<p>I&nbsp;have never worked harder to keep eye contact with an interview subject than I did with the uber-charming Rinko Kikuchi</p>

I have never worked harder to keep eye contact with an interview subject than I did with the uber-charming Rinko Kikuchi

Credit: HitFix

Rinko Kikuchi on how trauma forms character in 'Pacific Rim'

Plus she talks about her collaboration with Guillermo Del Toro

Rinko Kikuchi has now been directed by two of the Three Amigos, and both times, she's done wonderful work.

Innaritu's "Babel" is one of those films where, even if you don't love every part of it, there are so many things going on in it that it's worth your attention. In particular, the work of Rinko Kikuchi in the film is so raw, so real, so exposed and vulnerable, that it transcends language. You can watch her work in the movie without subtitles and even if you don't speak a single word of Japanese, her entire performance comes through, loud and clear.

In Guillermo Del Toro's "Pacific Rim," Rinko is once again a key piece of the puzzle, and once again, her ability to open up a character and lay their most private thoughts bare is essential for making something work. Del Toro makes full and canny use of her as a visual element and also as an emotional heavyweight. When she has to land the movie's biggest punches, she does, and she makes you believe that Mako could indeed by the thing that would bring Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) back to life enough to step back into the fray.

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<p>Guillermo Del Toro is hoping his robots vs monsters epic 'Pacific Rim' creates plenty of new monster fans.</p>

Guillermo Del Toro is hoping his robots vs monsters epic 'Pacific Rim' creates plenty of new monster fans.

Credit: HitFix

Guillermo Del Toro talks about the optimism of 'Pacific Rim' and making monsters for young fans

One of our favorite filmmakers is finally back at work

It's no secret that Guillermo Del Toro is one of my favorite people in the film industry today.

There are very few filmmakers who adore genre with the same enthusiasm as Del Toro who can also wrestle the images from their heads directly onto the screen. No matter how outrageous or surreal an idea he has, he is great at turning those ideas into actual physical things. Part of that is because he's a gifted artist in his own right, but it's also because he knows how to mobilize the amazing art departments that he puts together for each of his films.

There are talented filmmakers who I don't feel strongly about on a personal level, but Guillermo is as decent as he is gifted, and when you see how many people work with him over and over, that's because he really does create an atmosphere of family on the films he makes.

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<p>Armie Hammer certainly has the jaw to play a hero, and he definitely rocks the mask in 'The Lone Ranger'</p>

Armie Hammer certainly has the jaw to play a hero, and he definitely rocks the mask in 'The Lone Ranger'

Credit: HitFix

Armie Hammer talks about playing the hero in 'The Lone Ranger'

Can you believe this dude is only 26 years old?

When I was twenty-six years old, I was a WGAw member already with a few produced plays, but I feel like I was still very young in many, many ways. Frankly, I'm amazed anyone took me seriously at that age, because I know for a fact I didn't carry myself with the same poise that Armie Hammer does.

I think he was exactly the right choice for Disney to cast as The Lone Ranger, and I think if they'd done something more traditional with the character, he could have absolutely crushed it. If there's anyone who seems stranded by the script, it's him. Obvious attention was paid to making sure that Tonto is given every bit of quirk and character that Johnny Depp requested, but Hammer is often left high and dry by the strange tonal shifts of the film and the completely inconsistent internal logic of his actions.

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<p>Kristen Wiig talks about playing a love interest to Gru in 'Despicable Me 2'</p>

Kristen Wiig talks about playing a love interest to Gru in 'Despicable Me 2'

Credit: HitFix

Kristen Wiig discusses her role as the love interest in 'Despicable Me 2'

One of Hollywood's funniest ladies is getting busier every day

One of the weirdest little subcategories of things I like is when an actor shows up in two different movies in a film series playing totally different characters for no particular reason.

Weird, right? But now you can add Kristen Wiig to the list of people who have done that, since she played a very small role in "Despicable Me" as a character named "Miss Hattie," and now in "Despicable Me 2," she is front and center as the so-happy-to-be-a-spy-she-is-giddy new character, Lucy. She is also Gru's unlikely love interest in the film, and the two of them have a loose, easy connection that makes their material a lot of fun.

