Stormtrooper Hits Head


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Fantastic Fest may be a festival focused on off-the-radar genre films from here and abroad, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for recognizable Hollywood faces. They’ve just announced their second wave of titles playing this year, and while it’s heavy on unfamiliar foreign titles there are a few heavy hitters in there too.

One of last year’s highlights was the presence of Keanu Reeves who there with his directorial debut, the surprisingly fun Man of Tai Chi, but also took time out to participate in the Fantastic Debates. He’s returning again this year, and while he didn’t direct John Wick it promises to be a rollicking action flick all the same thanks to Reeves’ clear love of the genre and the co-directors vast experience in the stunt game. Jake Gyllenhaal won’t be making an appearance, but his fantastically dark-looking new film, Nightcrawler, will be closing the fest.

Other known talents include the latest from high-kicker Marko Zaror in Redeemer, Takashi Miike’s return to horror with Over Your Dead Body, Astron-6′s giallo-inspired thriller The Editor, Sion Sono’s hip-hop musical Tokyo Tribe, a documentary about the cinematic glory days of Cannon Films and one of my favorite films from this year’s Sundance fest, Eskil Vogt’s Blind.

Keep reading to see the whole announcement and entire second wave of films playing this year’s Fantastic Fest.

Laura 1944

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation

Here’s a remake idea that won’t have you doing a spit-take and attempting to burn Hollywood down to its sinful ashes: Otto Preminger‘s Laura.

Yes, the film is an unabashed classic, one of those films noir that’s been vaulted up to mythical, God-like status amongst those who still watch movies from before 1970. The 1944 film follows a detective, Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews), investigating the murder of the rich, gorgeous and all-around enchanting Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), who was blown away by an unfortunate shotgun blast to the face. Our dashing detective sinks himself into the case, but as he does he starts to fall madly in love with the deceased dame. Which would be fine (who among us hasn’t developed a little crush on a murder victim now and then?), except the case starts to turn in a seriously weird direction, leaving McPherson the only one to sort out its loop-de-looping plot twists and save the day.

Laura stands perfectly fine on its own, and the world would also be just fine if everyone left the film alone on its pedestal of greatness and didn’t try to match it (unlike that Kickboxer remake, a necessary sacrifice to the elder gods, lest they rain hellfire upon us). But in this case, we’ll allow it. Here’s why: The Hollywood Reporter has James Ellroy re-adapting the story for the screen. Ellroy is one of the biggest crime fiction writers alive, with a self-described style that’s “declarative and ugly and right there, punching you in the nards.” He wrote “The Black Dahlia.” He wrote “L.A. Confidential.” And even if the former kind of sucked in film form, that doesn’t make his writing any less special (or that you shouldn’t keep a close eye on your nards while reading it).

Medium Cool tank


What if in the midst of the Ferguson protests, literally on the scene with actors intertwined with real demonstrators, someone was filming a fictional drama with a romantic plot? That would seem disrespectful, I’m sure, if only because those events have been centered around the death of an individual. It might be different if there was a Hollywood production filming in the middle of something less personal, like the Occupy Wall Street protests, as Warner Bros. had reportedly been considering doing for parts of The Dark Knight Rises. That didn’t happen, and maybe it never was supposed to, because that sounds like a logistical nightmare as far as release forms and such are concerned. Plus, in retrospect, it would have been an unfortunate cameo for the 99% given that the movie’s superhero comes off as anti-OWS, even if Christopher Nolan doesn’t mean to be critical of the movement.

In spite of where the technology is at today, having a fictional film use real events as not only a backdrop but as onscreen background material is probably not possible. Sure, there’s better capability now of involving high-quality stealth cameras in something like a protest march or battlefield or other bit of history in the making, but the legalities have to be too much of a headache to deal with. We can navigate more easily through the crowds, but not through the paperwork. That is one of the reasons Haskell Wexler‘s Medium Cool, which Paramount Pictures released 45 years ago on this date, is so extremely cool. It’s maybe the most one-of-a-kind film ever made, never able to be replicated let alone remade, because it sets a scripted story during the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests in Chicago (46 years ago this week) and actually came away as both a document of those events and also a part of them.



Though Jamie Dornan will soon be seen taking care of business and (literally) cracking the whip as a young entrepreneur with an exceptionally active social life over at Fifty Shades of Grey, he’s signed up for a bit of a fictional career change as he joins the cast of Alexandre Aja‘s The Ninth Life of Louis Drax.

The film, an adaptation of a best-selling novel by Liz Jensen, follows a nine-year-old boy named Louis Drax who is a little different than the other kids. Brilliant, but perceived as weird, Louis always seems to have something terrible happen to him — and his ninth birthday is no different. He suffers a massive fall that nearly takes his life, and there are no details to shed light on how or why the incident occurred. Dornan steps in as Dr. Allan Pascal, a physician who is drawn to Drax’s peculiar case.

Dust Short Film

Catherine Bailey Ltd.

Why Watch? A disheveled man follows a little girl and her mother as they walk down the street, he breaks into their home, and soon he’s writhing around in the little girls’ bed. This man is Alan Rickman, in case you weren’t already completely creeped out.

In the short film Dust from Ben Ockrent and Jake Russell, the concept of what millions of people knowingly allow into their child’s bedroom is explored with an unnerving sense of simplicity. It’s almost pure atmosphere, punctuated only by a singular goal that maintains mystery simply because we may refuse to believe that we’re about to see what the film is promising to show us.

It’s all body language and intent, which makes Rickman perfect casting not only because his ease of appearing terrifying, but also because he’s committed to even small roles like this one.

