War Horse

This Week in Blu-ray

Left, right, left we march out of March and into April with another sizzling edition of This Week in Blu-ray. Alright, so that’s not exactly true. Despite finding a number of titles to recommend in this week’s release offering, it’s not exactly a week that’s going to blow your socks off. Which begs the question: why wear socks in the first place if you’re constantly reading Film School Rejects? You know that eventually they’re just going to be blown off anyway. But not today, as you’re about to see. We take a stroll into the world of buying a zoo with Cameron Crowe, we get lost in a great release of Chinatown and we ride the War Horse to yawn-inducing victory. Come along and enjoy the ride. We Bought a Zoo There was a primo opportunity for me to make a ‘We Must Buy This Blu-ray’ joke here, but sadly I’m just not that kind of guy. Our own Jack Giroux love love loved this movie when he reviewed it in December, and it certainly does have its charms. Matt Damon plays a single dad who decides to buy a broken down zoo and nurse it back to health, finding love for family time and Scarlett Johansson along the way. It’s Cameron Crowe, so there’s undeniable sweetness. The one thing the Blu-ray has going in its favor is plenty of special features. From 37 minutes of deleted/extended scenes to a 7 min. gag reel to a 76 minute extensive, well-produced documentary style behind the […]

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This Week in DVD

Welcome back to This Week In DVD! It’s a fairly calm release week, but there are a few recognizable titles hitting shelves including Steven Spielberg’s cheesy War Horse and the universally acclaimed film about a man famous for sticking his hand inside a felt anus, Being Elmo. Lesser known releases include a couple Cartoon Network shows, Bob Newhart’s unfortunate TV swan song, two European imports worth your time and more. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Tyrannosaur Joseph (Peter Mullan) leads a sad, lonely life punctuated with bouts of alcohol-fueled violence, but when he meets a charitable woman named Hannah (Olivia Colman) he discovers his humanity may yet be salvageable. “An animal can only take so much punishment and humiliation before it snaps, fights back,” he says at one point. “It’s just nature.” Paddy Considine wrote and directed this, his feature debut, and it’s clearly a personal tale inspired by the people and places he’s known. It’s a bleak, tough watch at times, but Considine surprises with a wise and unexpected ending.

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Elizabeth Olsen

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly collection of things you’ll enjoy. We promise. We begin tonight with the story of the evening. Or more to the point, the casting story of the evening. Elizabeth Olsen has been offered the lead role in Oldboy, the Spike Lee directed remake of the incredibly popular Korean revenge film. Heralded for her performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene, Olsen has burst onto the scene with her ability to act, something she has over her elder sisters, Mary Kate and Ashley. She’s a good choice for just about everything, even a movie that probably shouldn’t be attempted in the first place. Like this one.

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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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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 Original Score

As I note each week in Aural Fixation, music is one of the most important components in a film, providing the underlying emotion in certain scenes as well as the overall tone of a film. Creating this musical landscape is no easy task and the five scores nominated this year were brought to the screen by four talented composers (yes, someone got nominated twice.) While last year gave us slightly more innovative music with scores from first time composer Trent Reznor and the more electrified Hans Zimmer, the past year in film seemed to hearken back to the more classical era of filmmaking and the scores followed suit. From tales of adventure, spy thrillers, a different perspective on war to a look back at the early days of filmmaking, the nominated scores kept pace with their respective films and came from composers that ranged from Academy veterans to first time nominees. While I was admittedly more excited (and felt slightly more invested) in the nominees last year, the composers selected for the potential honor this year are well-deserved and created scores that undeniably elevated each their films. Who will take home the golden statue this year? Stay tuned to see if my prediction of who will win proves true. Read on for the nominations and my predicted winner in red…

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Culture Warrior

The Oscar montage reel is a genre on its own. It’s transparently demonstrative of the overall function of the Academy Awards. These montage reels summarize and make explicit what the annual ceremony attempts to accomplish writ large: to create and solidify a canon of important American films, along with a delimited understanding of their importance. Yes, the Oscars have occasionally given a voice to the indie underdog and rush through their obligatory movies-with-subtitles category, but besides the occasional screenplay nomination for a truly innovative film and the rare foreign language film that broaches through the marginal categories, the Oscars are by and large a celebration of American cinema, specifically Hollywood cinema. During the 2006 ceremony, a moment occurred that has been seared into my memory. I haven’t been able to find a clip of it online since it aired six years ago, so I hope this isn’t wishful or inaccurate. The 2006 ceremony consisted of a spate of overtly political films, as Crash, Brokeback Mountain, Munich, Good Night and Good Luck competed for top honors, and Syriana was in the running for other awards. In likely hopes of gaining cultural capital from celebrating mainstream cinema’s rarely explored but ever-present political function, the Academy aired a self-congratulatory reel of past Oscar-nominated films that have addressed other topical social problems, from In the Heat of the Night to Philadelphia. When the lights came back and the audience applauded with anticipated decorum, host Jon Stewart then graced the stage and stated, in a […]

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Aural Fixation - Large

With the 84th Academy Award nominations announced last week (and me finally coming up for air post-Sundance), I wanted to give the five Original Score (and two Original Song) nominees a closer look. Each nominated score is full-bodied and as varied as the films they are featured in ranging from fun (John Williams for The Adventures of Tin Tin) to lush (Ludovic Bource for The Artist) to dramatic (Howard Shore for Hugo) to tense (Alberto Iglesias for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) to emotional (John Williams for War Horse) while each of the nominated songs are quirky and catchy (Bret McKenzie’s “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets and Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett’s “Real In Rio” from Rio.) While I am not going to propose to understand why the Academy makes their choices the way they do (the lack of Drive and Shame nominations alone had me scratching my head last week) and I do not think that the scores and songs that were selected are unworthy of their nominations, I was still left with some questions when looking into who may come out on top on February 26th.

