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This week’s Mad Men is called “Favors.” Which thematically, makes a lot of sense, as Bob does a favor for Pete via Manolo the male nurse, Peggy asks a late night favor of Stan, Don does a huge solid for Sylvia and the list goes on. But so much more happens. Being Mad Men, these favors are not exactly selfless ones. Though this episode in particular, written by Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner and directed by Jennifer Getzinger, did a lot to propel the show toward its season finale in two weeks. While there were a few drawbacks, it was a very dynamic Mad Men installment, boasting two brilliant standout scenes, amazing performances, and some show-changing events that up the stakes for the finale.

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Our boys at SCDP and CGC are allegedly operating as one entity, they even came up with an “equally offensive” new name of Sterling Cooper & Partners, though it’s hard to believe that either of the halves will ever function as a whole, as proved by this week’s episode, aptly titled “A Tale of Two Cities,” written by Janet Leahy and Matthew Weiner and directed by John Slattery. Separate forces divide and try to concur as they make meetings to reel in new accounts. But every man is for himself, naturally, and their motivations aren’t necessarily for the good of the firm as a whole. Maintaining the momentum of last week’s brilliant episode, this one perhaps equals it in overall quality and explores office politics versus more personal relationships. And parallelled with the office unrest are the riots at the Democratic National Convention. Don and Roger head to Los Angeles with Harry with the hopes to seal the deal with Carnation. While Don is uncharacteristically prepping on the plane, Roger tells him to stop, saying, “Our biggest challenge? Not getting syphilis.” So we know Roger’s main motivation for the trip. Don, however, is making an effort to be good where Megan is concerned, though that doesn’t stop him from making out with some actress at a hash party later.

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This week’s Mad Men, entitled “The Flood,” brings us to that pivotal point in history when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, viewing how the tragic event brought out the best and the worst in people. Some used the event to their gain or resented it for putting a stop to the normal routine. For others, it made them appreciate the important things in life, like family and friends. Written by showrunner Matthew Weiner and Tom Smuts and directed by Chris Manley, this week’s installment was hardly perfect – it had a few unusually cheesy moments – but it was thought-provoking and featured a powerhouse performance from Jon Hamm. The title of the episode comes from Ginsberg’s father saying, “In the flood, the animals went two-by-two,” as he sets his son up on a surprise dinner date with a comely teacher, eventually passing off MLK Jr.’s assassination as a good time to play matchmaker. The date goes pretty well – though Ginsberg is apparently a virgin – and the girl admits that she is also just going along for the matchmaking ride. While Ginsberg’s father helps to enunciate the episode’s theme – the quest to find companionship in a scary, uncertain wolrd – the Ginsberg home life is somewhat corny and melodramatic. Ginsberg sews for his father on a sewing machine! They bicker about dinner! And matchmaking! This tale of a Jewish émigré and his son holed up in a small apartment reads like something out of The Jazz Singer, […]

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The Walking Dead Blog

So, it would seem the prison is really close to Woodbury, right? If traveling to and from Woodbury is less than a day trip for Andrea? And given the high gates around each community and their respective surveillance abilities, why didn’t they notice each other way earlier? The logic behind The Walking Dead can be questioned for days on end, but at least this week’s episode, “I Ain’t A Judas,” had a theme – loyalty – and concluded with a Tom Waits song, which is always a major plus. Andrea questions her loyalty for The Governor versus Rick, and Daryl’s loyalty is questioned for his brother versus Rick. Rick also snapped out of the crazy, Daryl and Hershel rose up as leaders, and Milton was also featured, so, on the whole? With a few exceptions, namely involving Tyreese and his crew, this week was just fine.

