Carnage

Between Us

It is a challenge to take a story originally intended to be performed on stage in front of a live audience and adapt it for the very different environment of the big screen. A compelling story is a compelling story, but sometimes the moment the restrictions of the stage are taken away through “movie magic,” an important element is lost rather than gained. On stage it comes down to the actors and their performances and while that can be an immersive experience when watching live, it does not always translate to film. Movies are about being shown rather than told and plays are more about the dialogue and subtle performances of the actors. There is a connective tissue that does not always exist on stage, but does in film, and can help bridge this gap – music. Films need music to help round out emotion, especially when the actor is not standing right in front of you. But creating the music for a film adapted from a play is a very specific, and not always simple, undertaking. Composer Alexandre Desplat seemed to have cornered this market, having composed for Carnage based on the stage play of the same name and The Ides of March based on the stage play Farragut North, but two new composers, H. Scott Salinas and Tobias Enhus, have thrown their hats into the proverbial ring with their score and sound design for Between Us.

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Culture Warrior

In a recent article from The Atlantic, business journalist Derek Thompson poses several compelling questions about the business model of contemporary theatrical distribution. Why, he asks, must we pay the same for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol as we do for Young Adult at our local multiplex? Wouldn’t it make more sense if the comparably underperforming film, Young Adult, were distributed with lower ticket prices in order to cultivate greater competition against wintertime blockbusters, and thereby (perhaps) gain a slightly greater audience for a film whose appeal is limited by comparison? After all, movie studios don’t so much “give audiences what they want” as much as they calculate degrees success (if you don’t believe me, go ask your local AMC to bring A Separation or Carnage to your theater), so why don’t ticket prices reflect this already-transcribed fate? It’s an interesting scenario to imagine, but one that becomes more difficult to envision once one parses through the details. As the author points out in his #4 reason why we have “uniform pricing,” varied pricing would likely create an unwarranted stigma against less expensive films, much like straight-to-DVD films have. That said, two other assumptions informing Thompson’s provocative question warrant further exploration: 1) we as consumers already have varied pricing, and we have developed patterns of determining a film’s “worth” in our choosing of where and in what conditions we see a film, and 2) movies would largely benefit if the perceived value of the opening weekend lessened significantly.

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I spoke with John C. Reilly a few months ago for Terri, and now the seemingly always-working actor has two drastically different films coming out for the holiday season. While Terri was a humanistic and empathetic portrayal of naturally flawed people, Roman Polanski‘s Carnage is a cynical and full-blown satire of pretentious, childish adults. It is 79 minutes of characters slowly revealing their dark, immature, and somewhat understandable views. Reilly’s other film, We Need to Talk About Kevin, a mostly liked but slightly divisive film, is probably one of the most misunderstood movies of the year. Lynne Ramsay‘s film, as Reilly perfectly puts it, is meant to be taken almost as a dream. Very few scenes should be taken literally. I recently had the chance to discuss both films with Reilly, along with Roman Polanski’s specificity, the responsibilities of an actor, and when tools become human beings.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr goes rogue and infiltrates his local IMAX theater. First, he scales the wall of the plus-sized building and slides in undetected through the air vents. He slowly lowers himself into a theater seat to enjoy an early screening of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Unfortunately, he finds himself in the middle of a wild crowd of six-year-old kids for the early screening of the latest Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. To deal with the psychological damage, Kevin then stumbles into the Sherlock Holmes sequel and later finds an extra seat in Young Adult, where he can imagine that his chubby caboose could land a hottie like Charlize Theron.

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When I was given the opportunity to interview French composer Alexandre Desplat, the question wasn’t what I would ask him, it was how many questions I would be able to get in. One of the busiest composers in the business, just this year alone Desplat has created the scores for The Tree of Life, A Better Life, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Ides of March, Carnage, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and is already on deck to compose next year’s Moonrise Kingdom. Desplat first caught my attention a few years ago when I realized he was the composer behind both the quirky score for Fantastic Mr. Fox and the epic score for Twilight Saga: New Moon – two very different films with two very different musical tones. Having won Film Composer of the Year at the World Soundtrack Awards, it is clear that the rest of the world is starting to take notice as well. As this year comes to a close, I spoke with Desplat about what inspires him, his composing process, the differences between working on American and French films, and how he balances his various projects while keeping his passion for composing fresh with each go around.

