Four Lions

peter-sellers-as-dr-strangelove

It was released 50 years ago this week, but as Dr. Strangelove‘s cryptic closing ditty promised, we do indeed meet again. Stanley Krubick‘s 1964 Cold War satire has reached the half-century mark, and for this writer and many others it remains a constantly-revisited favorite cinematic exercise in Kubrick’s storied career. Now we have received orders from C2 to execute Operation: Longevity, a highly classified mission to highlight those elements of Dr. Strangelove that provide for its continued relevance to a post-Cold War society. Classified as much as any freely-available internet editorial can be … so not at all. Dr. Strangelove‘s legacy is a funny thing, or more accurately its legacy is engrained in its use of humor. Indeed all comedies strive for humor — reference for such revelatory claims can be verified in the New England Journal of Obviousness – but Kubrick’s use of humor to tell this particular story is both innovative and staggeringly bold. The film serves as the premier satire of the Cold War, a tense period of sabre-rattling and missile-measuring between the stubborn superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union. Hey, if there is any subject guaranteed to elicit laughter, it’s mutually assured destruction.

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Being funny is never easy, especially when you’re being funny about unfunny things. As far as dark humor goes, death is actually a rather simple topic to cover. However once you start getting into the meaning of death, or mass genocide, or the afterlife, that’s when things start getting a little tricky. Sometimes you have to stop worrying about offending the people who won’t get it and start worrying about entertaining the people who will. So here are some movies that, no matter what your feelings on them are, managed to successfully make a mockery out of something quite serious.

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Culture Warrior

There will inevitably be a movie about the mission to kill Osama bin Laden – this much is certain. Recent news has established that Kathryn Bigelow might be the first to try to put into play one of several projects related to last week’s assassination amongst several that are being shopped around. The reasoning is clear, as the material lends itself inherently to cinematic expression. The mission itself, in short, feels like a movie. Whether or not this movie (or movies) will have anything to say beyond what we already know and think and feel is unknown and, in Cole Abaius’s terms, it will be difficult for such projects to escape an inherent potential to come across as a shameless “cash-in.” My personal prediction is that the first movie that arises from bin Laden’s death will, at best, be an exciting procedural that visualizes an incident we are currently so invested in and preoccupied with. But I doubt that anything released so soon will remotely approach a full understanding of bin Laden’s death as catharsis for American citizens, as a harbinger for change in the West’s relationship to the Middle East and the Muslim world, as a precedent for the possible fall of al Qaeda, etc. In short, we won’t be able to express cinematically (or in any other medium, for that matter) what the death of bin Laden means until the benefits of time and hindsight actually provide that meaning. This is why I think any movies about Osama […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

I will forgo the usual intro after a two-week hiatus from writing this column and simply apologize. Beside last week being the week of SXSW, I don’t have a very good reason why this is the first Blu-ray column of March. Well, there was a general malaise about the titles being released in the month’s first few weeks, but we all know that’s no good reason to shirk my duties as chief high definition prognosticator. So we’re back this week with a few really great releases, including March’s best release as Pick of the Week, a spectacular entry into the Criterion Collection and a few really bad movies that I loved. Take that, common sense! Four Lions Any release calendar junkies among you may be quick to cite the fact that Four Lions streeted on March 8, two weeks prior to the writing of this column. You’d be right — it’s not one of this week’s release. But with a dearth of great titles hitting shelves this Tuesday, combined with my absence from this column’s helm for the past two weeks, I thought it to be more than appropriate to celebrate one of last year’s finest comedies. Terrorism. It’s funny when you look at it through the lens of director Chris Morris. It’s hilarious when you strap explosives to crows and dress up in Ninja Turtles costumes lined with C4. It’s enthralling and insightful when it wants to be, as well. It’s the rare kind of flick that has something […]

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This Week in DVD

Not a lot going on this week aside from a limited number of titles in the ‘Avoid’ category (hurray for quality!), so I’m going to take a moment to address a comment from last week. Basically there was a question of my recommending titles I hadn’t seen followed by a sly accusation of me taking payoffs from the labels. Now, my initial response was to politely explain the thought process behind my recommendations and remind readers that I don’t get paid by labels, vendors, or reps to cover their product. I also pointed out that the titles I haven’t actually seen are marked clearly by the preface “Haven’t seen this one yet…” followed by my reasoning for recommending it as one to rent or avoid. But in the grand scheme of things I should probably have just ignored it. This is the internet after all and everything you read online should be taken with a grain of virtual salt. For all you know I’m a chimpanzee who types this column with my ballsack in between games of whoflungpoo with the panda next door. At worst this column is simply a list of newly released DVDs, and at best some of you have come to trust my suggestions. It’s opinionated information, hopefully with a few laughs, and nothing more. If you made it this far thanks for reading. Now be sure to buy the titles below via the Amazon links so I can afford to buy another 3-D Blu-ray player for […]

