Dennis Hopper

Easy Rider Perfect Summer Movie

Every week this summer we’ll be exploring movies that are perfect for the season. Cinematic stories for watching in a cool, dark room while it’s sunny outside. If there’s an ultimate lesson in Easy Rider, it’s to do your own thing in your own time. The movie tosses out that koanistic nugget right up front when Captain America and Billy (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) praise a farmer for taking control of his own destiny by living off the land. He does as he likes with a massive blue sky overhead, and they dig that. For our heroes, applying that lesson means smuggling drugs in their motorcycle gas tank in order to achieve the financial solvency necessary to live more comfortably, although it’s unclear how much more comfortable they can get. They ride, you know, easy. Gasoline costs money, but otherwise the farmland-hopping duo seems set as they roll on through God’s Country toward New Orleans. Summer is freedom, and this film’s got freedom in spades.

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waterworldtruth-2

As the year comes to a close, many people are assembling their best and worst of the year lists. This can also inspire people to look back at some of the best and worst of previous years. While Kevin Costner’s infamous 1995 box office behemoth Waterworld is fondly remembered by some (evidenced by the possibly surprising RottenTomatoes score of 43%), most people remember it for its cost overruns and ballooning budget that threatened to break Universal’s bank. (Spoiler alert: Even though Waterworld was famous for its massive budget that wasn’t even remotely recouped at the U.S. box office, it eventually broke even with international numbers, home video sales, and other ancillary revenue streams.) I fall in the column of people who thought the film was a bit of a turkey. Sure, it was impressive in some respects, but the story and characters weren’t enough to keep me interested. There was also this little thing called “science” that bothered me throughout the film. This wasn’t a sticking point for other famous flops from the 90s like Cutthroat Island, The 13th Warrior, and Costner’s other albatross The Postman. Those really weren’t science fiction per se. But Waterworld was. And looking back almost twenty years, that got me thinking: How realistic were the events of Waterworld?

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true romance hopper

Tony Scott‘s True Romance is probably one of my top ten all-time favorite movies, which is kind of weird since Badlands is one of my top five all-time favorite films. Or maybe it’s appropriate that this is the case. I’m sure that one of the reasons I fell in love with this movie is because of how directly it’s inspired by and references the earlier Terrence Malick film. Notice I make the distinction between movies and films. Scott made movies, Malick makes films. Scott also made a movie I like that directly references another of my all-time favorite films (Enemy of the State –> The Conversation). I was sad when Scott died particularly because I was hoping he’d eventually cover all my top shelf titles (just imagine what he could have done with Duck Soup!). Then again, maybe he’d have just redone himself, the way he did with Domino, which is like a bad remake of True Romance. Anyway, True Romance turns 20 years old this week. Warner Bros. released the movie on September 10, 1993, and it came in at #3 for its opening weekend, behind reigning champ The Fugitive and fellow newcomer Undercover Blues (uh?). In honor of the anniversary, let’s take a look at some scenes we love. It was hard to narrow down, of course, so we went with major character moments.

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Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper is fucking awesome. I use the present tense there because the man, though gone, is eternal. At least when it comes to his art. He definitely had some experiences. Several that no one could be proud of, but he also came to represent a free wheeling sensibility that came with defying the establishment while learning from it. The man’s resume remains formidable (and it will only continue to grow with more “Very Special Thanks” entries). So instead of listing his best movies, take your pick. You can probably name 10 you love just off the top of your head. There are a ton of them. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a real easy rider.

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The moviegoing world was saddened earlier this week when it was learned director Tony Scott had died. Despite the manner of his death, it’s no less sad when a filmmaker such as Scott, who continued making films well into his 60, had many more films to helm. We felt it was time to hear some filmmaking insight from the man himself, which leads us to True Romance. The movie itself is a modern classic, an energetic tale of love, drugs, and a whole bunch of bullets courtesy of fledgling – at the time – screenwriter Quentin Tarantino. He also provides a commentary for the film, a rarity for the Pulp Fiction writer/director, but we’ll cover that another time. This is Tony Scott’s time, and here, without further ado, are all the things we learned listening to him speak about his film, True Romance.

