Part one of a major interview with the Wachowskis - 'Jupiter Ascending' secrets
Credit: Warner Bros

Part one of a major interview with the Wachowskis - 'Jupiter Ascending' secrets

Casting, the bold new way they work with music, and the year's craziest chase scene

When you're at a film festival, it saps you, no matter how you arrange your schedule. There's just something about the pace and the sleep and, in the case of Sundance, the altitude, and it takes a toll.

There are very few people I would get out of bed early for on the morning after returning from Sundance, but when I got an e-mail from the good folks at Warner Bros asking if I would sit down with Lana and Andy Wachowski on the Friday morning that I got back, I told them without hesitation that I would happily be there.

We talked for a few minutes just to catch up personally before I started the formal part of the interview. I think the Wachowskis are genuinely charming people, something I learned during their publicity run for "Cloud Atlas." I was able to spend some time chatting with them, and I thought they were as down to earth and open to conversation as any filmmakers I've met during the 19 years I've been doing this. The moment we started talking this time, it felt like just picking up the same conversation, which is the mark of a true film nerd in my experience. It's that kindred spirit thing that makes it such a powerful connector.

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Film Nerd 2.0 tackles sci-fi and silly waiters in a double-feature double-header
Credit: Warner Bros

Film Nerd 2.0 tackles sci-fi and silly waiters in a double-feature double-header

Big ideas and big laughs make for some memorable Saturday nights

It's Tuesday night, and I'm alone in my apartment for the first time in four days. It was nice to spend that kind of stretch with the boys after being at Sundance, and every day, we had things to do. There was a Super Bowl party, our first together, and an all-media screening of "The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water," as well as a play date with their buddies Dash and Beck.

There was also always, though, a constant pressure to watch something. It's not from me, either. They are voracious, and now that they've got their own shelf of movies that they haven't seen but are allowed to see at the apartment, they are always in the middle of some negotiation with me about what they're going to watch and when.

Lately, they've become infatuated with the idea of the double-feature, and I've learned that the best way to handle that with them is to program very different films that are paired. By creating a sense of contrast, both films end up causing reactions, and the conversations the next day or even between the films can be a blast. Recently, they had two very different double-features, and both ended up feeling like significant experiences.

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Review: The Wachowskis bring mad style to the YA genre in 'Jupiter Ascending'
Credit: Warner Bros

Review: The Wachowskis bring mad style to the YA genre in 'Jupiter Ascending'

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Ridiculous looks good in the hands of these filmmakers

"Jupiter Ascending" plays like someone hired Lana and Andy Wachowski to adapt a particularly crazy YA novel and they took the bones of the thing and ran with it. Fast, frequently teetering on the cusp of the ridiculous, and eye-poppingly pretty, "Jupiter Ascending" is a wicked slice of entertainment, and a heck of an antidote to the typical February box-office blahs.

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) lives with her large Russian family, and she works as a cleaning lady with her mother. Every day is a long blur of the same thing, and every now and then, she likes to try on the fabulous clothes she sees in the homes of the people they work for, knowing full well that will never be her life.

When she is attacked during a medical procedure, the only thing that saves her is the intervention by Caine (Channing Tatum), a strange-looking soldier who wears gravity boots that allow him to skate on any surface in Chicago, an awfully handy means of transportation when they're being chased by alien soldiers who are determined to get their hands on Jupiter because of something they detected in her blood.

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Review: Bobcat Goldthwait's documentary 'Call Me Lucky' is painfully beautiful
Credit: Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Review: Bobcat Goldthwait's documentary 'Call Me Lucky' is painfully beautiful

HitFix
A+
Readers
n/a
One of the most impressive 'sad clown' movies ever made.

PARK CITY - When you cover film and pop culture for 17 years, you end up writing about an incredibly broad spectrum of topics. Even so, there are things that are obviously more important to you or that you care about more, and for me, one of the things that I have always felt strongly about is stand-up comedy.

I took a shot at it early on in life, and very quickly realized that it wasn't for me. As much as I admire the craft, the lifestyle was simply not something I would have survived. There were a number of reasons, but it was a very basic decision when it came down to it. I had something else I loved more, and I can't imagine putting yourself through everything it takes to become a truly great stand-up if you don't love it above and beyond anything else.

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Review: 'Stanford Prison Experiment' tells honest and unflinching true-life story well
Credit: Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Review: 'Stanford Prison Experiment' tells honest and unflinching true-life story well

HitFix
A-
Readers
n/a
By stripping it down, they made it finally feel like the truth

PARK CITY - So now that someone's finally told the story right, can we stop making films about this event?

Of course, the reason to tell this story again is because it's still not something that everyone knows about, and it's a hell of a story. Up till now, though, any time anyone has tried to capture it on film, they've done so in a dishonest way. I've seen both the German "Das Experiment" and the American remake, "The Experiment," and in both of them, things are heightened to the point of absurdity.

