Kevin Bacon

Liam Neeson Taken 2

The new act in Liam Neeson’s career that began with 2008’s Taken has made it hard to remember that he was in stuff like Kinsey just a couple years before that. It turns out, Liam Neeson killing lots of people is exactly what the movie-going public needs this time of year, after a long winter and irritating award-season political sniping. Now Kevin Costner is getting in on the act, with 3 Days To Kill, from EuropaCorp, the company behind Taken and such other notable titles as the Transporter series. It remains to be seen whether Costner’s effort will meet with Neeson-like glorious success or falter like EuropaCorp’s John Travolta (From Paris With Love) and Zoe Saldana (Colombiana) vehicles. Until then, let’s consider 11 actors we’d like to see go the Neeson route:

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death sentence

Revenge movies have been a go-to for the film industry for a long time now. That’s probably because they’re simple in structure, don’t take all that much imagination to conceive, and are an easy way to get your audience to care about action scenarios. Introduce a main character, have him be wronged, then have him go after the people who wronged him. Boom—instant movie. They’re not prevalent just because they’re quick and easy though, they keep getting made because they really do affect us on a deep, animal level. There’s a boiling anger somewhere in us all, an urge to engage in cathartic, wrathful behavior, and the revenge trope allows us to indulge in that without having to take action ourselves; and it even offers up the added reassurance of providing a moral justification for the violence taking place. These movies affect us so powerfully because of the way they’re able to delay gratification and then deliver satisfaction, as well. A good revenge movie is all about making the audience want to see a bad guy get his comeuppance, delaying the payback to the point where they believe they’re going to burst if they don’t get to see it, and then delivering the splatter right before the credits roll. It’s basically the same premise carnies have been using to sell professional wrestling matches for a century now. Today we’re going to explore what works and what doesn’t in the genre by comparing a movie that’s considered to be a famous […]

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Justin Bieber

Back in the 90s we didn’t have fancy time wasters like iPads and Angry Birds, so we had to occupy our time by relying on stupid things like talking to other people and using our brains. These were truly dark times, but they were made less dreary by three students at Albright College, who in 1994 made up the greatest movie geek trivia game of all time: Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

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Acting is like anything in that success doesn’t come quickly. It’s why we can go back and watch old clips of Brad Pitt whoring for Pringles or Tina Fey talking about the interest rate at Mutual Savings Bank. You have to start somewhere, right? Same goes for motion pictures – for most actors, your first role is going to be some mediocre piece like Return To Horror High or Revenge Of The Creature – but every once in a while an actor or actress starts off at a high point. Here are such high points, awesome first films that you’d be proud to be a part of even if you never did another film ever again.

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Jayne Mansfield

Back in 1996, when Billy Bob Thornton directed Sling Blade, its success seemed like a pretty big opportunity for the actor to change up his career focus and start accumulating awards by sitting in the director’s chair. That didn’t happen, though. Thornton has only made a handful of films since, and none that have come close to being as well-regarded as his first. However, it’s looking like this year could serve as Thornton’s best chance since Sling Blade at accumulating some more awards, because his latest film, Jayne Mansfield’s Car, looks like it’s got all of that good stuff that people who give out golden statues like. It’s a comedy of manners that throws excitable Southerners and stuffy Brits in the same space and examines the ways they chafe against each other, it’s set in the ’60s (so it’s got that oh-so-important element of nostalgia going for it, and there are plenty of period sets and costumes, shot with glowing gold light, which puts you in the perfect mood to squirt some tears at all of its ham-handed drama), and – probably most importantly – it boasts a cast of actors including names like John Hurt, Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, Irma P. Hall, Thornton himself, and many others. These are not untalented folk.

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Kevin Bacon has shared many things throughout his career from fancy dance moves to the angle of his dangle, but the most important has to be the revelation made apparent by his long forgotten 1986 film, Quicksilver. What did that movie teach us you ask? Simple… movies about bike messengers are incredibly boring. Hollywood heeded that warning for twenty-six long years, but now the writer/director of Ricky Gervais’ Ghost Town thinks he’s figured out how to make bike messengers relevant and interesting again. The secret appears to be a combination of Michael Shannon and bicycle parkour (or bikour if your prefer). Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the unfortunately named Wilee, a bike messenger in Manhattan whose latest assignment finds him pursued by a corrupt cop (Shannon) who won’t rest until he gets his hands on Wilee’s package. Check out the trailer for David Koepp’s Premium Rush starring Gordon-Levitt, Shannon, Dania Ramirez and Jamie Chung below.

