High School

Michel Gondry has given us The Green Hornet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, Be Kind Rewind, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party and Human Nature. His films, while at times having trouble with their narrative, have always been able to produce a visual flair that rivals that of the old silent Buster Keaton films. Here, however, while offering hints of that visual flair, is a film with almost no narrative and little flair to be had. The We and the I is set on the last day of school and shows us the long bus ride that a group of students takes on their way home from school. We are a fly on the wall in this bus as we see relationships strengthen and disappear over the film’s runtime. The thing about high school, and more importantly about high school students, is that they’re all children. Films such as The Breakfast Club and Election have painted a particular picture of high school by creating relatable characters. They deal with their own problems, which are also very self-centered and childish, in a way that audiences are able to associate with. In The We and the I, the problems of the characters at no point feel truly relatable in the same way as the aforementioned films. They immediately have a negative relation to your memory, almost saying, “How precious,” in the worst way possible.

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When the stars align and both Neil Miller and Rob Hunter agree that a stoner comedy transcends the genre and manages to deliver laughs rather than just jokes about being high (and potentially hungry), you know you’ve got a special film that’s a toke above the average drug comedy. In High School, valedictorian Henry Burke blazes for the first time only to be faced with the introduction of mandatory drug tests the very next day. Timing is everything, right? Putting that big brain aside for a minute, he lets his stoner buddy come up with what is perhaps the most illegal plan one could do – get the entire school high. Hey, if everyone fails the drug test, something is wrong with the test, right? If you’re a fan of movies, laughing, eating, brownies, or the appropriate medical use of marijuana, how about you do yourself a favor and enter to win a copy of this flick on Blu-ray?

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Quick A motorcycle courier finds himself targeted by police after a mysterious man forces him to deliver bombs to various addresses while an ex-girlfriend unlucky enough to have strapped an explosive helmet to her head comes along for the ride. This Korean effort takes the single plot thread of Speed and combines it with a lot of goofiness. The action runs the gamut of cartoony to thrilling, but it’s never less than entertaining. There’s also a little bit of heart to add more weight to the matter, but it’s never enough to extinguish the goofy fun. I’ll be honest… this is casual entertainment and a rental at best for most folks, but those of you as partial to Korean films as I am may want to pick it up too. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Making of, trailer, featurettes]

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Adrien Brody in High School

“I’m surprised this hasn’t happened sooner…” No truer words could represent the existence of John Stalberg Jr.’s High School, a film that sat on a shelf following a blistering run at Sundance in 2010, only to be released theatrically, in a very limited fashion, in June of this year. It’s the simple tale of two former friends whose paths have diverged in their later teen years. Henry Burke (Matt Bush) is the soon-to-be Valedictorian of his class, with a promising future awaiting him at M.I.T. Travis Breaux (Sean Marquette) is a burnout who spends more time wiping sharpie marker penises off his face than he does hitting the books. After a pre-school accident lands them together in detention, Breaux convinces Henry that his path to relaxation must go through the forrest of the sticky green, the cannabis sativa. And so they smoke marijuanna, not knowing that tomorrow will bring about a school-wide drug test at the hands of their overly theatrical dean, Leslie Gordon (Michael Chiklis). It’s here that the story gets interesting, and soon after the film finds itself introducing a mad, tattoo-covered dealer named Psycho Ed, as played by Adrien Brody. It’s here that High School becomes something quite special, indeed.

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Let’s face it, we exist as a generation that has grown up on stoner comedies. There have been drugs in our movies since before we were off the teet. So we should have seen it all by now, right? Not exactly.

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Sean Marquette and Matt Bush in High School

For those who have forgotten — as it has been a long time – I absolutely adored John Stalberg Jr.‘s HIGH School when I saw it at Sundance 2010. We’ve still got a glowing review to prove it. And now with it finally primed to hit theaters on June 1, we’re more than happy to share anything and everything the folks at Anchor Bay throw our way. Why? Because it’s a humorous, unique blast of insanity that’s worth our support. It’s worth your support at the box office as well. The story is simple: “The day after soon-to-be valedictorian Henry Burke (Matt Bush) takes a hit of the chronic for the first time, his school principal (Michael Chiklis) institutes a zero tolerance drug policy and administers a mandatory drug test for all students. Henry has two options: fail and lose his college scholarship, or team up with his stoner friend Breaux (Sean Marquette) to beat the system. They steal a high powered ganja from law student-turned-drug-dealer Psycho Ed (Adrien Brody) and spike the school’s bake sale brownies, getting the whole school – faculty included – completely stoned out of their minds. But with the student body getting higher and higher with every brownie, and a pissed-off Psycho Ed on their tails for stealing his stash, they must find a way to keep their half-baked plan from going up in smoke.” Our exclusive picks up with Henry and Breaux realizing that smoking some green wasn’t such a great idea, giving way to their far […]

