Billy Bob Thornton

Keith Carradine and Billy Bob Thornton in Fargo

This week, for the penultimate episode of Fargo, I’d like to start with the title. I normally leave that for the end of the recap, but for once I found there to be a very clear meaning as it relates to the plot of the show. The name of tonight’s installment, “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage,” is one variation of a classic riddle that most of us probably heard in elementary school. I don’t have to state the idea behind it, because for the second episode in a row we got to hear Agent Budge (Keegan Michael Key) lay the title’s origin out directly. The main thing is it’s about trying to keep predators away from prey (or more simply, keeping one thing from another thing that the first thing would eat) while transporting them all together. Similarly, the premise of this episode involved multiple situations where characters kept nearly coming into alignment where one of them would have been killed. That caused this to be the most suspenseful episode yet. Especially after some new characters were eliminated rather quickly (so much for my excitement with Stephen Root‘s joining the cast, though he was good while he lasted) and this being so close to the end of the show, it just seemed more deaths could come at any moment. I took it as though showrunner Noah Hawley and director (and former child actor) Matt Shakman were dealing with their own variation of the riddle, where they had to maneuver the characters around in ways to […]

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Fargo "The Heap"

First off, I want to note that I’m not going to put forth any more claim that this show has left the shadow of the Coen Brothers influence. Last week, I personally felt that it was standing enough on its own that I was no longer looking for or noticing references, but of course I was pointed to a couple fairly significant instances of quotation. I still feel like it’s departing from the pastiche, though, and that’s a good thing. But sure enough, it continues to make certain connections and allusions now and then. I did sense a Barton Fink homage in tonight’s episode with the close-up on a poster of women walking on a beach. And there’s an image of Molly (Allison Tolman) midway through that easily reminds us of Marge in the Fargo movie. More on that in a moment. Because of the narrative course of this week’s episode, titled “The Heap,” I do think it continues to break free in a way that makes it plausible that the series could continue beyond this mini run. The world of the show is strong enough. At the same time, this sure could have been a great series finale. You’ve got a kind of closure on some story lines, even if they’re not necessarily satisfying to the characters, or maybe some viewers. And then you have a device that pushes the plot forward in a way that we’re used to only seeing done in the very last episode of a show. Or, […]

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Key and Peele in Fargo

The show has had its ups and downs so far, but with its seventh episode Fargo is suddenly a series worth celebrating as a standalone entity. With “Who Shaves the Barber?” I finally forgot about all the Coen brothers blood that was pumping life into the heart of the show from the beginning. This was the best episode since the pilot, and in some ways it was even better because it didn’t rest on all that pastiche and influence. It’s a shame that we only have three more installments to go, as now I could see it actually continuing beyond its predetermined ten parts. That’s a big change of my mind from a few episodes ago when I wondered how series writer Noah Hawley was going to stretch out the show’s two main storylines for the whole series. But now we have the introduction of comedic duo Key & Peele — sorry, that’s actors Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele — providing the next level in the never-ending mouse hunt that is the pursuit of Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton). It’s a brief debut for their two FBI agents, and we’ll have to see how well they mesh with the show going further, but they sure do seem like an invigorating addition.

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Adam Goldberg in Fargo

In many ways, I liked this week’s episode of Fargo, titled “Buriden’s Ass,” as much as I disliked last week’s (both of them were directed by Colin Bucksey). It wasn’t perfect, but it had a good deal of action and racked up a serious body count. Not that deaths make a good show, but it was enough that stuff was happening. And much of that stuff led to conclusions for certain characters and questions for and about others, questions that are intriguing rather than frustrating. Some characters make really dumb choices, as is expected in this series, but interestingly Lester (Martin Freeman) was not one of them this time. He finally made decisions that indicate he could just make it through the finale alive, after all. There are two moments in the episode where characters are shown to be really thinking about what to do next. For Lester, it’s with a surprisingly lengthy close-up on Freeman’s face as he works out his plan. And by episode’s end, it seems to have been a good plan, albeit one involving a very cliched escape scenario and a few too many instances of illogical luck (why did no one from radiology look for their scheduled patient? why did Lester’s nephew do nothing when he saw the guy creeping around the house?). Then there’s Stavros (Oliver Platt), whose thought process was accompanied by those annoying reminder flashbacks. And by episode’s end, it seems his decision was not a good one at all.

