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The Playlist

Review: 'Hard Times: Lost On Long Island' A Narrow, Insubstantial Look At Unemployment

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 9, 2012 10:02 AM
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  • 10 Comments
The latest employment numbers in the United States came out on Friday, and they weren't great. In the month of June, a paltry 80,000 new jobs were created, with the national unemployment figure standing at 8.2%, more or less highlighting an economy that has made uncertainty the only thing you can reliably count on. There is a lot to talk about when it comes to those who are struggling to find work in the current landscape, but as you might tell by the title of Cannes- and Emmy-winning director Marc Levin's "Hard Times: Long On Long Island," his focus is on a very narrow and select group of people looking for work. And while the decision to try and sharpen the narrative makes sense from the perspective of wrangling such a wide-reaching subject, in execution, the documentary winds up touching on a number of relevant issues, but develops very few of them.

Review: Conspiracies Of The Heart, Ballot Box & Office Swirl In Wildly Uneven 'The Newsroom'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 8, 2012 11:00 PM
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  • 2 Comments
For those who have barely tolerated the (at times) strident idealism of Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom," the opening the season's third episode "The 112th Congress" may severely test your patience. The show opens with a clip of the (now former) National Coordinator for Counterterrorism for the FBI Richard A. Clarke, apologizing in 2004 to the American people, for the failures of himself and the government in being able to stop the attacks of 9/11. And in a brutal segue, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) uses that moment to preface his own apology to his viewers for failing to "successfully inform and educate the American electorate."

Recap: Academy Award-Winner Melissa Leo Steals The Show In An Outstanding Episode Of 'Louie'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • July 6, 2012 10:00 AM
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  • 7 Comments
Plenty of movie stars, from Alec Baldwin to Dustin Hoffman, have been making their way onto regular TV gigs without the thought of harming their sheen of late, but even bigger names can also crop up for guest spots on shows, which allow them to upend their image, gain a little street credit, pay back some favors, or just have a little fun.

Review: 'Granito: How To Nail A Dictator' A Remarkable Tale About The Quest For Justice

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • June 28, 2012 6:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
We're living in something of a golden era of documentary filmmaking. Whether on the big screen, and more frequently on cable -- where a plethora of specialty channels offer a variety of outlets -- documentaries can more easily reach an audience than ever before. But are they making an impact? It seems that every doc that comes along is pushing some kind of issue or agenda, but that little of that is felt once the credits roll ninety minutes later. But every now and then comes a movie that shakes the ground just a little bit, and not only opens eyes, but inspires action and "Granito: How To Nail A Dictator" is a remarkable chronicle of one film that did just that.

Review: While Hopelessly Drunk On The Ideals Of Bygone Journalism, ‘The Newsroom’ Is Still An Engaging Broadcast

  • By The Playlist
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  • June 24, 2012 10:48 PM
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  • 2 Comments
The longer Aaron Sorkin’s deeply-nostalgic-for-the-golden-age-of-news show “The Newsroom” goes on for, the more improbable the workplace drama (and dramedy), set at a fictional cable-news show, becomes. A complacent and apathetic news anchor known as the MOR Jay Leno of news anchor suddenly explodes with outrage and opinion. An old school news division president orchestrates a brilliant subterfuge in order get back to “real” journalism and an executive news producer genuinely believes that if you build it will they will come -- that the American public is starved for authenticity and will tune in for honest to goodness reporting instead of sensational TV journalism.

Review: 'One Nation Under Dog' A Heartbreaking Look At America's Relationship With Canines

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • June 18, 2012 11:58 AM
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  • 30 Comments
In the realm of relationships between humans and animals, there are few as rewarding or profound as that between man and dog. It's difficult to describe to those who've never had a pet, but a dog will give its loyalty and love wholly and without question. They see us at our best and worst, often remaining by our sides through moves, break-ups, marriages, deaths and more -- ever faithful, ever loving. Once a dog takes root in your life, that presence is one that benefits both and when it ends, that void can be as deep as losing a friend or family member, simply because, they are your friend and family. But unfortunately, America's relationship with canines is a troubled one, with overfilled shelters, puppy mills and abuse still rampant, leading to something of a crisis with millions of dogs put down each year. "One Nation Under Dog: Stories Of Fear, Loss & Betrayal" presents a triptych of stories, looking at these issues from various angles and coming to the conclusion that we need to do more to the animals that give us so much.

Review: Hannah Winds Up Right Back Where She Started In Solid Season Finale For 'Girls'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • June 17, 2012 10:30 PM
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  • 8 Comments
Suddenly, everything has changed. That might be the recurring theme of "Girls" across its first season, one that has seen Hannah (Lena Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) navigate their early '20s and the curveballs that come with it. As we've said time and again, Lena Dunham's focus on character, combined with a willingness to allow them to be unlikeable, wrong, selfish or simply unsure -- as one tends to be at that pre-adulthood age -- has afforded the show a real resonance that belies its standard sitcom set up. Besides a couple mid-season episodes that wobbled, Dunham's instincts have proven right more often than not, with "Girls" delivering unexpected big laughs and tender moments in the unlikeliest places. And so it's fitting that the season finale reorients the lives of everyone. Well, almost.

You Only Live Twice: We Look Towards The Future As 'Mad Men' Wraps Up A Phenomenal Season 5

  • By Cory Everett
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  • June 12, 2012 9:59 AM
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  • 12 Comments
The fifth season of AMC's "Mad Men" came to a close Sunday night, wrapping up what has been arguably among its strongest seasons yet. No small feat considering the show has taken home four consecutive Emmys for Best Drama and been proclaimed one of the best shows on TV by nearly every critic reviewing the medium. After a run of 13 almost uniformly excellent episodes, it becomes harder to remember that this season had gotten off to a rocky start. When the network decided to pull the show out of its summer slot to make room for the other best show on TV ("Breaking Bad"), fans had to endure a brutal 17-month wait. Contract negotiations between creator Matthew Weiner and the studio were made public and gave both the network and creator some negative buzz to overcome.

Review: Ambition Fractures Friendship In 'Girls'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • June 10, 2012 11:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
There has already been much to admire about Lena Dunham's "Girls," one of the most sastisfying and purely entertaining new shows on television. Sharp, funny writing, a knowing ability to find true character moments even in life's most awkward or humiliating circumstances and an honest, obversational style has made the program one with a surprising amount of heart and depth. This has all contributed to a show that isn't just an amusing trifle, but one with a broader scope than the other female driven programs on TV ("The New Girl," "2 Broke Girls," "Veep") just don't have. But if you need even more evidence of just how well-conceived "Girls" really is, tonight's episode truly raises the bar. "Leave Me Alone" takes two seemingly minor and throwaway plot strands from earlier in the season and expands them into integral storylines that once again finds "Girls" moving in unexpected directions.

Review: 'Veep' Caps Off Uneven Season With Tears

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • June 10, 2012 10:30 PM
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  • 6 Comments
Armando Iannucci made it clear with last week's episode that "Veep" will be steering away from anything resembling real issues. While a pregnant Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) at the end of "Baseball" opened the door to a potentially inspired direction for the show, one episode later it was explained away by Meyer having a miscarriage, as the veep and her team moved on to the next issue that was plaguing their office. The show's established theme is that the office of the veep is essentially powerless and even meaningless, and as a result the doesn't have much to say about political climate in Washington except for how it operates on the most superficial level. The recurring theme is that those in Washington who wield power and influence are stupid, assholes, self-involved or all three at once. Listen, we get it, but we hope as "Veep" moves into season two it has a bit more to say as they are running out of non-issues to try and mine for laughs.

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