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This is it: the final month of the year, a.k.a. the month to shell out as much cash as you got at the theaters. December is always the best and worst movie-going time. There’s so many damn pictures hitting the screens, and it’s the time where everyone’s running around, trying to get things done before the New Year. It’s wonderful, annoying chaos. This December is different, though. In fact, it’s going to be about 100 times more chaotic. Folks, if you plan on seeing all of the good to the “this will be up for Oscars, kid!” movies this month, plan on forking out a lot of dough. This is unquestionably the strongest month for films this year. Without further ado, here are the ones to end the year on a great note with:

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Being a parent is no easy task – when your child acts out or does something wrong, it’s hard not to take it as a personal reflection on yourself. In Carnage, after a playground altercation turns violent, the parents of the two boys involved decide to come together to try and come to a reasonable agreement on how to rectify the situation. What starts out as a civil conversation between the two parties quickly devolves into an honest and bitterly funny examination of not only each others’ parenting skills, but their marriages and even themselves as people. Based on Yasmina Reza‘s play, God of Carnage, director Roman Polanski takes the story to the big screen with four powerhouse performers who make being trapped in an apartment an engaging look at human nature you want to run away from, but at the same time are unable to tear your eyes from. After Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan Cowan’s (Christoph Waltz) son hits Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael Longstreet’s (John C. Reilly) son in the face with a stick, the parents decide to try and settle things like adults, but how they each think that should happen differs from person to person and those differences are eventually revealed when the Cowan’s (despite repeated efforts) find themselves unable to simply leave the Longstreet’s apartment.

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If you’ve been paying as much attention to the lineup for this year’s AFI FEST as the rest of us Rejects (read: quite a bit), you’ve surely noticed that the festival’s programming is packed with a number of films that have played some of the year’s biggest festivals. If you’re in Southern California, the Hollywood-based (and free) film festival will give you a chance to check out the same films that played at Cannes, Toronto, Berlin, Venice, New York, Fantastic Fest, Sundance, London, and more. It’s like traveling without leaving your own area code, or spending the cold, hard cash it would take to fly halfway around the world. Sounds pretty simple now, huh, shut-in? AFI FEST will run from November 3rd through the 10th in Hollywood, with all screenings taking place at The Chinese, the Chinese 6 Theatres, and the Egyptian Theatre. Tickets for all screenings are free (and available right HERE). The complete schedule grid is online for the festival, which you can check out HERE. After the break, check out 22 festival favorites (and a sampling of some of the other festivals they’ve played) that you may have missed throughout the year. Not sure if they’re worthy of clearing your AFI FEST schedule for? I’ve linked to all of our previous coverage, too, so you really have no excuse.

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As it turns out, I’ve been slightly remiss when it comes to praising this year’s 25th edition of AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi. I’ve tossed off comments about how the festival gets better with every passing year, but in the wake of today’s announcement of the festival’s Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings, I’ve realized that I have not gone far enough. AFI FEST has not just gotten better this year, the festival has made a dramatic jump to top-tier status, rolling out titles that play like a cinephile’s Christmas list for 2011. Today’s lineup announcement is essentially a “best-of” list of this year’s festival favorites, including Michel Hazanavicius‘s The Artist, Steve McQueen‘s Shame, Oren Moverman‘s Rampart, Lynne Ramsay‘s We Need to Talk About Kevin, Roman Polanski‘s Carnage, Simon Curtis‘s My Week with Marilyn, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, Gerardo Naranjo’s Miss Bala, and Wim Wenders‘s Pina. AFI FEST will run from November 3rd through the 10th in Hollywood, with all screenings taking place at The Chinese, the Chinese 6 Theatres, and the Egyptian Theatre. The best part? Tickets for all screenings are free (and available starting October 27). After the break, check out the full list, including descriptions and showtimes, of the films to be featured as AFI FEST Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings.

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Translating a limited-setting play to the screen can be tricky business – it’s not often that stage plays that take place in just one or two locations are suited for a cinematic interpretation. To put it simply – how can people sitting around in a room be compelling to a movie-going audience? Well, when the people sitting around that room are Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly, and they’re directed by Roman Polanski, it’s pretty compelling. Based on Yasmina Reza’s play “God of Carnage,” Polanski’s latest focuses on two couples, the Longstreets (as played by Foster and Reilly) and the Bowens (Winslet and Waltz), tossed together after the Bowens’ son gives a good face-wacking to the Longstreets’ boy. Attempting a cordial meeting to hash out the results of the brawl, the Bowens and the Longstreets end up making their kids look tame, as they all end up going positively bonkers. Check out just how bonkers in the second trailer for Carnage, after the break.

