Interviews

A24

Three years ago writer/director Kevin Smith pushed himself as a filmmaker with Red State. The quasi-horror movie was polarizing for both Smith’s fans and critics. Good or bad, it’s definitely far more ambitious than Smith’s previous movie, Cop Out. He was trying something new. Red State was a 180 turn in the director’s career. With his new picture, Tusk, Smith is continuing down the road he set out on back in 2011. A trailer for the film was released shortly after its Comic-Con debut. From the looks of it, Tusk features the old and the new Kevin Smith. That’s a good thing, because when Red State turned into a shootout, the old Smith was missed. Smith’s finest work generally involves characters talking around a table. Tusk doesn’t seem to stray too far from Smith’s dialogue-heavy past, since the film does feature two characters stuck together in a house, so we should expect a good amount of dialogue from Smith. If you don’t want to know whether Justin Long’s character does actually get turned into a walrus, avoid this discussion with Smith. And, even though I call it a discussion, it’s not really that at all. When you interview Kevin Smith, he’s never at a loss for words. It’s best to just let him say what he has to say.

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Horns-Daniel-Radcliffe

The filmmakers behind Horns had a wealth of material at their disposal. Author Joe Hill‘s novel easily could’ve been adapted into a miniseries, which is an idea even the film’s director, Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes), endorses. It’s not a gigantic book, but it tells more than one story, both tonally and structurally. Hill’s novel goes from comedy to horror in a matter of pages. In the movie, those transitions often happen in seconds. Pulling off those tonal shifts is a challenge and they’re certainly not meant for every filmgoer. Joe Hill, on the other hand, wants to see more of those kinds of movies. He also wouldn’t mind less adaptations like The Prince of Tides, a film he highly recommends staying away from. Hill had plenty more to say in our discussion with him at Comic-Con, including why having a sexual fetish beyond high heels is important.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Reeves

When some actors and directors promote an adaptation or remake they’ll pretend they’ve always been fans of the original movie or the comic. You can generally tell when they’re lying, trying to pander to fans. Thankfully, real die-hard fans often get to be a part of properties that actually mean something to them. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director, Matt Reeves, is one of those people. Like most kids growing up in the ’80s, the New York-born filmmaker gravitated toward E.T., Close Encounters, and Star Wars. For Reeves, though, those films never held a candle to Planet of the Apes. “That was my obsession. That was my Star Wars,” he tells us over the phone, counting the hours until the film opens this Friday. When it comes to the Apes franchise the original film and, the strangest of the series, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, are his favorites — Reeves is still shaken by the image of the mutated humans removing their faces in the latter film. He also has a deep fondness for the television series which only lasted, to his surprise, three months back in 1974. “I thought for sure it was on for years because it took up so much of my childhood. I had dolls, the records, and these comic books. I was so obsessed with that world.”

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Paramount

At the start of Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow our hero, Major Bill Cage (Tom Cruise), is a coward. He’s more than ready to run from a fight he knows he’s not equipped for. That’s not the kind of hero we expect from a blockbuster, but it’s the type of subversive choice we should expect from screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, who had a hand in bringing Hiroshi Sakurazak’s graphic novel, All You Need Is Kill, to the big screen. A protagonist unwilling to help save the world isn’t the only fresh idea in Edge of Tomorrow. Even when Cage becomes a fierce soldier, he’s still no match for the bad-ass helicopter-blade-wielding Rita Vrastaski (Emily Blunt). She is the hero of this movie. Vrastaski drives the story. Cruise, once again playing a role a lot of movie stars would pass on, consistently pushed for his co-star to be this film’s true hero. Cruise and McQuarrie’s creative partnership is built on risky choices. Valkyrie, a one-eyed Nazi movie about killing Hitler, was released on Christmas day in 2008. They took a crack at Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, the kind of character that doesn’t think twice about putting a bullet in the head of his unarmed enemy even after they’ve surrendered. And now, with Edge of Tomorrow, they’ve championed a project that follows an unlikely hero in a story not based on a well-known property. The two men are now hard at work on the next Mission: Impossible, but Christopher McQuarrie was kind enough to speak with us weeks after Edge of Tomorrow‘s release. The very candid Mr. McQuarrie openly discussed his […]

