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The Playlist

'Becoming Santa' Is A Joyless Christmas Doc

  • By Ryan Sartor
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  • December 25, 2011 10:39 AM
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  • 28 Comments
When judging modern Christmas movies, a good place to start is with the “hipness” of the film’s music. Danny DeVito does a little hip-hop DJ-ing in “Deck the Halls,” Michael Keaton fronts a touring rock act in “Jack Frost” (his group in the film is called ‘The Jack Frost Band’), and “This Christmas,” while a fine holiday movie, features the great Idris Elba playing passionate, bluesy saxophone in a Jazz club like he’s starring in a Miles Davis biopic. The accompanying vocal track? “Santa Baby.”

Rewind Reviews: 'Dragon Tattoo,' 'We Bought A Zoo,' 'Extremely Loud' & 'Pina'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • December 22, 2011 1:10 PM
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  • 0 Comments
We know it's a busy time of year, with a plethora of movie choices crowding up the multiplex, and even more coming in the next few days. We thought we'd make it easier to read and find a few reviews of films that come out this week that we ran recently, to refresh your memory and maybe point you in the right direction as you head out to the movies this weekend.

Book Review: 'The Hammer Vault' Is A Historically Rich Treasure Trove

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • December 21, 2011 6:46 PM
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  • 1 Comment
When we reviewed the poster collection "The Art Of Hammer," an overview of the great British studio Hammer Films, we marveled over each slickly reproduced page. And while the experience was lovely (and lasted well beyond our time looking over and reviewing the book, it was about as superficial an experience as you could get.

Review: Cross-Dressing 'Albert Nobbs' A Stodgily Straight Drama

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • December 21, 2011 2:30 PM
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  • 0 Comments
For Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs" has been a long time coming for its big screen incarnation. Based on a short story by Irish author George Moore, it was first adapted into an off-Broadway production by Simone Benmussa with Close in the lead role that won her an Obie award. The actress has been a driving force behind the film adaptation, shepherding the project for 15 years, taking on the responsibilities of a producer and even co-writing the script with Man Booker prize-winning author John Banville and Gabriella Prekop.

Review: 'Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close' Is Often Moving But Insufficiently Effective

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • December 18, 2011 5:30 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Oskar Schell, the protagonist of "Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close," isn’t like other boys. Sure, he likes laughing and junk food and having a good time like the other kids. But this overly precocious ten year old is more of an Encyclopedia Brown in training. With the guidance of his father, he pieces together the mysteries of history, breaking down everyday life into a puzzle. The unspoken tragedy of this is that Oskar doesn’t have a life. What makes up his existence is the notion of an interconnected web attaching his life experiences as if they all influenced another, domino-style. He’s a ten year old boy who doesn’t appear to have many friends, aside from his overactive father.

Review: 'Corman's World' Is A Dazzling Portrait Of An Exploitation Auteur

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • December 16, 2011 11:05 AM
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  • 1 Comment
In Alex Stapleton's dazzling, honest, oddly emotional new documentary "Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel," Roger Corman, the now-85-year-old filmmaker behind such films as "Little Shop of Horrors" and "Death Race 2000," is depicted as a doggedly independent, skinflint-y genius. Through a series of lively interviews with some of Corman's most talented protégés (among them Joe Dante, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Ron Howard and Jonathan Demme) and even livelier clips from his films, the case is made that Corman not only trained and equipped the current batch of living auteurs but that he fundamentally reshaped the Hollywood landscape in profound ways that are still felt today.

Review: Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse' An Awards Bait Movie Overloaded With Nostalgia & Sentiment

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • December 16, 2011 10:02 AM
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  • 10 Comments
If David Thomson was accurate when he said of Tom Hanks, “he carries the automatic sentiment of a dog in a film about people,” then the hero of Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” is the equine equivalent of Tom Hanks: among his human counterparts he attracts such instantaneous concern and compassion that audiences are helpless but to sympathize with him. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean you’ll care about the film itself as automatically, because here, Spielberg dials up the sentimentality to almost unbearable levels. His film version of the 1982 novel by Michael Morpungo, which became, in 2007 Nick Stafford’s stage play, comes to us overloaded with nostalgia both historical and cinematic as well as a joylessly persistent sense of nobility. “War Horse” is the type of film for which the term “Oscar bait” was invented, precisely because it feels like there’s no motivation for it to exist except to win awards.

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

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • December 15, 2011 2:35 PM
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  • 0 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.

Marrakech Film Festival '11 Reviews: 'Land of Oblivion' Starring Olga Kurylenko & '180°' The Swiss-German Version Of 'Crash' (Basically)

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 13, 2011 3:23 PM
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  • 0 Comments
"Land of Oblivion" It is 25 years ago in the small Ukrainian town of Pripyat. People are fishing. A boy goes to look at the tree he and his father planted. A woman prepares for her wedding. And then it starts to rain - not, in itself, a doom-laden event, except if you know that Pripyat was essentially the ground zero town for the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, and what we are really watching is more like a snapshot of Pompeii in the days before Vesuvius erupted.

Review: David Fincher’s ‘Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ Is An Intense But Dispassionate Thriller

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • December 13, 2011 12:21 AM
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  • 18 Comments
Looking at “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” it’s hard not to think of the dark thriller cum procedural as director David Fincher’s “The Departed." Notwithstanding both films being inspired by/remade from acclaimed foreign predecessors, Fincher and Scorsese alike seem to be saying with them, “You wanted me to do this kind of movie? Well, here it is, motherfuckers.”

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