The Playlist

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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Cannes Review: Lars Von Trier Confronts Depression Head On In The Grim 'Melancholia'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 18, 2011 10:38 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Two years after Lars Von Trier caused a major stir at Cannes with his contentious "Antichrist," the enfant terrible returns to the Croisette in a much more subdued mood with "Melancholia." Despite the premise, which sounds tailor-made for Von Trier to provoke and prod his audience, the film is easily the most restrained the director has been "Europa." Essentially shock free, the operatic, three act film plays more like an Ingmar Bergman chamber piece than anything else and the biggest surprise is just how contemplative Von Trier is this time around.

Cannes Review: 'Le Havre' Another Hilarious, Humane & Moving Film From Aki Kaurismaki

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 17, 2011 11:51 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The issue of illegal immigration certainly isn't a new one to the film world, but rarely has it been captured with as much humanity, heart and humor as in Aki Kaurismaki's "Le Havre." A political film that eschews politicking, a comedy with a serious point, and imbued with a deep, emotional core, the latest from the Finnish director received hearty applause from the critics at Cannes and now matches "The Artist" for the biggest, most rousing crowd-pleaser of the festival.

Cannes Review: 'Snowtown' An Uneven But Still Mesmerizing & Disturbing Serial Killer Thriller

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 17, 2011 4:00 AM
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  • 1 Comment
This film was screened as part of the Critic's Week sidebar.

More Thoughts & 3 More Reviews Of Terrence Malick's Luminous, But Uneven 'Tree Of Life'

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • May 17, 2011 3:00 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Yes, you've read our initial review of Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," but we've got a few more, simply because it's a film that demands discussion and contrary to popular belief, members of The Playlist do not share a brain or utilize hivemind thinking, but three writers from the site saw the film at different times yesterday in New York and L.A., and all of us came to relatively the same conclusions. Three more writers, three different, but similar takes on the film. Find them after the jump.

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