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Fargo The Six Ungraspables

For an episode that rounds out the first half of a series, “The Six Ungraspables” is a surprisingly uneventful affair. I think it might be Fargo‘s worst, because as much as it moved the plot forward, it did so at a very slow pace and not in any way that added to the characters or their storylines. Or maybe I missed something. Maybe I didn’t grasp enough this time. Maybe I was too annoyed with the unnecessary opening sequence to appreciate much else in the hour that followed. One of my biggest issues with Fargo so far is its occasional hand holding. Another is its occasional lack of logic for the sake of convenience. This fifth episode was basically all about how Lester’s Macbethian hand injury fits into both of these criticisms. After last week’s opening, I got excited when it became apparent that this too was beginning with a flashback. And to a time without snow on the ground! Silly me even thought maybe there’d be a link to O Brother, Where Art Thou? this time because of the bluegrass music. Unfortunately, all this sequence did was show us how Lester (Martin Freeman) came to own a shotgun and illustrate as plainly as possible how that shotgun later caused the festering wound in his hand. Was there anyone who was watching and hadn’t understood what that injury was from or that there was still a pellet lodged in there, one that would easily lend itself as evidence that Lester was present during Chief […]

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Oliver Platt in Fargo

Just when I’m thinking that the Supermarket King storyline is worthless, this week it ties the Fargo series to its movie namesake. There was a tease in last week’s episode with the ice scraper in the office of Stavros (Oliver Platt), and now “Eating the Blame” opens with a flashback to 1987, which is the year in which the Fargo movie takes place. Funny, I just finally re-watched the movie the other day and was left wondering if someone would ever find the cash that Steve Buscemi’s character buries. Here’s the answer: Stavros found it miraculously in a moment of despair and used it to become grocery store royalty. I wonder if that will be the only link we get. It’s not important if it is or isn’t. What is important, at least this week, is the idea that miracles and plagues can be mistaken for each other. The finding of the money was a sure sign that “God is real” to Stavros, and it’s hard to argue that for 19 years it had to have seemed truly heaven sent. But he’s also likely had two decades of contemplating whether the briefcase belonged to someone and whether he’d be in trouble for taking it. The answer appeared to come in the form of the extortion note, completely accidental on the part of blackmailer Don (Glenn Howerton). And that it is accompanied by Biblical plagues of water turning to blood and locusts (really crickets, in a really great scene) makes it all the […]

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Colin Hanks in Fargo The Muddy Road

I can’t help but think Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) is a very careless criminal. The third episode of of the TV series Fargo, titled “The Muddy Road,” begins with the character kidnapping a man from his office during work hours in broad daylight for all to see. He’s also captured doing so on surveillance cameras. He may not show his face completely, but this is a guy with a pretty distinct look, and witnesses and closed-circuit video are easily going to be enough to put him in a tight spot. You’d think. Is he just that lucky? In the pilot episode he visits the man he’ll later murder in order to get a look at him, but everyone else there gets a good look at him, too. At the end of the same episode, he runs a stop sign in a stolen car after having murdered a couple people, including a police chief. Sure, he’s intimidating enough to get off on a warning without showing identification, but he’s eyeballed pretty good. And now, this week we also see him slip into the home of the Supermarket King (Oliver Platt), after having killed a dog in plain view outside, and just slowly and confidently continue his scheme even while the man of the house is audibly walking nearer and nearer to where Malvo is standing. There’s some nice tension there for the audience in the shot where you can see Platt walking down the hallway towards the kitchen, where Thornton is […]

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Billy Bob Thornton in Fargo Episode 2

