Snowpiercer

Paramount Pictures

When considering the value of a film, there are at least two ways to think about it. You can measure its impact on you as an individual, or you can think about what it might mean for society as a whole. Ideally, we would do both, but it is often difficult to weigh the two against each other – especially at this time of year when we reduce the totality of a year in cinema to a simple list of ten. So let us, for the moment, put a film’s purely artistic achievements on the backburner, and celebrate those films that impact our world in a positive way. These socially-conscious movies dramatize the plight of oppressed or marginalized communities, bringing light to issues that too often seem to get stuck in the dark.

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2014_review_action

There were some fantastically great action films released in 2014, but 2014 was not a great year for action films. The horror genre had no such shortage (as evidenced by the greatness occupying our list of the year’s best) and you can probably name several comedies that had you busting a gut in 2014, but action films? There weren’t very many, and what there was rarely impressed. But sometimes you find great action in less than great movies, and with that understanding I was able to find 14 movies that fit the bill as the Best Action Films of 2014. Well, almost.

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2014_review_disappointments

Let me just say this right up front before you declare us legally insane and/or possessing of piss-poor taste in films — inclusion on this list doesn’t necessarily mean we think the movie is bad. Sure, that’s true of some of them (I’m looking at you Horns), but in most cases these are simply films we had reason to expect so much more from only to be let down — sometimes dramatically — in the end. 2014 was a spectacular year filled with great cinema, and there’s a lot that we absolutely loved (as evidenced by many of our other year-end lists posting this week), but these are the films that fell short. We walk into every movie hoping for the best, but sometimes our expectations get the best of us whether due to the talent involved or the power of a great trailer. We’re only human after all. So here are fourteen movies we had good reason to suspect we’d like more than we did.

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Anna Kendrick in

We’ve made it to December, which hopefully means you have plenty of vacation days coming up with which to curl up next to a fire, throw on some Netflix, and indulge in various boozy nogs. Honestly, you’d be a fool not to spend your month this way, because, baby, it’s cold outside, and a whole bunch of great movies have been made available to stream in the last few weeks. Here’s a list to keep you going. As always, click on the movies’ titles in order to be taken to their Netflix pages. Pick of the Month: Happy Christmas (2014) Looking for a new movie about the holidays to watch this year that isn’t all snowflakes, togetherness, and gooey sentiment? Then Joe Swanberg’s latest release, Happy Christmas, could be just the gift you’ve been dreaming of. Swanberg’s movies always have good stuff in them, and it seems like he’s been threatening to make something that I’d completely love for a while now, and finally Happy Christmas is it. This is a film that’s so dark and introspective and full of awkward social tension that Lena Dunham shows up playing the grounded, easygoing character. Think about that. Anna Kendrick stars, playing a lost soul in her late 20s who’s kind of a brat, and definitely a fuck up, and most of the movie is us watching her behave badly after moving into the basement of her older brother (Swanberg), his wife (Melanie Lynskey), and their new son (Swanberg’s real life, mental […]

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VINCENT PRICE discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Vincent Price Collection II A duel between magicians leaves one man transformed into a bird in The Raven. An undertaker takes matters into his own hands in an effort to increase business in The Comedy of Terrors. A widower finds new love complicated by an obsession with his dead wife in The Tomb of Ligeia. A scientist is the last normal human alive after a plague turns others into vampire-like creatures in The Last Man on Earth. The abominable Dr.Phibes rises again in Dr. Phibes Rises Again. The son of the first film’s scientist begins some experiments of his own in The Return of the Fly. A millionaire offers a cash reward to five people if they’re willing and able to spend a nigh tin his home in House on Haunted Hill. Vincent Price is a genre legend, and his output is filled with horror classics. Scream Factory’s second collection of his work brings together seven films highlighting Price’s dramatic, horrific and (in a couple instances) comedic chops. Everyone will have their own favorites among the collection, but for me The Last Man on Earth, House on Haunted Hill and The Raven are the real stand outs. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Introductions, featurettes, commentaries, trailers]

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Radius TWC

Korean director Bong Joon-ho‘s latest film, Snowpiercer, is about a train-shaped metaphor hurtling around the planet’s surface at high speed. Inside a rebellion is unfolding as the train’s lower class citizens begin a fight towards the front of the train where they believe they’ll find answers, freedom and the life they feel they deserve. It’s an entertaining film filled with solidly crafted action, a strong visual sense and an international sensibility evident in its cast, crew and themes. The Blu-ray (pre-order it now from Amazon) features a commentary track that, much like the film itself, is a bit different from the norm. Instead of featuring a member of the cast or crew the track consists of a film critic hosting a series of five additional critics who join him one at a time to offer insight and thoughts on the film. Usually critics on commentary tracks act as moderator for the talent or are there to discuss an older film for which no cast/crew members remain alive, but neither of those are the case here. They are film critics — and friends to varying degree of myself and this site — but they’re understandably not here fully in that capacity. Instead, they’re here as fans of the movie, and they use their time to talk about the elements of the film they love as opposed to offering anything that could be perceived as negative criticism. Also worth noting, while we’re used to seeing the studio’s warning that the commentary track is […]

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Radius / TWC

The Weekend Watch is an open thread where you can share what you’ve recently watched, offer suggestions on movies and TV shows we should check out (or warnings about stuff to avoid) and discover queue-filling goodies from other FSR readers. The comments section awaits. I’ll get the ball rolling with the movies/TV my eyeballs took in this weekend.

