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Wes Craven's New Nightmare

New Line Cinema

“Every kid knows who Freddy is. He’s like Santa Claus or King Kong.” – Heather Langenkamp in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

In a film full of truthful observations, that line always struck me as the truest, or at least the most relevant to my own relationship with Freddy Krueger and the Nightmare on Elm Street film series. I was four when the original came out in 1984, so I was too young to experience that film or most of the first few sequels on their first release. As I grew up, my awareness of Freddy came from what seeped into popular culture. As best as I can remember, my introduction was either a kid in my 4th grade class wearing a Freddy mask for Halloween, or possibly an ad for the costume in a comic book.

So “my” Freddy was less the disturbing child murderer whom Wes Craven created for what probably felt like a standalone film, and more the watered-down pop icon. Less a psychological threat, and more of a catchphrase-spewing gimmick killer. It’s the difference between how the shark from Jaws plays on screen, and experiencing him on the Universal Studios tram tour.

As a result, Freddy never scared me as a kid, nor did I have any desire to see the movies. I knew that they came out every year or two and I assumed all of the movies were stupid slasher films, in which, I saw no appeal. I remember seeing a trailer for Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare in 1991 and thinking it looked incredibly awful. Good riddance.

Then came 1994 and the release of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

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Lionsgate Films

Lionsgate Films

Back in April, it was announced that Eli Roth‘s horror-comedy opus Cabin Fever would be getting remade, so that a new generation who couldn’t afford getting in trouble with their parents again to sneak into an R-rated movie would now be allowed to witness the grotesque beauty of bein’ young and havin’ your skin fall off. And pancakes. Oh, the pancakes.

While it seemed strange at the time of the announcement that a film just released in 2002 would already be rebooted (but hey, weirder things have happened), there was at least comfort in the fact that someone — namely new director Travis Zariwny (Intruder) — saw something in the original that lit a fire and produced new ideas and torrents of gore. Think of how many horror films you’ve seen that have involved getting a wild bunch of cute young things up to the spooky cabin that someone has clearly neglected to clean for a couple months or decades, only to realize that things are terribly amiss — and that it really would have been a good idea to pay attention to their surroundings instead of banging in the woods. The possibilities for reimagining that scenario are pretty endless.

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The Sandman

Vertigo

Finally, news that potentially involves the words “expanded universe” that doesn’t cause involuntary pulling out of one’s hair.

Because when DC Comics and Warner Bros issued that great decree of Justice League-centric films last week (also, Suicide Squad), there was one extremely noticeable omission: David S. Goyer and Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s Sandman. Sandman‘s a film based on a DC Comic, and as the point of last week’s announcement was “Behold! Our supply of DC movies has no end!,” you’d think WB would want to pad the list with as many as possible. Heck, they included Lego Batman on the list, and no one’s expecting Batfleck to split Justice League Bat-duties with a tiny gravel-voiced LEGO piece.

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White Earth

Weary Traveler

This past weekend I was at the New Orleans Film Festival, serving as a juror for the event’s impressive documentary shorts program. Out of the 22 contenders, Oscar nominee Sari Gilman (King’s Point), Picture Motion’s Wendy Cohen and I awarded our prize to J. Christian Jensen‘s White Earth, honoring the film “for its pure, harsh look at a devastating economic reality from the unlikely perspective of people on the sidelines who are most affected, as well as for its stunning, metaphoric cinematography and restrained, quiet editing,” One day later, Jensen had another, perhaps bigger reason to celebrate: his film was named to the 2014 doc shorts Oscar shortlist.

White Earth, which also won the Silver Medal in the documentary category at this year’s Student Academy Awards is the Stanford University alum’s MFA thesis film. It focuses on the oil boom of North Dakota, partially from the perspective of children, and it will be a fitting nominee alongside documentary feature hopeful The Overnighters (and Rich Hill if we could be so lucky). It’s joined by the seven films listed ahead of it alphabetically below. I’ve included trailers or full versions of the films and any significant info I could find about each of the shorts. The group is notable for having fewer Oscar vets than usual (only one is by a former Oscar nominee) as well as for being an especially bleak bunch — much disease and death and tragedies involving children.

Three to five of these will be named Oscar nominees on January 15th and the winner announced at the Academy Awards ceremony on February 22nd.