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, Rob Hunter drops by to help us countdown our favorites of 2010 while looking forward to the New Year’s Resolutions the filmmakers of the future should adhere to. Out with old, in with the old. Plus, we would have found time to review the releases of the week if there were any. We can’t wait for the executives to get back to work, either. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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As I expressed earlier in the week as our 2010 Year in Review began, I take it as a great honor that I am able to put together my list of the Best Films of the Year as part of my Editor’s Picks entry. And while I’m a massive fan of my own perspective and opinions, I’m an even bigger fan of the writing and ever-diverse tastes of the Film School Rejects reviewing staff. These are the folks who, through their sensational (and often divisive) review-writing, keep you coming back for more each and every day. They travel the world and brave the crowds at festivals, conventions, preview screenings and special events to bring you some of the industry’s sharpest, most honest film coverage. And I for one am honored to have them all on this team. Just as I did last year, I couldn’t wait to see which films each writer would put on their Top 5 lists as the best films of the year. And just as they did last year, they didn’t disappoint with their unique, ever-fascinating selections. So read on dear reader, as we present the crown jewel of our 2010 Year in Review: The Staff Picks.

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Welcome to my list of the best foreign films of the year! In case you’re wondering why certain films appear to be missing there are a few factors to take into account. First, films like Mother, A Prophet, The Good the Bad the Weird, and The Secret In Their Eyes are movies that made previous lists. Second, I haven’t seen everything that was released this year. And third, your favorite foreign release from 2010 may actually have been a piece of shit. I kid. But seriously, these are my picks for the ten best foreign language movies of the year in alphabetical order. As a bonus I’ve added in the five best English language foreign films for you as well. I know. You’re welcome. (Full reviews for all of the titles below can be found via our Reviews database, and my weekly excursions into foreign films can be found here.)

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One of my favorite non-starters for articles is the very bland “as you may know.” There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ve seen me use it in the past (I’m doing it again right now). So when I thought about how to begin this year’s top ten article, I wanted to begin by saying “as you may know, one of my great honors around here is to deliver my list of the ten best films of the year.” But you may not know how much of an honor that really is. In fact, it’s difficult for me to put into words how honored I feel to have anyone read this at all, let alone the scores of readers we see on a daily basis here at Film School Rejects. It’s safe to say that I speak for everyone here when I say that I am deeply honored by the opportunity just to write about film. You, the reader, offer that to us every day with your patronage. So my hope is that I can do you proud, dear reader, as I present my list of the ten best films of 2010. This year saw a great deal of personal turmoil for me, meaning some movie-watching blind spots. But some late-year scrambling has pushed my total films seen number well north of 200. And of those 200 or so eligible films, whittling it down to ten wasn’t quite as difficult as it’s been in recent years. Does that mean that […]

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Culture Warrior

Warning: This article contains spoilers regarding the ending of Four Lions. You have been warned (hence, y’know, the whole “Warning” thing). Almost exactly one year ago, on December 25, 2009, 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 headed from Amsterdam to Detroit. The mission, as we all know, failed. The incident regarding the man who became known as the “underwear bomber” is one that has understandably been met with fascination in the media. The incident proved fodder material in discourse amongst comedians who mutually expressed an inability to understand why al-Qaeda would even take credit for such an embarrassing and silly failure. A mental image perpetuated across culture of a young Muslim fanatic attempting to light his underwear on fire as a show of religious devotion. The actual details of the incident are in fact far funnier. Passengers and flight attendants saw that Abdulmutallab’s leg had caught flame during flight, and used blankets and a fire extinguisher to put it out. His pants were gone, he had burns on his leg, and when he was finally asked by a flight attendant what it was he had in his pocket that caught fire, he simply stated, “an explosive device” as dryly as one would say “chapstick.” As an act intended to induce terror, Abdulmutallab’s attempted underwear bombing is as great an embarrassing failure for his associated enterprise as one could imagine.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, the editor of The New Ledger and podcast host of Coffee and Markets Ben Domenech brings his velvety voice to the show to suggest that John Lithgow play a werewolf-hunting FDR, question the Spider-Man casting, and create a list of movie characters that should run for office (we’d totally vote for Judy Dench’s M). Plus, we find time to review Megamind, Due Date, and implore you to see Four Lions. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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The Reject Report