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Radius-TWC

This will probably be difficult to believe for some of you, but we walk into every movie hoping it will be the best movie. We may criticize a trailer or point out early concerns, but once we sit down and the movie starts digitally unspooling before our eyes our hope every single time is to experience something fantastic. When a film succeeds on that front we shout it from the highest virtual rooftops, but that isn’t always the outcome. The pure flip-side of this of course are the movies we leave absolutely despising. Usually the films in this group aren’t exactly surprises — think Blended, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Sex Tape, Hercules — and while we hoped for better we ended up with pretty much what we expected. But sometimes the movies we expected more from end up being major disappointments too. A quick poll of the staff revealed a pretty varied list of films fitting this description, some of which are viewed as unqualified successes by the rest of us. Keep reading to see ten of the movies that left us unsatisfied, underwhelmed and ultimately disappointed.

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Marvel Studios

2014’s summer movie season comes to an end in a week or so, but while some folks will be editorializing about the box office being down 15-20% compared to last summer and others express surprise that a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy could be days away from becoming the year’s highest grossing domestic hit, we here at FSR have a different agenda. Simply put, we saw a lot of great movies this summer, and we hope you did too. The year’s best “big” movie (per me anyway), Captain America: The Winter Soldier, missed the summer cutoff as it opened in early April, but there were still some fantastic blockbuster-type flicks that entertained the hell out of us over the past four months. Of course, there were also some brilliant smaller films too. An informal staff survey revealed a mix of both to be our favorites of the summer. Keep reading to see which movies moved us the most from May through August.

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summer_diaries_2

There’s no shortage of love for the way Marvel has crafted its Cinematic Universe, especially from yours truly. They’ve created an entire market for themselves by weaving nine — soon to be ten — movies together into an impressive spandex suit. From Iron Man in 2008 to this year’s unofficial summer kick-off movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier, every Marvel movie is the next piece in a much larger puzzle. Like clockwork, we wait in darkened theaters through lengthy credits to get to the end, where a little tease usually awaits for what comes next. Each film is built with the next stage in mind. It’s a phenomenon not limited to Marvel, though. They simply seem to have perfected it. Warner Bros. is about to set off on a voyage to build its DC Comics universe. And Michael Bay this summer rebooted his entire franchise and took Transformers in a new direction. Every major summer tentpole film is now trying to hook you years in advance. Studios spend money on these movies specifically because they spawn franchises and propel stars who go on to lead other tentpole movies. They sell merch and home video copies and get endlessly streamed the minute they hit the web. The concept isn’t lost on any of us (more like it’s hammered in), especially this week following Comic-Con. We are reminded that these movies are made within the confines of a well-oiled business machine. With their formula, Marvel has your movie ticket money locked up probably […]

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The Bands Visit Movie

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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AntiChrist

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer

Warning: Spoilers for the ending of Snowpiercer Somewhere along the way, purchasing a ticket for Bong Joon-ho’s long-awaited Snowpiercer became a populist act that echoes the content of the film itself. Months of coverage followed Harvey Weinstein’s threat to cut the festival favorite. Knowing the kind of backlash that would ensue, Weinstein opted not to cut the film himself but instead asked Bong to shave 20 minutes off and add an explanatory voice-over to bookend the film. Bong refused, and the web backed him by reporting on the story, supporting the director’s vision and pushing for its unblemished release. While The Weinstein Company narrowed the rollout of Snowpiercer from a wide to a limited opening, no cuts were ever made, and it would seem that the voices of many overcame the far more powerful voice of one. It’s a strange case of life mimicking art, with movie fans and erstwhile supporters of artistic integrity using collective action against a major cultural gatekeeper. After traveling worldwide mostly without incident, film fans and prospective moviegoers pushed Snowpiercer to pry open the door and enter the American moviegoing scene on its own terms. But, as the film itself shows, the relations of power are never quite as simple as they seem.

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Madame Tutli Putli Short Film

The big movie this weekend is Snowpiercer! Okay, so it isn’t. The big movie this weekend is Transformers: Age of Extinction. However, you can’t watch the bulk of the old cartoons for free online, and what’s available is, frankly, terrible. The web series that Hasbro put out to accompany this recent batch of features, Cyber Missions, is staggeringly dull. Don’t waste your time. If you have Netflix streaming do yourself a favor and watch some of the original 1984-1987 series, particularly a bizarre Season 2 episode called “Auto-Bop” in which the Decepticons take over a New York City nightclub. Thank me later. But back to Snowpiercer! I don’t think it would be too much of an exaggeration to say that the cinema owes an awful lot to the locomotive. Trains look great on screen, particularly in the least hospitable climates. David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago each feature stunning sequences that involve the proverbial Iron Horse. The train is perhaps the defining metaphor of and for the 20th century. Just look to the Estonian stop-motion short featured in my Annecy Film Festival round-up, Ülo Pikkov’s haunting Body Memory. Snowpiercer appears to be no different, a high-speed allegory flying through the desolate snowy wastelands of the post-apocalyptic future.

