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Venice '11 Review: Al Pacino's 'Wilde Salome' An Oddity Dominated By Titanic Jessica Chastain Turn

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 4, 2011 2:57 AM
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  • 6 Comments
When did Alfredo James Pacino, Greatest Actor Of His Generation, turn into Shouty Al, Star Of "Righteous Kill" And "Jack and Jill"? The exact moment that the transformation took place is debatable, but it's hard to deny that, aside from some occasional good HBO work, Pacino has become a grotesque, bellowing inflation of former glories more often than not. But we live in hope that it's not a one way street, and that the star may find his way back to subtler movie work that he actually cares about. After all, he does, unlike many of his contemporaries, continue to return to the stage frequently, for much-praised performances, in the likes of "Orphans," "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui" and, most recently, "The Merchant of Venice." And it's one of these stage turns that forms the center of Pacino's second film as director, "Wilde Salome," which like his debut "Looking For Richard," is a documentary examining one of his favorite plays, and the writer behind them.

Review: Direct-To-DVD 'Blitz' Falls Somewhere In The Middle Of The Jason Statham Spectrum

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • September 4, 2011 2:33 AM
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  • 2 Comments
The world of “Blitz” is made up almost entirely of cops. On this cop planet, where the occasional child wanders into trouble and eventually is saved by said cops, these 9-to-5ers struggle to pay bills, worry about pensions, and operate from dingy, drab boardrooms. There’s a stark contrast between the ratty, dilapidated apartments where they live and the pristine, glassy office of a police psychologist. Most of these men and women are punching a clock, and seem too far down the food chain to change anything about this.

Telluride '11 Review: Glenn Close's Exquisite Performance Powers 'Albert Nobbs'

  • By The Playlist
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  • September 4, 2011 2:01 AM
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  • 3 Comments
The 19th century Ireland of director Rodrigo García's "Albert Nobbs" is rigid with insurmountable societal distinctions: every soul has his or her station firmly proscribed at birth, and escape is virtually unheard of. Against this stifling backdrop, García crafts an engaging, entertaining and enlightening piece of work that is richly dramatic and underscored by moments of wry, quiet humor. It doesn't hurt that, making good on all the pre-festival buzz, the film features Glenn Close in a performance that seems destined to earn her a sixth Oscar nomination and perhaps her first win (it would be well deserved).  She plays a woman who is passing as a man, the Albert Nobbs of the title. This she does in order to survive but also, perhaps, through careful planning, to find an unconventional way to fulfill closely held dreams and better her place in Irish society. As a butler in a Dublin hotel, The Morrison, Albert is precise, quiet, and as would be expected of one in that position, almost invisible. She’s frugal too; saving up money over the years with the goal of buying and running her own tobacco shop.

Venice '11 Review: 'Persepolis' Follow-Up 'Chicken With Plums' Is Amiable & Pretty, But Twee & Thin

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 3, 2011 5:12 AM
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  • 3 Comments
It can be difficult to shift from animation to live-action direction; the processes are very different, and even an accomplished animation helmer can sometimes be undone once they're faced with cameras, actors and the breakneck schedule of a feature film shoot, as opposed to the multi-year process that produces a feature cartoon. Some have managed it, Tim Burton being the most obvious example (at first, anyway...) and Pixar dons Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton are both hoping to make the leap in the next few months. But it's got to be even harder to go from working in graphic novels, to animation, to live-action, but that's been the path for Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud in the last few years.

Venice '11 Review: 'Contagion' Is A Propulsive, Terrifying Picture With A Top-Notch Cast

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 3, 2011 1:46 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Disaster -- an eternally popular obsession of film. Audiences have turned up in droves over the last century or so to watch mankind against their own extinction in the form of meteorites, earthquakes, alien invasions, exploding suns, planetary collisions, and whatever it was that was happening in "The Core." One of the more popular hypotheses is that when the end comes -- and it will -- it'll be not with a bang, but with a whimper. And that's what Steven Soderbergh has examined in "Contagion," his first studio film since 2007's "Ocean's Thirteen," that finds the spread of a deadly bird flu-type virus the source of man's demise.