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Criterion Files

Of the 600+ films in The Criterion Collection, almost 200 are listed as from the United States. While not all of these films are explicitly thematically based  around life in the US, the American selections for the Collection do make up a mosaic of diverse perspectives on life in this country, proving that there is no sustainable solitary understanding of what it means to be an “American,” but there exists instead an array of possibilities for interpreting American identity. What the American films do have in common, though, is provide proof that excellent films have been made in the US for quite some time. So, after exhausting yourself with Independence Day Parades, firecracker-lighting, and Budweiser, settle down with a great American movie. Here are a dozen great titles from the Criterion Collection about “America” and “freedom” in the many senses of those terms.

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Over Under - Large

If one were to conduct a scientific study meant to determine what the most successful action movie of the 90s was, chances are pretty dang good that Speed would be near the top of the candidates for consideration. A success both financially and critically, this high-octane tale of a bomb on a perpetually moving bus solidified Keanu Reeves as one of Hollywood’s go-to leading men, launched the gigantic career of Sandra Bullock, and even gave its director, Jan de Bont, a success to add to his resume. All of that should be enough to solidify Speed’s place as one of the most important 90s action movies already, and we haven’t even factored in how it also managed to introduce the phrase, “Pop quiz, hotshot,” into the cultural lexicon. So, pop quiz, hotshot: Die Hard was the greatest action movie ever made, but its sequel, Die Hard 2, was a derivative bore churned out by one of the most prolific manufacturers of schlock of the last few decades, Renny Harlin. What do you do? You get the director of the original, the inimitable John McTiernan, to come back for the third film, Die Hard With a Vengeance. DHWAV, from what I can tell, isn’t hated. It’s widely considered to be the second-best entry in the Die Hard franchise, it certainly made its makers some money, and it doesn’t get derided as the death of the franchise like the belated fourth sequel, Live Free or Die Hard, does. But it doesn’t get […]

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With the entire original run of The Twilight Zone available to watch instantly, we’re partnering with Twitch Film to cover all of the show’s 156 episodes. Are you brave enough to watch them all with us? The Twilight Zone (Episode #106): “He’s Alive” (airdate 1/24/63) The Plot: A street-corner neo-Nazi grows disillusioned with the quality of the crowds who listen to his fascist rants before beating the sauerkraut out of him. Then he meets the ghost of man much more adept at raising a furor among the masses. The Goods: Pete the Nazi (Dennis Hopper) is getting pretty sick of seeing his message of hate ignored by people who’d rather beat him up than buy into his rhetoric. The latest incident leaves him with a busted lip and a bad case of depression, but at his lowest moment he receives a very special visitor. The man stays hidden in the shadows, but he speaks with authority about how to engage the people by identifying with their fears. Pete listens and learns, and soon he’s drawing the crowds and the respect he’s always wanted. But then the mysterious man in silhouette begins giving Pete orders. And telling him to kill the kindly old Jew who’s been like a father to Pete since he was a boy.

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Over Under: A New Perspective on Films New and Old

Hoosiers is one of those films that somehow finds a way to strike a chord with nearly everyone who watches it. There are some movies that are just mainstream right down to their DNA. There’s this, there’s The Shawshank Redemption, maybe a Forrest Gump; they get mentioned as people’s favorite movies with far greater frequency than anything else. And I’m not talking about cinema buffs when I say people, I’m talking about your grandma, the guy who works on your car, the grandma that works on your car. You know, regular people.  Since it contains one of the big starring roles of Gene Hackman’s career and it was directed by David Anspaugh, who repeated his success at telling an Indiana sports tale with Rudy, that should probably come as no surprise. Disney is maybe the most mainstream production company in the movie business. From the very beginning they’ve focused on creating wholesome entertainment that the whole family can enjoy together.  In the early 90s one of those attempts at making movies for the whole family was Cool Runnings, a John Candy starring bobsled movie that most people might describe as a “guilty pleasure.” It gets lumped in with other 90s sports movies that Disney made like The Mighty Ducks and Air Bud, movies that you can look back at with nostalgia, but if you were to watch them today would look about as ridiculous as a team of Jamaicans showing up to the Winter Olympics with a bobsled.

