Review: Keanu Reeves plays a dangerous sex game in Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock'
Credit: Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Review: Keanu Reeves plays a dangerous sex game in Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock'

HitFix
B+
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This may be an even creepier version of 'Cat In The Hat' than the Mike Myers one

PARK CITY - Sundance saw the debut of not one but two films that both fit the broad definition of a "horror film," each with decidedly strong ideas about gender politics, but only one of the two seems to me to be genuinely worthwhile.

Eli Roth has become defined largely by the excesses of his films, and I'm sure that's perfectly fine with him.

Like many life-long gorehounds, when finally given a chance to make his own films, he happily ladled on buckets of blood. What I found interesting about Eli's films is how he seemed to be working one theme repeatedly, constantly exploring the fear that people have of the unknown in the world around them. "Cabin Fever," "Hostel," "Hostel II," and "The Green Inferno" all feature characters leaving their homes, the places where they are comfortable, and heading out to some corner of the world where they are then promptly and completely punished for doing so.

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Mila Kunis on shooting the crazy chase for the Wachowskis in 'Jupiter Ascending'
Credit: HitFix

Mila Kunis on shooting the crazy chase for the Wachowskis in 'Jupiter Ascending'

The actress serves up some big charm in a few short minutes

One of the things I have learned is that taking your kids with you to an interview is never a bad move.

This week, Toshi and Allen had a few days off school for parent-teacher conferences, and so when Tuesday morning rolled around, I had an early date with Mila Kunis at the Four Seasons, and they went along with me.

By "date," of course, I mean five minutes of camera time in one of their conference rooms in front of the usual junket crew, all in support of "Jupiter Ascending," the new Wachowskis film that opened today. But when we walked into the room, Mila saw the boys and immediately started having a conversation with them instead of me, and I can't possibly blame her.

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Review: 'Seventh Son' is fantasy fun for anyone who hates Harryhausen films
Credit: Universal/Legendary

Review: 'Seventh Son' is fantasy fun for anyone who hates Harryhausen films

HitFix
F
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Jeff Bridges and his terrible performance are just part of what's gone so wrong here

Sometimes, you know with one shot, one line, one choice.

With "Seventh Son," it happened for me the moment Jeff Bridges opened his mouth. He's made a choice here that takes him further down that Rooster Cogburny RIPDy road with that gravel voice mush mouth thing, and it's genuinely ill-advised. It is embarrassing. It's like someone's grandfather wandered onto the set, and no one has the heart to tell him he's not in the movie. He is Grandalf. And it does not work.

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Review: 'Sponge Out Of Water' is frantic, funny, and exhausting
Credit: Paramount/Nickelodeon

Review: 'Sponge Out Of Water' is frantic, funny, and exhausting

HitFix
B-
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SpongeBob does his post-modern best to save the Crabby Patty recipe... in 3D!

Cartoons got weird.

I remember when it began happening, and I'd argue one of the major touchstones for modern animation in all forms is John Kricfalusi's "Ren & Stimpy." When that show hadn't gone on the air yet, tapes of it were circulation in the animation community in LA, and I remember talking to a great animator named Eddie Fitzgerald about the show. He was positively evangelical. He said that the show was going to change the way animation looked and the sort of animation that would get produced. He had already decided that he was going to quit what he was doing at the time specifically so he could go work for Spumco. He was a true believer, and he wasn't the only animator who sounded that way when talking about that show.

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'Jupiter Ascending' star Sean Bean on life as a human spoiler
Credit: HitFix

'Jupiter Ascending' star Sean Bean on life as a human spoiler

Even he's excited when he reads a script where he doesn't die

I think at first, Sean Bean just didn't understand the word "spoiler."

That's funny to me since Bean has become a spoiler. When he showed up in "Fellowship Of The Ring," I believe that was the moment he officially became "The Guy Who Shows Up To Die Early." And if that wasn't the moment he became an institution, then it was definitely when he starred as Ned Stark in season one of "Game Of Thrones." That may be the very pinnacle of Guys Who Die Early. It was the part he was born to die to play.

When we spoke about "Jupiter Ascending," I started by asking him about how it feels to be a human spoiler, and what directors are smart enough to cast him against that expectation. What I enjoyed about the chat is that Bean seems to be a very warm-humored and easy-going guy in life. And why not? He's got pretty much the perfect life these days. He works constantly. He's able to work in all kinds of things, and he seems to have become more and more bankable the older he's gotten.

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'Jupiter Ascending' directors Wachowskis on 9/11 and modern blockbuster culture
Credit: Warner Bros

'Jupiter Ascending' directors Wachowskis on 9/11 and modern blockbuster culture

Plus find out which 2014 film most inspired the filmmakers

In the first half of our interview with Lana and Andy Wachowski, I was amazed to learn how they shot the gravity boots chase sequence through Chicago, a few shots at a time over the course of seven full months;, working with John Toll and the FAA and Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis to create something that most audiences will never even begin to process as a technical accomplishment.

