Phil Lord and Chris Miller have a very special skill set.
Anyone can take a great premise for a movie and make a great movie out of it. But Miller and Lord seem to be able to take ridiculous premises and still somehow fashion emotionally resonant, thematically-consistent, intelligent and satisfying films. "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs" is a very slight but charming book with no real narrative, and they turned it into something remarkably silly and also quite sweet. "21 Jump Street" was a show I couldn't have cared any less about, and yet the film ended up being both a witty deconstruction of TV-shows-turned-movies and a genuinely satisfying buddy cop comedy.
Now they've taken a toy, something that has no narrative attached, and they've turned it into a film that works as a celebration of the art of creation, a movie that encourages kids to embrace the unlimited creativity of imagination while also reminding a specific generation of parents to share their damn toys. It is a canny piece of pop art, and "The Lego Movie" should end up delighting old and young viewers in equal measure.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller have a very special skill set.
It is, after all, Super Bowl Sunday, so it makes sense that studios are pulling out all the stops to try and stake their claim on the 2014 box-office today, and so far, I think they've done an excellent job with these big giant trailers.
For example, I was not the biggest fan of Marc Webb's "The Amazing Spider-Man." I liked the chemistry with his cast, and I thought there were elements of it that worked, but as a film, it felt disjointed, like they'd shoved three or four different scripts together. I don't think it's ever a problem to have multiple villains as long as you can tell a story that works as a coherent thematic whole, using all of the various foes to strengthen the overall film.
Did I just see Optimus Prime riding a robot dragon?
As someone who has no knowledge of the toys or the cartoons from the '80s, I have no idea what I'm looking at in most of the trailer for "Transformers: Age Of Extinction."
It helps that there's a bit of a shift happening in this film, as Michael Bay attempts to prove that the human stars are the least important part of this franchise. Now that Shia LaBeouf isn't famous anymore and Megan Fox has developed a sudden taste for turtles, this new sequel focuses on a brand-new group of human characters.
Mark Wahlberg and Michael Bay working together is reason enough to see an action movie, but adding in the giant-scale lunacy of the "Transformers" movies so far seems like a recipe for… something. What? That remains to be seen.
This morning began early for me with a soccer practice for Toshi, and when I walked into the house around noon, I had no idea anything had happened. Twenty seconds of looking at Twitter, though, immediately had me rushing to the e-mail to check, and sure enough, there was a long e-mail thread already being sent back and forth by the rest of the editorial staff of HitFix about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Even now, a few hours later, it seems surreal to me that he's genuinely gone. I suspect it will take a while for it to seem real to me, especially since he's still got a number of performances set to be released. As we discussed his passing this morning, we all had different performances and moments that we brought up, moments that meant so much to us.
While it's impossible to articulate the loss that has occurred today, what we can do is offer up some thoughts on what his work meant to us. Even this feels like we're just glancing over his remarkable filmography, just barely articulating the depth of what he expressed through his work over the years.
The buzz has been building behind the scenes for the last few months, and if this new trailer for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is anything to judge by, the buzz is right.
This looks awesome.
What works best for the Marvel movies at this point is the sense of mounting continuity. Film to film, we're getting to know these characters better, and there is a sense of cause and effect. Actions in one film have consequences in another. I thought it was one of the nicest moments in the entire series so far when in a recent episode of "Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.", the characters took notice of a memorial wall in a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility with names of fallen agents, and Bucky Barnes was one of the people listed there.
As fans of the comics know, though, Bucky's fate was more complicated than a simple death, and from the moment Marvel announced the title for the sequel to "Captain America: The First Avenger," they have been waiting to see how Marvel would handle not only the introduction of The Winter Soldier, but the entire mythology around him.
Updated: A follow up statement on behalf of "Hunger Games: Mockingjay" director Francis Lawrence, author Suzanne Collins, producer Nina Jacobson, star Jennifer Lawrence and the cast and crew of "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 1 & 2" was released regarding the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman.
"Words cannot convey the devastating loss we are all feeling right now. Philip was a wonderful person and an exceptional talent, and our hearts are breaking. Our deepest thoughts and condolences go out to his family."
- Statement from Francis Lawrence, Suzanne Collins, Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik, and Jennifer Lawrence on behalf of the cast and crew of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 1 & 2
Original post: This is certainly not the only thing I will be writing today about the great Philip Seymour Hoffman, but since Lionsgate sent out a statement to acknowledge how deeply the cast and crew of the "Hunger Games" movies has been struck by the passing of Hoffman, we wanted to update fans about what they can expect from the final two films in the series.
It can never be easy for a filmmaker to think of practical considerations when they are still grappling with the overwhelming grief that comes from losing someone. When I saw Francis Lawrence at a small gathering just before the release of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," one of the things we talked about what the role played by Hoffman in the film.
