Review: Channing Tatum's incendiary work is the highlight of the chilly 'Foxcatcher'
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: Channing Tatum's incendiary work is the highlight of the chilly 'Foxcatcher'

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Why doesn't this one come together completely?

One of the most perverse truths in this world is that we are frequently drawn to the things and the people we cannot have. There are few pains more piercing and more pervasive than the heartbreak of not being able to be with that certain person, and it's not something rational or easy to explain. All of us, at some point in our lives, have felt that magnetic pull, and all of us, at some point in our lives, have felt that same bitter sting when we realize that we will not, in fact, get our fairy tale ending.

Not all of us go homicidal about it, though.

Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" tells a true-life story about a strange, disturbing relationship between Olympic gold medal winner Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and billionaire weirdo John du Pont (Steve Carell), and it is a chilly, unnerving, unblinking take on the events. Miller has made a career out of telling true-life stories, and he is drawn to stories about people at defining moments in their lives. Truman Capote stumbling into the story that ended up becoming his masterpiece. Billy Beane putting his theories, and his career, to the test. And now he turns his dispassionate eye to a seedy, sad little story, and he once again wrangles some remarkable performances out of his cast in the process.

Read Full Post
'Hurt Locker' writer Mark Boal set to buckle some swash with 'Uncharted' adaptation
Credit: Sony Playstation

'Hurt Locker' writer Mark Boal set to buckle some swash with 'Uncharted' adaptation

Sounds like they're close to putting this one in front of the camera

Mark Boal is, frankly, a fantastic choice for "Uncharted."

Boal's screenplays for "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty" are both strong, lean examples of how to tell some very tough stories in a way that both kinetic and intelligent. Boal's got a knack for writing scenes involving military units that make the audience feel like they're on the inside of that very private brotherhood, and I can see how his skill set so far would play directly into "Uncharted."

For those of you who are not familiar with the Playstation game series that is the inspiration for the films, think modern-day Indiana Jones.  The games could have very easily been just a shabby and obvious lift from Jones if the action was good… gamers are often satisfied by the mere attempt at narrative… but it turned out to be more than that, with a central character named Nathan Drake.

In the first game, Drake is determined to find a long-lost treasure that was allegedly discovered by his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. The game play owed just as much to Lara Croft as it did Indiana Jones, and it was a blast to play the game's big set pieces. Since then, each of the "Uncharted" games has been just as much fun, just as good at making Drake into a genuine character and not just an avatar for the player. When fans seem nervous and possessive of "Uncharted" whenever there is news about the movie, it's because this has been such a consistently enjoyable series so far. Naughty Dog has pulled off the trick that Hollywood is always chasing, making a franchise where fans actually seem happy with each new installment.

It sounds like Boal's been brought in to give the film a final polish, with the heavy lifting on the script having been done by David Guggenheim, who wrote "Safe House." I'm really curious to see what Seth Gordon does with big action scenes and the overall tone of adventure. There's nothing on Gordon's filmography that even hints at this kind of material, but that certainly doesn't mean he's incapable of pulling it off. It's just going to be interesting to see what his approach is.

There's no firm release date yet, but "Uncharted" is a major priority for Sony, a studio desperately in search of franchises that work, and if they're so close that they're bringing Boal on for a production polish, then we should expect casting news soon. Mark Wahlberg had been attached at one point, and the studio also offered the part to Chris Pratt, but right now, there's no one signed to play Drake.

Might I suggest Jake Johnson?

Sure, it's a little different than what he's done before, but he's the star of one of this year's quietest hits, and he's in next summer's "Jurassic Park 4." What he's got that I think is essential for this kind of a movie is a sort of world-weary sense of humor. If the action is credible, his sense of humor is what's going to make those sequences really work.

Here's hoping Sony really has cracked this. "Uncharted" could make a successful jump from game to movie, something that still seems elusive, and hiring a guy like Boal to finesse the project sounds like a step in the right direction.

Read Full Post
Review: 'Dumb and Dumber To' is a gentle but genuine Farrelly Bros comedy
Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: 'Dumb and Dumber To' is a gentle but genuine Farrelly Bros comedy

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
It's strange seeing them back twenty years later, but some of it really works

It feels like only ten minutes ago I was writing about the work of Sean Anders and John Morris.

