Killer Joe

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Killer Joe Chris (Emile Hirsch) is having a bad day, but when he decides the key to solving all of his problems is to have his mother whacked by a hit man (Matthew McConaughey) he discovers that things can always get worse in this refreshing return from William Friedkin. Gina Gershon, Thomas Haden Church and Juno Temple are all along for the violent and darkly comedic ride, but it’s McConaughey who shines through the grime, brutality and Southern hospitality gone bad. He excels as a cruel bastard looking for love in some very wrong places who’s unafraid to take what he wants even if that means abusing Gershon with a KFC drumstick. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Featurette, Q&A, SXSW intro, commentary, trailer]

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For such an unrelentingly graphic and blood-spattered NC-17 thriller, William Friedkin‘s Killer Joe is more romantic than one would expect. The filmmaker behind The Exorcist and Sorcerer (a movie he’s currently fighting to get back out to the public) has crafted, as he puts it, a romantic comedy for the new age. That title isn’t a whole lot different than his previous collaboration with playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts, the even more claustrophobic and humanistic Bug. They’re stories of characters wanting more, but mainly love, which Dottie (Juno Temple) finds in the titular psychopathic (Matthew McConaughey). Here’s what director William Friedkin had to say about making Cinderella for the 21st century, the importance of reading between the lines, and how one of cinema’s finest chase scenes was completely unscripted:

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Killer Joe

Exploitation cinema is good for the id. Because the great majority of us are not thieves, murderers, sociopaths, or people with problematic sexual instincts, exploitation cinema provides a safe space and an opportunity to view characters who may be any of the combinations noted above without having to experience the debilitating guilt, life-ending consequences, or moral panic that would incur if we ever engaged in such activities ourselves. In other words, exploitation cinema is a brief respite from a reality mostly determined by standards of law and order, rational behavior, stability, and long-term thinking. Exploitation cinema provides the exhilaration of chaos that is enthralling to witness onscreen, but that one wouldn’t want to encounter in anything resembling reality. While William Friedkin’s Killer Joe is a film that fully earns its NC-17 rating with its portrayals of abject cruelty, predatory sex, and strange and unusual acts of punishment, it’s never a film that asks audiences to take the events onscreen all to seriously as Killer Joe doesn’t even seem to even take itself at face value. The movie’s mood and ending will certainly polarize audiences, but if one is willing to accept and go along with the esoteric tone Friedkin strikes (and there are perfectly legitimate reasons not to do so), then Killer Joe is likely one of the more engaging films of the year if for no other reason than its sheer audacity.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Alright, so June didn’t exactly kick us into high gear the way it should have. We didn’t get another Avengers, a movie everyone lost their nuts over. From the blockbusters to the little guys, there was a lack in unanimous love and praise to be found. We did finally get Prometheus, a movie which could go down as this summer’s main topic of movie conversation over whether “It was awesome! No, it sucked!” but we get those all too often during this time of year. If we’re going to get one movie to feed the millions with true, big summer entertainment where all the harshest critics will be beaten across the world, then we got one ‘lil superhero movie coming up that may provoke such a reaction… The Amazing Spider-Man! Actually, no, but Marc Webb‘s reboot does pass the time nicely and, at the very least, gives us a new Peter Parker we can care about. But that doesn’t mean it made this list. Find out what did:

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Killer Joe

William Friedkin’s (The Exorcist, Bug) latest thriller, Killer Joe, looks gritty, greasy, and gross, the sort of crime movie that makes you feel like you have to take a shower after you watch it. It’s full of bad people making evil decisions; which, according to noir morality, is going to spell certain (and likely bloody) doom for everyone involved. Sometimes watching a movie like that can be a masochistic experience, but when the film in question stars names like Thomas Haden Church, Emile Hirsch, Gina Gershon, an adorable-while-spinning Juno Temple, and a seemingly motivated Matthew McConaughey, more likely than not the experience is going to be fascinating. Killer Joe’s new trailer has violence, matricide, deep shadows, rain storms, Southern accents, dilapidated pool halls, people putting their sister up as collateral, and I think someone gets killed with a can of pumpkin pie filling. It looks moody, and dangerous, and it warns us that the film has an NC-17 rating.

