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The Playlist

TIFF '11 Review: A (Mostly) Delightful 'Damsels In Distress' A Welcome Return By Whit Stillman

  • By James Rocchi
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  • September 12, 2011 2:15 AM
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  • 5 Comments
From the moment the Sony Pictures Classics logo pops up not in the usual blue -- but in cupcake frosting pink -- you know that Whit Stillman's first film in 13 years (!) is going to be something special. While word from Venice -- where the film closed the festival before heading to TIFF -- was good, the question to be answered was whether or not Stillman's style and cinematic persona would stand up in a filmmaking landscape that has changed immensely since "Last Days of Disco." Well, let there be no doubt: Stillman is just as enjoyable as when we last met him those many years ago and "Damsels In Distress" finds the director with lots (and lots and lots) left to say.

TIFF '11 Review: 'The Oranges' Delivers A Grove Of Big Laughs

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 11, 2011 11:18 AM
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  • 5 Comments
The indie ensemble comedy genre is fraught with pitfalls, from high concepts that just don't deliver, to outrageous storylines that can't sustain their own frenzied energy. For every "Little Miss Sunshine" there are countless more that attempt to create that film's almost intangible alchemy but falter somewhere along the way. "The Oranges" could have gone either way - with Julian Farino a mostly TV director ("Entourage," "How To Make It In America") making his sophomore film with a grab bag cast including Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Allison Janney, Alia Shawkat, Adam Brody and Leighton Meeste,r we really had no idea what to expect from the film. But playing to huge laughs, this winning comedy overcomes some of its patchier elements to become a bonafide crowd pleaser.

TIFF '11 Review: Admirable, Low-Key ’50/50’ Splits Difference Between Genuinely Funny And Sad

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 11, 2011 10:46 AM
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  • 4 Comments
Let's get this out of the way early; the cancer dramedy, "50/50," formerly known as "I'm With Cancer," is an admirable effort by all the parties involved. There's maturity and restraint shown throughout in this story, about a healthy young twentysomething man staring his mortality in the face when he is suddenly diagnosed with a rare spinal cancer, and it's a well-intentioned humanistic drama that tries to demonstrate that life is complicated and never quite cut and dry. The measured film takes pains to illustrate there is laughter to be derived in difficult and near-tragic situations and melancholy can also be found in some of the most humorous moments. It's also a friendship movie that is wise enough to not feel like a bromance film. In fact, it feels like it comes from the playbook of master comedians like James L. Brooks, Judd Apatow and Albert Brooks who deftly understand that a little sour in sweetness and vice-versa can go a long, long way.

TIFF '11 Review: Oh The Horror -- Francis Ford Coppola's 'Twixt' Is A Low-Rent Nightmare

  • By Cory Everett
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  • September 11, 2011 10:26 AM
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  • 10 Comments
Francis Ford Coppola has played quite a few roles in his five-decade-long career. He started as a low-budget filmmaker in skin flicks and Roger Corman films before becoming an icon with a hugely impressive run of films that started with "The Godfather" and, arguably, ended with "Apocalypse Now." The director struggled throughout the '80s and '90s, first attempting to bankroll his expensive projects through his American Zoetrope label, then as a director for hire in Hollywood after a run of flops nearly bankrupted him. But instead of continuing to struggle within the studio system he instead opted to go independent again.

TIFF '11 Review: Woody Harrelson Stands Tall Amidst Crumbling LAPD In Riveting 'Rampart'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 11, 2011 7:33 AM
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  • 2 Comments
"Everything you learned at the Academy is bullshit." That's the sage bit of wisdom Date Rape Dave (Woody Harrelson, and we'll get to his cop moniker in a moment) gives a new trainee in the opening frames of Oren Moverman's "Rampart," a searing and riveting look at a crooked cop's decay amidst the crumbling LAPD at the turn of the millennium.