Oh, wait, it was. November is a big month for the comic filmmakers. They're the writer and director behind "Horrible Bosses 2," and they wrote the script for "Dumb and Dumber To," the twenty-years-later sequel to the first film by Pete and Bobby Farrelly, who are once again directing, with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels returning to their roles as well.

I had to go back after seeing "Dumb and Dumber To" and see the first film for the first time since it was in theaters. While I love rewatching movies, I also see so many new films every year that there are times I just never quite get around to seeing something a second time. It's been an interesting 20 years for the Farrelly Brothers, and in that time, I've gotten to know them and their work fairly well. What I love most about their world view is how inclusive it is. When you look at the background and the foreground of a Farrelly Bros film, you see a world with way more hue than you normally see from Hollywood, and you see a world in which people with disabilities are front and center and not shoved off into corners or just out of the camera's range.

Read Full Post
Review: 'Horrible Bosses 2' has funny pieces but is even more mild-mannered than the first
Credit: Warner Bros

Review: 'Horrible Bosses 2' has funny pieces but is even more mild-mannered than the first

HitFix
C
Readers
B-
It's the ultimate franchise for not trying too hard

On the one hand, I respect anyone who can devise a formula that works for them and for an audience, and while I wasn't a huge fan of the film, the first "Horrible Bosses" seemed to connect with audiences three years ago. The appeal of that film, and one that seems like it's pretty smart in its universal appeal, is that we have all had bosses we hate at some point. Watching characters we like get one up on people we hate is something that seems enormously easy to enjoy.

My problem with the first film was that it felt like it never really embraced its premise. It wasn't mean enough, and I guess I hoped we'd see them cut loose in "Horrible Bosses 2" and really go for the dark humor the first film promised but soft-pedaled. After all, they were adding to very game performers in the form of Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine, and the success of the first film should have served as permission to go further.

Read Full Post
'Breaking Bad' alum Michelle MacLaren in talks to direct DC's 'Wonder Woman'
Credit: Warner Bros

'Breaking Bad' alum Michelle MacLaren in talks to direct DC's 'Wonder Woman'

But is this the progressive move it seems to be at first?

Michelle MacLaren is an excellent choice to direct "Wonder Woman."

That has nothing to do with her being a woman.

Director Lexi Alexander has been taking heat this week for some comments she made about the "Wonder Woman" directing job, and I'm amazed at how willing people seem to be to argue with her about something which she's experienced first-hand, something that is fairly accepted wisdom within the entertainment industry, and something that I hope MacLaren is able to avoid completely.

Read Full Post
Review: Bradley Cooper shines but Eastwood misses the mark with stilted 'American Sniper'
Credit: Warner Bros

Review: Bradley Cooper shines but Eastwood misses the mark with stilted 'American Sniper'

HitFix
C
Readers
n/a
This is minor-key for the legendary filmmaker at best

Clint Eastwood is an enormously capable filmmaker who, like any filmmaker who works non-stop, is capable of turning out films that are polished and considered and carefully calibrated, and equally capable of turning out nearly inert movies that are forgettable and barely register. What I find most interesting about his career is the way it took him a while to win critics over to his side, but once he did, he's been almost untouchable ever since. Any other filmmaker coming off of "Jersey Boys" would have been greeted on their next film with open skepticism, but it's a real sign of just how esteemed Eastwood is that he could release that film to near-universal indifference at the start of the summer, and yet his next film can be greeted like an event that sends seismic waves through the already-crowded Oscar season.

One of the things that I tend to avoid in my writing about film is weighing in on awards prospects and the way one film stacks up against another, but an event like Tuesday night's back-to-back screenings at the Egyptian create the direct sense of a horse race. First up was a work-in-progress screening of the sure-looked-finished-to-me "Selma," and then the not-terribly-secret "secret screening" was Eastwood's latest, "American Sniper," and both films were heavily attended by the people who spend their time handicapping the various awards ahead. While I'm still not going to wade into that conversation, it was interesting to see just how nakedly the AFI Fest has now become part of the strategic thinking about when and how to show things.

