Senna

Senna

Ron Howard’s Rush opens with a curious bit of voiceover – Daniel Bruhl, acting as Niki Lauda, tells the audience that he’s known for two things: his feud with fellow Formula One racer James Hunt (played in the film by Chris Hemsworth) and the accident that nearly claimed his life. In the context of the film, it’s not a weird choice, as most of Rush centers quite firmly on the rivalry between Lauda and Hunt that its third act plot point – the one about Lauda’s horrific accident and his subsequent recovery – feels almost shoehorned in. But it is strange because the Lauda storyline is, on its own, extremely compelling stuff. Sure, Howard’s film attempts to comment on the nature of competition and how having a professional nemesis can drive certain people to great things in a pretty definitive way, but anyone who knows anything about Niki Lauda knows that it was his accident that really defined him. James Hunt was simply a part of that. Rush is fine as is, featuring some great performances and one hell of a third act, but it’s a misfire because it doesn’t give its all to the very best part of the story and just go pedal to the metal on a true Niki Lauda biopic. Fortunately, for anyone who isn’t compelled to see Rush right now (or perhaps ever), there’s an available alternative that makes Howard’s latest blockbuster look easy, emotionless, and utterly middle of the road. It’s called Senna, and […]

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Film_Teddybear_613411a

One of the things I love about the latest Fast and Furious movie (whatever it’s called, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 6 or my own title, “Planes, Tanks and Automobiles”) is its casting. Not only is the ensemble made up mostly of hyphenate professionals who weren’t originally actors (including a wrestler, a bodybuilder, a former Miss Israel, a couple music artists, a couple martial artists), but a few of them are rather fresh faces to film, new to the franchise and surely on the rise in their movie careers. As much as I look forward to seeing what each does next, I’m also excited to have a new reason to spotlight the fairly recent breakthrough performances that likely got them this gig. In addition to using the opportunity to recommend those films, none of which has been seen by nearly as many people as will see a Fast and Furious movie, I’ve compiled a broader list of movies to now watch after seeing Fast & Furious 6. It’s partly a way to note some of its forebears and possible influences without going my usual negative route of criticizing this as a derivative work. It’s obviously imitative to a degree yet it’s also highly original in some of its stunts and their execution. Besides, just as in music we should accept and appreciate derivatives for their potential to lead fans backward to their (often better) predecessors. Of course, there are some reminiscent predecessors I’d rather not choose to recommend (Cars 2, […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

Brits running for the glory of the Empire, a fourth helping of Pie, an insanely brilliant racing hero and a few absolute bummers. That’s the company we keep This Week in Blu-ray as we take a look through the likes of American Reunion, The Flowers of War, Cherry Bomb, Spawn and Senna making their Blu debuts. It all begins, of course, with our pick of the week. Chariots of Fire Warner Bros. was able to kill two birds with one remaster this year. Not only are we getting this classic story of faith and fitness in a glorious Blu-ray release, but they’re also giving it a renewed theatrical showing in the UK in honor of the 2012 London Olympics. It’s all perfectly timed, as Chariots does tell the story of two Olympians, a Jewish man who runs to battle prejudice and a devoutly Catholic Scottish man who runs despite his dedication to his faith and its missions. Together, they brought glory to Britain in the 1924 Olympics. The result is a timeless convergence of sportsmanship and cinema showmanship, a well-acted, thoroughly emotional experience at the hand of director Hugh Hudson. The score, most notably the synthesizer heavy opening theme, is the stuff of pop culture legend. It will live on long beyond the memory of those who know where it originates, from the Academy Award winning score of Vangelis. The choice to go 80s synth instead of big, sweeping orchestral work for a triumphant story of national heroism in the 1920s was a bold one, […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column that’s picking up the pieces as Hollywood takes off for an extended mid-week holiday weekend. Sure, the streets of Burbank are empty at the moment (quick, someone sneak onto the Paramount Lot and steal a rough cut of Star Trek 2!), but there’s plenty of news and notes to go around. We’re just that good, friends. We begin this evening with a shot of Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) and Rinko Kikuchi (The Brothers Bloom) in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim wearing futuristic robot driving suits. Not only did Shock Till You Drop pull these from the pages of Entertainment Weekly, they also scored a pretty in-depth synopsis.

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This Week in DVD

Welcome back to This Week In DVD! A wide range of movies are hitting shelves today, but the two best releases happen to be television series including HBO’s Game of Thrones and my pick of the week below. On the movie front we have the fantastic racer doc Senna, the surprisingly funny indie comedy High Road, Pedro Almodovar’s twisted thriller The Skin I Live In, Adam Sandler’s latest abortion Jack and Jill, and more! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Adventure Time: It Came from the Nightosphere A boy and his dog spend their days playing in the world of their imagination, and the result is some gloriously effed up adventures. I make no apology for loving this show. It’s like swallowing a sugar-filled grenade that explodes in your head over and over again throughout each episode’s eleven-minute run-time. Everything about the show is free-flowing and utterly weird, from the animation style to the humor to the stories themselves. This DVD features sixteen episodes including the Emmy-nominated “Nightosphere.”

