Getting ready for the snow

One week from now, the Sundance Film Festival will be underway, and we'll be there, as we have been since HitFix went online on December 15, 2008.

Six years and a month, then. That's how long we've been doing this. I was at Ain't It Cool for 12 years. That means I've been writing about film, pretty much non-stop, for 18 years now. I am overwhelmed when I think back on all of those adventures, all of those films, all of those filmmakers, all of those festivals, all of those interviews, all of those readers. All of those readers.

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'Ask Drew' returns to discuss Ava Duvernay, Marvel movies, and 'Mad Max: Fury Road'
Credit: HitFix

'Ask Drew' returns to discuss Ava Duvernay, Marvel movies, and 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

Plus someone breaks the Movie God game

When I asked you guys recently what you wanted more of, one of the most frequent responses was "Ask Drew," and our video team was enormously grateful to hear it. Those guys do great work, and they work really hard turning out hours and hours of content every week.s

One of the things that I think is fun about doing this show is the tightrope aspect of it. We endeavor to shoot exactly one take of the entire thing. That's the whole point of how the questions are selected. The video team sees them, they pick the ones we read on the air, and I see them for the first time as you see me reading them. When we do it this way, it can create some interesting moments like the one that happens in this week's episode, where I answer a question, then turn around and read the next question and it's pretty much directly tied to the answer I just gave. No way the video guys knew what I'd say, so it's fun to see how it worked out.

Ava Duvernay's name gets bandied about a bit during the episode, so I guess I'll quickly address the idea of the Oscar "snub" this morning. The reason I don't cover awards in general is because there are so many reasons for people to get outraged about things, so many great films and great artists who were never given an Oscar for anything, and in the end, I just can't get worked up about it. I know it means box-office and it changes careers, and there's no avoiding that. But I'd rather just talk about the movies and the people who made them and not act like the validation of one small voting base, full of people who all have complicated agendas, means anything about art in the long run. Duvernay is a talented filmmaker who deserves a chance to do anything she'd like in the studio system. I have no idea if she'd ever want to play that game, but if so, I hope she gets the chance, and I'll bet she'd be great at it.

We also had reason to talk about what I presume is going to be one of this year's most exciting events, "Mad Max: Fury Road," and considering how much I enjoy taking any opportunity possible to talk about "Mad Max: Fury Road," that is okay by  me. I like that this week's edition of "Movie God" is actually an inversion of the game, and I think while I was a little bit cornered about my answer, it's still the right one.

As always, if you have a question for us, send it to video@hitfix.com and not to me. We'll be back with our next edition once I get back from Sundance.

Tom Hardy's off 'Suicide Squad' over scheduling, but Gyllenhaal may join in his place
Credit: The Weinstein Company

Tom Hardy's off 'Suicide Squad' over scheduling, but Gyllenhaal may join in his place

This one's important for Warner to get right

One of the hardest things when  you're casting a big giant Hollywood movie is dealing with the egos, schedules, and demands of movie stars. I learned many things from William Goldman's "Adventures In The Screen Trade," but first and foremost, I learned that movie stars are both an essential part of the process and that they can also be the biggest enemies to getting a film made.

Tom Hardy is reportedly out of "Suicide Squad" now, and I can't say I'm shocked. Hardy seems like he has an uneasy relationship with the big giant movies that drive Hollywood right now. Sure, he'll make a "Mad Max: Fury Road," but I get the feeling that was more about working with George Miller than it was about being part of a franchise. Same with his Chris Nolan films. When Hardy makes something like "Locke," though, it seems like that's more his sweet spot. He seems to be drawn to challenges, to films that push hard to break formula, and that's not really what Hollywood does best. "Bronson" or last year's "The Drop" seem like the kinds of things that he'll always make if given a chance. The piece that Borys Kit wrote pins Hardy's departure on scheduling, and that may well be true. Inarritu's "The Revenant" is evidently a very demanding shoot, and it's running long. Since "Suicide Squad" already has a release date, they may need to start production before Hardy can guarantee he'll be free.

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Review: 'Paddington' is a sweet and stylish family film delight
Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: 'Paddington' is a sweet and stylish family film delight

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Wait... from the director of 'The Mighty Boosh'? Really?!

One of the more obnoxious trailers I've seen in the last six months was for "Paddington," which looked like loud, annoying children's trash. I've sat through so many of those movies since I had my kids, and even when it's my job to review them, it is one of those things that I have to steel myself for ahead of time.

Whoever cut the trailers for "Paddington" owes writer/director Paul King a personal apology, though. I mean, I get it. I know why they didn't push the whole "From the director of 'The Mighty Boosh'" angle in the trailers, but it would have at least convinced me. I am delighted to report that King's movie is sweet and smart and silly, beautifully made from top to bottom. While my kids were entertained by it, I found it very moving and was pleased to see how well King's sense of style, on display to such lovely effect in his movie "Bunny and the Bull," made the jump to what could have easily been just another children's film.

