The Spectacular Now

discs header short term 12

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Short Term 12 Grace (Brie Larson) works at a home for troubled teens, but while she’s fantastic at her job, her empathy for the kids sees her bringing home their pains far too often. Her boyfriend (John Gallagher Jr.) works there too and hopes the two of them can grow as a couple, but he knows her past has led to too much of her heart being cordoned off for the kids. Their situation grows even more untenable when a new girl arrives at the facility. Writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton‘s film is a small wonder. It’s essentially a character piece, a glimpse into the life and love of one woman and the people around her, but it’s crafted and performed so effortlessly that it feels like emotionally rich time spent laughing and crying with friends. There’s a slight misstep in the third act where the film loses sight of its characters in deference to a more conventional narrative, but it’s a minor trespass. Check out Allison’s full review here. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, behind the scenes, featurettes, original short film]

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The 13 movies below range from the very good to the great (while the 6.5 that follow are just mostly bad), but the one thing they all share is that they each failed to find an audience during their theatrical run for one reason or another. At least one of those reasons is you of course, but instead of berating you for failing to support the films while they were in theaters and needed your help, we’re hoping to point you in their direction now to atone for your sins. But first, a few qualifications. I’ve excluded movies that played in fewer than 75 theaters since that’s the distributor’s fault, I’m not featuring films that made over $30m, and I’m not including subtitled foreign releases which the masses avoid in general. These are only films that could have had a real chance of making a lot more money than they did, so while I wish more people saw the Jared Leto-led Mr. Nobody, I’m not surprised that it only made $3,600. Finally, I’m also sharing the wealth a bit by skipping movies that will be making our Best Films of the Year list next week. So here are 13 great movies that failed to catch on at the box office but should be sought out immediately on Blu-ray/DVD, streaming, whatever… and 6.5 relatively terrible flicks that you were right to avoid.

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Brie Larson takes a sip of a seemingly diet-geared beverage while installed at a back table at an actually swanky midtown Manhattan workspace (like an office, except for people who don’t want to work in “an office”) – it’s a spicy lemonade, a prepackaged version of the very Los Angeles “master cleanse,” but Larson drinks it because she likes the taste. She likes it so much that she encourages me to take a sip straight from her own bottle, and it’s as delicious and refreshing as she promised it would be. Then she says that she thinks that cleanses are “really bad for you” and that, when it comes to those oft-buzzed-about toxins supposedly ruining our bodies, it’s just “an actual scam.” Brie Larson is the type of Hollywood “it girl” who drinks spicy lemonade because she likes the taste, not because pop culture tells her it’s good for her. This is the exact moment I stop trying to pigeonhole rising stars by what they do or do not drink, and instead focus on what they say and do not say – and Larson has a lot to say.

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Say-Anything_scenes

No, there’s no special anniversary for Cameron Crowe‘s directorial debut. At least not for another eight months, when Say Anything… turns 25. The reason it’s a Scenes We Love pick this week is because of all the recognition it’s been getting lately as a major influence on The Spectacular Now. The new indie teen movie’s male lead, Miles Teller, has been called the John Cusack of his generation, and the movie itself is being celebrated for a mix of comedy and drama and romance not achieved so well since the genre’s heyday in the 1980s. Say Anything… came about at the end of the decade and is considered by many to be the best, even considering all the exemplary works of John Hughes. Strangely, there’s a severe lack of clips from the film on the Internet. Maybe it’s because of Fox ordering them removed from YouTube and elsewhere, because there’s not even a proper version of the famous boombox serenade to be found. Not that this would be my first choice of a scene. The movie is full of a lot more than just Cusack being Cusack in a trenchcoat and a Clash t-shirt, giving his heart to Ione Skye and getting a pen in return. We’ve selected a handful of favorites from what could be found, but as always please tell us the scenes you love from the movie below.