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Yasmina Reza’s Tony-winning play “God of Carnage” doesn’t inherently lend itself to cinema. With four characters interacting in a single setting, and a narrative centered on a thin symbolic conceit, it’s the sort of dialogue-heavy project that could easily be captured with a tedious cut-and-dry, shot-reverse-shot filmic approach. It’s fortunate, then, that Roman Polanski has taken it on in Carnage, and filled the roles with some of the most interesting actors around. Say what you will about Polanski the man, but Polanski the filmmaker has demonstrated an almost limitless aptitude for creative technique. Similarly, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz (four Oscar wins among them) have a preternatural gift for imbuing even the quietest moments with extraordinary, unconventional feeling. After young Zachary Cowan hits Ethan Longstreet with a stick during a playground brawl, knocking out two of Ethan’s teeth, the latter’s parents invite the former’s to their Brooklyn apartment to discuss the incident. Over the course of a tumultuous morning, Penelope and Michael Longstreet (Foster and Reilly) and Nancy and Alan Cowan (Winslet and Waltz) will spar, commiserate and touch on the essence of parenthood, manhood and the art of confronting modernity with a social conscience.

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Farce is not easy to do, which is why it’s a good thing that Roman Polanski got four formidable actors to take on the challenge of Carnage. Based on the play “God of Carnage” from Yasmina Reza, the film version features Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz as two couples (respectively) whose children have been in a schoolyard scrape. They meet for a conversation and all end up losing their minds over the situation. The wine probably helps, but watching everyone succumb to the outrage is hysterical – especially Reilly who pulls off layered, impotent rage like no man on this planet. What’s so great about this first look is that it isn’t funny in the way that, say, The Office is. There’s no passive aggressive awkwardness fueling the cringing feeling for the audience; the comedy comes straight from the breakdown. Bask in the glory of this fantastic trailer for yourself:

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Roman Polanski. Christoph Waltz. Jodie Foster. John C. Reilly. Kate Winslet. That list is solid enough to pique any interest, but the premise for Carnage is just as enticing, especially with its insinuation of heavy drama in a tight space. The catalyst is a playground fight between two children, and the story focuses on the parents of one combatant inviting the parents of the other over to have a discussion. Hopefully (and promisingly) it will go as poorly as possible. The acting talent here is unbelievable, which is good, because Polanski has never exactly been an actor’s director. Here, he’s got the talent teed up, and all he needs to do is give them a small house, plenty to fight about, and enough temperature to keep things going for the full run time. Courtesy of Twitch Film, a few shots have been released prior to the film’s showing at Venice, and the images look stark and severe. Great portraits of some of the best actors working today:

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Considering how much I like striped shirts, pasta, and films from controversial Greek directors, it looks like I may need to stow away in someone’s suitcase and get over to Italy next month for the 68th Venice Film Festival. The fest, which runs from August 31 to September 10, has just released their lineup for the year, and I may be speaking out of my macaroni here, but this batch of films really wets my noodle. Nathan already reported last month that George Clooney’s The Ides of March was likely to join the festival, and today’s announcement confirms that twofold – Ides will not only show at the festival, it will serve as opening night film. Other good stuff here includes Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (which has one of my favorite trailers of the year), Roman Polanski’s adaptation of play God of Carnage (shortened to Carnage), Ami Canaan Mann’s Texas Killing Fields, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, Steve McQueen’s Shame, Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse, Madonna’s W.E., Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, and Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos’s Alps. In short terms, this is an incredible lineup of films that I cannot even remotely snark on, because I would probably do something violent if it meant I could go to the festival. Check out the full list of films after the break.

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Don’t we all know John C. Reilly by now? Does he still need a long introduction? Reilly seems to pride himself on being one of the “that guys,” but in the film community, he couldn’t be further from simply being a face you vaguely recall from one of his many films; if you’re reading this, you probably know him. So what’s the point of listing off Magnolia, Gangs of New York, Boogie Nights, The Good Girl, Casualties of War, The Year of the Dog, Cyrus, Sydney, and Step Brothers? There is no reason, even though I just did. I talked to Reilly about a year ago for Cyrus, and I found him to be both thoughtful and subtlety funny. He’d take time with his responses and put things in a new perspective, like the possible laziness digital cameras provide a crew. And as for the funny part, he’d do little things that some could easily misunderstand as seriousness, like moving blinds to look intensely out a window as if he’s stuck in a paranoia thriller or discussing how the hotel smelled like a mixture of puke and cheese (it did…) This time around, he expressed the same thoughtfulness from that interview we did last year. It was a pleasant chat about the honesty he strives for with his characters, bringing yourself to material, and the intense specificity of Roman Polanski.

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