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The Walking Dead Blog

Author’s Note: There were issues with my cable last night, hence why this is posting a bit late – I had to download the episode this morning. Barring further cable-related issues, future episode reviews will post Monday morning, per usual.  The Walking Dead returned last night after a midseason hiatus, and it came back with an above average episode, “The Suicide King,” directed by television director extraordinaire Leslie Linka Glatter, of Mad Men and Twin Peaks. This episode was important in the course of the show as some of the gang finally started to question the Ricktatorship and new leaders, other than Daryl, are beginning to emerge. There were some issues, but this return episode was successful on the whole as it planted seeds for many interesting happenings to come. Both Rick and the Governor lost their shit in front of their respective followers! The Dixon brothers are out on their own! Allen and Ben pose a threat to the group… kinda! And Beth is crushing hard on crazy Rick!

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Over Under - Large

Cameron Crowe is one of those directors who people just love. He’s made some stinkers along with with his good movies though, so when people talk to you about how much they love Cameron Crowe, generally what they mean is that they loved Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. Or maybe even Say Anything, if they’re old school. Generally speaking, however, Jerry Maguire is Crowe’s big hit. This Tom Cruise-starring tale of a sports agent who experiences a moral epiphany got great reviews, became part of the pop culture lexicon of the late ’90s, and made about five times as much as Crowe’s next best loved film…give or take a bunch of millions or so. To call it a success would be putting things lightly. Gore Verbinski is another director who’s amassed a pretty loyal following, despite having made a couple of stinkers. When people say that they like his movies, generally they mean that they’re into the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie or Rango, or maybe they might even mean Mouse Hunt, if they’re the hip sort who likes to go back to the deep cuts. Certainly they very rarely mean that they like his strange followup to his runaway Pirates success, 2005’s Nicolas Cage-starring The Weather Man. It got mixed-to-scathing reviews, didn’t make a blip on the pop culture radar, and brought in pretty much zero money. Which is weird because—oh, my God—it’s basically the best movie ever.

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Sometime around fifteen years ago, A Christmas Story was something of a modern cult classic. It was kind of amusing and kind of off-beat, and you could make a connection with someone if you mentioned it and it turned out you both liked it. Or, at least, that’s how it was where I grew up, which was the area of Northwest Indiana where the story was set. A funny thing happened in the late ’90s, though. TNT started playing the movie on cable for 24 hours straight during Christmas, the concept caught on, and now, thirteen years later, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know about Ralphie, his Red Rider BB gun, and Scut Farkus. But another funny thing happened, too. After so many years of repetition, the movie has started to feel a whole lot less quirky and fun. At this point, it’s probably the most overrated holiday movie ever, and all it takes is one person dropping quotes from it at a Christmas party to get me to make internal noises of frustration. Joe Dante’s Gremlins has had almost the exact opposite lifespan. It came out a year after A Christmas Story, was a pretty gigantic hit right away, and established itself as one of the iconic ’80s blockbusters quite quickly. But, over the course of the last couple decades, its influence has faded a bit. Despite the fact that the movie is set during Christmas, and is about the perfect Christmas present just as […]

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Holiday Gifts for Movie Lovers

We may be midway through December, but it’s not too late to be thinking about what to get for those movie lovers close to your heart. Speaking from personal experience, it’s oftentimes hard to surprise your movie lover with something, as they likely have every DVD you can think to get them, and what interests are more interesting than movies, anyway? Fear not – I’ve got a few week’s worth of good ideas that will delight even the biggest movie nerd with a variety of gifts that reach beyond the $5 DVD section at Target. Today, in a special edition, the idea is gifts inspired by your friends’ favorite movie characters. Either they’ll delight in the fact that these gifts remind them of their favorite films, or perhaps they resemble these characters in certain ways that would make these gifts a naturally good fit. Of course, self-gifting is never discouraged….

