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The Playlist

Sundance Review: 'Goats' Is An Unexceptional, Overly Familiar Coming-Of-Age Tale

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • January 26, 2012 4:18 PM
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  • 1 Comment
As far as quirky coming of age stories engineered for festivals and the twee aspiring directors who love them go, “Goats” is a fine little movie. Directed by newcomer Christopher Neil from a script by Mark Poirier, who adapted his own novel, it follows a teenager struggling to deal with his estranged parents as he tries to find a place for himself, but it’s also not really about anything at all, or at least anything original. In fact, it’s the kind of entertainment that’s familiar and pleasant enough that you easily forget that nothing much is happening on screen, which may admittedly be damning it with faint praise. But in a cinematic environment already well-stocked with so many tales of teenagers taking their first steps toward finding their own identity, “Goats” feels like the descendant of a family with an incredible pedigree who decided it was enough to live off of that legacy instead of trying to build anything new upon it.

Sundance Review: 'Shut Up And Play The Hits' Is LCD Soundsystem’s 'The Last Waltz'

  • By William Goss
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  • January 26, 2012 2:16 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Less of a documentary and more of a document, "Shut Up And Play The Hits" captures the week before, the day after and the very occasion of LCD Soundsystem’s Madison Square Garden farewell concert on April 2, 2011.

Sundance Review: 'Nobody Walks' Is A Sensual, Emotionally Complex Film With Humor & Humanity

  • By Cory Everett
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  • January 26, 2012 8:30 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Martine (Olivia Thirlby), a 23 year-old New York artist arrives in L.A. to complete a short film for an upcoming exhibit. We see her embracing a lover in the airport parking lot and just before things get too carried away she puts on the brakes and tells him that it was nice meeting him on the plane. This girl is going to be trouble. The opening credits roll as Martine makes her way from the airport, gazing out the window to take everything in as the city rushes by. With a synthy score by Brooklyn duo Fall On Your Sword (who also scored last year’s Sundance hit “Another Earth” as well as director Ry Russo-Young’s first film “You Won’t Miss Me”), L.A. seems really cool. Coming from the confined apartments and gray skies of NYC (in the winter anyway) the wide open spaces of the west coast start to look really attractive. Martine arrives at the beautiful Silverlake house of therapist Julie (Rosemary DeWitt) and sound designer Peter (John Krasinski) who, due to a loose family connection, have agreed to put her up while Peter can helps her complete her film. Julie has two kids from a previous marriage and Peter as portrayed by the always affable Krasinski, decked out in hoodies and sneakers, seems more like a cool older brother than a step-dad.

Sundance Review: Life, And Lust, Find A Way In Well-Performed But Standard-Issue 'The Surrogate'

  • By James Rocchi
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  • January 25, 2012 8:52 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Inspired by the life and writings of Mark O'Brien -- a polio-stricken but determined journalist and poet confined to an iron lung since age six -- "The Surrogate" offers a less comprehensive look at O'Brien's life than Jessica Yu's excellent documentary "Breathing Lessons," but instead focuses on a small sliver of O'Brien's life and living. In 1988, O'Brien, then 38, made a decision to explore his own sexuality -- despite his paralysis - in part inspired by his own research into a story on sex and disability. Unsure about his ability to forge a relationship -- and concerned, as he puts it to his Catholic Priest and confessor, that he's "approaching his use-by date," O'Brien looks into hiring a sex surrogate. The surrogate, Cheryl Cohen Greene, explains that she's not a prostitute, but a therapist -- she and Mark will have six sessions, and then terminate their relationship. It sounds complex. It gets more so.

