Review: As destinations go, 'Aloha' makes 'Elizabethtown' look irresistible
Credit: Sony Pictures

Review: As destinations go, 'Aloha' makes 'Elizabethtown' look irresistible

HitFix
D+
Readers
n/a
This long-delayed romantic comedy is a dud from frame one

If you were to show me "Aloha" with no credits on the film, my reaction would remain just as complicated as it is now, but I'd say, "There are a few moments here that are promising, and I feel like this filmmaker might put it together at some point. Not this film, probably not the next one, but at some point." It is, frankly, astonishing to me that "Aloha" is the eighth film in someone's directing career, not the first.

When they released the trailer for "Aloha," I was flabbergasted by it. It looked like a beat-for-beat remake of "Elizabethtown," which seemed like very odd choice considering the response to that film. Now that I've seen it, the crazy part is that they had to go out of their way to cut the trailer like that, since "Aloha" is not structured the same way as "Elizabethtown." Basically, Sony decided that it was better to advertise this as a loose remake of the film that derailed Crowe's career than to advertise the film as what it actually is.

That pretty much says it all.

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Review: Dwayne Johnson shines but earthquake takes center stage in 'San Andreas'
Credit: Warner Bros

Review: Dwayne Johnson shines but earthquake takes center stage in 'San Andreas'

HitFix
B-
Readers
C-
Things sure do shake, rattle, and roll

"San Andreas" is a very silly movie.

Then again, disaster movies are almost always silly. That's just the nature of the beast. They're all roughly the same, and they end up as narrative excuses for mayhem and little more. Carlton Cuse's screenplay for "San Andreas" (apparently written on a napkin during a "Bates Motel" lunch break) is no exception, and if you are curious about whether or not you should see the film, look at the trailer. Do you want to watch California shake to pieces? Yes? Then see the movie, because it absolutely lives up to that promise. Do you want anything else from the movie? You may come up short.

First of all, there is no scene in this film where The Rock punches an earthquake. For that reason alone, I have to take a full letter grade off. Instead, Dwayne Johnson plays Ray, who heads up a rescue team in LA. He's about to finalize his divorce from Emma (Carla Gugino), who left him when there was a personal tragedy, taking their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) with her. Emma's about to be remarried to billionaire Daniel Riddick (Ioan Gruffudd), aaaaaaaaaand… then there's a giant earthquake.

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Pixar turned to female exployees to make sure 'Inside Out' rang true
Credit: Pixar

Pixar turned to female exployees to make sure 'Inside Out' rang true

Learn what sorts of films drive Docter as a storyteller

My first trip to Pixar’s Emeryville campus was 13 years ago. That alone was enough to give me pause when I was invited to the “Inside Out” press day. I’ve done it. I’ve taken the tour. I’ve seen the campus. I’ve met the artists and I’ve seen their amazing work spaces and I’ve had a chance to walk through pretty much every department. I remember standing outside the server room my first time up, looking in at the brain of this remarkable company, amazed at how those racks of black technology represented this collision of all this amazing human artistry. My other hesitation, honestly, was because we were told that we’d be seeing “part” of the movie. I’ve grown wary over the years of seeing movies in chunks because you can’t really react in any meaningful way since you’re not seeing something that’s complete.

Pixar’s at an interesting moment in their history, though. They’ve never seemed more vulnerable. There was this remarkable streak they had where it seemed like they couldn’t make a false step, and while I think they’ve continued to make good and even very good movies, the last few years have certainly seen a wider variety in quality. The sequel business has been good to them financially, but it has been far less exciting to watch. Even a great sequel like “Toy Story 3” is, at best, a step sideways creatively.

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20 year ago today, 'Casper' changed everything. No, seriously.
Credit: Universal Home Video

20 year ago today, 'Casper' changed everything. No, seriously.

Why 'Casper' is a milestone in modern blockbuster moviemaking

What if I told you "Casper" was an important film in movie history?

Twenty years ago today, Universal released "Casper," and it did okay. It was not a critical hit, and it was not a box-office sensation. But in its way, "Casper" was revolutionary, and at the time, I was absolutely fascinated by the movie and, more specifically, by the ILM work in the film.

In late 1994 and early 1995, I was dating/living with/engaged to a young woman who was working in marketing at Universal. She was about as low on the totem pole as she could be, but excited about what she was doing and excited about the various films she got to work on. Because she had to basically immerse herself in each of the films she was working on, that meant I had that same opportunity. I remember reading three scripts in particular during her time there that got me curious. One was for "Dragonheart," which was still in the early stages of development and set for a 1996 summer release. One was for "The Frighteners." And one was for "Casper."

All three of them read like enormous technical challenges that would require some leaps forward from where we were at the time, and in all three cases, that's exactly what happened. You could argue that while that is not a slate of blockbusters, those three movies all represented Universal pushing the envelope in ways that continue to ripple through the blockbuster movies being released every summer.

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With 'Entourage' arriving soon, we examine classic films about boys being boys
Credit: Warner Bros/MGM-UA

With 'Entourage' arriving soon, we examine classic films about boys being boys

From 'A Hard Day's Night' to 'Anchorman,' groups of guys drive these very different films

A few nights ago, Warner Bros. hosted a very canny event that our own Louis Virtel attended at the Playboy Mansion, a screening of "Entourage" that may have felt like virtual reality for those who attended. While I doubt being surrounded by scantily clad bunnies influenced Louis one way or another on the film, it's likely you'll see a number of reviews that are perhaps more enthusiastic than they would otherwise be, and it'd be hard to blame anyone who fell for it.

