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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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New details on 'Warcraft' movie give viewers equal time with Alliance and Horde
Credit: Legendary

New details on 'Warcraft' movie give viewers equal time with Alliance and Horde

BlizzCon seems like the perfect place to start this conversation

Well, of COURSE they did the first big reveal for "Warcraft" details at BlizzCon.

It's only fitting that they would speak directly to the most actively engaged fans of everything having to do with the universe that's been created and carefully tended by Blizzard Entertainment. They have been very careful about the way they've exploited that fanbase, the way they've spun things into other media. They've taken their time. They have not rushed to get to this moment, so this sort of reveal is designed to speak directly to people who love this and take it seriously. Duncan Jones, the director of 2016's big fantasy epic, was at the convention today along with Chris Metzen (Senior Vice President of Story and Franchise Development for Blizzard Entertainment), VFX legend Bill Westenhofer (VFX supervisor for the film), and Rob Kazinsky, one of the stars of the movie.

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Jamie Chung and Genesis Rodriguez are no one's sidekicks in 'Big Hero 6'
Credit: HitFix

Jamie Chung and Genesis Rodriguez are no one's sidekicks in 'Big Hero 6'

It's so nice to see how these characters are treated in the film

While I would never recommend a film only because of its message or its themes, when a movie can entertain and inspire in equal measure, I consider it a tremendous bonus. That's the case with "Big Hero 6," which opens in theaters everywhere this weekend. It is a fun, sweet, occasionally very silly superhero story that mixes equal parts Disney Feature Animation and Marvel Comics to excellent effect. It is also, unabashedly, a film that celebrates the virtues of being smart.

It amazes me that we should have to reinforce that idea at all. It should be a given at this point that there is something admirable about genuine intellectual curiosity, and it should be exciting on a cultural level when we make major breakthroughs in science. Instead, there seems to be a cultural divide, and it seems to be getting wider, in which there are people who are defiantly proud to be stupid. We have a mainstream where every opinion, no matter how stupid, is given equal weight, and we pretend that it's all about opinion instead of fact.

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'Ask Drew' features a Michael Jackson memory and a very personal Movie God game
Credit: 20th Century Fox/Dreamworks Animation

'Ask Drew' features a Michael Jackson memory and a very personal Movie God game

We lost one of my favorite answers this week to a tech glitch

It's always a bummer when a technical glitch happens.

This week, we lost an entire question and answer to some sort of strange microphone flutter. Someone wrote in to ask about the year 1994, asking if there were films that were overshadowed by "Pulp Fiction" that year that deserved some praise, and I took the opportunity to sing the praises of Roger Avary's "Killing Zoe" for a bit. I love that movie, and I think it's got a great dark evil energy about it. The work by Eric Stoltz and Julie Delpy is outstanding, and Jean-Hugues Anglade is like some mad hallucination in it.

Anyway, we had to lose the whole thing, so it's a quicker-than-normal episode of "Ask Drew!" this week. We had a longer-than-expected hiatus between episodes, and we'll be turning that around and getting back on the every-other-week schedule now. It was my schedule that complicated everything. Our video team is always up for for this, and they said we've been getting waves of questions lately.

Remember… you need to send your question directly to video@hitfix.com so that they can compile them without me seeing anything. We played Movie God again this week, and it was a very specific variation on the game, with them pitting two infamous articles I wrote against each other.

We'll be back with a new "Ask Drew" sooner rather than later, so keep the questions coming in, and thanks as always for playing along.

Review: Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac anchor peculiar and powerful 'A Most Violent Year'
Credit: A24

Review: Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac anchor peculiar and powerful 'A Most Violent Year'

HitFix
A
Readers
n/a
Oscar Isaac has been edging towards his movie star moment for a while

New York CIty, 1981, is a blasted moral hellscape against which a very primal struggle for survival unfolds in a very tense thirty days, all for the right to supply homes with heating oil.

J. C. Chandor's "A Most Violent Year" is a powerfully told story, a thrilling surprise, and both Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain do remarkable work as a couple trying to close a deal that will turn their heating oil company into a much larger overall business, the deal they've been working their whole lives to prepare. This one particular month starts with them confident, convinced they're going to take things to the next level, and it unfolds with them increasingly unsure that they're going to pull it off. It is a movie about an entire city conspiring to test a marriage, and the way this one particular couple fights their way through.

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Disney confirms John Lasseter will direct 'Toy Story 4' for June 2017 release
Credit: Pixar

Disney confirms John Lasseter will direct 'Toy Story 4' for June 2017 release

No other details are known so far

File this one under "inevitable."

Bob Iger held an earnings call on Thursday afternoon, and as part of that call, he announced that John Lasseter will direct "Toy Story 4" for the studio, with the film scheduled to arrive in theaters June 2017.

This shouldn't shock anyone. "Toy Story" was not only the film that launched Pixar as a feature animated company, but it has also proven to be their most respected and enduring franchise. They were able to make three films, all of them strong and smart and individual, all of them critically acclaimed as well as financially successful. As franchises go, "Toy Story" is in rare company, one of the few that has yet to disappoint with some entry.

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