AFI Fest

Film Title:  Out of the Furnace

Editor’s note: Our review of Out of the Furnace originally ran during this year’s AFI Fest, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in theatrical release. Sometimes it seems like the future is rapidly approaching, with more and more information being digitally consumed and smartphones attached to the palm of almost everyone’s hand, but there are still places that are untouched by time, where family and community are paramount. It may seem like a simpler life, but Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace shows just how difficult life in an industrial community on the decline can be. Russell (Christian Bale) and Rodney Baze (Casey Affleck) are two brothers trying to carve out fulfilling lives for themselves in the wake of hard times and the deteriorating health of their father. Russell is a good man who seems content to work hard for his family and his girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana), but Rodney is more of a loose canon. As a solider recently called back for another tour overseas, the younger Baze brother is wrestling with some serious demons.

read more...

Mandela

At the start of Justin Chadwick‘s Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba) says his father named him to mean “troublemaker,” a stigma Mandela ostensibly spends his life trying to erase, before running headfirst into. With segregation encroaching on the lives of all those living in South Africa and military oppression getting worse as those in power attempt to keep this divide intact, Mandela finds himself pulled into a movement to fight for the rights of his people – not to overtake their oppressors, but to become their equals. Starting from his time as a boy living in the rural outskirts of South Africa to his political ascent, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom attempts to capture the story of this extraordinary man, but falls short when it comes to depicting the affection behind his actions. Mandela began his career as a lawyer, but after one of his friends is beaten to death after being arrested for simply not having proof of his citizenship on him, Mandela realizes he is upholding laws that do not protect him and needs to do something to bring about change for not only himself, but his fellow citizens. Unfortunately, Mandela feels more like a series of historical reenactments rather than a moving narrative. Elba plays Mandela as a strong, layered, compassionate man, but Mandela spends more time recreating the man’s memorable speeches and political moves and not enough time crafting the emotional backbone that drove his relationships with his family and colleagues.

read more...

drones

What does it mean to follow orders over instinct? On the outskirts of Las Vegas, Drones finds former fighter pilot Sue Lawson (Eloise Mumford) assigned to operate an unmanned aircraft in order to carry out her latest mission. The order seems simple enough: monitor a specific area for a high value target, and once that target is confirmed, eliminate it. But the target has a face, and a family, and the more Sue analyzes the situation, the more questions she finds herself asking. But Sue is not alone in her mission. She is second in command to pilot Jack Bowles (Matt O’Leary), an easygoing guy with a year of experience under his belt who prefers to focus on the mission at hand and little else. He seems like a guy who has simply played a few too many video games at first — a comparison the film addresses head on within the first few minutes — but his desire to not ask questions is more for self-preservation than ignorance. The two are tasked with watching a residence that seems to have little activity surrounding it, but when it becomes clear the family is preparing for a birthday celebration that will likely bring their designated target home, Sue and Jack work quickly to try and eliminate their target before he reaches his family.

read more...

banks

Director John Lee Hancock won the hearts of much of North America with 2009’s The Blind Side. Whether the movie was enjoyable or not, there’s no denying the impact it had that year. Come December there’s a chance Hancock’s newest film, Saving Mr. Banks, will strike the same chord with audiences. It’s certainly deserving of that same success. Author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the woman behind Mary Poppins, has been turning down Walt Disney’s (Tom Hanks) advances for over twenty years. It’s the book rights he’s interested in, but she’s afraid he’ll turn it into another one of his goofy animated movies instead of appreciating the personal story Travers wrote it as. After discovering that she’s running out of money, Travers begins to change her tune. From that point on, we see plenty of back and forth between her and Walt, screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford), and the two men behind the picture’s music, Richard Sherman (Jason Schwartzman) and Robert Sherman (B.J. Novak). The scenes with Travers, the Sherman brothers, and DaGradi sum up the movie. During their creative meetings with Travers, they have to win her over with costume designs, songs, and every nut and bolt of the script. All of their scenes are in a small contained room, and each one of them is a delight. They’re funny and sharp. There’s nothing grand about these moments but they’re naturally charismatic, thanks to the actors’ collective charm.

