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Review: 'Talihina Sky' Offers A Fractured, Muddled Look At The Kings of Leon

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • September 7, 2011 8:07 AM
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  • 4 Comments
For a film that appears to have unfettered access to the band Kings of Leon, Stephen C. Mitchell's "Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon" offers little cohesive insight into either the band or the forces that shaped the group and their music. The members of Kings of Leon -- brothers Caleb, Nathan, and Jared Followill, along with their cousin Matthew -- were first catapulted into the public eye in the U.K., and mainstream American success wouldn't come until 2008's Only by the Night. Mitchell's documentary seems to have been made at some point during those key years, and zeroes in on a Talihina, Oklahoma family reunion (the band members hail from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee).

Venice '11 Review: 'The Exchange' An Odd, Half-Interesting Follow Up To 'The Band's Visit'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 7, 2011 5:21 AM
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  • 0 Comments
"The Band's Visit" was something of a runaway success when it started doing the rounds in 2007. The feature debut of Israeli director Eran Kolirin, it told the story of an Egyptian police orchestra who become stranded in an Israeli desert town. Warm and witty, it became the best-reviewed foreign film of 2008, and was controversially denied the chance to be Israel's Oscar entry because of the rule that no more than 50% of films' dialogue can be in English. It's taken Kolirin a little time to follow it up, but that sophomore film has arrived, premiering today in Venice, and it's a definite about-turn from its predecessor.

Venice '11 Review: Surprise Film 'People Mountain People Sea' Is A Hard, Unsatisfying Journey

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 7, 2011 4:14 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The surprise film at a festival always has a tricky time living up to the sky-high expectations. Everyone brings in their own hopes and dreams, however unrealistic they may be, and the finished product has to be pretty special not to underwhelm -- witness the near-riotous reaction at the London Film Festival a couple of years ago when the surprise turned out to be not "Where The Wild Things Are," as widely-rumored, but instead Michael Moore's "Sicko." The reaction is slightly different at Venice, thanks to a reputation that the selectors hold back the most miserable, grueling film for the secret slot, so much so that most audience members are delighted if the film turns out to be anything other than footage of a close family member being slowly murdered.

Venice '11 Review: Sono Sion's 'Himizu' Is Close To Unwatchable, And Yet Vitally Important

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 6, 2011 7:50 AM
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  • 8 Comments
If you're after a quick response to recent events, particularly in the case of a cataclysmic disaster, cinema is not your medium. It takes years to write and develop even a bad script, let alone the financing, casting, shooting and pre-production of a film. And that's even without taking into account a reticence to address what has the potential to be traumatic material; there's a reason that it took half-a-decade for the events of 9/11 to reach the screen, and even then many believed that it was too soon for what some dismiss as mere entertainment to address such epoch-changing events.

Venice '11 Review: Mary Harron's 'The Moth Diaries' Is A Teen Vampire Tale Without Any Fangs

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 6, 2011 6:09 AM
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  • 1 Comment
It's remarkably tough to get any film financed, at least one that doesn't have 3D talking animals from a popular cartoon series. So it's no surprise that some filmmakers, for all their best efforts, can go three, four, five or more years between pictures. Worryingly, it seems to be doubly true for female directors. Look at Kimberley Pierce, who's only made one film in the twelve years since "Boys Don't Cry," or Tamara Jenkins, for whom nearly a decade separated "Slums of Beverley Hills" and "The Savages," or even Kathryn Bigelow, who might be an Oscar-winner now, but had a six-year break before "The Hurt Locker." One of the key examples here is Mary Harron, who since her 1996 debut "I Shot Andy Warhol" had only made two other films: "American Psycho," and the biopic "The Notorious Bettie Page," the latter of which was five whole years ago. None of her films to date have been stellar, but she's always displayed more than enough filmmaking nous to make an upcoming Harron picture something to look forward to.