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Perry Films/HBO
41 min. (according to HBO, though it must have been a wee bit shorter for qualification)
Directed by Ellen Goosenberg Kent (Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq)
Edited by Geof Bartz (Oscar noms Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack HallPoster Girl and Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth and winners Big Mama and King Gimp) and Gladys Murphy (Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall)
Cinematography by Tony Hardmon (Detropia)
Subject: Counselors at the Veterans’ Crisis Line, which helps military vets deal with any of life’s troubles after returning home from service.
Official HBO site
Watch in full on HBO GO

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the-shape-of-things

Focus Features

When the movie version of My Fair Lady premiered — 50 years ago today — it was an adaptation of a stage show that was a musical remake of a play that was loosely based on an ancient myth. Once again: “originality” is not that big a deal and never has been. Proof has continued in the legacy of all these properties in the half century since. Even now on television there is a sitcom so admittedly based on Pygmalion that the characters are named Eliza Dooley and Henry Higgs. The fact that most people call this show, Selfie, a modern take on the musical rather than George Bernard Shaw‘s earlier drama is not a surprise. Different generations have their reference point. In She’s All That, for instance, Rachel Leigh Cook’s character says, “I feel just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. You know, except for the whole hooker thing.” She could have said Eliza Doolittle.

There are certain movies and other media that are clearly more linked to the play and musical (i.e. Pretty Woman) involving a lower class person transformed by someone of a better social level. Then there are still those that go directly to the source (i.e. Mannequin) where someone falls in love with an initially inanimate creation. The scenario has easily been the basis for many high school movies (including She’s All That) and even some porn films (notably The Opening of Misty Beethoven) and doesn’t always have to be a romantic plot, as in the case of Shaw’s play, in which Eliza and Henry don’t get together, and Weird Science, where Lisa isn’t the boys’ object of affection. There are also many near-similar movies that I wouldn’t qualify due to the objects not really originating at the hands of the protagonist, such as the case with Lars and the Real Girl and Her.

Below are five titles I consider to be the best Pygmalion movies since My Fair Lady, some of them not exactly like the 1964 musical. 

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Terminator Original

Orion Pictures

Arnold Schwarzenegger is old, which means he’s going to look old in the next Terminator movie. He’ll be a robot with wrinkles, and according to James Cameron, that’s okay.

“I pointed out that the outer covering (of the Terminator) was actually not synthetic, that it was organic and therefore could age,” Cameron said at a 30th anniversary celebration of the original film. “You could theoretically have a Terminator that was sent back in time, missed his target, and ended up just kind of living on in society. Because he is a learning computer and has a brain as a central processor he could actually become more human as he went along without getting discovered.”

So that’s that, except it doesn’t really matter.

This is the kind of external explanation that you can hold in the back of your mind even while laughing at what’s happening on screen. Even if they offer it up as exposition, it’s still a cosmetic solution for a real-world situation we all recognize. Schwarzenegger is thirty years older, so now they’ve got to explain why he’s that way in the movies, thus reminding all of us that it’s something which needs explanation. It’s lose-lose.

On the other hand, there’s a chance that aging will offer Terminator: Genisys a gruff, sullen robot, but on the other other hand, is there any real hope that Schwarzenegger can rise above his hammy delivery to pull that off to its full potential?

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Moana

Walt Disney Animation Studios

We’ve long known that Disney’s animation arm has been cooking up a brand new Princess for fans of the House of Mouse — and, presumably, the legions of Frozen fans who have either fallen in love with the Princess brand for the first time or had their adoration reignited — to look forward to meeting. Her name is Moana (and, hey, that’s the name of her film, too, which is currently simply titled Moana) and she’s poised to be only the fifth Disney Princess of color (in a line up that is currently thirteen-ladies strong). Although Moana has been teased for quite some time, with a planned 2018 release date, she’s now hitting our cinematic shores much earlier, late in 2016.

This is certainly a good thing for the animation world and the Disney brand, which is still riding high on the success of Frozen. This year has quite notably gone without a Pixar release, so fans of animated features have been given far less to consume than they’re used to. In short, they’re hungry (we are, too) and the news that we’re getting a brand-new Princess a full two years early is just excellent. So who is Moana?

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VINCENT PRICE discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs!

If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon.

Discs Section: Pick of the Week

VINCENT PRICE 2 bluThe Vincent Price Collection II

A duel between magicians leaves one man transformed into a bird in The Raven. An undertaker takes matters into his own hands in an effort to increase business in The Comedy of Terrors. A widower finds new love complicated by an obsession with his dead wife in The Tomb of Ligeia. A scientist is the last normal human alive after a plague turns others into vampire-like creatures in The Last Man on Earth. The abominable Dr.Phibes rises again in Dr. Phibes Rises Again. The son of the first film’s scientist begins some experiments of his own in The Return of the Fly. A millionaire offers a cash reward to five people if they’re willing and able to spend a nigh tin his home in House on Haunted Hill.

