Tommy Lee Jones

Robert De Niro in The Family

Luc Besson has been missing in action when it comes to action films for over a decade now. Of course he has written and produced a number of aesthetically pleasing shoot’m ups over the past few years — Taken, Transporter, and Lockout – but his behind-the-camera work has involved three animated/live-action hybrids, a bio pic, and two fantasy-type films. And precisely zero of them ever caught fire with us stateside. With his new film, The Family, it looked like Besson was returning to his playful criminal roots. Unfortunately though, the finished product isn’t that film as it lacks the pace, laughs, and coolness the defined his earlier work. This isn’t attempting to be Leon as it instead takes aim towards broad comedy, but even those outlandish laughs fall apart because we just don’t give a damn about the titular family.

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Rolling Thunder 6.tif

Cult movies are impossible to identify until years after their release, and even then it apparently takes Quentin Tarantino to point them out to the rest of us. (That’s not entirely true, but we’ll let him think it is for now.) One of the director’s favorite films, possibly even *the* favorite depending who you ask, is John Flynn‘s 1977 revenge picture Rolling Thunder. Having finally watched it I’d actually argue that labeling it as a “revenge picture,” which is how it’s been spoken of for over thirty years, is incorrect and ultimately reductive. Not that there isn’t some wonderfully wet and violent revenge action to be found here, but it’s hardly the film’s main focus or only strength. William Devane stars as a Vietnam veteran recently released from years as a POW. He returns home to a wife, son and a small town that welcomes him back as a hero, but when he attracts the attention of some mean-spirited and desperate ruffians it leads to an assault that leaves him and his family for dead. Amateurs. He survives, but his wife, son and right hand aren’t as lucky. So yeah, there’s some revenge coming.

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Best Supporting Actor

The supporting actor. He’s not the guy, he’s the guy behind the guy. That’s not always a bad thing though. The lead actor generally has to be the guy the audience is relating to, so those sort of roles can end up being kind of vanilla. The supporting roles though, that’s where the memorable weirdos come from. Getting a great supporting role can afford an actor the opportunity to go completely off the wall with their performance, or at least take some calculated risks that aren’t likely to sink the whole film if they don’t pay off. As a result, the best supporting roles of the year can be more interesting than the best leads, and this year definitely has a colorful cast of characters. Here are the ones that the Academy liked in 2012 with my predicted winner in red:

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JENNIFER LAWRENCE and BRADLEY COOPER star in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

The 70th Golden Globe Awards will be held tomorrow night, and I invite you to join myself and FSR’s awards guru, Daniel Walber, for live-blog commentary during the ceremony. We’ll try to keep it smart, avoid too much snark and will likely be obeying the rules of the drinking game that co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have devised. It will also hopefully be more conversational than remarks we could have just tweeted, in order that I can turn the discussion around as a more readable post-event recap of the night. In case you’re too busy paying attention to your TV to also read our words simultaneously. Anyway, you can’t head into a big awards telecast viewing without predictions for what you think will win. Daniel and I seem to agree on exactly half of the movie categories. So, maybe it won’t be such a predicable night. Check out our choices after the break and give us your own predictions in the comments. If you do better than either of us, we commend you in advance (and maybe at the end of our GG coverage too).

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IntroBioPic

Biopics are always praised for their lead actor or actress’ realistic or unique portrayal of the subject, but what of the supporting cast? Sure, we do recognize their efforts, they might even receive an Academy Award, but rarely are they honored with something as prestigious as an online comedy list. It’s time to rectify that. Here are some of the more talented, memorable, or uncanny portrayals of people who were important enough to be featured in a movie, but not important enough for that movie to be about them.

