Features

Zoolander

From Robin Williams’ suicide to James Foley to the shooting death of Mike Brown and the ongoing tension in Ferguson, Missouri, that it inspired, it’s been a really crappy month. The idea that there’s always something bad going on seems to have reached new heights, obliterating the Rule of Three and morphing social media into a daredevil experience – stay current if you dare. In times like these we need moments of recalibration, feel-good experiences that allow us a reprieve from the negative. As movie fiends, film is the perfect safe-haven, or so one would think. During the mess of drama this week I started Googling feel-good movie lists and was shocked to see how many required the viewer to feel bad before they felt good (if at all). Lists included the melancholic Little Miss Sunshine, Robin Williams’ own dark suicide comedy World’s Greatest Dad, the Holocaust drama Schindler’s List, and Up, which requires you to go through cinematic devastation before the sweet journey. One list of movies “that instantly make your day better” even includes Magnolia. Another at IMDb is labeled as “feel-good melancholic atmosphere.” Sure, these films might make some viewers feel good, for whatever reason – we all have beloved films that other people can’t understand – but they aren’t “feel-good” films guaranteed to brighten everyone’s day. They are not movies someone who is feeling bad can turn on to lighten their mood and take them out of their angst and pain. So, in an attempt to […]

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The Sacrament

Look, I’m not one to brag, but I’ve hugged A.J. Bowen. Of course tens of thousands of people could make the same claim, but how many of them managed this feat shortly after giving his latest film a C+ review grade at last year’s Fantastic Fest? Any fear I had falling into his arms melted away when I realized he bore no ill will my way and instead was a funny, smart and personable guy. It probably helped that he knew my opinion carries little to no weight, but still. I guess what I’m saying is I’m now one degree away from hugging Amy Seimetz, and that’s not too shabby. Anyway, The Sacrament. Writer/director Ti West has made several feature films now, and while his love of genre and intentionally methodical pacing has remained steady across most of them he’s made a noticeable shift with his newest one away from the supernatural and into the evils of the real world. The result is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s an entertaining and tense-enough watch where the parts are somewhat better than the whole. The film is newly released to Blu-ray this week, and one of the disc’s special features is a fun and informative commentary track featuring West, Bowen and Seimetz. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for The Sacrament.

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Lebowski Jesus

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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John Cho and Karen Gillan in Selfie

I came very close to shutting off Selfie in the first few minutes. The new sitcom, which debuts on ABC at the end of September, is currently previewing its pilot episode on Hulu, and that could be a mistake. Watching TV on the Internet allows viewers to judge something super quick, and I foresee a lot of others being turned off by the opening scene, which introduces one of the most obnoxious characters ever to hit the small screen — and that includes a lot of awful reality TV stars. But anyone able to get through the first few minutes without closing their browser and throwing their computer out the window will find something genuinely charming and maybe even a little socially important. One episode in, Selfie is far from being a good show, but it has a cultural relevance that’s not unlike The Newsroom. Similar to Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama, the new sitcom, which was created by Emily Kapnek (a producer on Hung and Parks and Recreation) is founded in a great idea that unfortunately has to work too closely with the very thing it’s derisively commenting on. Here it’s social media addicts who can’t look away from their phones for a moment, and who don’t have any real friends or true social experiences despite their popularity on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Karen Gillan plays such a person, and it’s interesting that this new role is being unleashed the same week that her last series, Doctor Who, is kicking off […]

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ABC

Quick catch up if you missed the first installment of this series: I’m a guy who missed a lot of generation-defining movies from my youth (though I did not, as many readers apparently suspect, intentionally not watch them as some sort of devious scheme). Now I’m watching them as a 30-year-old in 2014 with no nostalgia for them. It doesn’t make my opinion any more or less valid, but hopefully it’s an interesting one. Or that’s the hope, anyway. This week, I watched Stephen King’s IT. I’ve read the book, but not seen the movie. I think I might have seen a brief part of the original airing when I was six (I remembered seeing a black dog, and that was indeed in the movie), but my parents probably didn’t want me watching it because I had gotten freaked out by Pet Sematary not long before. (I’ve re-watched that one since and it was freaking ridiculous, but in fairness, I was afraid of the anthropomorphic M&Ms commercials when I was six.)

