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Berlinale 2012 Review: 'Electrick Children' An Offbeat Indie With A Trio Of Charming Young Leads

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 20, 2012 2:01 PM
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  • 1 Comment
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: 'Life's Too Short' Another Comedic Look At Ego, Hubris & Humiliation From Ricky Gervais

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 19, 2012 12:12 PM
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  • 2 Comments
"I heard Ricky Gervais quit Twitter recently because it only has 140 characters. Well that's 139 more characters than he's ever come up with," zings an insulted Johnny Depp in the second episode of "Life's Too Short." And while the gag is hilarious (as is Depp), there is a small ring of truth of it. The multitasking actor, writer, producer and director (he takes on every job in this new series) has mined a very specific comedic niche, with characters like David Brent and Andy Millman, that finds the lives of ordinary middle-aged men at the mercy of their ego and hubris, with humiliation often following their thwarted schemes to move up the ladder or follow their dreams. And while Gervais is a bit player (along with longtime collaborator Stephen Merchant) in "Life's Too Short," the familiar traits and themes of his celebrated previous series is here in ample supply. That it still works to uproarious effect with a laser sharp wit and keen eye for observation, is a credit to Gervais' skill in perfectly capturing the anxieties and insecurities of men of a certain age.

Review: HBO's 'Eastbound & Down' Makes Its Long-Awaited Return With Hilarious, Promising Season 3 Opener

  • By Cory Everett
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  • February 19, 2012 10:00 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Kenny “Fucking” Powers is back. Fans of the HBO series can rejoice because “Eastbound & Down” makes its long-awaited return tonight after a brutal 15-month hiatus. The ongoing saga of burnout major league pitcher Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) whose bad behavior forced him into early retirement, the series began with Kenny returning to his hometown to become a middle school gym teacher.

Berlinale 2012 Review: Kirsten Sheridan's 'Dollhouse' Is A Dynamic, Delirious But Ultimately Downbeat Social Allegory

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 19, 2012 9:51 AM
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  • 5 Comments
As we all are with films set in cities we know well, this writer is particularly critical of films set, partially or wholly, in Dublin. So it's no mean praise when we state that Kirsten Sheridan's third feature, "Dollhouse," by turns riotous and menacing, is as accurate a portrait of the interactions, language and attitudes of a particular segment of Irish youth as we have seen on screen, probably ever. Set in a single location over the course of a single night's bacchanalian partying, the improvisational approach brings real authenticity to the proceedings, even as the film nods to "Lord of the Flies" and "A Clockwork Orange."

Berlinale 2012 Review: 'Anton Corbijn Inside Out' Presents An Impressionist Portrait Of The Artist As A Solitary Man

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 18, 2012 3:06 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Wisely not attempting to go the standard-issue bio doc route with a subject who is clearly anything but standard-issue "Anton Corbijn Inside Out," as the title suggests, instead takes a more impressionistic, intimate approach to the celebrated photographer and filmmaker, and in the process creates a thoughtful film that is as much a homage to the creative process as it is a tribute to a man.

Berlinale 2012 Review: Melissa Leo Shines In Minutely Observed, Minimalist 'Francine'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 17, 2012 1:05 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Evoking films like "Winter's Bone" and "Wendy and Lucy" in presenting a sparse, narrowly focused portrait of a lone female protagonist in adverse, not to say desperate circumstances, "Francine" is the kind of small film made for the festival circuit, and for which the festival circuit was made. It is no less reliant on a powerhouse central performance than its aforementioned forebears, if anything more so, as here extraneous detail is pared back almost to the point of nonexistence, leaving Melissa Leo front and center of every scene. It is a testament to her absolutely definitive portrayal that one simply cannot imagine what the film might have looked like with anyone else in the role. Some elegant framing and photography aside, the film lives and dies on her performance, and this being Leo, at her most vanity-less and instinctive, it mostly lives.

Berlinale 2012 Review: 'Bel Ami' Starring Robert Pattinson Fails To Seduce

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 17, 2012 11:00 AM
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  • 21 Comments
From behind, we watch a man in ragged clothes look longingly through the window of a fancy Belle Epoque Parisian restaurant. Inside, richly attired women whisper secrets over brimful glasses of champagne and decadent platters laden with food. Later, the hungry man in his mean garret relives the moment, jealousy and bitterness at the injustice of his situation playing across his face, before the memory of such opulence actually makes him cry. It's a convincing, well-observed moment that sets up a lot of what we need to know about the man's character. Oh wait, did we mention the man is played by Robert Pattinson?

Review: 'Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance' Is A Metal Album In Cinematic Form

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • February 17, 2012 7:39 AM
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  • 11 Comments
The Marvel Comics character of Ghost Rider has always been more than a little alternative. Considerably darker and more haunted that contemporaries like Spider-Man and the Hulk, the demonic creation of trio Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog found himself starring in more horror-centric stories, only ocassionally clashing with sunnier heroes in sales-boosting stunts. While the comic creation existed on the fringe of the industry, Mark Steven Johnson's 2007 adaptation "Ghost Rider" was a far more generic, populist attempt to appeal to the masses. It was, by design, a pop song, except it viewed itself as a catchier Massive Attack track when it was more of an O-Town b-side. Bring the kiddies.

Berlinale 2012 Review: 'A Royal Affair' Is A Good-Looking But Unadventurous Period Drama Elevated By Fine Performances

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 17, 2012 7:12 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Considering how very few people on earth we would rather watch on a movie screen than Mads Mikkelsen, colour us baffled to find ourselves slightly out of step with the rapturous reception accorded his latest film, the Danish-language period drama "A Royal Affair." Premiering tonight in Berlin, the film apparently drew cheers from press (though not in our auditorium), and has, in the few hours since, been hailed by some as the saviour of the competition. The film we saw, however, was a perfectly decent, lavishly mounted costume drama, probably above average for this sort of thing, but hardly earth-shattering and certainly not the best film we've seen so far.

Berlinale 2012 Review: Try As it Might, 'Cherry' Fails To Convince Us That A Career In Porn Is The Best Idea Ever

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 16, 2012 3:32 PM
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  • 3 Comments
That the film is co-written from the sympathetic point of view of porn actress Lorelei Lee (who also takes a small cameo role) couldn’t be clearer in co-writer/director Stephen Elliott’s debut feature “Cherry.” Ostensibly a fairly familiar tale of a good girl getting slowly pulled into the seamy world of pornography, its unusual tack (that this is, in fact, a good thing) may sound intriguing but it gets wearing pronto; some decent performances cannot clear the air of the musky odor of porn apologism. The industry depicted here is one of clean surfaces, make up room camaraderie, and a startling lack of seediness, and Cherry/Angelina’s choice to join it is presented as an empowered, sensible decision.

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