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This year’s SXSW may be over, but it’s certainly not forgotten. Another week of barbeque, buddies, beer, and – oh yeah – movies down, and we’re still recovering, both in terms of remembering everything we saw and attempting to pry ourselves out of our stretchiest of pants. As with any film festival, the stunning depth of films available to watch has resulted in a solid handful of serious favorites. This time around, our twelve favorite films of the festival include big studio comedy, intimate documentary, the best action film in years, true independent features, and even a picture made entirely on cell phones. Take a look at our twelve favorites from this year’s SXSW after the break.

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Killer Joe

After walking out of Killer Joe, one of my favorite films of SXSW, the NC-17 rating was one of the first things that hit me. It’s easy to see why the MPAA slapped it with that box-office death rating. When William Friedkin‘s film gets nasty, it gets nasty. The film is about the rough and real kind of violence, not the goofy fun type. However, Killer Joe‘s violence and sex is still plenty steps down from a handful of R-rated releases. We’ve seen violence of this magnitude done on-screen before, so it’s most likely a tonal issue the MPAA has with Friedkin’s stage adaptation. LD Entertaiment recently attempted to appeal the NC-17 rating, but it has now been denied. Rumors are that they’ll appeal again soon. David Dinerstein, the president of LD Entertainment, and the film’s screenwriter Tracy Letts both gave statements to the appeals board, and I happened to have interviewed Letts the other day at SXSW.

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Killer Joe is trash. Not bad trash. Not pretentious trash. Just plain old ugly, funny, and sophisticated trash. William Friedkin‘s stage adaptation of Tracy Letts stage play is not as accomplished as their previous collaboration, Bug, but it’s definitely more unhinged and surpasses many of its fellow genre brethren. If you thought Bug was “crazy,” just wait until you get to Killer Joe‘s final minutes of magical brutality. Before we get there, however, what we’re served is a fairly conventional story that only makes that final act all the more satisfying. As with Bug, Killer Joe does not follow the cleanliest of people. Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch), a young and annoying hick, wants to do what all good sons aspire for: kill his mother who sold his drugs. Said mother, a woman Chris and his sister despise, holds a life insurance check that would payoff 50,000 dollars, so the young lead and his family decide to claim it.

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South by Southwest is our favorite film festival not just because it’s in our own backyard (relatively speaking) or because it affords us a chance to eat BBQ on daily basis or even because it means we can sit in the Drafthouse all day but because – wait, no, it’s our favorite film festival for precisely those reasons. What else could you possibly want from a film festival? Good films? Fair enough. Luckily, finding good films at SXSW isn’t hard, not even remotely, which explains why our list of Our 16 Most Anticipated Films came together with no overlap – there’s truly something for everyone. For Rob Hunter, that means a lot of guns and violence, for Dear Leader Neil Miller, he just wants to stop being the last person in America who hasn’t seen The Raid. We even let Jack pick some films too. Sixteen in total, these films encapsulate the variety that makes SXSW so great – stick with this list and you probably can’t go (too)  wrong. Why sixteen films? Because we’re sweet. Or just suffering from anticipatory exhaustion from our favorite film festival. Check out all the movies we’re aching to see after the jump.

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Considering how much I like striped shirts, pasta, and films from controversial Greek directors, it looks like I may need to stow away in someone’s suitcase and get over to Italy next month for the 68th Venice Film Festival. The fest, which runs from August 31 to September 10, has just released their lineup for the year, and I may be speaking out of my macaroni here, but this batch of films really wets my noodle. Nathan already reported last month that George Clooney’s The Ides of March was likely to join the festival, and today’s announcement confirms that twofold – Ides will not only show at the festival, it will serve as opening night film. Other good stuff here includes Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (which has one of my favorite trailers of the year), Roman Polanski’s adaptation of play God of Carnage (shortened to Carnage), Ami Canaan Mann’s Texas Killing Fields, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, Steve McQueen’s Shame, Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse, Madonna’s W.E., Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, and Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos’s Alps. In short terms, this is an incredible lineup of films that I cannot even remotely snark on, because I would probably do something violent if it meant I could go to the festival. Check out the full list of films after the break.

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