'Star Wars Episode VII': Sorting out the truth, rumor and speculation so far
Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

'Star Wars Episode VII': Sorting out the truth, rumor and speculation so far

Plus we discuss what we hope this all means so far

It is a fascinating moment to be a "Star Wars" fan.

Right now, there is arguably more energy being expended on all things "Star Wars" than ever before. I remember the feeling in the early days of development on what became "Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace," when there were just rumbles of a possible new film or even *GASP!* a new trilogy of films. Hell, I remember when the Special Editions were just a rumor. I remember when a friend of mine called and said, "They're not a rumor. I have something to show you." He came by my house with a videotape, and on that videotape was the very first teaser trailer for "Star Wars: A New Hope - The Special Edition," the very first new "Star Wars" footage in what had been fourteen years at that point. It was mind-blowing. It made me reassess what I had started to accept as the simple fact that there would never be more "Star Wars."

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Review: Michael Fassbender's performance anchors the eccentric 'Frank'
Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Review: Michael Fassbender's performance anchors the eccentric 'Frank'

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
True life is just the jumping-off point for this one

It's safe to say that I won't see anything else like "Frank" this year, because I don't think there's a chance anyone's going to make anything else like "Frank" this year.

Written by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan, who previously collaborated on the adaptation of Ronson's book "The Men Who Stared At Goats," this is the story of an ambitious young musician named Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) who is struggling to define his own voice as a songwriter. He crosses paths with Soronprfbs, a very strange band as he watches their keyboardist try to drown himself, and thanks to that meltdown, Jon is given a chance to play with them.

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Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' will have a trailer attached to 'Sin City 2' in theaters only
Credit: Quentin Tarantino

Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' will have a trailer attached to 'Sin City 2' in theaters only

But what's it going to show?

What is Quentin Tarantino up to?

Man, I would love it if he's been sneaking around and shooting a movie without telling anyone. I don't think that's what happened… but who knows? I think it's far more likely that what we've heard is correct. The shoot will happen in the spring, and we can count on seeing the film in time for the holiday season in 2015.

But let's pretend for a moment. After all, word is breaking that The Weinstein Company will have a nearly two-minute-long trailer for "The Hateful 8" attached to the front of "Sin City 2" when it hits theaters next week. It appears the plan is not to officially put it online.

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Kelsey Grammer and Randy Couture on unlikely 'Expendables' friendships
Credit: HitFix

Kelsey Grammer and Randy Couture on unlikely 'Expendables' friendships

Seriously, how weird is that?

Thanks to the way junkets work, you sometimes end up with the oddest combination of people in a room, and that was certainly the case when I attended the press day for "The Expendables 3" and found myself sitting across from Kelsey Grammer and Randy Couture.

In general, it's been a pretty strange summer for Kelsey Grammer. I spoke with him when I was in Hong Kong about his work in "Transformers: Age Of Extinction," and he also had a featured role in "Think Like A Man 2." In "The Expendables 3," Grammer plays Bonaparte, the guy who Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) turns to when he's putting a new team together. He's like an agent for badass mercenaries. We discussed how wide a net he's cast this year with the roles that he's been playing, and he seems to be in a great mood about all of it.

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Review: Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. try hard but 'Let's Be Cops' is a bust
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. try hard but 'Let's Be Cops' is a bust

HitFix
C-
Readers
n/a
Oh, boy

This was just a bad idea.

Don't get me wrong… Jake Johnson, Rob Riggle, Keegan Michael Key, and Damon Wayans Jr. are all genuinely funny people, and when you put that many funny people together, there are going to be funny moments. I certainly laughed a few times during "Let's Be Cops," and as far as actual film craft goes, it's perfectly serviceable.

But if anything counts in comedy, it's timing, and right now is not the time to make a movie about how easy it is to abuse the privileges that come with wearing a police uniform. I'm not just talking about this week's horrifying events in Ferguson, Missouri, either, although I'm sure everyone at Fox is mortified. This is the second time in recent memory that they've released a comedy at the exact wrong moment, with "The Watch" rolling into theaters just as the Treyvon Martin conversation was at its most heated.

This time, though, the problem runs deeper. At Comic-Con, they mentioned that Luke Greenfield actually did this with a friend of his, and that's where the idea for the film came from. I have to assume that they didn't take it anywhere near as far as the characters do in this film, because he would have ended up shot to death if that was the case, but just admitting that you ever thought it would be a good idea to leave your house pretending to be a police officer is basically confessing that you are a sociopath. It is an insane thing to do.

In the film, they are careful to lay the groundwork that excuses Ryan (Johnson) and Justin (Wayans) of any sort of malice or forethought. Justin's a video game designer, and he's working on a game about being a street cop, so he has a pair of uniforms that he puts on a pair of mannequins. Those happen to be in the apartment when Ryan reminds him that there's a costume party that night. It's labored, all in service of that first image of the two of them suited up, and the movie does make the point that when you put someone in that uniform and you get all the details right, it is transformative. Johnson and Wayans could easily play cops in another movie. They've both got the right build, and they wear the uniforms well. And the first evening they're out, when they accidentally discover that people think they are the real deal, is pretty funny and fairly innocent. It's the 13-year-old idea of what you'd do with that power.

Where the film goes from there is way more problematic, and there's no real way to get it right. The longer they do what they do, and the more elaborate the lie, the less identifiable these guys are. Ideally, this should have been handled like a "Superbad," a story about one long night. I could buy it if there's not a moment where they characters have a chance to stop what they're doing, consider their actions, and then suit up again to go back out. They try to earn it by writing Ryan as a guy who thought he would play pro ball, only to get injured, and he's been playing dead ever since. As he pretends to be a cop, he starts to realize that he's good at the job. The more he learns about it, the more he clicks with it. It's ultimately played as a redemptive arc for the character, and I didn't buy a word of it. Likewise, I enjoyed Rob Riggle here because they have him playing it straight. I'm so used to seeing Riggle turn into a lunatic that when it becomes clear that his character is just a good and decent cop who is always trying to do the right thing, it's almost a twist. And while I liked watching him do it, I don't buy his relationship with Ryan and Justin. It just doesn't track the way they write it.

