Straw Dogs

IntroPlausible

It’s almost Halloween, and so you’re contractually obligated with Satan to watch a horror movie. He takes those contracts seriously, folks. But as you go over all the countless sub-genres to watch, keep in mind that just because it’s a sub-genre of horror doesn’t mean it has to be a horror movie at all – or even fantasy. After all, reality is way scarier. Here’s proof, listed conveniently with the horror movie tropes they echo.

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Sam Peckinpah

Perhaps the single most illustrative fact about Sam Peckinpah is that he was developing a script while fighting against the heart disease that eventually killed him at the too-young age of 59. After alcoholism, cocaine abuse and a tempestuous personal life (involving divorce, infidelity and drunkenly shooting guns at the mirrors in his house), Peckinpah refused to stop working despite his terrible health. He was an artist up until the end, and one steeped in unnervingly realistic violence and gripping dramatic conflict. It was a strong signature that earned him parody by Monty Python, consistent controversy and (strangely) only one Oscar nomination. From the outside, the hard-living and the storied battles with colleagues make it feel like Peckinpah was a man who belonged in the wild west of his stories. A guy born a century too late. But from The Wild Bunch to Straw Dogs to Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, this human dust storm left behind some truly amazing movies. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man who couldn’t direct sober.

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Criterion Files

Warning: some spoilers ahead. For a company known for its arthouse fare, The Criterion Collection is not short on great horror films. From early oddities like Haxan to silent classics like Vampyr to classic B-movies like Corridors of Blood to cult classics like House to newer visions like Antichrist to the just-released Rosemary’s Baby, The Criterion Collection can provide a unique encyclopedia of the development of the horror genre across nations and decades. But while the horror genre specializes in fear, tension, and disturbing visions, it doesn’t have a monopoly on any of these categories. Violent revenge films, psychosexual dramas, depictions of real-life political struggle, documentaries that capture terrible moments in history, and movies that depict the quick dismantling of social structures all employ devices and emotional effects similar to that of the horror film, most notably dread, disturbing imagery, shocking juxtapositions, and perhaps the major defining component of the horror film: the tense anticipation of a horrible event. Here are ten terrifying non-horror films from The Criterion Collection.

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It’s called a character arc, and everybody has one. It’s the progression of a character throughout a film as they go from “A” to “B” and change emotionally, intellectually, and physically along the way. It exists because nobody sane wants to watch two hours of some dude sitting in a chair…which just so happens to be the story of how this very list was made. When it comes to action, horror, and any other fast-paced genre of film, one of the best things about watching the characters adapt is that since the environment they exist in is so do-or-die, there is a incredibly steep learning curve – so by the end of the film, you most likely have a completely different person you started with…and considering that they are still alive, they probably got way, way more badass along the way.

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We can complain all we want, rationalize, or hope for the best, but the easiest way to stop the remake assault that studios have foisted upon audiences is not to pay for it. The studio system still hasn’t found a silver bullet for killing the monster of low attendance, and 2011 might have been the worst wake-up call they could get. Movie attendance fell by 4.4% from 2010, down to the lowest level since 1995. The problematic silver lining is that foreign sales are higher, which could result in even more broadly-appealing (and “appealing” is used generously here) movies that are generic and treat dialogue like a second-class citizen. On the losing side of the field (the one where producers aren’t having Gatorade dumped on them), are the remakes of 2011. Remakes are thought to be attractive because they come with built-in name recognition for audiences, and development has already been partially done for a story that’s already proven itself as a money-maker. For fans, they’re also infuriating because they signal both a lack of creativity coming out of an industry built on it and the potential (likely) bastardization of something we hold dear (and, yes, of course the original is still out there; it’s the principle of the thing). So it may come as pleasant news for some to see that remakes, regardless of their quality of genre, failed spectacularly at the box office this year. It’s the kind of thing that may just deter producers from trying to […]

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Boiling Point

Way back in January of 2010 I crafted a list of ten things I figured I’d hate in the following year. I tried to predict my own hatred, which can be difficult. Hate is the most wily and evasive of emotions, prone to erupting without warning. I made a few safe choices on the list, a couple of generalizations, but there were some surprises. Hell, one of the things I thought I’d hate I loved, while a few never even made it to the surface. Anyway, let’s take a look back at my look forward and see how things panned out.

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This Week in DVD

It’s a fairly quiet week in the world of DVD releases, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some quality titles hitting shelves. Two fantastic films arrive today, and while they barely made a ripple at the box office that doesn’t mean they’re not worth your time. Other movies out today include the wonderfully suspenseful Julia’s Eyes, the ridiculously overrated Midnight In Paris, the just plain ridiculous Columbiana and more. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Warrior Two men, one a high school teacher with a family (Joel Edgerton) and the other an ex-Marine hero (Tom Hardy), find themselves on different paths to the same goal: winning a high-profile MMA tournament and the large cash prize that goes with it. The story moves back and forth between the men and their situations until they finally merge together in the ring. Sports stories in general aren’t really my thing, but I do enjoy a tale well told. Director Gavin O’Connor and his two leads (as well as supporting player Nick Nolte) fill the film with heart, great character and honest suspense. Most surprising of all, both men have an equal shot at victory and viewers will be thrilled and satisfied whichever way it ends. Lots of fantastic films were missed by audiences by year, but this is one underdog that deserves a second shot at victory. Check out Robert Levin’s full review.

