The Playlist

Review: 'Tuesday, After Christmas' Features Strong Performances In Otherwise Contrived Adultery Tale

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • May 25, 2011 5:44 AM
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  • 4 Comments
The following is a reprint of our review from the New York Film Festival in 2010.
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Review: 'The Hangover Part II' Is A Lazy, Unpleasant & Unfunny Mess

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • May 25, 2011 3:24 AM
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  • 9 Comments
Unlike most of the summer movies, which seem to be thundering into theaters without any real anticipation beyond the cacophonous marketing hype, "The Hangover Part II" seems to be a film people are unreasonably excited for. The 2009 original, directed by Todd Phillips, has metamorphosed from simply being the biggest R-rated comedy of all time (and winner of a Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Golden Globe) to being a movie that average filmgoers consider an instant "classic" of the genre and a staple of any fun-lover's DVD collection. (It's also the biggest selling comedy DVD of all time. Jesus.) The prospect of another movie, again starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis, coming this quickly, has been tantalizing for cinemagoers and something that is getting people really, really jazzed, which makes it somewhat harder to report that "The Hangover Part II" is one of the laziest, unself-aware and most unpleasant Hollywood products we've seen all year. And we just saw the fourth "Pirates Of The Caribbean" movie a couple of weeks ago.

Review: 'Too Big To Fail' A Solid, Brisk & Entertaining Run Through The 2008 Bailout

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 23, 2011 2:00 AM
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  • 2 Comments
"Motherfucker." That is the first word of dialogue uttered in "Too Big To Fail" and it sums up the feeling for many who in the fall of 2008 watched closely as the United States came precariously close to suffering a major economic collapse unlike anything seen since the Great Depression. It was a sharp wake up call for the nation and the subject has already spawned a handful of films, notably Michael Moore's rushed and reactionary "Capitalism: A Love Story" and the much better Oscar-winning documentary "Inside Job." At Sundance earlier this year, "Margin Call" premiered, going inside a fictional financial institution for twenty-four hours as they realize they are closer to going broke than they had realized and now Curtis Hanson's film follows. Making a perfect double bill, this film uses the book by Andrew Ross Sorkin as its source material and goes into the corridors of power at the banks and in Washington in the testy days before the unprecedented bailout was handed out to prevent a financial catastrophe.

Cannes Review: Christophe Honoré Sings The Same Old Song In Phony, Hollow 'Les Bien-Aimés'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 22, 2011 3:03 AM
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  • 2 Comments
As the closing night film at Cannes -- and, as such, lumped in historically with such bland films as "The Tree," "What Just Happened?," "Chromophobia" and "The Age of Darkness" -- writer-director Christophe Honoré's "Les Bien-Aimés" (aka "The Beloved") is already at a disadvantage. Sidelined out of competition, offered up as a final course to cineastes whose metaphorical bellies are already set to burst from an excess of riches, no one was going to think too much about the movie, regardless of its quality. Honoré's film in fact falls short of even the minimal expectations set by circumstance, to be truly tedious, flat and hollow -- a recycled exploration of themes and techniques the director has used before inside the bloated casing of a movie with a 145-minute running time.

Cannes Review: Na Hong-Jin's 'The Yellow Sea' An Epic, Pulse-Pounding Thriller

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 21, 2011 7:17 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Director Na Hong-Jin arrived in a big way in 2008 with "The Chaser," an action thriller that made huge waves on the genre film circuit and nabbed a midnight screening slot at the Cannes Film Festival a few years back. For his latest effort, Hong-Jin paired up with his two lead actors from that film -- Jung-woo Ha and Yun-seok Kim -- and has returned to the Croisette with "The Yellow Sea" an electric, epic crime thriller that should launch the director into top tier of South Korean film directors alongside Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook.
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Review: Sion Sono's 'Love Exposure' A Lengthy, Demented & Highly Original Romance

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 21, 2011 5:53 AM
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  • 3 Comments
"Love Exposure" recently screened in a one-week run at Cinefamily in Los Angeles. Further U.S. engagements are yet to be determined.
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Cannes Review: Rambling, Ragged 'This Must Be The Place' Isn't Nearly As Bad As You Feared

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 20, 2011 4:03 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The initial first glimpses for "This Must Be The Place" promised disaster, with a pitch of Sean Penn playing a burned-out post-punk rocker on the hunt for Nazis, and advance photos where Penn's jet-black corona of hair and dour made-up jowls made him look less like someone who had imitated The Cure's Robert Smith and more like someone who had killed, skinned and eaten Smith before donning his coiffure and face in celebration.

Cannes Review: Takashi Miike's 3D 'Hara-Kiri' A Tired Merchant Ivory-Esque Samurai Flick

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 20, 2011 1:38 AM
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  • 3 Comments
The prospect of the first 3D competition film ever to screen at the Cannes Film Festival directed by the ridiculously prolific Japanese madman Takashi Miike sounds too good to be true. And unfortunately, that's the case. "Hara Kiri," Miike's remake of Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 film, is the complete opposite of what you might expect from a three-dimensional samurai movie from the director. Lethargically paced, visually dull and with an emphasis on drama over action, "Hara Kiri" plays like a bad Merchant Ivory film with a lot of sonorous or off-key acting building up to very little.

Cannes Review: Nicolas Winding Refn's Low-Slung '80s Crime Drama 'Drive' Has A Dark Majesty

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 19, 2011 12:22 PM
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  • 14 Comments
Why is "Drive" -- a seemingly trivial affair about a stuntman and part-time getaway driver, played by Ryan Gosling, pulled into deep and bloody waters on the neon-and-streetlight lit streets of L.A. -- even at Cannes, let alone in competition? It's not merely because of the bloody-but-brilliant background of director Nicolas Winding Refn, whose films (the "Pusher" trilogy, "Bronson," "Valhalla Rising") have demonstrated both an eye for composition and a taste for the jugular. It's not merely because of the film's cinematic roots, with the production seemingly crafted as a clear tribute to '80s-era Michael Mann and other synthesizer-and-faux-leather action-crime stories. Rather, you can make a case that "Drive" is here because action cinema and genre cinema are too important -- and too exciting, enthralling and, yes, artful when well made -- to be merely dismissed as suitable only for hacks to make and dolts to watch. French enthusiasm for American crime cinema from the '40s and '50s gave us the vocabulary and value set to truly appreciate film noir -- and anyone who can truly appreciate film noir will appreciate "Drive."

Cannes Review: 'Bonsai' Is A Chilean Slacker-Romance Of Love & Language That's Small, Swift & Smart

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 19, 2011 11:38 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Cannes, more so than other film festivals, feels like the 10 days of nutrition offered in the hopeful attempt to make up for the other 355 days of dessert modern movie going offers us. Abandonment, murder, suicide, prostitution -- these are the concerns of all too many films in the competition and sidebars here at Cannes. A film like Christián Jiménez's "Bonsái," in the Un Certain Regard selection -- seemingly slight, seemingly light, small in scope and scene -- is exactly the kind of film that whispers when other films shout and gets overlooked in the hue and cry. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't speak the truth, or that what it's saying isn't heartfelt, articulate and funny. You have to lean into a film like "Bonsái" so you can see how intricate, simple and elegant it is, even at what seems like a smaller scale.
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