Harvey Keitel

cong

When it comes to independent films and major releases, animation is fairly underutilized medium. There are exceptions, but for the most part, it’s generally used for kid-centric stories or to paint a lush, if slightly more adult, world. That’s why movies like A Scanner Darkly and The Congress are so special. They use animation for drama and to express ideas that go beyond a few pretty shots. Both films shouldn’t be compared past that point, but they are both emotional, visual, and mental exercises — rides that you either go along with from the start or don’t. If director Ari Folman‘s The Congress grabs you from its first frame, then expect a rich science-fiction film packed with commentary, ideas, laughs, tears, and beauty.  Speaking of beauty, Robin Wright (played conveniently by Robin Wright) has lost it, at least according to some slimy agist studio executive we meet working at Miramount. She’s now 44 years old. That usually means for actresses their careers are winding down, but after years of “bad” choices and choosing family over work, Robin isn’t the big deal that she once was. The offers aren’t coming in, at least not the offers she’s interested in — she wouldn’t ever dare to take part in a science-fiction film.

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The Congress

Ari Folman‘s The Congress appears to play its hand quite quickly – the Cannes film’s first trailer opens with a shot of star Robin Wright being talked to by a faceless man as if she were, well, Robin Wright. Sure, this is a slightly skewed “Robin Wright” (it doesn’t seem as if this Robin starred in House of Cards, but damn if it doesn’t seem like she started her career with The Princess Bride), but it’s a version of “Robin Wright” nonetheless. And someone has a proposition for her. At first, it all seems relatively straightforward – a Hollywood studio (“Miramount,” which certainly looks like another studio that ends in “-mount”) wants to purchase the rights to Wright’s likeness and, thanks to technology, that essentially means they will scan every bit of her (not just physical, by any means) and use it to “star” in any film they see fit. It’s not a great deal, but it might be her last shot, so she takes. Obviously, it’s not all going to end well, but Folman’s film subverts our ideas of what would follow from such a deal, and it all goes totally wild, nuts, and (maybe even) amazing, as The Congress unfolds into vibrant animation and stirring score, with a possibly epic adventure thrown into the mix. It’s really one stunning trailer, and our hopes for the final film are now suitably high. Um, also? Wright might have animated sex with animated Jon Hamm (it certainly sounds like him). You’re sold now, right? Get a taste for The Congress after the break.

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Maggie Gyllenhaal

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news roundup that’s been out of work since casting agents seem to be treating the week between Christmas and New Years as one prolonged food coma. If there’s one thing that Jurassic Park taught us, it’s that nature finds a way. Well, casting finds a way too. In a week where there isn’t any news getting leaked to the trades, leave it to Albuquerque Business First to break a new scoop. The eagle eyes over at The Film Stage noticed that, in an article about how that Michael Fassbender-starring rock and roll comedy called Frank is coming to town to shoot, the local source managed to break the news that Maggie Gyllenhaal is coming to town with it. Her involvement in the film sees her joining a cast that includes not just Fassbender, but two of the young MVPs of 2012, Domhnall Gleeson and Scoot McNairy, as well. Which, you know, makes her one of the luckiest ladies in the world.

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This Tuesday is the 20th anniversary of the theatrical release of Reservoir Dogs, the film that not only put Quentin Tarantino on the map as an era-defining filmmaker but also gave the 3rd wave ska scene its own Phenix City Story (or Guns of Navarone or Dr. No or Scarface). Never mind the movie’s immediate legacy, though, because two decades later the story of “five total strangers” who “team up for the perfect crime” has outlasted the oddly inaccurate marketing (i.e. those lines from the posters, which also feature Chris Penn in a suit), the many copycats, the ska album samplings and even the overshadowing success and popularity of Pulp Fiction as the director’s big breakthrough to remain a significant pioneer and classic of American independent cinema. During its run in U.S. cinemas, which followed a debut at Sundance and appearances at Cannes and Toronto, not to mention earlier openings in parts of Europe, Reservoir Dogs never played on more than 61 screens, yet it earned close to $3 million. I’m certain it never hit my town in the suburbs, but I recall the first time ever hearing about it via a drawing of an ear in Entertainment Weekly illustrating a short note about the famously violent scene (my memory of this could be slightly off). And like so many of the film’s fans, I didn’t see it until the video came out the following Spring, at which time the torture bit became just one of numerous memorable moments. In […]

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Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward in Moonrise Kingdom

It’s the summer of 1965, and a storm is heading towards New Penzance Island. The small dot of land is home to a few permanent residences, but it’s also a seasonal destination for a troop of Khaki Scouts who camp amidst the lush green forests and golden fields. Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) awakes one morning to discover the troop’s least liked member, Sam (Jared Gilman), has gone missing. Elsewhere on the island the Bishop family realizes their daughter Suzy (Kara Hayward) has also disappeared. The two pre-teens fell for each other the year prior during a brief, chance meeting, and have now taken off on an adventure as young lovers are prone to do (in movies at least). Sam and Suzy soon have half the island searching for them, but being such a small, sparsely populated place that search party consists almost entirely of the Scout Master, the local constable, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Suzy’s parents, Walt and Laura (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand). Wes Anderson‘s latest film splits its time between the kids on the run and their mostly adult pursuers, and in doing so it tells two sides of a story that offer equal amounts of humor, whimsy and heartbreak. It’s a return to form for the director and his first to follow-up on the promise of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums as it highlights the wide-eyed possibilities of youth and the harsh reality of adulthood.

