Exclusive clip from 'Z For Zachariah' hints at Sundance film's explosive love triangle
Credit: Sundance Institute

Exclusive clip from 'Z For Zachariah' hints at Sundance film's explosive love triangle

But they're all so pretty!

One of the movies that has a ton of heat already focused on it even before the Sundance Film Festival begins is "Z For Zachariah." Chris Pine, a brunette Margot Robbie, and Chiwetel Ejiofor co-star in this story that takes place "in the wake of a disaster that wipes out most of civilization," according to the official synopsis. "Two men and a young woman find themselves in an emotionally-charged love triangle as the last known survivors."

Craig Zobel's last film that played here, "Compliance," was a cold-blooded and intensely well-made look at a true story that still gives me chills when I think about it. I am a huge fan of his first feature film, "Great World Of Sound," as well, and I am excited to see anything Zobel makes.

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Simon Pegg set to steer 'Star Trek' for real as he signs on to co-write new sequel
Credit: Paramount Pictures/Bad Robot

Simon Pegg set to steer 'Star Trek' for real as he signs on to co-write new sequel

Scotty is at the helm, indeed

One of the smartest things Marvel did when faced with Edgar Wright's departure from "Ant-Man" was enlist Paul Rudd to not only remain attached to star as Scott Lang in the film, but also to take a crack at the screenplay. When I was on the set of the film, it was apparent that Rudd and Adam McKay and Peyton Reed had a tight working relationship that allowed them to very quickly rebuild things a different way. By having Rudd become that involved with the script, there's a pretty good chance he's going to want to stay attached to star, and if anything, he'll become even more passionate than he was when his good friend Edgar was still attached.

Now Paramount's using that same (very smart) playbook, it looks like, with word breaking that Simon Pegg is going to co-write the screenplay for "Star Trek 3." No word in Deadline's piece about who Pegg might be co-writing with. I know that Edgar Wright recently wrote "Baby Driver" by himself, and as a result, it doesn't read like any of the Cornetto films. Not exactly. You can still hear Edgar's voice, but it's not tempered by anyone else's sensibilities.

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Exclusive: Moody first poster for Tom Hardy Soviet-era thriller 'Child 44' arrives
Credit: Lionsgate

Exclusive: Moody first poster for Tom Hardy Soviet-era thriller 'Child 44' arrives

Fingers crossed this one delivers

Here's what I love about this time of the year. The previous year's movies are done. All the year end articles are done. All the articles looking ahead at the next year are done. Now we can finally just start digging into 2015, and that means new trailers, new posters, and tons of potential.

Take "Child 44," for example. The film was one of the ones that got spotlighted in our recent piece about the films we are most looking forward to this year, and we built that one the way we build many of the galleries here at HitFix. We all voted, ranking the titles according to our own interests. I'll admit… I didn't vote for "Child 44" in that initial round, but that's because I didn't know much about it. Several of the writers here at the site loved the book, though, and because of that, they're ready to see how it's been adapted.

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Why we're allowed to hate a movie about the military
Credit: Warner Bros.

Why we're allowed to hate a movie about the military

On 'American Sniper' and more: judging art, and propaganda

Over the weekend, I saw a headline go by about the truly remarkable box-office earned by "American Sniper," and I made a quick joke about it on Twitter. It was a passing thought, and then I was done.

"I'm not surprised 'American Sniper' opened so well. Fantasy films are huge at the box-office these days. #yeahIsaidit"

Yes, the hashtag at the end is snide. But it's still a joke. I put it up and I moved on. Or at least, that was the plan. A few hours later, I had to shut off the notifications on my phone because they just kept coming. For the most part, lots of retweets and a few jokes back at me, but there was a percentage of those replies that were overtly hostile and angry, and several threats of/calls for violence as a result. “Said the liberal insane POS. Sad our military die for ass wipes like you. Go away, little boy” was a charming one. I was intrigued by the one who called me a racist and then said, “You think there aren’t black people in our armed forces? You think that’s a ‘fantasy’?” I like it when people get upset about things that were never remotely part of my thought process.

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How does 'SNL' deal with MLK as Kevin Hart opens the show?
Credit: NBC

How does 'SNL' deal with MLK as Kevin Hart opens the show?

Can you realy score laughs off of 'Selma'?

Interesting that Kevin Hart wasn't the focus of the cold open. It's a fairly obvious topic to deal with, but the question is what way? How do you make a joke that involves MLK and "Selma"? Do you make it about the awards nominations? Do you play into the idea of a snub? Do you do it as the real MLK or the media character?

"Oh, my god, that mountain is miles away."

Pete Davidson gets a nice upfront spot. It's interesting to see how far "SNL" will or won't go with specific targets. Hart's monologue that followed, focused on opening "The Wedding Ringer," was primarily a showcase for Hart's stories about suburbia. Raccoon stories. "We've gotta move." I hate to admit it, but it's the most relatable thing I've ever seen him do. I may not be a homeowner as of right about now, but I was, and I get it. I had a possum that I attributed a nearly superhuman intelligence to for a full summer in 2010. I've been there.

Hart's busy becoming a movie star right now, and it makes sense that he's not going to do material that polarizes. Kenan, on the other hand, should be comfortable making people uncomfortable.

The kid played by Pete Davidson is ultimately uninterested in anything specific, and more adept at the sort of surface level social media protest outrage that we see these days. I sort of wish they'd gone further with Thompson's reaction to this kid and his notion of protest, but I think they landed the punch.

It'll be interesting to see what the rest of show does with pop culture, and how far Hart bends his own recently-burnished image.

"Saturday Night Live"' featured Kevin Hart and musical guest Sia.

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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.

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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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