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The Rover Movie

The Rover opens with a man at the end of his rope. Eric (Guy Pearce) has nothing. Except for his car. Naturally, when Eric steps out of his vehicle to grab a drink, it’s stolen by a group of bandits, and for the first time in a while, Eric has a purpose: get his car back. It’s deliberate in its simplistic structure, but sweating from point A to point B is only the surface of director David Michôd‘s layered second feature film. It’s a lean movie compared to Michôd’s directorial debut Animal Kingdom, and that was by design. “I wanted to make something much more elemental and an intensely intimate about a small number of characters in vast and empty landscape,” Michôd tells us, reflecting on The Rover‘s stiflingly hot environments while sitting in the air conditioned meeting room of the Four Seasons Hotel. “I love the idea of making a movie that would work in a similar tonal world as Animal Kingdom, but be of a different form.” But Animal Kingdom and The Rover are kindred spirits in more ways than tone. Both films focus on introverts facing an internal struggle within the framework of the more obvious, more aggressive external threat. However, this time around Michôd’s lead is far less passive, stopping at nothing until he retrieves his property. At the center of this “dark fable that plays by slightly different rules,” Eric roams through a quasi-post-apocalyptic Australian desert. Who Eric was before the economic collapse is mostly a mystery, but the man in his mid-40s was never an enigma to Michôd. “He’s old enough to remember […]

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Walt Disney Pictures

Once you’ve heard Bill Paxton scream, “Game over, man!” you can never unhear it. And that’s a good thing. He got to play big on camera throughout the ’80s, but hamming it up isn’t all he’s capable of as evidenced by a string of great dramatic roles in the ’90s including One False Move, A Simple Plan and Apollo 13. Years later he surprised people again with his directorial debut, Frailty, which made our list of one of the best horror films of its decade. He followed that film up with The Greatest Game Ever Played, a movie that clearly means a lot to Paxton despite its failure to find a wide audience. From 2006 to 2011 he played Bill Henrickson on HBO’s Big Love. He received considerable acclaim for his performance, but he once again found himself having to prove himself capable of range beyond that character once the show came to an end. It’s easy to get typecast, but to combat being put into a box, Paxton has taken on an eclectic set of supporting roles over the past few years, including this week’s Million Dollar Arm. With this Disney release, Agents of Shield, Edge of Tomorrow, and Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, which I’ve heard nothing but excellent things about, 2014 is a good year for Bill Paxton. The actor spoke with us about his performance as USC pitching coach Tom House, as well as the highs and lows of the film business, the paradoxical nature of acting and more.

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Open Road Films

If someone said in 2001, “I bet this Jon Favreau guy — the star, writer, and director of Made – is going to help turn Marvel into one of the most successful film studios ever,” you probably would’ve written them off as insane. When you think about it, though, Favreau exhibited a voice for character, story and comedy in Made and Swingers that was well-suited for the Marvel universe. His sensibility made Iron Man a hit, impacting the tone and spirit of the Marvel films that followed. After his one-two punch at Marvel and a crack at a high-concept western, Favreau has returned to his roots with Chef, a film about a creatively unsatisfied cook, Carl Casper (Favreau), who also has to reconnect with his son. Some say the film is really about a filmmaker frustrated by the system, but, first and foremost, it deals with the important choices in life a creative has to make. “I knew I wanted to talk about the balance of career and family,” Favreau tells us. “By the time you hit my age, those little decisions you’ve made really affect your life and you think, ‘How did I end up here?’ A lot of people are confused by where they land. Often when you put all your effort into your career, it’s not as satisfying, because you don’t have that base and foundation.” What is success without people to share it with? It’s an age old theme, but it’s something that Favreau hopes resonates.

