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Showing posts from January, 2013

The Best Films of 2012

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Instead of going with the usual speech about the subjective nature of film criticism and how one might see this as a weak year, another as a strong year– I’ll just say that it was a great year. Perhaps me getting into the swing of life as a critic helped me feel this way. Perhaps we just lucked out with a lot of great films being released in 2012. I can’t say, really, but I’m thankful to have seen so many good motion pictures.  I’m particularly grateful that so many of them featured at festivals in Georgia. “Rabies” and “Restoration” were screened at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. “Welcome to Pine Hill” showed at the Atlanta Film Festival. “Amour,” “Rust and Bone” and “Silver Linings Playbook” all featured in Savannah. If you aren’t checking out your local film festivals, you are missing out! Sure, you caught plenty of these at your local cinema at some point. But an energy is present at festivals that you can’t find elsewhere. You never know when a film is going to come out of nowh

Photos from "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"

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Sam Claflin and Jennifer Lawrence star in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Easily, the highest profile Georgia release of 2013 is “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” While the first film of the franchise was filmed in North Carolina, the second film was produced in two separate halves; first in Metro Atlanta, then in Hawaii. Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland and Stanley Tucci all return for the second feature and are joined by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin, Lynn Cohen and Amanda Plummer. Regardless of how the film turns out, it is guaranteed to make an outrageous amount of money and feature Georgia on thousands of cinema screens. Director Francis Lawrence has taken the reigns from Gary Ross and is set to direct all remaining films in the franchise. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” will be split into two films but shot back to back. No word yet on if filming will t

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival kicks off tomorrow!

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Tomorrow night, the 13th annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival kicks off at the Cobb Energy Centre. The opening night gala begins at 5:00 PM with an open bar and food from landmark Atlanta restaurants like Alma Cocina, South City Kitchen, Woodfire Grill and more. “Hava Nagila (The Movie)” serves as the opening night film and promises to be a very lively start to the festival. Come sing along with us! The film starts at 7:30 PM. Don’t have your ticket yet? What are you waiting for? Get them now at www.ajff.org ! Film synopsis and trailer after the jump. Encapsulating 150 years of Jewish history with humor and heart, HAVA NAGILA (THE MOVIE) traces the cultural impact of the instantly recognizable Hebrew folk song that transcended its origins to become a worldwide hit.   From the shtetls of Eastern Europe to the formative years of Israel to Bar Mitzvah staple, the ubiquitous dance melody (which translates to “Let us rejoice”) was later popularized by mainstream crooners Harry Belafonte and

Atlanta-filmed "No Soliciting" showing at the Plaza Theatre

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“No Soliciting” is a new comedy from writer-director-actor Will Dove. Filmed in Atlanta in 2012, the movie earned a one-week run at the famed Plaza Theatre last week. Due to a great turnout, the run has been extended another week. Make sure you check the film out and support the local independent cinema scene. Trailer after the jump.

What to see at the 2013 Macon Film Festival

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The first leg of Georgia’s film festival circuit is about to kick off with the always robust Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. But after the AJFF begins and before it ends, another Georgia gem will take place. The 8th annual Macon Film Festival (MaGa) will run from February 14th through the 17th, just three weeks away! I saw some good films, met some fun people, ate some delicious food and took many great walks around town last February and look forward to getting to do it all over again this year. The Macon Film Festival is similar to the Rome International Film Festival (RIFF) in both age and size, although I can see the big dreams and ambitions of the MaGa board propelling the fest into the reach of a broader audience within the next few years. This year, several documentaries and features look promising and the festival always offers a wide variety of short films worth looking into. The special gala presentations (one each night) are still being announced, but they usually bring one or

Jessica Chastain one-two punch: "Zero Dark Thirty" (****½) and "Mama" (**½)

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Top: Jessica Chastain stars in “Zero Dark Thirty” Bottom: Chastain stars in “Mama” alongside Nikolaj Coster-Waldau It’s hard to think of another film career that has begun with quite the same bang that Jessica Chastain’s has. After Meryl Streep transitioned from the stage to the big screen, it didn’t take long for the Academy Award nominations and leading roles to start stacking up. Audrey Hepburn’s star rose astoundingly quickly after her first Oscar-nominated performance in “Roman Holiday.” But neither Streep nor Hepburn can claim such a seemingly overnight ascent to the top in both the critical and the commercial realms. Chastain first turned heads in 2008, playing the title character in “Jolene.” A small release that mostly played festivals, Chastain earned higher marks than the film itself. In 2011, the Chastain blitzkrieg began. “The Tree of Life,” “The Help,” “Take Shelter,” “The Debt,” “Coriolanus,” “Wilde Salome” and “Texas Killing Fields” assured her face was in every multipl