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Today People Magazine unveiled their annual “Sexiest Man Alive” winner, crushing the hopes and dreams of thousands of starving beautiful men who thought, maybe just this once, they could have been a contender (better luck next year boys). While Bradley Cooper is a tasty, if not boring, morsel of man, as far as I know he has yet to perform in a movie sex scene. Making him completely of no interest to me in regards to this column. Please correct me if I’m wrong in the comments, as I will for sure need to brush up on my Bradley Cooper sexy-time if it does exist. But enough about my personal disappointment in People Magazine’s cornering of the Sexiest Man Alive market, for today is also the day before the night before the opening of the fourth movie in the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn: Part I. Now this little tween fantasy is definitely of interest to me for more than its loose definition of what constitutes child pornography. I have (like almost all women in need of a good train wreck) annually paid good money to the Summit gods for the Twilight experience, and this Friday will be no different. Fans of the sparkly vampire series have (im)patiently waited through the first three films for two Breaking Dawn scenes, one completely contingent on the other. If the press tour mumblings of the film’s stars are anything to believe, Twi-hards should already prepare themselves for some hot and heavy action during Bella […]

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Culture Warrior

The month of September is typically regarded as one of the least exciting and least eventful in the calendar year. It’s something of an interval month, a strange in-between phase sandwiched in the middle of summer Hollywood blockbusters and the “quality” flicks and holiday programming of the fall. In strictly monetary terms, it’s the most underperforming month of the year, and has even been beaten by the desolate burial ground that is January in terms of event-style opening weekends. But this may ultimately be a good thing. In fact, if future Septembers continue to exhibit the same patterns as this month, the time of the year in which schools go back in session and you can no longer wear all-white may prove to be one of the most interesting and exciting months on the wide-release calendar.

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The Reject Report

I may have spoken a little too soon about the Circle of Life in this week’s Reject Report. The Circle of Life isn’t complete until a 17-year-old film, The Lion King in this case, gets re-released in 3D on over 2,300 screens and subsequently takes the box office by storm. That’s right. More than 17 years after its initial run, which pulled in $825.7m worldwide, The Lion King has Hakuna Matata’ed in the #1 spot yet again. It didn’t match the $34.2m opening weekend numbers it made the first weekend of July in 1994, but it came reasonably close. Close enough to let Disney as well as anyone who even had an inkling of an idea to re-release an older film in 3D know that that might be the way to go. Just five weekend ago article were being written about the possible demise of 3D. With films like Conan the Barbarian and Fright Night not living up to expectations, it seemed the novelty of seeing films that literally come at you may have been at its frayed end. Of course, you can’t give 3D all the credit for The Lion King stacking up against the competition. The film is a classic, regarded by many as one of Disney’s best, and the children of 1994 who fell in the love with the film are now taking their own kids to watch it. Even without the 3D element it’s a formula for success, one made even more potent with the added […]

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Writer-director Rod Lurie was in a bit of a lose-lose situation when it came to dealing with the hardcore Straw Dogs fans. Like all remakes, if Lurie deviated too much, many critics would ask, “Why call it Straw Dogs?” If the Nothing But the Truth director stayed too faithful, then he’d get ripped on for making a carbon copy. There’s a tough middle ground between those two sides, and Lurie made enough changes to try to find it. For one thing, unlike Sam Peckinpah, Rod Lurie doesn’t hate women. All jokes aside, the original film earned controversy, partly because Peckinpah’s depiction of his female lead was deemed misogynistic. That’s not much of a surprise — Peckinpah treated that character with such disgust, as he treated all the main characters in that film with disgust. His film was about David (played in this version by James Marsden) finding his inner animal, while Lurie opted for David finding his inner man. Here’s what Rod Lurie had to say about the commercial potential of a Straw Dogs remake, the fine line between David being manly and narcissistic, and Peckinpah’s depiction of Amy versus his own: Note: this interview contains spoilers.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr feels the weight of the fall movie season. It’s September, and while the kids are heading back to school, he’s playing hooky with Sarah Jessica Parker chick flicks and yet another not-quite-70s-video-nasty remake. Kevin is consoled by the release of Drive, however, because Albert Brooks as a crime boss makes him chuckle. And his love for 3D and Disney meet head-on in a collision of awesomeness.

