Real Steel

Sure, Quidditch looks like a whole bunch of fun until you take into account the fact that you’re probably not very good at it. Not to mention how exhausting it must be. There’s a reason you barely see anyone over 20 on a broom in those films. So what’s a lazy person to do in these fictional universes? Luckily there are options, some of which are arguably cooler than trying to balance on some stupid piece of custodial equipment.

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Boiling Point

The 84th Academy Awards have come and gone: let the bitching begin! As someone who is more of a genre fan than anything, I’ve never really cared too much about the Oscars, but that sure as hell doesn’t prevent me from complaining about them. Granted, over the years, some great films have won. I’m a big fan of Unforgiven and I dug Shakespeare In Love. I just think far too many good films are ignored in favor of “Oscar movies.” I can’t say that I was particularly impressed with any of the films nominated this year, but there were a few categories were I feel like the little golden man statue when to the wrong film. Luckily, the internet exists and I can complain about it!

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray may be coming to you a few days later than usual, but fear not, as it was worth the wait. Fox and MGM decided to drop a number of great films on me at the last minute, meaning long hours of pouring over special features, drinking heavily and ultimately turning myself into a late-1970s Woody Allen character by the end. It was all worth it, as you’re about to experience 2500 words or so of the most full edition of this column we’ve seen in a long time. Plenty of unsung heroes of 2011, classics of yesteryear and boxing robots to go around. Also, Rob Hunter stops by for some cross-column reviewing with Rebecca. 50/50 In a week that will see the release of a bevy of classics coming to Blu-ray for the very first time, it would be a crime to overlook one of 2011′s most heartfelt works, complete with some ranged performances from the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Bryce Dallas Howard. Jonathan Levine (The Wackness), working from a script by Will Reiser based on a true story, tells the tale of Adam, a 27-year old guy who gets diagnosed with spinal cancer. Dealing with his overbearing friends, his smothering mother and a relationship that hangs on the edge, Adam must find a way to not only beat cancer, but all the situational drama it’s caused between him and those he cares about most. It’s funny, touching and full of memorable performances. […]

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This Week in DVD

Welcome to This Week in DVD! Lots of titles hitting shelves today, and we’re covering nineteen of them below. High profiles like Real Steel and Paranormal Activity 3 are releasing alongside indies like The Woman and Beware the Gonzo. There’s also several older titles worth checking out including Punishment Park, The Arena with Pam Grier and a Criterion release of Godzilla. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Whistleblower A female cop (Rachel Weisz) from the Midwest takes a temporary but high paid job as a UN peacekeeper in Bosnia and discovers despicable crimes and criminals in her midst. Her instinct as a cop is to help people and bring the guilty to justice, but the systematic corruption may be too widespread and unbeatable. Weisz gives a strong and emotional performance, and the film pulls no punches in its exploration of the sex trafficking trade that exists in Bosnia (and around the world). It manages to be both powerful and suspenseful too while never feeling the need to glamorize or Hollywood-ize the story. This isn’t the sexiest release of the week and there are some better films below, but it’s an important and well made movie with a message worth sharing.

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Drinking Games

When a boxing robot movie was first rumored about, a lot of people rolled their eyes and shook their heads. It’s bad enough that we’ve got adaptations of the board games Monopoly and Battleship coming down the pike, but a Rock’em Sock’em Robots movie just seemed ridiculous. The result was Real Steel, which is a pretty cool flick, believe it or not. It’s not going to win any awards (except maybe Best Visual Effects, thanks to an Oscar nomination this week), but it’s still an entertaining action film about a father and son and a robot beating the bolts out of other robots. And like any good sporting event, it is more fun to drink while watching it.

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The Best Films of 2011: The Staff Picks

As you may have noticed, this final week of 2011 has been almost completely taken over by our third annual Year in Review. It was born in 2009 out of our love for lists and your thirst for reading, discussing and ultimately hating them. And each year the entire project gets a little bigger, a little bolder and slightly more absurd. With that in mind, I’m once again proud to present you with The Best Films of 2011: The Staff Picks. Each of our 14 regular staff writers, contributors and columnists, almost all of whom have been with us the entire year, were asked to present their top 5 films, in no particular order (although many of them placed their top film at the top, as logical people tend to do), each with an explanation. Some even included curse words as a bonus to you, the reader. Read: The Best Films of 2010: The Staff Picks | The Best Films of 2009: The Staff Picks Once again, the Staff Picks are a testament to the diversity we have here at Film School Rejects, with picks ranging from the likely suspects (Take Shelter, Hugo, Shame) to the slightly more nerdy (Attack the Block, Super 8, The Muppets) to several movies that may not yet be on your radar (see Landon Palmer’s list for those). And once again, it’s with a deep sense of pride that I publish such a list, the best of 2011 as seen through the eyes of the movie […]

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The 10 Best Action Films of 2011

Some other sites or site runners may look down on lists, but those people are what are known as no-fun douche bags, because really, lists are awesome. They are short, easy to digest little morsels that you can wash down with a carbonated beverage, argue about, and take recommendations from. If you don’t like lists, you are worse than Hitler. You know what’s better than Hitler? Lots of stuff, like peanut butter cookies with little peanut butter cups pressed into them. That, and also these ten action movies, which are my favorite for the year. Yeah, you’ll probably disagree, so comment below or get your own damn website.

