The Descendants

Alexander Payne probably achieved his greatest level of success and recognition after casting a huge movie star, George Clooney, in his most recent film, The Descendants. Given the taste of mainstream acceptance that this director of pitch-black dramatic comedies got by working with a well-known name, you might think that he would be tempted to go back to the well and snag more big stars to play the father/son duo in his upcoming road movie, Nebraska. It seems like we should have been hearing rumors over the past few months that he was courting Leonardo DiCaprio and Michael Douglas, or something of the like. Not Payne though, who seems to be wholly concerned with finding the right actors to fit the parts, and if a report from Deadline Benkelman is to be believed, he’s found an off-the-beaten-path duo that look on paper like they could make for a delightful pair. The report says that Payne has been meaning to make Nebraska his next film for quite some time, but he didn’t want to move things forward until he could find the right actor for the father role. For the longest time he was fixated on Gene Hackman, but that screen legend’s continued retirement made his casting an impossibility. Payne feels like he’s found his man now though, in Bruce Dern, and he also wants Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte to play the son.

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George Clooney may have earned a Best Actor nomination for his work in last year’s The Descendants, but the truly eye-opening performance in that film came not from the king of Hollywood, but from the little known actress playing his teenage daughter. Simply put, Shailene Woodley was the bee’s knees in that film. Her work fleshed out a role that would have played like a cliché of teenage rebellion in most other hands, and she’s going to have quite a few opportunities coming her way in the upcoming year. It’s newsworthy, then, that Variety has word on what her next job is going to be. According to the trade, the actress is attached to star in Smashed (which was reviewed by Allison Loring here) director James Ponsoldt’s next film, which is an adaptation of the Tim Tharp novel “The Spectacular Now.”

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This Week in DVD

Welcome back to This Belated Week in DVD! Last year SXSW caused me to post a lesser incarnation of this column as I had no time to check out most of the week’s releases. That didn’t go over so well, so this year I decided to simply delay the column so that I’d have time to cover the titles in my usual (ie more thorough) manner. So let’s get to it! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Young Adult 2011 was a good year for divisive film reactions as very few releases garnered anything resembling near-universal acclaim. (Even the year’s Best Picture winner experienced as much hatred as it did love.) Jason Reitman’s latest film had viewers split as well with its story of a selfish and often mean-spirited writer who returns to her home town to woo an ex-fling who’s now happily married. Charlize Theron gives a stellar performance as an unlikeable and possibly irredeemable protagonist, and Diablo Cody’s script is her most mature and intelligent effort yet. It’s funny, sad and one of the most honest films of last year.

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I may not have been completely on the Bridesmaids bandwagon like a lot of other people, but I love Kristen Wiig as a performer and might go as far as to say she’s the most talented female to ever work on Saturday Night Live; so I’m very interested in where her film career is going to go now that she has some clout in Hollywood. And, according to a report from Variety, her next movie is one that is going to be well worth my attention. Wiig has reportedly attached herself to star in a new action comedy written by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, or as they’re otherwise known, Nat Faxon and Dean Pelton from Community, or as they’re otherwise known, the two guys who just won an Effin Oscar for writing The Descendants. Add Wiig’s unparalleled skill as a comedic performer with these guy’s obvious skill in crafting big screen stories, and it sounds like we might be in for something special. Factor in that all three of these talents know each other from back in the day when they performed in The Groundlings together, and we may just be looking at one of those perfect pieces of synergy that becomes an all time great. I mean, this new movie is being described as an action comedy, for the love of Mike. That’s a genre I generally can’t get enough of, and when’s the last time you’ve seen a good action comedy made in Hollywood? If this movie’s […]

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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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In a couple of hours, we’ll start live-blogging our little hearts out as Neil pretends to know what “chiffon” is, and after the red carpet, we’ll sink into that fifth drink while reveling in the sheer majesty of the 2012 Academy Awards. Stifling cynicism can take a taxi outta town for a while, because no matter what, if you want to see it, there’s still something magical about this night. Part of that magic is being completely wrong. We’re confident now, but when the winners are announced, there’s always the tiny possibility of a big surprise. So who did you put down in your office pool to take home gold tonight? Our team spent all week tossing out their best analyses, and it all comes down to this. Here’s who we picked. Would you take us up on these bets?