Telluride '11 Review: George Clooney Riffs On Family, Love, Loss & Death In 'The Descendants'

  • By The Playlist
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  • September 3, 2011 1:37 AM
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  • 4 Comments
Shifting from heartbreak to cathartic laughter and back, sometimes within the same shot, director Alexander Payne and star George Clooney have collaborated on "The Descendants" to give us a very human story about a very flawed man and his very flawed family. Just like his previous pictures, the success of Payne's film rests on whether he can coax a nuanced performance from a strong male lead who is capable of accessing intense vulnerability. In “About Schmidt” (2002) he found what he needed in Jack Nicholson’s Oscar-nominated turn and two years later in “Sideways” (for which he shared the Oscar for Best Screenplay with Jim Taylor) he scored a double whammy with Paul Giamatti and the also Oscar-nominated Thomas Haden Church. For the central male protagonist of “The Descendants,” Payne turned to George Clooney and in the course of the Q&A that followed the screening he insisted that Clooney had provided him with the best acting collaboration of any of his films. Can the performance possibly live up to that? Actually, yes. Clooney takes on the role wholeheartedly and succeeds on pretty much every level.

Review: Derivative & Dumb 'Apollo 18' Never Gets Off The Launchpad

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • September 2, 2011 12:02 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Generally speaking, the biggest problem for found-footage horror movies is creating sufficient reason or motivation for the characters to keep filming even when everything is going wrong. But “Apollo 18” somehow manages to solve that problem while creating a whole host of other ones, not the least of which happen because because filmmaker Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego decided to set his mash-up of “Paranormal Activity” and “The Fourth Kind” on the moon in 1973. Derivative, dumb, suspenseless and worst of all boring, “Apollo 18” fulfills no expectations except those of the low quality of films released over Labor Day weekend, a notorious dumping ground for studio dreck.

Venice '11 Review: 'Alps' Another Unique & Remarkable Film From Director Yorgos Lanthimos

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 2, 2011 9:45 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Until a couple of years ago, few outside his native Greece were aware of theater director-turned-filmmaker Giorgos Lanthimos. But when his third film, "Dogtooth," came from seemingly nowhere to win the top prize at Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2009, it kicked off a process that's deservedly seen the helmer become one of the most closely-watched international filmmakers around. Other than a producing and acting role in the rather-less-good "Attenberg," he's been quietly working away on a follow-up, the pitch-black "Alps," which screened for the press here in Venice tonight. And the good news is, it's just as remarkable as his breakthrough.

Venice '11 Review: Jet Li's 'The Sorcerer & The White Snake' Is Wuxia-Lite, With Bad Action & CG

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 2, 2011 6:54 AM
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  • 0 Comments
It might have a highbrow reputation (something anyone who's caught one of the sidebars can confirm), but that doesn't mean that the organizers of the Venice Film Festival don't like to watch a little ass get kicked sometimes. Last year, in fact, was something of a banner year for action at the festival, with "13 Assassins" and 'Detective Dee' in competition, and "Machete," "The Town," "Reign of Assassins" and "Legend of the Fist" all playing out of it. 2011 is a little lighter on the chop-socky, but there is a single film that's here to let film critics scratch their face-punch itch, and that's the Jet Li vehicle "The Sorcerer & The White Snake." Directed by Tony Ching, who not only helmed the classic "A Chinese Ghost Story," but also served as action director/choreographer on the high octane likes of "Shaolin Soccer," "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers," so expectations were high that at the very least that we'd see some spectacular fight sequences, and possibly even something that transcends the genre, as "13 Assassins" did last year.
More: Review, Venice

Venice '11 Review: 'Un été brûlant' Is A Thundering Bore That Verges On Self-Parody

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 2, 2011 2:04 AM
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  • 0 Comments
There are certain cliches associated with European cinema -- they're not necessarily always accurate but they do exist. Ask a layman -- a well educated, smart, nice person who might not be quite as subtitle-happy as you or I -- what they imagine they might see in, say, an average French film, and a number of things might come up. Characters who are constantly having extra-marital affairs, for instance. A vaguely homoerotic relationship between two friends. Unbroken four-to-five minute takes. Dialogue talking about 'the revolution.' An actress, perhaps Monica Bellucci, taking her clothes off within the first 45 seconds.

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