Bill Condon's the right director of 'Beauty and the Beast' for one major reason
Credit: Walt Disney Feature Animation

Bill Condon's the right director of 'Beauty and the Beast' for one major reason

That teaser trailer's just the tip of the iceberg

Bill Condon was an inspired choice by Disney for the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast.

After all, there are few people I know who have a more exhaustive knowledge of musicals, both onscreen and on the stage, and he takes the form seriously. He isn’t afraid to call the sacred cows out when he disagrees, and he cares deeply about how these properties are adapted to the bigscreen. When he was working on Dreamgirls, he was incredibly happy, and there’s a joy to that filmmaking as well as a knowledge of the way musicals typically do or don’t work onscreen.

Disney’s committed to turning every animated film they’ve ever made into a live-action film, although I’m not sure how you define that term anymore. Is Alice Through The Looking Glass a live-action film? Is Pete’s Dragon a live-action film? Is Warcraft a live-action film? When major characters and/or environments are created entirely inside a computer, what do you call that?

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'Star Trek Beyond' drops a new trailer that promises brave new frontiers
Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Star Trek Beyond' drops a new trailer that promises brave new frontiers

Justin Lin's trying to get the series back on track for its 50th anniversary

When Star Trek Into Darkness was released, I found it frustrating because I liked so much of the energy of it, and I love the cast that JJ Abrams put together for his 2009 film. While I think they made some very strange choices regarding the use of Khan in the film, there are still plenty of things I enjoy about the film’s approach to both the classic Star Trek characters and the world itself.

Friday night on the Paramount lot, there was a huge fan event for the series, and one of the key pieces of the evening was the premiere of the new trailer for Star Trek Beyond, which is a fairly important film for the franchise overall. After all, this is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek in the first place, and this is the first film of this new Star Trek series to not have JJ Abrams directing. I forget why he was busy.

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Stephen King spoiled the heck out of 'The Dark Tower,' so let's talk about it
Credit: Marvel Comics

Stephen King spoiled the heck out of 'The Dark Tower,' so let's talk about it

Could they be trying something brand-new with this adaptation?

Stephen King just gave away a secret about the upcoming adaptation of The Dark Tower that I would have though was totally off-limits.

But since he did, let’s talk about it.

First, this entire piece is very, very spoilery. But unless you’re already at least vaguely aware of King’s Dark Tower series, you may not be able to fully decipher what I’m about to lay out. There are lots of times when I read something or learn something about a film that I decide instantly to never reveal, because I have erred in the other direction often enough to have lost friendships over it. There are filmmakers who I like and admire who simply will never speak to me again because I spilled the wrong beans at the wrong time, and I can’t blame them. That’s their work, and they have every right to be upset about whatever they want to. I never do it to hurt a film, but I have certainly done it enough times to know that doesn’t matter what my intentions were.

This time, it’s Stephen King dropping giant spoilers, and as such, I feel like now we can finally talk about the thing I find most interesting and exciting about Nikolaj Arcel’s upcoming film The Dark Tower, with a screenplay credited to Arcel, Akiva Goldsman, Anders Thomas Jensen, and Jeff Pinkner. There have been a lot of drafts of this thing, and a lot of different ideas about how to handle the adaptation. It’s an incredibly dense piece of work, over 4000 pages of books that are augmented by prequel comic books and short stories and all sorts of connections out to the rest of Stephen King’s work, tying together one of the largest shared universes of modern fiction. I still remember when the first time I heard of The Gunslinger was when it showed up in the list of “Other Work” in the front of one of King’s novels. It was a limited-run book that I had to track down, and it cost me an arm and a leg, and I loved it. I loved that it was part of a larger story, that it picked up in media res, and that it was a promise of something more.

As King would occasionally revisit the story and add new chapters to it, I started to worry that he would never be able to finish it. When he actually did finish it, part of the fun was the reveal that the story was, in some ways, never-ending. Roland Deschain, the gunslinger who will be played in the upcoming film by Idris Elba, has been on his quest for his entire life, and that life is much longer than we originally realize as we’re reading the story. There is a circular element built into the narrative, and one of the things that sold me on the story as a whole was the way it ended without truly ending. The material makes it clear that Roland has repeated the entire journey to the Dark Tower more than once and he’ll most likely continue to do it, over and over.

Or at least until he picks up the Horn of Eld and brings it with him.

Oh…wait a minute… let’s look at King’s Tweet from earlier:

Yep. Look, it would take forever to run through all the reasons that single image is exciting, but basically, the reason fans of the books should stop worrying about continuity and just take a step back and wait is because this is not an adaptation in a traditional sense. Instead, what King just promised is a sequel to the books that already exist. And having read at least two drafts of the script, I can confirm that this is a pretty radical approach to bringing these characters to life.

