THE #1 INDEPENDENT MOVIE BLOG IN YOUR HEARTS

Netflix

Netflix

If you’ve been missing the NBC comedies 30 Rock and The Office, Netflix has what you’re looking for, and they’ll even let you watch it on Thursday nights, too. Tina Fey, who created and starred in the former show has a new TV series with 30 Rock showrunner Robert Carlock called Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and instead of returning to the Peacock network (where it was initially set to debut this Spring), it’s dropping on the online distributor’s streaming service on March 6th — all 13 episodes of the first season at once. And less than two months ahead, they’ve dropped a trailer for the show, which you can watch below.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt stars Ellie Kemper, one of the ensemble players from The Office, as a former member of an doomsday cult who is now trying to lead a normal life in the big city. She’s lived in an underground bunker before hitting New York, so she’s a little naive and ignorant about a lot of society and technology and such. She becomes roomies with a big gay man (Tituss Burgess), who works as a costumed character — Iron Man, it seems — in Times Square, and she gets a job as a nanny for a rich woman played by 30 Rock‘s Jane Krakowski.

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Sundance 2015

Wikipedia

If you’re attending the Sundance Film Festival (or just paying attention to excellent coverage of the festival, much like you would find right here at Film School Rejects, cough cough), you’re most likely looking for new projects, people, and productions to get excited about. Sundance may (somewhat bizarrely, when you really think about it) take place in the dead of winter in a tiny town mostly dedicated to ski tourism, but that early jump on the festival year allows the fest to set the tone for the rest of the year. This is the place you come to when you want to see something new, and this year looks poised to deliver that, in spades.

Sundance has often played home to the breakout roles of big stars (hello, Jennifer Lawrence), and although finding the next big talent is mostly a guessing game, fingers-crossing adventure, we’ve got some idea as to who just might emerge from ten days at Park City a bonafide star. Take a look:

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SImon Pegg in Star Trek

Paramount Pictures

The Star Trek franchise has a great tradition of seeing its actors become creatively involved behind the camera. Leonard Nimoy got the ball rolling by taking the helm of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and then co-wrote and directed Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and collaborated on the story for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

In between those latter two, William Shatner co-wrote and directed Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Later, The Next Generation cast member Jonathan Frakes directed Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection.

Frakes also directed many episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Other cast members who’ve helmed episodes of various incarnations, including Enterprise: Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton, Avery Brooks, Rene Auberjonois, Roxann Dawson, Michael Dorn, Siddig El Fadil, Gates McFadden, Robert Duncan McNeill, Robert Picardo, Andrew Robinson and Tim Russ.

As far as I’m willing to go through everyone’s IMDb credits, I am unaware of any other Star Trek stars scripting installments of the franchise. That makes it more special that Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty in the rebooted movie series, is co-writing the next sequel, Star Trek 3, according to Deadline

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Beetlejuice Video Game

Rare/LJN/The Geffen Film Company

Most video game adaptations make some sort of sense. Like a game based on a kids’ movie, or a popular action franchise, or something like that. Hell, in the 1980s, they made pretty much anything into a video game just to see what stuck.

But there are some movie-based video games that don’t make sense under any circumstance. Even ones from the anything-goes 80s. Trying to figure out how some of these went bizarrely from the big screen to console is like staring into the eye of madness. Someone, somewhere, said, “Yes, we should totally make a video game out of…”

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The Blob 1958

Criterion Collection

Anytime I’ve been asked about movies that should be remade, I’m pretty sure I’ve brought up The Blob. It’s the perfect property to go through the recycle bin, and this is coming from someone who likes the 1958 original and even more so the underrated 1988 version. It’s a horror scenario involving a gelatinous mass that rolls around and engulfs people. There’s an iconicity to the creature but not in a way that’s necessarily assigned to a time or storyline or anything else that fans can really take to their hearts. It could be redone at least once a generation, if not once a decade.

So, I welcome the announcement that another remake of The Blob is finally on the move, and am fine with the choice of Simon West to helm this baby. The director of Con Air, Tomb Raider: Lara Croft and The Expendables 2 is hardly a great talent, but neither is Chuck Russell (’88), nor was Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. (’58) before him. He’ll do nicely, however, if the idea is to do something that doesn’t take itself too seriously, unlike what Rob Zombie had planned when attached to a Blob remake years ago.

