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The Playlist

Venice Review: Spike Lee's 'Bad 25' A Comprehensive & Warm Look At The Making Of Michael Jackson's Album

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 31, 2012 7:36 AM
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  • 0 Comments
A couple of years ago, before he set up his low-budget comeback film “Red Hook Summer," Spike Lee was planning another NYC-set project, “Brooklyn Loves MJ,” with the story taking place on the night of the death of pop superstar Michael Jackson in June 2009. Said to star Samuel L. Jackson, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie and more, the film never came together (although Lee told us recently that he hoped to get it going again), but the director’s been able to pay tribute to the late King of Pop in a couple of other ways. For one, he’s helped to organize a semi-annual Brooklyn Loves MJ party (although it didn’t take place this year or last for various reasons). And then there’s the director’s latest film, and his second of 2012, “Bad 25.” The subject matter is less weighty for the man behind such stirring docs as "4 Little Girls" and "When The Levees Broke," but the results are no less pleasing for this effort which delves into the making of Jackson's Bad, the fifth biggest-selling LP of all time.

Venice Review: Ramin Bahrani's 'At Any Price' A Patchy But Powerful Melodrama With A Fantastic Performance By Dennis Quaid

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 30, 2012 5:09 PM
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  • 4 Comments
The first three feature films by Ramin Bahrani – 2005’s “Man Push Cart,” 2007’s “Chop Shop” and 2008’s “Goodbye Solo” -- were extremely well-regarded by festival and art-house crowds (Roger Ebert called Bahrani “the director of the decade”), but barely made a dent on the wider cultural consciousness, receiving fairly limited releases and so far, making Bahrani a favourite of cinephiles, but far from a crossover success. But four years since his last film, Bahrani is back at Venice, the festival which made his name with “Man Push Cart,” for a film that threatens to push him towards the mainstream, with a starry cast and a distribution deal already in place from Sony Pictures Classics. And while perhaps not quite up there with the low-key, humanistic triumphs of his earlier films, “At Any Price” does seem likely to win him further and wider recognition.

Venice Review: Jonathan Demme's 'Enzo Avitabile, Music Life' Blends Great Musical Performances & Shallow Documentary

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 30, 2012 12:17 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Over the centuries, Italy has contributed countless things to international culture. It was of course, the center of the Roman empire, the birthplace of the Renaissance and Da Vinci, and gave the world Vivaldi, Verdi, Dante, Calvino, Fellini and Antonioni. But at least in the 20th and 21st century, music was not its strongest suit, as such. The county did birth the great film composer Ennio Morricone, and electronic pioneer Giorgio Moroder and the Italo Disco movement, but the number of Italian popular musicians who became internationally famous can, for the most part, be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Venice Review: Michael Shannon Vehicle 'The Iceman' Is A Tired Take On The Mob Flick

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 30, 2012 10:12 AM
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  • 6 Comments
Are we living in a post-gangster movie age? From the early talkies to the Oscar-winning success of “The Departed,” the genre has been ever-popular and responsible for seminal films from “White Heat” and “The Godfather” to “Goodfellas” and “Pulp Fiction.” But one struggles to think of a standout film in the genre since Scorsese's Oscar winner, with memorable mobsters now coming from television rather than the movies. We’re sure that someone will come along and give the form new life one of these days, but that reinvention of the wheel doesn’t come from Ariel Vroman’s “The Iceman,” which is decent enough, but fails to cover ground that hasn’t already been covered many times before.

Venice Review: 'Tai Chi 0' An Uneven, But Playful & Enjoyable Piece Of Kung Fu Pop Art

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 29, 2012 3:53 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Just as the nation as a whole sneaks up on surpassing the United States of America as the world’s foremost superpower (if it hasn’t already), China has become more and more important to the movie world in the last few years. Grosses for the relatively few American movies released there are huge (“The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” both just opened to big numbers), helping blockbusters make coin overseas even if they tank at home, while Chinese financiers are getting involved more and more in production of movies (as in “Looper” or “Iron Man 3,” both partially produced by Chinese companies, and featuring scenes set in the nation). And now, is China starting to beat Hollywood at its own blockbuster game?

Venice Review: Sarah Polley Examines Her Own Family In Lovely, Fascinating 'Stories We Tell'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 29, 2012 2:25 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Sarah Polley has a secret. It’s a secret that, remarkably, she kept under wraps to all but friends and family until the film screened at the Venice Film Festival this morning. It’s a secret that’s seemingly informed her two directorial efforts to date, “Away From Her” and “Take This Waltz,” and is the subject matter of her third film, and first documentary, “Stories We Tell.” And it’s a secret that’s led to her finest work as a director so far.

Venice Review: Mira Nair's 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' A Heavy-Handed Look At A Post 9/11 World

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 29, 2012 7:31 AM
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  • 8 Comments
Opening films at festivals are always worth approaching with a little caution. Normally given out-of-competition slots, it’s often a signal that the films have been selected to bring some starry names, and the attention that goes with them to the red carpet, or to make some kind of mission statement, with the more prestigious pictures being saved up for the main competition. But generally speaking, Venice has had a good run in the last few years for their opening night film: “Atonement,” “Burn After Reading,” “Black Swan” and “The Ides Of March” all picked up varying degrees of praise, with Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Baaria” the only one of late that failed to get much of an international following.

Venice Review: Kiyoshi Kurosawa's 'Penance' Is An Absorbing 4 1/2 Hour Drama That Falters At Its Ending

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 28, 2012 2:57 PM
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  • 7 Comments
For all the talk of auteurs working on the small screen, and helping to bring in a new golden age of television – Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann etc. – it’s hardly a phenomenon only made up of HBO’s current output. Ingmar Bergman and Rainer Werner Fassbinder both turned to television in the 1980s, for instance, and more recently British filmmakers Shane Meadows and Michael Winterbottom have both worked regularly on U.K. TV. The latest international filmmaker to follow in their footsteps is Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the Japanese filmmaker best known for his millennial horror masterpiece “Pulse.”

The Playlist's 10 Most Anticipated Films Of The Venice Film Festival

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 27, 2012 11:55 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Superhero movies be damned, festival season is underway. Indeed, by the time you read this, this writer will be winging his way to (hopefully) sunny Italy to spend ten days or so resolutely avoiding getting anything like a tan at the 69th Venice Film Festival. The first under the new leadership of Alberto Barbera, it's lived up to his promise of being a less glitzy, more sober take, with no major studio fare to be found, and a line up that emphasizes international auteurs over the American and British filmmakers who dominated line-ups in previous years.

Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master' Will Play The Venice Film Festival & TIFF After All

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 30, 2012 12:24 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Initially accidentally announced and then quickly retracted from last week's unveiling of the Venice Film Festival lineup, Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" is now officially headed to the Lido, and probably Toronto too. The news comes on the heels of the recent release date switch that saw The Weinstein Company move the picture up a month to Septmeber 14th release date from a previous October bow, making the film one of the first major talking points of the awards season.

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