50/50

Culture Warrior

For the first time in recent memory, I’m going into Oscar Sunday having no idea who is likely to take home many of the major awards. I’m sure there are entire websites out there devoted to an accurate prediction of who and what will take home the gold on Sunday, but there seems something a bit different about this year. Of the nine films nominated, I don’t have a clear sense of what would be the top five had AMPAS not changed the number of entries in the top category. While The Artist may clearly have more of a chance than, say, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, there’s no grand battle between likely leads like there was between The King’s Speech and The Social Network last year. And I don’t think I’m alone in stating that this year’s uninspiring list of nominees seems to reflect a growing indifference against the ceremony itself. Sure, on Sunday, like I have every year since I was eleven years old, I’ll watch the entire ceremony from beginning to end. And, like every year since I was twenty-one years old, I’ll make fun of the pompous and excessive self-congratulatory nature of the proceedings. But while in most years I have had some skin in the game, besides the two nominations afforded to the excellent Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and the presence of the transcendentally excellent Pina in the Best Documentary Feature category, this year I didn’t even get a sense that the Academy was awarding […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray may be coming to you a few days later than usual, but fear not, as it was worth the wait. Fox and MGM decided to drop a number of great films on me at the last minute, meaning long hours of pouring over special features, drinking heavily and ultimately turning myself into a late-1970s Woody Allen character by the end. It was all worth it, as you’re about to experience 2500 words or so of the most full edition of this column we’ve seen in a long time. Plenty of unsung heroes of 2011, classics of yesteryear and boxing robots to go around. Also, Rob Hunter stops by for some cross-column reviewing with Rebecca. 50/50 In a week that will see the release of a bevy of classics coming to Blu-ray for the very first time, it would be a crime to overlook one of 2011′s most heartfelt works, complete with some ranged performances from the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Bryce Dallas Howard. Jonathan Levine (The Wackness), working from a script by Will Reiser based on a true story, tells the tale of Adam, a 27-year old guy who gets diagnosed with spinal cancer. Dealing with his overbearing friends, his smothering mother and a relationship that hangs on the edge, Adam must find a way to not only beat cancer, but all the situational drama it’s caused between him and those he cares about most. It’s funny, touching and full of memorable performances. […]

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This Week in DVD

Welcome to This Week in DVD! Lots of titles hitting shelves today, and we’re covering nineteen of them below. High profiles like Real Steel and Paranormal Activity 3 are releasing alongside indies like The Woman and Beware the Gonzo. There’s also several older titles worth checking out including Punishment Park, The Arena with Pam Grier and a Criterion release of Godzilla. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Whistleblower A female cop (Rachel Weisz) from the Midwest takes a temporary but high paid job as a UN peacekeeper in Bosnia and discovers despicable crimes and criminals in her midst. Her instinct as a cop is to help people and bring the guilty to justice, but the systematic corruption may be too widespread and unbeatable. Weisz gives a strong and emotional performance, and the film pulls no punches in its exploration of the sex trafficking trade that exists in Bosnia (and around the world). It manages to be both powerful and suspenseful too while never feeling the need to glamorize or Hollywood-ize the story. This isn’t the sexiest release of the week and there are some better films below, but it’s an important and well made movie with a message worth sharing.

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Somehow, I just knew that our “52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012″ would pay off! You know, eventually. Included on that massive list is 50/50 director Jonathan Levine‘s next film, and while the idea of a sexy zombie story about teens might turn some of you off, I beg you to give it a chance. Based on Isaac Marion‘s 2011 novel of the same name, the film follows young zombie R (Nicholas Hoult) as he grapples with a new twist on the classic zombie story – he’s not dealing with the fall-out of turning into a zombie, he’s trying to come to terms with becoming a human (again). Young R has been a zombie for, well, he doesn’t even know how long (but not too long, he’s still got meat on his bones), and everything else pre-zombification is just weird memory ether. It’s not there. But all that changes when a beautiful human girl (Teresa Palmer) and some weird happenings begin to dull the desire for brains and blood in R, while also awakening the human that might still lurk inside him. R’s change has not only personal implications, but effects on human-zombie relations at large. That may seem somewhat hard to picture, which is why I’m glad we get our first look at Hoult in his zombie get-up today. Readers of Marion’s excellent book will surely approve of his look, as it matches up with the author’s description of R quite handily. Check out the full look at Hoult […]