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The Reject Report

I thought about opening this Reject Report with a play on the lyrics to “Circle of the Life.” A certain Disney classic is getting its re-release in 3-D this weekend, and you know how we love playing around with lyrics here at the Reject Report. But then we witnessed Ryan Gosling wearing leather driving gloves. Never mind the white bomber jacket complete with scorpion embroidered on the back. Those gloves are what we focused on. Then, after about 45 minutes of staring, we remembered we have a job to do. There’s box office analyses that need to be…um…analyzed, and four new wide releases to split the box office dollars between them. Two R-rated thrillers, that Disney classic that’s getting a re-release on over 2300 screens, and a rom-com starring Sarah Jessica Parker. Over/under on how many words I give that movie.

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Last week’s discussion on the sex appeal of animated characters sparked a little offline controversy. Why did we forget to include sexy villains in our list, when everyone knows they can be just as mouthwatering? Now we could spend an entire novel talking about the awkward crushes we have on certain animated villains, just as we could in the opposite direction, however I’m more interested in the modern rejection of Hollywood’s traditional “uglying up” the bad guy. See, this is where movies have always lost me. A true villain, one who is charming, relies on henchmen, and has a bevy of beauties would never be a disgusting, rotted, warted-up mess. In fact, no matter how determined a villain is to get his or her way, their tinge of crazy (read: psychotic levels) often makes them more attractive to those sharing screen time.  This is probably why you feel the need to shower after watching anything starring Vincent Cassel. But recently mainstream films have taken a page out of the indie playbook and started making their villains just a touch more delicious. Movies.com’s Jenni Miller wrote earlier this week about the sexification of the rapist in next month’s Straw Dogs remake. She discusses her discomfort with the film’s marketing decision to highlight the sexiness of the gang of deviants and how the film’s “down home” feel will get lost with such good looking villains. I have to disagree. Although Alexander Skarsgard (Charlie) has made a career of playing a hot Viking […]

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In the past, I have used this space to examine the cultural implication of sex in cinema, the hotness of naked people, and even exploited some of my own personal going-ons. After last week’s titillating BDSM discussion and the official welcoming of summer, I chose to approach some lighter fare this time around. We all love sex in its many forms (unless for some, I’m sure, reasonable reason you do not), and more importantly we are all fascinated or turned-on by sex on film (for artistic purposes, surely). With summer upon us we have at least a fistful of sexy films whetting our appetite before September 20th. I have done some preliminary dirty work to present to you, fair reader, a double stuffed list of films tailor-made for the erotica lover.

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“EVERYONE HAS A BREAKING POINT,” Yeesh. There’s a good poster in here, but that unneeded and silly tagline doesn’t help matters much. But, really, how many taglines are genuinely good nowadays? Pretty much none. Screen Gems has just putout this lesser homage (via director Rod Lurie’s twitter feed) to the original 1971 Straw Dogs poster; something that’ll anger fans, but will probably work for the average filmgoers who have no idea what a Peckinpah is.

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This Straw Dogs trailer ain’t too pretty, but neither is the audience it was cut for. Screen Gems made this for all the youngin’s going to see Priest (*shudders*) this weekend, and it plays well for that demographic. The audience I was with didn’t look to be the types that are Peckinpah fans, a.k.a. the young and texting generation. To fans of the original and Peckinpah, yes, this is not a good trailer. But for those completely unfamiliar with the original, it works. It is completely by-the-numbers, but why wouldn’t Screen Gems cut a trailer to showcase the main showdown at the end? The trailer does reveal a whole lot, except for the “big” scene, which is surprising. Rod Lurie is a solid writer/director, so I have faith that he’s made something far less generic than this first glimpse implies. Also, to those complaining about the idea of having James Marsden playing a wimpy and passive man, that’s ridiculous. Far more masculine men or equals to Marsden have played those characteristics greatly, even Stallone, someone that doesn’t exactly have a wide “range,” did it well in Cop Land. Marsden has got the chops to pull it off. Check it out for yourself:

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. When you don’t face up to the dangers of life, when you escape to a small English town with your beautiful wife played by Susan George, the trouble will find you. It’ll find you, and it’ll throw things through your windows and aim rifles at you. Dustin Hoffman knows this because Sam Peckinpah knows this. Even though the title of this movie makes it sound like it’s about canines made of hay, it’s really about violence and its inevitability. Think you know what it is? Check the trailer out for yourself:

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Boiling Point

Moving from one year into the next, it’s easy and expected for us to look back on the previous three hundred and sixty five days and talk about what we did and didn’t like that year. But that’s too easy. That’s too small. No, I’m a bigger asshole than that. I’m going to look into the future, into 2011, and come up with 10 things that I’m going to hate, sight unseen. Certainly something will come up between now and then- in fact, there will probably be many things that I’ll hate this year that I can’t possibly predict at this moment. And sure, maybe one of these movies will surprise me and be great or my predictions will be off. But right now, I don’t care and odds are I won’t care at the end of the year. Because I don’t care. I hate.

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revenge-header

There’s a long, illustrious history of movies that feature characters on quests for vengeance. Here are what we believe to be the ten most notable.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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