<p>Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy have been one of the biggest power couples in the industry since the '80s, and her recent appointment as the president of Lucasfilm has only made them bigger.</p>

Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy have been one of the biggest power couples in the industry since the '80s, and her recent appointment as the president of Lucasfilm has only made them bigger.

Credit: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP Photo

Frank Marshall says 'Star Wars' director search is winding down

They can't make the choice soon enough

The announcement of who is directing "Star Wars Episode VII" cannot come quickly enough.  At this point, I want it to happen because I can't believe I'm writing one news story a day about a movie that will not be in theaters until 2015.

Frank Marshall, husband to Kathleen Kennedy, who is now the president of Lucasfilm, was cornered by MTV.com and gave them precisely the sort of non-interview that is going to end up being widely reported in the absence of anything concrete.  Marshall knows why, too.  As he mentions to MTV, this is going to be perhaps the most hyped blockbuster film of all time, and for those of us who were doing this during the build-up to "The Phantom Menace," that is a slightly terrifying proposition.

According to Marshall, the hunt is down to "a couple of candidates," which seems right to me.  As I said in the piece yesterday about reactions from Jon Favreau and JJ Abrams, I'm betting they are further along in this process than the press realizes.  The announcement of the Disney/Lucasfilm deal caught everyone off-guard, and since that moment, we've been playing catch-up.

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<p>Jack Nicholson, seen here at this summer's AFI&nbsp;tribute to Shirley Maclaine, may star in 'The Judge' for Warner Bros.</p>

Jack Nicholson, seen here at this summer's AFI tribute to Shirley Maclaine, may star in 'The Judge' for Warner Bros.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello/Invision

Jack Nicholson may play Robert Downey Jr.'s father in 'The Judge' for Warner Bros.

Will the veteran actor make a deal to play an Alzheimer's patient on trial for murder?

It is becoming increasingly rare that we see Jack Nicholson onscreen, so even the possibility of him signing to play Robert Downey Jr.'s father in "The Judge" is a big deal.

There was a time when I thought of Nicholson and De Niro as the twin titans of American movie acting, and it seemed like they worked constantly.  Age being the demanding master that it is, both men have slowed down in recent years and there are far fewer interesting roles written that they are right for, which could also be a big factor in why we see less of them.

De Niro has responded by cornering the market on the whole "hardass father" archetype, playing it for comic effect in the "Meet The Parents" series and playing it closer to real in the excellent "Silver Linings Playbook" or in "Being Flynn."  Nicholson has responded by simply taking fewer roles.  He was great in "The Departed," but "The Bucket List" felt to me like one of the easiest paychecks of his career.

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<p>Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper do career-best work in David O. Russell's eminently charming 'Silver Linings Playbook'</p>

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper do career-best work in David O. Russell's eminently charming 'Silver Linings Playbook'

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: 'Silver Linings Playbook' plays by the rules but gets it all right

HitFix
A
Readers
B+
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper have never been better

I haven't read Matthew Quick's novel, but I can see why David O. Russell was drawn to the material, and it feels like both the most commercial thing he's ever made and the most personal.  After all, Russell is as well known for his on-set difficulties with anger as he is for the films themselves, and I'm sure there are people who have worked with him who would be happy to call him crazy.  "Silver Linings Playbook" is about embracing whatever madness drives us, and it certainly seems like Russell is a guy who manages to make the most of his gifts no matter what his demons.

Pat (Bradley Cooper) has been in a mental hospital under court order for eight months as the film opens, and it's time for him to go home.  His mother Delores (Jacki Weaver) comes to get him, and right away, we get a sense that something terrible happened to land him in there in the first place.  Pat is determined to stay out, to rebuild his life, and when he speaks of his wife Nikki (Brea Bee), it's apparent that he believes they are going to get back together.  It may not be that easy, though, and in the flashbacks we see, their relationship ended with a shocking act of violence on the heels of a betrayal, and while Pat may believe he's got a future with Nikki, it's pretty obvious he's fooling himself.