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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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The Reject Report - Large

Yes, January is a graveyard. Lots of dead bodies just getting dumped left and right A) to fill up the space and B) because some of these studios have dead bodies just laying around not making money. Such is the case with The Devil Inside, the only film getting a broad release this weekend. It doesn’t take a genius – thank God – to pick up on the fact that Mission: Impossible and Sherlock Holmes will be topping the box office once again. It’s that surefire longevity these December releases have noticed doing its best. A mockumentary about exorcisms that some studio decided to pick up won’t make much noise. But let’s see just how well it could do, shall we?

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Culture Warrior

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:

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War Horse is a sprawling war epic that’s so old-fashioned it belongs in a museum. Not only has director Steven Spielberg painstakingly recreated the look and feel of a classical picture of this scope, imbued with a heavy dose of mid-century British formalism, he’s essentially made a carbon copy of a David Lean movie. Such a nostalgic enterprise would be welcome if it told a story worth telling, with the strong, determined characters and bold cinematic brushstrokes of a Lean picture. Spielberg’s film does nothing of the sort — it’s a stodgy, ridiculous movie with a horse that simultaneously serves as an allegory for the bond that unites all mankind and a symbol of profound, idealized purity.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr pulls out his screening schedule, which looks like a gambling addict’s racing form. He bounces from huge, mainstream releases to minor indie award contenders. Facing motion-capture CGI, tattooed bisexual investigators, cross-dressing waiters, silent film actors, and a lead star who is literally hung like a horse, Kevin tries to make sense of the seemingly countless releases this holiday week. Exhaustion from this process makes it impossible to buy a zoo or face the 3D end of the world, but his movie stocking is full, nonetheless.

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This is it: the final month of the year, a.k.a. the month to shell out as much cash as you got at the theaters. December is always the best and worst movie-going time. There’s so many damn pictures hitting the screens, and it’s the time where everyone’s running around, trying to get things done before the New Year. It’s wonderful, annoying chaos. This December is different, though. In fact, it’s going to be about 100 times more chaotic. Folks, if you plan on seeing all of the good to the “this will be up for Oscars, kid!” movies this month, plan on forking out a lot of dough. This is unquestionably the strongest month for films this year. Without further ado, here are the ones to end the year on a great note with:

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It looks like some hardcore cinephiles will have less worry when it comes to choosing a film outing this Christmas, with DreamWorks announcing today that they’re set to hold “special word-of-mouth screenings” for the upcoming Steven Spielberg epic, War Horse, over Thanksgiving weekend. The film is scheduled for a nationwide opening on December 25, but these special sneaks have been crafted to build buzz for the film with almost a month of lead time. Just last week came news that 20th Century Fox was launching a massive sneak peek for their own Christmas release, We Bought a Zoo, over the Thanksgiving holiday, rolling the Cameron Crowe film out to 800 theaters around the country on Saturday the 26th. But this Spielberg sneak will be a decidedly more quiet affair, with screenings taking place on Sunday the 27th in just ten cities.There’s no news yet on how the public will find out about these screenings, but it’s probably best to hang around the film’s Facebook page or its Twitter feed for a hint or two.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that isn’t holding out hope that it will be chosen to host the 84th Academy Awards. It has never had a good working relationship with Brian Grazer. Earlier today the entire film world was talking about Brett Ratner’s departure as producer of the Oscars because of a whole bunch of controversy over some comments he made that offended fans of rehearsals. Everyone wanted him out, and they got it. The also got the bonus of Eddie Murphy jumping ship as host, two-for-one discount style. And now they’re getting something else, which might be seen as a bonus. The Academy confirmed this evening via a press release that Brian Grazer will produce the 84th Academy Awards telecast. The odds on Tom Hanks hosting just went through the roof.

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Steven Spielberg is no stranger to child/teen-centric cinema, and his latest film adapts a popular stage play about a boy, his horse, and the special friendship between them. Doesn’t quite sound like a family film, but I’m curious to see how the famed director utilizes the “Spielberg face” in the scene where the naked teen stabs the horse’s eyeball. Wait. I think I have the wrong boy-and-his-horse movie based on a stage play… War Horse is about a boy (Jeremy Irvine) who finds and befriends a horse in the English countryside. The animal is drafted during WWI and attempts to make a run for the Canadian border, but when the boy teaches it basic geography the horse begrudgingly boards a ship heading to the battlefields of France. The teen enters the fray in search of his trusty steed and probably becomes a man in the process. One of my favorite films as a kid was Carroll Ballard’s The Black Stallion. It’s about a boy who finds himself shipwrecked on a desert island, alone except for a beautiful and wild black horse that had yet to be broken in by a rider. The film perfectly captured the boy’s yearning for adventure, his overwhelming loneliness, and the importance of friendship that knows no color boundaries. (That may not have been part of the film’s intent.) I’m hoping War Horse manages to find some of that same magic, but the trailer below appears more epic than personal. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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Hope springs eternal. As we round the bases of another year, it’s important to let the average and outright crappy slough off and realize that we’re all standing on the precipice of another year of movies. The future stretches out before us full of possibilities. That cheesy trailer you saw last week could end up producing your favorite film of the year. That epic blockbuster you’ve been waiting for could be bigger than you ever imagined. There’s hope for everything, but there’s also expectation, which is why Rob Hunter, Neil Miller and Cole Abaius painstakingly put together our list of the 30 Most Anticipated Films of 2011. It’s the stuff we’re most looking forward to this year, put together when our hope and optimism is at its peak.

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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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