The Playlist

VIFF Review: Brazilian 'Neighbouring Sounds' Is A Film For People Watchers

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 5, 2012 5:08 PM
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  • 1 Comment
We lovers of cinema are nosy little bastards. It is the medium for the voyeur. We like to watch, truly a “race of Peeping Toms” as “Rear Window” taught us. The Brazilian film “Neighbouring Sounds” is kinda like that Hitchcock masterpiece, in a way. It’s all about observing. It’s the audience and the camera that fills the James Stewart role here, and we’re not wheelchair bound, so we get to see more. Let there be no mistake, though, this is not a thriller or murder mystery. If it’s clear plot you hold dear, or clean and tidy resolution, then look elsewhere.

VIFF Review: Overstuffed 'Love Is All You Need' An Unsatisfying, Predictable Rom-Com From Susanne Bier

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 4, 2012 10:02 AM
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  • 1 Comment
What’s up with those crazy Danish filmmakers and their compulsion to pile it on? The latest from Oscar-winning filmmaker Susanne Bier (“In A Better World”) is like watching a long game of Jenga. As every sub plot, reveal and character… err, caricature that is, gets stacked on top of each other, the more inevitable it is that the whole thing will come tumbling down. And while “Love is All You Need” is by no means a disaster, it simply can’t support all that weight.

VIFF '11: Lo-Fi Puppets And A Big, Hilarious Heart; 'Kooky' Is Destined To Be A Family Cult Classic

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 20, 2011 1:54 AM
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  • 3 Comments
In many ways, “Kooky” harkens back to the halcyon days of yore (read: in particular the ‘80s) when things were scary in kids’ movies. Or maybe we're just starting to show our old age, but didn't it seem like filmmakers back then were unafraid to at least hint at the possibility of actual threat and potential harm to characters, if not follow through on it completely? It was certainly a different time. Maybe they were untethered by the whims of insanely over-protective parents and ludicrous MPAA ratings strictures that insist on rounding off every sharp edge, creating a bland cinematic landscape these days that all-too-often wears down a movie for families to a pathetic, sanitized nub.

VIFF '11: In Belgian 'Bullhead' Sympathy For The Devil Is A Mark Of Quality

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 19, 2011 11:55 AM
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  • 1 Comment
“No matter what you do or think, one thing is for sure, you’re always fucked. Now, tomorrow, next week or next year, until the end of time, fucked.”

VIFF '11: Paddy Considine's Directorial Debut 'Tyrannosaur' An Uneven Portrait Of A Damaged Man

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 18, 2011 5:59 AM
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  • 3 Comments
The opening scene of “Tyrannosaur” is a real belter. Through near whiplash-inducing cross cuts, we are introduced to a night in the life of Joseph (Peter Mullan) as he drinks heavily and stews with unfettered rage on a barstool (and back at home with a sawed-off wood baseball bat that looks like a leftover from the “Gangs of New York” props department). Then he does something really awful: he kills his dog. He doesn’t necessarily try to do this; it’s more the product of his excessive drinking, nasty temper and hateful, cynical outlook on the world. But he still did it, and the audience will never forget this for the remainder of the film.

VIFF '11: 'Elena' Is A Dramatic Masterwork From Russian Director Andrey Zvyagintsev

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 18, 2011 2:57 AM
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  • 7 Comments
For this writer, there are fewer things in cinema more satisfying than a filmmaker in total control of their story. Sure, we love the visceral thrill of a well-choreographed, impeccably staged action sequence as much as the next red-blooded human being. And there’s the perfect combination of song/score over moving images, blissful moments heightened through all the tools available in the medium. But then there are those rare moments when a film has just begun, and the feeling sets in immediately that you’re in good hands; that no matter what happens in this film, you can trust the filmmaker has thought everything through and knows what he or she is doing. It’s a good feeling. Comforting even. But it’s rare.

VIFF '11: Johnnie To's 'Life Without Principle' An Uneven, All Too Familiar Financial Crisis Drama

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 11, 2011 2:16 AM
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  • 0 Comments
While movies are primarily considered a form of entertainment, they do have the ability to inform, especially to a mass audience. But that’s a slippery slope. All too easily, the audience can be taken right out of the story if things get too didactic. We at the secret Playlist headquarters (which is, naturally, surrounded by a piranha-filled moat where we toss in haters of the movie “Drive”) tend to like our cinema focused more on organic storytelling, not issue-driven diatribes.

VIFF '11: Thai Existentialist Hitman Film 'Headshot' Proves The Genre Still Has A Pulse

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 8, 2011 3:00 AM
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  • 4 Comments
The hitman genre has been done to death. If cinema can be a reflection of the times we live in, and a recorded piece of history of what the filmmakers are concerned with at the time of inception and production, then it’s amazing any of us are still alive. When done well, the genre can be a lot of fun – as well as dramatic, escapist, cool and artful – but there’s just too many professional killers running amok in the movies.

VIFF '11 Review: 'I Wish' The Rare Example Of A Great Kids Film That Actually Understands Kids

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 7, 2011 6:02 AM
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  • 3 Comments
The frustrating thing about most modern "kids films" is that many filmmakers seem like lost balls in tall grass when it comes to portraying what makes children tick. Perhaps it's tougher than we imagine to capture the youth/kid experience, but is it just us or does it seem like nearly all child characters in movies exist in some bizarro world where they're smarter than the all the adults, know just the right thing to say at every moment and hardly ever act like, you know, kids? (See every American indie and Hollywood rom-com from the last 10 years for examples of this annoying, ridiculous trend). That's why, when a thoughtful, intelligent director takes the reins of such a film, one that actually remembers and respects what it was like to be a kid, the result can be so refreshing. In the best examples of the genre from recent memory -- "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Super 8" (which, this writer only found to be half a great movie, the great half being the portion involving kids being kids, making movies; it's impossible to deny the skill of those actors and their characterizations) -- the filmmakers decided from the outset to make a proper film first and foremost. The fact that the story is played out with children as our main characters is almost a moot point. Almost.

Watch: New Trailer For Sylvain Chomet's 'The Illusionist'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • November 4, 2010 9:44 AM
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  • 0 Comments
A new trailer has arrived for the sophomore feature effort from "The Triplets Of Belleville" director Sylvain Chomet.

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