TIFF '11 Review: Guy Maddin's 'Keyhole' Beautiful And Brassy...But Frustratingly Sealed

  • By James Rocchi
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  • September 11, 2011 1:57 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Let us pause, then, to contemplate the fate and fortunes of the director who does not have his or her eye set on the five-picture deal, the glossy franchise, the production wing in the bungalow offices of some major studio; what becomes of the director who only wants to make art and make it well? Canada's Guy Maddin clearly has no eye on commercial success -- rumor has it that his next feature might actually be in color -- and instead prefers to stand at the edge and peer into the abyss to look for what's next. This is a unique vantage point, to be sure, but it's also perilous if one should fall; "Keyhole" is both too much and too little, a crowded smorgasbord of genre picture tropes and haunted house tricks that leaves your eyes and brain distended with both far too much to absorb and far too little to sustain.

TIFF '11 Review: Cross-Dressing 'Albert Nobbs' A Stodgily Straight Drama

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 10, 2011 5:07 AM
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  • 1 Comment
For Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs" has been a long time coming for its big screen incarnation. Based on a short story by Irish author George Moore, it was first adapted into an off-Broadway production by Simone Benmussa with Close in the lead role that won her an Obie award. The actress has been a driving force behind the film adaptation, shepherding the project for 15 years, taking on the responsibilities of a producer and even co-writing the script with Man Booker prize-winning author John Banville and Gabriella Prekop. So yes, it's passion project for Close and it's unfortunate that none of that enthusiasm manages to find its way to the big screen. Stodgy, stuffy and somewhat inconsequential, "Albert Nobbs" gets all dressed up but has nowhere to go.

TIFF '11 Review: Manipulative & Melodramatic 'A Separation' Is A Soap Opera Morality Tale

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 9, 2011 12:40 PM
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  • 12 Comments
The fall festival circuit is all about buzz, and while the frontrunners for the awards season can usually be spotted a mile away, it's the sleeper sensations everyone keeps an eye out for now. As Telluride wrapped up this weekend, the Iranian film "A Separation" directed by Asghar Farhadi, began building some serious heat. Thought it has been playing international festivals all summer long and won multiple awards in Berlin earlier this year including the Golden Bear, the very strong word out of Colorado, led by a rave by Jeff Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere -- who admitted to missing the first third of the picture -- put the movie on the schedule for many of the folks headed to Toronto. Believe it or not, the film (as of this date anyway) has even edged into the IMDB Top 250. And now that we've caught up with it we have to ask: did we see a completely different movie?

TIFF '11 Review: 'From The Sky Down' A Disappointingly Incomplete Look At U2's "Achtung Baby"

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 9, 2011 8:55 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Whether you are a U2 fan or not, there is no denying their 1991 album Achtung Baby launched the band into the stratosphere of super-stardom and is simply one of the defining records of the '90s. With over 5.5 million albums sold in the U.S. alone, two Grammys for Best Rock Performance and Producer of the Year (for Daniel Lanois), the record not only found the group adjusting to the changing musical landscape of the late '80s and early '90s, it redefined their image and put them at the forefront of a select bunch of groundbreaking and hugely popular bands. 2011 will mark 20 years since the album first hit shelves on November 19, 1991, and U2 are celebrating in style. This summer they made their first festival appearance at Glastonbury, kicking off their set with a slew of songs from Achtung Baby and a massive reissue of the album is set to be released in October. And to cap it all off, the band has teamed with Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth," "It Might Get Loud") to create "From the Sky Down," a look back at the making of the album. It's an exciting prospect, but unfortunately, it leaves you wanting much, much more.

Review: 'Tanner Hall' Is An Amateur-Hour Panoply Of Boarding School Girl Cliches

  • By The Playlist
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  • September 9, 2011 3:30 AM
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  • 4 Comments
While featuring a promising cast of on-the-rise newcomers and comedy veterans, a strong production design, plus a visual aesthetic that proves digital cinematography can be warm and capture light in a pleasing autumnal manner, the one-dimensional indie flick "Tanner Hall," has almost nothing else to redeem it.

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