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Public Enemies

Universal Pictures

Johnny Depp‘s latest movie, Mortdecai, is hitting theaters this weekend, and by all accounts it’s horrifically unenjoyable. Which you probably could have guessed. The trailer, the goggly-eyed posters and, hell, even the title with its superfluous T all pointed to self-parody without self-awareness. It shows Depp at his most rubbery, trying so damned hard to make a mustache wink that you could almost see him panting.

That’s our consistent vision of the actor now, at least. A caricature who loves putting on funny hats or facial hair and acting absurd despite the silence coming from the crowd. In a way, that persona feels new, with every thinkpiece written about him tilting reverently toward a time in recent history when he wasn’t so desperate and cartoonish. When we loved him. When he was great.

So I started wondering how long that’s actually been going on, which led me to question what his last truly great movie was. The process was a little discouraging.

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71

Roadside Attractions

The best part of any film festival is the possibility of discovery, of finding not just a new film, but a new director or star or entire genre that you can love, champion, and talk about (perhaps a smidge too much) for months (or years) to come. That’s no different at Sundance, which consistently debuts an upwards of one hundred new films each year. As the calendar year’s first major film festival, Sundance has the honor of debuting a giant slice of the year’s cinematic pie — and last year’s festival just might have bowed the film that will ultimately go on to win Best Picture — but that doesn’t keep Sundance from recognizing other great films from previous festivals. In fact, the festival has an entire section dedicated to such films, Spotlight, which the fest describes as: “regardless of where these films have played throughout the world, the Spotlight program is a tribute to the cinema we love.”

It should come as little surprise that the features that round out the Spotlight section include some of the year’s very best (still unreleased) festival titles. This year’s Spotlight section includes nine titles, five of which we’ve already seen and can recommend to you whole-heartedly (well, except for one, but that’s just Rob Hunter’s vicious critical mind speaking). Sundance might be about discovery, but if you’re looking for a sure thing, these are your best bets.

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Orange is the New Black - Crazy Eyes

Netflix

The battle of the online distributors of original streaming content continues this week, with Netflix not to be outdone by news of Amazon’s plans for exclusive movie production and Overstock.com’s unbelievable announcement to get into this market overall. From the National Association of Television Program Executives this week comes word, via Variety, that Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos is now aiming for 20 scripted shows a year.

Part of that goal is to offer more diversity, meaning maybe not everything will be as favorable to those of us enjoying hits like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Maybe there’ll be some broader sitcoms in there, possibly some bland procedurals, things like that. After all, the most popular programs on network TV are hardly the most critically acclaimed and award-worthy. Surely Big Bang Theory junkies have Netflix subscriptions, too. And they might be into the weird comedy of Wet Hot American Summer.

But while this was hardly an official announcement of any kind, I’d like it to be a springboard for making a case for Netflix to also get the ball rolling on quality unscripted shows. This is a company responsible for many Americans discovering they actually do enjoy documentaries. Their streaming service has hundreds of essential nonfiction film titles at any given time (as ranked by me at Nonfics) and they’ve done a spectacular job of producing and acquiring doc titles, proven by their second Oscar nomination picked up last week for Virunga.

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David Henrie

Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Ronald Reagan has been portrayed plenty over the decades, but this year seems to be especially hot for the actor-turned-politician. He is reportedly an actual character in the second season of the Fargo TV series, and now there’s an update on an upcoming biopic about the world leader way before becoming the President of the United States. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the movie will focus on Reagan’s early years as an actor, through his time as the head of the Screen Actors Guild.

That presumably covers the 1940s and 1950s, including his divorce from Jane Wyman and meeting and marriage to Nancy (Davis), but the actor just cast for the lead role in the movie is former Disney Channel star David Henrie (The Wizards of Waverly Place), and he’s only 25. Reagan turned 25 in 1936, a year before he even made his first film appearance in Love is On the Air.

More than aiming for a look at the future POTUS’s Hollywood life and start in politics, this biopic will focus on Reagan’s stance against communism, a position that had him and Nancy ratting out suspected reds in the film industry, first as FBI informants and then officially before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

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Art by Derek Bacon

Art by Derek Bacon

For anyone who has never attended, the Sundance Film Festival might live somewhere in the abstract realms of the yearly film calendar. In a calendar year, the average American moviegoer may only see 2-3 movies in a theater. Many of them might not be too concerned with a bunch of critics and bloggers who descend upon a ski town in Utah every January to consume 40+ movies in the span of 9 days, many of which will never make it to the local cineplex. If you’re not part of the film industry or don’t aspire to become part of the industry, why care about what movies are playing at Sundance?