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Over Under - Large

What’s the one thing every rundown apartment that a college sophomore is sharing with his five best friends and every $30m mansion that a famous rapper lives in for five months out of the year have in common? The Scarface poster they have framed on the wall in the living room. There are a handful of gangster films that have become modern classics – The Godfather and Goodfellas being the other main two – but in recent years, Brian De Palma’s Scarface has really pulled ahead of the pack when it comes to pop culture relevance and awareness among a younger generation. Which kind of makes sense, seeing as The Godfather and Goodfellas are better-made films that deal with more mature themes and Scarface is the sort of empty, flashy nonsense that would appeal to young people and rappers. Really, at this point, should Scarface even be mentioned in the conversation of great modern gangster movies anymore? It’s got a lot of issues. Jacques Audiard’s 2009 prison epic, Un prophète, isn’t necessarily underrated in the sense that the people who saw it didn’t like it, but it’s underrated in the sense that not nearly enough people, at least in the United States, have seen it. Here we have one of those rare films that is just artsy enough to be respected by film snobs and just entertaining enough to be enjoyed by more casual audiences that it could conceivably become a perennial top contender when it comes to widely agreed […]

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The Walking Dead Blog

Editor’s Note: These blog entries are meant to be a discussion of the most current episode of The Walking Dead, so we recommend you watch said episode before reading to avoid spoilers. Keep your eyes peeled for them every Monday morning. On last week’s episode, The Governor was revealed to have a zombie daughter, Michonne left Andrea behind at Woodbury, Rick went into shock after Lori’s death, and Daryl and Maggie went on the search for baby formula. This week’s installment, “Hounded,” was another inconsistent one – somewhat of a mash-up between an existential one man show, a middle-aged romance film, and violent revenge flick. Revenge flick worked… the others didn’t… although this episode is important in setting up the eventual coming together of Rick and The Governor, finally marrying the prison and Woodbury. Fingers crossed the payoff will be worthwhile.

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Over Under - Large

The 90s were a dark decade for fun stuff aimed at teens and tweens. Grunge music and gangsta rap ruled the airwaves, and young people were into acting sullen and disturbed. Any entertainment that could be considered kiddie or corporate was rejected outright in favor of culture stuff that was gritty and dark. But, by 1999, change was in the air. The prevailing trends of the decade had run their course, boy bands and Britney Spears started showing up on the radio, and the first movie that attempted to bring back the raunchy teenage sex comedy, American Pie, became a runaway success that launched a long-lived, multi-film franchise. Kurt Cobain was dead, long live Stifler. In 2005 Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale got a lot of attention in the world of indie and art films, much of it due to the performance of its lead actor, a young kid named Jesse Eisenberg. Over the next few years Eisenberg’s fame rose as he accrued another handful of indie credits, and eventually his career hit a peak when he anchored a mainstream horror comedy in Zombieland, and then got to work with one of the biggest directors in the business, David Fincher, on The Social Network. After Eisenberg played Zuckerberg it was official, the guy was a bonafide celebrity. But, despite his fame, one of his earliest films, 2002’s Roger Dodger, still hasn’t been seen by very many people, and very rarely gets brought up even in film geek circles, […]

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The Walking Dead Blog

Editor’s Note: These blog entries are meant to be a discussion of the most current episode of The Walking Dead, so we recommend you watch said episode before reading to avoid spoilers. Keep your eyes peeled for them every Monday morning. On last week’s episode, Andrea and Michonne happened upon The Governor and his dystopian community of Woodbury, where Andrea was reunited with Merle. Andrea was swayed by The Governor’s charms, while Michonne remained skeptical. The Governor killed a bunch of National Guards, and was revealed to be keeping zombie heads in many fish tanks. This week’s installment, “The Killer Within,” brings us the deaths of two main characters and juxtaposes the two The Walking Dead universes of Rick/The Prison and The Governor/Woodbury. This makes for quite the eventful and perhaps a somewhat cluttered episode as so much is jammed into one and certain happenings are perhaps worthy of more attention than they received here. We open with a mysterious party baiting zombies into the prison with cut-up deer carcass pieces. Can it be whoever was watching Rick et al in the prison in that long shot the other week? Probably!