Sundance Review: 'Shadow Dancer' A Crackling Conspiracy Thriller

  • By John Lichman
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  • January 25, 2012 3:09 PM
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  • 0 Comments
If “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” represented the height of Cold War paranoia within the British intelligence community, then “Shadow Dancer” is the next chapter, replacing the ominous Russian government with a more localized threat: The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Sundance Review: The South Will Rise, But Not Like You Expected, In The Pagan, Powerful 'Beasts Of The Southern Wild'

  • By James Rocchi
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  • January 25, 2012 2:31 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Written and directed by Benh Zeitlin, whose short, "Glory at Sea," was shot through with purpose and promise, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is as stirring and striking a film as you could wish for at Sundance. Shot and set in a Louisiana community called The Bathtub, on the wrong side of the levees that stop the water from encroaching on civilization, it's at heart the story of a little girl, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) who lives with her father Wink (Dwight Henry). That synopsis does not do the film justice, though, as the story -- based on a play by Lucy Alibar -- incorporates a flood that not only drowns The Bathtub but also huge, prehistoric beasts -- Aurochs -- returning to life from the frozen icecaps and stalking, gigantically, towards Hushpuppy's world. It's a flawed comparison -- and indeed, any comparison for a work as completely and startlingly unique as this will be flawed -- but I kept imagining "Beasts of the Southern Wild" as a pagan, powerful, Godless (but not loveless or hopeless) variation on "The Tree of Life," where parents and children cope with the passage of time and the end of life in a series of moments built as much on visual poetry as character interactions.

Sundance Review: '2 Days In New York' A Funny & Welcome Sequel Worthy Of Its Predecessor

  • By John Lichman
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  • January 25, 2012 2:18 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Taking place a few years after “Two Days in Paris,” with the events from that film summed up in a puppet show, Jack (played Adam Goldberg) is gone and Marion (Delpy) lives in New York with her boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock), and their respective children from previous relationships. Both lead artistic New York lives as Marion is about to open a photo exhibit and Mingus is writing for the Village Voice along with hosting two radio shows. Marion's father Jeannot (Albert Delpy) and sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) are coming to New York to spend time as a family following the death of Marion's mother. The promise of foreign customs and crazy old men is fulfilled the second we meet Dad, locked in customs and removing the sausages he strapped to his chest.

Sundance Review: 'Celeste And Jesse Forever' A Charming Tale Of Romance & Heartbreak In The Vein Of 'When Harry Met Sally'

  • By William Goss
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  • January 25, 2012 11:24 AM
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  • 0 Comments
If "(500) Days of Summer" is bound to be considered this generation’s "Annie Hall" (not its equal, mind you, but its closest equivalent), then it’s fair to claim that "Celeste And Jesse Forever" follows in the footsteps of "When Harry Met Sally," picking up where that film ended and proceeding to chronicle similar ups-and-downs in a close friendship verging on – or, rather, retreating from – full-blown romance.

Sundance Review: 'Liberal Arts' Is A Mostly Charming Sophomore Effort From Writer/Director Josh Radnor

  • By Cory Everett
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  • January 25, 2012 8:37 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Every young filmmaker dreams of getting their debut into Sundance and hopes that if it goes over well, they can turn that buzz into a distribution deal with a successful theatrical run not far behind. But getting in to the festival is only the beginning. Even if your film is a hit, Sundance audiences are not always the most reliable indicator of what will click with audiences outside the buzzy confines of Park City. Just ask “How I Met Your Mother” actor Josh Radnor, whose debut film as a writer/director "Happythankyoumoreplease" received the audience award back in 2010 only to hit theaters over a year later and fizzle with critics and audiences (though the film has developed a following since becoming available on Netflix Instant). Radnor is back this year with his sophomore effort "Liberal Arts," which has already garnered comparisons to some of his cinematic idols and received not one but two standing ovations during festival screenings. Whether that buzz will translate into a wider audience is anybody's guess but right now things are looking pretty good for the actor-turned-filmmaker.

Sundance Review: 'The Imposter' A Remarkable & Entertaining Tale About The Illusion Of Truth

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • January 25, 2012 7:28 AM
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  • 1 Comment
It isn’t often that audiences will feel inclined to believe the word of a proven liar over a family who suffered as a result of his dishonesty, but “The Imposter” achieves that unusual feat. A documentary about a family stricken with tragedy that unwittingly takes in a con artist, director Bart Layton tells an almost too-amazing-to-be-true story that creates a truth, establishes sympathies, and then razes everything we think we know. A remarkable, entertaining and even sometimes shocking film, “The Imposter” utilizes reenactments and first-person interview footage to create a vivid account of a story whose actual details seem impossible to parse out from an entanglement of the participants’ recollections, feelings and most unexpectedly of all, their hopes about what actually happened.

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