When you're making comedy films, you need to take the cultural temperature as you're working. We're in an era right now where there are some serious questions about the way the public relates to law enforcement, and that's not just this week. That's the last few years, a conversation that's getting louder and louder because it is impossible to pretend it's not a real problem. We are over-arming law enforcement. We are creating a military state in which certain citizens are treated a different way for the most dispiriting of reasons. And we have such a troubled relationship with firearms and who is allowed to have them and how, and just seeing images of white people carrying rifles in Wal-Mart and unarmed black people being held at gunpoint for no reason in Ferguson juxtaposed should have all of us asking ourselves how things got this broken, and how we begin to fix them. It's real, real, real hard to laugh at parts of this movie right now.

Key shows up as a low-level henchman who Ryan and Justin use to try to get close to the big bad guy in the film, and there's a whole big sub-plot about what happens when they end up clashing with genuinely dangerous Eastern European mobsters and crooked cops, and it's sort of brutal to sit through any time it's trying to be serious. Nathasha Leggero shows up playing crazy and drugged and horny in a way that only she could combine those things, and again… like Key… she scores laughs because she's so genuinely funny, even if the film doesn't do anything interesting with them.

Look, someone's going to cast Jake Johnson in the right film and it's going to be gigantic. I think it's inevitable. He's almost able to make this all seem palatable, and I don't fault any of the cast considering what they were asked to do. But the script by Luke Greenfield and Nicholas Thomas makes too many easy choices, and it simply doesn't work in terms of maintaing credible audience sympathy.

"Let's Be Cops" is in theaters now.

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Review: YA-adaptation 'The Giver' is both ridiculous and morally suspect
Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: YA-adaptation 'The Giver' is both ridiculous and morally suspect

HitFix
D
Readers
A+
Could this be the dumbest film of the year?

I hardly know where to start.

So far this year, "Winter's Tale" remains the gold standard for pure unmitigated batshit hubris, and it's the scope of the folly that impresses me most. But if we're ranking films by how dopey they are, then "The Giver" may actually be a contender for some special honors this year.

It is a firm belief of mine that you do not need to read a book in order to review a movie. I've never read Lois Lowry's novel, which is evidently fairly well-liked. Originally published in 1993, the book has been controversial, and it's also been enormously popular. In reading about it tonight, one thing becomes clear: the dumbest idea in this very dumb movie appears to be an invention of the film. We'll get into that later, but first, the broad strokes.

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An emotional 'Ask Drew' looks back at the life and work of the great Robin Williams
Credit: HitFix

An emotional 'Ask Drew' looks back at the life and work of the great Robin Williams

This one was really tough to get through

"Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems."
- Robin Williams, "World's Greatest Dad"

This is a very emotional "Ask Drew." This is, I would suspect, the closest you're ever going to see to me losing it on camera completely. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when there was a Robin Williams question, since it's still so fresh and so raw for so many people, but I couldn't have known just how hard it would be to talk about him.

I mean, I have stared at the blinking cursor on my blank document page for almost two days now, grappling with one question:  how in the hell do you even remotely begin to sum up someone as huge as Robin Williams?

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Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss on keeping the secrets of 'The One I Love'
Credit: HitFix

Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss on keeping the secrets of 'The One I Love'

Plus we talk about some of the film's technical challenges

Let's be clear: I don't actually think "The One I Love" hinges on a twist.

Instead, I think it's a very clever, very clearly laid-out fantastic premise on which to hang questions of character and behavior. There is a reveal early in the film, and another late in the film, and that's it. And honestly, telling you that doesn't ruin anything. It can't ruin anything from this film. This is a movie about behavior. It's about the delicate, fragile fabric of marriage and how easy it is to unravel once you start picking at it.

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Terry Crews explains why he gets benched for 'The Expendables 3'
Credit: HitFix

Terry Crews explains why he gets benched for 'The Expendables 3'

Wait a minute... Rocket Racoon was the action unit director on this?

I would happily sit down with Terry Crews once a week just to get the Terry Crews news update.

I can't believe how well the system has done at figuring out how to best utilize Crews, a very strong actor on all fronts, because I'm so used to seeing talented people of color trapped by opportunity or the lack thereof. Crews has been acclaimed for both drama and comedy, and it feels like directors and writers he works with keep finding new challenges to throw at him, and he keeps knocking them out. He's really good in pretty much everything and when I tune in to "Brooklyn Nine Nine" this coming season, he's absolutely part of that appeal for me.

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Warner pits writers of 'Gangster Squad' and '300' against each other on 'Aquaman'
Credit: DC Comics

Warner pits writers of 'Gangster Squad' and '300' against each other on 'Aquaman'

This is part of the problem

Speaking as a member of the WGAw since 1995, I am disgusted whenever I hear that a studio is doing parallel development on a film. It's a terrible process for the writers, and it reduces the idea of authorship, handing all of the power back to the producers.

It's easy to see why a studio would do it. After all, they're in a rush right now at Warner Bros. to get into the game that Marvel has been winning non-stop for the last few years, and Aquaman is already set to appear in "Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice," with Jason Momoa signed to play the character. For Warner Bros., they're trying to get these films up and ready to go as quickly as they can. Having two writers each work on a script to see what ends up working best sounds like a great way to short-cut things.

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