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The Playlist

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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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

Review: Spanish Oscar Contender 'Black Bread' A Melodramatic, Yet Compelling Story Of Post-Spanish Civil War Life

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • January 16, 2012 10:03 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Somewhere in the mouth of a vast, dreary weald, a merchant trucks along with his wares. He stops briefly to check his wagon but is startled by some rustling nearby. At this point, even the most novice movie-goer can figure out that this man won't make it out of these woods alive. In a sequence that would make Michael Haneke proud, the masked attacker bursts in for the kill, following his act of brutality by taking the horse and wagon to a cliff, bashing the animal in the face, and sending it down the precipice. Bright-eyed Andreu (Francesc Colomer, who looks like the young death row kid from Werner Herzog's "Into The Abyss") stumbles upon the wreckage, and to make matters even more frightening, he finds a friend in the cart already on the brink of death. The boy can only muster up a single word, "Pitorliua" -- the name of a spirit said to reside in a nearby cave. Andreu reports the death to his family, but he can't figure out where Pitorliua fits in this puzzle. It's this mystery that propels the whole of "Black Bread" along, though its driving force is often hindered by other extraneous elements -- quite often there is too much going on and it gives things an overwhelming, cluttered feel.

Review: Lynne Ramsay's 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' Is Bleak, But Haunting

  • By James Rocchi
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  • January 13, 2012 2:19 PM
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  • 8 Comments
"We Need to Talk About Kevin" is one of the most beautifully bleak psychological fake-outs the cinema's given us in years, as Lynne Ramsay ("Ratcatcher," "Morvern Callar") directs an adaptation of Lionel Shriver's 2003 novel. At first blush, Ramsay's film would appear to be a look into the genesis and reasons behind the title teen's killing spree; the film we get is something different entirely, an exploration of loss and pain and grief through the eyes of the mother (Tilda Swinton) left shattered and battered in the wake of her son's irrational, irredeemable actions.

Review: 'Don't Go In The Woods' A Horror/Musical That Hits A Sour Note

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • January 13, 2012 2:00 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Sometimes your headlines write themselves. When a film features a warning right in the title, that’s playing with fire. In the case of Vincent D’Onofrio's woeful directorial debut, the warning is more than prophetic. Based on a script by Sam Bisbee and Joe Vinciguerra and a story by D’Onofrio, “Don’t Go In The Woods” is an earnest attempt to marry musical and horror, two genres that already have quite a bit in common. Both tend to invest in stagy, big-time emotions and feature grandiose payoffs, but while musicals deliver vocal triumphs, horror dishes it out in blood and guts, arterial sprays and all that good stuff. D’Onofrio's film features a great deal of occasionally decent but consistently navel-gazing songs and a precious few craniums caved in via sledgehammer during its exhaustingly paced eighty-six minute runtime.
More: Review

Review: 'Fake It So Real' An Intimate Look At An Independent Wrestling Federation

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • January 13, 2012 1:01 PM
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  • 0 Comments
“People say jazz is the great American art form. Jazz is dead. I think wrestling is the great American art form." - PITT

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