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miles teller moonlighters

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. Ever since his breakthrough supporting role in 2010′s Rabbit Hole, Miles Teller has been on a sharp rise towards stardom. Major parts in the Footloose remake, Project X and this year’s 21 & Over could have been career choices of any young actor looking to quickly fill his Hollywood resume, but he’s been earning notice for his talents even when appearing in so-so movies. The skill has paid off the most so far with The Spectacular Now, an indie teen romance that debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where he and co-star Shailene Woodley collectively won the festival’s dramatic acting award. With the film now in theaters, audiences are getting to see why he deserved the honor and why we can expect great things from him in next year’s Divergent adaptation and beyond. Before Rabbit Hole hit theaters, Teller had starred in four short films, filling the lead role of each. I’ve seen the three that are available online — Jesse Newman’s Moonlighters (2004) and A Very Specific Recipe (2007) and Eric Laplante’s The Track Meet (2010) — and I can say he outshines the rest of the cast in every one and can actually be witnessed growing as an actor along the way. In the first, then-17-year-old Teller plays a kid who gets dumped by his longtime girlfriend and then attempts to rob her house […]

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james

The protagonist of director James Pondsoldt‘s new film is an alcoholic.  The other characters in The Spectacular Now may not point that out, but why would they? Nobody in high school thinks of any teenaged partier as an alcoholic, and Pondsoldt sets the film directly from that perspective. More so than with his previous film, Smashed, with The Spectacular Now Pondsoldt deals with a destructive main character. The protagonist in Smashed (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wasn’t actually hurting anyone besides herself. We see the opposite in The Spectacular Now. This isn’t a coming-of-age movie where the nerdy kid comes out of his shell because some hip girl takes an interest in him. It’s one where he maybe breaks out of that shell a little too late while hurting others in the process. Keep reading to see what director James Pondsoldt had to say about crafting an authentic high school experience for Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) and his audience.

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Editor’s note: Allison’s review of The Spectacular Now originally ran during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but we’re posting it again as the film opens this week in limited release. There are two kinds of people who go to high school: those who love every second of it, and those who cannot wait to get out. In The Spectacular Now, Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is a charming screw-up who falls in the first group, but he is also acutely aware that this is the best time of his life. And he is living that life to the fullest, embracing and living in every moment, but unfortunately doing so with a super-size booze-filled slurpee clutched in his grasp at every turn. When he sits down to start writing his college essay (pulling on a PBR as he does), he uses the question about the biggest hardship he has had to overcome to unload about his recent break up. After yet another party and another night getting loaded, Sutter finds himself waking up on the lawn of Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a pretty girl from his school that he has never quite noticed before because she does not have a specific “thing” that defines her from the pack.

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This August has made for a tricky must-see guide to compile. If this were any other year, the honorable mentions alone would’ve made the final cut. There’s a lot of quality competition. As such, I’m both pleased and disappointed I couldn’t include Brie Larson’s performance in Short Term 12; a blood-drenched fun home-invasion movie, You’re Next; a new film from the director of Boy A; and more. Then again, having too many good movies on the horizon is a bit strange to complain about. Last month I called July the most promising month of this summer season, and I was wrong. I must’ve forgotten this loaded August, the fantastic lineup of major and specialty releases this month make it. If you were underwhelmed by this summer’s offerings, there’s more than a few here to make you feel more satisfied about this (extended) season.

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spectacularnow

Sometime around the mid-nineties, the classic high school-set coming-of-age movie shrugged off its emotional resonance and turned into a genre marked by nonsensical dance scenes (She’s All That), poorly-adapted takes on Shakespeare plays (Get Over It), perfectly-adapted takes on Jane Austen novels (Clueless, and no, I will never apologize for my love for Clueless), cheerleader-driven narratives (Bring It On), and embarrassing outings that even James Franco wants to expunge from his resume (Whatever It Takes). Yet, slowly, the influence of such genre heroes as Cameron Crowe and John Hughes is bubbling back up, and the possibility that the real, sweet, funny, dramatic, and honest high school film isn’t dead just yet seems stronger than ever. As someone who grew up on a steady, TBS-fed diet of Crowe and Hughes films, the resurrection of the great coming-of-age production is music (Peter Gabriel, naturally) to my ears. A recent example of the rise of the emotionally rich teen movie? The Spectacular Now, a film that I’ve thought about consistently and affectionately since catching it back in January at Sundance. In support of the upcoming theatrical release of James Ponsoldt’s Sundance favorite, Landmark Theaters (along with one Angelika in NYC and the independent Los Feliz theater in LA) have curated a special screening series that they are calling “The Spectacular Classics.” Basically, it’s a month-long screening series of classic coming-of-age films that, in one way or another, influenced the new Shailene Woodley- and Miles Teller-starring film. It sounds like a very fun event […]