One of the reasons the setting seemed so right for that particular film is because much of the charge of "Entourage" is watching the core ensemble swagger their way through Hollywood, doing whatever they want and rarely if ever facing any consequences as a result. It's always presented with a wink and a smile, just a case of boys being boys. We live in a world right now where that doesn't really mean what it used to, and I wonder how much longer this sort of movie is viable.

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Review: 'Poltergeist' feels like a half-hearted karaoke riff on the original
Credit: 20th Century Fox/MGM

Review: 'Poltergeist' feels like a half-hearted karaoke riff on the original

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
If you're embarrassed to be writing a horror film, maybe you shouldn't write horror films

Director Gil Kenan's work on "Poltergeist" is, like his work on "City Of Ember" and "Monster House," smart and focused and technically adept. He has done about as good a job as anyone would have done with David Lindsay-Abaire's screenplay based on the 1982 film, and the same is true of the cast. Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris, and Jane Adams are all very good at what they do. The various visual effects houses and tech departments on the film all did what they were hired to do, and taken as a whole, "Poltergeist" is professional and slick and entirely fine.

It's also unnecessary in every way.

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Will 'Star Trek Beyond' take the Enterprise 'where no one has gone before'?
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Will 'Star Trek Beyond' take the Enterprise 'where no one has gone before'?

That's the promise, and Simon Pegg explains just how tricky that will be

Simon Pegg has a real knack for saying things I agree with in a way that drives people completely insane.

I've known Pegg for a little over a decade now, and I was a fan for a year or two before that thanks to "Spaced." It's been quite clear in that time that he takes genre very seriously, and that his fandom is genuine. One of the reasons "Spaced" connected to people who saw it was because it was clearly coming from people who spoke that same secret language that we all do as fans, and we could see ourselves in the characters. Edgar Wright's voice as a filmmaker builds off of the visual vocabulary of many of our genre heroes.

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What the 'Transformers' writers room means about the new shape of Hollywood
Credit: Paramount Pictures

What the 'Transformers' writers room means about the new shape of Hollywood

This is going to be a very strange series no matter what

So that's what the Transformers writer's room is going to look like, eh?

While I don't tally the worth of a writer based on how many news stories they break, I will admit that I was deeply irritated when the story was first written about the notion of Akiva Goldsman spearheading a team of writers to develop "Transformers" sequels. I'd been tipped about it a few weeks earlier, and I was trying to get a second source I trusted, either at the studio or on the agency side of things. I pushed, and while I was sure the story was right, I couldn't run it. Excruciating. Part of my hesitance was that I didn't want to be wrong on a story like that because it's a threat more than anything. Goldsman and Bay breaking story together? Holy cow.

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Our second look at 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' digs deeper into the film's flaws
Credit: Marvel Studios

Our second look at 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' digs deeper into the film's flaws

Could anyone have done this any better than Whedon did?

During the heyday of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," I was an active advocate for studios to pick up on the wonder that was Joss Whedon.

Watching "Avengers: Age Of Ultron," it feels like that is exactly what we were asking for when we asked for him to be in charge of our pop culture. And I mean that in both positive and negative ways.

Joss Whedon has a great ear for clever dialogue, and that can be a wee bit of a curse. There is something about the way he writes that can make it feel like he's afraid to fully engage in some of the bigger emotion. When you're doing 22 episodes of a television series, you can take one episode to shift the tone to something darker, more somber, and it feels appropriate. In a 140 minute film, you can only find moments to downshift, and when it's surrounded by non-stop wisecracks, it can feel glib or insincere. That's also true when you have this many characters you're trying to serve. Characters who have had several movies worth of set-up can afford to be given less screen time, sketching in new details quickly. With new characters, though, growth can seem artificial or forced. Whedon knows how to create a character arc, but juggling seven or eight of them in one movie would be a challenge for anyone to pull off with anything approaching grace.

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Joe Wright's 'Pan' goes big with a visually aggressive new trailer
Credit: Warner Bros

Joe Wright's 'Pan' goes big with a visually aggressive new trailer

Garrett Hedlund and Hugh Jackman don't seem shy about big character choices

It takes a certain degree of hubris to sign on to a "Peter Pan" movie at this point.

J.M. Barrie's play/book/beloved cultural icons are enormously malleable as a story, and there are plenty of fans of the Walt Disney animated version as well as Steven Spielberg's "Hook" and even P.J. Hogan's "Peter Pan." All of those films tackle different parts of the iconography in different ways, and there have been some heavy hitters involved.

The Disney film is one of their best features, especially if you're just considering the old school Disney films, and I think it's one of the moments where the Disney animators got everything right. They'd made enough movies in a row by that point to have developed a shorthand, and a style, and a confidence. "Peter Pan" may have some unfortunate moments in terms of cultural sensitivity, but I would argue that the entire world of Neverland should feel like the way children view the world, in big broad strokes. Stylization is fine; insensitivity is not.

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