Features

Doctor Who Deep Breath

Would a Doctor by any other face smell so sweet? Not if he’s wearing a tramp’s coat, apparently. With the first episode of Doctor Who‘s Series 8, Peter Capaldi is a jarring presence as the Twelfth Doctor, mainly to companion Clara “Impossible Girl” Oswald (Jenna Coleman) but also to an audience used to younger actors in the role since its reboot almost a decade ago. It’s not just because he’s older, though; the thick, sometimes hard to understand Scottish brogue is as rough as his new “attack-eyebrows” appear to be. And maybe it’s an odd appearance because we’ve seen Capaldi on the show prominently before. Does the Doctor acknowledge this deja vu? Has he seen this face before, as he says in the alley to that tramp, in the same place we have? Is it just a coincidence that Capaldi played Caecilius in the 2008 episode “The Fires of Pompeii” and this new episode, “Deep Breath,” debuted on the same date as that earlier one took place, only 1,935 years earlier? This is one of the many things we’ll have to wait to see as the series continues. I also look forward to seeing if the show can quickly get over Capaldi’s distinction and offer up some truly entertaining installments. “Deep Breath,” written by showrunner Steven Moffat and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ben Wheatley (Kill List; Sightseers), was not very interesting plot-wise. For one thing, there was the matter of Moffat bringing back the Clockwork Robots from “The Girl in the Fireplace,” […]

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Hare-um Scare-um Bugs Bunny

Tomorrow, August 24th, is the 75th birthday of Andy Panda. How are you going to celebrate? I am obviously kidding. No one cares about Andy Panda. He now sits in cartoon obscurity next to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Gabby Gator and Dapper Denver Dooley. Yet it is his 75th birthday and we should honor it somehow. The very first Andy Panda cartoon, aptly titled Life Begins for Andy Panda, premiered on August 24th, 1939. It was Hollywood’s greatest year, even if its cartoons may not have lived on with the vigor of its live action triumphs. That said, three other cartoons that also premiered during the month of August 1939 offer an entertaining snapshot of this particular chapter in the Golden Age of American Animation. This was something of a transitional moment, between what cartoon historian Piotr Borowiec calls the “Disney Realism” and “High Warner” styles. That sounds high-minded and obscure, but it’s just a fancy way of explaining the shift from Disney’s talking animals that obey most of the laws of physics to Tex Avery’s talking animals that don’t. The details are a bit more complicated, which is why it’s more fun and more informative to just watch the cartoons.

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Body Heat nude bodies

The Sin City movies are remakes. Not of other movies, but of the comic books they’re based on. Before you argue that this means they’re “adaptations,” not “remakes,” let me explain. More than perhaps any other comic book movies, these are so faithful in style to the source that they’re redundant. They’re just like the old cartoons we watched as kids that took children’s books, lifted the pictures right off the page and animated them. Now we see a lot of that done in documentaries about artists, such as the recent one on Ralph Steadman. The main difference is that Sin City and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For use actors in a sort of moving tableau vivant recreation of Frank Miller‘s drawings, panel by panel — or shot-for-shot. Another thing the Sin City movies are, of course, is a series of film-noir-influenced anthologies that are far more violent and explicitly sex-filled than any true entry into the classic film genre. Unless you want to count all the remakes of films noir that came about in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, when Hollywood realized they could recycle a lot of golden age works for a new cinematic era, post-Hays Code, allowing for graphic violence and, more importantly, graphic sex and nudity. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is likewise noted for its nudity, nearly every review pointing out how naked Eva Green is in the movie – not a surprise given that the original, banned poster depicted the actress in a fairly revealing […]

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Radius-TWC

This will probably be difficult to believe for some of you, but we walk into every movie hoping it will be the best movie. We may criticize a trailer or point out early concerns, but once we sit down and the movie starts digitally unspooling before our eyes our hope every single time is to experience something fantastic. When a film succeeds on that front we shout it from the highest virtual rooftops, but that isn’t always the outcome. The pure flip-side of this of course are the movies we leave absolutely despising. Usually the films in this group aren’t exactly surprises — think Blended, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Sex Tape, Hercules — and while we hoped for better we ended up with pretty much what we expected. But sometimes the movies we expected more from end up being major disappointments too. A quick poll of the staff revealed a pretty varied list of films fitting this description, some of which are viewed as unqualified successes by the rest of us. Keep reading to see ten of the movies that left us unsatisfied, underwhelmed and ultimately disappointed.