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Moonrise Kingdom appears to be a delicate fancy of a film – an assessment you suspect might entertain Wes Anderson – offering no more ground-breaking a story than young love, with the director’s traditional preoccupation with whimsy, and creating such artfully created landscapes and characters that they flirt outrageously with magic realism, though without explicit realisation of that concept. But there are weightier issues at hand, of parental neglect, of revolution (not just sexual but also anti-establishment), and it seems completely appropriate that Anderson chose to set it in as provocatively important a time as 1965. The film follows two young lovers – Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) – who escape their lives to run away together, and the ensuing chaos of their parents and the local authorities’ attempts to find them: no more than a gentle plot that suggests nothing of the drama and comedy that subsequently unfolds.

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Over Under: A New Perspective on Films New and Old

I break Quentin Tarantino’s career up into two stages. The first stage consists of his first three films, which are all crime movies, are all set in L.A., and which all just feel very much like “Quentin Tarantino movies” (a genre unto itself back in the 90s, if you lump in all the pretenders). After those first three films, he took a pretty lengthy six year break, and then he came back and started exploring other genres, making movies that were largely homages to the B-cinema he enjoyed in his youth. While there’s a soft spot in my heart for most of Inglorious Basterds, in general I prefer that first stage of Tarantino’s career to what came after. And as far as that first trilogy of crime films goes, I think most people are in agreement that Pulp Fiction is the masterpiece. It was the one that broke down the doors of the movie industry and ushered indie filmmaking into the mainstream, and it’s the one most often referenced when people talk about his career; so I’m not going to focus on that one here. I’m going to focus instead on Tarantino’s debut feature Reservoir Dogs, which was the film that first got heads turned in his direction, and which still gets mentioned right alongside Pulp Fiction as badass things from the 90s. And also I’m going to focus on Jackie Brown, which is kind of the forgotten Tarantino film. This is one that doesn’t get brought up much these […]

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While nudity is generally regarded as an awesome thing, the fact of the matter is that it’s just not necessary for a lot of movies. Enter the gratuitous nude scene, where an actress strips down to her birthday suit for reasons completely unrelated to the plot. Frequently, these roles are covered by B- and C-list stars who like to add an extra zero to their check in exchange for giving the movie-going audience a thrill. While many big name actresses refuse to do nudity — a totally respectable choice, don’t get me wrong — some change their minds when there’s a chance their career can benefit from it. When those women go for a gratuitous nude scene, it usually takes one of four forms:

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Some set photos from the latest Wes Anderson movie Moonrise Kingdom have surfaced online. If you’re wondering why Edward Norton is ridiculously dressed as a camp counselor, then Focus Feature’s press release on the film could be of some help. Official word on what the film is going to be is as follows: “Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, Moonrise Kingdom follows a young boy and girl falling in love. When they are moved to run away together, various factions of the town mobilize to search for them and the town is turned upside down – which might not be such a bad thing. Bruce Willis plays the town sheriff; two-time Academy Award nominee Edward Norton is cast as a camp leader; Academy Award nominee Bill Murray and Academy Award winner Frances McDormand portray the young girl’s parents; the cast also includes Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman. The young boy and girl are played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.”

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Culture Warrior

You hear the phrase “This movie could never be made today” quite often, and it’s typically a thinly veiled means by which a creative team allows themselves to administer loving pats on their own backs. But in the context of at a 35th anniversary exhibition of the restoration of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver with a justifiably disgruntled Paul Schrader in attendance, such a sentence rings profoundly and depressingly true. Like many of you, I’ve seen Taxi Driver many times before. For many, it’s a formative moment in becoming a cinephile. But I had never until last weekend seen the film outside of a private setting. And in a public screening, on the big screen, I’m happy to say the film still has the potential to shock and profoundly affect viewers so many decades on. For me personally it was the most disturbing of any time I’d ever seen the film, and I was appropriately uncomfortable despite anticipating the film’s every beat. Perhaps it was because I was sharing the film’s stakes with a crowd instead of by myself or with a small group of people, or perhaps the content comes across as so much more subversive when projected onto a giant screen, or perhaps it was because the aura of a room always feels different when the creative talent involved is in attendance. For whatever reason, I found the film to be more upsetting than in any other context of viewing. But one of the most appalling moments of Taxi […]

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As if a better cast could be assembled. Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino will all find themselves lookin’ at each other under the direction of Martin Scorsese for The Irishman. The plot could involve three out-of-work plumbers sitting around talking about the glory days, and it would still be a hell of a cast, but the film boasts mob ties, hit men, and conspiracy connections to JFK’s assassination. Plus, they might all solve where Jimmy Hoffa is buried so we can all finally get on with our lives. It’s possible that the only way to make this better is to include Harvey Keitel. Fortunately, he’s involved as well. The only challenge for the film will be keeping the curse words in the low thousands. [Cinematical]

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Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro are at it again. They are once again at odds in the world of family politics polluted by oft poorly timed puns about the name of a male nurse named Greg. And this time, there are Little Fockers involved in the shenanigans. And Harvey Keitel. It’s hard to say what Keitel is doing in that equation, but it’s beyond me to question this franchise. Twice now this franchise has spewed forth films that don’t exactly look right upon first glance, and twice now it’s delivered the funny. I give up trying to fight it.

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wrongturnattahoe-header

Over the past few months, we’ve become one of the go-to sites on the web for direct-to-DVD flicks. And we know exactly why: we love that crap. Now come inside and watch this clip.

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While we love nude scenes in movies, there are some that should have been left on the cutting room floor. As George Costanza once said on Seinfeld, there’s “good naked” and “bad naked.” Here’s a list of the top “bad naked” moments in cinema history.

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