Jonathan Levine

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen in

Do people still buzz about things, or is that a term from the 90s that’s just serving to show my age? You know, bees buzz, and if you get a bunch of people talking about something they start to sound like bees, so something that gets people talking has buzz? Anyway, someone who deserves a heck of a lot more buzz than he’s getting at this point in his career is Jonathan Levine. He’s the sort of filmmaker who’s done nothing but good work so far, who seems to improve as a filmmaker with every movie he makes, but who still hasn’t managed to get to that next level where cinephiles all know his name and you can sell a project just by saying that he made it. Given his track record to this point, that seems more like a failure of the people who have been marketing his movies than a failure of his work, because his stuff is not only really good, it’s all had a certain element of mainstream appeal. You’d think that if more people saw his films, or at least were better made aware that the same guy has done all of his stuff, then his name would become a commodity pretty quickly.

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cc all the boys love mandy lane

Seven years is a long time to wait between a film’s festival premiere and its release, but better late than never I guess. Jonathan Levine is best known for star-studded films like 50/50 and Warm Bodies, but his debut feature, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, has actually become his most recent. It was picked up by the Weinsteins after a successful premiere at TIFF in 2006… and then disappeared. Well, it disappeared from U.S. shores but found minor success overseas and a cult status here in the States. Unless you saw it at a festival appearance (or were savvy enough to import a copy from the UK), 2013 was the first real chance to see Mandy and figure out why all the boys love her. Seven years of hype and expectations are a lot to meet, but the movie remains an attractive and fun little retro slasher that has a surprising amount to say about teenagers, bullying, body issues, and more. Plus, you know, Amber Heard. The film hit Blu-ray/DVD this week, and the only special feature included is a commentary from Levine. The nearly bare-bones nature would normally be something to criticize, but knowing the long, hard road this film had to travel the presence of a newly-recorded commentary is more than enough of a bonus.

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All The Boys Love Mandy Lane

Seven years after it first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and countless jokes about how no boys love Mandy Lane later, Jonathan Levine‘s All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is finally getting its theatrical release. Starring a then-unknown Amber Heard as the titular teenage babe, the film follows a group of crazy kids who decide to decide to head to the good ‘ol cabin in the woods for some unsupervised partying in what appears to be an Abercrombie catalog. When good girl Mandy finally agrees to come along, it’s just icing on the cake. Too bad this is the weekend that the partiers start dropping like flies in increasingly gorier murders. What a buzzkill. Check out the trailer for yourself here:

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All The Boys Love Mandy Lane

In September 2006, Jonathan Levine‘s All the Boys Love Mandy Lane was part of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness slate alongside Bong Joon-ho’s The Host and Borat. Shortly thereafter it made the festival rounds, picking up some love and a distribution deal with Dimension Films. Then, nothing. It became a bit of an urban legend, taunting American horror audiences who wanted the Amber Heard-starring slasher roots flick to play near them. It screened in the UK in 2008, and those in the know took advantage of the Blu-ray import which propelled it toward moderate financial success. Then, nothing. In the meantime, Levine secured praise for The Wackness and went on to make the cancer comedy 50/50, and Heard broke out with Never Back Down and Pineapple Expresses, going on to a steady, eclectic career. Then, nothing. Until now.

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Reject Recap: The Best of Film School Rejects

If those of you in the Northeast U.S. are looking for stuff to do this weekend while stuck inside, why not get caught up with the latest Reject Recap? The rest of you around the world, just pretend you’re also snowed in and do the same. It was a crazy week of rumors and rumors and rumors and I think there was actually an official news release in there somewhere. Between Star Wars, the Avengers franchise, the possible Justice League franchise, the Amazing Spider-Man franchise and — okay, anything that’s trying to steal the Avengers model — the Internet is in a blizzard of its own, that of buzz and speculation, which won’t stop for at least a few years. We can’t even cover it all here, so the Recap is not just a place for our own best stories; we’ve got links to other sites, too. Now, check out the biggest and best stories and original content from the past week, from FSR and our friends around the web:

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WARM BODIES

Warm Bodies really messes with zombie mythology. If zombies try hard enough they can talk. They can also have zombie friends. They can also fall in love. And mostly skeletal zombies, called Boneys, can run faster than any human, while regular zombies lurch along at a rigamortis-ridden, glacial pace. With these and other transgressions aside, Warm Bodies never ceases to be entertaining. Written and directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50), the film features winning performances from all of its lead actors, a cleverly written script, and most importantly, an innate heart that makes it easy to overlook any mistakes. Our protagonist and narrator is R (Nicholas Hoult), so named because he can’t remember his name from when he was alive… only that it might have begun with an “R.” R is a zombie, and yes, he does eat people, but at least he’s conflicted about it, right? Death has also been kind to him, as while he is slowed down some, and is really pale and quite banged up,  his hair looks artfully tousled and his eyes have turned a dreamy ice blue.