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The Writers Guild of America has released the nominees for their Writer’s Guild Awards today, and while there’s certainly some room for quibbling as far as their choices go, the screenplays they’ve nominated in their film categories are at least a diverse array of projects. There’s something here for everyone. I balked at these choices a bit on first glance, they’d left off many of my favorite films of the year. But after thinking about what was missing for a few seconds I started to realize that a lot of the films I really loved over the course of 2011 relied more on mood and photography than they did their screenplays. In my mind, there was no real superstar script this year, like Inception and The Social Network last year. I loved things like Drive and Shame, but did their greatness really lie in their screenplays? Still, I can think of a handful of things that I would have liked to have seen included that weren’t. As far as original screenplays go, I think a film like Warrior was a master of structure, and is more deserving than something like Bridesmaids, which was a fairly generic comedy plot and which probably relied largely on improvisation for its humor. And I really miss a nomination for something like The Skin I Live In when it comes to the adapted screenplay section; especially when they’ve nominated a film like The Help, which cannot name writing as one of its strengths. Check out […]

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Hundreds of movies are released each year in theaters or straight to DVD, and a large percentage of them suck. A much smaller group though are fantastic slices of cinema that thrill, excite, invigorate and entertain, and while some of them are recognized at the box office many more are left to die a quick and undeserved death. And it’s essentially your fault. Of course I don’t mean you specifically, but instead I’m referring to the average American movie-goer who chose not to see these movies in the theater. They ignored the critical acclaim, reviews and recommendations from sites like ours and instead bought multiple tickets for the latest Twilight or Transformers movie. So while it’s too late to affect their box office returns (most of them anyway), Jack Giroux and Rob Hunter have put together a list of eleven movies that deserved far better treatment in 2011.

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The Best Films of 2011: The Staff Picks

As you may have noticed, this final week of 2011 has been almost completely taken over by our third annual Year in Review. It was born in 2009 out of our love for lists and your thirst for reading, discussing and ultimately hating them. And each year the entire project gets a little bigger, a little bolder and slightly more absurd. With that in mind, I’m once again proud to present you with The Best Films of 2011: The Staff Picks. Each of our 14 regular staff writers, contributors and columnists, almost all of whom have been with us the entire year, were asked to present their top 5 films, in no particular order (although many of them placed their top film at the top, as logical people tend to do), each with an explanation. Some even included curse words as a bonus to you, the reader. Read: The Best Films of 2010: The Staff Picks | The Best Films of 2009: The Staff Picks Once again, the Staff Picks are a testament to the diversity we have here at Film School Rejects, with picks ranging from the likely suspects (Take Shelter, Hugo, Shame) to the slightly more nerdy (Attack the Block, Super 8, The Muppets) to several movies that may not yet be on your radar (see Landon Palmer’s list for those). And once again, it’s with a deep sense of pride that I publish such a list, the best of 2011 as seen through the eyes of the movie […]

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Remember all the way back to last night when the Gothams announced their annual awards and thus declared that awards season was like, so totally on? No? Really? It was just last night, come on. In that vein, the Film Independent Spirit Awards have just announced their nominations for their annual awards (held in February, on the beach, as ya do in Los Angeles), and their picks come with their own surprises. Remember (no, seriously, I need you to remember back less than twenty-four hours) how the Gothams didn’t give squat to Take Shelter or 50/50 or Martha Marcy May Marlene? Or Drive? Or The Descendants? Well, the Independent Spirit nominations are here to ease that pain. Leading the nominations pack are just those very films, along with Gotham darling Beginners and black and white sensation The Artist, with Take Shelter and The Artist tied for the most nominations, with five each. Following the lead, with four nominations each are Beginners, Drive, The Descendants, and Martha Marcy May Marlene, with 50/50 logging three noms. And, coincidentally, it’s those top nomination-getters (save MMMM) that are all nominated for Best Feature. Funny how that works out, right? Other nominations of note include Best First Feature (Another Earth, In the Family, Margin Call, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Natural Selection ), Best First Screenplay (Another Earth, Margin Call, Terri, Cedar Rapids, 50/50), and the John Cassavetes Award, which is given to the best feature made for under $500,000 (Bellflower, Circumstance, Hello Lonesome, Pariah, The […]

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The Reject Report

Just when you thought it was safe to station video cameras in an attempt to capture the nightly doings of some nefarious supernatural entity. Oh, those pesky ghosty things and their habits of turning innocent tea parties into screaming nightmares. That’s not based on first-hand experience, by the way. My tea party days are over. Luckily for Paramount, audiences were in the mood for chills this weekend, as Paranormal Activity 3 had a dump truck of cash backed up to its haunted house doors and unloaded. The third entry in the now-never-ending series not only trounced the competition and stunned box office analysts, its broke the records for both October opening weekend and Fall opening weekend. Both of those records were previously held by last year’s Jackass 3D, which debuted to $50.3m.