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Now that they've found the new 'Ghostbusters,' what should audiences expect?
Credit: Universal Pictures

Now that they've found the new 'Ghostbusters,' what should audiences expect?

And are they really going to land the bad guy they're chasing?

When you're at Sundance, it can sometimes feel like the entire rest of the world has disappeared. It was surreal watching the news about the big east coast snowstorms unfolding on random TVs while walking around Park City, and it sort of felt like there was a real-time disaster movie happening that we were just hearing about in passing.

It's also unusual for news about a future film to pierce the Sundance bubble, but when the news is that they've cast the new Ghostbusters for director Paul Feig, that's worth taking a break so I can offer up some thoughts and a little bit of context for what viewers can expect from the film.

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Review: 'The Hallow' offers up a thrilling Irish monster movie ride
Credit: eOne

Review: 'The Hallow' offers up a thrilling Irish monster movie ride

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
We're going to hear a lot more about this filmmaker.

PARK CITY - One of the things that a filmmaker can do in a film that will win me over in a big way is building actual physical monsters for a monster movie. I am a fan of what computers can do, of course, but there's still nothing better than a movie monster that is beautifully designed and that can actually be shot on-set as part of the scene.

Corin Hardy obviously understands that. His movie "The Hallow," which just had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival's Midnights in Park City program, and it feels like something that could easily be sold to a big mainstream audience. Even so, it also feels like something that was a labor of love for Hardy, who has a long list of things he's worked on over the years. He said this particular project has been cooking for eight full years now, and it certainly feels like something that was hand-crafted. Set on a small Irish island with a dense forest, "The Hallow" is very crafty in the way it sets up the horror elements it plays with, and like "The Shining," it is a film that could be entirely explained without the supernatural except for one… small… thing…

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Review: Ben Mendelsohn bets on Ryan Reynolds in shaggy 'Mississippi Grind'
Credit: Sycamore Pictures

Review: Ben Mendelsohn bets on Ryan Reynolds in shaggy 'Mississippi Grind'

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
This one feels like a step forward for the filmmakers

PARK CITY - It feel like Altman is in the air these days.

There was, after all, a giant coffee table book about him that ended up under the trees of many a film nerd this Christmas, and little by little, his films are making their way onto Blu-ray, and Netflix just recently added a documentary that is a look back at his remarkable career. This fall also saw the release of "Inherent Vice," and while that is an adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel and very much a Paul Thomas Anderson film, there are more than a few echoes of Altman's "The Long Goodbye" in there.

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Review: Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis star in smart and funny 'Sleeping With Other People'
Credit: Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Review: Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis star in smart and funny 'Sleeping With Other People'

HitFix
A
Readers
n/a
Is this the 21st century's 'When Harry Met Sally"?

PARK CITY - One of the most justifiably adored romantic comedies of all time is "When Harry Met Sally," and in the quarter-century since its release, there have been many films that have been compared to it, normally coming up short. It's such a well-made movie that I resist making comparisons to it normally because I think it does other films no favors. So when I say that Leslye Headland's "Sleeping With Other People" is a 21st century worthy successor, that is very high praise.

Certainly there's nothing new about the notion about sexual tension between people who are "just" friends, and there's no groundbreaking insight here that elevates "Sleeping With Other People" automatically. Instead, it's a cumulative thing. There is real wisdom and honesty in every moment of the film, and that's refreshing in a genre that is built largely on fantasy every bit as disconnected from our reality as any superhero film. Romantic comedies have a bad name today, and they should. Most of them are pandering junk that reinforce gender stereotypes, and they set up these unhealthy ideas about how we're supposed to treat each other in relationships. I am frequently amazed when I see one of these films that is built entirely on the premise that everyone lies to everyone else, and yet we're still supposed to care whether or not they find love with one another. The mere notion of what "love" is in movies is often so twisted that I don't recognize it.

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Review: James Franco is the right guy to play gay-or-not in true story 'I Am Michael'
Credit: Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Review: James Franco is the right guy to play gay-or-not in true story 'I Am Michael'

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
The movie's not as good as moments in it, but it's got something real to say

PARK CITY - I would guess there is no working actor right now more suited to playing the lead in "I Am Michael" than James Franco.

Walking into the film this morning, I didn't know what it was about. That's how I like to try to see as many movies as possible at Sundance, because it leaves the opportunity for surprises. As soon as it started, though, I recognized the material, and I became intrigued to see how they were going to approach telling the story of MIchael Glatze, who is best known for being a former high-profile advocate for gay rights who "went straight" in a very public way after a health scare, eventually becoming a Christian pastor and proclaiming himself heterosexual. That's a tough story to tell without demonizing either side of things, and I wasn't sure I really wanted to see a movie that played Glatze as a hero.

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