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Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Picture

The Best Picture Academy Award is really what explains film as a collaborative effort. The Best Picture is what the Academy has found to be the best combination of every aspect that film has, whether thematically or structurally. The producers of the winner take home the Oscar, because, well, they footed the bill. They were also the decision-makers. We know its more of a gray area than that, but the classic Academy likes to think like classic movie-making. It doesn’t stop the Best Picture winners from being some of the greatest pieces of work in the artform. One film this Sunday will be written in along with films like It Happened One Night, On The Waterfront, The Godfather parts 1 & 2, and No Country For Old Men. That’s a list of 83 movies that will be or already are considered essentials when it comes to film history. We don’t look down on the nominees who didn’t win. What are they called? Oh, yeah. Losers. But, seriously, they are all films of value in some form or another, films that were still able to make their mark on some part of this history. But it’s that big boy. That one who gets its name yelled out at the end of the night, who hears the orchestra play their music for the climax of the show, that’s the one that’ll make headlines come Monday morning. Which one is it gonna be? The odds seem better for some, but here’s the breakdown […]

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Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Director

Film directors are responsible for every single aspect of their movie. That doesn’t mean they actually do each and every task on set, but it’s their job (and prerogative) to get each element just right. It’s a lot of responsibility, and judging by the nominees for this year’s Best Director, it’s clearly too much for a woman to handle. Sorry, Kelly Reichardt, Lynn Ramsay, and Sarah Polley…maybe you can bake something nice for the boys who were nominated? For the record, the director who should walk away with the Oscar this year isn’t even nominated. Nicolas Winding Refn deserved (at least) a nomination for Drive as he was able to craft something of raw beauty from some seemingly disparate parts. The film’s look and style, its exquisitely jarring shifts from calm to explosive, and its unexpectedly affecting score and soundtrack all make for a unique cinematic experience. The nominees are listed below with my prediction for the winner in red…

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Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Actor

Each year, there’s a certain group of people who bemoan the Oscars (and pretty much every other organization’s awards) for being nothing but a popularity contest. They’re right, of course, but the Oscars also helps set the standard for quality films… at least quality films from those who are popular in the industry. However, when it comes to the Academy Award for Best Actor, it’s probably the biggest popularity contest out there (only to be matched by the battle for the Best Actress Oscar, of course). It’s not just about who gave the most solid performance in a motion picture, but also who schmoozes the best at parties and on the red carpet. These awards are also often sewn up early and are less unpredictable than the lower profile awards for Costume Design and Sound Editing (Jane Eyre and Transformers represent, yo!). Still, as one of the “big six” awards, Best Actor is an important one. A nomination alone can breathe new life into a career. Just look at what it did for John Travolta in the mid-90s. Likewise, winning an award can help make you a superstar, like it did for Nicolas Cage around the same time. (Of course, now the Academy claims no responsibility for Cage’s more recent career choices.) In any respect, this year’s race for Best Actor presents a slate of great performances from newcomers and veterans alike, even if it’ll all be a popularity contest in the end. Read on for the nominations and my […]

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Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Adapted Screenplay

While it’s inevitable that one day, perhaps one day soon, the Best Adapted Screenplay category will be jam-packed with reboots and comic book stories and robot superheros flicks, it’s not quite that day just yet. For now, Adapted Screenplay (which, over the years, has also been called Screenplay Adapted From Other Material, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, and Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published) is the refuge of book nerds and theatre wonks. And, also, weirdly enough, sequels (did you know that all sequels are automatically considered adaptations because they must be based on the original story?). This year’s category includes some of the year’s best films (and one I absolutely hated, mainly because I love the original material so much), from a family drama to a kiddie flick for grown-ups, all the way to a political drama and a sports drama and a big, smart spy flick. But, in my mind, there’s just one clear nominee deserving of the award – but do you agree? Read on for the nominations and my predicted winner in red…