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Paul Schneider

You enter with a compliment. This is how professional courtesy works – when you’re entering a room (typically a hotel room, often a nice one, usually stripped of things like beds and dressers, which gives most interview settings the feeling of intended disarray) to interview the talent associated with a film or a book or a television show or whatever it may be, you enter with a compliment. I really enjoyed the book, reading is a cool thing. I loved your performance in the season finale, especially when you died. I liked that scene where you have phone sex while in the same room as the other person. You were so good in this! It’s an icebreaker, and an expected one, and it normally doesn’t lead to anything beyond a pleasant start to a ten-minute chat that is recorded for later use. This is not what happened with Paul Schneider. 

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Kevin Costner in DRAFT DAY

Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Dave are four of Ivan Reitman‘s films that have stood the test of time. When Reitman was on top of his game, the now 67-year-old filmmaker hit grand slams. I’m not using these sports metaphors because his latest film, Draft Day, includes the NFL Draft, but because, like athletes, some directors have hot streaks and cold streaks. For an array of reasons, slumps happen. Reitman’s lasted 18 years. After Dave he directed Junior, Father’s Day, Evolution, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and Six Days, Seven Nights. A few of those films had glimmers of hope that Reitman hadn’t lost his touch, but during those years, only as a producer was he making quality movies. People generally focus on the films that proceeded Dave, not Old School, Up in the Air,  I Love You, Man and Private Parts, and one of those acclaimed films he came close to directing. “It was stupid,” Reitman says, on why he didn’t direct Private Parts himself. “I was doing three movies at once: Space Jam, which I was sort of directing, but I wasn’t officially directing; Father’s Day, which I shouldn’t have directed, because we never got the script right; and Private Parts. Private Parts was the one I gave up, and I shouldn’t have.”

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Richard Shepard and Jude Law on set of DOM HEMINGWAY

Director Richard Shepard makes tonally risky choices. The Matador and The Hunting Party are broad comedies, but they also focus on characters with serious problems. Shepard doesn’t play those personal conflicts as jokes, either. He takes their predicaments very seriously, no matter how goofy his characters may act. These three dramatic comedies, including his latest film, Dom Hemingway, are driven by the loss of a loved one. In the case of Dom Hemingway, the narrative is also propelled by a potbellied, foul mouth, unhinged and egotistical safe-cracker named Dom Hemingway (Jude Law). This is a man who loves his name, himself, and, of course, his cock. You read that last part right. The film opens with Dom discussing what a wonderful piece of equipment he has. Needless to say, he’s a magnetic character who is, maybe not a good person, but someone you root for, if only because he knows how to talk about himself to exhaustive lengths. We discussed with writer-director Shepard how he made this incredibly flawed protagonist so damn appealing:

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America has had a tough life. Steve Rogers, created over 73 years ago by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, has been put through the wringer time and time again. Sure, he made a hell of an introduction by punching Adolf Hitler in his first issue ever, but his luck soon ran out. He went to hell, fought communists for Joseph McCarthy, and, at his lowest and most desperate, worked as a History professor. As we all know, teaching history is far worse a gig than having to fight Nazi Werewolves. Now things are on the up for Captain America, at least for his public image. In 2011 he got his own movie — let’s just pretend the 1990 version never happened — and it was the top dog of Marvel’s Phase I. Now that the studio has successfully moved into Phase II, Director Joe Johnston‘s Captain America: The First Avenger has managed to remain the best of the bunch. Its sequel, Captain America: Winter Soldier, is a close second. Captain America (Chris Evans) faces his greatest threat yet: his best friend, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), a.k.a. The Winter Soldier. The world may have been threatened in The Avengers, but global annihilation doesn’t match the personal stakes that come from having to fight your BFF, who’s been turned into an unstoppable killing machine with a shiny metal arm. This isn’t just Captain America taking on some power hungry villain, but Steve Rogers having to confront a friend. The personal stakes aren’t all Captain America: The Winter […]

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Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin

No one could ever accuse Jonathan Glazer of opting for quantity over quality. The British filmmaker has made only three movies in the span of 14 years, including his latest, Under the Skin. During that time, and before he made his feature debut in 2000 with Sexy Beast, Glazer directed music videos for Radiohead, UNKLE, Massive Attack, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and more of your favorite bands. He’s also done commercials for Nike, Audi, Guinness and Motorola. Glazer has a résumé to brag about. He’s done well for himself, which is probably why our interview with him is at the Chateau Marmont, which smells of money. Maybe it’s all the 20-year-olds coming in and out with their Rolls-Royces that gives it that scent. Still, the rather cozy and surprisingly low-key hotel is an ideal place to speak with Glazer. And the 49-year-old director is in good spirits when we meet him. He’s proud of a very important fact: whether you like Under the Skin or not, he made the movie he wanted to make.

