Marital pressures on diplay in exclusive 'Directed by Winding Refn' clip
Credit: Radius-TWC

Marital pressures on diplay in exclusive 'Directed by Winding Refn' clip

An uncommonly intimate documentary about the filmmaker behind 'Drive' and 'Only God Forgives'

As Nicolas Winding Refn prepares to begin production on "The Neon Demon," his upcoming foray into horror, you can take a peek into his process thanks to the new documentary "My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn," which was made by his wife.

There's a reason "Hearts Of Darkness" is often considered one of the best behind-the-scenes films about filmmaking, and it's because Eleanor Coppola had access that no one else would have. The same is true here, and it captures Refn at the moment where he was working to follow up his breakthrough hit "Drive."

It's a fascinating moment for any filmmaker. In Refn's case, he did a lot of great work before "Drive," but everything came together on that movie in a very special way. Ryan Gosling was at peak cool, and there was something compelling and immediate about that title and those trailers. When you make a whole bunch of films before you have your breakthrough, it can be confusing. What was it about that one that people responded to? Why was it that moment that you finally broke through?

People went nuts for that photo of Guillermo Del Toro and Ryan Gosling together at Disney's California Adventure, but it didn't surprise me. When I ran into Del Toro at the Toronto Film Festival the year "Drive" was there, Del Toro had already seen Refn's film four times, and he was on his way in to see it again. He flipped for that movie, and he's also on-the-record as being a huge fan of Gosling's directorial debut, "Lost River."

Refn was obviously feeling pressure, both internal and external, when making "Only God Forgives." It's a brutal and uncompromising film, and the expectations for it were sky-high because it was Gosling and Refn again. Watching Liz Corfixen's documentary, she captures the chemistry that exists between the star and the filmmaker, and she does a really wonderful job of allowing us into the absolute dead center of all of Refn's anxieties. I'm not surprised by how intimate the work material is that Corfixen shot, but I am surprised at how much of the marital tension she left in the film. Our exclusive clip, embedded above, shows you a hint of that when they're just getting back to Denmark after "Only God Forgives" wraps what looks like a very difficult and demanding shoot in Bangkok. The title of the documentary takes on a very different meaning when you look at the stuff about the pressures that the films put on the marriage. This is Corfixen's movie about how her life is literally directed by Refn at this point, since the choices they make as a couple are choices they make for him and his work.

It's a bracingly honest film, and one that any aspiring filmmaker should make a must-see. This is no mere promotional piece, and you can check it out for yourself as the film arrives in theaters, on iTunes, and on all VOD platforms tomorrow.

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'Batman: Arkham Knight' gets omninous new trailer with mysterious bad guy
Credit: Warner Digital/Rocksteady

'Batman: Arkham Knight' gets omninous new trailer with mysterious bad guy

The Dark Knight's been a strong presence in video games, and this looks like more of the same

I consider the release of big triple A games to be just as much of an event these days as the release of some of the big blockbuster movies. There are conversations that I want to be part of involving these games the exact same way I want to be part of the conversation about movies. These are things that I enjoy, and I want to see the industry turn out more of what's great and less of what's terrible.

The recent run of Batman video games has been impressive, and even at its worst, the games in this series have been interesting and ambitious. The first two games, both written by Paul Dini, made major contributions to the modern ongoing print version of the character, a testament to just how authoritative this has been for fans. I thought "Arkham Asylum" was a great game, but I also found some of the layout of the game frustrating and thought there were ways to improve on the ideas that were introduced. The combat style in particular was something that elevated the game and made the flaws less important.

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Want to see what 'Jem And The Holograms' look like in live-action?
Credit: Universal

Want to see what 'Jem And The Holograms' look like in live-action?

Isn't it time to give your audience a good look at what's coming in October?

Truly, truly… out of focus.

Right now, this is the best look anyone's had at the cast of "Jem and the Holograms," and believe it or not, there are people who are very excited (and worried) about what's coming.

I have a friend who recently made a joke about the cartoon, and when I told her that there is a live-action reboot coming this year, she flipped. It was a potent reminder that all of these properties have their true believers, people who bonded with this thing in childhood and who now take it very seriously as adults. It means something to them.

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Review: 'Focus' is long on movie star charisma but short on innovation
Credit: Warner Bros

Review: 'Focus' is long on movie star charisma but short on innovation

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Margot Robbie continues to impress

It's a con man movie, so you know up front that there are going to be cons played on the characters and the audience alike, and sure enough, "Focus" plays out like you'd expect a con man movie to play out. It is slick and it is well-made, and there is little or nothing about it that I'd call surprising. If you know what kind of genre you're getting into and you're going to see the good-looking movie stars do exactly what you expect them to do, "Focus" will go down easy this weekend.

Will Smith is in his comfort zone here as Nick, a big league con man who runs a sizable crew. When he spots Jess (Margot Robbie) one night at a bar, he knows she's got larceny in her blood right away. She's green, though, and she sees Nick as a possible mentor, someone who can teach her how to be more than just a distraction. It's the week of the Super Bowl, it's New Orleans, and the pickings are good. For a while, "Focus" just sort of chugs along affably, showing you how much research Glenn Ficarra and John Requa did. If you've ever seen news footage of Apollo Robbins, then you have a pretty good idea what the first chunk of this film looks like. There's a scene where Nick runs some patter on Jess, and it sounds like Smith's just straight-up doing what we've seen Robbins do, word for word.

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'Parks and Rec' icon Ron Swanson rose above sitcom tropes to become legend
Credit: NBC/Universal

'Parks and Rec' icon Ron Swanson rose above sitcom tropes to become legend

Nick Offerman blurred the lines between himself and the character in fascinating ways

I am in denial at this point. That's the only way I'm going to make it through the conclusion of "Parks and Recreation" tonight on NBC. I will tell myself that this is just the end of another season and next year we'll go back to Pawnee to spend more time with Leslie and Ben and Andy and April and Donna and Garry and Tom and Jean-Ralphio and Mona Lisa and Joan and Perd and Jamm and the entire insane cast of characters that we've been introduced to over the six years of the show.