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Culture Warrior

In 1989, two major studios released films about race relations in America that couldn’t be more different. Driving Miss Daisy, Bruce Beresford’s adaptation of Alfred Uhry’s successful off-Broadway play, was a heartwarming tearjerker about a rich, isolated elderly Jewish woman who comes to the astounding revelation that her friendly African-American chauffeur is often subject to discrimination in the South during the 1950s. Do the Right Thing, meanwhile, enshrined Spike Lee’s place on the cinematic map. Its pull-no-punches mosaic of conflicting, negotiating racialized voices in contemporary Bedford-Stuyvesant refused happy endings and clear answers, leaving critics and audiences in a gray area where they couldn’t decide whether the film was a lament over the brick-wall met by post-Civil Rights discourse, a call to violent action, or something else entirely. The relative critical and economic successes of both Driving Miss Daisy and Do the Right Thing paved a crossroads for future representations of African Americans in mainstream American cinema: should they pursue the direction of  affirmation and closure in the face of racism dismissed as a problem solved long ago, or strive for contemporary relevance and a refusal of easy answers to complex questions? Time and again, Hollywood has overwhelmingly preferred to continue in the direction of Driving Miss Daisy. As a retelling of history, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, which chronicles the hard-won political gymnastics enacted in order to get the 13th Amendment passed and abolish human slavery in the US thereafter, would seem to continue Hollywood’s preference to gaze backwards at race relations […]

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Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln

Editor’s note: Lincoln gets its full theatrical release tomorrow, so please enjoy a re-run of our AFI FEST review of the film, originally published way back on November 9. It opens with a battle. Not the sort of battle we’ve come to expect from movies these days, not one punctuated by booms and blasts and bullets, but one that feels almost eerily and unnaturally quiet. There are hordes of soldiers attacking each other left and right, to be sure, and as they grunt and grasp in hand-to-hand (face-to-face, really) combat, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln immediately lets its audience in on what sort of film it is going to be – a personal one, a deeply felt one, and one startlingly free of what we’ve come to expect from big, bustling films about horrific wars and the beloved men who carry them out. No, Lincoln is not exactly what you’re expecting it to be – and it’s all the better for it. The plot of Lincoln can be briefly explained in few words – it centers on the last gasps of the American Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) attempts to end it and get the Thirteenth Amendment (the one that outlaws slavery and serves as a a much stricter take on the Emancipation Proclamation) pushed through the divided House of Representatives. Adapted from Doris Kearns Goodwin‘s meticulously researched (and nearly 1,000-page long) “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” screenwriter Tony Kushner and Spielberg have distilled down […]

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In America we have neither kings nor gods. Our brief experiments with any cult of personality ended badly, though they inspired some excellent movies along the way (All the Kings Men and Gabriel over the White House spring to mind). We have put our greatest presidents on mountains and given them monuments on the National Mall in Washington, but we’ve never admired them with the same spirit as the divine right of European monarchs or the fanatical devotion required of totalitarian dictatorship. Biopics of our Commanders-in-Chief are often either ambiguous critiques, like Nixon, or flippant light pieces along the lines of NYFF’s Hyde Park on Hudson. This history makes Steven Spielberg’s newest undertaking almost unprecedented. Lincoln is an earnest attempt to give Honest Abe a cinematic apotheosis, the kind of hero-making treatment rarely given one of our leaders on film. This is also a new path for Spielberg himself. Previous capital-I “Important” films have focused on a more collective triumph of the people, from Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List to the more directly applicable Amistad. Where those works take a wide look at the trials, tribulations and heroics of large and varied casts, Lincoln puts on its blinders and focuses on a very specific period in the life of a single icon. Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner are only concerned with a few short months in early 1865 — telling the story of the arduous passage of the 13th Amendment through the House of Representatives — and nothing more. […]

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Acting is like anything in that success doesn’t come quickly. It’s why we can go back and watch old clips of Brad Pitt whoring for Pringles or Tina Fey talking about the interest rate at Mutual Savings Bank. You have to start somewhere, right? Same goes for motion pictures – for most actors, your first role is going to be some mediocre piece like Return To Horror High or Revenge Of The Creature – but every once in a while an actor or actress starts off at a high point. Here are such high points, awesome first films that you’d be proud to be a part of even if you never did another film ever again.