read more...

review sapphires

Editor’s Note: Allison’s review originally ran during the film’s premiere at last year’s AFI Film Fest, but we’re re-running it as the movie opens in limited release this week. The music industry is a brutal landscape scattered with broken dreams and unrecognized talent, but when you take this landscape and add to it racism and war, the stakes are set even higher. Based on a true story (and adapted from the stage play of the same name), The Sapphires is not simply another tale about a girl group trying to make it, it is about a family fighting for a better life for themselves while at the same time coming to terms with their painful past. In 1950s, the Aboriginal population of Australia was considered “not human” and ignored by society until the government began raiding these small communities and stealing their fair-skinned children to pass them off as white. Known as the “stolen generation,” these children were ripped away from their families and traditions to instead be taught “white ways” in an attempt to make them “acceptable” to society.

read more...

Amour

Editor’s note: With Haneke’s latest masterwork finally hitting limited release this week, please fall in love with our AFI FEST review all over again, originally published on November 4, 2012. In Michael Haneke‘s Amour, Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) are an older couple who have clearly been together for years, but their loving glances and compliments prove that, despite the years, the love they feel for one another has never faded. Their life together now is one of simple pursuits – a night out here or there, but mainly spending time with one another making meals or reading together in their Paris apartment. At first glance, this may seem like just another couple living out their later years with each other, but when Anne suffers a minor stroke at the breakfast table one morning, the extent and depth of their love is truly put to the test. After an operation to prevent any future strokes fails, Anne is released home, where she makes Georges promise her that he will not let her go back to the hospital. Georges sets about to make their life as comfortable and normal as possible, despite the fact that Anne is now confined to a wheelchair and needs to sleep in a separate, mechanical bed — but one that Georges keeps pushed up against his own.

read more...

Silver Linings Playbook

Editor’s Note: Allison’s spot-on review originally ran way back at the beginning of the month, but the film is opening wide today so we’re sharing it once again. Sharing is good. Maybe we are all a bit crazy – whether we are lying to ourselves about the relationships we are in or why we believe holding a handkerchief or having the remote at a certain angle will determine the outcome of a game. But unlike most of us, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), has been deemed mentally unstable by both the court and his doctors at the mental institution we find him in at the start of Silver Linings Playbook. Pat may seem fairly sane, albeit unflinchingly honest, but as we learn why he ended up in such a facility and watch him unravel at the sound of a certain song, it becomes clear that Pat is dealing with issues he may not be able to easily control with simple positive thinking. Pat is released to the care of his big-hearted mother, Dolores (Jacki Weaver), and his hot-headed father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), and while their family dynamic is slightly dysfunctional, it is clear that they all truly care about one another.

read more...

Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln

Editor’s note: Lincoln gets its full theatrical release tomorrow, so please enjoy a re-run of our AFI FEST review of the film, originally published way back on November 9. It opens with a battle. Not the sort of battle we’ve come to expect from movies these days, not one punctuated by booms and blasts and bullets, but one that feels almost eerily and unnaturally quiet. There are hordes of soldiers attacking each other left and right, to be sure, and as they grunt and grasp in hand-to-hand (face-to-face, really) combat, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln immediately lets its audience in on what sort of film it is going to be – a personal one, a deeply felt one, and one startlingly free of what we’ve come to expect from big, bustling films about horrific wars and the beloved men who carry them out. No, Lincoln is not exactly what you’re expecting it to be – and it’s all the better for it. The plot of Lincoln can be briefly explained in few words – it centers on the last gasps of the American Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) attempts to end it and get the Thirteenth Amendment (the one that outlaws slavery and serves as a a much stricter take on the Emancipation Proclamation) pushed through the divided House of Representatives. Adapted from Doris Kearns Goodwin‘s meticulously researched (and nearly 1,000-page long) “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” screenwriter Tony Kushner and Spielberg have distilled down […]

read more...