Granted, it’s also a short film created solely to deliver a final moment, but Ockrent and Russell use a street-level, naturalistic shooting style that surrounds us with one, powerful emotion: dread. So remember, the next time you hear a weird thump in your house, it could be Alan Rickman snorting drugs in your daughter’s bedroom.

The Limits of Control

Focus Features

As many successful American filmmakers who get their start in independent filmmaking quickly find themselves comfortable in Hollywood studios, Jim Jarmusch feels like the anachronism that the economics of filmmaking rarely find room for but the culture of cinema certainly needs. After making the No Wave-era Permanent Vacation on the seemingly post-apocalyptic landscape of a crumbling late-70s New York, Jarmusch made waves at the then-young Sundance film festival with Stranger Than Paradise, a bare bones indie that exhibited the director’s penchant for deliberate pacing, wry humor, an insistent soundtrack and a canted examination of Americana.

Jarmusch’s productions are few and far between, partly due to the fact that he is ever in want of funding and seeks final cut on all his films. The process may be difficult, but it’s worth it: thirty years after Paradise, Jarmusch crafted Only Lovers Left Alive (recently released on disc and digital), a film that surprised me as both a sideways look at high-cult consumption and one of the most genuinely romantic films of this year. It is, in short, well worth the seven years of frustration that it took to get the film made and into theaters. It’s hard to imagine the same film coming from a filmmaker willing to touch studio funding. And it’s an intoxicating glimpse of what could be if more independent filmmakers were as unimpressed by studio dollars as Jarmusch.

So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a Son of Lee Marvin.

Spider-Man 3

Columbia Pictures

If you’ve been on the internet for more than a few minutes, then you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of the movies that everyone hates. They’re movies that are legendary in their awfulness, ruined people’s childhoods, whatever.

And then those movies get sequels and people go bananas wondering who’s greenlighting these things.

The answer, of course, is the same people complaining loudest about them. They’re doing it with their wallets.

The Emperor's Children


This is dream team stuff, people.

The Wrap reports that actress/writer/director Lake Bell has been tapped to direct the big screen adaptation of Claire Messud‘s Man Booker Prize listed bestselling novel “The Emperor’s Children.” Bell will direct from Noah Baumbach‘s script, which has basically just been sitting around for whole years waiting for someone to make it into a real movie. Set in New York City just before and after 9/11, the novel centers on a trio of Brown University pals (who maybe don’t like each other as much as they should) who are just trying to make their way (often, their very misguided way) around life in the big city. The events of 9/11 change that, of course, and the novel is an unsentimental look at how we experience tragedy, especially the wide-ranging and extremely unexpected kind (as the pages tick by and the days move forward and the inevitability of what will soon happens sets in, phew, well, it gets pretty damn heavy). It’s just great stuff.

Chatter about a big screen adaptation of Messud’s beloved novel has gone around since 2006, when the book first hit shelves. The last we heard — way back in 2011! — was that Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper was going to take on the project (using Baumbach’s script), though that obviously didn’t pan out. Before that, Ron Howard was set to direct (also from Baumbach’s script). A hefty number of big names have been rumored to star in the film, including Keira Knightley, Eric Bana, Richard Gere, Michelle Williams, Rachel McAdams and Emma Thompson, but it looks like Bell might be starting fresh.


An iced coffee, a trumpeted rendition of a magical tune, and the man from the White Lodge. David Lynch has now transformed the ephemeral absurdity of the ice bucket challenge into physical absurdity. It’s enough to make you wonder why thousands of people have made videos of themselves being doused in freezing water. Think about how truly strange that is for a moment. Like we were all hypnotized, allowed by society to be socially bizarre for a good cause.

The two funniest moments are when Lynch says, “I’m taking the challenge” so sweetly (we don’t even have to ask which challenge he’s talking about), and when he says, “The second bucket…” so casually after his mid-musical, caffeinated sloshing. Perfect comic timing. Of course, both laugh lines are due in large part to Lynch now being a fantastically adorable old man.

Life just keeps staying weird.

Source: The Film Stage

Pirates of the Caribbean

Walt Disney Pictures

As I tend to watch movies for a living, periodically I am faced with potential career choices that might be more lucrative for me. A stint aboard a space mining freighter for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation is a bit too futuristic for me, and I’ve missed the boat for enrolling in med school or law school. However, there seems to be one way to make money that doesn’t seem to take any formal schooling: treasure hunting.

Of course, before I kiss my wife and kids good-bye and embark on a whirlwind global journey to get rich off of other people’s plundering, I had to look into this career choice a bit. I started by thinking: Where can I dig up a buried pirate’s treasure chest?

Relativity Media

Relativity Media

One of the absolute best spy thrillers of the past three decades is the Kevin Costner-led No Way Out. Seriously. If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it in a while, go watch it again and marvel at its sharp script, fantastic action set-pieces and electric performances from all involved. Plus Iman! Director Roger Donaldson has returned to the genre on occasion since ’87, but while he’s yet to capture that same magic it hasn’t stopped him from trying.

Which brings us to The November Man.

Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan, himself no stranger to the cinematic spy game) is retired and living the peaceful life of a single parent and shopkeeper when an old friend visits to ask a favor. He needs help with an ex-filtration, and the woman in desperate need of escaping Moscow is someone very close to Peter’s heart and past. He agrees to this [cough] one last job [cough], but the mission goes sideways almost immediately. Forced on the run from both the Russians and the Americans Peter soon realizes he’s stumbled into a history-altering situation.

So as I was saying… maybe you should go watch No Way Out.

Girls Season 3


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