Hanna

Joe Wright set up a big challenge for himself with Anna Karenina. The material could easily lend itself to the stuffy brand of period piece, which is the type of film we see all too often during the awards season. Wright didn’t want to make that film, though. With his theater concept, he may have stripped the budget down, but, according to Wright, it was the exact type of challenge where the most creativity comes from. That notably happened with his previous project, Hanna, as well. Everyone adored the long-take fight scenes in that film, and that approach came out of saving time, budget, and, of course, creative impulse. It’s those type of decisions Wright seems the most excited by. Here’s what director Joe Wright had to say about why his brain switches off when filming, the power of limitations, and why Anna Karenina is his least indulgent film:

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Year in Review: The Best Scores and Soundtracks of 2011

It has been quite the year in film, but even more so when it came to the music in those films. We got scores that pushed the envelope, soundtracks that were full of nostalgia and orchestration that could easily fit in to the 1930s. It was an eclectic year that introduced us to new talent while also reestablishing the music from existing ones. Normally when the year comes to close, I look back on the various soundtracks and scores from the films that came out and I can easily hone in on a handful that most stood out to me. 2011 was not that kind of year. With even more artists becoming composers (The Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx), impressive composers coming to the forefront (Cliff Martinez with his scores for The Lincoln Lawyer, Contagion and Drive, two of which made this list) and childhood favorites back on the big screen (The Muppets and Winnie the Pooh), there was a huge pool of talent and good music to choose from. And although it makes my task of rounding up the top picks more difficult, it also means films are getting filled with more and more good music – a trend I hope (and expect) will continue in 2012. But on to this year’s picks!

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There were some supposed protagonists I loathed this year — everyone in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, that asshole narcissist Hal Jordan, the annoying Jack Sparrow — but there were plenty who showed honorable and, yes, badass traits. 2011 brought a few real American heroes (and from parts elsewhere), both in personality and actions. One doesn’t need superpowers or a gun to be a hero, but, as shown by a few choices I made, those simple good traits. And, even if one’s not the greatest of people, you can still be a great hero, as shown by the a*hole category that kicks off the list…

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The 2011 Gift Guide: Music for Movie Lovers

Welcome to The Holiday Gift Guide, our yearly stroll through all the things you absolutely should have on your Christmas list this year. To begin, we encourage you to strap on your little, tiny headphones, and get ready for more giving suggestions from your favorite Rejects. Do you have a friend or family member on your Christmas list that always has their fingers on the pulse of the music scene, making buying them anything music-related nearly impossible? Have no fear – I turned to the silver screen to find music they may not have heard from movies they might also enjoy. And, as has been the trend lately with popular artists starting to compose for film, I rounded up some current composers and the bands you may not know they started out in. Plus a few artists you may not know who have begun composing for films. This list features movies that came out this year with kick-ass soundtracks as well as albums from artists-turned-composers. If you have someone in your life that is a music lover and into movies, then this is the list for you. And if you are that person, this list may give you some ideas of what to include on your own wish list. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list, but merely suggestions to help inspire ideas and give you a jumping off point. And if there is a great suggestion I overlooked, feel free to sound off in the comments and let our […]

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This year has brought us back to classic filmmaking from the silent film era with The Artist to the fantasy adventure Hugo, which recalled classic film moments (as The Film Stage rounded up here). The New York Times has even gotten in on the classical score action, drawing on booming horns and frenetic strings to help create horror and unease in their portraits of various actors’ impressions of classic film villains. It is an almost surprising turn in a year that awarded Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s electronic influenced score for The Social Network the Oscar for Original Score and saw electronic duos The Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx creating the scores for Hanna and Attack the Block, respectively. Film scoring seemed to be going the way of the electric guitar, swapping out full orchestrations for synthesizers, but as 2011 comes to a close, it seems classic orchestration is not on its way out just yet. Full orchestrations of horns, drums, strings, and wind instruments filled theaters in films like The Artist and Hugo, taking us back to a time when live orchestras would play along with films. Their electronic counterparts tend to turn up the volume (who wasn’t rattled when Reznor and Karen O’s booming “Immigrant Song” in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s teaser trailer came on screen?) while classical scores are able to gain that same power from the sheer number of instruments called upon and layered together. Both work to draw an emotional reaction out of […]

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This Week in DVD

This is a pretty big week for DVD releases with plenty of titles worth buying and renting as well as a couple worth skipping completely. There’s no real common thread here aside from almost half of titles featured below being TV shows on DVD. The best of the bunch include the second and third seasons, respectively, of Community and Parks & Recreation, but other TV releases include the classic seventies series Police Story, the trippy Sigmund & the Sea Monsters, the piss poor Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, and more. But there are some great releases for film fans too including Hanna and X-Men First Class. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Rebirth The events of 9/11 affected all Americans in one way or another, but for many people the nightmare struck very close to home. Jim Whitaker’s documentary was almost a decade in the making and follows five of those people as they deal with the events across the years. Each year we revisit with a son who lost his mother, a woman who lost the love of her life, a man who lost his brother, another who lost his best friends, and a woman who suffered massive burns across her head and body. We see them descend into depression, struggle with survivor’s guilt, and hopefully emerge whole again. Everyone grieves differently, and this ultimately triumphant and redemptive film shows it as a necessary step when coping with tragedy. Time lapse […]

