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The Playlist

Review: 'Perfect Sense' An Uneven Mix Of Romance & Apocalypse

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 12, 2012 10:10 AM
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  • 3 Comments
If you thought the fast spreading virus in "Contagion" was bad, Steven Soderbergh's film has got nothing on David Mackenzie's "Perfect Sense." A romance, sci-fi tale and apocalyptic vision of the breakdown of humanity all rolled into one, there is no source for the virus which moves quicky and mysteriously around the world. It just happens, and the effects are devastating. Anyone stricken with the virus begins to lose each of their senses, one by one over the course of days and weeks. There is no cure and there is no way to stop it, and it's against this backdrop that romance, against all odds, begins to flourish.

Rotterdam Review: 'Francophrenia' A Fascinating Doc/Fiction Profile Of James Franco As James Franco

  • By Brandon Harris
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  • February 10, 2012 4:00 PM
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  • 2 Comments
James Franco's ongoing experimentation with the limits of his own celebrity are like little else popular culture has produced of late. While his hijinks within academia and beyond are well documented (he's working on a Film MFA at NYU and an English PhD from Yale, while being a movie star, reediting My Own Private Idaho, writing essays for N+1 and occasionally doing some performance art with Laurel Nakadate), they come to a startling head in his Francophrenia (or: Don't Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby is), a daringly odd ball collaboration with lauded documentarian Ian Olds, who's The Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi was a hit in Rotterdam in 2009.

Review: 'This Means War' Shoots Blanks As Both An Action Outing & A Goofy Rom-Com

  • By William Goss
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  • February 10, 2012 10:05 AM
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  • 6 Comments
“The best product always wins,” declares Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) early on in McG’s "This Means War," brusquely establishing her approach to professional conduct – she’s a product tester in some candy-colored SoCal workplace – and romantic relationships alike. The sentiment also sets the bar much too high for the movie itself, as the action-comedy proceeds to deliver a sporadically amusing rivalry between two government agents for Lauren’s incredibly indecisive affections in between action sequences that reek of Fox’s notorious post-production meddling.

Review: Woody Harrelson Stands Tall Amidst Crumbling LAPD In Riveting 'Rampart'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 9, 2012 6:14 PM
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  • 4 Comments
"Everything you learned at the Academy is bullshit." That's the sage bit of wisdom Date Rape Dave (Woody Harrelson, and we'll get to his cop moniker in a moment) gives a new trainee in the opening frames of Oren Moverman's "Rampart," a searing and riveting look at a crooked cop's decay amidst the crumbling LAPD at the turn of the millennium.

Review: Greta Gerwig Is Unleashed, For Better And Worse, In 'The Dish & The Spoon'

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • February 9, 2012 5:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Whether you like it or not, we're going for a ride with Greta Gerwig. Opening with a perspective from the backseat, we see mostly the road ahead through the windshield, an endless dark tunnel with minimal traffic. A cellphone yelps for the driver's attention, to which the actress responds by tossing it out of the window -- obviously something is off, and at that point it becomes apparent (through a single, carefully framed shot in which we can see the unlit face in the rearview) that the woman is sobbing profusely. Rose (Gerwig) is not having a good day.

Review: Oscar Contender 'In Darkness' A Refreshing & Complex Tale Of Survival During The Holocaust

  • By Alison Willmore
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  • February 9, 2012 1:59 PM
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  • 0 Comments
In her director's statement for "In Darkness," one of this year's Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language Film, Agnieszka Holland writes of representations of the Holocaust in literature and cinema that, "One may ask if everything has now been said on this subject. But in my opinion the main mystery hasn't yet been resolved, or even fully explored." The feeling she's facing may be less that everything that can be said has been said about the 20th century's greatest atrocity, and more that people feel like they've already heard it all. To read about the true story on which "In Darkness" is based is to have your mind skip ahead and (probably correctly) fill in many of the details: Leopold Socha, a sewer worker and thief in Nazi-occupied Lvov, hides a group of Jews in the tunnels after the ghetto is liquidated, first for money and later just out of a desire to keep them alive. They survive underground for 14 months as the war rages on above them, as Socha risks his safety and that of his family to keep bringing them supplies.

Berlinale 2012 Review: Restrained Werner Herzog Still Shines In Gripping 'Death Row' Series

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 9, 2012 12:05 PM
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  • 2 Comments
The prologue of each of the four episodes of “Death Row” is the same: a restless camera prowls through the dismal ante-room, holding cell and injection chamber of an unnamed execution facility, while director Werner Herzog tells us in his familiar teutonic monotone that, as a German and a guest of the United States, he “respectfully disagree[s]” with the death penalty, legal in 34 states, and performed regularly in 16. And so he sets out his stall up front. What's perhaps surprising, however, is that what he then delivers is neither polemical nor propagandistic in its approach; Herzog's storytelling instincts trump his didactic ones here, to compelling effect. Having already tackled this subject in his feature-length “Into The Abyss” (the central figure of which makes a fleeting appearance here in the "Joseph Garcia and George Rivas" section), it's clear that in exploring the stories of these condemned men and women, Herzog has found a rich vein to mine, and he brings to this latest endeavor, a four-part TV series for Investigation Discovery, an uncharacteristic restraint. His even-handedness serves the subject matter well, largely refuting any accusations of liberal whitewashing before they can even be made. What he delivers instead is a series of nuanced, meticulous and gripping portraits of several death row inmates, unflinchingly portrayed, mostly in their own words and those of the men and women who arrested, reported on, prosecuted and/or defended them.

Review: 'The Vow' Is For People Who Like To Get Teddy Bears On Valentine's Day

  • By Kimber Myers
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  • February 9, 2012 11:55 AM
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  • 5 Comments
The things that got us verklempt in the last week include the latest episode of “Downton Abbey” and the “Halftime in America” Chrysler ad with Clint Eastwood. Clearly, it doesn’t take much, but noticeably absent from that list is the would-be weepy “The Vow,” starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. We even came prepared for tears, Boy Scout-style, with tissues in our pockets, but they’re still there, waiting to make a linty mess out of our laundry. The film isn’t as bad as what it looks like--the Chinatown knockoff equivalent of a Nicholas Sparks movie--but that doesn’t mean that those outside the target audience won’t find it a painful experience.

Review: Flavorless 'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island' Isn't Even An Admirable Folly

  • By Simon Abrams
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  • February 8, 2012 6:23 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Had its filmmakers not hedged all over their creative bets, "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" might have at least been an admirable folly. Its creators' many attempts to pander to the lowest common denominator and attract as many potential viewers as possible has made 'Journey 2' look like it was assembled by a creatively challenged brain trust.

Review: Bela Tarr's Swan Song 'The Turin Horse' Is Despairing But Unforgettable

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • February 8, 2012 4:00 PM
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  • 4 Comments
If the name Béla Tarr rings any sort of bell in your head, chances are you've already formed an unwavering opinion of his work. He hasn't exactly shaken up his approach since 1988's "Damnation" (that said, this writer -- probably like most -- isn't familiar with his crop of '90s short films), and if despairing (yet deeply moving) minimalist films composed of stark black-and-white single takes doesn't tickle your fancy, this film won't change your mind.

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