Vincent Price is a genre legend, and his output is filled with horror classics. Scream Factory’s second collection of his work brings together seven films highlighting Price’s dramatic, horrific and (in a couple instances) comedic chops. Everyone will have their own favorites among the collection, but for me The Last Man on Earth, House on Haunted Hill and The Raven are the real stand outs.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Introductions, featurettes, commentaries, trailers]

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Speed Keanu Reeves

Twentieth Century Fox

The thing about Key & Peele is that every time they come up with an idea that’s stranger than the last one, it seems perfectly normal. The comedy duo brought us sketches featuring a continental breakfast-themed nod to The Shining (with go-gurts, to stay), an elaborate Les Miz production just about how nobody gets the chance to clearly talk during the entire musical and of course, Mr. Garvey, the substitute teacher who can’t quite get the pronunciation of his white students’ names correct and is livid when anyone challenges him.

Though Key & Peele (full names Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) had been in talks to make a film about their Mr. Garvey character, that’s apparently not up next. Neither is their proposed Police Academy reboot and their untitled project with Judd Apatow.

Instead, their upcoming film is Keanu, the story of two best friends who pose as drug dealers and go undercover in the seedy underbelly of the criminal world, where people are despicable enough to kidnap a cap named after — who else? — the star of Speed.

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Demon Knight Tales From the Crypt

Universal Pictures

Continuing on our Schlocktober frolic through the underrated horror of the 1990s, Cargill and I accidentally traipse across a forgotten cemetery in the middle of nowhere and arouse Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight from its ancient slumber. Our fear subsides in seconds as we instantly recall the fact that this is one of our favorite horror films of any decade.

If you’ve been putting off seeing this film, make tonight your demon night and then join us as we not only pay blood tribute to the greatness of the movie, but also discuss its slow, painful slog through development hell. It’s (Dick) Miller time and things are about to get in-Zane!

You should follow Brian (@Briguysalisbury), Cargill (@Massawyrm), and the show (@Junkfoodcinema).

Download Episode #28 Directly

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Viper Gotham

FOX

It had to happen sometime: “Viper” has brought superpowers to Gotham. A superhero show without superpowers is like a carrot cake without luscious cream cheese frosting, and when it comes to Gotham, we’ve been eating our cake dry for far too long.

Here’s the deal. A guy by the name of Stan has been distributing a new wonderdrug among the homeless of Gotham. It comes in a cute little mini-bottle imprinted with the words “BREATHE ME.” Follow its advice, and you’ll gain a few hours of unbelievable super-strength. Do whatever you want with those few hours. Snap baseball bats in half like twigs. Hurl a pile of policemen off of you in dramatic fashion. Drink your weight in dairy products. Your choice. Then, when the allotted hours are up, your bones crumble apart and you die in agony. Naturally, Gordon, Bullock and the rest of GCPD would prefer a population with regular human strength and intact bones, so they spend most of “Viper” trying to get the stuff off the streets.

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Sharknado 2

SyFy

We’re all refreshing Sharknado‘s Twitter on an hourly basis, right? I’m going to assume that, yes, most of society is, so you probably already heard the news this morning that Sharknado 3 is real, and it already has a below-average shark pun tethered to its name: Feast Coast — okay, technically the word “feast” isn’t specifically a sharkological term, but put it in close enough proximity to the word “Sharknado” and it fits just fine. The details come from an Orlando-based Sharknado press tour, alongside the fateful Twitter reveal explaining just what a “Feast Coast” is. Apparently, it’s a stretch of coastal America from Washington, DC, to Florida marauded by airborne sharks.

Then comes IGN with a scant few details more. The film will begin by hurling sharks at our nation’s capital (this is apparently “what [Washington, DC] deserves,” according to Syfy and Chiller President Dave Howe, who seems to hold a shark-based grudge against big government), then travel southward until it ends in Orlando. No cast has been announced yet, but it’s a safe bet that Tara Reid and Ian Ziering will return. Also, it’s probably best to assume that “Feast Coast” isn’t actually the subtitle for Sharknado 3, as Syfy is likely to hold another contest on social media to come up with the name, like they did for Sharknado 2: The Second One.

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My Little Pony and Sheep

Hasbro Studios

It may seem obvious that a My Little Pony movie is being made. The magically friendly horses are very popular and, more importantly, are a part of the Hasbro family of toys. The company has been busy turning as many of their products into movies as they can, such as Transformers, G.I. Joe, Battleship and this month’s Ouija. There’s also Jem and the Holograms due next year and maybe eventually we’ll see the promised features based on Monopoly, Candy LandHungry Hungry Hippos and Tonka trucks.

But one of these things is not like the other, and that’s this latest addition to the slate. My Little Pony will be an animated feature, which means it will likely just be a feature-length edition of the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. All the other properties are adaptations of some other medium or directly based off the toys and games.

Hippos and Tonka are the only others listed above that have been optioned for animated films, and both of these are different from the My Little Pony plans in that neither have been turned into narrative entities before. Regardless of what you think of Battleship and Ouija, they’ve required some level of imagination to find inspiration from their respective games for the makings of a movie plot. The same will be the case for animated stories involving marble-craving beasts and construction vehicles. 

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