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It’s quite convenient that David Frankel’s Hope Springs kicked its original title – Great Hope Springs – because such a tiny edit saves the film from a rash of mocking spins on its name. Just Okay Hope Springs. Totally Adequate Hope Springs. Hey, Not So Bad Hope Springs. The film, which centers on the crumbling marriage of Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) and their apparent last ditch effort to save it by way of an intensive relationship workshop with therapist Dr. Feld (Steve Carell), is perfectly acceptable stuff, but it’s by no means “great” and it’s not nearly as frank, honest, and mature as it would like to be. Instead, it’s a gentle enough take on the romantic comedy for the older set that struggles to find its tone and aim, before settling into something that’s strangely pleasing and oddly compelling. Hope Springs is both a rare bird (how often do we see mature studio films that examine faltering marriages and place importance on the value of lovemaking?) and a strange duck (how many films about faltering marriages encourage a first act of chuckles and titters before dropping the emotional boom, and repeatedly?).

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Culture Warrior

Part of the appeal of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films is that the basic conceit informing their aesthetic seems so natural. Batman is one of few major superheroes that isn’t actually a super-hero. Batman mythology, then, lends itself to a degree of plausibility more than, say, Superman or Spider-Man, so why not manifest a vision of Batman that embraces this particular aspect that distinguishes this character from most superhero mythologies? But realism has not been a characteristic that unifies Batman’s many representations in the moving image. Through the eyes of Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher, the Batman of tentpole studio filmmaking has occupied either a world of gothic architecture and shadowy noir, or one of schizophrenic camp. From 1989 to 1997, Batman was interpreted by visionary directors with potent aesthetic approaches, but approaches that did not necessarily aim to root the character within a landscape of exhaustive Nolanesque plausibility.

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Just as the fears of global cataclysm at the end of the last century fueled films like Deep Impact and Armageddon, the ticking clock to December 21, 2012 has led to more end-of-the-world movies that rely on something larger than a zombie outbreak or a deadly contagion (although those have been recently popular as well). The latest entry into Hollywood’s obsession with the Earth’s last days is the apocalyptic rom-com Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and if the Mayans were right, that might very well be the last one made. Film School Rejects responds to your concerns about the end of the world, as evidenced by the Apocalypse Soon feature currently running on this site. While you’re catching up on these films to see before the end of the world, we wondered who would be the best people to spend that time with. Steve Carell’s character gets to spend the end of the world with Keira Knightley, and here are some cinematic characters with whom we’d like to spend our last days.

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Men in Black 3

Men in Black II is one bad sequel. Everything the first film got right the second film painfully got wrong. Will Smith played Will Smith, the funny-for-two-minutes pug from the first film sang because someone thought it was funny, a two-headed Johnny Knoxville showed up for some reason, and Rosario Dawson was just, well, kind of there. That’s what the second installment was in a nutshell: “just there,” a limp and lifeless blockbuster. How does this 10-years-later sequel fare in comparison? Saying it’s a vast improvement is too easy, since even if this third installment is utterly banal, it’d still look favorable in comparison. For the most part, Men in Black III corrects past mistakes, even going as far to capture some of the original film’s magic. The film begins with Boris, played by an unrecognizable Jemaine Clement escaping a prison (which is on the frickin’ moon!). Once Boris has broken out, he plans to get revenge on the man who took his right arm: Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). The villain travels back to 1969 in attempt to kill the younger K (Josh Brolin), who also foiled his world domination scheme. To save his partner, a much older J (Will Smith) travels back in time as well, where he enters the world of a less advanced MIB and less grumpy K. And, of course, he runs into other 1960s staples: racism and Michael Stuhlbarg as a kind-hearted alien named Griffin.

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A funny thing happened when I watched this second trailer for Men in Black III – I realized that I couldn’t remember a damn thing about the second film, which is funny, because that film deals with Tommy Lee Jones‘ Agent K losing his memory (get it?). I remember Men in Black with nothing but affection, but MIB2? That’s a blank page in my memory book, so it’s good news all-around that this trailer made me chuckle and look forward to the third film (inevitably in 3D). Men in Black III goes back (back in time) after some funny space-time stuff goes down and Will Smith‘s Agent J gets hit with the news that Agent K is dead – and has been for forty years. Pitching himself back to the 1960s, J attempts to uncover what happened to kill his partner, fight off an alien invasion, and convince the younger K (Josh Brolin, terrifyingly well-cast) that he comes from the future. We got a look at the film’s first trailer way back in December, but I daresay, this one is a fair bit better:

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Director Peter Webber (Girl With the Pearl Earring) has a new project coming up called Emperor that looks at the tension and confusion in Japan immediately after their surrender in World War II. The film will star Lost’s Matthew Fox as a man named General Bonner Fellers (or “boner feeler” as he was doubtless known in his junior high), who served General Douglas MacArthur as his leading expert on all things Japanese. Basically he was the 40s military version of kids that are really into manga and video games. Being the leading expert on Japan was a pretty important role in this particular moment in history, however, as Fellers ended up being the guy who had to decide whether or not Emperor Hirohito should be tried and hanged as a war criminal. That’s some pretty grave stuff, but Fox won’t have to handle the dramatic load alone. THR is reporting that veteran actor Tommy Lee Jones has now signed on to the project to portray General MacArthur. Emperor producer Gary Foster says of the choice, “Tommy will bring strength, intelligence and gravitas to the portrayal of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, a legendary American hero.” Gravitas is a good word to use there. Jones is one of those actors that just lends a certain weight to every role he takes, no matter how ridiculous the movie around him might be. I’m sure his familiar presence will add quite a bit to this historical drama. Hell, at this point he’s practically a legendary […]

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Despite not coming with a cool rap video, the new teaser trailer for Men in Black III does everything right. It opens with the familiar faces of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith doing what they did in the previous movies, then quickly shifts to the high concept problem (and solution) of a missing K (and a trip through time that randomly involves a Hollywood-style stunt to work. Then again, jumping off buildings is all the rage these days. As a bonus, both Smith and new co-star Josh Brolin get to deliver a bright ray of sunshine known as the Tommy Lee Jones Signature Smile. Check it out for yourself:

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; got a back-up weapon? Yes kids, after last week’s ridiculous invasion of your local multiplex, your favorite film column’s favorite film column is back where it belongs, digging into the vast catalog of older films searching for diamonds in the rough. This week we reach all the way back to 1998. As per usual, I’ll start off by listing all the reasons to avoid this film like the swamp lands of Kentucky, but I’ll finish up by lovingly wrapping it in one of those emergency blankets that look like aluminum foil. I’ll also recommend a tasty if health challenged treat to warm your cholesterol-laden insides. So what are we waiting for? This week’s cinematic indulgence is…drum roll…U.S. Marshals!

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This may shock some of you dear readers, but this year I decided to skip the Breaking Dawn panel and instead went with the Rick Baker retrospective panel. Getting to hear Baker talk at great length aside, it was a fun surprise getting to see his work for Men in Black III because of how exciting the glimpses were. The retro aliens that Baker designed looked fantastic. Whether the movie works or not, his contributions will be more memorable entries in his speaks-for-itself body of work. We all know the current buzz and rumors regarding MIB: III, but as Baker says below, its production is simply the way you make movies now. What’s going on with that film isn’t drastically different from most tent-pole releases, even the good ones. Before the retrospective panel, I got a few minutes to chat with the make-up effects guru on the matter. Here’s what Rick Baker had to say about copying the greats as a kid, acting like a schoolboy with David Byrne, and the difficulty of working on modern blockbusters:

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr goes retro this week and injects himself with strange chemicals in an attempt to become a World War II era super soldier. Hop over to the Fat Guys at the Movies page to see if his physique has reached the pinnacle of that of Chris Evans from Captain America. After recovering from the procedure, Kevin randomly wandering the streets, looking for hot ladies like Mila Kunis who just want to have sex but with no emotional baggage of a relationship. Sadly, this will probably end up as empty and worthless as his similar attempt last January when No Strings Attached came out.

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If you’ve  followed our coverage of Marvel Junkets in the past (Iron Man 2, Thor) then you know that those press events and I have a long and useless history. Generally speaking, everyone spends a lot of time learning very little, and sometimes things break and fall down. It seems as though Marvel may be on the upswing in terms of getting these junkets really pumping out information – or maybe we journalists are asking better questions – who the heck really knows why it happened, but somehow the Captain America junket was interesting and had stuff to learn you might actually care about. So much so, in fact, that I’ve got 15 cool tidbits right here.

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published: 04.17.2014
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published: 04.17.2014
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published: 04.17.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
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