Ridley Scott has never been one to limit himself to dreaming small, and considering how powerful his best work has been, I wouldn't want him to suddenly change the way he does things. That ambition has led to some truly great movies, and I'm sure he's got at least one more great movie in the tank. He does not seem to be showing any signs of flagging energy, and considering he didn't really establish himself as a commercial filmmaker until he was 40, there's always something about him that feels like he's making up for lost time, like he's hungry, even now, even at this point in his considerable career.
So here's the thing.
When I first joined HitFix, back before there was such a thing, when it was a small group of us meeting to discuss what it might be, I had one request based on my experience at Ain't It Cool News.
I wanted an easy to use blog software. I wanted to be able to post short thoughts and long articles alike. I wanted it to be very easy to embed images and links and very easy to post something fast. Ten mirnutes, idea to publish. Twitter is a very specific short form sort of platform. You have to be able to publish an idea in 140 characters. No cheating.
Why do so many people think Benedict Cumberbatch is in "Star Wars"?
I know he's omnipresent in pop culture right now, and I know he worked with JJ Abrams, but at no point has anyone reported that Cumberbatch is part of the new movies, so I find it really confusing when people angrily insist that he has to be the person narrating the first trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
For the record, that is Andy Serkis you hear in the trailer. I was able to verify this, although I was not able to uncover any further information about the role he plays. Here's what I do know, though. He's playing a pivotal role in the film, although he will not have a lot of screen time.
That's right, folks.
A year from now, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" will be omnipresent, but for now, it's still a closely-guarded secret, and Disney decided today to lift the veil for the first time with a trailer that introduces us to plenty of new faces, and we'll have a discussion about it as soon as I've had a chance to watch it 300 times in a row.
Watch the trailer above so you can play along!
Okay... so I caught a little more sleep, then I watched the trailer a few more times, and my first thought is that there's something quietly revolutionary about having the first new face we see from this first new "Star Wars" film be that of John Boyega. And the second new face is Daisy Ridley? Yeah, I think I like this new world order for "Star Wars" right away.
If I was a betting man, I'd say that's Max Von Sydow we're hearing in voice-over. I'm also pretty sure that's Oscar Isaac piloting one of those X-wings.
By far, the most amazing thing about the trailer is that final shot of the Falcon swooping around. What makes it work is that the rest of the trailer focuses on the new. I'll be honest... I thought we were going to get something much more traditionally focused on the returning cast, using clips from other films, with maybe just a few little bits of new footage. Instead, the entire emphasis here is on the new except for that last shot, and that's exciting. There's a confidence to that which gives me some real hope that this is going to be way more than just an exercise in commercial nostalgia.
One of the things we do every year here at HitFix is compile a list of the things we're most looking forward to in the next year. As the end of 2014 approaches, we're gearing up to write that same list for what promises to be one of the craziest year of giant movie releases ever, and as we started work on that, we looked back at last year's list.
Let's just say it was enlightening.
We decided to have some fun with it and issue ourselves a report card to see how well we called it before 2014 began. In some cases, I think we were spot on, but we also overestimated just as many things as we underestimated. Then you've got stuff like "Jupiter Ascending," which won't even make it to theaters until February.
What is clear, though, is that we had strong reasons to make the predictions we did, and no matter how good or bad something looks on paper, there is always room for surprises. That's what makes this job so consistently fun. I may have had a strong suspicion that "Guardians Of The Galaxy" would be fun, but I couldn't have predicted just how strongly it would resonate with audiences. And one of the films I love most this year, Rick Linklater's "Boyhood," was totally under the radar until just before it made its Sundance premiere in January, so we didn't even think to rank it last year.
And since we're the ones doing the grading here, feel free to chime in and tell us if we're letting ourselves off the hook. We take it seriously when we put together a preview of the year ahead in entertainment, and we want you to know that we dig deep before we publish. Looking back like this keeps us constantly pushing to make sure that we make the right call for you.
We'll have our look ahead at 2015 soon, as well as all of our end-of-the-year lists for film, television, music and more, so get ready for a big December here at HitFix.
Ridley Scott seems like one of those guys who is going to be directing movies right up until the moment he finally keels over mid-take at the ripe old age of 107. He just seems unstoppable. He hasn't even released his latest film, "Exodus: Gods and Kings," and he's already shooting his next one, "The Martian," based on the popular book by Andy Weir.
It does not appear, however, that he will actually be directing the "Blade Runner" sequel that they've been discussing for the last few years. In an interview with "Variety" this week, Scott announced that he will not be helming the film, but that they are very close to getting another filmmaker onboard. Scott's been supervising the development of the script for a while now, working with Hampton Fancher, one of the writers of the original "Blade Runner."
First, let's state the obvious and get it out of the way. This is a crass piece of corporate product, an animation studio working more as an IP farm than as a storytelling unit, and it exists so that Dreamworks Animation can continue to wring money out of the "Madagascar" franchise. It is a perfect example of marketing driving the machine.
It's also a profoundly silly movie that really isn't even trying to play by the conventional rules of family animation. They nod to creating a sentimental arc between Private (Christopher Knights) and Skipper (Tom McGrath), but they don't dwell on it, and they handle it with a fairly deft touch. The main goal of the movie is just to be ridiculous, and it does that in spades.
Look, I'll take any flimsy excuse to sit around with Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, and Charlie Day, because just in casual conversation, these guys are all wicked funny.
I may not have been crazy about "Horrible Bosses 2," but I wouldn't lay any of that blame on the three actors. This is a textbook example of a sequel where the creative team lays the entire burden off on the actors. Their job here isn't merely to play the scenes from the script, but to bring it to life somehow, to make it work simply by virtue of the strong natural comic chemistry the three of them share.
If nothing else, the "X-Men" series has one of the most interesting revolving casts in any of the various superhero franchises currently being produced.
It was already interesting enough knowing that they were going to push Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence center-stage for this one to emphasize the love story between Magneto and Mystique. Those two are both such heavy hitters that it sounds genuinely exciting to have them carrying the film. In addition, Channing Tatum is supposed to join the ensemble this time as Gambit, a fan-favorite that was handled poorly in the first "Wolverine" spin-off.
When you cover filmmaking and write about the business and the art of it, there are many times you find yourself criticizing a studio for choices that are being made, and sometimes, it starts to look like you're beating up on a particular studio or playing favorites. The truth is much less interesting, though. The truth is that I react to each project, each film, each announcement, as its own thing. I can't count the number of times I've disliked a film's marketing only to end up loving the movie itself, or vice versa, and it's taught me that each movie exists separate from the conversation around it.
So with that in mind, I am not trying to beat up on Warner Bros. I think ambition is a great thing. Without ambition, there is no greatness. Mainstream filmmaking is a difficult balancing act between fiscal responsibility and artistic intent, and any time anyone navigates that the right way, I find it impressive. I hope that we look back at the upcoming run of DC films and say, "Wow, they did something really special and fun and gigantic." I hope we look back at the trilogy of upcoming JK Rowling "Fantastic Beasts" films and say, "That was a great and different extension of all things 'Potter,' and more fun than I would have expected." And now, I hope that when all is said and done, four movies based on Stephen King's "The Stand" is a creatively-driven choice that pays off and not one of the weirdest money grabs I've ever seen.