Double Indemnity

WellGo USA

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Confession of Murder A serial killer ends his reign of terror and disappears into the night, but years later when the statute of limitations runs out on the crimes a man comes forward to claim responsibility and sell some books. He becomes an overnight sensation with the media, but the detective that worked the original case is none too pleased with the man’s newfound celebrity. The victims’ families are equally unhappy and set about making their own justice, and soon all manner of shenanigans are in play. Jung Byung-gil‘s action/thriller is an ecstatically energetic and deliriously entertaining flick that moves effortlessly between beautifully choreographed chase/fight scenes, heart-rending drama and purely comedic interactions. The story gets a bit silly at times, but it’s never less than invigorating and exciting. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, you should at least listen to the cover blurb calling it “One hell of a ride.” [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes, interviews, trailer]

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Culture Warrior

Tomorrow, the Sacha Baron Cohen-starring, Larry Charles-directed The Dictator opens. Unlike the previous two docu-prank collaborations between Charles and Cohen, the humor of the fully staged Dictator doesn’t so much rely on the reactions of ‘real people’ to an idiosyncratic foreigner as it uses its fish-out-of-water arc to chronicle the pseudo-enlightened changes that its eponymous character experiences (this is all based on the film’s advertising – I have yet to see it). With its riches-to-rags narrative, The Dictator seems to be the newest iteration of a long tradition in Hollywood comedy: the story of the redeemable asshole. It’s rather appropriate that the teaser trailer for Anchorman 2 will be premiering in front of The Dictator.  Will Ferrell has made the redeemable asshole into something of an art form in his collaborations with Adam McKay. Ferrell’s often narcissistic, privileged, ignorant, and empathy-challenged creations should, by any measure of any other genre (audiences are far less tolerant of asshole protags in, say, dramedys) be reviled by audiences. But we ultimately find something redeemable, even lovable, in Ferrell’s jerks, even if this surface-level redemption overshadows the fact that they never quite achieve the level of self-awareness that would actually redeem one from assholedom. These are characters we would likely avoid in nearly any real-life circumstance, but yet we go see movies about them learning life lessons which add up to little more than common knowledge for the rest of us. The redeemable asshole is often a white male who is conniving, manipulative, entitled, […]

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There are few directors that had a career like Billy Wilder‘s. There are probably none that reached his level of skill and notability while staying as diverse as a storyteller. The man did drama and comedy with equal acuity, but his dominance of filmmaking almost didn’t happen. Born in what is now present-day Poland, Wilder left for Paris during the initial rise of the Nazi party in Germany and soon left for the States. He got out early, yes, but it’s difficult to think about the magic he’s delivered without being reminded that but for a few years he may have found himself a victim of the fear-mongering and murder that befell European Jews at the height of Hitler. Fortunately, he did get out and did go on to craft some of the best scripts and movies of the era (and, you know, of all time). His breakout was writing the hilarious Best Picture nominee Ninotchka; success he translated into a fruitful writing/directing career which produced a truckload of notable classics like Double Indemnity, A Foreign Affair, Lost Weekend, Sunset Blvd., Stalag 17, Some Like It Hot, The Seven Year Itch, The Apartment, Witness for the Prosecution, Sabrina and more. The man was seriously prolific. With six Oscars and a ridiculous list of incredible films under his belt, he’s a perfect director to take a few tips from. So here it is, a bit of free film school (for filmmakers and fans alike) from a legend.

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Have you ever sat at coffee shop, minding your own business and munching on a tasty croissant, when pleasantly and unexpectedly a handsome man or beautiful lady sits down across from you? If life were a movie, one of you would drop something, reach to pick it up at the same time, and charmingly knock heads. Engaging conversation would ensue, you’d fall madly in love, music would swell, and credits would roll like the tears down your movie-self’s cheek. Le sigh and scene. But like movies are oft to show, so much sexual passion can just as easily bring out the evil in characters as it does the good. Movie love can be so intense it borders on destructive, and a budding couple’s sanity can unravel before the audience’s eyes as the story reaches its climax. Sex unites the couple and keeps them together longer than it rationally should, until both partners become weaved so heavily in a tangle of sex-caused insanity neither can see where reality and delusion lie.

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doubleindemnityposter

What begins as a standard sales visit about car insurance renewal, slowly builds piece by piece into a tale of infatuation, intrigue and murder.

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