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Twilight Texting in Theaters

Here’s some fun news to read after watching the trailer for Jason Reitman’s latest (see our post from earlier today). And by fun, I’m sure for many of you I should mean infuriating. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Chinese cinemas are testing out a new system for interactive moviegoing where the audience is able to contribute to running commentary of the film on screen. The gimmick involves “bullet screens,” which are named such for the way the messages scroll across the movie, and it’s a concept that’s been around for a while online in Japan and more recently China. The new big screen version, though, can currently be found in 50 theaters in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and other cities, specifically at showings of the 3D animated feature The Legend of Qin.

Why an animated feature? Because it’s mostly young people who are interested in the danmu craze, as bullet screens are called over there (danmaku in Japan), and because as THR relays from a translated Chinese publication, it’s “for younger viewers who can’t spend five minutes away from their tablet or phone.” That sounds like theater owners are both cashing in on a trend (each text sent to screen costs 10 cents) and perpetuating a new social problem that probably doesn’t need encouragement. This is the same country that, as shown in the new documentary Web Junkie, has enough of an issue with youths being addicted to the Internet that they’ve become the first in the world to label it a clinical disorder. Interestingly enough, the director of The Legend of Qin is supportive of the idea, claiming that “many of the opinions of the viewers are very helpful for filmmakers.”

Uh huh. Wait until you see what bullet screens look like, at least of the online sort, in the video below.

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THE ADMIRAL

CJ Entertainment

Admiral Yi Sun-shin (Choi Min-sik) was a revered Korean military commander, but after a Japanese plot involving false intelligence left him looking like a traitor he was relieved of duty and tortured by the men he had previously served and fought beside. The government’s attitude changes though when a second Japanese invasion heads towards their shores in 1597. The invaders sink most of the Korean navy and aim their forces for the capital, Joseon, leading a reluctant king to reinstate Yi as their last hope of fending off the enemy.

He has his work cut out for him as only twelve ships remain in his ocean-going arsenal, a number that pales beside the 300+ Japanese vessels heading their way, but with the right strategy and the right location one man can fend off thousands. Well, that’s his working theory anyway.

The Admiral — also known as the far more accurate and descriptive Roaring Currents outside of the U.S. — is a new South Korean film that tackles a legendary true tale from the Joseon Dynasty period, and it does so with historical detail and cinematic flair. In a way it splits those two attributes evenly into two halves of the film, and while both have their strengths they’re equally balanced by somewhat minor issues.

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Men Women and Children

Paramount Pictures

Does Jason Reitman hate texting? From the looks of the first trailer for his Men, Women & Childrenthat definitely seems to be the case. Reitman’s latest is all about the secrets we keep online and that threaten to leak into the real world — which makes it kind of weird that the film’s marketing is encouraging fans to use the Whisper app to share their secrets, because that sure seems like something that’s pushing precisely what the film is against – with everyone constantly staring at their phones and looking shocked. Not a fan of films that use cute graphics to share texts, emails and pix on the big screen? Oh, you’re going to hate this one.

Reitman’s film centers on a loosely connected group of students and their families, though it appears that they are all linked by their mutual sadness and disconnection. Put down your phones. Start living your lives. The Internet is bad. You are watching this trailer on the Internet, which is weird, right? Hmm. Watch the first trailer for Men, Women & Children after the break. You can probably do it on your phone.

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Bradley Cooper in The A-Team

Fox

Although Bradley Cooper was not physically onscreen during this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy as the feisty and volatile Rocket Raccoon, his role voicing the smallest defender of the universe put him squarely on the path to becoming a bonafide action star. That raccoon knew what he was doing around a ray gun. And no, starring in the 2010 reboot of The A-Team definitely does not count. Cooper has never been an actor who has sat idly in his roles, picking parts that run the gamut from comedy, to romance, to drama and satire; it’s a natural progression that transforming into an action star would be next.

Warner Bros. has a plan, acquiring the book rights to Mack Bolan, a character created by Don Pendleton, to create a starring vehicle for Cooper. The author chronicled Bolan in 37 novels often referred to as “The Mafia Wars,” but ghostwriters kept him alive in hundred of other serializations over the years. Bolan is a tough as nails anti-terrorist operative who is all-American and bleeds red, white and blue. He’s often in extremely sticky situations, but pulls himself out unscathed — usually with a new romantic conquest at his side at the end of the adventure. Think along the lines if James Bond were from Massachusetts and served as a Green Beret.

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The Jungle Book

Disney

There is a down and dirty street fight a-rumblin’ between The Jungle Book and The Jungle Book: Origins. Both are adaptations of Rudyard Kipling‘s classic boy-meets-bear novel “The Jungle Book.” Both are releasing within a year of each other, with the former (backed up by Disney and director Jon Favreau) coming next October, and the latter (WB and Andy Serkis) set to launch next next October.

Prepare yourself for at least a solid year of back and forth Three Stooges eye-gouging between the two.