Savannah Review bundle: "In Our Nature" (*½), "Tomorrow You're Gone" (**), "The Sapphires" (****), "Rise of the Guardians" (***½)

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Gabrielle Union, John Slattery, Jena Malone and Zach Gilford star in “In Our Nature” “In Our Nature”  is perhaps the most disappointing film out of the 2012 Savannah Film Festival. Zach Gilford, Jena Malone, John Slattery and Gabrielle Union comprise an accomplished cast that fails to produce any sentiment from a dry screenplay. The premise is there; an estranged father and son unexpectedly reunite at their family cabin with their respective partners. Unfortunately, “In Our Nature” is riddled with unpleasantness, from slow-as-molasses pacing to the complete joy vacuum created by scene upon scene of unlikeable characters performing unlikeable actions with no attempt at relief. The filmmakers seem confident that they have created realistic characters with realistic emotions, but those who sympathize would still find a hard time enjoying the film. Jena Malone earns best in show honors, but her character still teeters too unevenly for her capable talent to grab hold. 1.5 out of 5 stars. “T

Georgia Film Critics Association 2012 winners

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Jennifer Lawrence wins one of four GFCA awards for “Silver Linings Playbook” The 2012 Georgia Film Critics Association nominations were just announced Monday , but winners have already been declared. Just as “Silver Linings Playbook” led the pack with eight nominations, David O. Russell’s film walked away with four wins, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Ensemble. “Skyfall” was another big winner, taking home awards for Best Supporting Actress (Judi Dench), Best Cinematography and Best Original Song. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” won two awards; Best Production Design and Best Score. Director Benh Zeitlin also took the Breakthrough Award, beating the likes of his star Quvenzhané Wallis, Zal Batmanglij, Derek Connolly, Bart Layton and Scoot McNairy. Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director for “Zero Dark Thirty.” Other films that took home awards include “Lincoln,” “The Master” and “Moonrise Kingdom.” Check out the full list of winners

Review: "The Impossible" (****½)

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Tom Holland stars in “The Impossible” The harrowing true story of the Alvarez family’s survival of and reunion following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami makes a most compelling basis for a film. I imagine that it didn’t take Juan Antonio Bayona very long to stake out his plans after hearing such an incredible tale. The Alvarez family becomes the Bennett family through the performances of Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast. I’ll be the first to admit to my stone-hearted nature. I’m more inclined to be moved by a film’s trailer than I am during the film itself, and that usually has to do with a sweeping orchestral piece used to maximize the editor’s intended effect. “The Impossible” marks the first film to ever make me cry as an adult. I left the cinema with my eyes rung out dry and my heart a soggy mess. It’s hard to say what I found to be the biggest takeaway from “The Impossible.” The performances, the direction and the production design are all

Georgia filmed "A.C.O.D." to premiere at Sundance

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Adam Scott stars in “A.C.O.D.” Last spring, a host of stars were in town to film “A.C.O.D.” (or “Adult Children of Divorce”). Adam Scott, Amy Poehler, Jane Lynch, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Jessica Alba and Mary Elizabeth Winstead spent a few weeks shooting on location in Buckhead, Castleberry Hill, Decatur, Gainesville and Midtown. We don’t have a trailer yet, but with a cast like this, there’s no way this movie isn’t going to be hilarious. Writer-director Stu Zicherman’s debut premieres Wednesday, January 23rd at the Sundance Film Festival. This is another one that might be a great fit to come back home for the Atlanta Film Festival. Check out the Sundance synopsis after the jump. Carter has spent much of his life mediating fights between his acrimoniously divorced, ill-behaved mother and father and taking on the role of designated authority figure to his carefree younger brother, Trey. Inspired by Trey’s sudden engagement, Carter resolves to negotiate a truce between his pa

Georgia filmed "The Spectacular Now" to premiere at Sundance

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Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller star in “The Spectacular Now” Last summer, as James Ponsoldt was still riding the wave of acclaim he received for his Sundance hit, “Smashed,” he began work on a new film in his hometown of Athens, Georgia. “The Spectacular Now” is adapted from Tim Tharp’s much beloved novel by screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (“500 Days of Summer”). Upon reading the book and being reminded of his own hometown, Ponsoldt set out to change the setting from Oklahoma to Georgia. Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Kyle Chandler, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Mary Elizabeth Winstead all star in this promising teen romance. The world premiere is Friday, January 18th. I’d love to see this film come back to Georgia for the Atlanta Film Festival in March. Check out some images (courtesy of The Playlist ) and a brief word from Ponsoldt after the jump. Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. Sundance synopsis : Sutter Keely liv