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Cheap Thrills

Director E.L. Katz‘s Cheap Thrills was the first movie to get picked up for distribution at this year’s South by Southwest, and it’s also the third movie in a row actor Pat Healy has had at the festival, following Compliance and The Innkeepers. All three movies have featured Healy in a starring role, but, according to Healy, that doesn’t mean he still isn’t crashing on people’s couches to make it to a film festival.

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Grand Budapest Hotel Cast

Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel is his most ambitious film to date. Filled with locations, costumes, and set pieces, there is quite a bit going on in almost every frame including some well-crafted action. Anderson has proved himself as a capable action director over the past few years, what with the chases in The Fantastic Mr. Fox and, of course, Steve Zissou’s toe-to-toe battle with pirates. While Paramount may not be calling him to helm the next Transformers – not yet, anyway — he continues to show a real knack for action. Even though The Grand Budapest Hotel has a relentless pace, it’s still a character-driven story for Wes Anderson. It’s kind of a buddy comedy, following Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) and his lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), as they try to prove Gustave’s innocence in a murder case. That synopsis is reductive, but it’s the main focus of the story, which Anderson worked on with his buddy Hugo Guinness. Anderson has collaborated with other screenwriters on all his films, from Owen Wilson to Noah Baumbach to Roman Coppola, but this is his first solo credit. Our discussion with Anderson began with his penchant for not writing alone. Here’s what he had to say about his process, from his scripts to making commercials, at SXSW:

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We

This summer marks a very special anniversary. It’s fair to say we all remembered what took place on August 4, 2000. On that most likely quiet and peaceful summer day, one film dominated the cultural conversation, a true game changer unlike any other film of its kind. For years people had been asking, “What is this Coyote Ugly? Is it more than just some bar at the New York, New York hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada?” Kangaroo Jack director David McNally finally answered that question with his unconventional story of a small town girl trying to make it in the big city with Coyote Ugly. That picture co-starred Melanie Lynskey as Gloria, the young girl’s best friend. Needless to say, it’s not Lynskey’s best film — that honor goes to The Informant, which is her personal favorite as well — but it was the last film I watched of Lynskey’s before speaking with her at SXSW, so why not discuss it? Lynskey wasn’t at the festival to promote the upcoming 14th anniversary of Coyote Ugly, though. Instead she was down for We’ll Never Have Paris, Simon Helberg and Jocelyn Towne‘s romantic comedy starring Lynskey as a woman whose relationship is thrown off track by her boyfriend’s selfish neurosis. Since I hadn’t seen the film when I spoke with Lynskey, we mostly discussed other topics, including Coyote Ugly and never wanting to take a paycheck for something she doesn’t believe in. Check out our conversation below.

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imogen poots in need for speed

Imogen Poots‘s face is everywhere this year. She was recently seen in That Awkward Moment, has Need for Speed opening this weekend, Filth hits the states this summer, and maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see her in Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups before 2015. Another movie Poots co-stars in this year is writer-director John Ridley‘s Jimi: All Is by My Side. She plays the incredibly suave Linda Keith, a supporter and close friend of Jimi Hendrix (André Benjamin) in the film. Speaking with Poots at SXSW this week, I learned she clearly admires Ridley’s strict focus on their relationship as well. She spoke fondly of Jimi: All Is by My Side and, of course, a terrific French bakery in Los Angeles. Our conversation touched on plenty of other relevant subjects, too. If you’re curious about how beautiful Charlestown, West Virginia, really is, for example, read what she has to say about it below.

