Review: Alicia Vikander and Armie Hammer have major chemistry in winning 'UNCLE'
Credit: Warner Bros

Review: Alicia Vikander and Armie Hammer have major chemistry in winning 'UNCLE'

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Three beautiful leads throwing major attitude certainly helps

Light on its feet, utterly inconsequential, and quite often a pleasure to look at and listen to, "The Man From UNCLE" is Guy Ritchie's big-screen reboot of the classic '60s spy show. Showcasing the charms of Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, and Alicia Vikander, it is a piffle, a fetish piece for anyone who loves the pop side of the '60s, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It is not a non-stop action movie, though, and I suspect that on the heels of "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation," it's going to be treated more roughly than it deserves.

Ritchie has been working with writer/producer Lionel Wigram since "Sherlock Holmes," and they seem to have settled into a pretty happy system of doing things. They share screenplay credit on this one, with the story attributed to Jeff Kleeman & David C. Wilson as well as Wigram and Ritchie, and it's a pretty simple, straightforward thing. After extracting Gaby (Vikander) from East Germany, Napoleon Solo (Cavill) finds himself pressed into escorting Gaby to find her long lost father and, more importantly, the nuclear secrets he possesses. In order to do this, though, Napoleon is teamed up with a huge, borderline psycho Russian secret agent named Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) since both superpowers have an interest in keeping these nuclear secrets out of the hands of terrorists.

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How are the new 'Fantastic Four' and 2013's 'Arrested Development' related?
Credit: Netflix

How are the new 'Fantastic Four' and 2013's 'Arrested Development' related?

As the reporting around this weekend's mega-flop points fingers, we try to sort out what actually happened

By this point, "Fantastic Four" has had more virtual ink spilled about it than would seem to be justified considering how brutally mediocre the film is, and much of it has been focused on trying to sort out who did what on the film, and how much of it is or isn't the film that Josh Trank set out to make.

This kind of post-mortem moment can be really frustrating to watch, though, because of how everyone assumes certain things as fact. There is no one who has written more pointed and cutting criticisms of Fox, particularly under the leadership of Tom Rothman, than I have, but this time, I think people are siding against the studio without knowing what really went on in the process. Fox knew what their reputation was when Tom Rothman was running things, and they've been working hard to shift that perception by changing the way they approached collaboration.

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Bobcat Goldthwait on why he knew he had to tell the Barry Crimmins story
Credit: HitFix

Bobcat Goldthwait on why he knew he had to tell the Barry Crimmins story

We sit down with the director and subject of one of the year's best films

Without any exaggeration, I would call Bobcat Goldthwait one of the most consistently interesting and original filmmakers working today. When he first started turning out films like "Sleeping Dogs Lie" and "World's Greatest Dad," there was a quick moment where it seemed surprising to me that the guy from the "Police Academy" films could make those movies. That passed, though, and now the surprising part is that someone as thoughtful and articulate and big-hearted could have ever vanished into the character from those movies. I can't connect the guy I've been speaking with on and off for the last five or six years to the guy I saw perform live several times in the '80s, and I find him fascinating as a result.

I wasn't nervous about having Bobcat in to the HitFix studios on Tuesday, but I was very nervous about meeting Barry Crimmins, the subject of "Call Me Lucky," the remarkable new documentary by Goldthwait which begins its theatrical release today in select markets. And why not? Crimmins emerges over the course of the film as a ferociously smart man with a proud and undimmed spirit, this incredibly strong presence who basically helped create the modern stand-up comedy market while still wrestling with some profoundly difficult personal issues.

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Zachary Quinto reveals his own superpowers in final 'Agent 47' trailer
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Zachary Quinto reveals his own superpowers in final 'Agent 47' trailer

Can this one shake the game-to-movie curse?

There's one last big action film coming this summer, and I hope it is non-stop absurdity and mayhem, because that's what the trailers for "Agent 47" have been promising for the entire campaign so far, including the just-released final red band trailer.

Game movies are still hard to get right, and I've been thinking a lot about the difference between the forms lately. Games are all about giving you agency and making you feel like you're the character, controlling that character's fate or world in some way. Movies are passive, something you sit and watch, with other people having already made all those choices for you. Finding some middle ground between those experiences would seem to be the best way to translate the experience of a game to the bigscreen, and it looks to me like they've gone out of their way to preserve the sort of holy shit destruction and mayhem that game fans love when they're in the middle of some giant mission.