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Culture Warrior

A week and a half ago, Anthony Hemingway’s Red Tails was released. On the surface, the film breathes Hollywood oxygen through-and-through. It’s a WWII era action film that uses its setting for broad family-friendly cheese-banter and CGI-heavy eye candy rather than an opportunity for a sober interrogation of history. Red Tails looks and feels like any Hollywood film geared toward as mass an audience as possible. But the studio that’s distributing it – 20th Century Fox – didn’t pay a dime to produce it. The reported $58 million cost to make Red Tails came solely out of the pocket of producer George Lucas, who had been attempting to get a film about the Tuskegee Airmen made since the early 1990s. He was continually met with resistance from a studio system that saw anything less than the biggest guaranteed appeal to the largest possible audience as a “risk,” including a heroic true story about African-American airmen. The ideology that closed the doors on George Lucas of all people reflects the same business mentality that inspired Jeffrey Katzenberg’s lengthy warning to other studios in a memo written during the same years that Lucas was first trying to get Red Tails financed.  In the memo, Katzenberg warned studios regarding their practice of exponentially centralizing all their resources in a few very expensive projects, resulting in high risk, little room for experimentation, and an increasing reliance on that coveted monolith known as the “mass audience” (which, to make things even more complicated, now includes […]

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The Grey

Once again Liam Neeson stood up to the January graveyard slate of movies, and once again Liam Neeson took charge. The Grey took top honors this weekend, proving that the combination of Neeson and good, adult action is the way to go when you want to make some decent coin. It wasn’t up to the standards of films like Taken ($24.7m opening weekend in 2009) and Unknown ($21.8m opening weekend in 2011). Considering the R rating, the lack of star power outside of Neeson (Dermot Mulroney isn’t what he used to be, and the wolves themselves don’t have a great agent yet), and Joe Carnahan not being the golden boy when it comes to box office returns, The Grey‘s $20m is still a respectable debut. Neeson isn’t losing clout as quickly as Katherine Heigl, whose One For the Money came in at #3 with $11.7m. That’s slightly lower than expectations, but looking at Heigl’s track record, her opening numbers seem to be whittling down further and further. Since Killers in 2010, Heigl’s opening numbers have progressively gotten smaller and smaller, dropping from $15.8m to $14.5m for Life As We Know It in 2010 and $13m for New Year’s Eve early last month. A change of pace for Heigl might be in order, or, when all else fails, the DVD/Blu-Ray and VOD market is not a bad option to take.

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The Reject Report - Large

Not to be confused with Reject Report, The White, which is what happens after we do battle with the Balrog. Reject Report, The White is never NEVER wrong. But in our current form we have to take into account things like star power and demographics and mass appeal, the kinds of aspects that go into making a film financially successful. This week sees three new movies wanting that success and one Oscar contender expanding to wide release. Liam Neeson fights wolves, Sam Worthington faces a ledge, and Katherine Heigl takes on…money, I guess. I’m not really sure. Only one of these movies can be the victor while the other two scrounge for scraps to make up $10-15m. Not even worth the effort really. It’s the Reject Report, and you shall not pass. Okay, now you can pass. Go ahead.

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It’s been a year filled with silent screen stars seeking redemption, the 1920s coming alive in Paris, a young boy searching for the first great director, sex addicts in New York City, horses going to war, maids of dishonor, and skulls getting crushed in elevators. Now it’s time to celebrate all of those things and more with the 84th annual Academy Awards. They’ve come a long way since the Hotel Roosevelt in 1929 (although sex addicts have almost always been a fixture). Get to ready to smile, ball your fists with snubbed rage, or be generally unsurprised. Here they are. The 2012 Oscar nominees:

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Not much has been reported about The Descendants director Alexander Payne’s next film, Nebraska. So far the only info floating around the net about it has been a brief plot synopsis and some casting rumors. Last October, we reported on a rumor saying that Payne wants to shoot the movie in black and white, but the studio is requiring him to get a big name in the starring role if he’s going to take a chance on turning off mainstream audiences like that. There’s also some rumors that they’re looking at convincing Gene Hackman to star, but that’s probably a pipe dream. Now that The Descendants has come and gone, however, it’s probably getting to be time for Payne to hunker down and start work on this project in earnest; and ComingSoon sat the man down and had a chat with him about just that. Payne described Nebraska by saying, “It’s a father/son road trip from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska, but it gets waylaid at a crappy town in central Nebraska where the father grew up and where he has some old scores to settle.” He went on to explain, “It’s just a little comedy. It’s nothing fancy. Nothing too ambitious. It’s a nice little comedy.” That’s not exactly the most exciting way I’ve ever heard someone describe one of their movies. Payne’s talking to the movie press here, doesn’t he want to build up some buzz?

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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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Culture Warrior

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Young Adult, Shame, and The Descendants. 2011’s holiday movie season ended the year with a barrage of relatively conventional heroes. From Ethan Hunt saving the world from yet another MacGuffin to Sherlock Holmes solving an additional mystery to a cyberpunk and a journalist battling wealthy Swedish career-misogynist neo-Nazis, December was packed with varied iterations of good triumphing over its clearly delineated evil opposition. In contrast, the holiday season’s slate of smaller-scale filmmaking brought forth several protagonists who function in strict contrast to your conventional hero. These protagonists are (decidedly) so toxic, broken, unheroic, and even unlikeable that they can’t even be deemed antiheroes. These characters (to varying degrees of success) challenge the assumed connection that filmic convention makes between the “main character” and the “film itself” by presenting protagonists who don’t triumph over adversity, who don’t fight or win a “good” battle, and who frankly don’t warrant an act of rooting. These protagonists trip up an oft-unquestioned notion conditioned by cinematic tradition: that films should serve as a means of rooting for a clearly demarcated, pre-telegraphed, unassailable idea of goodness. These are three protagonists that we aren’t often asked to spend ninety minutes with.

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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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This started out as a list of overrated movies, but we (“we” being Rob Hunter and Kevin Carr, rabblerousers) decided fairly quickly that “overrated” is an overused and abused term. Who are we, or anyone, to tell you that you like a movie too much? It’s a rude thing to say regardless of whether or not we’re right. But thanks to the internet sometimes one person’s exuberance can find a virtual megaphone in all the tubes and anonymous users online, and that misguided praise can become deafening. And yes, we’re just as guilty as the rest of you…especially in regard to our first pick below. To be clear, most of these are not bad movies. The majority of them are actually good. But none of them deserved the near-constant accolades that seemed to echo from one corner of the web to another ad nauseum. So without further ado, pomp, or circumstance, here are 11 12 movies (in alphabetical order) you people wouldn’t shut up about in 2011. (**Note, there may be a few minor spoilers below.**)

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Good morning from Los Angeles, where we announce major award nominations at 5:30AM on a Thursday morning. That’s how much we value your sleep patterns and sanity. Now that I’ve pulled myself out of a state of under caffeinated shock over some of the Golden Globe nominations – namely, that Ryan Gosling was nominated for lead actor in both the drama and comedy and musical categories, though neither of those nods was for Drive (Crazy, Stupid, Love.? really? I had no idea that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was so into abs!). Beyond that jolt to the system, there were a number of standard choices for the awards. The Artist? Well, of course? But all that Ides of March love? Interesting. The Artist leads with six nominations, followed by The Descendants and The Help with five each, and The Ides of March, Midnight in Paris, and Moneyball with four nods. But despite the overwhelming sense that (per usual) the Globes are just softball awards, there are some surprisingly good picks buried amongst the fluff – Tilda Swinton getting a lead actress (drama) nomination, Michael Fassbender earning a lead actor (drama) nod for Shame, Bridesmaids and Midnight in Paris up for Best Picture (comedy or musical), Charlize Theron getting a lead actress (comedy or musical) nomination for Young Adult, The Skin I Live In up for Best Foreign Film, and Albert Brooks getting his nod for supporting actor for Drive (drama). The Golden Globes will air live on January 15. Check out […]

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published: 12.18.2014
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