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VIFF '11: Lo-Fi Puppets And A Big, Hilarious Heart; 'Kooky' Is Destined To Be A Family Cult Classic

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 20, 2011 1:54 AM
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  • 3 Comments
In many ways, “Kooky” harkens back to the halcyon days of yore (read: in particular the ‘80s) when things were scary in kids’ movies. Or maybe we're just starting to show our old age, but didn't it seem like filmmakers back then were unafraid to at least hint at the possibility of actual threat and potential harm to characters, if not follow through on it completely? It was certainly a different time. Maybe they were untethered by the whims of insanely over-protective parents and ludicrous MPAA ratings strictures that insist on rounding off every sharp edge, creating a bland cinematic landscape these days that all-too-often wears down a movie for families to a pathetic, sanitized nub.

NYFF '11 Review: 'Play' Is A Confident, Complex Look At Social Issues In Sweden

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • October 19, 2011 12:58 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Festivals can be a great place to discover new, brilliant cinema, but often times the unknown films get drowned out by the heavily buzzed or the latest by a longstanding director. How many of us at the New York Film Festival saw "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and "The Kid with a Bike" but, for whatever reason, happened to miss out on "The Loneliest Planet"? It's highly likely that this writer isn't alone. Still, one person generally can't see everything a festival has to offer, so flicks that don't have Palme d'Or helmers behind them or a truckload of auspicious praise for their "breakout performer" tend to get shafted. Still, it's a must to attend those we know nothing about. Besides the fact that they deserve it, they also have something those lauded ones don't: the ability to surprise; for the viewer to go in blind and be completely taken without having known a thing about its cast or the curriculum vitae of the filmmaker. With movie news at the click of a button and various media available all over the web, this is a rare occurrence. We've had a few very pleasant whammies this year, from the social/political critiquing "Policeman" to the sweet "Corpo Celeste," and we're happy to add Ruben Östlund's "Play" to that trust.

VIFF '11: In Belgian 'Bullhead' Sympathy For The Devil Is A Mark Of Quality

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 19, 2011 11:55 AM
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  • 1 Comment
“No matter what you do or think, one thing is for sure, you’re always fucked. Now, tomorrow, next week or next year, until the end of time, fucked.”

Review: 'Martha Marcy May Marlene' A Stunner With A Breakout Turn By Elizabeth Olsen

  • By James Rocchi
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  • October 19, 2011 5:11 AM
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  • 12 Comments
The following is a reprint of our review from Sundance.

Review: 'The Catechism Cataclysm' Is An Indescribable & Unforgettable Curio

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • October 19, 2011 2:56 AM
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  • 0 Comments
If you’re a student of screenplay structure with a dog-eared copy of a Robert McKee book, it’s best to stay away from “The Catechism Cataclysm.” The new film from director Todd Rohal spends a good majority of its scant seventy-five minute runtime stymieing conventional thought, trafficking in casual blasphemy to depict a metaphysical journey into hell for a protagonist heavily under-equipped to deal with such trauma.
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Book Review: 'Drew Struzan: Oeuvre' Is A Beautifully Complete Look At The Master Illustrator's Work

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • October 19, 2011 2:04 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Last fall, the great "Art of Drew Struzan" book was released. It did a fairly comprehensive job of chronicling the career of the master illustrator and offered colorful commentary by the artist, giving us an exclusive peek behind the scenes of some of his most memorable work. Just as amazing as seeing early versions of his poster designs for movies like "Back to the Future" was learning some of the circumstantial anecdotes, such as how his concept for "Money Pit," featuring the house capsizing like the Titanic, was shelved because of a real-life ocean liner tragedy. But the selection was obviously chosen for specific reasons – to illustrate a certain point or showcase the artist's creative process. All of his iconic illustrations were there and accounted for (every "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" one-sheet, splashed across the glossy page) but there was just as much left out.
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Review: 'Retreat' Piles On The Twists, But Doesn't Deliver The Thrills

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • October 18, 2011 8:03 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The following is a reprint of our review from Fantasia.

VIFF '11: Paddy Considine's Directorial Debut 'Tyrannosaur' An Uneven Portrait Of A Damaged Man

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 18, 2011 5:59 AM
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  • 3 Comments
The opening scene of “Tyrannosaur” is a real belter. Through near whiplash-inducing cross cuts, we are introduced to a night in the life of Joseph (Peter Mullan) as he drinks heavily and stews with unfettered rage on a barstool (and back at home with a sawed-off wood baseball bat that looks like a leftover from the “Gangs of New York” props department). Then he does something really awful: he kills his dog. He doesn’t necessarily try to do this; it’s more the product of his excessive drinking, nasty temper and hateful, cynical outlook on the world. But he still did it, and the audience will never forget this for the remainder of the film.

Review: 'Miss Representation' Exposes An Ugly Truth That Needs To Be Seen

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • October 18, 2011 5:01 AM
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  • 11 Comments
It’s no shock to anyone who has turned on the TV, read a magazine, spied a billboard or surfed the internet that media representations of women are problematic at best. At worst, they are a both a symptom and cause of a troubled society reaching a tipping point in its relationship with sex and violence onscreen. This is the thesis set out by “Miss Representation,” a searing documentary directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, an actress, activist, and wife of California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. This film, born out of anxiety about the world she was bringing a little girl into, and inspired by her past struggles in life, configures itself as a sort of “An Inconvenient Truth” of sexism in the media. Cutting together talking heads interviews with media experts, professors, actresses, and heads of state with truly shocking statistics, and a barrage of rapid fire images culled from advertising, film and TV, the amount of information and sheer scope of this project is almost too much to bear.
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VIFF '11: 'Elena' Is A Dramatic Masterwork From Russian Director Andrey Zvyagintsev

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 18, 2011 2:57 AM
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  • 7 Comments
For this writer, there are fewer things in cinema more satisfying than a filmmaker in total control of their story. Sure, we love the visceral thrill of a well-choreographed, impeccably staged action sequence as much as the next red-blooded human being. And there’s the perfect combination of song/score over moving images, blissful moments heightened through all the tools available in the medium. But then there are those rare moments when a film has just begun, and the feeling sets in immediately that you’re in good hands; that no matter what happens in this film, you can trust the filmmaker has thought everything through and knows what he or she is doing. It’s a good feeling. Comforting even. But it’s rare.

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