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The Reject Report

What? Tintin? I know what you’re thinking. “I know we had Daylight Saving Time this morning, Jeremy, but you’re taking this “time travel” business a little too far, aren’t you?” You’ve probably notice we’re still at the beginning of November and haven’t been transported magically to December 21st when The Adventures of Tintin gets its US release, and you’d be both observant and right. However, Tintin, world figure that he is, got his release in several foreign markets on October 26th-28th. The ignorant American that I am didn’t bother to address this until now. Well, here you go, foreign markets. It’s your day to shine. The Adventures of Tintin has already pulled in $125.3m in foreign territories, pretty much guaranteeing its worldwide success well before its North American release. The film is already generated income from over 5000 locations in 21 foreign markets, but most of its dollars have come from the United Kingdom and France so far. It made $21 million from France last weekend and $10.9m from the UK. Spain and Germany were also big markets for the film, pulling over $10m from the locations combined.

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The Reject Report

Yes, we know. It’s a little early to be celebrating Christmas already. It’s actually a lot early to be celebrating Christmas, but what’s good enough for the weekend box office is good enough for the Reject Report. There is a Christmas movie hitting this weekend, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, and it’ll be looking to take dollars and laughs away from the other new release, Tower Heist. As much as we’d all like to see Brett Ratner go down in flames to the might of Harold & Kumar, that outcome might not be so foregone. Doesn’t matter to our Christmas spirit, though. We’ll still be singing carols and hanging out underneath the mistletoe. Alone. Practicing on the back of our hands. Oh, right, the box office.

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Culture Warrior

Buried deep within this sentence (Doritos are delicious) is an advertisement. Did you catch it? You probably didn’t because it was so subtly subliminal, but that’s exactly how product placement has worked for a century to varying degrees of success. After all, there’s a thin line between using real-life products in a film to create a sense of verisimilitude and using them to promote the product in question. Where that line is drawn is up to each person. One person might see a kid reading “National Geographic” in It’s a Wonderful Life and think it’s quaintly appropriate while another person might find it craven and conspicuous. To the same extent, different film productions have delivered brands with means ranging from the slyness of near-imperceptibility to almost Doritos-Scorchin’-Habanero-Flavor levels of obviousness. It’s far from new, and even though sold items have sneaked their way into movies for almost one hundred years, there’s been an explosion in recent decades, seeing a new revenue stream for studios and a new annoyance for film fans.

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The Reject Report

Just when you thought it was safe to station video cameras in an attempt to capture the nightly doings of some nefarious supernatural entity. Oh, those pesky ghosty things and their habits of turning innocent tea parties into screaming nightmares. That’s not based on first-hand experience, by the way. My tea party days are over. Luckily for Paramount, audiences were in the mood for chills this weekend, as Paranormal Activity 3 had a dump truck of cash backed up to its haunted house doors and unloaded. The third entry in the now-never-ending series not only trounced the competition and stunned box office analysts, its broke the records for both October opening weekend and Fall opening weekend. Both of those records were previously held by last year’s Jackass 3D, which debuted to $50.3m.

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They took the stage. They did their dance. But in the end one side decided to throw mechanized punches while the other side fought a tyrannical small town with the power of fancy footwork. That is to say Real Steel took the top spot from Footloose this weekend but only by a narrow margin. When the actual numbers hit Monday evening, it could be another story altogether, but, as of right now, the robot have it for the second weekend in a row.

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…of the world. Maybe of the entire universe. Who knows what kind of movies or box office receipts they have in the far galaxies? Still, regardless how much money The Sands of WeepWoo makes on planet Brackle, it couldn’t have been stepped up to the how well the giant robots did this weekend. Real Steel didn’t break any box office records. Even for a robot movie, its opening was on the high end but still South of movies like A.I. Artificial Intelligence ($29.3m opening) and Robots ($36m). It did, however, have the biggest opening for a boxing film, topping Rocky IV‘s $19.9m debut from 1985. A nice sized opening like we see hear combined with how crowd-pleasing the film is could prove Real Steel to have some solid longevity.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr strips down to his boxers and starts a new training regimen to make him look more like Huge Jackman. He’s got a head start, considering his torso looks almost like Jackman’s… if you turn it upside down. After duking it out with some robots in a boxing ring, Kevin tries his hands at politics because it’s the kind of business where you don’t necessarily have to look like Ryan Gosling to get a young hottie like Evan Rachel Wood. But the primary system leaves him depressed and cold, so he takes a trip to the Sudan to play target practice with some warlords. He hears the Sudan is simply lovely this time of year.

