The Playlist

Review: 'Bunraku' Wants To Be 'Sin City' But Is More Like 'The Spirit'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • September 1, 2011 2:31 AM
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  • 4 Comments
When you go to see any movie, particularly a genre picture, you are required to make a handshake deal with the film regarding the world it's trying to establish. If the picture can successfully convince you that, yes, this is a world of superheroes who are now retired, or this is a planet where no one has ever told a single lie, then you have no choice but to evaluate the movie on these terms.

Venice '11 Review: 'The Ides Of March' Is A Gripping Return To Form For Director George Clooney

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 31, 2011 10:28 AM
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  • 8 Comments
Even more so than usual, 2012 should be a particularly fascinating election year. On the one hand, you've got the incumbent, President Barack Obama, a man elected on the promise of hope and conciliation, and a man who's failed to live up to the sky-high expectations placed on him. On the other, you have a band of Republican candidates who have, so far, failed to look anything like contenders, instead seemingly competing in a national crazy-off. We're a long, long way off from finding out the victor, but to get things underway, one of the most politically engaged actor-directors around has opened the Venice Film Festival with a look behind the scenes of a presidential primary race; namely, George Clooney's "The Ides of March." Good timing indeed, but has the star's fourth directorial effort turned out like "Good Night and Good Luck," or like "Leatherheads"?

Review: 'Detective Dee' Underwhelms As A Boilerplate Wuxia/Noir Mix

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • August 31, 2011 5:20 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The press notes for “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame" refer to the prolific director Tsui Hark as a “genre master”. Complimentary at first glance, the phrase takes on shades of damning praise when it comes to 'Detective Dee,' an overstuffed period mystery with all the trappings of a wuxia epic. Wuxia, originally a literary tradition that came to silver screen prominence in the early 20th century, blossomed in the 80s and 90s, with celebrated directors like Zhang Yimou delivering films that captivated a world audience. It’s fair to say Ang Lee is responsible for awakening mainstream American interest in the genre with 2000’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” “Detective Dee” has none of the pedigree that elevates “Hero” or even 'Crouching Tiger,' but it does feature a compelling performance by superstar Andy Lau (who American viewers may best remember from Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s “Infernal Affairs”, later remade by Martin Scorsese into "The Departed").
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Review: 'Love Exposure' Is Four Hours Of Madhouse Kink

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • August 31, 2011 2:24 AM
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  • 4 Comments
Sion Sono‘s “Love Exposure” is a film that, upon its conclusion, feels as if you’ve spanned the globe to tell its narrative. So broad is its scope -- addressing topics like religion, incest and murder -- that the film never once seems like its staying in one place, so hyperactive and eager to stimulate. Sion, who grows with each new picture, has begun to resemble a more mature sibling to fellow countryman Takashi Miike, not ignoring narrative so much as sliding it to the side, creating a believable marriage between absurd form and weighty content.

Review: 'The Debt' An Uneven Thriller Powered By Strong Turns By Jessica Chastain & Helen Mirren

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • August 29, 2011 2:10 AM
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  • 2 Comments
After its predecessor “Killshot” got a cursory limited release before being scuttled off to DVD and the film before that, “Proof,” hobbled in and out of theaters, “The Debt” is director John Madden’s first film in more than a decade to receive a theatrical run of more than 1600 screens, but an overbearing sense of self-importance undermines its box office potential, much less the effectiveness of skillful performances by a mostly-talented cast. Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain, sharing the screen as the same character as much as current and next generations of great actresses, sustain a frequently overwrought (and overlong) tale of Mossad agents dealing with the truth of their past and fiction of their futures, while Madden handles Nazi war-crime subject matter with a predictable degree of melodrama.

Review: Not A Racing Fan? 'Senna' May Not Convert But Still An Absorbing Account Of A Great Athlete

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • August 28, 2011 1:25 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Engaging, well-paced and an absorbing behind-the-scenes account of a world many are unfamiliar with, the race-car documentary "Senna" by director Asif Kapadia, is not unlike a sports doc you'd see on ESPN (think the excellent and compelling "30 For 30" series), but thanks to Universal, it is being targeted directly at the art-house crowd.
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Review: 'General Orders No. 9' A Moving Study Of Change In The American South

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • August 26, 2011 2:52 AM
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  • 2 Comments
"General Orders No. 9" is playing in NY starting August 28th at the reRun Gastropub Theater as part of its "ReRun RERUNS" series. Visit here to see when it'll play near you.

Review: 'Brighton Rock' Perplexes And Fascinates, Sometimes In Equal Measure

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • August 26, 2011 1:58 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Early on in Rowan Joffe’s directorial debut “Brighton Rock," adapted from the Graham Greene novel, sociopathic protagonist Pinkie Brown (“Control” star Sam Riley) desperately batters a man with a sizeable rock. He does so right underneath the oblivious vacationing crowds on the Brighton boardwalk (circa 1964). This duality is hammered home by a portentous soundtrack and crosscutting between the sounds of children’s laughter and the ragged breathing of the two men locked in mortal combat. Lucky for us, Joffe, a screenwriter with “28 Weeks Later” and “The American” to his name, keeps the film from slipping into self-serving grimness and delivers a smart, sharply acted adaptation.

Review: 'Colombiana' Is An Exploitation Actioner Devoid Of Thrills & Humor

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • August 25, 2011 7:28 AM
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  • 3 Comments
"Colombiana," an ornately florid title for a hopelessly pedestrian Euro-trash action movie, has been marketed and sold around various images of its comely star (Zoe Saldana) brandishing firearms while in her underwear. As far as exploitation hooks go, it's about as old as the format itself, and just as dependable. But "Colombiana," with its rapid-fire editing, humdrum supporting cast, and choked knot of superfluous subplots, doesn't have the thematic incisiveness of an exploitation movie, or the playfully go-for-broke, hands-in-the-air sense of naughty impishness.

Review: 'Tucker & Dale' The Hillbilly Horror Buddy Comedy You Never Knew You Wanted

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • August 24, 2011 7:47 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil,” Eli Craig's directorial debut, suffers from a concept that would work wonders in a short, but doesn’t make for a necessarily compelling feature. Written by Craig and Morgan Jurgenson, the film follows the enterprising Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and the painfully shy Dale (Tyler Labine) who are on their way to refurnish a newly purchased summer house (littered with ample evidence that hints at a formerly deadly owner). The two men could rightly be described as “hillbillies” and through a series of escalating misunderstandings, a group of teenagers led by the psychotic Chad (Jesse Moss), believes Tucker and Dale to be evil incarnate.
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