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Warm Bodies

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a notorious dead zone in Hollywood Newsland, but like a moaning, grasping zombie, we here at Film School Rejects are determined to rise above it with fresh content. Mmm, delicious fresh content, arrrggghhh, brainnns. Where were we? Right! Fresh content! Content like the first four minutes of Jonathan Levine‘s upcoming Warm Bodies.The Nicholas Hoult-starring zombie comedy (zom-com) puts a on sweet twist on the horror movie trope, with Hoult’s “R” struggling to be a young zombie in a undead-filled world. He just wants to connect to people! But, of course, that’s hard to do when you’re a zombie and most “people” aren’t really people anymore. That all changes when he meets a red-blooded young lady, but before we get to that, let’s get to know a little bit about R’s day-to-day life (or something like it). After the break, check out the first four minutes of Warm Bodies, thanks to Fandango. Let’s snuggle.

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Warm Bodies Trailer

Zombies don’t exactly lend themselves to teen romance stories as well as vampires do, what with their flesh being all gross and decaying, like a jack o’ lantern in November, rather than pale and smooth, like a porcelain doll. But that’s not going to stop the creators of Warm Bodies from capitalizing on the current zombie crazy by making a teen zombie romance anyway. Ridiculous idea or not, one has to admit that the zombie apocalypse genre can get pretty homogenous and predictable, and could use some sprucing up. It feels kind of refreshing to see a zombie movie where the walking dead have thoughts and emotions, but have trouble acting on them due to their newly unresponsive bodies and overpowering craving to consume living flesh. Not only does the conceit seem to make for good comedy, but there are hints in this new Warm Bodies trailer that it could make for an effective character moment or two as well; which kind of makes sense, because this one is being brought to us by Jonathan Levine, the director of the funny, yet affecting cancer drama 50/50.

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Looks like we’re going to have to adjust our list of The 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012, knocking the number down to a significantly less exciting 51. Summit Entertainment has just announced that they are pushing the release of Warm Bodies from August 10 of this year allllllll the way to February 1 of next year. When I touted the film as part of our most anticipated list of plenty, I explained it as such: Jonathan Levine follows up his critical cancer comedy hit, 50/50, with an en vogue type of affair – a zombie love story based on a YA novel. But Isaac Marion’s source material shares considerably more with Romeo and Juliet than it does with The Walking Dead and that, along with its up-and-coming cast (Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Analeigh Tipton, Dave Franco, Rob Corddry, and no less than John Malkovich) recommend this original look at love at the end of the world. And that’s all still true, but now we have to wait six more months to catch it. I feel like a zombie just took a bite out of my heart. While I’m not the biggest fan of Marion’s novel, I think it’s a fun basis for a film, and I believe in both Levine and the solid cast he’s assembled for this outing.

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Somehow, I just knew that our “52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012″ would pay off! You know, eventually. Included on that massive list is 50/50 director Jonathan Levine‘s next film, and while the idea of a sexy zombie story about teens might turn some of you off, I beg you to give it a chance. Based on Isaac Marion‘s 2011 novel of the same name, the film follows young zombie R (Nicholas Hoult) as he grapples with a new twist on the classic zombie story – he’s not dealing with the fall-out of turning into a zombie, he’s trying to come to terms with becoming a human (again). Young R has been a zombie for, well, he doesn’t even know how long (but not too long, he’s still got meat on his bones), and everything else pre-zombification is just weird memory ether. It’s not there. But all that changes when a beautiful human girl (Teresa Palmer) and some weird happenings begin to dull the desire for brains and blood in R, while also awakening the human that might still lurk inside him. R’s change has not only personal implications, but effects on human-zombie relations at large. That may seem somewhat hard to picture, which is why I’m glad we get our first look at Hoult in his zombie get-up today. Readers of Marion’s excellent book will surely approve of his look, as it matches up with the author’s description of R quite handily. Check out the full look at Hoult […]

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Jonathan Levine‘s 50/50 bares many similarities to a Hal Ashby film. Many writers/directors have attempted to emulate the Harold and Maude director’s style, capturing both the tragedies and odd humor of life, and most of the time they all come off as lazy homage. Like a bad film student trying to ape a filmmaker he or she loves, it’s embarrassing and clumsy. However, writer Will Reiser, co-star/producer Seth Rogen, and director Jonathan Levine managed to make a film inspired by the legend, and yet make their own personal and heartfelt story. A part of that heart comes from the honesty that the filmmakers captured. 50/50 had to jump over some big tonal obstacles, which, as our own review points out, it did so without a hitch. Here’s what Will Reiser and Seth Rogen had to say in our brief chat about Hal Ashby, real life not working on the page, and finding Jonathan Levine:

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Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has a pretty good life. He works in Seattle as a producer for a public radio station, his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) is always good for a laugh, he lives happily with his girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), and best of all, he’s exceptionally healthy. An odd back pain sends Adam to the doctor where he discovers he’s suffering from a late stage tumor. The diagnosis shocks him at first as he’s spent considerable time exercising, eating healthy, and avoiding alcohol and drugs, but he quickly moves to anger…because he’s spent considerable time exercising, eating healthy, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. His tumor is a rare type, and while he weighs his options including chemotherapy and surgery he discovers the unofficial odds on his survival over the next few months are fifty-fifty. There’s a one in two chance he’ll be dead before his next birthday. That pretty good life soon collapses around him as he’s forced to face the reality of both his life and death. His journey will expose certain truths about himself, his family and friends, and even a few strangers, and it might even give him a new pick-up line for the ladies… Imagine if Funny People was a comedy. Then imagine it was filled with wit, heart, and an honesty about the relationships we form throughout our lives. Now stop imagining, because that movie you’re picturing is 50/50.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr is all giddy because apparently Joseph Gordon-Levitt has decided to copy his signature hairstyle. Undeterred by folks telling him Gordon-Levitt shaved his head to play the role in 50/50, Kevin tries to lobby other Hollywood actors to copy his image. Unfortunately, What’s Your Number? star Chris Evans refuses to grow a huge belly and Dream House star Daniel Craig just won’t latch onto Kevin’s charming American accent.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s just a nightly movie news column that wants its rug back, man. We open tonight with a first look at Charlize Theron playing what we can only expect to be an emotionally stunted character in Jason Reitman’s Young Adult, his second collaboration with writer Diablo Cody. Please excuse whatever sarcasm came out of that first sentence — I have liked every bit of Reitman’s previous work and this one includes Patton Oswalt, so I see no reason why it won’t be excellent.

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Striking a balance between humor and humility is one of the toughest things to do in any form of storytelling, but just with this trailer, director Jonathan Levine and a cast that includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anna Kendrick look like they’ve done just that. Plus, they’ve done it while mocking the big baddie of the disease world. Formerly titled I’m with Cancer, 50/50 is a title that keeps the odds of the main character living front and center (even if they basically spoil that point in the opening part of the trailer), and the rest is filled with heads being shaved with questionable trimmers, therapy sessions, and foolish attempts at cancer-based pick-up lines.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s your definitive source of Pixar pandering, at least for tonight. But hey, at least we get it out of the way in a single article. Try reading other sites — it’s Pixar this, Pixar that, even the new Batman reboot will be done by Pixar. Good grief. That said, we watched The Incredibles on Blu-ray this evening and it was INCR… you get the idea. Now on with the news. We begin tonight with news that excites me. It’s no secret that Max Brooks’ book “World War Z” is a personal favorite of mine. It’s exceptional in every possible way and one of the great zombie apocalypse stories ever written. So to see it come to life as a movie is risky, but worth it. When the project was reportedly in danger a few weeks ago, I was sad. But now I’m happy(ish) again, as a new report says that World War Z could get financing and even begin shooting this summer. If I could, I would will this project to happen. It may be impossible, but I’m going to try.

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Just like that time you got snakes to get rid of the mice infesting your house, and you ended up having to get mongooses to eat the snakes and then honey badgers to eat the mongooses and then armored tanks to get rid of the honey badgers, the next wave of horror romance has infected its next fad. Vampires are now passing the burning sensation in their loins over to Zombies. Summit, as you might guess, is still to blame. The plucky young studio will be using some of its Twi-capital to produce Warm Bodies – the story of a zombie named R that falls for one of his victims’ girlfriends and starts what must be a fetishistic relationship with her. Nicholas Hoult, who plays Beast in the forthcoming X-Men: First Class, is set to star. It’s unclear how this twist on the genre works exactly. Romance and vampires? Got it. Easy. Romance and that mindless mass of rotting flesh trying to constantly eat brains? That’s a different story. Speaking of which, the project is an adaptation of an as-yet-unpublished novel by Isaac Marion. It’s also the next evolution in shoving genre monsters into other formulas and calling it interesting. Of course, as always, it’s the execution that really matters. The bright side is that Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) will be writing and directing, so at least there’s talent bringing a singular vision to the project. Plus, Hoult may prove to be a strong acting presence even without blue CGI […]

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Mandy Lane

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane deserves to be seen and enjoyed by US audiences. It’s far better than most studio horror releases of the past four years, it has a sexy lead in Amber Heard, and buying an import copy takes money away from the Weinsteins if and when they ever get around to releasing a domestic DVD or Blu-ray.

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No one knows what it is, so you have to judge whether or not it’s a good idea based on who’s involved.

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The future isn’t so “up in the air” for Golden Globe nominee Anna Kendrick, nor is it whack for The Wackness director Jonathan Levine.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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