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Review: Powerfully mediocre 'Fantastic Four' is neither disaster nor success
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Powerfully mediocre 'Fantastic Four' is neither disaster nor success

HitFix
C
Readers
n/a
As superhero films go, this one seems scared of its own shadow

Neither the disaster the fanboy nation seems to be itching to attack nor a significant improvement over the Tim Story movies, "Fantastic Four" seems doomed to please no one. If this were simply a science-fiction film about original characters, it would be a moderate pleasure that can't quite connect all the dots or pay off the various ideas it introduces. As an adaptation of the comic, it seems to miss nearly everything that seems exciting about "Fantastic Four" as a filmmaking opportunity, and it will only serve to reinforce the idea that these characters don't work in a movie.

Balderdash and nonsense, though. The real problem is that 20th Century Fox has learned nothing from their own successes or failures. If you'd told me that this film was made in 1994, I would absolutely believe you. They might as well have titled the movie "Fantastic Four: Hedging Our Bet," because they have imagined as small a version as possible of this first film, and in doing so, they have pretty much guaranteed that no one will walk away satisfied. Already, we're seeing early reviews that grumble about the lack of action in the film, and while it's a reasonable assumption that superhero films should have action, I think starting with that complaint misses the entire point of what it feels like Josh Trank and writers Simon Kinberg and Jeremy Slater have all tried to do here.

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Deadpool's eyes are just part of the fun of that filthy new trailer
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Deadpool's eyes are just part of the fun of that filthy new trailer

It's basically the Comic-Con trailer minus my favorite joke

The coolest thing about the design of Deadpool is the way his eyes are fully expressive and constantly changing. It's got to be a make-up effect, right? Like the mask is an actual appliance on the eyes that blends into the costume somehow?

Or am I wrong? Is it a computer effect added after the fact? That seems like the expensive and annoying option to me, and it removes Reynolds from the equation, which seems like part of the problem he already faced on "Green Lantern." Based on that joke he makes as they're wheeling him in to throw some Weapon X hoodoo on him, I'd say he's well aware of all the things he'd like to not do this time around.

This is not the exact same thing that they showed at Comic-Con, but it's close enough. They cut a funny bit introducing Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), and they toned back one shot of ultra-violence, but it's basically the same footage cut slightly tighter. And if you only ever saw the pirated version of the Comic-Con stuff, then this is most likely the first time you can see the smoke effect at the end, which is a pretty spectacular and subtle gag.

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'Director's Commentary: Terror Of Frankenstein' is the ultimate film nerd joke
Credit: Fantasia Film Festival

'Director's Commentary: Terror Of Frankenstein' is the ultimate film nerd joke

HitFix
A
Readers
n/a
Played perfectly straight-faced, this is a one-of-a-kind gag from the 'Room 237' team

While I am not lucky enough this summer to be in Montreal at the always-delightful Fantasia Film Festival, they've been kind enough to reach out to share some of their programming with me, and the first thing I watched once again reaffirms my faith in just how great they are at picking and supporting worthwhile and challenging and entertaining movies.

Case in point: "Director's Commentary: Terror Of Frankenstein."

There are certain titles that are provocative or that paint a picture or that hit you as particularly poetic or clever, but I'm especially fond of titles that sneak up on you. When I saw "Short Term 12" at SXSW, it was towards the end of the festival, and it was because it won a major narrative award. Before that, I thought it was a shorts program, and since I rarely review shorts out of festivals (simply because of the workload, not out of any philosophical stance), I had checked out on that film completely. Likewise, when I first saw festival listings for this film, I didn't get it. I didn't realize what it was. And now that I've seen it, I want to make sure no one else makes the mistake of missing it if they have an opportunity to see it.

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Doug Benson's Netflix doc on Comic-Con gets it surprisingly right
Credit: Netflix

Doug Benson's Netflix doc on Comic-Con gets it surprisingly right

HitFix
B-
Readers
n/a
If the point is capturing the way an event feels, this is on-target

Doug Benson's rambling pot-fueled documentaries are all basically just an excuse for the comic to get very high in different locations, but in the process of putting the latest one together, he and director Ryan Polito have put together something that captures Comic-Con in a very accurate and not romanticized way.