That's the point, of course. If it's done right, you shouldn't be aware of how it was done. It should just look a certain way. It should just communicate the ideas that the directors are trying to communicate. But I was blown away by the slow-motion mechanics behind this particular magic trick. After all, we are in a cultural moment where it feels like the disposable and interchangeable nature of spectacle makes it all feel somehow smaller, and people often seem to reach for the easiest version, the simplest solution. Speaking with the Wachowskis, it is apparent that they are aware of not only how blockbuster culture and technology are changing, but also how this culture is an expected and cyclical reaction to nothing less than 9/11.

One thing that has definitely evolved since they first became household names is that TV grew up in a major way. It now seems to be every bit as valid a choice of form as features, if not more so in some cases. I knew they were also deep along on their upcoming Netflix series, "Sens8," and I wanted to get into the way they juggled the two projects as we continued our conversation.

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Did Netflix solve the 'Daredevil' problem?
Credit: Netflix/Marvel

Did Netflix solve the 'Daredevil' problem?

Some things just don't work in live-action... so is this one of them?

"Daredevil" is tough.

Not the character, although that is one of the things I like about Matt Murdock, his dedication to putting himself in harm's way. There's an image at the end of the first trailer for the Netflix "Daredevil" series that kind of sums up how vulnerable he is, when he's freely bleeding from the face as he tries to stand up.

What's tough is getting him right on film. People love to dismiss Mark Steven Johnson's "Daredevil" outright, but that's not fair. What I find fascinating about the film is how many things they did right while still ending up with a film that doesn't work. When they were in pre-production, they boarded the entire film and put together a massive book of designs, and looking through that art, it is absolutely pulled from the pages of the comics. There is a true devotion to the source material that is clear in every bit of design work that was generated by Johnson and his team… but the film somehow never quite translated those images and that artwork and that passion, that undeniable passion, to the final viewing experience.

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Part one of a major interview with the Wachowskis - 'Jupiter Ascending' secrets
Credit: Warner Bros

Part one of a major interview with the Wachowskis - 'Jupiter Ascending' secrets

Casting, the bold new way they work with music, and the year's craziest chase scene

When you're at a film festival, it saps you, no matter how you arrange your schedule. There's just something about the pace and the sleep and, in the case of Sundance, the altitude, and it takes a toll.

There are very few people I would get out of bed early for on the morning after returning from Sundance, but when I got an e-mail from the good folks at Warner Bros asking if I would sit down with Lana and Andy Wachowski on the Friday morning that I got back, I told them without hesitation that I would happily be there.

We talked for a few minutes just to catch up personally before I started the formal part of the interview. I think the Wachowskis are genuinely charming people, something I learned during their publicity run for "Cloud Atlas." I was able to spend some time chatting with them, and I thought they were as down to earth and open to conversation as any filmmakers I've met during the 19 years I've been doing this. The moment we started talking this time, it felt like just picking up the same conversation, which is the mark of a true film nerd in my experience. It's that kindred spirit thing that makes it such a powerful connector.

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Film Nerd 2.0 tackles sci-fi and silly waiters in a double-feature double-header
Credit: Warner Bros

Film Nerd 2.0 tackles sci-fi and silly waiters in a double-feature double-header

Big ideas and big laughs make for some memorable Saturday nights

It's Tuesday night, and I'm alone in my apartment for the first time in four days. It was nice to spend that kind of stretch with the boys after being at Sundance, and every day, we had things to do. There was a Super Bowl party, our first together, and an all-media screening of "The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water," as well as a play date with their buddies Dash and Beck.

There was also always, though, a constant pressure to watch something. It's not from me, either. They are voracious, and now that they've got their own shelf of movies that they haven't seen but are allowed to see at the apartment, they are always in the middle of some negotiation with me about what they're going to watch and when.

Lately, they've become infatuated with the idea of the double-feature, and I've learned that the best way to handle that with them is to program very different films that are paired. By creating a sense of contrast, both films end up causing reactions, and the conversations the next day or even between the films can be a blast. Recently, they had two very different double-features, and both ended up feeling like significant experiences.

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Review: The Wachowskis bring mad style to the YA genre in 'Jupiter Ascending'
Credit: Warner Bros

Review: The Wachowskis bring mad style to the YA genre in 'Jupiter Ascending'

HitFix
B+
Readers
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Ridiculous looks good in the hands of these filmmakers

"Jupiter Ascending" plays like someone hired Lana and Andy Wachowski to adapt a particularly crazy YA novel and they took the bones of the thing and ran with it. Fast, frequently teetering on the cusp of the ridiculous, and eye-poppingly pretty, "Jupiter Ascending" is a wicked slice of entertainment, and a heck of an antidote to the typical February box-office blahs.

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) lives with her large Russian family, and she works as a cleaning lady with her mother. Every day is a long blur of the same thing, and every now and then, she likes to try on the fabulous clothes she sees in the homes of the people they work for, knowing full well that will never be her life.

When she is attacked during a medical procedure, the only thing that saves her is the intervention by Caine (Channing Tatum), a strange-looking soldier who wears gravity boots that allow him to skate on any surface in Chicago, an awfully handy means of transportation when they're being chased by alien soldiers who are determined to get their hands on Jupiter because of something they detected in her blood.

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