As noted in my review of the pilot last week, the second episode of Fargo promised some more references to various Coen brothers movies, namely Raising Arizona and Burn After Reading. The former was in the form of Oliver Platt‘s “Supermarket King” character. He owns a chain of stores called Phoenix Farms and wrote a book called “American Phoenix.” I guess showrunner Noah Hawley didn’t want to go too on the nose by naming him Stavros Phoenix, though. Instead, his last name is Milos. As for the latter homage, there wasn’t much to it other than Glenn Howerton playing a personal trainer. Meanwhile, there were allusions to The Hudsucker Proxy (the man scraping the name off the police chief’s office door) and I’m gonna say A Serious Man, as the scene with Colin Hanks spying on his orthodox neighbor undressing reminded me of a scene from that film. The Easter eggs are fun but also a little distracting, particularly because I’m looking for more in every scene and wondering whom each newly introduced character might be based on. Has there been a deaf guy in any of the Coens’ movies, for instance, or is deaf actor Russell Harvard playing a wholly original part? Was the blackmail note a direct reference to The Big Lebowski or is it supposed to be just the stereotypical ransom sort seen in countless movies? The hunt might have been more consuming this time, because there wasn’t a whole lot going on in a focused manner in this episode, titled […]

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Agents of SHIELD Cast

While doing press for the Fargo series, Billy Bob Thornton was asked over and over again why he decided to give TV a try. His answers tend to sum up two main thoughts that he has about the small screen right now: this new wave of great television mirrors the 1990s independent film movement, and currently this is really the only place for adult dramas and comedies. He’s right, and he’s certainly not the first person to say it. Movies for grown-ups are hard to come by at the multiplex, and when they do arrive they don’t do very well  (a lot of them don’t deserve to do well, either). Meanwhile, we’ve got smart and sexy programming up the wazoo on cable and occasionally network TV. Fargo is yet another in the pile that has included True Detective, Top of the Lake, Game of Thrones, Louie, Veep, House of Cards, Girls, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, etc. Everyone knows all about all that. Even though they’re nothing new, Thornton’s comments had me thinking about why those kinds of movies for adults disappeared from theaters. The easy answer is that fewer adults were going to the movies and the lack of a large audience made those kinds of releases unprofitable. And that’s made more room for superhero movies, which are all over the place these days. I don’t think the superheroes chased out the serious drama stuff, which hasn’t completely left movie theaters, and of course each type still has its own season — superheroes in the summertime; awards fodder in […]

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Spirited Away

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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Allison Tolman in Fargo TV Series

It may not be the best movie of 1998, as its Best Picture honor claims it to be, but Shakespeare in Love is a delight for any drama nerd with a boner for the Bard. Hardly acceptable as a true account of the inspiration for and writing of “Romeo and Juliet,” John Madden’s film is really just a celebration of the work of William Shakespeare by being a pastiche of themes, tropes and lines from his plays. Another proper title for the movie would be “Mark Norman (and Tom Stoppard) in Love With Shakespeare.” In their script are direct reverential references — some of them nods of foreshadowing for things later to be written, others familiar devices employed as general homage — to “Hamlet,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Merchant of Venice” and more. Some of it is kind of silly if you find that sort of celebratory amalgamation and obvious, literal allusion to be a cheap reduction of an artist’s genius (at least Shakespeare got off better than The Beatles did in Across the Universe), and now that same kind of imitative collage is being done for Joel and Ethan Coen in the new TV series Fargo (making them modern day equivalents of the Bard, apparently deserving of equal admiration and tribute). Despite sharing its name with the filmmakers’ 1996 Best Picture nominee, the FX show is not quite an(other) adaptation or spin-off or remake of the story of Marge Gunderson and Jerry Lundegaard. It is not even set in the same Minnesota […]

