Looper

Rian Johnson

When news broke that Rian Johnson would helm Star Wars: Episode VIII and write a treatment for Episode IX – adding to the numerous Star Wars properties scheduled for screens shortly behind J.J. Abrams’s mystery box – it was almost universally regarded as a solid, promising move to those cautiously optimistic about the rebooting of a galaxy far away. And no doubt, Johnson’s hiring is a very good move for Star Wars, lending the franchise not only the director’s subcultural clout, but also his precise sense of style, passionate knowledge of genre and careful approach to cinematic world-building. His skill should benefit greatly a franchise whose previous incarnation suffered from scant evidence of inspiration or vision. But before seeing a final product, we can only take this news as a gesture of goodwill, or even a reason to be happy for a talented director worthy of admiration and success. Unfortunately, a facet largely missing from conversations about this news is whether a Rian Johnson-led Star Wars will be good for Rian Johnson, especially in a Hollywood that loves courting indie directors but shows questionable regard for their autonomy upon arrival. Marc Webb. Gareth Edwards. Doug Liman. Bryan Singer. At various points during the ‘90s and ‘00s, this list of names would denote the creators behind film festival highlights and limited release word-of-mouth gems. But in 2014, these are the names of the men in the director’s chair for some of the summer’s biggest tentpole titles, the kinds of movies that make or break a fiscal year […]

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backtothefuture_movieswelove

Time travel stories are one of the most polarizing things for film fans. They either love them, or they turn their noses up at them. Still, that doesn’t stop writers from coming up with them, and it’s not even for the science fiction fields. Time travel stories have an unexpectedly strong placement in romance fiction as well, such as The Time Traveler’s Wife or the upcoming Starz series Outlander, based on Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling historical romance series. While many of these romance-driven stories – like Somewhere in Time and more recently Richard Curtis’s About Time – are not concerned with the greater implications of meddling with the space-time continuum, the science fiction movies are. Traveling through time has been a central figure in stories for years, often presenting the viewer with a crash course in theoretical physics and opening themselves up to plot holes almost impossible to close. As a personal fan of the time traveling story, I love to see what the writers will come up with next. But these movies always get me wondering… is it possible to travel through time the way people do in the movies?

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1200

It may not be the biggest hit at the box office this weekend, but Escape Plan could wind up a cult favorite. As our review states, it’s “entertaining” and “gloriously silly.” And truth be told, it’s the first movie for either Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone in about 20 years that deserves a sequel. Or needs one, because personally I found the team-up of these two 1980s action heroes a little less fun than I’d hoped. Honestly, I dozed off a bit in the middle. But Escape Plan 2 could be bigger and even more entertaining and much sillier in an even more glorious way. For starters, I’d like to see a follow-up where the actors are actually equal, dual protagonists rather than seeing Arnie as a sidekick along for another one of Sly’s adventures. Maybe the sequel could instead reverse the premise and have it be Schwarzenegger’s character’s story. Instead of coming up with original ideas to pitch to the makers of Escape Plan, and potentially just have them stolen, I’ve selected 10 plots that already exist in other movies, which could be remade for Escape Plan 2, Escape Plan 3, etc. And the good thing is many of these titles are already in line to be remade. Just tweak the scripts with some one-liners referencing both stars’ past hits, and you’re good to go!

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Why Watch? After Rian Johnson’s Looper hit theaters, I was a little surprised that more filmed fan fiction didn’t overwhelm the internet. Here was a ready-made universe that blended time travel and noir, practically begging for more adventures. Fortunately, Olaf Blomerus took his amazing name and answered the call. The result is an intense bite of a teaser-style short that delivers thanks to wicked CGI work and an ambiguous gun-toting threat. With cold brew dialogue and smoke in its eyes, the short pulls off the feat of being wholly satisfying while also making you ache to see more. Endgame Entertainment needs to commission an Animatrix style set and have Blomerus at the top of their call sheet.

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IntroInterrogation

Any psychotic can smash someone’s fingers or beat a head to a pulp until they get what they want – and thanks to the spree of bizarre torture porn movies like Saw and Hostel, seeing people get cut apart is almost standard at this point. Still, filmmakers do manage to get creative every now and then, and from it we get a scene of brutality the likes of nothing before it. Shall we celebrate that? Oh, and warning – this is going to be painful.

