found this breezy, but never slight Italian comedy to be a real treat.

Review: 'The Snowtown Murders' An Uneven But Still Mesmerizing & Disturbing Serial Killer Thriller

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 29, 2012 1:57 PM
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  • 5 Comments
Both naturally thrilling and grotesquely over-the-top, the feature length debut by Justin Kurzel is certainly unforgettable and at times unnervingly mesmerizing. Based on the true story of Australia's "Body In Barrels" murders, "Snowtown" is structured much like "Animal Kingdom," using an adolescent teenager as a gateway into a world and family (of sorts) that is profoundly disturbing.

Review: 'Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie' Is An Absurdist Blast

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • February 29, 2012 12:56 PM
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  • 2 Comments
The comedy style that Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have perfected over five years on their completely bizarre Cartoon Network sketch comedy series "Tim and Eric, Awesome Show Great Job!" goes something like this: they dress up in funny outfits, get a bunch of celebrities (including Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Ted Danson, and Zach Galifianakis) to do the same, layer on screechy or slurpy sound effects, liberally punctuate with lots of screaming or crying, round out the cast with actors that look like they're either homeless or have been rescued from an insane asylum, and edit the entire thing like it's from some psychedelic version of a 1980s cable access channel.

Review: 'Black Butterflies' Showcases A Life Of Art Overshadowed By A Life Of Sensuality

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • February 29, 2012 12:00 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Cinema has endured through the years not because it's a good time, or because it's a concise, closed method of storytelling. The format endures because of its innate flexibility, utilizing sound and visuals with the natural storytelling techniques of writers and directors that allows for interpretations and re-interpretations of the very same ideas that shape our other art forms. Not to say it is hierarchically "better" or worse than literature, prose, poetry or illustrated artwork, but it is no less durable. This partly serves as the reason why filmmakers and audiences remain drawn to the dramatized lives of artists, such as Ingrid Jonker, the poet at the heart of "Black Butterflies," as the subject matter allows the medium to penetrate both creator and creation.

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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