Hitchcock AFI FEST

Alfred Hitchcock is, as the kids say, “having a moment” right now. On the heels of a HBO’s made-for-television film, The Girl, and a year before he’ll pop up in Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco, ol’ Hitch is the subject of yet another feature. This one is simply named Hitchcock, and despite the promise such an eponymous title might deliver (“Hitchcock! That sounds like it will cover quite a bit of ground!”), Sacha Gervasi‘s film sticks to a slim (though important) period of the director’s life, focusing on the production of Psycho, a truly warts-and-all experience. And yet, despite working from intriguing material (the script, by John J. McLaughlin, has been adapted from Stephen Rebello‘s book, “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho”) and with a tremendously talented cast (led by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren), the final product is a disparate and shapeless film that never finds its footing or its focus. A Hitchcock film this is not. Hitchcock attempts to immediately introduce us to both “Hitch” (Hopkins) and his obsessions, opening with a mildly amusing vignette that features mass murderer Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), the inspiration behind the book that inspired Hitchcock’s Psycho, offing his first victim while Hitchcock himself wryly observes, coming into frame like some sort of grand master of ceremonies (Gein will reappear throughout the film, each appearance becoming more laughable and ineffective than the last). Hitchcock, it turns out, has just come off the tremendous success of his North By Northwest and is now […]

read more...

The Impossible

The ocean is a beautiful and terrifying body of nature that can both entice and trap. Anyone who has been caught in a riptide or had an unexpected wave suddenly crash over their heads knows the power of the ocean, and the fear it can cause if it overtakes you. When the tsunami hit Southeast Asia in 2004, we all saw the devastation that disaster caused to the area and heard about the lives lost and families torn apart because of it. Based on a true story, The Impossible goes a step further and actually takes us into the experience through the eyes of a family on an idyllic vacation that suddenly gets turned on its head. Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor) have traveled to Thailand with their three sons Lucas (Tom Holland), Simon (Oaklee Pendergast), and Thomas (Samuel Joslin) to spend the Christmas holiday at a luxurious resort making their biggest question whether they want to swim in the resort’s pool or the nearby ocean. The day after Christmas the entire family is out by the pool, playing and relaxing, when the tsunami hits, proving to be as unexpected as it is relentless.

read more...

Based on Jack Kerouac’s novel of the same name, On The Road begins in 1947 in New York City, where a young writer, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), finds himself introduced to the larger-than-life Dean Moriarty (played with charm and conviction by Garrett Hedlund.) Thanks to Dean’s slightly “mad” outlook on life, Sal thinks that spending time with him may lead to some good stories — and hopefully fix his current writer’s block. But more than that, Dean reminds Sal of someone. As their relationship grows, Sal gets more and more embroiled in Dean’s life, and instead of simply observing and being around it Sal starts to become an integral part of it. When Dean decides to move back to Denver to win back his young wife Marylou (Kristen Stewart), Sal takes him up on his offer to join him. As a “young writer trying to take off,” Sal literally takes off, hitchhiking his way across the country and meeting even more interesting characters and jotting more and more notes in his tiny notebooks along the way. Once in Denver, Sal finds himself quickly falling into Dean’s life of sex, drugs, and jazz, and the line between reality and fantasy starts to blur.

read more...

One of the highlights of any film festival is the panels and discussions that take viewers beyond simply watching the films into understanding the process behind getting them to the screen. In theaters now, The Sessions is a fictional story based on the real-life Mark O’Brien, who became paralyzed from the neck down after contracting polio and decided that, despite his physical limitations, he wanted to lose his virginity. John Hawkes brings Mark’s plight and writer-director Ben Lewin’s words to life through an unforgettable and transformative performance. The two sat down with The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Galloway this afternoon at the Roosevelt Hotel to discuss the film, the challenges they faced in making it, and the impact the film had on each of them.

read more...