Halloween has past. October is no more. We have now entered the cool, gray month of November, and with it comes the Fall holiday movie season. They’re kicking it off early this year, right here at week number one with two big releases. Both of them, Megamind and Due Date, will surely come out of the gate full force. Even Tyler Perry’s new film will add to the collective change being pulled in this weekend. The theaters are going to be jammed packed this weekend, and it probably won’t matter who comes out on top. Everyone’s sure to be a winner.

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Every so often, it becomes artistically necessary for someone to come along and combine a serious political issue with The Three Stooges. In lesser hands, it can be an offensive disaster, but fortunately it was director Christopher Morris that answered the call from fate this time. With Four Lions he attempts to bring a sense of levity to terrorism – specifically the brand of terrorism that the news cycle has brought to the forefront of our psyche within the past decade: Islamic extremism. Jihadism. The Mujahideen. This might be the most dangerous territory to go mining for comedy, but Morris does it the right way – by finding the comedy first, cleaning off the political mess, and delivering it dead pan to the audience. Omar (Riz Ahmed) and his moronic mate Waj (Kayvan Novak) head to Pakistan to train with Al Qaeda so that they can take their small band of terrorists in Britain to the next level and achieve the grand goal of blowing themselves up constructively.

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Terrorism can be hilarious. This is a statement that I didn’t ever think I would make. Who, in their right minds, thinks that it’s possible for terrorism — especially the kind that involves extremists similar to those who executed the big one in New York about nine years ago — to be central to a very funny story. But it’s true. In Chris Morris’ Four Lions, terrorism — or perhaps more appropriately, the bumbling terrorists who are trying to do the terrorism — is very, very, very funny.

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How is Osama Bin Laden like Prince? If you’ve been wondering the answer to this burning question, Chris Morris might just have the answer for you. The writer/director just had his first film, Four Lions, picked up for distribution by Tim League’s new Alamo Drafthouse releasing arm. The comedy focuses on four wanna be terrorists who can’t do anything correctly. The humor takes something completely inhuman in our society and reminds us that there’s a comedic folly to some of the people out there trying to blow us up. It’s a smart film that treats the threat of violence with the severity it deserves while still delivering an absurd amount of Three Stooges-like, bumbling comedic moments that come with being human. You can check out my review of the film here, but be sure to watch the interview to find out what Joaquin Phoenix has to do with Al Qaeda, what happens when a woman wearing a niqab laughs, and how to stop terrorism once and for all with movies and twitter. Check after the jump for the cities where Four Lions will see the darkness of the theater on November 5th:

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Tim League is a busy man. Every morning he wakes up at 4am, eats 9 dozen raw eggs, boxes a kangaroo and then delivers a sickening amount of entertainment to the Austinites who are fortunate enough (or in the case of Reject Brian Salisbury, moved there specifically) to have the Alamo Drafthouse in their backyard. The man is also back as CEO of the company with an eye to expanding the amount of theaters under their belt, and he’s just announced today the launching of Drafthouse Films – a new distribution arm that has already picked up Four Lions as its first film to hurl unto the masses. I spoke with League briefly on his way out to Toronto. One thing is for sure – the drive and fandom of the Drafthouse is going to be filtered directly into what films they pick up. It’s time to get excited, and League is about to get even busier.

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SXSW Film 2010

As is the case every year at this time, we need to wrap things up. Much to our dismay, SXSW cannot go on forever. And while reviews will continue to post in the next week as we get caught up on screeners and anything we haven’t written up from the actual fest, we’re confident that we can present you with our picks for the 15 Best Films of SXSW 2010.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we get experimental and allow you to listen to Neil Miller sleep for two hours. Andy Warhol would have been proud. Also…SXSW coverage.

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Four Lions

It’s incredibly difficult to take a look at terrorism (especially Islamic terrorism) and laugh at it. Four Lions does just that, and does it with flying colors.

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SXSW Film 2010

This afternoon, MSN Movies has released a hilarious first trailer for Four Lions, a Sundance holdover that’s been selected as the closing night film of this year’s SXSW Film Festival. The story is simple: it’s about a group of would-be suicide bombers as they try to find a way to die for a good cause.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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