In many ways, this is uncharted territory. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone try something like this, and it’s a really interesting way of not only making something new, but using it to expand and comment on the thing that inspired it. I’ve been a Stephen King fan since I was about eleven years old, and I’ve read the vast majority of his work in order as it was being published. I think he was one of the first people to ever pull off something where you only gradually realized that everything was set in the same fictional world, and those things all added up to a bigger picture, and then once he introduced the larger framework of the Dark Tower, it felt like something really special was happening. Now we’re seeing a potential expansion in a new direction, and if we’re going to see the last time around, the journey where Roland is finally going to get it right, that is thrilling for fans.

I'm also curious to see what this world's version of fantasy looks like. I like that they're shooting in Cape Town, so it's not going to be exactly the same fantasy landscape that we've seen in everything else. I'm stating to worry that Game Of Thrones might be setting a bar for fantasy world-building that no movie is going to be able to match for a while, but this film is very different than most of what we call "fantasy," and there are opportunities to try some brand-new things visually. I had a conversation about this idea with Roth Cornet earlier today, and you can see that embedded above.

Maybe I’m wrong about the approach they're taking. I can tell you that the script makes more sense to me now that I see King do this. It suddenly snapped into focus as more than just “an adaptation where someone’s making some big strange choices” and became a narrative game that I find kind of thrilling. I read the draft a few times trying to make sense of how they were planning to adapt it, and it didn’t make sense to me. There were things that were drawn from all of the books in the series, and it felt like an almost arbitrary reorganization of material.

But what if it’s not? What if King’s telling us right now that we’re getting something brand new? What if we see all sorts of familiar scenes and settings from the books, but a whole different journey for Roland because he’s finally figured out what he has to do to make it through. Will he treat his companions differently this time? Will he even gather the same three people to help him? Or will we start to see some radical changes very soon?

My god… if they’re not careful, I’m going to get really excited about this one.

The Dark Tower starts walking the path in theaters everywhere January 13, 2017.

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Review: Shane Black's 'The Nice Guys' is a raw, rough, rowdy delight
Credit: Warner Bros
B+

Review: Shane Black's 'The Nice Guys' is a raw, rough, rowdy delight

Who would have expected Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling to be the comedy duo of 2016?

Shockingly, this is not a Christmas movie.

In every other way, though, it is a Shane Black movie, and that is reason enough to rejoice. I am more than willing to cop to the fact that part of what I like about Shane Black is that he evidently loves the exact same things I love, and for the exact same reasons. When someone’s making art that hews so closely to my ideal aesthetic, I start half-in-the-bag for the thing. I’ve written often about my love of LA detective stories, especially when set in different eras of the city’s development. Walter Mosley, Raymond Chandler, Thomas Pynchon, Robert Towne, James Ellroy, Michael Connelly… lots of guys have mined this territory to terrific effect, and I have no doubt I’ll take my own shot at it someday. What Black does here is very different than what Paul Thomas Anderson did in Inherent Vice, but it works for me just as completely as that did. The Nice Guys is set during the 1970s, and it’s the height of LA-as-a-smog-factory era, with brown skies so toxic that people have to watch the news to see if it’s safe to go outside. I visited LA in 1980, and it was a very different place than it was a mere ten years later when I moved here. Los Angeles made a serious effort to clean up the air, and it worked, and I think some people may not realize just how bad it got at a certain point.

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'Rules Don't Apply' to the long-rumored Howard Hughes film by Warren Beatty
Credit: 20th Century Fox

'Rules Don't Apply' to the long-rumored Howard Hughes film by Warren Beatty

And you can see it for yourself in November

Warren Beatty’s been talking about Howard Hughes as long as I’ve lived in Los Angeles.

When I was in high school, one of the things I did was devour entire careers on home video as a way of educating myself about various filmmakers and eras. I was aware of Warren Beatty before that, certainly, and remember Heaven Can Wait in particular as a big commercial moment for Beatty. I loved that movie and the weird goofball guy who starred in it, but it was almost a decade later when I finally plunged headlong into his filmography and suddenly realized that I kind of adore Beatty.

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How Shane Black went from 'Lethal' to 'Nice' in only 30 years
Credit: HitFix

How Shane Black went from 'Lethal' to 'Nice' in only 30 years

We cover everything from 'Lethal Weapon' to his latest

This was a long time coming.

I’m not sure how it happens that I never ended up speaking with Shane Black until I visited the set of The Nice Guys, but that’s how it worked out. When Warner told me that Black would be doing interviews for the release of the film, I invited him to the HitFix studio for a longer sit-down conversation, and was thrilled when they scheduled it to happen.

One of the signature lines from Lethal Weapon, the film that put Shane Black on the map as a screenwriter, involves Murtaugh (Danny Glover) wearily opining, “I’m too old for this shit.” It’s become one of the great action movie cliches now, and Black can take all the credit for that. When we sat down, I was curious if he’s reaching that place now himself, and looking at The Nice Guys and watching this conversation a second time, I don’t think we have to worry about Black losing his fastball any time soon. If anything, I think he’s becoming a more Shane Blacky version of Shane Black as time passes. If you trace a line from Lethal Weapon to The Last Boy Scout to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang to The Nice Guys, I think you can see a clear evolution of a voice and a style, and I think he’s more in control now than he’s ever been.

