The two biggest additions to the "Avengers" ensemble in next month's "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" are Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. They play a key role in the mega-sequel, and they manage to create some interesting tensions for both the heroes and the villains in the film.
Olsen was the first to sit down with us on the set, and we jumped right in, having already heard a number of things about her character from the rest of the cast.
Can you talk about your Eastern European accent?
(looking at the Marvel producers) Can I talk about it? We know that we're from Eastern Europe, so, okay, so, yeah, it’s something that we got to create. It's a make believe place, so it's something that Aaron and I, with the dialect coach, kind of created together.
THE WEEKEND READ: Our Saturday essay on the great topics in entertainment and culture today.
Last weekend, as Toshi was cruising the Blu-ray shelves for new movies to start asking about, he pulled "Rain Man" on a shelf and considered the cover for a moment before he turned to me, excited. "You didn't tell me Tom Cruise made a superhero movie!"
I can only assume his eventual disappointment might be tempered by the fact that "Rain Man" is a pretty good movie. It had been a while since I'd seen it, though, and after they went back to their mom's house, I put it in to watch it. I remember when it came out being right in the midst of my first time watching a lot of classic filmographies, and more than anything, I enjoyed the film as a match-up between Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. Looking at the film, now, I'm amazed how much things seem to have changed in the past 26 years, both in society and in how we handle stories about the autistic in film and television. "Rain Man" still has someone use the phrase "idiot savant" as a medical term, which I'm pretty sure no doctor on Earth would do at this point, and "Rain Man" also still has a bit of the "oh my gosh they have magical powers!" school of thought to it. It is a well-intentioned film, but one that definitely serves as a signpost for where a conversation was, and how far we've come in the quarter-century since it was released.
Last week, the boys finally saw their second James Bond movie. They'd previously seen "The Spy Who Loved Me," which was a huge hit, and this time, they selected "You Only Live Twice," which played better for the older movie nerd. It bored Allen silly, which is no surprise. I love the Connery era Bond films precisely because of the more measured pace and the way they take place in a button-down world where Bond is the splash of color. The Moore films are cartoons from start to finish with few exceptions, so they're easier for kids to enjoy.
Some days you're a step ahead, some days you're a step behind. I've been chasing this Akiva Goldsman/"Transformers" story for a few weeks, but couldn't second-source it. Now Deadline's reporting that the story is in fact happening.
One of the reasons I was extra-careful was because it is the sort of story that sounds like someone making a joke about the way the industry works right now. "Akiva Goldsman has been hired to supervise the development of three back-to-back 'Transformers' sequels for Michael Bay" is what I heard first, and my response was, "Shut up and stop making horrible jokes."
Once again, Dreamworks is undone by trailers that managed not to convey the actual experience of the film they're selling. They have this weird habit of making their films look worse than they actually are, almost like they're trying to tank them. By now, I shouldn't be surprised when they make something that's good, but they keep cutting these trailers that promise crap.
I was told today on Facebook that we should stop talking about "Get Hard" this week. Never mind that in a typical week leading up to the release of a movie, you'd typically see many articles about it, exploring different aspects with interviews and reviews and maybe premiere photos, and no one seems to complain about that. The reason I was told to stop talking about it is because we are supposedly "too sensitive" about the way the film leans on some really ugly stereotypes and lazy comic set-ups, and in doing so, managing to be unpleasant and even offensive. I've been told that we should stop discussing this because "it's a joke."
The only people I see wringing their hands that things are getting "too P.C." are those who want to be able to say anything to anyone without consequence. That's really what all of this comes down to, the idea of consequences.
At no point did I say that "Get Hard" should be stopped from being released or cut to my particular tastes or that anyone should organize protests outside theaters. I wrote a review in which I was very direct in my criticism of where I feel like the movie fails, and then Louis Virtel went to the press day for the film to speak to Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, and he asked what I think is a completely valid question. Then Adam McKay said something I'm still baffled by, and Greg Ellwood wrote a piece about his own perspective, and then we put together a gallery today about other movies that contain transphobic or homophobic or simply gay-unfriendly material in a way that is troubling. We're not saying any of those movies shouldn't exist, but certainly it is valid to look at the way any idea is explored in our culture, especially when it's sold as entertainment.
That's the consequence of releasing something where you grapple with difficult ideas. There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing so, but the consequence is that people will speak back to you and, if they feel you missed the mark, they will challenge you on it. Adam McKay should go back and read reviews of his older films before he starts playing the "Oh, you critics are just mean and lazy!" card. There have been plenty of serious examinations of the way he has subverted the mainstream movies he's making, and everything he says they're doing in "Get Hard" regarding economic and class disparity was dealt with earlier in "The Other Guys," which did it well.
