First trailer for 'The Big Short' is full of movie stars and righteous fury
Credit: Paramount Pictures

First trailer for 'The Big Short' is full of movie stars and righteous fury

One of the year's craziest casts joins the 'Anchorman' director for an angry new film

Adam McKay has never been particularly subtle about his political views, and it's been interesting watch the way he's worked things into big broad comedies. It's remarkable that a film featuring The Rock and Sam Jackson dying as cartoonishly as they do in "The Other Guys" can also feature a closing-credits sequence that was more savage and on-point than any documentary released that year about the financial malfeasance in the air.

Now McKay has decided to finally tackle this head-on, and at the exact moment I got an e-mail announcing that "The Big Short" would be closing this year's AFI Fest, the first trailer for the movie also showed up, and I'm excited by what it promises.

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Review: Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro are adorable in low-stakes 'The Intern'
Credit: Warner Bros

Review: Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro are adorable in low-stakes 'The Intern'

HitFix
B-
Readers
n/a
It's all fairly painless, both for the characters and the audience, but is that enough?

Nancy Meyers is an easy target for cynical critics, and she's certainly responsible for her fair share of glossy nonsense. She's also the most financially successful female filmmaker of all time, and as big a brand as any male filmmaker working right now. The only difference between her and, say, Michael Bay is which altar they worship at. Michael Bay makes movies that are so artificial, so technically-driven but hysterically soulless that it's like Skynet got addicted to Internet porn and Jerry Bruckheimer movies, while Nancy Meyers' voice is more like what would happen if Pottery Barn became sentient.

I think Meyers is genuinely trying to expand the definition of what a studio comedy is, though. I think she's someone who has found her own niche, and just like Judd Apatow, she tells stories about characters who live the way she lives, which is to say very, very well. Affluence is just accepted. It's like an advertisement for white privilege, and she offers no apologies for any of it. And while it's easy to make jokes about her well-appointed kitchens and catalog-perfect bedrooms, that's not really fair. Her main concern in her films is the way relationships do or don't work, the ways they are made and the ways they are broken. It seems fitting that her early work was with her ex-husband Charles Shyer, and that she has made multiple films dealing explicitly with both marriage and divorce.

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Kindle Food: Lee Child has choice to make for Jack Reacher after 'Make Me'
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Kindle Food: Lee Child has choice to make for Jack Reacher after 'Make Me'

"Kindle Food" is an occasional column about the various books and other materials that made us reconsider our long-standing refusal to make the jump to the digital world with our books.

It's safe to say Wednesday the 9th was not a great travel day. There's no point in running down the entire list of woes, but by the time I made it to Toronto, I was positively ruined. There's only one thing that made the day bearable. One of the things I love about the Kindle is pre-ordering books when they're super-cheap and then totally forgetting I did it. It's a genuine surprise to me when I open the Kindle and there's some new book that I am thrilled about reading.

The most recent surprise was the new Jack Reacher novel, "Make Me," and I intentionally set it aside until I was on the plane and on my way to Toronto. I read the entire thing before I arrived, and while that may seem like I burned through it, that's a testament to the way Lee Child writes these at this point. There's a formula, of course, and there is a familiar rhythm to the stories, but Child has mastered the fine art of writing super-short chapters, laying down a hook at the end of each one that throws directly to the next. It is the literary equivalent of big-balled blockbuster filmmaking, and Child is very good at what he does.

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Why is one of Bill Murray's best movies still largely unavailable?
Credit: Warner Bros

Why is one of Bill Murray's best movies still largely unavailable?

We wish one of our national treasures a happy birthday by asking a question.

Everybody loves Bill Murray.

Okay, maybe that's not 100% true, but there are days where it seems like it's true. Bill Murray is well aware of the way people feel about him, and over the course of his very strange career, he has taken full advantage of the latitude that people grant him because of the persona he has cultivated. Bill Murray has become something more than a comic lead, something bigger than a movie start, and arguably something more impressive and enduring than a legend.

Bill Murray is an urban myth.

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No, Sony does not want to read your 'Robocop' script
Credit: Screen Gems/MGM

No, Sony does not want to read your 'Robocop' script

Put the Final Draft down and back away. You're coming with me, creep.

There's some noise being made today about whether or not Sony wants a sequel to "Robocop," the remake of Paul Verhoeven's 1987 classic, and I am getting hammered with e-mails and direct messages from people wanting to know how they can get in touch with Sony about what they want to do with the series.