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Review: Michael Mann's stupid cyberthriller 'Blackhat' strands Chris Hemsworth utterly
Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: Michael Mann's stupid cyberthriller 'Blackhat' strands Chris Hemsworth utterly

HitFix
D
Readers
n/a
A baffling failure on a whole lot of levels

There are moments where a talented director makes a film so bad that you feel like you might need to go back to watch their earlier films just to make sure you weren't wrong when you liked them.

"Blackhat" is the worst film Michael Mann has made since "The Keep," and I think given the choice between the two, I would happily watch "The Keep" again first. I am baffled by almost every moment of "Blackhat," and I'm struggling to make sense of where something goes this wrong. I haven't read the spec that Morgan Davis Foehl sold to the studio, but I know that Mann felt strongly that he deserved a co-writing credit on the film, one that the WGAw denied him after an arbitration. I'm not sure who to blame for the truly unfathomable narrative choices throughout, but I have to give Mann the final credit for creating a 135 minute film that didn't feel a second less than five hours long.

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Film Nerd 2.0: Santa, 'Lawrence Of Arabia,' and the struggle with what's really real
Credit: Sony Pictures

Film Nerd 2.0: Santa, 'Lawrence Of Arabia,' and the struggle with what's really real

My favorite movie and my favorite people in one place? This sounds promising.

We didn't even get to the car until about midnight, and Allen was pretty much wiped out by that point. I put him in his seat, and he was asleep before I could make it into the driver's seat.

Toshi, though, was wide awake as we drove out of Hollywood, out the 101, all the way to Northridge. Even with no one else on the road, that's a solid forty-five minutes. Toshi was quiet, thinking, as I started the car.

"That's your favorite movie?"

"Yep."

"Out of all the movies, that's the one you like the most?"

"Yes."

Long pause again as he thought it over. "It's good. It's good." Another long pause. "I mean, it's not my favorite. But that's good for you."

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Slow start for 2015

I just realized how little I've posted here since January 1st, and it's sort of mortifying.

The thing is, I've been working. I'm writing a bunch of things that you'll see later, I'm working to set up interviews and contributions on projects that won't publish for a little while, and the net result is that it looks like nothing's going on.

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'Seven Samurai' to 'Anchorman': The greatest actor/director teams in movie history

'Seven Samurai' to 'Anchorman': The greatest actor/director teams in movie history

How has brought out the best in Joaquin Phoenix, Uma Thurman, Mel Brooks and Scorsese?

For many of you, "Inherent Vice" is opening this week after playing for the last month in limited release. The film, my personal favorite movie released last year, is the second film in a row for Paul Thomas Anderson and Joaquin Phoenix as director and actor, and part of what dazzled me about it is seeing just how different this is than "The Master."

One of the particular pleasures that I've always enjoyed about film is when we see the same people work together repeatedly, because it's fascinating to see what stays the same from film to film and what changes. There are relationships that last five or ten or even more films, and there are relationships that are defined in two or three movies. The best teams aren't just the ones who work together over and over… they're the ones who make each other better by collaboration.

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Viola Davis closing in on overall deal to play Amanda Waller in DC movie universe
Credit: Warner Bros Home Video

Viola Davis closing in on overall deal to play Amanda Waller in DC movie universe

If you've got to replace Angela Bassett, Viola Davis is a heck of a choice

If Viola Davis is going to be the Samuel L. Jackson of the DC movie universe, I am perfectly fine with that.

If you're not terribly familiar with Amanda Waller, the character she is in final negotiations to play in a number of different DC movies, let me recommend a recent DC animated film to you as a sort of crash course in both Waller and the Suicide Squad. "Batman: Assault on Arkham" will give you a pretty decent idea of what you can expect when David Ayer's "Suicide Squad" hits theaters in August of 2016.

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'Predestination' directors on Ethan Hawke and their gender-bending time travel trip
Credit: HitFix

'Predestination' directors on Ethan Hawke and their gender-bending time travel trip

The Spierigs are back after a five-year absence with a challenging new film

Ethan Hawke had a pretty great experience at SXSW this year. It marked the hometown premiere of Richard Linklater's "Boyhood," and he was also there with a new film from Michael and Peter Spierig. He starred in their last film, "Daybreakers," back in 2009, and having him onboard for "Predestination" was what allowed them to get it made.

The Spierigs fascinate me. Their first film, "Undead," was stylish and lovely, but I thought it was also dramatically inert, miscast in a critical role. Hollywood's been flirting with them since the moment they made that film, and "Daybreakers" looked like a big step forward, with recognizable movie stars like Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Neill. It didn't connect, though, and now five years later, they're back with a much smaller film, although no less ambitious than anything they've done so far.

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