The Playlist

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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Review: 'The Family Tree' Is A Trite Indie Comedy That Thinks It's Shocking

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • August 24, 2011 4:59 AM
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  • 2 Comments
"The Family Tree" -- a movie that seems destined for home video obscurity even as it hits a handful of cinema screens this week -- sets out to answer the question: just how many cloyingly idiosyncratic "quirks," the kind that aim for "American Beauty" profundity but mostly come across as "Desperate Housewives" contrivances, can be stuffed, Thanksgiving-turkey-style, into one independent suburban family comedy? The answer, as given by "The Family Tree?" A whole fucking bunch.
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Review: 'Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure' A Hilarious Exploration Of A Viral Sensation

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • August 23, 2011 8:57 AM
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  • 4 Comments
If you don't think two belligerent, elderly men cursing out each other abrasively is hilarious, then "Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure" will leave you bored. Matthew Bate's movie on the audio-vérité craze that was "Shut Up Lil' Man" is such a celebratory love-letter that anybody who doesn't find the audio clips even remotely fascinating will get little out of the documentary's 90 minute running time. This writer, however, loves the furiously relentless barrage of insults that the pre-YouTube cult-celebrities Raymond Huffman and Peter Haskett would drunkenly hurl at each other daily. While the tapings of the two men fighting alone make an engrossing experience, the filmmaker instead finds the guys responsible for discovering Ray and Peter and delves into the history surrounding the craze, while also dissecting the moral ambiguities associated with these precious tapes.

Review: 'Swinging With The Finkels' A Conservative Sex Comedy With Less Laughs Than That Implies

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • August 23, 2011 6:10 AM
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  • 1 Comment
There’s no way around this, there’s no kind way to preface this, there’s no purpose to side-step it: “Swinging With The Finkels” is one of the worst, cheapest, dumbest and most dishonest films of the year. The film has the same tin-ear for its material that student films usually sport, often when they’re about retirement, hitmen, or a litany of subjects young people tackle despite clearly having no experience in the field. 'Swinging,' in theory, would be a film oblivious to the matters of sex and intimacy, but, in fact, it’s merely alien to any and all human behavior. The only 2011 film with this level of understanding regarding our basic humanity was Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch,” but at least that picture has the fallback of a heightened science fiction story.

Review: 'Our Idiot Brother' A Breezy, But Uneven Attempt To Replicate The Judd Apatow Touch

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • August 23, 2011 2:53 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Judd Apatow's smash hits of "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up" (not to mention the countless other successful comedies stamped with his producer tag) have spawned a good handful of imitators but few ever get the formula right. What Apatow does so well -- evidenced as far back as "Freaks & Geeks" and "Undeclared" -- is effortlessly find true character moments in the midst of even the raunchiest gags. For example, in "The 40 Year Old Virgin" when Andy returns home after his "bag of sand" gaffe and walks around his house yelling in frustration, it's both hilarious and true -- we've all had those moments where we've said or done something completely mortifying that we can't change. And Apatow excels at building his stories in a way that makes the usually large ensemble of players feel effortlessly real, with their choices and reactions organically born from situations that arise. That influence is clearly stamped on Jesse Peretz's "Our Idiot Brother" a film that takes an Apatow regular in Paul Rudd, surrounds him with a great ensemble, and strives admirably but unevenly to replicate the comedic and dramatic tones Apatow does so well.

Review: 'Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark' Is Light On Scares & A Minor Effort From Producer Del Toro

  • By Cory Everett
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  • August 22, 2011 10:59 AM
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  • 4 Comments
Originally written back in 1998 for Miramax, “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark” has had quite a long road to the big screen. Scribes Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins (“Mimic,” “Dragonslayer”) adapted the film from a 1973 made-for-TV movie as a vehicle for del Toro to direct but the project was shelved after numerous rewrites failed to satisfy the studio. Del Toro moved on to direct “Mimic” for Miramax instead which ended up being a disastrous clash of egos between the filmmaker and Bob Weinstein. The producer demanded so many changes that del Toro eventually disowned the film.

Review: 'Higher Ground' Revels In Its Callow, Low Blows To Catholicism

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • August 22, 2011 9:59 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Everyone's got something to say about religion. Each book that serves as the foundation for a theology forges our behavior in some shape or form, and while structuring your life on what each book preaches can lead to catharsis, kindness, and healing, it can also be the birth of intolerance and destruction. That's not to say people aren't ultimately to blame; though certain things are good or bad no matter how you spin them, we do tend to interpret things how we see fit. This odd mixed bag of morals often leads to serious backlash, manifested in outright intense debates or scathing art pieces. "Up In The Air" actress Vera Farmiga sets her target using the latter weapon, questioning her own faith in directorial debut "Higher Ground." Sadly, the film feels more like the voice of a junior high student going through a phase of atheism rather than the thoughts of a mature, rational adult.

Review: 'A Horrible Way To Die' And Not Much Of A Way To Live

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • August 19, 2011 2:17 AM
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  • 0 Comments
“A Horrible Way To Die” tells two parallel stories. One of them is rooted in the fear of the mundane, following Sarah (Amy Seimetz), a recovering alcoholic trying to put her life back together. Her alcoholic past can directly be attributed to an abusive relationship, one that had borderline stripped her of her identity. She may have a job, a car, and a house, but Sarah is a ghost, invisible to those around her, floating through life without vice, but also without virtue. And why would there be either? Director Adam Wingard takes a vampiric attention to detail, featuring a world of almost constant nighttime or downshifted cloudiness. The walls of her home are drenched in shadow, her AA meetings are in barren basements. The outdoor world seems to exist only to provide empty parking lots. You’d be forgiven for expecting a twist that reveals she’s been dead this whole time.
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