The Angels’ Share

Kicking off this week with its Opening Night Gala for Hitchcock, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST effectively wraps up the year’s film festival-going season (a season that lasts approximately eleven months). Such calendar placement means that AFI FEST comes late enough in the year to serve as a last hurrah for titles that have been playing the festival circuit as far back as January (at Sundance) or as far away as France, Berlin, and Venice, and is the perfect opportunity for Southern California-based film geeks (or those willing to put some miles on their passport) to catch up on films they’ve been anticipating for months. Of course, of the 136 films playing at this year’s festival, we’ve managed to catch nearly a fifth of them at other fests, and we’re quite pleased to use this opportunity to remind you as such. Confused over what to see at the festival? Be confused no more! After the break, jog your memories of our always-extensive festival coverage with reviews for twenty-eight films set to play at this week’s AFI FEST that we’ve already seen (and, you know, reviewed). It’s like getting your festival coverage whole days early!

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Last year, I kicked off the FSR Cannes Awards by taking the opportunity to give three awards to The Artist (three of the Oscars it won actually, if you’re interested in just how much of a boss I am), and though there isn’t quite the same standout type of film at this year’s festival, there were some notable highlights. The rain was not one of them. This year, I saw 21 of the hundreds of films available to see, so these awards obviously only take in those that I deemed worthy of my attention (or which were possible to see given the intense mathematical equations required to see everything and write reviews of them all in timely enough fashion that all of the key information doesn’t bugger off out of your head). Here are my own highlights of the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival:

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Michael Haneke on set of Amour (Love)

As we all know, “Palme d’Or” is French for Feather Button Hand of Gold Achievement. Or something. Google Translate wasn’t loading this morning. Regardless, it’s as prestigious as awards get, although it hilariously almost never lines up with the Oscars (for good reason). Past winners include Barton Fink, Taxi Driver, MASH, The Third Man, Black Orpheus, La Dolce Vita, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and nearly one hundred other films that should be on a rental queue somewhere. That list also includes Michael Haneke‘s The White Ribbon which took the price in 2009 and, as of yesterday, his latest film Love (Amour). That’s 2 wins for the director in 4 competition years. It ties him for Most Palmes d’Or Ever (no director has won more than two), where he joins Alf Sjoberg (Iris and the Lieutenant, Miss Julie); Francis Ford Coppola (The Conversation, Apocalypse Now); Bille August (Pelle the Conqueror, The Best Intentions); Emir Kusturica (When Father Was Away on Business, Underground); Shohei Imamura (The Eel, The Ballad of Narayama); and The Dardenne Brothers (Rosetta, The Child). It’s a stellar achievement deserving of a long standing ovation than the one that The Paperboy got. The full list of winners (from the festival website) is as follows:

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Just when the festival’s perpetual rain threatened to soak right through the collected critics’ spirit, redemption came from the most unlikely of places, the grey, wind-swept streets and hills of recession hit Scotland. The Angels’ Share sees festival veteran Ken Loach return to the Croisette with a gentle, but politically loaded comedy, steeped in Gaelic identity but carrying a wider message that feels appropriate well beyond the geographical borders of the film. The film follows Robbie (Paul Brannigan), a young Glaswegian with a violent past on community service and intent on changing the direction of his life for the benefit of his girlfriend Leonie (Siobhan Reilly) and newborn baby son Luke. Inspired by community service supervisor Harry (the always excellent John Henshaw), Robbie discovers a flair and passion for whiskey appreciation, and is invited into the alien world of whiskey collection thanks to his skills. With the considerable ominous shadow of his past hanging over his head, and worries that he is not good enough for his girlfriend (not aided by the violent reinforcement of her father, Psycho-Balls), Robbie hatches a plan to steal three bottles from a very rare cask of Malt Mill whiskey from a Highlands auction.

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After literally days of rampant speculation and fanciful rumor-spreading (on my part), this year’s official line-up for the Cannes 2012 Film Festival has officially been unveiled by officials in the South of France. Officially. Unsurprisingly, and as predicted, my own 13 film wishlist was largely completely wrong – but I did predict a massive four (including the absence, thankfully, of Terrence Malick), and in my defense, Michael Haneke’s Love was the 14th film on my list until I decided to oust it for timing reasons. Brad Pitt, Robert Pattinson and Tom Hardy will battle each other as Killing Them Softly (the awfully renamed adaptation of Cogan’s Trade), Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis and the other needlessly renamed flick, Lawless (why not just keep it as The Wettest County?) compete for the Palme d’Or.

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Cannes! It’s upon us! At this stage last year, I offered my pre-festival wishlist for what films might screen at Cannes (and got six out of eighteen picks correct in the process), which was based on rumors and guesswork from around the net. This year, in the interest of embracing the spirit of imagination, the emphasis is on spurious gossip and pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking. Plucking films that might have an outside chance of screening on the Croisette this year (in some cases so far outside they won’t even be in France until months after the fest, probably), I’ve compiled my Ultimate Cannes 2012 Wishlist. The caveat to this of course is that probably very few of the bloody things will actually screen – at least not to the majority of the collected press – but what’s life without whimsy? Yes, the bent is firmly on American films, and English language ones, but in my defense, I don’t care. It says “wishlist” up there for a good reason. Realism aside, here are 13 movies I hope play at Cannes this May.

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Whiskey is effectively Super Beer. It’s made of the same stuff – fermented grains like rye and barley, but there are no hops and it’s made in a much longer process. That process includes sticking that sweet substance into a wooden barrel long enough for it to at least get a driver’s license, but no matter what, something around 2% of the whiskey evaporates over that time. That missing 2% is the angel’s share. As it turns out, the Heavenly Host likes a good sniff once in a while too. A trailer for The Angels’ Share – the new film from the iconic Ken Loach – shows a delightful comedic story like English dramedies that have been big over the past two decades (only this one’s from Scotland). The Full Monty connection seems clear, but it’s got a lot going for it. Loach? Whiskey? Hell of a good recipe for movie-making. Click on the image of the trailer to play it:

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published: 11.26.2014
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