A celebration of legendary director Mike Nichols and his masterpiece-studded career
Credit: MGM/UA Home Video

A celebration of legendary director Mike Nichols and his masterpiece-studded career

We look back at the life of one of the EGOT winners

If I had to make a list of the ten film directors who I think most influenced my own standards of what filmmaking can be and should be, Mike Nichols would be on that list, if only for the first two films he made. And it may seem strange to say that I admire how he survived making those masterworks, but early success can destroy even the greatest talent because of the expectations it creates, and Nichols somehow managed it in a way that many other talented people have not.

That is not to say that the rest of his work is not worth that kind of consideration and discussion. It's just that Nichols came out of the gate with two genuine, no-debate masterpieces, two films that crackle with life, two films that are so visually adept that they are humbling, two films packed with performances that go beyond good or bad to simply be iconic. It is safe to say that he made the most successful transition as a director from theater to film since Orson Welles.

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Alexandra Daddario, Krysten Ritter among candidates testing for Marvel's 'Jessica Jones'

Alexandra Daddario, Krysten Ritter among candidates testing for Marvel's 'Jessica Jones'

Plus it looks like some serious candidates have emerged for Luke Cage as well

While Marvel's bigscreen plans have been extensively covered here, I've left reports of what's going on in the TV world to the uber-capable Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg for the most part. Today, though, reports of possible casting for Jessica Jones had me thinking again about the Netflix series and just what a cool idea it is overall.

Charlie Cox has already been cast as the lead in "Daredevil," and they've been shooting on that series for a little while now. They're just starting to cast for "Jessica Jones" now, and it sounds like a really solid list of possibilities so far. Alexandra Daddario would probably be my first choice, but that's true of pretty much whatever she is up for. I think Daddario's got real chops, and she's comic-book-gorgeous. She also seems like someone who could easily carry the character over from this TV incarnation into features if Marvel ever decided to do that.

Krysten Ritter, Teresa Palmer, and Jessica De Gouw were also mentioned as being on the list of actors being tested for the role, the lead in what will be the second of the Netflix Marvel series. The show focuses on what happens when Jones retires from being a superhero to become a private detective, which allows Marvel and series show runner Melissa Rosenberg to do a very different genre than what we've already seen set in the Marvel universe.

That is, of course, the way they're going to keep things rolling along. Taking the basic underpinnings of the superhero archetype and pushing things into new shapes is a smart way to extend the life of what is that Marvel's doing. It sounds like "Daredevil" is going to be a very different view of the Marvel universe as well, and "Jessica Jones" will be the second of four series that are set in this particular corner of things, with "Iron Fist" and "Luke Cage" still to come. Cage will appear in several episodes of "Jessica Jones," though, and they're also evidently starting to consider choices for that role as well. Mike Colter, one of the stars of "The Following" and "The Good Wife," has the full endorsement of both Greg Ellwood and Alan Sepinwall here at HitFix, and he's pretty much a dead ringer for the character in photos.

What I'm most excited by overall, though, is the way they're going to follow up the four individual limited series with a special cross-over called "The Defenders." Altogether, we're looking at 60 episodes of interconnected storytelling that will define this street-level view of the Marvel universe, also introducing characters who could easily end up somewhere else at some point.

I'm still very confused by DC's overall TV plan. It's sort of wink-wink funny to say that the TV shows are all set in the Multiverse, but I suspect that's just a way of brushing off the question, not an actual storytelling choice that will pay off at some point down the road. It seems like people really like "Arrow" and "The Flash," so it's baffling that Warner Bros. would make the decision up front to simply not use those takes on the characters for their movies. If you have a fanbase asking to see more of those actors in those roles, telling them no seems like a very weird decision.

It will be exciting to see if Marvel's TV division gets better and better at what they're doing as they bring "Agent Carter" and these shows to life. Not every character should get their own movie, but there are plenty of titles in the Marvel library that would work beautifully on TV. This is their most ambitious overall plan so far, and casting is going to be a big part of making it work.

"Daredevil" will arrive on Netflix in May 2015.

Review: Jennifer Lawrence remains the beating heart of intense 'Mockingjay Part 1'
Credit: Lionsgate

Review: Jennifer Lawrence remains the beating heart of intense 'Mockingjay Part 1'

HitFix
A-
Readers
n/a
Could they really pull this whole thing off?

As much as "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" is about anything, it is about Jennifer Lawrence.