Our conversation covered a fair amount of ground, and he seemed to have no problem discussing anything I brought up. That’s good if you’re curious about his upcoming reboot of The Predator or his Doc Savage movie. He seems to have realistic expectations for The Nice Guys, but I hope you guys make it a bigger hit than he believes it will be. I would love to see him put Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling together again for another case, and I think he’s more than proven that he has this kind of material down cold. He was born to make this type of film, and considering how few people even try, we should be celebrating the fact that we’ve got someone who is so naturally gifted at it. I love Los Angeles detective stories, especially ones set in another era, and Black understands exactly why that’s such a valuable story type.

Don’t support something diluted and thinned out like that awful-looking Lethal Weapon television series coming in the fall. Instead, go right to the tap and support the guy whose voice has been setting the standard for tough guy wise-assery for thirty years now.

The Nice Guys is in theaters on Friday.

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A soft reboot of the Motion/Captured blog is afoot, but what does that mean?
Credit: Universal Home Video

A soft reboot of the Motion/Captured blog is afoot, but what does that mean?

Change can be a good thing... right?

What do you want from me?

Typically, if a movie character says that, it's petulant, exasperated, the end of the line, emotionally-speaking. Michael Fassbender bellows a variation of that line in one of the big emotional beats of X-Men: Apocalypse, and it's a cry of existential horror.

It's not remotely that urgent for me, but it is a question that's on my mind right now because we're at one of those crossroads moments for HitFix. You may not be aware of it, but we were recently sold to Woven Media, the parent company of the Uproxx Media family. We moved into our new offices this week, and we're going to be doing even more video in the near future. We've suddenly got access to all-new resources, and it'll take us a little bit of time to figure out exactly what that means. Last week, we shot our first piece on the new set, and it was interesting to see just how big the studio actually is and how different it's going to be as an environment.

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Review: 'Money Monster' is old-fashioned issue-driven entertainment done well
Credit: Sony Pictures
B-

Review: 'Money Monster' is old-fashioned issue-driven entertainment done well

Jodie Foster gets her Sidney Lumet on with this one

Sidney Lumet would like Money Monster quite a bit.

There was a tradition of filmmaking that seems to be on the wane these days that involved wrapping a social issue or a social injustice and wrapping it in a nice juicy dramatic situation. When done perfectly, you get 12 Angry Men or Dog Day Afternoon or Network. Lumet was so good at both understanding exactly how to frame the moral argument and knowing how to play the entertainment, and it’s a bit of a lost art now. I’ve always felt like the inelegant version of this particular type of storytelling was embodied by Stanley Kramer, who tilted more towards the message end of the equation. It’s a tough thing to get right, and Jodie Foster deserves credit for orchestrating things with a nimble wit and a relentless energy.

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Harley Quinn's hotpants may pave the way to DC's most feminist comic book movie yet
Credit: Warner Bros

Harley Quinn's hotpants may pave the way to DC's most feminist comic book movie yet

Margot Robbie's taking the controls of what sounds like a great idea

Borys Kit must have known it’s almost my birthday, because he got me an early present when he broke the news today that Warner Bros. is developing a Harley Quinn movie for Margot Robbie.

It does not surprise me that they are moving quickly to nail down an ongoing relationship with Robbie, because everything I’ve heard about Suicide Squad from people working on and around the movie is that she absolutely owns the movie. I’ve been asked about the differences between my reporting on the reshoots for the film and Devin Faraci’s reporting, and I think we’re not really reporting different things. He said he heard the reshoots were to make the film funnier, saying every joke in the original cut had already been used in the trailer. What I heard was that the additional photography was a result of Warner telling director David Ayer “we want more of what’s working,” and that meant, in large part, more Harley Quinn.

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Review: 'Alice Through The Looking Glass' is a dazzling but hollow nightmare
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures
D+

Review: 'Alice Through The Looking Glass' is a dazzling but hollow nightmare

Boy, these movies are not for me

Well, it’s better than the first one.

That is by no means an endorsement. Instead, it’s an acknowledgment that when it comes to mainstream Hollywood trauma, few scars run as deep as Alice In Wonderland. When Tim Burton gets to Hell, this is the film that will kick off the highlights reel they screen. A near-total refutation of what makes Lewis Carroll’s enduring classic endure, that first film tested my patience in a way few Hollywood films do. I’ve said it before… to be a film critic, you need to generally love movies. You need to love the very act of walking into a theater, sitting down among a crowd of strangers, and then taking that ride when the lights go out. I’ve written before about how it’s my church, and of course, I root for that experience to be great every time it happens. That is not the case, though, and I try to be honest and clear about what happens when that experience turns out to be a bust. It’s not enough to say, “I didn’t like this.”

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