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Rian Johnson

Writer/director Rian Johnson‘s Looper is an intricately told film. Nearly every scene in the movie is packed full of new information, from character development to world building. As Johnson explains finding that structure, it was like creating stepping stones across a pond for the audience, so they don’t fall into the pond of mind-numbing exposition. That wasn’t an easy path to make, either. Johnson spent many years developing the story from a two-page treatment to a feature length film, and much of that process was dedicated to handling all of the film’s information. After Looper‘s box office and critical success, it’s fair to say he managed with flying colors. With the movie out on Blu-ray, Johnson took some time to speak with us about the story’s mother/son dynamic, why the best science fiction has something we care deeply about at its core, and his desire to write more economically:

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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. Justified: The Complete Third Season Deputy US Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is a patient man, but even he has his limits. His feuds with Boyd (Walton Goggins) and Dickie (Jeremy Davies) are still going strong when two more men enter the fray in the form of a Detroit mobster (Neal McDonaugh) and a local butcher named Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson). Not everyone will be standing by the end of these thrilling and entertaining as hell thirteen episodes. Three seasons in this FX series continues to shine thanks to sharp writing, a colorful cast of characters and the absolute coolness that Olyphant brings to Givens. Fun stuff, perfect length, highly recommended. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Commentaries, outtakes, deleted scenes, featurettes, interviews]

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The Best Soundtracks of 2012

Looking back over the past year in film, it is impressive to remember the different styles and forms of music that accompanied these various releases as they bring back the memories and emotions felt when first hearing a particular song or watching a piece of orchestration pair perfectly with what was happening on screen. When it comes to music, it is not simply a question of what was the best; it is a question of what resonated the most. Music created for film is unlike any other type of music because it is intended to be listened to while watching specific images. Of course there are songs that stand well on their own (see: Adele’s “Skyfall”), but hopefully even outside of the film, those songs conjure up memories of the films they came from. Sometimes a song placed in a particular scene can take on a whole new meaning, giving you a new ideas to reflect on when you hear it (see: “The Air That I Breathe” by the Hollies as used in a pivotal scene in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.) Soundtracks and scores help add to the emotion of a film and this year’s musicians delivered in spades. From turning found sounds into orchestration to adding a new layer of depth to the end of a trilogy to proving that sometimes words simply are not enough, 2012 was filled with new, inventive, and memorable music. Let’s look back and listen to the twelve selections […]

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commentary-looper

Rian Johnson‘s Looper is a rare film for many reasons. The only thing rarer than Hollywood committing to a mid-budget sci-fi film is one featuring an original idea not based on an existing property. Even better though, the film is unafraid to go to some very dark places with some wholly unexpected events, and the result is a rewarding experience for film goers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis star as young and old versions of the same character who come face to face in a fight for their separate but clearly connected lives. It’s smart, exciting and challenging in the way no big budget blockbuster could ever hope to be. Three of its key players sat down to record a commentary track for next week’s Blu-ray/DVD release, and we gave it a listen. Come along won’t you, and read what we heard…

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Taken 2: iPad Boogaloo

This is not an article that makes wild predictions about the future. It probably won’t solve all of you movie-watching problems, either. It’s also not entirely about a movie in which Liam Neeson has a set of skills. It is, however, a cautiously optimistic piece about where the world of digital distribution is heading. We talk about it far too much as part of the debate over piracy. The notion that for producers of content to truly reach the plugged in generation, they’re going to have to fix the mechanism that sells us the content. It’s perhaps the worst conditions under which we talk about digital distribution. So many sides, so many emotions, so much grey area exists in the piracy discussion. And so often, it escalates out of control. But what about the optimistic side of digital distribution. What is it that people want most, if they aren’t simply after something free. It’s simple: they want it now. And more and more, we’re seeing distributors who are closing the gap between when things are in theaters and when you can have it in our home. In these instances, there’s cause for hope.