There are many aspects to making a film – the actors, the script, the director, the music – but there is another aspect many people forget about: the sound mix. The process of combining an actor’s dialogue and the music with the ambient noises and sound effects is an art in its own right, but when doing so for a film filled with murders and hauntings, this process becomes all the more compelling and off-putting. The Berberian Sound Studio is located in Italy, and English sound engineer Gilderoy (Toby Jones) makes the trip to help create the mix for a pulp film from the eccentric director, Santini (Antonio Mancino). On the surface, a man coming to a new country may seem like a story about learning from different cultures and their various creative personalities, but the narrative takes a decidedly sinister turn when the sounds Gilderoy is creating for the film seem to follow him from his recording sessions into his actual life.

read more...

Kicking off this week with its Opening Night Gala for Hitchcock, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST effectively wraps up the year’s film festival-going season (a season that lasts approximately eleven months). Such calendar placement means that AFI FEST comes late enough in the year to serve as a last hurrah for titles that have been playing the festival circuit as far back as January (at Sundance) or as far away as France, Berlin, and Venice, and is the perfect opportunity for Southern California-based film geeks (or those willing to put some miles on their passport) to catch up on films they’ve been anticipating for months. Of course, of the 136 films playing at this year’s festival, we’ve managed to catch nearly a fifth of them at other fests, and we’re quite pleased to use this opportunity to remind you as such. Confused over what to see at the festival? Be confused no more! After the break, jog your memories of our always-extensive festival coverage with reviews for twenty-eight films set to play at this week’s AFI FEST that we’ve already seen (and, you know, reviewed). It’s like getting your festival coverage whole days early!

read more...

As has become par for the course over the past few years, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST has brought out the big guns for its star-studded Galas screenings, with the festival set to open with Hitchcock and close with Lincoln – and yet, as exciting as both of those titles are (seriously, Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock? Steven Spielberg directing Daniel Day-Lewis as ol’ Honest Abe? it’s all a bit too good), the five films I am most anticipating will arrive smack in the middle of the festival. Some of these titles come with significantly less fanfare than either of the fest’s big guns, and some are just as primed for awards season domination, but all five of them are at the top of my movie-going list. After the break, take a look inside my AFI FEST-addled brain to get a sense on five films I think (hope?) are the true winners of this year’s festival.

read more...

This year’s AFI FEST is certainly bringing festival-goers some of the year’s biggest titles, with world premieres of Hitchcock and Lincoln, not to mention favorites from this year’s festivals like Silver Linings Playbook and Amour, and yet, when I finally sat down to begin putting together my festival schedule, it seemed to be the smaller films that caught my eye and ended up on my personal must-see list. Certainly, films I have heard about from colleagues who have caught screenings of them at other festivals are accounted for here, but my tendency to gravitate toward lesser-known titles has led me to discover some amazing little gems such as films from director Ava DuVernay (I caught her film I Will Follow at AFI FEST back in 2010 and enjoyed her latest Middle of Nowhere during the LA Film Festival this year) and, of course, my love for music-focused stories always cause those films to get top billing from me. Check out the five films I am most looking forward to seeing during this year’s AFI FEST and let me know if you are also looking forward to any these films or if hearing about them here has piqued your interest enough to add them to your own most anticipated lists!

read more...

As 2012 begins to wind down, your trusty LA Rejects, Kate Erbland and myself, plan to take on one final film festival – Los Angeles’ AFI FEST. AFI FEST differs from June’s Los Angeles Film Festival as the cooler temperatures (cool, not cold, I know it’s LA) of November seem to bring out slightly heavier fare. Plus, AFI FEST is located in the heart of Hollywood with many screenings taking place at the historic Grauman’s Chinese and Egyptian Theaters, giving further weight and importance to the selections shown during the festival. This year, AFI FEST brings us some of the year’s most talked-about films while also getting in a few last world premieres. The festival boasts an impressive list of titles on its roster, but we have rounded up the six must-see films that should be on the radar (and schedules) of all festival attendees. And for those who cannot attend, make note to track these films down when they come to you. AFI FEST runs from November 1st until November 8th.

read more...