I am equally entertained by the notion that Wiig and Carrell are going to be paired again in "Anchorman: The Legend Continues," and it looks like Brick has met his match, which should be hilarious. The trailer that was only released to theaters has a little bit more footage, and that's where you get a good look at Wiig and Carrell together, both of them dim bulbs in a big way.

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<p>Gore Verbinski talks about his love of Westerns and his conception of 'The Lone Ranger'</p>

Gore Verbinski talks about his love of Westerns and his conception of 'The Lone Ranger'

Credit: HitFix

Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer talk about revitalizing the Western with 'Lone Ranger'

Can they do for the Old West what they did for pirates?

I like Gore Verbinski quite a bit.

I liked his early films like "Mousehunt" and "The Ring," but when he made "Pirates Of The Caribbean," it was like a whole new filmmaker suddenly emerged. Suddenly he was revealed as an amazing action director, a guy who could stage an elaborate sequence on several different fronts, juggling everything with a visual clarity and a sense of geography that is staggering.

As action cinema in the last decade has devolved into a flailing incoherence where shaking the camera to obscure what's happening has replaced creating great action, Verbinski has become an increasingly rare bird. He has also established himself as a very canny gamer of the ratings system. You look at his version of "The Ring" or his "Pirates" films or "The Lone Ranger," and you can see just how much he's managed to sneak by under the guise of a PG-13.

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<p>Steve Carrell seems mightily entertained by the Minions in 'Despicable Me 2'</p>

Steve Carrell seems mightily entertained by the Minions in 'Despicable Me 2'

Credit: HitFix

Steve Carrell compares the Minions of 'Despicable Me 2' to the Marx Brothers

One of Hollywood's nicest guys seems happy to be in the sequel business

At some point, when you interview someone enough times, it starts to feel like you're just checking in, like it's an ongoing conversation that you just return to a few times every year.

I met Steve Carrell the first time on the set of "Anchorman." I visited on the day they shot the big rumble between all of the various news teams, and Carrell was having a great time that day pushing the weirdness of the scene. It was such a playful set, and he was certainly in the spirit of things.

Then I spent a long day with him on "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," and I really got a glimpse of the Steve Carrell that has become a movie star due in large part to that breakthrough performance. He seemed to me like a guy who was very serious about his craft but who wasn't really playing the big-picture career game at that point. When I saw him on the "Get Smart" set, it was starting to feel more like someone had decided that the Steve Carrell brand was a very big brand, and there was more attention and energy focused on every choice. Carrell was still the same guy, but the energy around him was undeniably different.

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<p>There is a preposterous amount of great material on Shout!&nbsp;Factory's amazing new 'No Pryor Restraint' box set</p>

There is a preposterous amount of great material on Shout! Factory's amazing new 'No Pryor Restraint' box set

Credit: Shout! Factory

The new CD box set 'No Pryor Restraint' offers an amazing record of a great American artist

New and old material alike packs every disc in the set

I got challenged by a few of you for something I wrote in my review of "The Internship," and, in hindsight, you are correct about the way I said something.

I mentioned that I feel like Hollywood failed Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, and a number of you pointed out that Vaughn has a co-screenplay credit on "The Internship," which hardly makes him a victim of the system. Owen Wilson has also had

The truth is that Vaughn and Wilson are guys who are still working, even if I think they've been put in certain boxes that are short-sighted in terms of what they are hired to do, and they seem to have made an uneasy peace with what's expected of them. I think there are guys who take to life in the box very easily, and they do it very well, and I think they enjoy what they do. And nobody should be faulted for it. I don't have to enjoy the films, but someone's paying to see them.

If we want to talk about people who Hollywood failed completely, we should look at the case of Richard Pryor. This guy should have been working with great filmmakers from the start. When you talk to people about Pryor, you have to sort of establish up front which Richard Pryor you are talking about. If you judge him by the filmography he left behind, then it's a really unpleasant story. There are some bright spots, and I think Pryor did some very good work at a number of points… but it's really a story of wasted potential.