Venice '11 Review: 'Wuthering Heights' Is A Superb, Groundbreaking Adaptation Of The Classic Tale

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 6, 2011 3:16 AM
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  • 2 Comments
One of the most exciting talents to emerge out of the U.K. in the last decade or so is Andrea Arnold. The former television presenter won an Oscar for her short film "Wasp" in 2005, and made her feature debut the following year with the powerful, gritty thriller "Red Road." 2009 saw her follow it up with another kitchen-sink type film, showcasing some incredible perfrmances, namely the drama "Fish Tank," which gathered even more acclaim, and allowed the director to make inroads internationally. Her choice of a third film raised some eyebrows, however: Arnold was selected to helm a long-in-the-works film version of Emily Brontë's "Wuthering Heights."

Venice '11 Review: 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' Is A Remarkable, Quietly Devastating Spy Movie

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 5, 2011 12:33 PM
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  • 11 Comments
The spy genre, is generally speaking, a euphemism for 'action movie' -- look at the explosions, fistfights and car chases of the Bond films, of the 'Mission: Impossible' series, of the 'Bourne' franchise, none of which have much in the way of actual tradecraft. The business of being a spy is hard, boring work, made up of listening and talking and without a lot of glamor. One of the men who best understands this is novelist John Le Carré, himself a former spy, who for close to half a century has been behind some of the most acclaimed literary examples of the genre. But aside from the much-loved "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold," and the more recent "The Constant Gardener" (the latter not strictly speaking an espionage picture), his works haven't had a huge amount of success on the big screen, lacking the speedboats and fireballs of Ian Fleming or Robert Ludlum. One of the writer's best-known books is "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," the first of the 'Karla' trilogy, which focuses on George Smiley, a middle-aged veteran of 'The Circus' (Le Carré's term for the British intelligence services) and his rivalry with his Soviet counterpart Karla. Working Title Films has spent the last couple of years on a new cinematic take with Tomas Alfredson, director of the much-acclaimed "Let the Right One In," making his English-language debut at the helm. It's no small undertaking, considering that the novel was previously adapted as a much-loved, seven-part, 290-minute BBC miniseries, headed up by an indelible performance from the great Alec Guinness. Alfredson might have assembled an all-star cast of British talent to bring the book to life, but could the company, led by Gary Oldman taking up Smiley's thick glasses, hope to match their predecessors? And could the film manage to keep the plot coherent and thrilling at a running time less than half of what the TV take had to play with?

Venice '11 Review: Todd Solondz's 'Dark Horse' Deconstructs Man-Child Comedies, Mostly Toothlessly

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 5, 2011 3:18 AM
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  • 3 Comments
If there's one theme that's been prevalent -- nay omnipresent -- in American comedy (and some dramas) in the last half-decade or so, it's that of arrested development. The male (for they are usually male) who've been so coddled by parents, by society, by expectations, that they remain locked in a state of permanent adolescence. Forty is the new thirty. Thirty is the new twenty. Twenty is the new fourteen. Thematically, It's been everywhere from "Failure to Launch" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" to "Greenberg" and "Blue Valentine," and it might even apply to you. But at this point, is there anything new to say about the phenomenon?

Venice '11 Review: 'Shame' A Fascinating Follow-Up To 'Hunger,' With A Tour-De-Force From Fassbender

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 4, 2011 11:57 AM
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  • 9 Comments
As English-language directorial debuts in the last few years go, Steve McQueen's "Hunger" ranks up there as one of the most uncompromising. An award-winning, sometimes controversial British artist, McQueen chose to move into feature film by examining the life of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, managing not to flinch from any of the grim details, using takes of up to 20 minutes in length, and showcasing a tour-de-force performance from the now firmly-planted-on-the-A-list Michael Fassbender. It picked up an enormous amount of critical support, including the Camera D'Or at Cannes in 2008, and signified both director and star as major talents to watch.

Telluride '11 Review: Jennifer Garner's 'Butter' Churns and Churns But Doesn’t Produce Cream

  • By The Playlist
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  • September 4, 2011 6:49 AM
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  • 7 Comments
Ostensibly an edgy satire that fancies itself having a wicked bite, Jennifer Garner’s pet-project “Butter,” instead employs long and broad satirical strokes that never land many effective laughs or blows. You know a comedy is seriously in trouble when there are long, uncomfortable stretches where not a soul laughs in a jam-packed theater - such was the case with the sold-out house screening of “Butter” at the Telluride Film Festival Saturday night.

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