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<p>Keira Knightley and Aaron Taylor-Johnson lose themselves to passion in Joe Wright's daring new film version of Leo Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina'</p>

Keira Knightley and Aaron Taylor-Johnson lose themselves to passion in Joe Wright's daring new film version of Leo Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina'

Credit: Focus Features

Review: Keira Knightley is electric in bold new take on Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina'

HitFix
B+
Readers
B
Joe Wright and his favorite actress deliver again with a fascinating new film

Joe Wright's breakthrough film was "Pride and Prejudice," a very well-made and spirited adaptation of the frequently adapted novel by Jane Austen.  While I admired the craftsmanship, I had already reached an oversaturation point with the material itself. It is safe to say that I never need to see another production of "Pride" in any format, or a loose adaptation or a re-imagining or pretty much any version.  It wasn't Wright's problem, but mine.

His adaptation of Ian McEwan's "Atonement" was far more impressive to me, and that was a case of familiarity with the source material adding to the impact of the film.  I thought it was a book that really couldn't work as a film, and yet working with Christopher Hampton, as smart an adapter as one could hope to hire, Wright turned a largely internal piece of work into something cinematic and visually dynamic.  "The Soloist" felt like Hollywood trying to absorb Wright and turn him into a studio filmmaker, someone they could plug into pretty much anything, but with "Hanna," Wright seems to have reclaimed his voice and once again demonstrated that his keen eye for material (it was a great script by Seth Lochhead and David Farr) is better served when he's able to be daring, to come at things from a slightly left-of-center perspective.

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<p>JJ Abrams, seen here at the 'Mission:&nbsp;Impossible -&nbsp;Ghost Protocol' premiere, certainly isn't afraid to play with iconic properties, but 'Star Wars' may be the offer he refuses.</p>

JJ Abrams, seen here at the 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' premiere, certainly isn't afraid to play with iconic properties, but 'Star Wars' may be the offer he refuses.

Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Directors like Favreau and Abrams respond as 'Star Wars' helmer search continues

As rumors fly, filmmakers openly discuss the idea of taking up the mantle

The first time I ever spoke to JJ Abrams for any length of time, it was during the early days of pre-production on 2009's "Star Trek," and we spent as much of the phone call talking about "Star Wars" as we did anything else.

The comments he made to Hollywood Life certainly echo the sentiments he shared with me that afternoon.  We talked about why he was tackling something as well-examined and iconic as "Star Trek," and he explained that when he was growing up, he was aware of "Trek" and enjoyed it in a passing sort of way, but that "Star Wars" was the thing that he couldn't get enough of, the thing that really turned him on to the potential of world-building.  He felt like with "Trek," he had more room to play because he liked the iconography, but wasn't overly reverent towards it.  He was able to see ways to twist things, to try new things with the characters, whereas he felt like "Star Wars" was something that he would be afraid to change or screw up at all.

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<p>Dree Hemingway flashes plenty of skin in 'Starlet,' but she also lays herself emotionally bare as Jane, the main character.</p>

Dree Hemingway flashes plenty of skin in 'Starlet,' but she also lays herself emotionally bare as Jane, the main character.

Credit: Music Box Films

Review: 'Starlet' tells the story of an unlikely friendship against the backdrop of Porn Valley

HitFix
B
Readers
A+
Dree Hemingway makes a strong impression in the lead role

One thing that's interesting about watching a film at a festival early in the year is paying attention to the way reviews trickle in over the rest of the year for the same film.  At some festivals, it seems to be embraced, and at other festivals, it seems like no one's buying it, and it's hard to imagine why there's such a wide range of reactions to the same film in different places.

That's how it's been this year for me and Sean Baker's film "Starlet."  The movie played at SXSW, which is where I saw it, and I was quite taken with it.  I think it's got two great performances in it, and it tells a solid little story against an interesting backdrop.  For some reason, though, there seem to be some critics who hate the movie.  Aggressively hate it.  That baffles me.  Your mileage might vary in terms of how much you respond to the film's substantial-if-low-key charms, but I cannot fathom what would make someone hate the movie.

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<p>Donna (Kether Donohue) does her best to document the implosion of the small town of Claridge in Barry Levinson's found-footage eco-horror 'The Bay'</p>

Donna (Kether Donohue) does her best to document the implosion of the small town of Claridge in Barry Levinson's found-footage eco-horror 'The Bay'

Credit: Roadside Attractions

Review: Barry Levinson shows off some unexpected horror chops in 'The Bay'

HitFix
B-
Readers
A-
Real-world anxieties fuel this smart and small-scale apocalypse

Barry Levinson did it right.

