'Deadpool' took longer to make it to theaters than you may realize

'Deadpool' took longer to make it to theaters than you may realize

Just exactly how long has Kevin Feige been trying to build a shared Marvel Universe?

Our new video series Backstory uses personal experience and insider's perspective to illuminate some of your favorite films and TV shows in different ways.

It was a pleasure to have Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick drop by the HitFix studio last week to talk about the long road to get their version of Deadpool onscreen, and I'd like to use that interview as a way of putting one of those persistent-but-untrue stereotypes about critics and entertainment reporters to bed.

People love to accuse critics of hating movies because they are bitter and frustrated screenwriters themselves. If that were true, then I should have hated Deadpool sight unseen because I pitched on that film as a writer almost fifteen years ago.

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When you're looking to replace Samuel L. Jackson, Julianne Moore is the obvious choice
Credit: 20th Century Fox/MARV Films

When you're looking to replace Samuel L. Jackson, Julianne Moore is the obvious choice

She could make a heck of a cool villain for this anti-Bond franchise

I was just having a conversation yesterday with someone about Kingsman: The Secret Service, a film that gets better every time I see it. If I ever end up with the free time to do so (ha!), I should write a piece about the way that film systematically dismantles every single idea that props up the James Bond franchise, and does so while also playing as a surface-level blast of big nasty fun.

Samuel Jackson's bad guy character in the first one was fun, an effete Randian weirdo with an almost pathological aversion to blood. His plan was a despicable one, and like most great movie bad guys, he genuinely thought he was doing something good for the world.

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'Hamilton' slays at the Grammys as Lin-Manuel Miranda accepts an award in style
Credit: Hamilton

'Hamilton' slays at the Grammys as Lin-Manuel Miranda accepts an award in style

What is it about this musical that makes it such an immediate phenomenon?

Shockingly, I never got around to writing about my favorite piece of pop culture from 2015 as promised. I mean, I've never gotten overloaded with work and let something go before. Thankfully, today I get to rectify that problem because of The Grammys, of all things.

Like many people right now, I am completely obsessed with Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, the musical about Alexander Hamilton and the founding fathers. Also like many people, I have not seen the show and can't imagine when I'll actually be able to get tickets. It's distinctly possible I won't see it until it comes to LA in late 2017, and even then, who's to say when I'll be able to get in? It's going to be a bloodbath, because people have fallen head over heels for the thing. It was Matt Zoller Seitz who described it as "Sondheim meets Schoolhouse Rocks," and that is a pretty heady combination of things, and a heck of a good description. It's got me crazy.

Why?

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The new trailer for this Michael Shannon science-fiction film feels 'Special,' indeed
Credit: Warner Bros

The new trailer for this Michael Shannon science-fiction film feels 'Special,' indeed

It looks like Jeff Nichols is putting some heart into this one

At this point, I don't want to see another frame of Midnight Special until I get to sit down in a theater and see the movie, because the two trailers they've released for it and the reviews out of Berlin have me convinced we're about to see something very special, no wordplay intended.

Little wonder. Jeff Nichols has been quietly building a great filmography, and Michael Shannon has been his consistent muse so far. I remember the feeling of seeing Shotgun Stories for the first time and being amazed by both Shannon and Nichols. This new trailer for Midnight Special feels both intimate and emotionally charged, something that we don't see nearly enough of in science-fiction these days.

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An ode to the fine art of sneaking into R-rated movies when you're underage
Credit: 20th Century Fox

An ode to the fine art of sneaking into R-rated movies when you're underage

Some kid's life is going to be changed because they see 'Deadpool' without permission; good for them

Deadpool made $150 million this weekend, which is fairly amazing for an R-rated film. I'd be curious to know how much more it would have made if every single person who saw it actually paid for a ticket, because it does not take a genius to know that there were teenagers sneaking in to see it.

Good for them.

Let's be clear about something: the MPAA does not know your child, nor do they care about your child. The entire reason movie ratings exist is so the government didn't get involved in the process. Beyond that, they are outdated and out-of-touch, and absolutely useless as a practical guide for individual parents when it comes to understanding what is or isn't appropriate for your child. There are things I'd show my sons that you would not show to any kid, and there are things other parents have shown their kids that my kids won't see until they're adults and track them down for themselves, because I'm not interested in being responsible for putting certain things in their heads.

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Why did the success of 'The Avengers' almost kill 'Deadpool' as a movie?
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Why did the success of 'The Avengers' almost kill 'Deadpool' as a movie?

How did they manage to rehab the character after a disastrous debut?

Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick did something superheroic on Deadpool: they stayed attached as the screenwriters of the film for six full years.

To understand just how weird that is, keep in mind that the way the studios are doing things these days, they will occasionally hire totally different writers to work parallel to one another, writing totally different scripts, only to shuffle those scripts together into weird-ass Frankenstein creations. Or they'll go from writer to writer to writer to writer until they finally end up hiring one of the eight or nine "closers" who seem to put their name on everything these days.