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Adrien Brody in HIGH School

It feels like forever since we first reported on John Stalberg Jr.’s HIGH School at Sundance back in January 2010, but such is life in the big city. The distribution game is a tough one and once a film is sold, it could end up on a shelf for any amount. Thankfully, Anchor Bay is bringing this one off the shelf and into theaters this summer. June 1, 2012 to be exact. For those who need some catch-up, it’s a film that yours truly called “a stoner comedy worthy of being mentioned in the same paragraph as both Dazed and Confused and the great John Hughes. It’s funny, unpredictable and filled with performances that are as bankable as they big name stars who’ve disappeared into them.” One of those great performances comes from Adrien Brody, who becomes the crazed drug-dealing legend known only as Psycho Ed. You get a little taste of his madness in this newly released green band trailer, which doesn’t quite get as wild as what we saw in the film’s red band trailer, but you get the idea. Between Brody’s brilliance and an equally immersed performance from Michael Chiklis (yeah, that is Michael Chiklis), it’s no wonder this film ended up on my Editor’s Picks list for 2010. And now you all get to see it, as well. So start with the trailer after the jump and mark June 1 on your calendars. We’ll keep you updated from there.

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There’s a solid chance that you haven’t heard of most of these movies. Yet they exist – out there somewhere as a thorn in the side of movie fans trying to see as much as possible. Nuggets of potential waiting to be picked up from the movie orphanage by a distributor and given a warm home with cup holders in every seat. The European Film Market is fascinating for that reason and for the way people attend it. Tickets this year were around $600, but that’s a reasonable price for companies sending representatives trying to find the next moneymaker for their company or the hot movie to bring to their festival. That means screenings come complete with people on cell phones and unimpressed buyers walking out after ten minutes to hustle next door to see if the other movie playing has any promise to it. It’s a bizarre way to watch movies, but it makes a kind of sense given the massive size of the movie list compared to the tiny amount of time to see everything. There were upwards of 675 movies in the EFM this year, all of them with their own selling points. Here are the 87 most interesting-sounding with descriptions found in the official catalog. For the most part, I haven’t seen these movies (and didn’t even know about many of them until the Berlin Film Festival), but they all have something going for them that should earn them a spot on your radar.

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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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Emma Stone is up to her elbows in boys that want to pretend to sleep with her. In the movie Easy A she plays Olive, the smart girl that’s generally ignored by her class who gets a taste of popularity by way of infamy and continues to trash her own reputation in order to have one. She pretends to have sex with a gay classmate in order to boost his social status, and what results is a trip into a world of perception, heartache, trying to get with the school mascot, and a big red A on her chest.

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The high school comedy is not an easy subject to tackle because it’s been tackled almost as much as Emma Stone’s character in Easy A would have you believe she has. It is one of the many sluts of the film genre world – it’s incredibly attractive because it’s easy to get into bed with, but it’s not like you’re going to impress anyone by going after it. Unless you nail it. Will Gluck, a man without an average high school experience teamed with Stone, an actress who didn’t go to high school, to try to do just that. Gluck was decent enough to spend more than a few minutes on the phone with me while surrounded by the insanity of the Toronto International Film Festival to talk about the challenges of being fresh with high school, creating a strong female character, and the joy of sex comedy without sex.

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HIGH School

Anyone who knows me or has spent time in or around Reject HQ knows that I’m not much of a stoner. I don’t have anything against it, per se. I just don’t derive the same pleasure from smoking the good Earth’s finest herbs and spices that others seem to get. However, stoner humor does have a way of getting to me — especially when it’s well executed.

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In which I have a great conversation with HIGH School director John Stalberg over coffee, set to the soothing sounds of Paula Cole and injected with laughs. Behold, my favorite interview of Sundance 2010.

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John Travolta with an RPG, school children sitting amongst rubble, and a family portrait featuring Labeouf and Douglas round out this week’s posters.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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