I have no doubt that Peter Berg genuinely idolizes the US military.
Every detail in "Lone Survivor" feels carefully considered and deeply felt. Berg's script is lean and rings authentic all the way through. Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch and Taylor Kitsch all seem dedicated to telling this story as truthfully as possible. It is obvious that Peter Berg considers this an important story and that he took the responsibility of bringing it to the screen as something important and urgent.
Despite that, my primary reaction to "Lone Survivor" as a film is "And?" While I can admire the way the story is told, as a story it does nothing for me. We watch a team of SEALs get sent on a mission that, even if it had succeeded would have accomplished nothing of any importance, and then we watch them die one by one. That's pretty much it. I've seen the film twice, looking for something more in it, convinced that I simply hadn't connected with it the first time. Despite the profound sense of respect the film obviously has for the people it depicts, it ultimately strikes me as a hollow exercise.
I have no doubt that Peter Berg genuinely idolizes the US military.
One of the benefits of living in Los Angeles and covering the film industry is that there are plenty of invites in any given year to premieres and special screenings. While I'm perfectly happy seeing a film under pretty much any condition, it's fun to take the family to a premiere so they can enjoy the party and see a movie in the best possible conditions.
The big winter premiere for the family this year was "Frozen" at the El Capitan, and my kids had a tremendous time with the film and with the party afterwards. They got to meet Josh Gad in the lobby of the theater and when they realized he was Olaf the Snowman, they practically hoisted him onto their shoulders for a victory lap around the room.
It's uncommon for me to get excited about saying hello to someone at a premiere, if only because I've met so many people at this point that there's no real novelty to it. At the "Frozen" premiere, though, I had two people I wanted to speak with, and when I was introduced to them, I gushed. I gushed, and I don't care who knows it. I gushed because I think Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are really, really good at what they do, and between "Avenue Q," "The Book Of Mormon," and "Frozen," I think they've staked a claim for themselves as both hilariously funny and also able to do traditional show tunes as well as anyone working.
There are at least three radically different versions of "Wonder Woman" that I've read over the last fifteen years, all developed by Warner Bros. with different teams of talent attached, and one thing has been painfully evident the entire time.
Warner Bros. does not want to make a Wonder Woman movie.
They think they do. After all, they keep paying people to write scripts, and they keep reassigning the character to different producers. As anyone even remotely interested in the character knows by this point, Gal Gadot was recently hired to play Wonder Woman for the "Man Of Steel" sequel, and there's been a lot of speculation about how the balance of characters is going to be handled in the film.
There are a number of big movies in production right now that I can honestly say I know pretty much start to finish, but the "Man Of Steel" sequel isn't one of them. I know what they've announced so far, and everything else I'm hearing would have to be considered pure rumor. Reports from one person totally contradict reports from another person, and a lot of what I've heard doesn't really make sense. I'm going to try to sort some of this out, and the new Wonder Woman rumors seem like a good place to start.
One of the reasons I've been so excited about "Ant-Man" for so long now is because the premise for the film, as explained years ago by Edgar Wright, sounds like it won't be like any other superhero film we've seen.
The other reason, of course, is because Edgar Wright has one of the most distinct voices in film right now. I'm excited to see how his aggressive visual style fits into the Marvel cinematic universe, and the test footage that was revealed at Comic-Con a few years ago was a tremendously encouraging first look at how Ant-Man's powers could be used in a fight.
Wright's been working on the script for several years now, on and off, with co-writer Joe Cornish, and when I was interviewing Cornish about "Attack The Block," I happened to mention the "Ant-Man" plot I'd heard, and he went a little pale. "You're not going to print that, are you?" he asked, and I assured him that I wasn't going to be the one to ruin all the surprises.
HitFix just quietly turned five years old.
The most remarkable part of that is the time frame in which we launched. We could not have picked a worse day for the site to go live. The financial meltdown was happening at the exact moment that we were attempting to start a brand-new media company, and if we'd failed, it would have made us just one more example of how the crisis impacted people.
Instead, we've slowly but surely carved out our own place online, and with each new voice we've added to the mix, HitFix has gotten stronger. For the last five years, I have been blessed by the opportunity to define my own blog by my own interests, and I feel like I've done some of my best work here. "Film Nerd 2.0" has taken on a life of its own, and I am enormously grateful to everyone who has not only read the columns but shared them.
The one thing I don't think we've done as well as we could have is create a larger sense of community in the comments section. Sure, we've got several people who comment regularly, but what I'd really love to see is more conversation. That's hard when we're publishing a review of something that isn't out yet because you guys aren't able to weigh in at that point, and by the time the film is out, that review could be 20 articles back on the blog.
I would be hard-pressed to name any horror franchise that got to film number five that still had my attention in any serious way. I gave up on Freddy Krueger way before most of my peers, I don't acknowledge the existence of more than one film about Michael Myers, and two times around the track with Pinhead was plenty. But somehow, against any logical odds, the "Paranormal Activity" franchise appears to actually still be wringing new tricks out of a very, very basic formula.
"Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" is written and directed by Christopher Landon, and if there's anyone who can be considered the chief architect of the underlying mythology besides Oren Peli at this point, it's Landon. He was the screenwriter on all but the first film, and one of the things I respect about the way they've parceled out the story so far in this particular series is that each movie has added a new idea or a new perspective to paint a portrait of a wide-reaching conspiracy that has taken years to bring to fruition. All of these tapes fill in some part of the story, and in this case, the story being told doesn't appear at first to have any direct connection to the other films. This time, the main characters are Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz), both just out of high school, two Hispanic kids in East LA.
My father is more of a man than I will ever be.
When I say that, I am talking about a particular type of masculinity, the classic definition of it that I was aware of as a young man. Growing up, I felt put upon when asked to do anything that felt remotely like a chore, but looking back at it all now, I can see that he was simply trying to pass along the knowledge he had about doing various things because he thought that knowledge was important to have. As a parent now, I am acutely aware of just how much responsibility comes built into that relationship. Kids are sponges, and every word you say could be endlessly analyzed and considered and internalized by them, good or bad.
There is a Steve Martin joke that I've always loved that plays off that responsibility.
"I've got a great dirty trick you can play on a three-year-old. See, kids learn how to talk from listening to their parents, so whenever you're around them… talk wrong. So now it's like the first day of school and he raises his hand. 'May I mambo rhino dogface to the banana patch?'"
That same premise also serves as the springboard for the disturbing "Dogtooth," the film by Giorgos Lanthimos about three teenagers who have been raised in near-total isolation by their parents, who have intentionally taught them to fear anything outside their walls while intentionally teaching them completely insane language skills.
Does Jason Reitman have an authorial voice?
It's a fair question to ask at this point. After all, he's got a screenplay credit on four of the six feature films he's directed if you include "Men, Women & Children," which is in production now. When you look at the six films, though, I don't really see a common thread or see a common voice between them. Even "Juno" and "Young Adult," both written by Diablo Cody, have very different sensibilities. And "Thank You For Smoking" is about as far away from "Labor Day" in tone and content as possible.
Does he have to have a recognizable singular voice that we hear in each new project? Is that a requirement if we're going to treat him as a "serious" filmmaker? Or is the real mark of his talent his ability to bring a different voice to each story based on the story itself? After all, "Thank You For Smoking" started as a brutally satirical novel that is outrageous in a way that is totally at odds with the sort of wry sincerity of "Up In The Air" or the blistering anger that simmers just below the surface of "Young Adult." Reitman seems far more concerned with finding the best way to tell each story, and less concerned with making himself the main focus of things.
Marvel Studios must be a great place to work these days. They've got one of the best winning streaks in town, both creatively and commercially, and they're reaching a point where they can start to take more chances and try some things that would have been impossible earlier.
I kind of love that "Big Hero 6" image we've got at the top of this story, with Hiro Hamada and his robot Baymax sitting on top of a blimp looking down at the foggy San Fransokyo. Whether it's the fully-animated "Big Hero 6" or the Netflix experiment with "Jessica Jones" and "Daredevil," it's obvious that Disney is willing to try new things, and no project that they have right now better exemplifies that than James Gunn's "Guardians Of The Galaxy."
There's a new image that they've released today that gives us a good look at the five main characters in the movie. Zoe Saldana plays Gamora, a character who has some direct ties to the film's two main villains, Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) and the visually-arresting Nebula (Karen Gillan). Chris Pratt, poised to become a giant movie star to my kids and their peers thanks to this movie, "The LEGO Movie" and "Jurassic World" all in a short period of time, plays Peter Quill, aka Star Lord. Quill is the lead in the film, and as a human being who has been taken to the far side of the galaxy to grow up, he is very much in search of some sense of home.
In an age where hype is non-stop and films claim release dates two years away and viral marketing can sometimes eclipse the actual film it is advertising, what does it mean to say that a film is "anticipated"?
In many cases, there haven't even been official stills or images from some of the films that are on this list, and to the best of my knowledge, no one is preparing to camp outside for a month to be at the first show for any of them. We've seen moments in pop culture where the anticipation for something becomes an event all its own, almost always followed up by a moment where people realize the thing they waited for wasn't what they wanted after all, and it can be amazing to see the passions that anticipation stirs up in people.
Sometimes, it's a matter of a track record. If Bennett Miller is making a film, that's interesting to us automatically. There are two films on this list by the same team, Phil Lord and Chris MIller, and while they sound like totally different movies in the end, there are reasons in both cases for us to optimistic.
Sequels are often among the most anticipated films of the year because audiences grow attached to the things they love. People get excited to see Captain America again or the way Godzilla is coming back to the bigscreen because they have affection for earlier incarnations. That's the whole reason studios are in the remake and sequel business right now. They are building brands more than they're making movies more often than ever, so when we made this list, we tried to gauge just how excited people actually are about these films.