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spectacularnow

On its surface, The Spectacular Now looks like any other teenage drama you’ve ever seen. It’s about confused young people who fall in love, make mistakes, and generally just live in abject terror of the future. If word of mouth can be believed though, this is a movie that has a couple of tricks up its sleeve—a couple of tricks that keep it from being the same old, forgettable teenage drama that everybody always makes. Okay, so they’re not so much tricks as they are two of the more promising young actors who have hit Hollywood in the past few years: Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. Not only have these two already shown us that they have quite a bit to offer in movies like Rabbit Hole and The Descendants, but they both won the Special Jury Award for Acting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it was for the performances they give in this very film. Intrigued? Then click through to see what everyone was raving about back in January.

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news phoenix film fest

Was there ever really a “film festival” season? It seems you can’t go more than a few weeks without news of films premiering at another film fest, and while we’re only less than three months into the year we’ve already seen two of the big ones in Sundance and SXSW. Smaller fests may not carry the same name recognition, but for filmmakers and film lovers, they’re often just as beloved. The Phoenix Film Festival runs April 4th-11th and celebrates its 13th year of bringing a fine selection of new and award-winning films to Arizona. This year will see over 140 features and shorts playing across the eight days of the fest and, conveniently enough, the fest has once again taken over a multiplex to keep all of the screenings and events in one central location. Check out the official site for more details and to buy tickets. The Spectacular Now has just been announced as the opening night film, and director James Ponsoldt will be on hand as well to introduce and offer a Q&A. The Sundance/SXSW favorite joins other acclaimed films like The East, The Retrieval, Kon-Tiki, and The Kings of Summer in what promises to me a fantastic time at the movies. For all the new films playing though my most anticipated screening is John Carpenter‘s They Live, with Meg Foster in attendance. Keep reading for a look at several of the other features playing this year.

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Aural Fixation - Large

Films that are submitted to festivals come with many questions. Will my film be accepted? Will people be interested in watching it if it is? Will it get distribution? What will happen if it does get distribution? But these questions are also what make film festivals so exciting – the great unknown and all the possibilities it contains. This year’s Sundance Film Festival gave festival attendees (and soon audiences all over) many different films from comedies to dramas to horror. Signing up to work on an independent festival film can end up being a labor of love, but it can also open doors and catapult otherwise unknown talent into the spotlight. The road to Sundance has been seen through the eyes of writers, directors, and actors (which can be found on the Sundance website), but I wanted to look at the process from the composer side of things and was lucky enough to speak with not just one, but two composers who ended up with a total of three films at this year’s festival between them. Rob Simonsen who composed music for two of Sundance’s most well-received coming-of-age films, the heart-felt The Spectacular Now and the funny The Way, Way Back and Heather McIntosh who created the inventive and sinister soundscape for the surreal The Rambler.

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The Spectacular Now

Forgive us if we may be so bold, but this year’s round of “Ten Best” films from the Sundance Film Festival is really just the ten films we liked the most. We have taste, and we’re not afraid to use it! (Or, alternately, please like all these things that we like, we promise they are really good!) This year, five Rejects attended the festival in the snow (can you believe they let us in?), and while we all have different cinematic soft spots, you’d be surprised over how many films struck all of us, and in different ways. (We cried a lot.) This year’s festival certainly had a few themes that stuck out – lots of sex, nudity, inappropriate relationships, and so much more seemed to be the order of the day – but our list of the ten best films of the festival is far more interested in less lascivious features, much more tuned into films that delivered strong characters and even stronger senses of self. Boldness paid off. Honesty was rewarded. Tears? Well, tears definitely didn’t hurt. Find out which ten films won our hearts at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, presented after the break.

