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The Playlist

Sundance Review: 'Indie Game: The Movie' Is A Big-Hearted Celebration Of Artistic Spirit

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • January 22, 2012 11:13 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The most profoundly moving moment of “Indie Game: The Movie” arrives an hour and twenty minutes into this terrific documentary. As designer Edmund McMillen watches YouTube videos of people spurting out expletives while playing his game Super Meat Boy, the kind-faced man breaks into a glowing smile. He’s made that connection, reached out to people and has been reaffirmed by their love for his brainchild. It’s the glimpse of a blinding sun at the end of a long, cold road, and 'Indie Game,' directed by James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot, is filled with moments that lay bare the emotional stakes of game design and development, an art that remains vastly underrated by the mainstream. Possibly the most mature look at video games yet, and a fine documentary in its own right, “Indie Game: The Movie” serves not only to erase the image of the programmer as a pimple-anointed malcontent recluse, but levels the playing field, serving as a powerful document for why games deserve consideration as a legitimate artform.

Sundance Review: Good Performances & Narrative Tapestry Can't Save Emotionally Distant 'The Words'

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • January 21, 2012 5:02 PM
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  • 3 Comments
A combination of shopworn literary clichés combined with an “Inception”-worthy daisy chain of White People Problems, “The Words” fails to surpass dramatically the bland lack of specificity in its title while still offering a solid roundup of performances from its talented ensemble cast. Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, who received story credit for “TRON: Legacy” (a film this writer liked a lot), wrote and directed this flashback-laden tale of a novelist coming to terms with his life and work by writing a book about a novelist coming to terms with his life and work.

Review: Overwrought & Superficial ‘Flowers Of War’ Never Even Blooms

  • By The Playlist
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  • January 20, 2012 4:33 PM
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  • 4 Comments
While the historically overlooked massacre and genocide of China's city of Nanking is experiencing a resurgence in cultural awareness (and therefore cinema) as an under-remembered tragedy worth memorializing (see the 2007 documentary "Nanking"), the brutal events – Japan killing 200,000 people in their 1937 overthrowing of the region – is still mostly unknown outside of the East.

Review: Oh, There's Michael...'Underworld: Awakening' Answers Questions You Never Cared Enough To Ask

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • January 20, 2012 8:58 AM
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  • 42 Comments
“Where’s Michael?” shouts warrior vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) urgently in the trailer for “Underworld: Awakening,” the fourth film in the other vampire/werewolf franchise. “Who’s Michael?” muses a large portion of the audience, presumably a little less urgently, in reply. Because while the ‘Underworld’ films undoubtedly have their appeal -- you don’t goose your way beyond a trilogy without some kind of following making it financially enticing -- they really don’t inspire the kind of widespread fandom that might immediately make the average moviegoer clutch their heart in worry over the fate of Selene’s hybrid werevamp macguffin boyfriend.

Sundance Review: 'Wish You Were Here' With Joel Edgerton & Teresa Palmer An Overwrought, Undercooked Mystery

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • January 20, 2012 8:05 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Although its title implies either a whimsical journey of self-discovery or an ironic riposte to the vacation from hell, the story of “Wish You Were Here” is, in either context, a disappointingly pedestrian experience. The story of a husband and father trying to return to his normal life after a vacation with his wife and her sister that ends in the disappearance of his sister-in-law’s boyfriend, Kieran Darcy-Smith’s Australian import inspires a deluge of possibilities and provocative thoughts in its audiences’ heads, but languid pacing undermines the too-simple and ultimately too-conventional revelations that wrap up its simmering mysteries. Nevertheless, strong performances from the four leads sustains its unhurried approach far longer than the payoff deserves.

Review: Frederick Wiseman's 'Crazy Horse' A Fantastic Meditation On Bodies In Motion

  • By Brandon Harris
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  • January 19, 2012 5:28 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Serious dance filmmaking is under going something of a renaissance. While Wim Wenders’ "Pina" still kicks about arthouses, doc auteur Frederick Wiseman returns with one of his patented and lengthy direct cinema discourses on the civic, social or business institution of his choice. That it mostly involves naked ladies (the reason you probably can’t find its trailer anymore on YouTube) is truly beside the point for his biggest fans, but for many, it remains a sticking point.

Review: Steven Soderbergh's Action Vacation 'Haywire' Has Style, Smarts & Kicks To The Face

  • By James Rocchi
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  • January 19, 2012 12:00 PM
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  • 2 Comments
At the AFI Festival L.A. "Secret Screening" -- blown, and blown up, several hours before as the world premiere of Steven Soderbergh's action-thriller "Haywire" -- the director explained how he found leading lady Gina Carano. He'd just been fired off a film -- "Which happens," he dryly noted -- and he was watching mixed martial arts on TV and saw Gina Carano in action and was struck by a thought: "She's a natural beauty and she beats people up in a cage; how could you not build a movie around her?"
More: Haywire, Review

Review: 'Red Tails' Is A Hoary Mixture Of Jingoistic Clichés & Newfangled Technology

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • January 19, 2012 7:56 AM
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  • 7 Comments
George Lucas has been pretty outspoken about how difficult his "Red Tails" was to get made – that he had to finance it himself, and when he showed it to studio heads they weren't much interested. And he's framed these stories around race, saying that the reason that "Red Tails" was summarily rejected was because it featured an almost all-black cast, in Lucas' mind a very real reminder of Hollywood's stodgy cinematic racism. But watching "Red Tails," you realize that the reason that nobody wanted anything to do with the movie isn't because it was too black -- it's because it was too fucking awful.

Review: 'The Grey' Pits Stock Characters Against Cartoon Wolves

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • January 17, 2012 10:08 PM
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  • 12 Comments
It wasn’t long ago that Liam Neeson was considered a prestigious name in film. Though his early career was peppered with genre roles, “Schindler’s List” put him on the map as an awards-friendly leading man. But in the past few years, Neeson has reinvented himself once again, into the hardest of men, a proud warrior who will throw down with any on-comer. You no longer need exposition in a Liam Neeson movie, only his weathered, battered face.

Review: Documentary ‘Enemies Of The People’ A Frequently Gripping Search For Justice In The Cambodian Killing Fields

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • January 16, 2012 11:20 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The worst of human history has a way of bubbling under the surface, burying under the skin of collaborators, killers and leaders. Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime, responsible for approximately two million deaths, has remained in the country's national psyche in a uniquely chilling manner. The Cambodians who carried out Pol Pot’s systematic removal of intellectuals, political dissidents and anyone who seemed like a possible threat, now live in relative peace, often in close proximity to the people whose families they decimated by hand. “Enemies of the People,” an investigative documentary driven by Camdobian journalist Thet Sambath and co-director Rob Lemkin, attempts the extraordinary – Sambath wishes to elicit confessions from the mouths of former killers, in particular an elderly, partially toothless family man named Nuon Chea. Chea was once known as Brother Number Two – Pol Pot was Brother Number One.
More: Review

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