You should absolutely care. This list is out to prove that. Not because the most audacious blockbusters premiere at Sundance (they don’t) or because massive stars are all over Sundance (they usually reserve that for the red carpet at Cannes) or because all of the major Oscar bait will play there (that’s what the Toronto Film Festival is for). You should care because Sundance is where the careers of many of your favorite filmmakers were born. In going back over the 37 year history of the festival (which began as the Utah/US Film Festival in 1978), our editorial team couldn’t help but notice that so many great filmmakers have made their name in and around Park City, Utah. Many of them have made our list, which counts down the best that Sundance has delivered in its long and illustrious run as the preeminent American film festival.

This list answers a simple question: what are the 25 best movies that have played at Sundance?

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Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

When American Sniper was released in a few theaters in New York and L.A. last month, it seemed like no one gave it a second thought. Critics were mixed on it, and the mainstream media largely ignored it. Boy, a lot has changed. Now that the Clint Eastwood-directed Iraq War story has been nominated for six Oscars and is on its way being one of the top-grossing movies of the year, it is no longer a film to ignore. It has become a prize for Democrats and Republicans to fight over. Conservatives hail its success as a rebuke to a left-leaning Hollywood that has, in their view, rejected movies that are sympathetic to the military. Meanwhile, liberal commentators are doing their best to expose the film’s propagandistic intent, arguing the inherent pro-war message of an Iraq War film that doesn’t bother to question the reasons America invaded in the first place.

So who’s right?

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Entertainment One

Entertainment One

The hunt for Osama bin Laden was so significant that we’ve already had a few movies about missions to find and/or kill the al-Qaeda leader. Most famously, of course, is Zero Dark Thirty, which dramatizes the operation that resulted in bin Laden’s death. Before that was the comedic documentary Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?, in which director Morgan Spurlock jokingly travels through Africa and the Middle East in search of the wanted terrorist.

Spurlock wasn’t the only “regular guy” on the hunt, though, as we’ll see soon enough in the comedy Army of One. Described as a satire, the movie will also be based on a true story of the “Rocky Mountain Rambo,” Gary Faulkner, a Denver-based construction worker who in 2010 went to Pakistan armed with a pistol, a knife and a samurai sword to take out bin Laden all by himself. Who could possibly play such a crazy man? Nicolas Cage has been cast, of course.

Directing Army of One is Larry Charles, of Borat, Bruno and the Bill Maher-led comedic documentary Religulous. The Hollywood Reporter describes the project as “semi-scripted,” with writing credits going to Draft Day‘s Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph and a “GQ” article by Chris Heath. “GQ,” by the way, is a Conde Nast publication and this movie will be produced by Conde Nast Entertainment. The Weinsteins have already picked it up for distribution, possibly for a late 2015 release even though it won’t begin shooting until March.

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American Sniper Fake Baby

Warner Bros.

Imagine that you’re making a movie, and the baby you’ve arranged to be on set for half the day has a fever. No problem, right? You have a backup baby (and producers who plan ahead). Only, your backup baby isn’t available either.

You are babyless. What do you do?

If you’re Clint Eastwood, you grab the closest piece of plastic you can find in the cabbage patch. American Sniper screenwriter Jason Hall explained that they used the absurd baby doll because one infant was sick and the other didn’t show (prima donna), and while it’s appropriately being mocked, it also provides a great lesson about bad solutions to production day problems. This may be what a no-budget production has to deal with, but American Sniper is an Oscar nominee with a $60m budget.

How could something like this get through? Most likely the American Sniper fake baby is the result of the Eastwood Laziness Problem that also often sees the first take as the only one worth shooting. Even so, it’s baffling that — in a universe where Marvel got all of the Avengers back together for shawarma and pick-up shots are the norm — a movie like this couldn’t have fixed this scene. Or, better yet, fixed it on the day.

To be fair, not having the baby you expected is a problem, but there have got to be better solutions (even on-the-fly) than sending a PA to Toys ‘R’ Us on the double. How vital was it to see the baby in that particular shot? Could the blocking be changed so that you can still use the set, but don’t need to see the baby? Is there something the camera can do to minimize the issue?

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published: 01.25.2015
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