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summermovieprediction_wk9

Welcome to week nine of our 2014 Summer Box-Office Challenge! Think of it as a summer-long contest for movie-lovers — you’ll make predictions and guesses as to which summer movies will rule the box-office each week, we award points and at the end of the contest the three top point-earners will each win a Blu-ray/DVD prize pack! First place will win ten (10) Blu-ray/DVD titles released throughout the coming summer, second place wins five (5) and third place wins two (2). We’ll have bonus questions each week as well to help bolster your point totals and keep you in the running. The majority of you chose correctly last week and picked the Think Like a Man sequel to win the weekend box office, but it looks to be incredibly close with 22 Jump Street earning just one million dollars less. The estimates show Think banking $30m — a nice round number sure to change slightly once the actuals come in later today — and Jump falling less than 50% in its second weekend to bring in $29m. (It’s rare but not unheard of for estimates to be off by more than $1m, so it’s possible our results below may change significantly.) As for last week’s bonus question, Roman Polanski’s Venus In Furs earned less than $32k bringing in only $26k for its opening weekend. We’ll update once the actuals come in later today, but here are the top five players based on the estimates. [EDIT: The actuals are in, and Think Like a Man 2 […]

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Snowpiercer

Want to see director Bong Joon Ho (The Host, Mother) and his latest movie Snowpiercer, starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell and John Hurt? Do you also live in Austin, Texas? Final question: are you free this coming Saturday evening? On June, the Alamo Drafthouse is hosting a Rolling Roadshow in which guests will roll out to beautiful Burnett, TX, aboard a vintage steam train to watch an exclusive advance screening of Snowpiercer. And because we love this idea, we want to send one (1) reader and a guest along for the ride. To enter to win the pair of tickets, all you need to do is email neil[at]filmschoolrejects.com with SNOWPIERCER in the subject line. In the body of the email, please include your name and a phone number where we can reach you. A winner will be chosen and contacted by the end of Wednesday, June 18. For more information about the event, visit Drafthouse.com.

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Snowpiercer

For director Bong Joon-ho, the future looks bleak. Based on the French graphic novel, “Le Transperceneige,” Snowpiercer takes audiences a mere twenty-six years into the future when an attempt to stop global warming leaves the world frozen and uninhabitable. The only humans left alive now exist on a self-sustaining train that endlessly circles the earth making their new home feel more like prison than salvation. For those segregated to the back of the train, life is a constant struggle where every meal (and moment) is regulated by a select few lucky enough to have boarded at the front. The Snowpiercer is ruled by it’s omnipresent inventor, Wilford, and his unflinching rules are upheld by Mason (Tilda Swinton) who is equal parts comical and terrifying. Trying to survive under this constant oppression, it is not long before those in the back of the train decide it is time to overthrow their self-appointed rulers. This rag-tag army, as led by the surly Curtis (Chris Evans), band together to push their way to the front and try to figure out why they are being treated like second-class citizens.

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The Purge 2

October may be the official month of horror movies, with a pillowcase of spooky releases slated just before Halloween each year, but that doesn’t mean you are free from cinematic terror in the off-season. Especially since the summer has become an unexpected time slot for surprise horror hits like The Conjuring. This summer’s crop of horror films features a number of film festival selections as well as films from popular horror directors like Ti West, Scott Derrickson and the Dowdle Brothers. If you’d like a quick refresher on what horror films to expect for the next few months, or if you just want to watch the trailers that will haunt your late-night television commercials now and get it over with, here’s a list with their unnerving trailers attached. Keep in mind that the dates listed below are for the U.S., though if the films are successful enough, they’ll surely be available eventually wherever you are. You can’t hide:

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Edge of Tomorrow

May was a rough time for major releases. With The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and A Million Ways to Die in the West, the first month of summer blockbusting got off to a messy start and ended with an equally toxic finish. Although I’m not a fan of Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past, they have their supporters, so maybe May wasn’t as bad of a month as I’m pegging it as. Maybe it’s just that when a studio comedy as tedious and frustrating as A Million Ways to Die in the West comes around, it’s always going to poison the whole calendar page. Thankfully this summer is about to receive a large improvement, because there’s a terrific blockbuster coming out this Friday. While the Tom Cruise-starring action movie isn’t tracking so hot, let’s hope the tides change and people flock to Edge of Tomorrow. Plus, there’s a solid amount of releases this month you should plan to see. Here are the must see movies of June 2014:

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Snowpiercer

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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