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The Avengers

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly news column that was on hiatus, but has now been back for a solid week. And it feels good to be back. As Ernie Hudson might remark, it loves this town. Short on List, Big on Effects – The big Oscar shortlist for Best Visual Effects has come out. And while it includes some of the ones you’d expect — The Avengers, Cloud Atlas, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises — there are also a few interesting surprises, including Prometheus, Life of Pi, John Carter and yes, even The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The question is this: will The Hobbit run away with this one due to a late-year release, or will people remember that ridiculous following shot through the war-torn streets of New York in The Avengers?

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As any of us who’ve dressed up as movie characters for Halloween know, it’s the distinctly designed roles that make for the most interesting costumes. Nobody is dressing up as Alex Cross or Aaron Cross this year — not because their movies weren’t popular, but because the characters don’t have a very recognizable look. Peruse the popular suits for sale and clever homemade ideas this year and you’ll find mostly characters who wouldn’t be what they are without the craftwork of costume designers and makeup artists. That’s why I consider theirs the Halloween categories at the Oscars. And yet, the best and most common outfits and frightening faces aren’t necessarily those that tend to be recognized by the Academy. This year’s list of popular movie-related costumes predominantly consists of superheroes, which has been the norm for a while, but there are even more timely examples represented now thanks to the The Avengers featuring so many masked and caped crusaders. Also, we had another movie starring the Caped Crusader. And while once again Linda Hemming will be nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award for a Batman movie (she was nominated for Batman Begins and won for The Dark Knight), it’s very unlikely that The Dark Knight Rises will earn her a second Oscar nomination let alone win (she won her first time nominated, for Topsy-Turvy).

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“In a perfect world, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ would be a lock for a Best Original Screenplay nomination.” – Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit It must be frustrating to write for an awards blog (aka an Oscar blog, since the Academy Awards are always the main focus of these sites), and know that the best films of the year are not necessarily the ones that will be nominated. Magidson’s comment above, from his April review of The Cabin in the Woods, sort of sums that up. But at the same time I don’t know if the movie truly deserves the statement. Something to consider, semantically speaking, is that the Academy’s award is not for “Most Original Screenplay” but “Best Original Screenplay.” This isn’t to say that the script, by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, isn’t well-written, and you’re welcome to argue its case for a nomination. Is it the best-written original screenplay of the year, though? All my time as a movie lover and watcher of the Oscars, including the past few years of hate-watching, the original screenplay category is one I’ve constantly been excited about. It’s the place where you could find some of the more clever and creative efforts, including a number of films that might not get other nominations. You could find a good number of interesting foreign films outside of the foreign-language award ghetto (such as Bunuel‘s two nominations for writing), as well as an interesting showing of mainstream and blockbuster fare, especially in the […]

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Looper

Beware of Massive Spoilers for Looper after the jump. Should we enjoy time travel movies for their entertainment value despite any plot holes that might arise, or are those pesky nitpicks enough to sink the sci-fi ship? That’s the question at the heart of a metric ton of gold-bricking discussions about Looper – a film that playfully and smartly waves away the specifics in search of a larger metaphor. But is that really okay? To step away from the heat of the conversation, I’d like to give an example from the past that falls in the sweet middle spot of that main question: the liquid metal absurdity of Terminator 2. My central problem with the time travel in that fun-as-hell film is that it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Granted, from the “present” that we’re watching, it all seems fine. The original plan failed, so they call in Robert Patrick to take over. But put yourself in the room when the machines sent back Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first one. They would have known instantly whether the plan worked or not, and that causes a lot of problems for the internal logic of what goes on in the sequel.

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Some of you may already know me by my Twitter handle: @thefilmcynic. It’s a name I’ve gone by for nearly a decade (so, before current social media outlets), because I’m very cynical about the film industry and try to keep my expectations low. I’m also very cynical about the Academy Awards and awards season in general, because we devote so much focus on them — with a wide spectrum of positive and negative angles — and they’re really a bunch of malarkey (much like the V.P. debate, which has inspired my newfound obsession with that word). So, the higher ups at FSR have asked me to write a cynical column devoted to the Oscars. The first one is inspired by the films Seven Psychopaths, Looper and Lincoln and their celebrated performances. As someone who has studied acting (I’m not very good at it), I’ve long taken issue with the way people look at film performances, because there are just so many different kinds. But there are two real distinct types that we tend to recognize while watching and writing about movies that aren’t acknowledged by the Academy: realistic and artificial. The former has been a big favorite since method acting came into play, though it doesn’t necessarily apply to that style nor does that style necessarily always mean realism. The latter could be more expressive and therefore goes back to the dawn of cinema and its silent performances or could even be more stiff, if that’s what’s intended. Directors who […]