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Editor’s Note: These blog entries are meant to be a discussion of the most current episode of The Walking Dead, so we recommend you watch said episode before reading to avoid spoilers. Keep your eyes peeled for them every Monday morning. On last week’s episode, Rick wasted some prisoners, he and Lori pretty much got a verbal divorce, and that pesky Carl slipped away without anyone noticing to get medical supplies. Oh yeah – and Hershel is still kickin’. A recap of last week has little to do with this week’s installment, however, seeing as we are completely taken outside of the prison milieu as we follow the ongoing adventures of Andrea and Michonne and how they become entangled with The Governor (well-played by David Morrissey of Basic Instinct 2 fame). While Michonne and Andrea remain flawed, this week’s episode – “Walk With Me” – succeeded on many levels where last week’s did not. New and very interesting characters were introduced in The Governor and Dallas Robert’s Milton, Season One’s Merle came back to serve up some redneck badassness in his brother Daryl’s absence, and some of the principle characters actually came off as multilayered. This episode also does it darndest to deliver the desired gore factor. The Governor is also a more-than-formidable foe for Rick down the line – he also is aware that everyone is infected – and perhaps has the advantage of being somewhat of a sociopath.

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Over Under - Large

By the time 1993 rolled around, Tim Burton already had projects like Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands under his belt, and had firmly established himself as an auteur director of quirky, weird films. It was probably that year’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – a movie that Burton produced and didn’t even direct – that firmly established him as being a filmmaker with a cult of personality following, and has become his most enduring work, however. A stop-motion animated feature directed by Henry Selick (with strong creative input from Burton) and produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, The Nightmare Before Christmas mixed up Halloween and Christmas imagery in iconic ways (Mickey Mouse has his fingers in all the holiday pies), it captured the imaginations of an entire generation, and it can still be seen advertised all over the backpacks and binders of eyeliner wearing teenagers to this day. That same year another Halloween-themed family film came out of another wing of the Disney conglomerate called Hocus Pocus. But, despite that fact that it starred a trio of actresses who were fairly big names at the time, it hasn’t enjoyed nearly as much attention over the years as Nightmare. And, unless you happen to be a devotee of the movie Newsies (which I know some of you are), chances are you’ve never heard of its director, Kenny Ortega. Sure, Hocus Pocus still gets played on the Disney channel around Halloween every year, as it’s probably cheap programming for the company, but […]

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Over Under - Large

Sidney Lumet’s 1975 tale of a bank robbery gone bad, Dog Day Afternoon, is not only considered to be a high point in the careers of both its director as well as its star, Al Pacino, it’s also considered to be one of the key films that was a part of the New Hollywood movement, which started in the late ’60s and continued through to the blockbusters of the 80s. New Hollywood was all about a generation of filmmakers making films that were artsier, grittier, and more experimental than most commercial fare, all from within the confines of the studio system. But while Dog Day Afternoon and its tale of cross-dressing and violent crimes certainly looks at home under that classification, is it really good enough to be mentioned in the same breath as stuff like Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather, or Mean Streets? The early ’90s saw one of the biggest boom periods in the history of sketch comedy mainstay Saturday Night Live. Cast members like Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Adam Sandler, and Chris Farley led the show to probably its most critically successful period since the original cast, and pretty much everyone on the show went on to become a star in film. Out of all of these talented comedians, however, none became quite as successful as Sandler. After starring in Billy Madison in 1995, he was off to the races, earning big paychecks, pulling in big box office dollars, and gobbling up media attention. Some of his […]

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Over Under - Large

Since its original release in 1972, Ronald Neame’s The Poseidon Adventure has gained the reputation of being a modern classic. And, certainly, it’s widely considered as being one of the preeminent disaster movies of all time. Set on a retiring ocean liner making its last voyage, The Poseidon Adventure tells the story of a New Year’s Eve celebration that gets interrupted by the sinking of a ship. It’s got a pretty impressive upside down ballroom set, it prominently features the legendary Gene Hackman, and it tells a high stakes story of survival. So it’s not hard to see why people like it. But it’s also largely just a movie where a group of confused people stumble around in dirty access panels and anonymous hallways for much of its run time. Is it really so great that watching it should be a New Year’s Eve tradition like many have made it out to be? Especially when there are indisputable classics like The Apartment out there that also feature New Year’s Eve party scenes? James Cameron’s Titanic is a sappy, on-the-nose romance set against the maiden voyage (and sinking) of the infamous RMS Titanic. Upon its release in 1997, Titanic won basically every award that was given out, brought in every bit of spare cash that was sitting in anyone’s pocketbooks, and captured the attention of the media machine to the point that, by the time 1998 rolled around, the backlash for the film had almost reached the same levels of fervor […]