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Super isn’t tied to the world of comics. Writer/director James Gunn didn’t make a satire or a spoof; instead Super is its own extremist beast. The Taxi Driver-inspired religious tale is a gritty, dirty, and dark comedy that just so happens to have the leads sporting superhero costumes. These aren’t your fluffy and perfect men-in-tights leads, but some seriously damaged individuals. There’s a jarring dichotomy to the film and its characters, which is something that split both critics and audiences back in April. Frank D’Arbo, a.k.a The Crimson Bolt, is a sympathetic and understandable protagonist, but you question his sanity. Libby, a.k.a. Boltie, gains great glee from slicing up goons in the bloodiest ways possible, and yet has an endearing charm to her psychopathic and wish-fulfillment ambitions. These are repellant characters on the outside, but understandably unstable in the inside. Here’s what James Gunn had to say about the fluctuating tone, writing a character driven film versus a set-piece driven film, and making possible psychotics sympathetic in Super:

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Gwen is on a bit of a vacation this week, so I’m taking over writing duties for the one column on the site that forces us to ogle and think deeply at the same time. Hopefully I do it justice. Hopping into a cinematic time machine to set a film in a different decade is always a precarious occupation, but for X-Men: First Class (a movie that doesn’t seem exactly topical despite coming out two months ago), the danger of portraying the men and women of 1962 was even more difficult. Sure, Mad Men had come along and made the sleek chauvinism of the 60s chic again, but Matthew Vaughn and company had to juggle the suspension of disbelief inherent in spotlighting mutants alongside the possible cartoon that forms whenever a guy in a tight cummerbund slaps a woman on the ass and goes back to enjoying being white and male in America. So is X-Men: First Class anti-feminist or a sexy love note to the powerful women of our world? That’s a tough call. And since it’s a tough call, here’s an attempt at giving both arguments equal weight.

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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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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column just trying to keep it real, man. We begin this evening with a few new shots from The Muppets, my now most anticipated remaining 2011 film. Quite a title to bestow, I know. Anyway, the folks at Rope of Silicon have updated their gallery. This includes a few movie stills, some behind the scenes stuff and that fresh poster I showed you last night.

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In Glenn Ficarra and John Requa‘s Crazy, Stupid, Love., we meet Cal and Emily, a long-standing couple in which only one half of them recognizes that the “standing” could in fact be traded out for “suffering.” Cal and Emily have some lovely kids and a nice house and what appear to be stable jobs, but there’s something missing. Within the film’s first ten minutes, Emily (Julianne Moore) has asked for a divorce (in the middle of a dinner out, no less) and revealed that she’s had an affair (with one her co-workers, played, of course by Kevin Bacon), leading Cal (Steve Carell) to purposely fall out of their car and announce to both their son and babysitter what has just transpired during the world’s worst date night (and Carell knows from bad date nights). And thus begins Cal and Emily’s halting journey to return to a state of normalcy, if not a state of reaffirmed union.

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With Crazy, Stupid, Love, writer-director duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are coming off of the criminally under-seen I Love You Phillip Morris. Very few saw commercial appeal in their Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey-starring love story, and the box office numbers were further proof that there was a definite, and very sad, truth to those predictions. It doesn’t appear they have anything to worry about when it comes to their new, star-filled romantic comedy though. I Love You Phillip Morris has a dark and divisive sensibility. Crazy, Stupid, Love is the opposite and shows obvious mass appeal. In making a film for a broader audience, Ficarra and Requa managed to make love stories — it is an ensemble film — that are neither cynical nor dopey. Here’s what Glenn Ficarra and John Requa had to say about taking on the commercial project, their 3-hour version of the film, and their important lessons at film school:

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Billy Bob Thornton hasn’t directed a non-documentary since 2001’s Daddy and Them. That’s kind of a shame, because it seems like the guy could be pretty good at it. Dude made Sling Blade after all. I take it as good news then, that Thornton has a cast in place and funding secured for his next feature Jayne Mansfield’s Car. Not much is known about the film yet, but Thornton co-wrote the script with his writing partner Tom Epperson, and it’s said to be about two families from different parts of the world experiencing a culture clash in 1969. Young actor John Patrick Amedori is set to star in the film and names like Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, Robert Patrick, Ray Stevenson, John Hurt, Dwight Yoakam, and Dennis Quaid are locked in to round out the cast. That’s a ridiculously impressive list of actors, but where are all the ladies? Perhaps that’s a mystery for another day.

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Culture Warrior

Themes of identity, difference, stigma, and othering are explicitly or implicitly present in much of the X-Men mythology, whether expressed through comics, television shows, or films. While I was never a devotee to the comics, as a fan of the 90s animated television series and (some of) the recent slate of Hollywood films (that have, as of this past weekend, effectively framed the continually dominant superhero blockbuster genre), I’ve always been fascinated by the series’ ability to take part in the language of social identity issues. Fantastic genres like horror and sci-fi have often provided an allegorical means of addressing social crises (vampire films as AIDS metaphor, zombie movie as conformist critique, or Dystopian sci-fi as technocratic critique, for example). The superhero genre has possessed a similar history in this capacity, even though it has thus far been mostly unrealized in the medium of film. As big entertainment, superhero films ranging from the first Spider-Man to the Iron Man films have bestowed narratives of exceptionalism and wish-fulfillment rather than shown any aspiration towards critique or insight. Perhaps The Dark Knight is most involved example of social critique thus far – a film that explores themes surrounding the personal toll on fighting terror and the overreaches of power that can result in the name of pursuing safety. What X-Men: First Class (almost) accomplishes is mining fully the allegorical territory made available by its fantastic premise in a way that few previous comic book films have.

