West of Memphis

West-of-Memphis

It almost seems too obvious. From the moment that the production of Devil’s Knot was announced, film lovers the world over noted that it was covering material that had already gone well-trodden by documentaries. And it’s not a case like, say, that time a fiction film and a documentary about the Jack Abramoff scandal came out in the same year. The case of the West Memphis Three has been turned into not one but four docs, and they are anything but low-profile. The movies of the Paradise Lost trilogy are among the best-known, most important documentaries of modern times. And West of Memphis struck at just the right time, just as new developments in the case brought it back into the national spotlight. But that doesn’t mean that a good adaptation of this story couldn’t have been made. In fact, the story of the West Memphis Three is so ripe for Hollywood exploitation that it’s honestly surprising that it’s taken this long for it to happen. It has everything the Oscars love: incredible tragedy, outrageous injustice, and an ending note of inspirational triumph. But Devil’s Knot botches it very, very badly. Even the more problematic documentaries about the WM3 are preferable to it. READ MORE AT NONFICS

read more...

West_of_Memphis

Editor’s note: Nearly a year after premiering at Sundance, Amy Berg’s West of Memphis hit limited release this week. The following is a re-run of our Sundance review, originally published on January 29, 2012. At Sundance, the film notably included interviews that had been completed mere days before its festival bow. As such, the final product now appearing in theaters is slightly modified from the Sundance version, with more interviews and tighter editing. Not to worry, however, as our faithful Associate Editor Kate Erbland watched the film again, in its final form, and this review remains as applicable as it did in January. When Amy Berg‘s West of Memphis held its first Sundance screening on only the second day of the festival, audience members walked out stunned – not just because of the film’s emotional material, its often graphic crime scenes and autopsy photos and videos, or even because of how it squarely points to a singular perpetrator (one who is, of course, not part of the West Memphis 3), but because the film was undeniably fresh. So fresh, in fact, that two interviews that pop up in the film’s final third both came complete with a time stamp that indicated that they had been conducted the week before the film bowed at the fest – eight days before its opening. While the West Memphis 3 (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley) were freed in August of last year, their nearly twenty-year ordeal remains almost frighteningly of the moment.

read more...

Zero-Dark-Thirty

As dissent continues to flourish in this country, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that discordant responses to films is also on the rise. Divisiveness has always been one thing among film critics, with publications throughout the past decade loving to showcase opposing views of everything from Dancer in the Dark to Tree of Life. But it’s another thing for broader American society to not only disagree with one another but to really go at each other over a certain motion picture or movies overall. This is the year that a right-wing political documentary (2016: Obama’s America) outgrossed all but one of Michael Moore’s films, including the gun violence issue doc Bowling for Columbine. It’s also a year, now, when the notion that violent films may have an impact on gun violence more than guns themselves is being spouted by everyone from NRA leaders to actor Jamie Foxx. Does that make Foxx’s new movie, Django Unchained, one of the most dangerous films of 2012? It depends on whether or not you agree with that idea of films and video games being so influential. Also depending on your side of a debate, you might agree with those calling Zero Dark Thirty “dangerous,” as Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side; My Trip to Al-Qaeda) has now done. I haven’t seen the film yet, so I can’t offer any real opinion on the torture scenes provoking discussion, but here’s what Gibney has to say about it in a lengthy article he wrote […]

read more...

Last week, filmmaker Joe Berlinger tweeted about a review of West of Memphis at DocGeeks in which the writer wrote, “I’ve never had the time or the energy to watch all 3 Paradise Lost films and, having seen West of Memphis, I’m glad I never bothered to.” As the co-director of the Paradise Lost trilogy, Berlinger had a right to be annoyed with that opening line and not just because West of Memphis probably wouldn’t exist without Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky‘s coverage of the West Memphis 3 cases over the last 20 years. If there’s one thing we as film critics and/or fans should be good at it’s considering the distinction of individual works and the independent perspectives that go into their storytelling craft. With more and more documentaries being made it’s understandable that multiple films will tackle the same specific story. Sometimes they will seem like competitors, and sometimes, as in the case of this year’s two AIDS treatment docs, How to Survive a Plague and United in Anger, they’re actually linked through overlapping producers. Another new film, which just won a Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 DOC NYC documentary film festival and also recently received the Best Documentary Feature award at the Austin Film Festival, is one of the greatest examples of why it’s a wonderful thing that so many docs are being produced, even if some appear to be redundant on the surface. Titled Informant, this film tackles the exact same incident already covered by the […]

read more...

Reject Recap: The Best of Film School Rejects

Last weekend seems like such a long time ago. It seems like it was in another galaxy far, far away, in fact. We now live in this strange new world in which Disney not only owns Lucasfilm but is also putting out a new live-action Star Wars movie in two and a half years. And yet, that’s still not the biggest thing to happen in the last seven days. This is, of course, the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, which has affected the film industry to a degree. For one thing, as we reported, it destroyed a major piece of movie memorabilia — the HMS Bounty replica used in Mutiny on the Bounty and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest — and two human lives with it. Also, a number of films that opened or were supposed to open in limited release in New York City this weekend have been delayed until power is restored to the venues hosting them. Meanwhile, individuals without electricity in the wake of the storm have been unable to read FSR all week. The least of their problems, obviously, and I’m not saying it’s any priority of theirs to catch up with our content, but if they are looking to do so once they can, the recap is here. Seriously, though, join us in helping the people in need post-Sandy by maybe skipping just one movie and donating the ticket money instead. If you are catching up or looking for highlights, let us first remind you of our […]

read more...

