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  • The Playlist
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    Sundance Review: 'Lay The Favorite' A Comedy That's An Empty Bet

    “You can't blame Stephen Frears for trying” seems to be the mantra for "Lay the Favorite," a mild romp through the T&A world of Las Vegas, gambling and literary adaptation. After all, "High Fidelity" is an iconic film to obsessive nerds (Need proof? See: every listicle on the Internet) and Frears is no slouch to crafting strong and/or sexy female characters (Tamara Drew, Cherí, The Queen). But what happens when he tries to mash them up and form the unholy love child of a stat geek and a bubbly idiot savant who used to be a stripper?

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  • The Playlist
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    Sundance Review: 'Simon Killer' Loses That Lovin' Feeling On The Streets Of Paris

    Simon (Brady Corbet) is lost. After being dumped by his high school sweetheart after a relationship that ran the length of their college years, the newly graduated, newly single American flees to Paris to get away from it all and find himself. Of course, the problem with undertaking such a journey of self-discovery is assuming that one will like what they find…

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  • The Playlist
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    Sundance Review: Less 'Wrong' Than Bad, Quentin Dupieux's Followup To 'Rubber' Proves Him To Be A Half-Hit Wonder

    Received at film fests and among cult cinema fans with the giddy glee of an inside joke, Quentin Dupieux's "Rubber" was a film more celebrated than ultimately worthy of celebration. Dupieux's piss-take on '70s killer-car horror (and, by extension, all cinema) as a psychic rubber tire self-motivated itself through the American West, sporadically killing people telekinetically, felt to me like a short film larded up with unrequired bulk -- or, as I may have tweeted at the time, " 'Rubber' rolls along for a while, starts wobbling, then goes flat." "Wrong," premiering at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, was a chance to see what Dupieux could really do. And what he can really do is not direct.

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  • The Playlist
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    Sundance Review: Spike Lee Reconnects With His Artistic Voice With The Emotionally Devastating 'Red Hook Summer'

    It’s hard to say how long it’s been since Spike Lee was as ambitious, and as focused, as he is on “Red Hook Summer.” Telling a story that evokes “Crooklyn” in its depiction of children coming of age, filtered through two subsequent decades of his professional successes and failures, not to mention an era of black cinema dominated by the iconography of filmmakers like Tyler Perry, Lee’s latest film is a return to the incendiary form that made his name in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, as it examines life in a Brooklyn housing project through the eyes of a preteen who’s forced to spend the summer with his ministerial grandfather. Overlong but consequently understated – perhaps more so than in any film he’s ever made - as its didactic and yet discursive tale builds to a devastating emotional crescendo, “Red Hook Summer” is not just Spike Lee’s most authentically “Spike Lee” film in more than a decade, but a remarkable display of a filmmaker reconnecting with his artistic voice.

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  • Shadow and Act
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    Sundance 2012 Review - "The Art Of Rap" (An Unfocused Ode To A Music That's Inspired Generations)

    In an interview posted on this site about a week ago, Ice-T said of his directorial debut, Something For Nothing - The Art Of Rap, that his intent with the film was to document the craft of rapping, and not all the crass excesses the music has become emblematic of. His goal, as he suggested, was to produce a kind of rap masterclass for audiences of the music, teaching them how the music's best and most respected, both old and young, create - specifically, how the pen their rhymes.

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  • Press Play
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    SIMON SAYS: Celebrate Chinese New Year with these blockbusters

    This weekend is Chinese Lunar New Year, a cultural landmark that even some of my Chinese friends needed to be reminded is almost upon us. One way you can tell that the holiday is impending is to look for Chinese films at your local movie theater. In the same way that a crop of big budget Bollywood premieres are perennially released in time for autumn’s Diwali festivities, so too are a number of studio-produced would-be Chinese blockbusters released in time for the new year. But blink and you'll miss ‘em: there are only two Chinese films being released at AMC theater chains.

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  • Thompson on Hollywood
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    Sundance Deal Wrap: Mickey Liddell Picks Up 'Black Rock,' CBS Gets 'The Words,' Breakout 'Beasts of Southern Wild' Wins Grant, Heats Up with Searchlight

    The Sundance Fest is in full swing, with modest deals under way. The two opening night doc buys from Sony Pictures Classics ("Searching for Sugar Man") and Magnolia ("The Queen of Versailles") were both sweet and easy low-bid offers closed on the first night, according to SPC's Tom Bernard and Magnolia's Eamonn Bowles, respectively.

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  • Shadow and Act
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    Sundance 2012 - Fox Searchlight Emerging As Winner In "Beasts Of The Southern Wild" Acquisition Sweepstakes

    It's already been noted that, after its immensely successful premier at the ongoing Sundance Film Festival - a debut that was met with a standing ovation and lots of applause at its end, for both the film and the director - several distribution comapnies have been circling the film with great interest.

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

    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.…"

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  • Shadow and Act
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    Trailer Watch: Doc "Pelotero" (Baseball Player), Dominican Players Try To Achieve Big League Dreams

    Screening at Santa Barbara International Film Festival late in the month, the 72-min documentary Pelotero, directed by Guagua Productions (Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin & Jon Paley) and narrated by John Leguizamo, is set in the Dominican Republican, where some kids begin baseball training at a young age, in hopes that they make it to the big leagues and aid their families back home, where poverty is commonplace.

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