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…of the world. Maybe of the entire universe. Who knows what kind of movies or box office receipts they have in the far galaxies? Still, regardless how much money The Sands of WeepWoo makes on planet Brackle, it couldn’t have been stepped up to the how well the giant robots did this weekend. Real Steel didn’t break any box office records. Even for a robot movie, its opening was on the high end but still South of movies like A.I. Artificial Intelligence ($29.3m opening) and Robots ($36m). It did, however, have the biggest opening for a boxing film, topping Rocky IV‘s $19.9m debut from 1985. A nice sized opening like we see hear combined with how crowd-pleasing the film is could prove Real Steel to have some solid longevity.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s sorry that it didn’t send flowers. How was it supposed to know that it was your birthday? It’s only a nightly movie news column.. We being this evening with an image of Joss Whedon directing the shit out of The Avengers alongside Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s part of a group of images that hit the web this week. In moving images news, reports are now saying that a trailer for The Avengers will drop on Tuesday, October 11. They just had to beat the new iPhone to the punch, didn’t they?!

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Jonathan Levine‘s 50/50 bares many similarities to a Hal Ashby film. Many writers/directors have attempted to emulate the Harold and Maude director’s style, capturing both the tragedies and odd humor of life, and most of the time they all come off as lazy homage. Like a bad film student trying to ape a filmmaker he or she loves, it’s embarrassing and clumsy. However, writer Will Reiser, co-star/producer Seth Rogen, and director Jonathan Levine managed to make a film inspired by the legend, and yet make their own personal and heartfelt story. A part of that heart comes from the honesty that the filmmakers captured. 50/50 had to jump over some big tonal obstacles, which, as our own review points out, it did so without a hitch. Here’s what Will Reiser and Seth Rogen had to say in our brief chat about Hal Ashby, real life not working on the page, and finding Jonathan Levine:

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Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has a pretty good life. He works in Seattle as a producer for a public radio station, his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) is always good for a laugh, he lives happily with his girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), and best of all, he’s exceptionally healthy. An odd back pain sends Adam to the doctor where he discovers he’s suffering from a late stage tumor. The diagnosis shocks him at first as he’s spent considerable time exercising, eating healthy, and avoiding alcohol and drugs, but he quickly moves to anger…because he’s spent considerable time exercising, eating healthy, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. His tumor is a rare type, and while he weighs his options including chemotherapy and surgery he discovers the unofficial odds on his survival over the next few months are fifty-fifty. There’s a one in two chance he’ll be dead before his next birthday. That pretty good life soon collapses around him as he’s forced to face the reality of both his life and death. His journey will expose certain truths about himself, his family and friends, and even a few strangers, and it might even give him a new pick-up line for the ladies… Imagine if Funny People was a comedy. Then imagine it was filled with wit, heart, and an honesty about the relationships we form throughout our lives. Now stop imagining, because that movie you’re picturing is 50/50.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr is all giddy because apparently Joseph Gordon-Levitt has decided to copy his signature hairstyle. Undeterred by folks telling him Gordon-Levitt shaved his head to play the role in 50/50, Kevin tries to lobby other Hollywood actors to copy his image. Unfortunately, What’s Your Number? star Chris Evans refuses to grow a huge belly and Dream House star Daniel Craig just won’t latch onto Kevin’s charming American accent.

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Culture Warrior

The month of September is typically regarded as one of the least exciting and least eventful in the calendar year. It’s something of an interval month, a strange in-between phase sandwiched in the middle of summer Hollywood blockbusters and the “quality” flicks and holiday programming of the fall. In strictly monetary terms, it’s the most underperforming month of the year, and has even been beaten by the desolate burial ground that is January in terms of event-style opening weekends. But this may ultimately be a good thing. In fact, if future Septembers continue to exhibit the same patterns as this month, the time of the year in which schools go back in session and you can no longer wear all-white may prove to be one of the most interesting and exciting months on the wide-release calendar.

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If there’s one thing we can say about Seth Rogen, it’s that the man is expressive. Be it his laugh or his goofy mug, the guy knows how to convey emotion without actually speaking the King’s English. Or any other version of English, for that matter. And its that expressiveness that makes this new poster for Jonathan Levine’s 50/50 interesting. As you’ll see when you click through to see the entire thing, as released by Summit Entertainment today, the character Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is about to do something radical based on a recent diagnosis of cancer. From early screenings, I’m hearing some fabulous buzz about this one. That in conjunction with the fact that Jon Levine’s The Wackness was one of the better films I’ve seen in a while has me keeping a close eye on this dramedy. Lets all start by checking out the poster.

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Striking a balance between humor and humility is one of the toughest things to do in any form of storytelling, but just with this trailer, director Jonathan Levine and a cast that includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anna Kendrick look like they’ve done just that. Plus, they’ve done it while mocking the big baddie of the disease world. Formerly titled I’m with Cancer, 50/50 is a title that keeps the odds of the main character living front and center (even if they basically spoil that point in the opening part of the trailer), and the rest is filled with heads being shaved with questionable trimmers, therapy sessions, and foolish attempts at cancer-based pick-up lines.

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published: 04.18.2014
C-
published: 04.18.2014
C
published: 04.18.2014
B+
published: 04.18.2014
A

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