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El Rey Network

There’s a beauty of convenience in modern cable TV. Sure, the average cable package contains roughly 659,000 channels, but that’s also more or less a guarantee that if you want to watch something, there’s a channel somewhere that carries it (and besides, you’ve got to pay for all 659,000 to get the one Orangutan Reality Network you’re actually interested in, so you might is well enjoy the excess). El Rey is one such niche network. Launched by Robert Rodriguez in December of last year, El Rey is basically a collection of shows and films given Rodriguez’ person “yes, this is cool” seal of approval. Or, at least it was last year. Now, a half a year or so into its youth, El Rey has begun the molting process, and is starting to look like a bona fide cable channel, picking up original series and adding new voices alongside Rodriguez to dole out the approvals of cool. One such new show would be Matador, which follows DEA agent Tony Bravo (Gabriel Luna), posing undercover as a pro soccer player to bust a team owner (Alfred Molina) who may or may not be some kind of large-scale supervillain. Rodriguez filmed the Matador finale last week, and I was there, to loiter around the set and learn the ins and outs of El Rey’s cable TV journey from Rodriguez, Luna, and Matador creator/executive producer Roberto Orci. And I will detail those ins and outs to you, in case you have the urge to […]

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Marvel Studios

2014′s summer movie season comes to an end in a week or so, but while some folks will be editorializing about the box office being down 15-20% compared to last summer and others express surprise that a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy could be days away from becoming the year’s highest grossing domestic hit, we here at FSR have a different agenda. Simply put, we saw a lot of great movies this summer, and we hope you did too. The year’s best “big” movie (per me anyway), Captain America: The Winter Soldier, missed the summer cutoff as it opened in early April, but there were still some fantastic blockbuster-type flicks that entertained the hell out of us over the past four months. Of course, there were also some brilliant smaller films too. An informal staff survey revealed a mix of both to be our favorites of the summer. Keep reading to see which movies moved us the most from May through August.

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Sin City A Dame to Kill For

Josh Brolin‘s performance in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t wildly dissimilar to his work in Men in Black III. They’re very different films and performances, of course, but both prequels feature Brolin inheriting a role from another actor. Brolin eerily embodied Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K, while in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For he’s channeling Clive Owen’s work as Dwight McCarthy from the first movie. This is Dwight before he had to change his face, which, in case you haven’t read Frank Miller‘s comics, is why Owen isn’t back playing the character. Whether Josh Brolin studied Clive Owen’s performance never came up in our wide-ranging conversation with the actor, who’s clearly pleased with both the film and his performance. With the exception of Labor Day – a film I’ll readily go to bat for — it’s the first time since True Grit Brolin hasn’t had to carry a movie. Not because he isn’t the lead, but looking at Oldboy, Gangster Squad, and Men in Black III, the end products often weren’t on par with Brolin’s work in them. Thankfully, that’s not the case in this instance, nor should it be in the near-future. Brolin has Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice coming up, the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, and Everest, a survival pic boasting an impressive cast. He’s also playing Thanos in the Marvel Universe. Brolin has a lot going on at the moment, but he took the time to speak with us at the junket for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

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Uncle-Buck-Scenes

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, […]

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Don

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

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

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 […]

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Mark Romanek

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 […]

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Jurassic Park Ian Malcolm

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. Tie 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. […]

