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Venice '11 Review: Jet Li's 'The Sorcerer & The White Snake' Is Wuxia-Lite, With Bad Action & CG

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 2, 2011 6:54 AM
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  • 0 Comments
It might have a highbrow reputation (something anyone who's caught one of the sidebars can confirm), but that doesn't mean that the organizers of the Venice Film Festival don't like to watch a little ass get kicked sometimes. Last year, in fact, was something of a banner year for action at the festival, with "13 Assassins" and 'Detective Dee' in competition, and "Machete," "The Town," "Reign of Assassins" and "Legend of the Fist" all playing out of it. 2011 is a little lighter on the chop-socky, but there is a single film that's here to let film critics scratch their face-punch itch, and that's the Jet Li vehicle "The Sorcerer & The White Snake." Directed by Tony Ching, who not only helmed the classic "A Chinese Ghost Story," but also served as action director/choreographer on the high octane likes of "Shaolin Soccer," "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers," so expectations were high that at the very least that we'd see some spectacular fight sequences, and possibly even something that transcends the genre, as "13 Assassins" did last year.
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Venice '11 Review: 'Un été brûlant' Is A Thundering Bore That Verges On Self-Parody

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 2, 2011 2:04 AM
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  • 0 Comments
There are certain cliches associated with European cinema -- they're not necessarily always accurate but they do exist. Ask a layman -- a well educated, smart, nice person who might not be quite as subtitle-happy as you or I -- what they imagine they might see in, say, an average French film, and a number of things might come up. Characters who are constantly having extra-marital affairs, for instance. A vaguely homoerotic relationship between two friends. Unbroken four-to-five minute takes. Dialogue talking about 'the revolution.' An actress, perhaps Monica Bellucci, taking her clothes off within the first 45 seconds.

Venice '11 Review: Cronenberg's 'A Dangerous Method' An Insightful Look At Sexuality & The Mind

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 2, 2011 1:24 AM
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  • 3 Comments
The recent career of David Cronenberg has been an interesting thing to watch. Having made his name with a very particular, icky brand of fetish-happy body horror, he hasn't dipped back into that well for a decade now, preferring instead to take his obsessions and use them to spice up what in other hands could be standard fare. And generally speaking, it has worked well: "Spider," "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises" all have much to recommend them, all peculiarly Cronenbergian, but each pushing in a slightly different direction. But now he's made what, on the surface at least, might seem to be his biggest departure to date: a period piece, based on a stage play (one of several in Venice this year -- have movies rediscovered theater as a source of material?), that examines the relationship between the two major forefathers of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

Review: 'Shark Night 3D' A Joyless, Trashy Thriller

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • September 2, 2011 1:01 AM
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  • 2 Comments
When Rogue Pictures announced that their forthcoming horror film “Shark Night 3D” was going to be rated PG-13 instead of R, they shepherded it into theaters with two strikes already against it. Especially following the go-for-broke gratuitousness of Alexandre Aja’s “Piranha 3D,” but really in the wake of every single killer fish movie since the original “Jaws,” to deny an audience gory dismemberments or even just gloriously pointless nudity feels, well, irresponsible. But with “Snakes on a Plane” director David R. Ellis behind the camera, “Shark Night 3D” is a full-fledged, bottom-of-the-ninth strikeout, a trashy, stupid, joyless, and overlong thriller that makes Aja’s grand guignol look positively arty by comparison.

Venice '11 Review: 'Carnage' Is Fun While It Lasts, But Insubstantial & Anonymous

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 1, 2011 12:22 PM
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  • 6 Comments
Compared to his last film, Roman Polanski's "Carnage" must have been a breeze. Not that the shoot for "The Ghost Writer" was "Fitzcarraldo" or anything, but, famously, the project hit a major speed bump in September 2009, while the film was in post-production, when the helmer was arrested in Zurich, and deportation proceedings were begun against him for the statutory rape case that has overshadowed the last thirty-odd years of his career. The Swiss authorities decided not to hand Polanski over, but he still spent months in prison, and was forced to complete post on his Robert Harris adaptation from there.

Review: ‘Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life' Is An Ambitious Biopic That's Disappointingly Incomplete

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 1, 2011 5:31 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The following is a reprint of our review from the Quebec release of the film in 2010. "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life" is now in limited release.

Review: 'A Good Old Fashioned Orgy' Is A Good New-Fashioned Slob Comedy

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • September 1, 2011 4:24 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The following is a reprint of our review from the Tribeca Film Festival.

Venice '11 Review: Madonna's 'W.E.' Is A Royal Disaster

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 1, 2011 3:13 AM
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  • 27 Comments
Just as news of an actor excitedly announcing that they've got a definitely-not-a-vanity-project album on the way is generally greeted with a reaction somewhere between mockery and outright terror, news of a musician moving into the movies is rarely a good thing. But all in all, pop megastar Madonna's made a better attempt than most.

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"?

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