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Snow

It is time to say goodbye. Some of us have already left, some of us have a few more days, but the festival is officially winding down as quickly as the brief snowfall from two days ago is melting on the ground. (I’m getting deep, y’all, get ready.) The end of Sundance is always bittersweet; you are ready to get back home, but at the same time the idea of leaving friends, movies, and popcorn (okay, that’s not true — we are all more than sick of the popcorn) is sad. The final few days of the festival are always a bit different since the pack of people you know has whittled down and the majority of the movies have been watched. I started the day actually getting to sleep in (even I don’t understand how I pulled this off) and these extra few hours somehow helped me stay alert enough to take things in as I went through the day, a task I have never been able to attempt before due to exhaustion and the perpetual “end of the fest” daze. I spent the morning working at the Bloggeratti Condo and relishing the fact that I can crack jokes and fact check with colleagues in person instead of over social media (although Eric Snider and William Goss’s jokes are hilarious both in person and on the Internet).

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Snow in Park City

It was bound to happen. On Day 723 of the Sundance Film Festival (really, just Day 8, but it feels like we’ve been here for years), it snowed. Sundance is, after all, located in a ski town, so frozen precipitation falling from the sky is a thing that is known to happen, but snow during Sundance really does change the landscape of the festival. Everything instantly feels a bit more miserable and, suddenly, trooping through snowdrifts to see yet another film feels like the biggest chore in the world. But it really is the best chore, and when you’re about to troop through snowdrifts to finally (finally) see one of the festival’s instantly-beloved premieres, The Spectacular Now, it really doesn’t feel so bad.

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The East

With the year’s first large scale film fest, the Sundance Film Festival, kicking off later this week, it’s high time that we started making some predictions about some of the films that are most likely to explode off the screen up in snowy Park City. Every Sundance (and, really, every major film festival) churns out its darlings, its favorites, its gems, those films that take weary festival-loving audiences by storm and become not only the talk of the festival, but the talk of the cinematic world. Of course, anyone who has ever attended even a massive festival like Sundance knows that festival buzz doesn’t exactly spell out mainstream success, but it’s sure as hell a nice place to start. While our intrepid Sundance team – myself, Allison, and Rob – have already weighed in our individual “most anticipated” films of the festival, those personal picks don’t cover the full gamut of films poised to become the big ticket films at this year’s festival. Here’s our attempt to sniff those babies out. After the break, check out the fifteen films we’re banking on to light up this year’s Sundance.

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C.O.G.

Film festival scheduling is a delicate art, a precarious balance of needs and desires, a rigorous exercise in making puzzle pieces fit. It’s hard, is what I’m saying, and it’s harder still when a fest’s programming is rounded out with so many films that sound so good – like this year’s Sundance Film Festival slate. As the fest rolled out their picks late last year, I’d spend whole mornings squealing over their listings, getting jazzed weeks in advance for films I hoped I’d be able to see. After all that, I’ve narrowed down my picks to ten films I cannot wait to see, a list that includes some Sundance favorites, some returning stars, Canada’s best film of the year, a possible break-out hit or two, and even a doc about mountain climbing, because those are just the sorts of films I wait all year to see at Sundance. Take a look at the ten films I’m most likely to shiv someone in order to see, after the break.

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Mud

The prospect of heading back to the snowy mountain that houses the Sundance Film Festival brings up many questions – is my jacket warm enough? Do I have boots with good traction so I do not slip on the ice? Will I be able to use my iPhone with gloves on? But beyond these basic survival questions, the one major question is: what films do I want to see? The Sundance lineup gets increasingly more impressive with each passing year and the festival program for 2013 certainly lives up to that standard. After putting together the puzzle that is a festival schedule (a task not for the faint of heart) I am genuinely looking forward to all the films on my list, but these are the ten films I am most looking forward to plopping down in a (hopefully) warm theater to watch. Stay tuned to FSR for my reviews and see if these films end up being ones that should be added to your own “must-see” lists for the year.

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Brie Larson got her start in children’s films, broke into television, and even had a short music career. The 22-year-old actress has transitioned into more grown-up roles, but she still gets cast in a high school student (even though, ironically, she was home schooled for her high school years). Her most recent role was in this spring’s hit comedy 21 Jump Street, based on the television series that ran on Fox from 1987 until 1991. The film comes out on Blu-ray and DVD this week, so Larson took some time to chat with Film School Rejects about her various roles, including the upcoming films James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now and Peter Bogdanovich’s Squirrel to the Nuts.

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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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