Today is the first meeting of finger and soft, unguarded eyeball. The Hollywood Reporter has the first piece of casting for Serkis’ Jungle Book: Origins, and it happens to be really, really stellar casting: Benedict Cumberbatch will play the skulking, boy-hungry tiger Shere Khan. Picture in your mind’s eye, a staggeringly lifelike digital tiger, a la Life of Pi. Except when he opens that fanged maw, a regal Smaug smoothness pours out (probably not as deep in tone as Smaug’s was, but you never know). As he pads about, the slinky English lilt in his voice barely disguises how much he would enjoy disemboweling and consuming us all.

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Uncle-Buck-Scenes

Universal Pictures

Maybe it’s because the anniversary fell on the weekend, but it’s shocking how few tributes there are to Uncle Buck turning 25. I know, it’s only John Hughes‘s second-highest-grossing movie as a director (out of eight), and only currently (according to Rotten Tomatoes) the ninth best-reviewed of his movies in any creative capacity (out of 31). I understand that it’s a fairly insignificant comedy without a lot of cultural or historical relevance. It’s just Mr. Mom (scripted by Hughes) without the social contexts of the recession and the rise of women in the workforce that makes that movie an important piece of American cinema. It’s a sitcom that didn’t even translate well to television. A saccharine family film that’s actually not that appropriate for children — and that’s after a cut was made to the theatrical version due to parent complaints (the drunk clown scene was apparently more profane).

Uncle Buck might suffer for being sort of sandwiched between two more popular movies: Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which may have inspired John Candy‘s role here, and Home Alone, which is said to have been inspired by a scene with Macaulay Culkin in this movie. Yet speaking of Culkin, he’s one of the reasons that Uncle Buck deserves more recognition. While the movie is primarily a vehicle for Candy and his sloven, ignorant and occasionally violent childcare shtick, it’s most notable for its youngest players, namely Culkin and Gaby Hoffmann, who own every scene they’re in, with or without their large co-star. Their performances are mainly limited to reaction shots, yet they’re some of the most perfect reaction shots in all of history, never wearing out the fact that they’re responsible for being the punchline of every joke or gag laid out by Candy.

The rest of the little kids appearing in the movie are great, too, whether background or featured extras. I think we can thank casting director Billy Hopkins, who pretty much discovered Culkin (and maybe also gave Anna Chlumsky her first shot here, though extras casting is credited to The Geddes Agency), but obviously Hughes deserves credit for what he does with the future kid star’s breakout appearance. Whoever is most due of commendation, below are a handful of scenes from the movie that highlight the best of the child actors’ work in the movie.

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Don't Call It a Comeback

After a long absence, I have returned to Film School Rejects. Some of you may remember me as the guy who complained about how movies aren’t girly enough or the guy who told you how Hollywood is out to screw everyone. Or maybe I’m best remembered as the guy who foisted David Christopher Bell on you all. I’m sorry for that. I didn’t realize he was literally a bear with a keyboard who somehow knew where all of our readers lived.

But Dave has moved on to bigger and better things (Cracked.com wanted a bear they could keep in their office), so I’m back, baby! And to celebrate my comeback, I am presenting you with this group of actors who tried to make cinematic comebacks and fell flat on their faces. Which I hopefully will not do. Hopefully.

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Big Trouble in Little China

20th Century Fox

Continuing through our month-long series of sci-fi comedies, Cargill and I decide to take a few cues from good ol’ Jack Burton. So this week, we’re broadcasting from our own Porkchop Express and talking to anyone who’s listening about the triumphant weirdness of John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China. Now we aren’t saying we’ve been everywhere and seen every film, but we do know Big Trouble is a pretty amazing flick and a man would have to be some kind of fool to believe we’re all alone in that opinion.

If you’ve paid your dues, and if you were born ready, join us for an in-depth chat about one of the greatest genre-bending cinematic rides of all time. It may not shake the pillars of heaven, but you can bet your mullet it’ll be a whole lot of fun.

 

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

Download Episode #20 Directly

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Boyhood

IFC Films

For the past four years, I’ve been in a long distance relationship. As of two weeks ago, the distance component of that relationship has thankfully come to a close, with my heart and my wallet eternally grateful. But the change is bittersweet, as I’ve also been in something of a long-distance relationship with a city that my person inhabited, having now arrived at the end of my routine round trip travels from my current home in southern Indiana to Austin, Texas.

I only officially lived in Austin for slightly over a year, from 2009-2010. But in four subsequent years of visits ranging from a brief weekend to an entire summer, I developed something of a strange relationship with the city: I saw it through elliptical fractions of time. Each visit to this rapidly growing city required reorientation, as I was forced to understand the differences big and small that have taken place since my last visit. One day Rainey Street was a mostly empty lot with a few great food trailers. The next visit it became a caravan of bars. A few visits later, dreaded condos were being developed.