There’s no easy or fun or quick or flashy way to lead off a story about Amy Berg‘s phenomenal documentary, West of Memphis. The film is crushing and wrenching and frequently hard to watch, but that’s fully in service to its subject matter; chronicling the unbelievable story of the West Memphis 3, Berg keenly cuts to the heart of the matter of one of America’s most stunning and complete miscarriages of justice. It’s just a heartbreaker, all-around, and the film’s latest trailer doesn’t shy away from that. The film was one of my favorites out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival and, back then, I wrote about it: “West of Memphis serves as an illuminating look inside the entire West Memphis 3 ordeal, from crime to trial to freedom, and all of the infuriating twists and turns in between. It’s an emotional journey, one that will alternately rile and move its audience. Berg’s access to people and evidence positively crams the film with new interviews and material that will stun even those previously educated about the case.” Get a taste of that with the new trailer for West of Memphis, after the break.

read more...

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!

read more...

Though it’s taking longer than most would have expected, Sundance doc West of Memphis has been picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics. The deal has been buzzed about since the film premiered at the festival, but SPC has finally gotten around to sewing up the deal for Amy Berg‘s film about the West Memphis Three. Berg’s film, produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, is a new entry into the cinematic world about the Three – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. Accused and sentenced of the murder of three young boys back in 1993, documentarians Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofksy have previously chronicled the case in three Paradise Lost films, but Berg’s film features new information and interviews (some completed mere days before the film bowed in Park City), including particularly damning evidence against Terry Hobbs (a stepfather of one of the boys) and some very close time with Echols and his wife Lorri Davis. Back in January, I reviewed the film at Sundance, calling it both “exceedingly well-executed” and “an essential entry into the horrifying true life tale.” I’m pleased as punch that the film will now be getting a release from an established studio that can push it out to plenty of audiences. A release date has not been announced yet, but we can likely assume that SPC will get out this timely documentary within the calendar year, especially with a number of other feature film adaptations of the story getting into production soon.

read more...

John Mark Byers

I interview a lot of people — it’s part and parcel to the job of entertainment journalism. It’s not generally my favorite thing, as I’m almost always more interested in writing about my film experience and discussing said experience with the screenwriters, whom I rarely find myself in a room with. More often than not I’m visiting an actor who has spent the better part of the day repeating themselves and building up a frothy disdain for the questions I’m trying to avoid, but eventually going to have to ask. There has been very little, if any, gravity to my interview experience. They’re mostly non-events. …until last week. I had no expectation that I would be sitting across from the step-father of a brutally murdered child when I arrived in Santa Barbara on the twenty sixth. To be honest I could think of few things I’d want less, and yet I was the one that requested his time on a whim as I watched Mark Byers shuffle painfully through the lobby of the Hotel Santa Barbara. The festival’s publicist caught him as he stepped onto State Street, and five minutes later we were together — and my video camera was pointed at him.

read more...

The story of the West Memphis Three (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley) has already been, quite famously, immortalized in filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost trilogy (which wrapped up this year after the Three were finally freed from prison), but Berligner and Sinofsky were not the only filmmakers captivated by the unbelievable story of the men, the murders, and the miscarriage of justice surrounding them. Peter Jackson and his wife and producing partner Fran Walsh have long been supporters of Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley, so it’s no surprise that the pair have helped produce a new documentary about the men and their case. West of Memphis is an investigative documentary by the Academy Award-nominated Amy Berg that “tells the untold story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light.” The film picks up with the official police investigation in 1993, covering the story “from the inside.” Filled with new information and new evidence, West of Memphis is a timely and welcome addition to this year’s Sundance Film Festival. West of Memphis will have its World Premiere at Sundance on Friday, January 20, with four additional screenings throughout the festival. Check out the film’s official trailer after the break, along with screening information for Sundance. See you there!

read more...

Last week, the 2012 Sundance Film Festival announced their first wave of programming, featuring twenty-six titles that will be screening in competition. They followed that with the announcement of their Spotlight, Next, Park City at Midnight, and New Frontiers films. It was two days of absolute madness and glee, and the festival sagely waited a few days, giving us the buffer of a weekend to catch our collective breath, before breaking out the big guns. The Premiere and Documentary Premieres. That’s a bit clunky – so the Premieres! The Premieres are here! Per usual, here’s a list of films that immediately jump out at me: Julie Delpy’s follow-up to 2 Days in Paris, the Delpy and Chris Rock-starring 2 Days in New York, Nicholas Jarecki’s Abritrage (which stars one of last year’s break-out stars, Brit Marling, in her fist big-time feature role), Lee Toland Krieger’s Celeste and Jesse Forever (which stars co-writer Rashida Jones), Stephen Frears’ Lay the Favorite, Josh Radnor’s second film Liberal Arts (also starring one of last year’s big stars, Elizabeth Olsen), Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer, Stacy Peralta’s Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, and Amy Berg’s West of Memphis. Check out the full list of Sundance Film Festival Premiere picks after the break.

read more...
Some movie websites serve the consumer. Some serve the industry. At Film School Rejects, we serve at the pleasure of the connoisseur. We provide the best reviews, interviews and features to millions of dedicated movie fans who know what they love and love what they know. Because we, like you, simply love the art of the moving picture.
Comic-Con 2014
Summer Box Office Prediction Challenge
Got a Tip? Send it here:
editors@filmschoolrejects.com
Publisher:
Neil Miller
Managing Editor:
Scott Beggs
Associate Editors:
Rob Hunter
Kate Erbland
Christopher Campbell
All Rights Reserved © 2006-2014 Reject Media, LLC | Privacy Policy | Design & Development by Face3