I don't mean that it's about Katniss Everdeen, the character she's playing, either. Sure, Katniss is once again front and center as we see the aftermath now of what happened at the end of the Quarter Quell games in "Catching Fire," with Katniss poised to be the face of the revolution. But when I say this is a film about Jennifer Lawrence, I mean it's about her fame, the pressure that she's under to make this franchise work because of what it means to Lionsgate, and the way she continually manages to deliver moments that feel authentic, whether they are or not, even under the unforgiving microscope of fame.

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Jennifer Aniston on tackling the totally different 'Horrible Bosses 2' and 'Cake'
Credit: HitFix

Jennifer Aniston on tackling the totally different 'Horrible Bosses 2' and 'Cake'

She seems determined to ignore typecasting efforts

The first time I met Jennifer Aniston, she was naked.

During the rehearsals for the live broadcast version of "Fail Safe" directed by Stephen Frears, I was invited to tour the sets, talk to the people behind the event, and possibly take a peek at some rehearsals. George Clooney was our host for the day, and his assistant at the time, Amy, was the one assigned to drive us around the lot that afternoon.

Amy was the sort of person who knew everyone, and she pointed out a soundstage where they were shooting the Mark Wahlberg film "Rock God." As she was pointing it out, the door to the soundstage opened and Jennifer Aniston came strolling out, wearing the tiniest kimono I've ever seen. Amy waved her over, and the two of them started talking. As they did, it was fairly obvious that Aniston was wearing the kimono and nothing else, and she even made a joke about how odd it was to be introduced to someone like that, playing a quick round of "how much can you see?" with us and making a huge joke out of all of it.

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'Rush' star Daniel Bruhl added to 'Captain America: Civil War' villain roster
Credit: Universal Pictures

'Rush' star Daniel Bruhl added to 'Captain America: Civil War' villain roster

But who's he playing, and how does he affect the Tony vs Steve dynamic?

Who is Daniel Bruhl playing in "Captain America: Civil War"?

One of the coolest things about the news today that he's been cast in an unspecified role in the sequel is that it's a reminder that they're already getting close to starting work on this thing. There's a script for it. They're casting. It's actually happening and in the very near future.

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Review: Channing Tatum's incendiary work is the highlight of the chilly 'Foxcatcher'
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: Channing Tatum's incendiary work is the highlight of the chilly 'Foxcatcher'

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Why doesn't this one come together completely?

One of the most perverse truths in this world is that we are frequently drawn to the things and the people we cannot have. There are few pains more piercing and more pervasive than the heartbreak of not being able to be with that certain person, and it's not something rational or easy to explain. All of us, at some point in our lives, have felt that magnetic pull, and all of us, at some point in our lives, have felt that same bitter sting when we realize that we will not, in fact, get our fairy tale ending.

Not all of us go homicidal about it, though.

Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" tells a true-life story about a strange, disturbing relationship between Olympic gold medal winner Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and billionaire weirdo John du Pont (Steve Carell), and it is a chilly, unnerving, unblinking take on the events. Miller has made a career out of telling true-life stories, and he is drawn to stories about people at defining moments in their lives. Truman Capote stumbling into the story that ended up becoming his masterpiece. Billy Beane putting his theories, and his career, to the test. And now he turns his dispassionate eye to a seedy, sad little story, and he once again wrangles some remarkable performances out of his cast in the process.

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'Hurt Locker' writer Mark Boal set to buckle some swash with 'Uncharted' adaptation
Credit: Sony Playstation

'Hurt Locker' writer Mark Boal set to buckle some swash with 'Uncharted' adaptation

Sounds like they're close to putting this one in front of the camera

Mark Boal is, frankly, a fantastic choice for "Uncharted."

Boal's screenplays for "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty" are both strong, lean examples of how to tell some very tough stories in a way that both kinetic and intelligent. Boal's got a knack for writing scenes involving military units that make the audience feel like they're on the inside of that very private brotherhood, and I can see how his skill set so far would play directly into "Uncharted."

For those of you who are not familiar with the Playstation game series that is the inspiration for the films, think modern-day Indiana Jones.  The games could have very easily been just a shabby and obvious lift from Jones if the action was good… gamers are often satisfied by the mere attempt at narrative… but it turned out to be more than that, with a central character named Nathan Drake.