After weeks of anticipation, next month’s AFI FEST has today released the final listing of titles that will appear at Los Angeles’ own festival. This time around, we’re treated to World Cinema, Breakthrough, Midnight, and Shorts picks, and they’re just as wonderful as the last few rounds of announcements we’ve gotten from the fest. Seriously, if you live in LA and you’ve missed some of the year’s other great festivals, AFI FEST is crammed with best-of titles from the like of Cannes, Venice, and Toronto. And while the festival has already filled their schedule with a number of solid picks that have made their mark on the year’s festival circuit, and this final listing of titles only continues AFI FEST’s trend of being scarily on point when it comes to their picks. Notable titles announced today include Michael Haneke‘s Amour, Ken Loach‘s The Angels’ Share, Thomas Vinterberg‘s The Hunt, Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways, Wayne Blair‘s The Sapphires, and The ABCs of Death. After the break, check out all of the newly-announced selections, along with info on how to get your very own tickets for the festival.

read more...

Silver Linings Playbook

It’s almost as if the programmers of this year’s AFI FEST cracked open my brain, poked around for a bit, and then pulled out a number of different film titles to use as part of their Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings schedule because, hot damn, what follows is a list of every single film I’m still aching to see this year. Man alive! The festival has just announced key additions to their lineup as part of both Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings, and the list reads like a who’s-who of some of the year’s most buzzed-about titles. Films like Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, Walter Salles‘ On the Road, Jacques Audiard‘s Rust and Bone, Ken Burns‘ The Central Park Five, Leos Carax‘s Holy Motors, Juan Antonio Bayonas‘ The Impossible, Rodney Ascher‘s Room 237, David O. Russell‘s Silver Linings Playbook, and almost impossibly, still more. Okay, it can be November now. After the break, check out full plotlines for all of the newly-announced selections, along with info on how to get your very own tickets for the festival.

read more...

Jennifer Garner in Butter

Editor’s note: With Butter finally hitting theaters tomorrow, here’s a re-run of our AFI FEST review, originally published on November 8, 2011, to spread all over your movie theater popcorn. Jim Field Smith’s Butter has been packaged and sold as its own consumable commodity – as some sort of smart, politically-minded satire. Butter is certainly funny in spats, but smart satire it is not, as there are no hard lessons taught or learned within the film. It may be too easy to say that Butter goes soft by its end – but the wording works here, both in terms of a mildly clever food pun and as an actual critique of how the film flip-flops with its tone and message before settling on an easy conclusion. The world of competitive butter-carving is hilarious and bizarre, a fine setting for a straight comedy that culminates with a character incredulously summing up its ridiculousness – “you put it on toast!” – but everything in Smith’s film is just too obvious to transcend basic laughs.

read more...
NEXT PAGE  
Twitter button
Facebook button
Google+ button
RSS feed

published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


Some movie websites serve the consumer. Some serve the industry. At Film School Rejects, we serve at the pleasure of the connoisseur. We provide the best reviews, interviews and features to millions of dedicated movie fans who know what they love and love what they know. Because we, like you, simply love the art of the moving picture.
Fantastic Fest 2014
6 Filmmaking Tips: James Gunn
Got a Tip? Send it here:
editors@filmschoolrejects.com
Publisher:
Neil Miller
Managing Editor:
Scott Beggs
Associate Editors:
Rob Hunter
Kate Erbland
Christopher Campbell
All Rights Reserved © 2006-2014 Reject Media, LLC | Privacy Policy | Design & Development by Face3