After all, The Playlist ran the story under the headline "Sony Will Reportedly Hear Your Idea For A 'Robocop' Sequel," despite no one having reported any such thing. If you follow their link back to the original story on Den Of Geek, what they're describing is basically a non-story. All they're saying is that the studio is not working on a sequel in any way right now, and they don't have any plans to start developing a sequel, either. If someone were to walk in to a meeting with Sony and they had a great idea and the right kind of passion, Sony might consider the idea of making a sequel, but even then, they'd have to think long and hard about the economics of it. This is true of most franchise material owned by studios. They may not be working on it right now, but the right idea from the right person might change their minds.

What bothers me about the Playlist headline is the way these things spread, and so many people already want a short-cut, something that will simply propel them to being an industry insider without any real work required, that it seems cruel to craft a headline as misleading as that one. It makes it sound like Sony's holding a Willy Wonka style event where anyone can walk in and pitch this sequel. Not true at all. The truth couldn't be further from that, actually.

There is another giveaway here that this news is not really news; MGM actually controls the material, and if my sources are right, there are other plans for the "Robocop" material. Here's hoping we hear some of those plans soon, but for now, you can file this as just another game of internet telephone where the message is all scrambled by this point.

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Review: 'Anomalisa' is the most shattering experiment yet from Charlie Kaufman
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Review: 'Anomalisa' is the most shattering experiment yet from Charlie Kaufman

HitFix
A+
Readers
n/a
How does he make his most human movie using stop-motion animated puppets?

"Anomalisa" changed my life.

Now, before you roll your eyes, I mean that literally. I would point out that films have changed my life before because they have played for me at the right time or, in a few cases, the wrong time, and I am sure they will change my life again.

Hell, if you want to make the argument that pretty much every single milestone I outlined in my recent 25 Years In LA series was because of or related to movies, I think it's a pretty safe argument to make. After all, I've said before that this is my church, the place I go to find my center, to be challenged, to grow, and to see the world around me through myriad eyes.

Sitting in the Princess of Wales Theater in Toronto, it was about halfway through "Anomalisa" when I realized I was having one of those experiences, that the film was drilling a hole directly into my brain, and that I was not going to be able to shake it when the lights came up. I should have expected something might happen. After all, this is the latest movie from Charlie Kaufman, and he's been doing this to me since 1999.

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Woody Harrelson enlists to help fight the 'War For The Planet Of The Apes'
Credit: HBO

Woody Harrelson enlists to help fight the 'War For The Planet Of The Apes'

Here's a chance for a great human bad guy for this intriguing series

While I grew up admiring the "Planet Of The Apes" films, I never felt any particular desire to see the franchise continued as part of the modern cinema landscape.

That changed with "Rise Of The Planet of The Apes," and I remember how surprised I was by my reaction. It was such a smart and soulful way to reboot things, and Caesar (Andy Serkis) is not just one of the biggest accomplishments in performance based visual effects in the last few decades, he's also a beautifully written series protagonist in general, struggling to not only find his own way in the world, but to change that world for the better.

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Review: Kristen Stewart fights back against a world without emotion in 'Equals'
Credit: Freedom Media

Review: Kristen Stewart fights back against a world without emotion in 'Equals'

HitFix
B-
Readers
n/a
It's 'Logan's Run' for a generation raised on mood inhibitors and ADD meds

"Equals," which had its public premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in the middle of a mood-appropriately rainy Sunday, was written by Nathan Parker, who was also the credited screenwriter of the Duncan Jones film "Moon." In this case, it's Drake Doremus bringing Parker's words to life, and like Jones, I think he's working at a different level than the writer. While I don't think Doremus was quite as successful as Jones, in both cases, I think the films work in spite of their scripts, not because of them.

If you haven't seen "Like Crazy," you should. It's the best film Doremus has made so far, and it seem to encapsulate everything he does well. It's a pretty simple contemporary story with lovely performances from Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones. Since then, both of his lead actors have headed for deep space, Yelchin onboard the ongoing voyages of the Starship Enterprise and Jones as a rebel spy in the upcoming "Star Wars: Rogue One." I would not have guessed, based on his earlier work, that Doremus was inclined towards science-fiction, but sure enough… here he is with the story of a society where emotion is not just illegal, but has been medically bred out of humanity.