How can the guys who made this scene...
... or this scene...
... not understand why people might be offended by the approach in "Get Hard"? Approach is everything. The target of the joke is everything. Ron Burgundy may be wildly uncomfortable in that second scene, but no one starts throwing up on Champ Kind or weeping in a shower or freaking out. And the way Koechner plays that scene is everything in terms of difference. He's 100% real, and that's what makes it all work.
Here's why I'm perfectly comfortable with the number of times we mentioned this on the site this week: we are not a marketing arm to the studios. We are not here to service the release of these films. We are here to take the pop culture that is released and to try to set it into a context. It is a full-time job just to keep up with all of this, and that's exactly the value we have. We sort through it all and then try to help you figure out what you're interested in. You may not see things the same way we do, but you can be sure that we're thinking about these things before we write.
And before you tell me that it's not offensive and that it's perfectly natural for a straight person to express horror and disgust at the mere thought of gay sex, realize that it is impossible to tell someone else that they are not offended, that they cannot be offended, that they are wrong to be offended. All you can do is start from that point in the conversation. "Oh, you're offended by this? Well, I wasn't, and here's why. I'd like to understand why you were."
How hard is that? How hard is it to see that our shared culture is only truly shared when it's not designed to make certain sections of it feel inferior or hated or shamed or repulsive? Yes... pop culture has different rules today, but that's not because of P.C., whatever that is. It's because the inevitable evolution towards diversity and representation involves change. It is difficult and turbulent, and I absolutely believe humor is a vital part of that process. Great humor can push and challenge and change people's minds. Humor can create enormous empathy, and that can change the world.
So when I say that I am disappointed and disgusted by the way this film handles these things, and when we try to have a conversation about that, it's not because we're looking to shut a viewpoint down. It is because we care passionately about this, all of it, which is why we're here at HitFix in the first place. Louis Virtel and Greg Ellwood and I and all of the writers we have on-staff, no matter if they're single or married or straight or gay (and I'm pretty sure we've got every possible base covered between us), believe that the media we watch and read and listen to and play is important and worthwhile, and that the conversation about it is worth having every single day.
This week, this is what's on our minds, and it's because we do consider Adam McKay and Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart and Etan Cohen smart and funny people. Asking them to do better isn't P.C. It's our job.
That's the only explanation for the way we get our first look at The Thing. You've got one of the main characters in a highly anticipated comic book summer movie, and you're carefully protecting the reveal of the character. So of course, you post outdoor billboards with the character before you release any official imagery, and you let your first worldwide media moment be courtesy of Some Random Dude on Instagram.
Steven Spielberg remains one of the most interesting big-name filmmakers working, if for no other reason than the breadth of his interests. I can't name many people who have directed more types of stories or who have been able to effortlessly work in more genres.
Look at the jump he's about to make. He's wrapping up work on "Bridge Of Spies," the Cold War thriller starring Tom Hanks. I love the idea of the two of them working together on another look back at a decade they both consider defining. The idea that Spielberg's going straight from that into a bigscreen version of Roald Dahl's "The BFG" would be just plain weird if it were anyone else.
Today's news that Spielberg is signed to direct "Ready Player One" for Warner Bros. is only the latest twist in the long development process that has already taken place trying to bring Ernie Cline's novel to the screen. Before the book was published, it had already been optioned by Donald De Line and Dan Farah, who are still attached as producers. They've spent the last five years working with Eric Eason and then Zak Penn on drafts of the script. I've read at least two of those drafts, and it's been interesting to see just how much heavy lifting there is to take what Cline did on the page and try to find a film equivalent to it.
For the most part, I really like the people over at Lionsgate, and when they have a film they really like, they are completely unafraid to show it to critics.
But they do have a few habits I am less fond of. For example, if they buy a movie for distribution, they will pull it from festivals so that no one can see it. I'm frustrated with them right now over the film "Maggie," which was announced as part of the line-up for the 2014 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.
I'm not a fan of Facebook debuts for trailers, mainly because they make it a pain in the ass to embed their videos elsewhere, but if Facebook is what Mark Wahlberg wants, then Facebook is what Mark Wahlberg gets.
I'm guessing that the film will involve Vincent Chase (Adrien Grenier) finding himself up against a minor difficulty of some sort. Ari will yell. Turtle will smoke weed. And everything will magically work out for Vincent because that's what "Entourage" is... the most painless success story possible.