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The initial announcement that Fox would forgo a third X-Men sequel in favor of a Muppet Babies-like reboot wasn’t met with much enthusiasm. A rushed production schedule, a director coming off the divisive Kick-Ass, and some highly suspect early marketing images didn’t help matters any, but now that the movie is actually here it can be judged on the only thing that matters… the movie itself. And goddamn is it great. Maybe even the best of the series…

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Erik Lensherr/Magneto mustn’t be the easiest of characters to jump into. Can you imagine being on set trying to look serious while throwing your hands around to make it seem as if you’re controlling metal? And, at the same time, while sporting a big cape and a purple helmet? Playing drama seriously – especially when wearing a potentially goofy outfit and doing unworldly things – can’t be easy. But, as Michael Fassbender says below, you just have to jump in and take chances. While many keep citing Fassbender’s take on Magneto in X-Men: First Class as being very Bond-esque, that doesn’t totally fit with how he describes the role. Yes, there’s a coolness factor to him, something that apparently sticks out even more when he’s hunting down Nazis in the film, but it was important for Fassbender to subtlety find a tragic anger to the future villain. Recently, I had the chance to speak briefly with Fassbender (whose résumé would already make some veteran actors jealous) about working on a control freak’s set, trying not to look goofy, and finding humanity in potential bastards.

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It’s tricky tackling a comic book film. For starters, one is generally adapting fairly fantastical ideas. Secondly, if a comic book film gets too serious, it can easily lose a sense of fun and self-awareness. Director Matthew Vaughn seems to have found a good middle ground for his superhero epic, X-Men: First Class. The genre favorite director could not have made more of a 180° turn from Kick-Ass to X-Men: First Class, both in terms of scope and his approach to the genre. Kick-Ass was the first – or most notable – modern comic book film to turn the genre on its bloody ear. Now, Vaughn is working in the genre he just previously deconstructed, which, as Vaughn says, makes him even better suited for it. Here’s what the candid and always confident Matthew Vaughn had to say about not taking comic book properties too seriously, making a film for his broadest audience ever, and reading fanboys on the internet.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column dedicated to things happening in the world of entertainment. It’s also deathly afraid of Kevin Bacon. It would like to reassess it’s number of degrees and somehow increase from its usual 2 to at least 8. That way Mr. Bacon and his X-Men character can’t clamp its nether regions in the contraption above. At least we think that’s what that thing is. We begin our night with X-Men: First Class and a massive dump of images over at Gamma Squad. From high-res shots of the meticulously crafted costumes to high-res shots of cool CGI mutants to a high-res shot of whatever the hell Kevin Bacon is doing in the photo above. I almost don’t want to know. But I do, because this movie continues to look better and better with every little marketing bit.

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Everywhere you look there’s another superhero movie these days. Countless studio dollars, a stream of big stars and endless articles have been expended on the subject. Thor, Captain America and the Green Lantern headline an upcoming summer movie season that’s chock-full of various forms of masked avengers. Concurrently, there’s arisen a far less prolific counter-industry of satirically oriented films, such as Kick Ass, that attempt an indie-friendly examination of the questionable sanity and real world practicality of these figures. It’s these latter films that I’ve personally flocked to, having long-grown tired of the formulaic non-Christopher Nolan big-budget superhero aesthetic. Thus, James Gunn’s Super is – in the same vein as protagonist Frank’s heavenly calling to justice – a gift from above. In framing the birth of a real-life superhero as a disturbed man’s religious awakening, the Slither filmmaker gets to the heart of the grandiose self-absorption at the core of superherodom. To don a mask and tights, formulate a nickname and spend your nights prowling the streets, seeking out drug dealers and other unsavory elements, you’d have to be, well, more than a little bit crazy. Frank (Rainn Wilson), the luckless, depressed everyday schlub central figure here fits the bill, driven to unhinged rage when his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) leaves him for scuzzy drug kingpin Jacques (Kevin Bacon).

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The film I’m by far the most excited to see at the upcoming SXSW is James Gunn‘s dark superhero tale, SUPER. Everything about it sounds like the perfect film for nerds that crave divisive dark humor. Rainn Wilson as a wrench-wielding, head-busting vigilante? Awesome. Ellen Page as his annoying and narcissistic sidekick? Even better. The best part, though? Kevin Bacon as a slimy looking drug dealer. It’s been quite sometime since Bacon has done some solid scenery chewing and played the bad guy, which he rarely often does. I mean, who would have thought that kid from Footloose would one day be playing a charming wife-stealing drug dealer? Check out the trailer below.

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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