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Gosling: Only God Forgives

What is Movie News After Dark? Usually it’s a recap of what’s happening in the world of film. But on a slow news day such as today with FSR news teamers like Nathan Adams having already done that, News After Dark becomes something far more interesting: a gathering of links that will take you down the rabbit hole of the intelligent thought, analysis and otherwise fun reading that the movie blogosphere has to offer. Also, there was plenty of Mondo news today, so that’s good. We begin tonight with a first look at Ryan Gosling in Only God Forgives, Nicolas Winding Refn’s next film that is currently shooting in Thailand. Radius-TWC, an off-shoot of The Weinstein Co., has closed a deal to distribute the film in the United States. Which means you’ll get to see it. And that’s really all that matters, right?

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The Writers Guild of America has released the nominees for their Writer’s Guild Awards today, and while there’s certainly some room for quibbling as far as their choices go, the screenplays they’ve nominated in their film categories are at least a diverse array of projects. There’s something here for everyone. I balked at these choices a bit on first glance, they’d left off many of my favorite films of the year. But after thinking about what was missing for a few seconds I started to realize that a lot of the films I really loved over the course of 2011 relied more on mood and photography than they did their screenplays. In my mind, there was no real superstar script this year, like Inception and The Social Network last year. I loved things like Drive and Shame, but did their greatness really lie in their screenplays? Still, I can think of a handful of things that I would have liked to have seen included that weren’t. As far as original screenplays go, I think a film like Warrior was a master of structure, and is more deserving than something like Bridesmaids, which was a fairly generic comedy plot and which probably relied largely on improvisation for its humor. And I really miss a nomination for something like The Skin I Live In when it comes to the adapted screenplay section; especially when they’ve nominated a film like The Help, which cannot name writing as one of its strengths. Check out […]

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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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Culture Warrior

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:

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Hugo

It is day four of awards season, and already some names are growing wearyingly familiar, and even the surprises don’t quite pop like they used to. On Monday evening, the Gothams announced their annual awards, followed swiftly by the Film Independent Spirit nominations announcement and the NYFCC’s winners, but director Martin Scorsese and his latest film, Hugo, were without some big awards love – until now. The National Board of Review has announced their best-of picks for the year, and Hugo has topped out as Best Film, with Scorsese grabbing Best Director. As the film opened just last week, here’s hoping that this NBR endorsement will pump up somewhat lackluster box office returns. Paired with a weekend box office free of new major releases, and maybe Hugo can swing up to the top of the heap. As for the rest of the Board’s awards, there’s a bevy of names here that already seem like old hat – picks like Christopher Plummer for Beginners and The Artist, The Descendants, and The Tree of Life as a “top” films for the year – but there are still a few eyebrow-raisers, as our friends over at /Film note, J.C. Chandor picking up another award for his debut, Margin Call, continues to be surprising. Where is Sean Durkin and his own Sundance hit Martha Marcy May Marlene? And J. Edgar as one of the year’s best? And a Breakthrough to Felicity Jones and Rooney Mara, but no Elizabeth Olsen? Bizarre, really. But there are […]

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The Reject Report

30 Reject Reports on the wall. 30 Reject Reports. You take one down, pass it around…I really thought about going through all 30 lines of lyric to that 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, but then I figured you’d probably just skip ahead anyway. So allow me. 30 Minutes or Less. Final Destination 5 IN 3-FRIGGIN-D! The Help. Glee IN 3-FRIGGIN-D! Yeah, they’re all hitting big this weekend, and some of them are sure to have a decent enough opening. But those apes, man. They’ve got the box office on primate lock-down, and they’re not letting anyone take the crown away from them. So before you ask “Why Cookie Rocket?” and start to debate me, think really hard about what that means. Then consider this. Why NOT Cookie Rocket? Why the hell not?

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Formula One racing is something of a mystery on these NASCAR-obsessed American shores. As a consequence of that, we’ve all heard much more about the Dale Earnhardts and Jeff Gordons of the U.S. automotive world than Ayrton Senna, the late Brazilian driver who’s widely considered to have been one of the best racers of all time. Travel many places outside North America, though, and Formula One is part sport and part religion, attracting legions of fans, reams of sponsors and an enormous swath of media attention. So it’s possible that the celebrity of Senna, who won three world championships and 41 races over the course of his ten-year career (1984-94), eclipsed that of even the most fervently-admired NASCAR racers. Asif Kapadia’s Senna, a documentary about the athletic giant, is one part useful primer into his feats and one part perceptive character study. Consisting entirely of contemporaneous footage — home video images provided by Senna’s family as well as gritty race scenes and revealing behind-the-scenes imagery — the film simultaneously hurls you into the highly-charged world of Formula One and the private emotional space of its complex protagonist.

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