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The assassination of President John F. Kennedy is one of those days that will forever remain in the minds of the American people. And though everyone knows the story of what happened when JFK was shot (unless you’re a conspiracy theorist), many aren’t aware of what happened immediately after the president’s brutal murder. Enter Parkland, which promises on its poster a portrayal of “the JFK assassination as you’ve never seen it before.” The film centers on the events at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy was taken after being shot, and is based on the book “Four Days in November” by Vincent Bugliosi. These stills, courtesy of Yahoo! Movies, depict some of the principal characters tasked with taking care of the dying president — and even the one responsible. Paul Giamatti steps behind a camera as Abraham Zapruder, the cameraman who captured the only known footage of the assassination, while Jeremy Strong is a dead ringer for Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s killer. Billy Bob Thornton is a terrifying-looking secret service agent and just a generally grumpy-looking man who rushed to Kennedy’s side after the shooting. Zac Efron is interestingly cast as Dr. James Carrico, who tended to Kennedy upon his arrival at the hospital. I won’t judge too harshly before seeing his performance, but Efron, you always look 15 and flustered, kid. Marcia Gay Harden, as Nurse Doris Nelson, looks terribly worried, but you can imagine that she’s just seen some shit. Take a look after the break.

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What is Casting Couch? It’s where Hollywood moms come every day to find out if their actor kids have gotten a job. Remember that movie about the day JFK got shot that Tom Hanks was putting together because these days he’s such a history loving, lame dad? It’s called Parkland, and it just put together an awesome cast. According to Collider, director Vincent Bugliosi has signed the terrific trio of Paul Giamatti, Jackie Weaver, and Billy Boy Thornton to headline the cast. There’s no word on what characters they’ll be playing, but my guess is Giamatti will be JFK, Thornton will be Jackie O, and Weaver will be Lee Harvey Oswald. Makes sense, no?

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Jayne Mansfield

Back in 1996, when Billy Bob Thornton directed Sling Blade, its success seemed like a pretty big opportunity for the actor to change up his career focus and start accumulating awards by sitting in the director’s chair. That didn’t happen, though. Thornton has only made a handful of films since, and none that have come close to being as well-regarded as his first. However, it’s looking like this year could serve as Thornton’s best chance since Sling Blade at accumulating some more awards, because his latest film, Jayne Mansfield’s Car, looks like it’s got all of that good stuff that people who give out golden statues like. It’s a comedy of manners that throws excitable Southerners and stuffy Brits in the same space and examines the ways they chafe against each other, it’s set in the ’60s (so it’s got that oh-so-important element of nostalgia going for it, and there are plenty of period sets and costumes, shot with glowing gold light, which puts you in the perfect mood to squirt some tears at all of its ham-handed drama), and – probably most importantly – it boasts a cast of actors including names like John Hurt, Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, Irma P. Hall, Thornton himself, and many others. These are not untalented folk.

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Lloyd Kaufman is the Rodney Dangerfield of low-budget, B-level horror movies. He gets no respect. Even Roger Corman, who is notorious for cranking out genre films for profit since the 1950s, has respect of his Hollywood peers. But in Corman’s shadow is Kaufman’s exploitation studio Troma, which has been generating marginal and low-quality entertainment for years…almost 40 years, to be exact. Troma began in 1974 as a joint venture between Kaufman and his buddy from Yale, Michael Hertz. Over the years, the studio has pulled their own fair share of Cormans by featuring would-be stars in their earliest roles, including Kevin Costner in Sizzle Beach U.S.A., Billy Bob Thornton in Chopper Chicks in Zombietown, and the comedy team of Trey Parker and Matt Stone with Cannibal: The Musical. In 1985, Troma broke out with their tongue-in-cheek success The Toxic Avenger, a low-budget hit that spawned three sequels and gave Troma its poster boy for its studio. Soon, Troma became a staple in the direct-to-video market with additional hits like Class of Nuke‘Em High, Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell, and Surf Nazis Must Die! To celebrate its upcoming 40th Anniversary in Tromaville, Troma is offering dozens of their movies for free on the Troma YouTube Channel. Films will be continually added to the line-up, but the channel is opening with the following titles:

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Back in 1996 when Billy Bob Thornton directed his first feature, Sling Blade, I thought that he had made his mark and was going to become one of the big directors working in Hollywood. That never happened, though. After that he only directed the Cormac McCarthy adaptation All the Pretty Horses in 2000 and then Daddy and Them, a movie I don’t even remember existing, in 2001. I guess the guy just decided that he’d rather be an actor than a director. And that’s fine, but now that he’s getting a bit older it seems like the directing bug might have bit once again. Last year he directed both a Willie Nelson documentary called The King of Luck, which is currently looking for distribution deals, and a dramatic film called Jayne Mansfield’s Car, which just played Berlinale. And apparently he’s not stopping there, because Variety has news that Thornton and his writing partner Tom Epperson are already set to collaborate on another project that Thornton will helm. The film, called And Then We Drove, is the first under $20m feature that will spring from a $120m film fund started by producer Alexander Rodnyansky. Why did Rodnyansky choose this project to be the first of the up to 6 films he will fund? He said, “I found the story amazing. It’s a pretty new combination of genres to put into one movie,” then concluded by adding, “It’s based on his experiences in many ways.”

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr puts on some 3D glasses to look at some puss… in boots, that is. He proceeds to rewrite fairy tale fiction to include more bodily function humor, an egg-shaped Zach Galifianakis and a hairy but still sexy Salma Hayek. Then, he heads to the reference department of his local library to discover who really wrote the complete works of William Shakespeare. When all signs point to Neil Miller as the real author, Kevin gives up, realizing he’s out of time. So he brings sexy back and heads out to kidnap Amanda Seyfried so he can occupy Hollywood and start a revolution together… or get arrested.

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Finally, a supporting character from the Shrek franchise who earned their chops the hard way, enduring arduous animated battles and even more arduous stunt voice casting, has gotten a film of their very own, a fuzzy family affair that will make the whole brood giggle. No, sadly, it’s not those adorable flying Donkey-Dragon babies (trivia! Wikipedia tells me they are named Debbie, Coco, Bananas, Peanut, Parfait, and Éclair), but it’s Dreamworks’s own answer to “what would Zorro be like if he was, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, actually a cat?” That’s Puss in Boots to you, amigo. Antonio Banderas returns to the role he originated, a Zorro-meets-French-fairy-tale feline famous for stealing both bullion and babes. But what if Puss was, gasp, not a criminal at all, but a misunderstood kitty desperate to return to the mother he loves, a innocent cat framed for a crime he didn’t commit, a bipedal boot-wearing bad boy who is quietly concealing a heart of gold? What if then? Well, you’re about to find out.

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After a summer that’s already seen a Bad Teacher and some Horrible Bosses, I have started to sense that a new trend might be forming in Hollywood. Movies about awful people seem to be in, so that means we’re going to be seeing some remakes and sequels of past successes that have had less than likable protagonists. What does that mean for us in concrete terms? Thankfully, not a sequel to Richard Linklater’s awful Bad News Bears remake, but instead a sequel to Terry Zwigoff’s much more enjoyable Bad Santa. 24 Frames is reporting that Dimension and Miramax are teaming up to conceive some sort of sequel to the relatively successful, Billy Bob Thornton starring, 2003 film. And actually, they’re so taken with the idea of a Bad Santa sequel they’ve hired two different writers to pen scripts for them. Both are youngsters in the business who have recently sold their first scripts, and both have been told that they aren’t the only person writing on this project.

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Billy Bob Thornton hasn’t directed a non-documentary since 2001’s Daddy and Them. That’s kind of a shame, because it seems like the guy could be pretty good at it. Dude made Sling Blade after all. I take it as good news then, that Thornton has a cast in place and funding secured for his next feature Jayne Mansfield’s Car. Not much is known about the film yet, but Thornton co-wrote the script with his writing partner Tom Epperson, and it’s said to be about two families from different parts of the world experiencing a culture clash in 1969. Young actor John Patrick Amedori is set to star in the film and names like Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, Robert Patrick, Ray Stevenson, John Hurt, Dwight Yoakam, and Dennis Quaid are locked in to round out the cast. That’s a ridiculously impressive list of actors, but where are all the ladies? Perhaps that’s a mystery for another day.

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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