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Oliver Platt in X-Men First Class

It’s a scientific fact that if you add Oliver Platt to anything it gets 34% better. There are numerous examples of Platt elevating films even with his smallest of appearances. However, this week he took off his actor’s hat and served as a narrative feature juror member for SXSW. He also has a role as a food critic in Jon Favreau‘s Chef, which premiered at the festival, but Platt was in attendance to be a part of the festival, not to promote a film. And yet, he made the time to speak with us. Platt was my final interview of the festival, and it couldn’t have been a better note to end on. Interviews can be tough during SXSW. Sometimes you’re lucky to have more than 10 minutes with whomever you’re interviewing. In many cases, it’s never done in a helpful setting, either. Too often you’re in a small room or restaurant packed with people speaking at an excessively high volume. Or, in one instance, you’re on a stage under a spotlight in some darkly lit bar being watched by 15 strangers. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with Platt. At the last minute, an interview slot opened up and we met him in his hotel lobby the following day for a lengthy conversation. It was an all around ideal situation, and we used it to explore the overriding theme of the festival.

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Jason Bateman in Bad Words

Bad Words is a really dark comedy. Its lead, Guy (Jason Bateman), is crude and selfish, and he won’t stop until he proves his point. Sometimes he goes about his plan in mean-spirited ways, but for Bateman it’s pivotal that an audience embraces the character. That’s not as difficult as it sounds. He makes the National Spelling Bee contest actual fun, so you’re already on his side from the start. Not only is Guy likable despite his edges, but he’s also empathetic. Andrew Dodge‘s script gives him the right kind of motive that never interrupts the film’s initial comedic tone. There’s just enough of Guy’s past and his twisted and sweet friendship with a kid, never too much of it to make him an unbelievable softie. There’s plenty of tonal tightropes in this movie, but Bateman, who was also in the director’s seat for the movie, was well-aware of them from the start. I spoke to Bateman at SXSW this week, and this is what he had to say about his anti-hero character, directing for the first time and more:

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Only Lovers Left Alive

When a well-known actor takes a job for the cash, the final result generally comes off as little more than a paycheck for all involved. Actress Tilda Swinton is lucky, in that regard. Her work-for-hire performances have served the likes of David Fincher, Tony Gilroy, the Coen Brothers, and the perfectly fine adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Those pictures aren’t Swinton “selling out,” but taking on respectable gigs with people whose work she admires. What revs the actress up the most are the kind of projects that represent who she is. “That’s just the way I roll,” says Swinton on her long history of staying in the trenches with the projects and filmmakers that she deeply connects with. She’s someone that stands by her director. If you recall, when Bong Joon-Ho’s director’s cut of Snowpiercer was in danger of being chopped up for its US release, Swinton quickly came to the his aid, saying, “Maybe an effect of the film is that when one has spent two hours in the claustrophobia of this train we can leave the cinema and feel the relief that we can make life wider, so maybe it’s a sort of aversion therapy to sit in the train for two hours. That’s two hours, not one hour and forty minutes.” Clearly, Swinton is an actress you want by your side during all the trials and tribulations of filmmaking. She also went to bat for director Jim Jarmusch for this long-in-development Only Lovers Left Alive. She’s been attached to the project […]

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Kathryn Hahn in Bad Words

Cinema has no shortage of great sex scenes. Just last week we saw a prime example of steamy hate sex from 300: Rise of an Empire. Eva Green’s snarling dominance over a soldier will never be forgotten. It’s up there with some of the finest sexual encounters in history: Kevin Costner going at it while driving in Revenge; Mulholland Drive‘s much talked about piece of lovemaking; the opening shot of Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead; and the orgy in Eyes Wide Shut. Someone all those scenes were seriously lacking: Kathryn Hahn. If Kubrick wanted to turn the heat up during that orgy, then he would’ve thrown Hahn into the mix. She’s proven herself as more than capable when it comes to making sex much funnier and even more awkward. Who could forget when Alice (Hahn) rode Dan (John C. Reilly) like an animal in Step Brothers? If that didn’t do it for you, then Alice’s “stay golden, pony boy” goodbye sure did. We discussed Hahn’s finer moments of acting at the Bad Words press day during SXSW. Here’s what she had to say about how awkward sex makes her career come full circle.

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