Read Full Post
Review: Mark Wahlberg tempts fate in the sly and stylish 'The Gambler'
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Review: Mark Wahlberg tempts fate in the sly and stylish 'The Gambler'

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Why isn't Brie Larson in every scene in this film?

For the purposes of this review, it doesn't matter that there's a movie from the '70s starring James Caan that is a key piece of the James Toback mythology as created by James Toback himself that is also called "The Gambler." This film doesn't exist without that film as a springboard, but screenwriter William Monahan, director Rupert Wyatt, and star Mark Wahlberg have made something that lives and dies on its own merits, in its own voice, worthy of its own conversation.

"The Gambler" details a week in the life of a desperate man. Setting a ticking clock is an easy way to get the audience hooked early. In "A Most Violent Year," someone signs a business deal that has a hard 30-day-pay-or-quit clause built in, and you know that you're going to see every second of every one of those days of someone struggling to meet that deadline. In this film, from the start, they're telling you there are seven days left. Then six. Then five. We see we're counting backwards. To what, we're not sure, and the movie keeps you guessing until the final insane act. Jim Bennett (Wahlberg) is never presented as anything less than a degenerate, a man who will seriously do anything in pursuit of a very specific high. He's just good enough to make it heartbreaking, and he's just smart enough to know what he's doing to himself.

Read Full Post
Why Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in 'Suicide Squad' would be important for DC movies
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Why Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in 'Suicide Squad' would be important for DC movies

This is one way I'd be excited about Jared Leto as the Joker

The Joker is not some sacred, impossible-to-touch character simply because Heath Ledger did a great job playing him in "The Dark Knight."

Far from it, actually. The Joker remains one of the most potent, richly-imagined villains in all of pop culture, and the notion of DC movies being made moving forward without any version of The Joker popping up at any point is, frankly, ludicrous. As long as you are telling Batman stories, you will also at some point be telling Joker stories, and that's fine.

However, there's no denying that Ledger's version of The Joker is an impressive one. The mere fact that it was so well-liked after Jack Nicholson's version had been anointed by pop culture back in 1989 was impressive. After all, you could argue that without Nicholson, that first film doesn't become the phenomenon it eventually became. I think 25 years is long enough for me to let go of my resentments about that version, and more than that, I think the real lesson is that The Joker can survive any reinterpretation.

Read Full Post
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels say only they can play their 'Dumb & Dumber' roles
Credit: HitFix

Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels say only they can play their 'Dumb & Dumber' roles

And it sounds like they had fun torturing Kathleen Turner

One of the strangest things about "Dumb and Dumber To," and there are plenty, is watching Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey step back into the characters they last played twenty years ago. The film was part of the first big push of Jim Carrey's movie stardom, and it was the announcement of the Farrelly Brothers as comedy filmmakers. Jeff Daniels was, by far, the most experienced part of the puzzle. For all of them, the film was a very special moment.

When I recently sat down with Carrey and Daniels, the main question I had for them was about making something now that somehow honors or lives up to not only the first film, but also the way people feel about that film.

Read Full Post
Review: 'The Tribe' uses only sign language to tell a hard and haunting story
Credit: Drafthouse Films

Review: 'The Tribe' uses only sign language to tell a hard and haunting story

HitFix
A
Readers
n/a
Love it or hate it, you'll never forget this one

From the moment the company was formed, Drafthouse Films has been about taking on challenges that are worth the time and effort. After all, the first film they distributed was the brilliant Chris Morris comedy "Four Lions," a movie that dared take a dark comic look at suicide bombers. That's not why the film is great, of course. Anyone can try to offend. There's no skill in that. But Morris made something smart and human and worthwhile, and Drafthouse did their very best to get the film the best possible release.

So when you describe a film as a "hard sell," it may be terrifying to some distributors, but not Drafthouse. If they believe in something, they'll take the chance and they'll do their best. One of the most unusual films they own right now played Cannes, Toronto and Fantastic Fest, and it's playing now at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles, and it is the sort of film that is worth seeing more than once, and it's absolutely worth sharing with other people.

Read Full Post