In particular, I was struck by what a canny challenge it was for a performer to play the role the way Hoffman did. For the majority of the running time, Plutarch Heavensbee seems to be the bad guy, or at least one of them. He's the guy in charge of the games, and he seems to be deeply complicit in trying to not only kill Katniss Everdeen, but to also discredit her and to destroy her as a symbol.
PARK CITY - Before the Friday night premiere of "They Came Together" at the Eccles Center in Park City, John Cooper talked about the reaction the programming team had back in 2001 when they saw "Wet Hot American Summer" for the first time.
"We had to ask ourselves if it was okay to show a comedy at Sundance," he said. "So thank you to David Wain and Michael Showalter for showing us that, yes, it is okay to show a comedy at Sundance." That seemed like an unintentional middle finger to Kevin Smith whose "Clerks" had played Sundance prior to 2001, but perhaps Cooper just got his timeline confused a bit. The point was obviously more to praise Wain and Showalter for making movies that have one very pointed goal: to make you laugh. A pet peeve of mine is that moment in almost ever mainstream comedy where the laughs stop and the plot kicks in. There should be a name for that moment, because almost every single time that happens, it kills a good film dead in its tracks. Comedies that manage to make the actual mechanics of the plot part of the comedy and part of the entertainment should be praised and singled out because it is a very difficult skill set to acquire, evidently.
Writer/director Tom Gormican has certainly established a voice for his debut feature, "That Awkward Moment," but unfortunately, it is a grotesque, immature, and cheerfully misogynistic voice, one that I would not want to hear a second time.
Miles Teller, Zac Efron, and Michael B. Jordan play three young successful pretty worry-free guys in Manhattan who have sex often and with lovely partners. They tell some pointless lies to people they allegedly care for, feelings are hurt, and then everything works out exactly the way they want it to and they have more success and more sex and everyone is, as I mentioned, gorgeous.
That's it. That's the story. That's all the complications you can look forward to. That's all the drama you can expect. There are lots of very cheap bathroom jokes, lots of sub-Mamet vulgar banter, and then some miserably executed romantic comedy mechanics. By hiring Teller, Efron, and Jordan, Gormican buys himself a certain amount of audience good will. Teller is establishing himself as a guy who can handle the heaviest drama and who also has a loose and funny persona that can shrug off all the darkness. Efron confuses me. I'm not sure if he's a talented guy who just hasn't found the right film yet or if he's a pretty kid who has coasted on his looks farther than anyone would have reasonably expected. Jordan is on everyone's radar at this point, and he's going to be able to work in big blockbusters and personal indies whenever he wants. The three of them together are able to keep a scene up and moving even when the scene it total junk on the page, and for a while, "That Awkward Moment" almost seems charming.
The first full wave of programming for the 2014 edition of the South By Southwest Film Festival was announced this morning, following a few early titles that were announced recently, and my first reaction, as it is every year, is that there is no way I'm going to get to see everything I want to see at the fest.
They announced 115 films today, and that's just the first wave. There's a Midnighters section they'll announce next week, and then we'll get the full schedule the week after that. One thing that immediately jumps out is that SXSW is starting to build in room for special television-oriented events, screening individual episodes of shows and bringing in the talent behind the series to speak. Shows including HBO's "Silicon Valley," Showtime's "Penny Dreadful," AMC's "Halt" and "Catch Fire," the reboot of "COSMOS" from Fox, and even Robert Rodriguez's "From Dusk Till Dawn" will be represented.
They're also adding a SXSports category this year that both Film and Interactive registrants will be able to attend. It blows my mind that they're actually adding things to SXSW. It is already one of the biggest events I attend, an assault on Austin that just happens to coincide with the spring break of UT, making it one of the rowdiest film events anywhere.
Evan Goldberg may not have the instant name recognition of his creative partner Seth Rogen, but he is every bit as responsible for "Superbad," "Pineapple Express," and "This Is The End," and like Rogen, he is now able to help shepherd younger comic talent through the studio system as a producer.
The two of them are playing that role for the new movie "Neighbors," which stars Rogen and Rose Byrne as a young married couple who spend their life savings buying what they hope is going to be a dream house, a place to raise their newborn child. Instead, they find themselves locked in a sort of comic "Straw Dogs" scenario when a fraternity buys the house next door and proceeds to terrorize Rogen and Byrne with sex and drugs and rock and roll.
On the day I visited the set, I watched Dave Franco, Zac Efron, Seth Rogen, and Rose Byrne all play a scene where the frat guys stop by to announce a Robert De Niro party they're holding. It was a preposterous moment, and director Nicholas Stoller, who I've visited on three films prior to this, was in a gregarious mood, laughing and enjoying each new take.