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By 2020, technology will have advanced to give us even cooler phones and GSP systems, but most impressive (at least according to director Shawn Levy) will be boxing robots. And what does a former (human) boxer do when he is replaced by the technology of robots? Become the operator and promoter of said robots, naturally. But more importantly, what kind of music does he fight and train to? The year might be 2020, but the artists making up the soundtrack for Real Steel almost read like it was released in the 1990s with songs from Limp Bizkit, The Crystal Method, The Prodigy and Foo Fighters. And this is not a bad thing. Real Steel is all about the performance (both in and outside of the ring) and the swagger filled soundtrack will get your adrenaline pumping as you root for the underdog team of former boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), his son Max (Dakota Goyo) and their robot, Atom. From the moment we meet Max he has headphones around his neck and as the story unfolds, music becomes as much a part of the world of Real Steel as the robots.

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The Reject Report

It’s time to pop the head off that other report, the one we don’t like. I don’t know. Take your pick. This is the Reject Report, where we mash down our buttons so fast and furiously we knock out the competition that comes before us. That’s precisely what two new films are looking to do to their own competition this weekend. We’ve got a huge robot movie starring Hugh Jackman and a political drama starring Ryan Gosling and George Clooney. Plenty of eye candy in the theaters this weekend, but only one of these movies is going to have what it takes to take that box office top spot. Perhaps you would say one of these movies is going to have to have real steel? Perhaps not. Let’s see how our combatants are looking this weekend.

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Anyone familiar with the work of Shawn Levy — the commercialism auteur behind films like Night at the Museum and Cheaper by the Dozen — won’t have their outlook on life remodeled by the revelation that with his latest film, he’s got very little to say. They may, however, be surprised to hear that the guy who brought the world Just Married has delivered a wicked family-driven action movie that, when put up against the ropes, delivers some of the best robot-on-robot CGI mayhem we’ll see all year. And yes, I’m including Transformers: Dark of the Moon in that category. With a story borrowed from every sports redemption film you’ve ever seen, Real Steel moves quickly through exposition and delivers on its promise of big, bad robot boxing that ultimately finds a way to be a whole lot of fun.

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I’m standing on the edge of the The Detroit River which is also the edge of the set for Real Steel – the forthcoming robot boxing movie with a heart of gold. Twenty or so feet away from the Cobo Arena, the wind is picking up, and the view looks out over the glass of the water toward Ontario. This might not seem like a dramatic moment for anyone who lives there, but there’s something poetically jarring about looking out at a different country (and looking southward to see Canada). Right across the water is another world. It’s a world separate from Detroit that hasn’t been beaten down by a lagging economy and the failure of major auto manufacturing. It’s not that Detroit isn’t as impressive, it’s that Windsor seems newer, fresher, and more alive. A precipice with a view to another world seems like the perfect place for the Shawn Levy-directed, Hugh Jackman-starring film to shoot as it promises to tell a story both embedded in the seedy underground and the glittering, life-filled stadiums of the near future. To hear Levy talk, the movie sets out to feature a man living in one world, testing his limits to live in the other.

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For the next few weeks we’ll be taking you through the gritty underground fighting world and into the sparkling, brightly lit arenas where the premiere robots brawl it out for fame and fortune. Diary from my top secret time traveling experiment into a Dystopian future or my Real Steel set visit? We’ll let you be the judge. We’ll also let you be the judge of these new character posters. One of the most impressive things about watching them film the movie and learning a bit about it was the design of the robots that act as the non-human centerpiece of the story. The pre-viz, CGI and practical all blended together to make some very, very cool machines which get a fresh introduction to the world today. Meet Atom, Ambush, Midas, and Noisy Boy. Click on all of them to make them way, way bigger:

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column, sure. But at its core, it is a hunter. A hunter of the most interesting film-related tidbits of the day. Can you feel the heat? It’s not enough for director Alex Proyas will make Paradise Lost, the story of the break between Heaven and Hell. But he’s also bringing Djimon Hounsou as the Angel of Death. If there is one actor that I look at on a consistent basis and think, “that man would bring death to me,” it’s Hounsou. It sure beats Bradley Cooper as Lucifer, so we’ll see how it shakes out.

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