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The director of 'Hardcore Henry' promises crazy action mayhem with the first trailer
Credit: STX Entertainment

The director of 'Hardcore Henry' promises crazy action mayhem with the first trailer

This one's just plain crazy, and that's exactly what the filmmaker intended

By far, the most aggressive film I saw at last year's Toronto film festival was a first-person action film that felt unlike anything else screening at the entire event.

Since then, it's been retitled and now you can get your first look at the official trailer for Hardcore Henry tonight, and it's every bit as lunatic as the film itself. I spoke to writer/director Ilya Naishuller this week about how things have unfolded for him and his movie since STX Entertainment picked it up for release.

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Review: Profoundly unfunny 'Zoolander 2' faceplants on the runway
Credit: Paramount Pictures
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Review: Profoundly unfunny 'Zoolander 2' faceplants on the runway

Ben Stiller swings and misses and throws the bat and poops his pants all at once

I wanted to laugh last night. Hell, I needed to laugh last night. And Zoolander 2 failed me completely.

Brutally unfunny, visually off-putting, and filled with cameos so embarrassing I am bruised from holding a cringe for a full half-hour, Zoolander 2 is every horrible decision you can make with a comedy sequel wrapped up into one nigh unbearable film.

There is a single shot in one scene of Olivia Munn, and I couldn't tell you what she was playing or what role got cut down in the final film, but that one last errant useless shot, left in instead of being totally excised with the rest of her part, sums up the way the entire film feels to me. It feels like it was thrown together in a blender and just poured into a cup indifferently, no matter what ended up blended in there. So many jokes fall so flat that it's almost impressive after a while. Characters appear and disappear randomly, and they hold the entrance of the film's villain so long that I forgot he was in the movie by the time he finally showed up.

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Kristen Stewart may head an interesting cast to tell the JT LeRoy story... but which one?
Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Kristen Stewart may head an interesting cast to tell the JT LeRoy story... but which one?

If we don't know the whole truth yet, which version of this story will the film tell?

One of the films from this year's Sundance Film Festival that I'm still chewing on is Author: The JT LeRoy Story. The documentary by Jeff Feuerzeig is well-made and obviously was produced with an enormous amount of access to Laura Albert, the writer at the heart of the very, very strange saga. That's part of the problem, though. I'm not sure why anyone would ever trust a single word out of Albert's mouth, especially not on the subject of JT LeRoy, and in the end, her involvement makes me believe the movie less, not more.

For those unfamiliar with the story, JT LeRoy was a literary phenomenon in the late '90s, a young author who became a celebrity as much for his backstory as for his prose. People like Bono and Courtney Love and Gus Van Sant and Billy Corgan all believed fervently in LeRoy, and while secrecy was part of his persona in the early days, eventually LeRoy started making more personal appearances and doing more readings of his work and traveling around the world. It was almost eight years before the New York Times broke the story that LeRoy didn't actually exist and the entire backstory that had made him so irresistible to the celebrities who embraced him was fabricated.

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What Oscar nominees luncheon image charmed even this awards-season hating Grinch?
Credit: A24

What Oscar nominees luncheon image charmed even this awards-season hating Grinch?

Sometimes, pure sincere joy trumps even the most hard-earned cynicism

Last night in Santa Monica, I moderated a Q&A with George Miller, who I've been interviewing repeatedly since March of last year, at the intermission of a double feature of Mad Max: Fury Road and The Road Warrior.

We had some time to talk before the Q&A, and he was in terrific spirits. He spent the afternoon at the Oscar nominees luncheon, and he seemed to have a terrific time. I mentioned Rooney Mara's outstanding quote from yesterday ("Sometimes [awards season] feels like you're celebrating the same person's birthday for months on end") and he laughed, then added "But it's a wonderful party." There are few people more cynical about awards season than me, and if you want a dose of that, read the opening part of my Coen Brothers interview yesterday. Seeing Miller's obvious pleasure yesterday cut through that cynicism, and I found myself really rooting for him to wrap up this year with a trip to the stage to collect an Oscar.

But let's be honest… is there anything more charming on the awards circuit this year than the ongoing story of Jacob Tremblay?

The young star of Room gave an enormously mature performance, and it's easy to forget that he's just a normal (if talented) little kid. Watching how much he's enjoyed himself over the course of what can be a real grind for even the most polished of adults has been impressive. Yesterday, he was at that same luncheon, and his dad was taking pictures and sharing them via Twitter. The best of them… well, let's just take a look…


Come on. What's not to love about that? Stallone's been making plenty of jokes about his age, and how long it's been since he was last at the Oscars for the first Rocky, and Tremblay is at the very start of a career. He's young enough that really anything could happen. We may be talking about this as one of many great performances in a decade, or we may look back at this as a lovely single moment for him. We'll see.

But today, at that luncheon, there was clearly a sincere giddy joy shared by all of these people, and it's so sincere that it's even making my tiny black Grinch heart feel something. I'm sure it will pass, but I figured I'd share my brief change of heart.

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