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Get On Up

It is hard to believe summer is almost over, but as we look back on a season that gave us surprise hits (who knew Edge of Tomorrow would be so entertaining?) and surprise misses (Let’s Be Cops didn’t quite capture the buddy comedy magic it was looking for) the most interesting trend to emerge was how this summer’s soundtracks were all about the past. From 1920s jazz to 1960s funk to 1970s pop rock, this summer felt more like a music history lesson than the expected barrage of radio hits piped into every blockbuster looking to generate box office heat. (Granted those were there too – looking at you Transformers: Age of Extinction and Imagine Dragons.) And audiences were into this change of pace. So much so that a soundtrack full of songs from the 1970s made it to the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart.

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Killing of America 1

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a fake of a movie. It is a concretion of film noir tropes that has none of the pathos or thematic richness that people love noir for. Its paper characters match its comic-booky aesthetic, which was interesting when the first Sin City came out nine years (!) ago, but is stale now. It aims for cheap thrills, which is not necessarily an unworthy goal, but it fails to deliver any of those thrills. The movie is just one bland act of violence after another. The Killing of America is also one act of violence after another, but it actually has something on its mind. And as a cavalcade of actual death, assembled in an unpolished print and unreleased to this day in the U.S., this shockumentary has a billion times more outsider credibility than the hardboiled poser that is A Dame to Kill For. Both films depict worlds of total moral decay, where murder is a distressingly commonplace part of daily life. But Sin City invites you in to be turned on by this, to revel in the brutality, while The Killing of America wants you to question the kind of culture that would produce Sin City in the first place. READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Warner Bros.

I hate to be the one to inform you of this, but Hollywood is in a box office slump. A Great Depression of film profitability, where consumer scorn for summer blockbusters is bitter dust, choking the once-fertile farmland of summer tentpole season. How bad is it? This year, the total domestic gross of all our summer films comes to a paltry $3.46B domestic (for convenience’s sake, assume all total gross figures to be domestic from here on out). And this makes 2014 the first year since 2006 where the total gross was under $4B. Technically, the summer’s not over- Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, that George Takei doc To Be Takei or the horror film As Above, So Below could all potentially pull in a billion or two… but that seems a tad unlikely. Unless To Be Takei ends with half-hour of Takei in closeup; eyes glowing red, sultry baritone commanding the audience to spend their life savings on more To Be Takei. It’s entirely possible. Whatever he wants, we’ll do it. But is a mere billion-dollar slump something to get all up in arms about? Yes! Extremely. At least, that’s what the press has been doing all summer, clamoring about that this summer’s film crop has suffered severe cardiac arrest, and each weekend’s big seller is the only thing that can resuscitate it.

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The Zero Theorem

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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Coma patients

In the movie If I Stay, Chloe Grace Moretz plays a teenage girl who winds up in a coma when she’s in a car accident with her family. As her body lies in a hospital bed, her consciousness stands to the side, able to observe what’s going on in the room. She can watch her loved ones visit, see her boyfriend play her a song. And she also flashes back to past events while contemplating whether or not she should wake up and stay alive. Her choice, apparently. Do comatose patients actually have out-of-body experiences? Some claim so, but OBEs are not really scientifically recognized, at least not as anything other than a dream. Movies aren’t subject to the rules of accepted science, though, and that goes for depictions of comas in general. In 2006, a doctor conducted a study of 30 movies featuring comatose persons (not including Liz Garbus‘s solid HBO doc Coma, made after the study) and concluded that only two of them were accurately portrayed: Reversal of Fortune and The Dreamlife of Angels (the study is published in the medical journal “Neurology”, which you can pay to read here; but you can download the data-supplement list of movie titles here). That was mainly for what comas are like externally and for the patient afterward, however. There’s not really much to go on as far as what it’s like internally from the perspective of the person in the coma. So, this week’s edition of The Movies Tell Us is only briefly focused on […]

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The Giver

With our federal government currently suffering record levels of disapproval, political pundits are starting to look to the future. Millenials are quickly aging into a vital role in our national culture, but their politics are hard to parse. Many pundits have assumed them to be liberal, based on the instrumental role they played in Obama’s ascendance in 2008, but recent evidence suggests the picture is not so clear. Last month, an article at The Atlantic commented smugly on this phenomenon, arguing that the politics of Millennials don’t make any sense. “Millennials don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to economics,” the author wrote. “Forty-two percent…think socialism is preferable to capitalism, but only 16 percent…could accurately define socialism in the survey.”  But if politics is downstream of culture, maybe the movies, which count young Americans as their most prized demographic, can tell us more about the ascending generation’s complicated political values. As a case study, look at Hollywood’s hottest genre: the dystopian young adult adaptation. These films – such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the just-released The Giver – are hyper-political. They reflect our dissatisfaction with government and address the need for political revolution, but their politics are not radical, and their calls for change are increasingly uninspired. In fact, the evolution of the genre suggests that Millennials – to which these films are most heavily marketed – may be far more ready to abandon traditional liberalism that most pundits have suggested.

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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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