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Criterion Files

As a relatively young person, far too young to speak meaningfully about an important era of American culture, it’s difficult for me to ascribe any sense of value even unto my own words about a picture that encapsulates and represents an alternate ideology of real American freedom than what we consider as being truly “free.” When we think of freedom we think of rights and when we think of American we think of the dream. We have the right to be happy and we have the freedoms to pursue it.

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Criterion Files

For the rest of the summer, Adam and Landon will be focusing on films included in the Criterion Collection released by the legendary BBS Production Company whose anti-establishment films rocked the world of Hollywood in the late 1960s and early 1970s. So dust of your old LPs, set out on the highway, and embrace your countercultural sensibilities with one of the most eccentric and essential stories of New Hollywood. When rummaging through the Criterion Collection’s available box sets, one thing becomes abundantly clear: the serious and traditional role that authorship has played in forming both the Collection and its reputation. Whether it’s five films by John Cassavetes, Sergei Eisenstein’s sound years, or Truffaut’s cinematic adventures of Antoine Doinel, the Collection places the director as the primary author of the text, just as they do when ascribing possession to individual titles (“Orson Welles’s F for Fake,” for instance). Then came the BBS set, which frames authorship to a group of films not because of the signatures of the directors who made each individual title, but as a group effort through the umbrella of a production company. BBS may refer specifically to Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner, but the talent pool that determined the artistic output of this company was hardly exclusive to them, incorporating the then-young talents of Dennis Hopper, Peter Bogdanovich, Jack Nicholson, and Henry Jaglom. None of these figures solely inhabited clear and exclusive occupational signposts like “writer,” “director,” “producer,” or “actor,” but a combined contributions to […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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Every Sunday, Film School Rejects presents a movie that was made before you were born and tells you why you should like it. This week, Old Ass Movies presents the story of a gritty ranch hand who makes it big with black gold, a feud between two families, and the emptiness of wealth in making a man complete. No one drinks anyone else’s milkshake, but a bunch of wine bottles get smashed. So do a lot of lives.

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I believe it was Robinson Crusoe who once said “Fess up, Friday” after discovering a urine puddle on his straw shack’s linoleum floor. As revolutionary as that statement was almost three hundred years ago, it took a young man by the name of William B. Goss to bring it into the digital age. Thanks to his initiative, #fessupfriday is the most-used hashtag in Twitter’s four decades of existence. There are certain movies that every cinephile should have seen, but only the brave foolhardy movie lovers immune to ridicule actually admit to the acknowledged classics that have so far eluded them. Which brings me to Francis Ford Coppola’s epic Vietnam adventure, Apocalypse Now. #fessupfriday

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Junkfood Cinema: Super Mario Bros

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; the burning means it’s working. This is the weekly movie column that does its small part to battle piracy by highlighting several films no one in their right mind would ever want to download.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we mourn the loss of Dennis Hopper and do a three-word review of Sex and the City 2.

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The world has lost a cinematic rule-breaker. What’s your favorite Dennis Hopper film?

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Our Culture Warrior Landon Palmer digs into next month’s Cannes line up so you won’t have to. Learn what to look out for when they hit the states and feign sounding cultured at parties!

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Don

It’s been a year of comebacks, so we decided to take a look at a few stars who’ve made it all the way back from the void and a few that haven’t.

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Kevin Costner and Madeline Carroll look how I feel about Swing Vote

I guess that being a cynical bastard like myself, I just couldn’t swallow the plot.

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