For nearly anyone who has experienced the city of Austin through time, there is an Austin Then and an Austin Now, with Austin Then forever casting a shadow over the always inferior Austin Now. If any filmmaker has a claim to Austin Then, it’s Slacker director Richard Linklater. But as his recent output has shown – most evidently in the magnus opus Boyhood – the filmmaker is less interested in reflecting nostalgically on the past and more devoted to exploring the impermanence of time, that strange process by which familiar people and places inevitably change.

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Mark Romanek

Big Machine Records

Nine Inch Nails. Johnny Cash. Fiona Apple. Jay-Z. Taylor Swift.

Does one of these not quite sound like the others? Too bad, because they’re all now artists who have commissioned director Mark Romanek to direct a music video. Romanek may have made the transition to the big screen, but the filmmaker got his start directing clean, arty and weird music videos for a bevy of stars. He was rewarded for it, too, as Romanek has three Grammys under his belt for Best Short Form Music Video. So what’s next? Apparently, returning to the small screen to direct Swift in her “Shake It Off.” Huh.

The video is, of course, beautifully lensed, and it is kind of fun to see Romanek, so well-known for serious film fare like One Hour Photo and Never Let Me Go, having a little bit of fun with his subject matter. “Shake It Off” is definitely catchy, and the video exhibits an energy and a playfulness that’s refreshing for the singer (although we do bristle at a few sequences that, at best, seem to smack of culture appropriation). Swift’s next album is reportedly her first official “pop” record, though the country star has been steadily moving away from her country roots for years now, and it’s certainly heartening that she employed a talented guy like Romanek to make the first video from 1989. Hey, people might say that Swift’s got “nothing in her brain,” but this video might prove differently. Just don’t cast her in your next film, Romanek, okay? Take a look at the video for “Shake It Off” after the break.

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Jurassic Park Ian Malcolm

Universal Pictures

As the summer winds to a close, I tend to look back at some of the activities I’ve done with my kids. Living in Ohio, I have access to one of the best zoos in the country, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. However, after a couple visits, it gets tiresome of looking at the same animals over and over again.

Thanks to the heartbreaking documentary Blackfish, it’s not cool to visit Sea World any more (and the old Sea World of Ohio location fled the state for warmer temperatures years ago). Without these options, there are few opportunities to look at new and interesting animals.

Having recently watched Jurassic Park, I found myself wishing there was a real-life dinosaur park where I could take the kids. Of course, it should be humanely run and not include any velociraptors running amok due to a greedy programmer shutting down park security. I’m sure those issues of park life would be ironed out in beta testing.

This got me thinking, at least for next summer’s family activities: How close are scientists to making a real-life Jurassic Park by cloning dinosaurs?

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TIE ME UP 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

TIE ME UP bluTie Me Up, Tie Me Down! (Criterion)

Pedro Almodovar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! was a massive cross-Atlantic hit in the early 1990s, helping to launch the global career of Antonio Banderas. Following an obsessive but charming former mental patient (Banderas)  as he captures a porn star (Victor Abril) so that she learns to fall in love with him, the dark comedy was the import of the season on summer movie screens 24 years ago, accompanyingWomen on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown as the one-two punch that made Almodovar an arthouse fixture. While Almodovar has gone through various stylistic phases since, Tie Me Up remains a prime example of his unique propensity for comic chaos that plunges unabashedly into the trenches of sexual id.

The film’s success can be credited in part to its massive controversy: its sexual content threatened its US release with an X rating, which began a lawsuit that resulted in the creation of the NC-17 rating. The story behind the film is thus as much a part of it as the film itself, and Criterion justly adorns this set with a collection of new special features that illustrate how the film changed the career of those in front of and behind the camera, with Almodovar thankfully present across all of them. Hopefully this first release of Almodovar’s work promises many Criterion treatments of the Spanish auteur to come. – Landon Palmer

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: A new documentary on the film featuring Almodovar and Banderas; new interview with Almodovar and the copresident of  Sony Pictures Classics; 2003 conversation between Almodovar and Banderas; footage from the premiere; an illustrated booklet with essays, including a conversation with Wes Anderson]

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John Slattery as Howard Stark

Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures

For months, the mystery of who would take the reigns from Edgar Wright and direct Ant-Man dominated all coverage of the Marvel flick. But ever since the baton was passed to Peyton Reed, focus has been able to switch back to the good ol’ casting frenzy.

Today, Marvel sent out a press release announcing that production has officially started in San Francisco on the much-anticipated film. That in itself is exciting enough news, with Reed also tweeting “LET’S. GET. small.” early this morning. He’s a man with a plan, and it’s on a teensy tiny scale. Good things come in small packages, haven’t you heard? But the press release contained something even more amazing: a barrage of cast members to round out the film’s core ensemble.

The new additions are Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire), Judy Greer (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Michael Pena (End of Watch), Abby Ryder Fortson (Togetherness), David Dastmalchian (Prisoners), Gregg Turkington (The Comedy), Wood Harris (The Wire), rapper T.I. (Identity Thief) and John Slattery (Mad Men).

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