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Boiling Point

Pointing out the flaws in Hollywood is easy – there are hundreds of them. Unfortunately for the entertainment system, I’m a fan of taking the low road and always pointing those flaws out. After all, it’s not easy to be mad every week without taking a few cheap shots. A child of the 80s, I’m a big fan of action. Guns, knives, swords, bullets, punches, jump kicks, Van Damme, you name it, I dig it. Hell, I’ll watch the shitty UFC/WWE vehicle movies that go straight to DVD just to see somewhere get punched in the eye socket. You’d think action movies would be easy to make and send to theaters. Toss in some fireballs, some blood, some roundhouse kicks – easy, right? Apparently not. I mean, sure, we get good action films every now and then, maybe even once a month – but how many more just fall flat? What’s wrong with Hollywood and action movies when one of the best, if not the best, action movies so far is the animated Kung Fu Panda 2?

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The Reject Report

The birds of Rio and the sugar-infused children were too much for the family crowd headed to see Madea’s latest outing this weekend. Madea’s Big Happy Family had anything but the worst opening for a Tyler Perry film, but it is the lowest opening film of his since 2007. It’s also the lowest of the three in terms of Tyler Perry films with Madea’s name branded on the marquee. That’s not to say Madea’s Big Happy Family had a bad opening. You can’t really scoff at over $25 million, and it isn’t like Rio completely trounced the #2 film. The gap is wide enough that we won’t be analyzing Monday’s official numbers to determine a clear-cut winner, but it’s way too soon to start the Madea retirement rumors. Big Happy Family is sure to be viewed as a success for everyone involved especially Perry who is sure to have another Madea film in the works by, say…oh, what time is it?

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The Reject Report

…for Elephants! But seriously, that’s a lot of possessive apostrophes going on in that title. If I wanted to do a remake of this movie – I could. I have the funds – who would I have to get the rights from? Madea? Tyler Perry? Oprah? There’s a lot of ownage going on in here. Lionsgate is hoping for a lot of ownage at the box office this weekend, too. I know you saw what I did there. That I’m pointing it out is chalked up to arrogance. The elephants, cats, and birds of the world might have something to say about it, but there’s little chance they’ll be able to do anything about it. Let’s see how everything breaks down. That is, if Tyler Perry allows it.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s the ever-changing late night addiction that you just can’t seem to quit, no matter how hard you try. Tonight it features pieces that will make you think, art that will blow your mind, and a minimum amount of talking about Transformers 3 and Doctor Who. That stuff will be back tomorrow, don’t you worry. In the very near future, Stargate Universe will go off the air. And for the first time in 15-years, there are no more planned Stargate projects in the works. It will create a big whole for the fans who have made the sci-fi property one of the most popular since Star Trek. With that in mind, io9 has dispatched a list of 10 lessons about life after cancellation that Stargate can learn from the likes of Trek and Firefly.

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The Reject Report

It’s a time for celebration in the world of animated film. Maybe not dress-up-in-your-favorite-gold-costume-or-mask celebration. We’re not throwing a lavish parade or anything, but an audible “hip hip hooray” might be in order if you’re a fan of computer animation. Rio, the latest such film from Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox, came out wings blazing this weekend and easily topped the box office with the biggest opening so far in 2011. The $40 million the film brought in isn’t a record for the studio, though. It didn’t even top the $45 million Horton Hears a Who brought the studio in 2008. However, given Rio‘s worldwide box office thus far – $128.2 million in additional revenue outside the US – the film is well on its way to being a huge success. Plenty of money for the company to bring us another Ice Age film, so all you Scrat fans out there can rejoice.

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The Week That Was

What is The Week That Was? Nothing much, just a recap of all that was great and wonderful here on Film School Rejects over the course of the last week. And in a week such as this, when we reviewed controversial and conversation-worthy films from the minds of Ayn Rand, Wes Craven and Robert Redford, it’s important to take a look back at the best of what was written. That, and we interviewed Takashi Miike, so we’ve got that going for us. Also, I have access to the traffic stats. I know that all of you did not read every one of our best articles. What’s the deal with that, beloved readers? Lets right those wrongs on a pantsless Sunday afternoon. Start with the articles listed in this compilation and work your way back. Do it now.

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The Reject Report

Imagine a quiet, two-story house on a dark small-town street. Inside, a group of teens prepare to watch a movie, something scary, something hi-def. They have wealthy parents. As they drink their respective beverages and the FBI warning sits on the screen unobserved, the phone rings. One of the teens answers. On the other end, a high shriek emits, a shriek the other teens hear coming from outside. They go to the window to look, and flying through the air, headed straight for them, is a tropical bird. It has recently been launched from a giant slingshot jutting up out of the front yard. The bird’s target has been set. The teenagers are unsuspecting. Some of them might die this night. They scream, and thus begins this week’s Reject Report, Rio vs. Scream 4.