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“Movie House of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, I’m celebrating a new local favorite of mine, which could probably be substituted with many other lasting drive-ins around the U.S. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor.   Name: Starlight Six Drive-In Location: 2000 Moreland Avenue SE, Atlanta, GA Opened: 1947, as a single screen; became the Starlight Twin with the addition of a second screen in 1956; final four screens were added in 1983. No. of screens: 6 Current first run titles: Each screen has two titles, and these can be watched as a two-for-one double feature. This week’s most perfect pairings are Frankenweenie and Paranorman, Argo and The Bourne Legacy, and Hotel Transylvania and Here Comes the Boom. The other three are Looper and Resident Evil: Retribution, Sinister and Dredd, and Taken 2 and End of Watch.

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Continuing a yearly tradition that began at the defunct movie blog Spout, this is my 5th annual list of mostly original yet highly unlikely Halloween costume ideas. You can take any of these suggestions if you want, especially if you want to avoid having the same outfit as another person at the party you attend, and particularly if you want something that needs a lot of explanation — these tend to be good conversation starters for people looking for excuses to hit on you. Mostly, though, the following ideas are not to be taken too seriously. Some are really just stupid jokes. But they’re primarily intended to visually remind us of some of the trends, criticisms, immediate icons and zeitgeist of the past year in film. For instance, last year‘s “Forrest Gump wearing an X-Men uniform” costume illustrated 2011’s penchant for Gump-like revisionist history in blockbuster movies. And back in 2008, there was a costume called “Nuke the Fridge.” Sadly, in looking over 2012 for this year’s ideas, I realized that it’s been a very weak year for movie references worth calling back. Where are this year’s “nuke the fridge,” Antichrist fox, “Why cookie Rocket?” and “Winklevi”? Before too long, I might need to spin-off a TV version of this tradition to make it easier on me and more interesting to readers. Because we all know film culture is dead anyway, right?  

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Reject Recap: The Best of Film School Rejects

You may not want to see Taken 2 (it’s really quite terrible), but you hopefully want to take two on the week, as in revisit our last seven days of content to make sure you didn’t miss anything. It’s been another full session, as we closed out our Fantastic Fest coverage and dug deeper into the New York Film Festival with reviews and features courtesy of our incredibly smart guest contributors Caitlin Hughes and Daniel Walber along with the always excellent Jack Giroux. Speaking of reviews, in addition to that deservedly negative take on the Taken sequel, we republished fest responses to Frankenweenie, The House I Live In, Butter and V/H/S. Interviews this week included Hotel Transylvania director Genndy Tartakovsky and The Paperboy director Lee Daniels. Visit the trailers tag for first looks at the latest Die Hard, the next Lars von Trier and Rob Zombie films, Lone Ranger and a porn star documentary. And, as always, keep track of our daily short film showcase, TV coverage and other favorite columns via their respective buttons around the main page. Bookmark where you will. In addition to all that, you can check out our ten best features from the past week plus some other recommended reading after the break.

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Frankenweenie

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that’s taking it easy on this Friday evening. Expect fun, happy thoughts heading your way in the news rundown below… We begin this relaxed Friday evening edition of MNAD with a shot from the Frankenweenie art exhibition currently going down at Disney’s California Adventure. Our friends at ScreenCrave posted some shots from around the gallery. As you know, I was quite fond of Frankenweenie. And I like art shows.

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Looper

Note: The following article assumes that you’ve seen Looper and contains massive spoilers. “I don’t want to talk about time travel,” says Bruce Willis to Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. “If we start talking about it, then we’re going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws!” He’s speaking to his younger self at the time, so you’d think the details of how and why would be more important. He’s right, though. When you stop to break it down, there are a few paradoxes and logic gaps in Looper to go around, but director Rian Johnson seems less concerned with making hard sci-fi sense than making a statement. Looper isn’t a time travel movie as much as it’s a morality play that uses time travel as a tool for social commentary.

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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