In the first game, Drake is determined to find a long-lost treasure that was allegedly discovered by his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. The game play owed just as much to Lara Croft as it did Indiana Jones, and it was a blast to play the game's big set pieces. Since then, each of the "Uncharted" games has been just as much fun, just as good at making Drake into a genuine character and not just an avatar for the player. When fans seem nervous and possessive of "Uncharted" whenever there is news about the movie, it's because this has been such a consistently enjoyable series so far. Naughty Dog has pulled off the trick that Hollywood is always chasing, making a franchise where fans actually seem happy with each new installment.

It sounds like Boal's been brought in to give the film a final polish, with the heavy lifting on the script having been done by David Guggenheim, who wrote "Safe House." I'm really curious to see what Seth Gordon does with big action scenes and the overall tone of adventure. There's nothing on Gordon's filmography that even hints at this kind of material, but that certainly doesn't mean he's incapable of pulling it off. It's just going to be interesting to see what his approach is.

There's no firm release date yet, but "Uncharted" is a major priority for Sony, a studio desperately in search of franchises that work, and if they're so close that they're bringing Boal on for a production polish, then we should expect casting news soon. Mark Wahlberg had been attached at one point, and the studio also offered the part to Chris Pratt, but right now, there's no one signed to play Drake.

Might I suggest Jake Johnson?

Sure, it's a little different than what he's done before, but he's the star of one of this year's quietest hits, and he's in next summer's "Jurassic Park 4." What he's got that I think is essential for this kind of a movie is a sort of world-weary sense of humor. If the action is credible, his sense of humor is what's going to make those sequences really work.

Here's hoping Sony really has cracked this. "Uncharted" could make a successful jump from game to movie, something that still seems elusive, and hiring a guy like Boal to finesse the project sounds like a step in the right direction.

Review: 'Dumb and Dumber To' is a gentle but genuine Farrelly Bros comedy
Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: 'Dumb and Dumber To' is a gentle but genuine Farrelly Bros comedy

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
It's strange seeing them back twenty years later, but some of it really works

It feels like only ten minutes ago I was writing about the work of Sean Anders and John Morris.

Oh, wait, it was. November is a big month for the comic filmmakers. They're the writer and director behind "Horrible Bosses 2," and they wrote the script for "Dumb and Dumber To," the twenty-years-later sequel to the first film by Pete and Bobby Farrelly, who are once again directing, with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels returning to their roles as well.

I had to go back after seeing "Dumb and Dumber To" and see the first film for the first time since it was in theaters. While I love rewatching movies, I also see so many new films every year that there are times I just never quite get around to seeing something a second time. It's been an interesting 20 years for the Farrelly Brothers, and in that time, I've gotten to know them and their work fairly well. What I love most about their world view is how inclusive it is. When you look at the background and the foreground of a Farrelly Bros film, you see a world with way more hue than you normally see from Hollywood, and you see a world in which people with disabilities are front and center and not shoved off into corners or just out of the camera's range.

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Review: 'Horrible Bosses 2' has funny pieces but is even more mild-mannered than the first
Credit: Warner Bros

Review: 'Horrible Bosses 2' has funny pieces but is even more mild-mannered than the first

HitFix
C
Readers
n/a
It's the ultimate franchise for not trying too hard

On the one hand, I respect anyone who can devise a formula that works for them and for an audience, and while I wasn't a huge fan of the film, the first "Horrible Bosses" seemed to connect with audiences three years ago. The appeal of that film, and one that seems like it's pretty smart in its universal appeal, is that we have all had bosses we hate at some point. Watching characters we like get one up on people we hate is something that seems enormously easy to enjoy.

My problem with the first film was that it felt like it never really embraced its premise. It wasn't mean enough, and I guess I hoped we'd see them cut loose in "Horrible Bosses 2" and really go for the dark humor the first film promised but soft-pedaled. After all, they were adding to very game performers in the form of Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine, and the success of the first film should have served as permission to go further.

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'Breaking Bad' alum Michelle MacLaren in talks to direct DC's 'Wonder Woman'
Credit: Warner Bros

'Breaking Bad' alum Michelle MacLaren in talks to direct DC's 'Wonder Woman'

But is this the progressive move it seems to be at first?

Michelle MacLaren is an excellent choice to direct "Wonder Woman."

That has nothing to do with her being a woman.

Director Lexi Alexander has been taking heat this week for some comments she made about the "Wonder Woman" directing job, and I'm amazed at how willing people seem to be to argue with her about something which she's experienced first-hand, something that is fairly accepted wisdom within the entertainment industry, and something that I hope MacLaren is able to avoid completely.

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