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On the surface, Hanna is just the latest action flick centered on a petite, butt-kicking young woman and the sinister world she inhabits. Yet, were that all it was, the new film from director Joe Wright (Atonement, The Soloist) would be a tired, forced enterprise, arriving in theaters a mere two weeks after Sucker Punch and just about one year following Kick-Ass. Fortunately, Wright is too sharp a director for that. His keen visual eye and knack for character-driven nuance turns the story of highly-trained teenage killing machine Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) into an engagingly twisted fairytale/coming of age drama. With a soundtrack fueled by electronica wizards The Chemical Brothers, tightly coiled supporting work from Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana and a schema that offers a world of out-sized colors, foreboding shapes and demented villains, the Focus Features release is an offbeat, engaging blend of David Lynchian and kinetic action tropes. We spoke with the acclaimed filmmaker about his latest directorial effort.

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Culture Warrior

This editorial features some spoilers for Hanna and Kick-Ass. Consider yourself warned. In preparation for this post I ran a quick Internet search on child assassins and found this video from New York Magazine. While I wasn’t promised a video exclusively on child assassins here, and instead got something that explores the notion of child killers at large, this video conflates two categories of child killers that I think deserve remarkably different types of consideration. The great majority of killings performed by children in this video are from horror movies. From Rosemary’s Baby to The Omen to The Brood to Firestarter to the other Omen and beyond, the child/killer is an exhaustively repeated horror trope to the point of cliche (and is often confused with the simple overlapping category of “scary children,” like in The Shining and The Sixth Sense). But every so often a child-killer horror film comes along that works in line with the formula (The Children, anyone? Bueller? Okay, how about Let Me In?), reminding us why child killers still have the capacity to be engrossing and entertaining even if they’ve lost the ability to be outright horrifying: because they play on our society’s veneration of childhood innocence, replacing the ignorant bliss of childhood with benevolent, malicious intent to do harm to the much taller individuals that surround them. But child assassins are quite different from the overall category of child killers. And while two recent films in two subsequent spring movie seasons that feature child assassins, […]

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The Reject Report

It was really the battle of the two evils this weekend. Unfunny CG Russell Brand vs. Unfunny Russell Brand in a suit. The kids won out, and Hop was able to pull into the #1 spot for the second weekend in a row. Its drop wasn’t all that insignificant, about what was to be expected with there being no counter-programming for family entertainment. I guess kids just don’t have much interest in Helen Mirren these days. Hop was, however, able to pull ahead of its reported $63-million budget with its second weekend take and shed a glimmer of hope for those wanting more adventures starring the Easter Bunny. We can all pray for the best there.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr spends a long day in the multiplex, checking out a variety of films from alcoholic romantic comedies to nature documentaries with elephants and orangutans. He drinks himself silly and hits on Greta Gerwig in Arthur, narrowly escapes being killed by ass-kicking teen assassin Hanna, narrowly escapes getting his arm bitten off by a tiger shark in Soul Surfer and peeps in on Natalie Portman undressing for a swim in Your Highness. Too bad she’s pregnant now, ‘cause Kevin just ain’t into that scene.

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The Reject Report

Ah, remember Dudley Moore and how funny he was in Arthur with the top hat and the bubbles and slurred speech? What’s that? You know the name, but you’re both under 30 and can’t stand the classics? Warner Brothers is hoping for that, too, as they’ve now remade the film starring Russell Brand. Now they’re hopes rest on it returning an Arthur-sized fortune. That could be very well what happens here, and Brand will probably have his name splashed all over the #1 and #2 movies this weekend. He’ll have some competition from some pothead knights, a pair of adolescents. One is an assassin. The other is a surfer. The surfer might not be much competition, but that pairing would make one hell of a buddy movie.

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Whether you’re trying to avoid the releases this week or augment them with even more movies, Your Alternate Box Office offers some options for movies that would play perfectly alongside of (or instead of) the stuff studios are shoving into the megaplex this weekend. This week features a young girl who could kick your ass, an old boy who could buy and sell your whole family, a pair of pothead fantasy role players, and a young girl who couldn’t kick a shark’s ass.

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Hanna opens on the blinding white tundra of Finland like a blank page before the beginning of a fairy tale, and that’s fitting for what the film ultimately delivers. It’s a coming of age story about a young heroine forced to grow up amidst the harsh outside world, and while it’s missing a bag of breadcrumbs it does feature several other elements of the genre including a literal entrance into the maw of a big, bad wolf and even an evil step-mother of sorts. It’s the Brothers Grimm set to the beats of The Chemical Brothers and is as sublime an entertainment as you’d hope to find in a pre-summer action movie. Young Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has lived in rural seclusion with a father Erik (Eric Bana) who’s been her sole source of knowledge. He’s trained her to be self sufficient, aware, and deadly with everything from guns to her bony white hands, and now that she’s turned sixteen the time has come for her to enter the real world. She’s not venturing out aimlessly though as her father has prepared her for a very specific mission. That quest will put her life in danger as well as those she meets along the way, but completing it is her only way to freedom. If only good old dad had thought to show his daughter a picture of her target…

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