This was a pretty solid year for me and Comic-Con, and so was last year. I enjoyed myself both times, so I guess technically I can't say I hate Comic-Con anymore, although that's been my mantra for a while. I think the accurate way of saying it is that I often hate elements of the experience of Comic-Con. There is a certain amount of hassle that goes with attendance that can just wear on you when you're trying to work, things that might never bother someone who is just attending for pleasure. It's easy to forget when you're working media that the vast majority of people there are not having that version of the experience. They're in those rooms because they love those things and they're having that very pure version of the experience. If I'm cynical about it, that's on me, not on Comic-Con itself.

Having said that, I think Comic-Con has been presented a certain way over the years, both in the media and in films about the event, like Morgan Spurlock's documentary from a few years ago. Doug Benson has had a lot of fun and gotten a lot of mileage out of making pot-themed reactions to Spurlock's films, starting with "Super High Me," and Netflix just premiered his latest special, "Chronic-Con: Episode 420." There's a good chunk of it dedicated to him trying to find Spurlock at Comic-Con, using Twitter and social media to slowly track him down. His other goal is to smoke pot with someone in a superhero costume. Those two threads are intercut with live material from his podcast and lots of experiential footage, and overall, what struck me while watching it was just how clearly it feels like a more honest take on what is both good and terrible about it.

One of the few things the film doesn't capture is the way the lines for Hall H have metastasized over the last few years into something truly unpleasant for a majority of the regular fans who want to get into those things. Benson has something more akin to the experience I have, where there's a certain amount of access that is not available to everyone. The random weird way his day unfolds, the encounters with people who are familiar with him, the way he drifts from building to building, from event to party to someone's room… that's something that is familiar not from any one year I've gone but from every year I've gone. It's a little surreal in that actual mutual friends of mine show up at various points, and the entire thing almost feels like deja vu for me.

As a film, it's sort of shambling, just like "The Greatest Movie Ever Rolled," but it does pay off both of the main storylines well, and it feels like Benson's finally acknowledged what a weird hook it is to keep running riffs on the Morgan Spurlock films.

You can find the film on Netflix now.

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Critics might not like 'Fantastic Four,' but it's not the genre's fault
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Critics might not like 'Fantastic Four,' but it's not the genre's fault

The film's done, guys. Now is not the time to go on the defensive.

Tomorrow morning, I'll see "Fantastic Four," and I'm taking my kids with me. Part of the reason is because when I see films with them, it serves to cut through hype in a very particular way. My kids don't know about buzz, and they don't know about production gossip, and they don't care what Josh Trank did or didn't do in a rented house or what has or hasn't been reshot. It's not important. All they care about is the movie, and that's how I'd like to walk into this one.

Won't be easy, of course. No matter what the film is at this point, it feels like a lot of people have already made their minds up about it. Oddly, though, I get that more from genre nerds than I do from other critics. I think for the most part, every critic I've spoken to about it is walking in not quite blank, curious but not sold, skeptical but not toxic. Team "Fantastic Four" must be feeling like they're under siege, though, because they're in damage control mode in a way that feels co-ordinated, and it's sending a weird message that I think they should step back from if they can.

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Review: 'Straight Outta Compton' is largely successful pop mythmaking
Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: 'Straight Outta Compton' is largely successful pop mythmaking

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
A look at one of the pivotal moments in the history of rap is well-drawn

There are few movie forms more stagnant than the biopic. I am not a fan for the most part, and it takes something special to knock me out of that mindset. While "Straight Outta Compton" plays by the rules for the most part, the film has a great cast and an undeniable energy that drew me in, and considering we're talking about events from a quarter-century ago, there is a surprisingly urgent undertone to the entire enterprise that reminds us that we have not made as much progress as we'd like to think as a culture.

Screenwriter Andrea Berloff made her feature debut nine years ago with "World Trade Center," and she hasn't had a produced credit since. She had an impossible job here, trying to boil down the rise and fall of an iconic band to a mere 142 minutes. Jonathan Herman is co-credited for the script, with S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus both credited with story, and I'm not surprised it went through a lot of handsFor the most part, the film follows a familiar shape, with the early rise of the band inevitably playing as more fun and thrilling than the later years, and that's sort of unavoidable. Director F. Gary Gray has directed the film as modern myth, charting the major highs and lows of the band through the filter of knowing exactly what's going to happen to each of them. This is a movie that is not afraid to foreshadow like crazy, and in some cases, that was part of the fun. Even before he speaks a word, the appearance of Snoop Dogg (Keith Stanfield) for the first time got a big laugh out of the audience, and likewise, the moment Suge Knight (R. Marcos Taylor) shows up at the edge of the frame, it's like the first time the fin breaks water in "Jaws."

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