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Expendables 3

The easy answer to what went wrong with the box office for The Expendables 3 is that everyone had already seen it. A copy of the movie was leaked online weeks ago, and unlike with most pirated new movies out there, this was a very high quality bootleg. So, the first piece of advice to the makers of this franchise regarding The Expendables 4 is obviously “don’t let it leak.” However, while I do think the piracy had an effect on not just the dismal US gross of $16m but also the international take so far in significant spots like Russia, I believe there’s more to it. X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn’t have such a terrible drop in interest compared to the rest of its series just because it was online before it opened in theaters. Not all potential fans of the Expendables movies are people who’d illegally download them. Maybe they’re just bored of the casting gimmick being the only thing given thought during their production. Or maybe another aspect of the casting turned moviegoers off. I’m not talking about the fact that Stallone let Bruce Willis slip away. Perhaps Mel Gibson is just too poisonous to be in a movie where audiences are expected to relish his performance, even if he’s playing the main villain. He is a lot of fun in The Expendables 3, but the role seems too much of a reward in connection with Gibson’s scandals and current reputation. These movies lean on the contexts of their stars, and his isn’t one that […]

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The Leftovers

No, it wasn’t easy. My personal viewing experience of the first two episodes of HBO’s The Leftovers has stuck with me throughout the entire summer, and I have zero problem with telling people that watching two hours of Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta‘s series actually made me feel physically ill, it was just that heavy. The Leftovers may still not be binge-watch television, but it has finally become must-watch television. With just two episodes left, it was about time that some kind of tide turned. The HBO series, inspired by Perrotta’s novel of the same name, was never intended to be feel-good television, just by virtue of the fact that it’s entirely centered on a global-scale tragedy. The series picks up three years after some kind of “event” has whisked away 2% of the world’s population, enough time to sort of get things back to normal, but not long enough to really heal wounds. The lingering sense that something else is about to happen — and soon! — doesn’t help. Set primarily in the small town of Mapleton, New York, the series follows a medium-sized cast of characters as they (continue to) deal with the fallout from said event. Some people lost everyone that day, some people just lost one person, some people lost their loved ones later to outside forces. Still, the entire program is about loss. It’s hard to feel good about that.

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Superbad

It’s that time of year. School is mere weeks away from starting up again, the biggest blockbusters have had their bows, and the studio releases are transitioning to the distribution equivalent of tossing an old couch on the curb to make room for the new one. May, June and July (and let’s be honest, now April) bring the big crowd pleasers. The last two weeks of summer herald the arrival of the “Everything Must Go” Sales before fall sends us into Oscar bait prestige pictures. Don’t believe me? The slate for the next two weeks includes Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, a sequel that’s arriving at least five years too late; Are You Here, the directorial debut of Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner that garnered early reviews in the exact opposite tone of his acclaimed show; Jessabelle, a release from the Blumhouse factory that’s not getting a plum horror spot, so you know it’s good; and The November Man, an entry in the very neglected genre of CIA agents dragged back into the game because “this time it’s personal!” It’s generally an accepted fact that if a movie is set for the dog days of August, the studio has less confidence in it than Taylor Swift’s latest beau does of being the one guy she dates who doesn’t end up inspiring a song. But every now and then, conventions are made to be broken. Going back through the last fifteen years of releases, I have come up with […]

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Cast of PICKET FENCES

The Weekend Watch is an open thread where you can share what you’ve recently watched, offer suggestions on movies and TV shows we should check out (or warnings about stuff to avoid) and discover queue-filling goodies from other FSR readers. The comments section awaits. I’ll get the ball rolling with the movies/TV my eyeballs took in this weekend.

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Screencap

It is not the best week for a movie called Let’s Be Cops to open. 20th Century Fox didn’t know what the American media landscape would be like when they scheduled the film, obviously. Then again, what with the film’s absolutely dismal critical reception one could argue that they didn’t need to make the thing at all. Still, the awkwardness of the release of Let’s Be Cops in the wake of the militarized disaster in Ferguson, MO affords us a bizarre moment of contemplation. Much of the anger over the last week has been directed at the major American news outlets, television in particular. The crisis after the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer took a surprising amount of time to really arrive on 24 hour news networks. This raises all sorts of questions about the way that police brutality represented in news media and culture more broadly.

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