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Review: Michael Moore's optimistic in deceptively-titled 'Where To Invade Next'
Credit: Dog Eat Dog Films

Review: Michael Moore's optimistic in deceptively-titled 'Where To Invade Next'

HitFix
C
Readers
n/a
Time seems to have mellowed the lefty firebrand a bit

Michael Moore is getting more optimistic as he gets older.

Oddly, he is also far more naive than he used to be.

At least, those are the major impressions I get from "Where To Invade Next," his latest documentary, and his first film since "Capitalism: A Love Story" in 2009. The film arrived at the 40th annual Toronto International Film Festival under a shroud of secrecy, and based on his history and that title, one might reasonably expect something incendiary, something furious and urgent.

Nope. Instead, the film opens with a weird, ridiculous scene where he talks about being summoned to speak to the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, where they told him that they were admitting failure since they haven't won a war since WWII. They asked Moore for help picking the next country to invade, and they handed over control of all of the branches of the military to help with the task. It's a really smug and poorly staged sequence, and it's not funny. It's also a very strange conceit to hang the entire documentary on, and it's just the first odd misstep Moore makes.

Instead of being a film about which countries we should invade, which would be tasteless and horrifying, Moore uses this as a joke set-up for a series of vignettes in which he visits other countries to examine something they're doing as a society that we should be doing better here in the US. He goes to France to look at the way they handle school lunches. He goes to Norway to look at their prison system. He goes to Italy to examine worker's rights and how much paid vacation they get every year. He goes to Slovenia to look at the way they handle college tuitions. It's essentially a whistle-stop tour of all the places where European socialism is triumphing and making everyone's lives perfect.

Only… that's not the truth, is it? Sure, each of the things he highlights seem pretty great in the way he presents them, and I certainly think there are things where we could benefit from some major social overhauls that come closer to the models we see here. But Europe's been struggling through their own crises over the last decade, and there's nothing in Moore's film that even hints at the fractures forming in the EU. He's very careful about which countries he visits and what he "learns" from each one, and he makes sure that almost all of the footage he shows from America is horrifying, the worst of the worst of the worst. None of it is fake, of course, but just as he does with the way he presents Europe, he's being very selective here.

What's really strange about watching this is that Moore has aged quite a bit, and he's not the same wry fun presence he was in, say, "TV Nation." He just doesn't have that same wit at this point. Most of the interviews consist of him saying things like "Wow." We're living in a post-"Daily Show" world now, and I think Moore should have really honed his game in the six years since his last movie. Instead, the pacing on this one is flaccid, and while I think he has some interesting points to make, the framing device to the film is a total bust. Watching him plant an American flag in each place he "invades" is neither clever nor enertaining in the way he thinks it is, and it just feels awkward most of the time.

There are plenty of people doing cutting social satire now, and who are unafraid to ask insane people direct questions, and it feels like Moore has been left behind. If this is what he's put together after six years off, then I'm not sure what gas he's got left in the tank. Commercial prospects for the film are enormously difficult; lots of American audiences are going to hate the message of the film, and international audiences are likely to laugh at some of the most naive material in the film. When his films have connected with audiences, either critically or commercially, it's because he's managed to tap into something real and infuriating. That is not the case with this one, and even though he makes some good points (his material about Iceland's attitudes towards women in business is the best stretch of the film, and could have easily been an entire movie), he no longer seems able to focus things in a way that will both infuriate and inform. It feels like he just plain never figured out how to make that ridiculous premise actually pay off as a movie, and it's a damn shame. I didn't always agree with Michael Moore, but I've rarely found him flat-out boring. Not until now.

"Where To Invade Next" is still looking for a distributor.

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Review: Matt Damon leads a smart ensemble in sincere and sharp 'The Martian'
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Matt Damon leads a smart ensemble in sincere and sharp 'The Martian'

HitFix
A
Readers
n/a
Ridley Scott makes it all look so easy

"The Martian" is a perfect example of why Ridley Scott drives me nuts.

Working from an aggressively smart and funny screenplay by Drew Goddard, adapted from the also smart and funny book by Andy Weir, "The Martian" is so confident, so relaxed, and so completely sure-footed that it almost looks effortless. It takes a genuine master craftsman to take something as complex and difficult as this and make it look easy, but it also takes an artist with a great ear to take something as dense with exposition as this is and make it practically sing.

So how does the guy who fumbled "Prometheus" and "Exodus" so hard that it felt like he was trying to sabotage the studio turn around and absolutely nail this in terms of tone?

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