Feels like it's been a while since I've felt that way.  I don't have any animosity towards Levinson for his various lesser films.  I think he's always been a guy who seems like he worked with cool people and he did some really fun things and he made a few classics and he did some really slick commercial work and he's occasionally gone way off the rails, but I've always been interested. And I'll sit through "Sphere" if it means that same guy also makes "Tin Men."  "Toys" doesn't bother me at all because "Diner" is in the world.  He's one of those guys whose best work more than balances the sometimes wildly ambitious failures he is capable of.

I would have never thought "horror film" when thinking of Levinson, though.  That doesn't seem to fit at all with the body of work he's been building, and I have a hard time reconciling his sensibility with the coldly effective tone of "The Bay," which is in limited theatrical release at the same time that you can see it at home on demand.  Whichever way you watch it, it's effective and entertaining and has such a different voice than most horror movies that it should really surprise audiences.

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<p>Admiral Ackbar might not be one of our picks to get his own movie, but I'll bet he'd be lovely with some drawn butter and a squirt of lemon.</p>

Admiral Ackbar might not be one of our picks to get his own movie, but I'll bet he'd be lovely with some drawn butter and a squirt of lemon.

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm

We pick ten 'Star Wars' characters we'd love to see get their own movies

From Boba Fett to Yoda, we imagine various futures for the franchise

Remember… "Star Wars: Episode VII" won't be in theaters for three years.  Now look at how much energy has been spent writing about it all over the Internet in the two weeks since the Disney/Lucasfilm deal was announced.

That's gonna be one looooooong three years.

In some ways, the wait for the real "new face" of "Star Wars" is going to take even longer.  It's only after this next trilogy of films, after they've squeezed that last bit of juice out of the story of the Skywalkers, that they'll be able to start doing anything they want.  They will continue to produce "The Clone Wars" animated show and they may start making the "Star Wars: Underworld" series, or whatever it will finally be called, but they probably won't start exploring the weirder corners of the Universe until later.

If you're talking about making movies with younger versions of characters, like a pre-"A New Hope" Han Solo, then you're also probably talking about recasting the characters.  That's inevitable at this point, and I am positive that in my lifetime, I'll see new actors playing Solo, Luke Skywalker, and every other familiar face from the saga.

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<p>It should be interesting to see who they bring back for 'Episode VII'</p>

It should be interesting to see who they bring back for 'Episode VII'

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm

Lucasfilm confirms Michael Arndt as 'Star Wars' writer and new details on directors emerge

Lucasfilm seems awfully chatty this time around

Well, that was quick.

My guess at this point is that we'll hear the name of the director making "Episode VII" before the end of November.  If Lucasfilm and Disney were willing to announce the hiring of Michael Arndt today, then it's obviously been in the works for a while, and they are most likely further along in the process than anyone guessed.

Star Wars.com posted another video today with George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy, and they evidently plan to post a new video every week.  I think it's interesting to see how different their approach to talking to the audience is this time around than it was when they were gearing up for the prequel trilogy.

Since we now know that Michael Arndt is writing "Episode VII" and that he's already written treatments for the trilogy, the big question is who will direct, and Kathleen Kennedy talks at length about what attributes they're going to be looking for in a director.  It should be no surprise that "enthusiasm for the series" is the most important thing.  Kennedy is correct, of course, that there is a whole generation of filmmakers working today who were drawn to film in the first place by "Star Wars," and I don't think they'll have any trouble finding people who are interested in playing in this universe.

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<p>George Clooney, seen here accepting an award for Being Generally Awesome, could star in Brad Bird's science-fiction film '1952'</p>

George Clooney, seen here accepting an award for Being Generally Awesome, could star in Brad Bird's science-fiction film '1952'

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello/Invision

George Clooney may star in Brad Bird's UFO movie '1952'

With story details still closely guarded, this is an intriguing package

It's interesting that when people started listing A-list filmmakers they'd want to see tackle the next "Star Wars" film, Brad Bird's name came up more than almost any other.  I've had faith in Bird's abilities as a storyteller for years, and as soon as I saw a rough cut of "Iron Giant," I was ready to declare the guy a national treasure.  It wasn't until he made the jump to live-action filmmaking with "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' that he was suddenly at the top of every fanboy's wish list for pretty much every genre film in development.

I'm excited to see him develop original material, though, because I think he's got a strong voice and he's got a deeply-rooted love of genre.  He's exactly the sort of guy we should be supporting in the creation of new properties instead of just dumping the familiar on him over and over.  Sure, he'd make a great "Star Wars" movie, but I'd rather see whatever "1952" is from him instead.

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