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Over Under - Large

Being John Malkovich was an amazing success story upon its 1999 release. Not only was it a critical darling that got nominated for a bunch of awards, but it also successfully launched the big screen careers of a music video director named Spike Jonze and a lowly TV writer named Charlie Kaufman. In case you didn’t know, those guys have gone on to be big names, and Being John Malkovich earns quite the pedigree by being the start of their careers. On a personal level, I walked out of the movie in ’99 shocked at how unique and inventive it was, and loving how it melded progressive filmmaking with a comic sensibility. Revisiting it all these years later though, I realize it hasn’t aged as well as I’d hoped, and I find myself wondering if it still deserves the level of reverence that it gets. Mabrouk El Mechri’s 2008 film JCVD didn’t get near as much buzz or recognition as something like Being John Malkovich. Maybe that’s because a big chunk of it wasn’t in English, or maybe it’s because it just wasn’t as good—that’s debatable. But the opinion that it showed us a different side of its star, Jean-Claude Van Damme, was pretty universal, and it seemed like it was going to be something of a rebirth for the action star’s career. It’s four years later though, and nothing has really come of it. The man has still been largely relegated to straight-to-video action movies, and any of the […]

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Over Under - Large

In 2011, director Tate Taylor adapted Kathryn Stockett’s novel “The Help,” a story about the relationship between the wealthy whites and the poor blacks who raised their children of 60s-era Mississippi, into a feature film. When all was said and done, Taylor’s film made nearly ten times its production budget, was nominated for a truckload of awards (including 8 NAACP Image Awards and 4 Academy Awards), and had everyone’s aunts and grandmas talking their ears off about how much they wanted to go see it. To say that it ended up being a success would be something of an understatement. The Landlord is the debut of director Hal Ashby, one of the great ’70s filmmakers who, for some reason, doesn’t get the same recognition as many of his contemporaries. It earned Lee Grant a nomination for Best Supporting Actress back in the day, but it’s a film (like most of Ashby’s work not named Harold and Maude) that’s been generally forgotten over time. This is strange, because not only is it a great film that pushes some racial hot-buttons, but it also features a couple of actors who went on to do big things in Beau Bridges and Lou Gossett Jr.

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Private Eye Movie

Netflix continues to impress with its wide range of titles added each week. In the past two weeks alone there have been some solid documentaries, thrillers, comedies and independent film that have been made available. Lets take a look at a detective story from South Korea and also make a stop in Montana for a intimate documentary about identity.

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Over Under - Large

Ever since names like Spielberg and Lucas brought us the first summer blockbusters back in the 70s, film fans have slowly morphed into film fanatics. And perhaps the pinnacle of this phenomenon is the cult of personality that has developed around Christopher Nolan since he gave us his wildly successful interpretation of the Batman universe, The Dark Knight. Whether it was because of Heath Ledger’s electric performance as the Joker, Nolan’s realist approach to the material, or the sheer scope of the action, something about this Batman movie captured the attention and adoration of hordes of fans in a way that no other adaptation of the character’s story has before; and Batman has been one of the most popular fictional characters in our shared culture for at least half a century now. But one thing about The Dark Knight that I don’t hear mentioned all that much anymore is that it wasn’t Nolan’s first go-around with the character. Everything that was paid off in that film was set up, three years earlier, in the director’s first attempt at tackling a superhero story, Batman Begins. Not only was this movie successful enough at the box office to spawn a very well funded sequel, but it’s the film that’s actually responsible for bringing us Nolan’s grounded and relatable vision of the character. This was the film that revitalized a property whose big screen potential had been tarnished, and it gets treated like it doesn’t even exist when fans gush over their love […]

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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.14.2014
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