As much as I'll miss the ensemble, there is one character I will miss more than any of the others, and I'm sad because he was such a spectacular creation, one of those singular sitcom creations that remind us what we love about this particular form. Ron Swanson was a fairly unfocused version of himself when he first showed up in season one of "Parks and Recreation," and it seemed at first like he was going to be the main antagonist to Leslie Knope. Instead, he became a character who seemed to keep expanding, revealing one of the most insane personal mythologies for any fictional character. He may be my favorite television comedy character since Hank Kingsley, and right on par with Reverend Jim. From me, that is very high praise.

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Who's that starring in that bloody, R-rated 'Power Rangers' reboot?!
Credit: Universal

Who's that starring in that bloody, R-rated 'Power Rangers' reboot?!

Is this coming soon to a theater near you?

My history with Joseph Kahn is an odd one.

So when we spoke on Saturday about the top-secret project he's been working on since I saw him last summer at Comic-Con, I was aware how strange it is that Kahn would trust me with this secret. It is a testament to the way a real conversation with someone can change a relationship entirely, because by all rights, he shouldn't have anything at all to say to me. After all, I was rude to him about his first film "Torque." I didn't review the film, but I did find a way to make sure to take a cheap shot at him at the end of the year.

In his second feature, "Detention," Kahn sneaks in a few sideways digs at film critics, but the damnedest thing happened: I enjoyed the film when I saw it at SXSW and I gave it a good review. And suddenly we had no idea what to think of one another. It's so easy to assume something is antagonistic if you never talk to each other, and one we did, it was pretty clear that we had no real reason to continue behaving like that.

The truth is, snark is cheap. It's easy, and it can be funny, and I am as guilty as anyone of looking for just the right punchline to use to totally annihilate something I'm writing about if I don't like it. But I used to do it more than I do it now, and I try to remember when I do it that there is going to be an actual person on the receiving end of that punchline, and it may hurt.

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April and Andy's love story was part of what made 'Parks and Rec' special
Credit: NBC/Universal

April and Andy's love story was part of what made 'Parks and Rec' special

What is it that makes this stand out on a show full of great love stories?

What do you consider a great love story?

Having just sorted through my complicated reactions to a marathon of ten films that dealt in some way with love, it may seem redundant to ask the question above, but it's something I often contemplate when I see the ways that people approach the subject on film.

What I find most moving these days is when I see a love story that is about mutual respect, about two people who take delight in one another. When I look around me, the friends I see who have the best marriages are the ones where there is a constant push and pull of attraction, where they obviously still work to impress and entertain each other. There is a reason I use Nick and Nora Charles as my model for what a great marriage looks like, and I know it when I see it now, this hypothetical model of what makes a love story work.

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Why Eddie Murphy is, once and for all, done
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Why Eddie Murphy is, once and for all, done

It's hard to call yourself a fan of someone who doesn't seem to care

Eddie Murphy was a miracle.

Today, there is an industry around the show that is designed to be a sort of star-making assembly line, and I think many of the people who have used the show as a springboard to other things deserve that success completely.

But when Eddie Murphy made his debut on the show in 1980, "Saturday Night Live" wasn't even guaranteed a spot on TV for much longer. After all, the original cast was gone by that point. The new cast, including Denny Dillon, Gilbert Gottfried, Charles Rocket, Ann Risley, and Joe Piscopo, seemed like a poor replacement for the likes of Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, and Bill Murray. I was a ten year old nascent comedy nerd, and for me, it was mystifying to see something that had been the absolute center of the comedy universe suddenly drop completely out of relevance. Everything about that season of SNL felt wrong to me, and I was getting ready to drop it as a habit completely.

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'Blood Simple' to Albert Brooks: Why Spring of 1985 was something special

'Blood Simple' to Albert Brooks: Why Spring of 1985 was something special

12 films in 12 weeks worth revisiting? That's amazing

There are roughly 900,000 tribute pieces online this week about the 1985 John Hughes film "The Breakfast Club," and I understand the motivation. If you were the right age when the film was released (I was 15 at the time), that movie felt like a lightning bolt right to the face.

Hughes treated teenagers like they were actual people with complex emotional lives worthy of respect, and while that would seem to be a logical approach to writing about any character, it certainly didn't feel average when he did it. He wrote about that secret world of teenagers with what felt like laser accuracy, and he basically created an entire industry of movies that tried to tap into that same audience.

So certainly, there is much to celebrate when looking back at that particular film, but when I went to look at a list of the films that came out in 1985, a year I don't regard as anything special, I was surprised by something. These days, when you talk about the first quarter of the year, it's a period where studios schedule films that they're dumping or burning off or unsure about. Yes, there are exceptions. Last year's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" turned out to be one of the very best films released in 2014, and anyone defending a first-quarter release loves to bring up "Silence Of The Lambs," which opened on Valentine's Day and then went on to win Best Picture.

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Harris Wittels, of #humblebrag and 'Parks and Rec' fame, has passed away
Credit: NBC/Universal

Harris Wittels, of #humblebrag and 'Parks and Rec' fame, has passed away

The 30-year-old writer/producer/performer was a major comic talent

One of my favorite things about "Parks and Recreation" is the way they've filled out the corners of the city with some of the weirdest supporting characters on television.

It always made me happy when Harris and Brett would show up. The perpetually stoned friends were introduced running animal control for Pawnee, a position for which they were woefully underqualified, and every time they showed up, they seemed to be in stranger and stranger conditions.

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