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The Playlist

Sundance Review: Mark Webber's 'The End of Love' Moves With Minor-Key Moments & Undersold Skill

  • By James Rocchi
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  • January 22, 2012 11:21 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Written, directed by and starring Mark Webber -- whose acting filmography runs from "Kids" to "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" -- "The End of Love" is hardly a work of revelation. At the same time, it's surprisingly well-executed, nicely performed and manages to combine a warm and gentle sense of the rhythms of life with a cold and bright-eyed look at the world and its lead's flaws and character. Following his earlier directorial effort, "Explicit Ills," Webber plays Mark, an aspiring actor and successful fuck-up. We see him woken by his two-and-a-half-year-old son, Isaac (Isaac Love). Mark asks Isaac what he wants for breakfast -- cereal? Isaac is intent: "Oatmeal." Mark shoots him an askance glance: "But oatmeal takes longer than cereal, buddy.…"

Sundance Review: 'Indie Game: The Movie' Is A Big-Hearted Celebration Of Artistic Spirit

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • January 22, 2012 11:13 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The most profoundly moving moment of “Indie Game: The Movie” arrives an hour and twenty minutes into this terrific documentary. As designer Edmund McMillen watches YouTube videos of people spurting out expletives while playing his game Super Meat Boy, the kind-faced man breaks into a glowing smile. He’s made that connection, reached out to people and has been reaffirmed by their love for his brainchild. It’s the glimpse of a blinding sun at the end of a long, cold road, and 'Indie Game,' directed by James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot, is filled with moments that lay bare the emotional stakes of game design and development, an art that remains vastly underrated by the mainstream. Possibly the most mature look at video games yet, and a fine documentary in its own right, “Indie Game: The Movie” serves not only to erase the image of the programmer as a pimple-anointed malcontent recluse, but levels the playing field, serving as a powerful document for why games deserve consideration as a legitimate artform.

Sundance Review: 'The Comedy' A Compelling, Layered Look At A Hipster Adrift In Brooklyn

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • January 22, 2012 12:09 AM
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  • 9 Comments
With "Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" and Rick Alverson's "The Comedy" (starring Tim Heidecker) both playing at the Sundance Film Festival, it'd be easy to simply peg the former as your standard bizarre T&E affair and the latter as a dramatic art house effort. But that's simply much too reductive for Alverson's current character study, a film uniquely weird in its own right and filled with enough of the duo's humor to make their followers happy -- to a point.

Sundance Review: Good Performances & Narrative Tapestry Can't Save Emotionally Distant 'The Words'

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • January 21, 2012 5:02 PM
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  • 3 Comments
A combination of shopworn literary clichés combined with an “Inception”-worthy daisy chain of White People Problems, “The Words” fails to surpass dramatically the bland lack of specificity in its title while still offering a solid roundup of performances from its talented ensemble cast. Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, who received story credit for “TRON: Legacy” (a film this writer liked a lot), wrote and directed this flashback-laden tale of a novelist coming to terms with his life and work by writing a book about a novelist coming to terms with his life and work.

Sundance Review: 'The Raid' Is A Triumph Of Kicks, Punches & Unrelenting Thrills

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • January 21, 2012 11:26 AM
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  • 7 Comments
If you ever wanted a feature-length version of the scene from Tony Jaa’s “The Protector” where in one shot he literally fights his way up to the roof of a building filled with baddies, then “The Raid” is the movie for you. Although his two previous films failed to make an impression outside of Indonesia, writer-director Gareth Evans crafts a relentless – and relentlessly exciting -- onslaught of visceral entertainment with his tale of a SWAT team that’s ambushed after being assigned to invade a drug kingpin’s heavily-fortified stronghold. Featuring fight sequences almost literally from start to finish, “The Raid” is an action-lover’s dream, precisely because it pitches the choreography at a thrilling but believable level that prevents viewers from succumbing to an overdose of kicks and punches.

Sundance Review: 'West Of Memphis' An Exhausting & Exhaustive Chronicle Of Justice

  • By William Goss
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  • January 21, 2012 11:06 AM
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  • 0 Comments
"West of Memphis" doesn’t ignore the fact that filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky have already crafted a trilogy of documentaries concerning the perceived injustice of the West Memphis Three, three Arkansas teens convicted in 1994 of murdering three young boys in 1993. In their small town, the threat of satanic cults made the juvenile delinquents ripe for persecution, but over the two decades since, conflicting testimonies and newly uncovered evidence have caused many to reach out and champion their cause of innocence.

Sundance Review: 'Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie' Is An Absurdist Blast

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • January 21, 2012 4:20 AM
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  • 5 Comments
The comedy style that Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have perfected over five years on their completely bizarre Cartoon Network sketch comedy series "Tim and Eric, Awesome Show Great Job!" goes something like this: they dress up in funny outfits, get a bunch of celebrities (including Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Ted Danson, and Zach Galifianakis) to do the same, layer on screechy or slurpy sound effects, liberally punctuate with lots of screaming or crying, round out the cast with actors that look like they're either homeless or have been rescued from an insane asylum, and edit the entire thing like it's from some psychedelic version of a 1980s cable access channel.

Sundance Review: 'Searching For Sugar Man' An Entertaining, Touching & Revealing Look At Forgotten Pop Singer Rodriguez

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • January 20, 2012 2:16 PM
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  • 4 Comments
If every Sundance film festival needs at least one documentary to remind white people of all the great music in the world they don’t know about, at least “Searching For Sugar Man” seems like 2012’s front-runner for the best one. A born crowd-pleaser whose central mystery begets a great triumph of grace and modesty, Malik Bendjelloul’s documentary about forgotten-before-he-was-known folk-pop singer Rodriguez is a hugely entertaining, emotionally touching, and musically revelatory experience.

Sundance Review: 'Wish You Were Here' With Joel Edgerton & Teresa Palmer An Overwrought, Undercooked Mystery

  • By Todd Gilchrist
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  • January 20, 2012 8:05 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Although its title implies either a whimsical journey of self-discovery or an ironic riposte to the vacation from hell, the story of “Wish You Were Here” is, in either context, a disappointingly pedestrian experience. The story of a husband and father trying to return to his normal life after a vacation with his wife and her sister that ends in the disappearance of his sister-in-law’s boyfriend, Kieran Darcy-Smith’s Australian import inspires a deluge of possibilities and provocative thoughts in its audiences’ heads, but languid pacing undermines the too-simple and ultimately too-conventional revelations that wrap up its simmering mysteries. Nevertheless, strong performances from the four leads sustains its unhurried approach far longer than the payoff deserves.

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