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<p>Gru (Steve Carrell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) go undercover at a mall to flush out the thief of a special secret formula in 'Despicable Me 2'</p>

Gru (Steve Carrell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) go undercover at a mall to flush out the thief of a special secret formula in 'Despicable Me 2'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: 'Despicable Me 2' offers some big laughs, but the story seems mighty soft

HitFix
B-
Readers
B+
Once again, the Minions steal the show

The original "Despicable Me" is still probably the best overall film that Illumination Entertainment has produced, but they're a young company. I think they tried valiantly with "The Lorax," but they had to add so much busywork to the lean and lovely Dr. Seuss story that it just felt padded. Their live-action/animated hybrid "Hop" is a little too willfully cute for my tastes, but it has more in common with the "Despicable" films, and the ways they're similar sort of define how I think about the company.

Pixar has the best story department in animation, even today, but what Illumination brings to the table is a non-stop joke machine sensibility, and that's what makes their films enjoyable. Even if they don't quite land some thematic point or connect the dots on an emotional arc, the jokes just keep coming, one after another, and way more of them work than don't. "Despicable Me 2" is a less emotionally resonant experience than the first film, but it is positively packed with laughs. There is a sweetness to the movie that works well enough to ground it in something identifiably human, and to be honest, I don't really need "Despicable Me 2" to be as emotionally devastating an experience as something like "The Spectacular Now." The laughs seem way more important to me, and I can't fault the film in that department.

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<p>Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey)&nbsp;and Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson)&nbsp;bond as part of Justice Forever in 'Kick-Ass 2'</p>

Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) bond as part of Justice Forever in 'Kick-Ass 2'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Director Jeff Wadlow talks about the challenges of being the new guy on set for 'Kick-Ass 2'

We discuss the way real life and fiction collide in the sequel

BUCKINGHAMSHIRE - For the first half of my stay on set, I catch glimpses of Jeff Wadlow, but from a distance only. The soundstage I'm on is taken up largely with a rooftop set, and it's on the rooftop that Wadlow is busy staging and shooting the intense final fight between Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), something that's been brewing for two full films now.

It's not until lunch that I got the chance to really sit down and talk with Wadlow, and while he and I were unfamiliar with each other, he seemed immediately ready to discuss anything. I talked to him first about how many familiar faces I saw in every department, and how most of them had a fairly strong sense of what a "Kick-Ass" film should be since they were there for the first one. From Wadlow's script, I got the sense that he had an equally strong idea about what a "Kick-Ass" movie should be, and I asked him how he'd found the process of working with this full company as the newcomer.

"It's been great," he began. "I mean, I've been very lucky in that once they read the script they were in. And I think as you said, that was everything.  When there's talk of the sequel happening without Matthew directing… I heard from my agent, you know, that nothing was a done deal, and he didn't have options on the cast, which was not typical. Normally you have options so it's not really that much of an issue."

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<p>Johnny Depp makes a persuasive case for his approach to playing Tonto in the new film incarnation of 'The Lone Ranger'</p>

Johnny Depp makes a persuasive case for his approach to playing Tonto in the new film incarnation of 'The Lone Ranger'

Credit: HitFix

Johnny Depp discusses playing Tonto and 'Rango' for 'Lone Ranger' director Gore Verbinski

The actor talks about what he gets from this particular partnership

It was about 113 degrees outside in Santa Fe when i sat down to talk to Johnny Depp about his role as Tonto in Gore Verbinski's 'The Lone Ranger,' which opens tomorrow.

I didn't realize how much altitude is also an issue in Santa Fe, and I found myself drinking about a full bottle of water between each interview and still drying out in the middle. I'm not sure how Depp managed to sit there all day and still look like… well, like Johnny Depp. Considering he just turned 50, I'm pretty sure he had the real Fountain Of Youth built into his contract for "Pirates Of The Caribbean 4" as a rider. As always, he seemed soft-spoken and incredibly serious about his work, a good interview because you know that he's really thinking about his answers.

I love "Rango." I think it is so jam-packed with Verbinski's obvious fondness for Westerns that it feels almost giddy, and Rango is a great character for Depp to give voice. There's something perfect about his weird exaggerated appearance and Depp's dry Joe Friday-like delivery that makes me laugh right away. When that film came out, we spoke to Depp about it, and I even asked him at the end of that interview about when we might be able to expect Jim Jarmusch's "Dead Man" on Blu-ray.

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