I am honestly surprised by just how omnipresent LEGO is in the daily play lives of my kids.
When I was young, LEGO was a make-your-own sort of thing. Sure, there were plenty of playsets, but they were still general things like "space" or "construction" or whatever. These days, LEGO is a licensing powerhouse, working with dozens of partners on videogames and toys and even movies.
Chris Miller and Phil Lord only have two credits so far as directors for feature films, but when "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs" and "21 Jump Street" are the two films you've made, that's a pretty strong one-two punch. What those two films have in common is the way they took unlikely premises and spun them into very effective and sincere piece of entertainment. These are guys you can trust to take the difficult and figure it out, so maybe they're the perfect fit for Warner's upcoming gamble, "The LEGO Movie."
Right now, they're reaching out to you, the eventual audience for "The Lego Movie," and they're offering you a chance to have an impact on the film you'll eventually see in theaters. They're in the home stretch, and they want to make sure that anyone that might be interested has a chance to enter.
I am honestly surprised by just how omnipresent LEGO is in the daily play lives of my kids.
I suspect there are some people who simply aren't built to do press.
Winona Ryder has been, in every single interaction I've had with her over the last twenty three years, lovely each and every time. I spent a fair amount of time on the set of "Edward Scissorhands" when it shot in Tampa, and that was the early days of the tabloids being interested in her because of her co-star and then-boyfriend Johnny Depp. It was obvious back then that she loved the actual work in front of the camera and she loved the collaboration with Tim Burton and the other actors and she hated hated HATED the press and, in particular, photographers.
She has been far less visible in recent years, and part of that is just a natural reaction to the way the industry writes for women. Ryder's at an age that Hollywood doesn't know what to do with, and so there aren't a lot of things written that would interest her or that seem like the right fit for her.
If you consider "Star Trek Into Darkness" to be part thirteen of a larger franchise, you may walk away frustrated and tied in knots if the reactions I saw after a screening were any indication. Conversely, if this is part two of a new franchise in your mind, chances are you're going to have a great time with the continuation of what JJ Abrams and his collaborators began in 2009's "Star Trek." I find myself somewhere in the middle of those two camps, ultimately coming down on the side of the film as a pretty relentless piece of summer entertainment, anchored by what I consider one of the most exciting movie star performances in recent memory. I think they make some missteps in trying to service every "Trek" fan equally, but not insurmountably.
I feel badly for the hardcore "Star Trek" fans who don't like this new version, because I know what it's been like for them in the years where there were no new "Trek" movies in the works, and I know what it's been like for them loving something that was always considered somewhat left of center, always in danger of going away forever. While "Trek" has managed to survive for nearly 50 years at this point, there have definitely been lean times where Paramount didn't see much upside in continuing to throw money at something that just couldn't cross over to be a full-fledged mainstream sensation. And now that it's finally become part of the Nerd World Order in this new age of the Geek, the most devoted of the "Trek" fans seem irritated by the whole thing.
At this point in my career, I like to think that I'm a pretty good interviewer. The more time you give me with someone, the better the conversation will be, and the deeper we'll get into certain ideas.
The real frustration of on-camera interviews is that they are, by their very nature, short. If you get five full minutes with someone, it's a luxury. And those aren't what I would call conversations. They are rapid-fire exchanges where you're trying to get one great answer out of it, and that's if you're lucky.
It becomes even more complicated in a case like my recent conversation with Michael Shannon for the new film "The Iceman," where he stars as Richard Kuklinski, a real-life Mafia hitman. It's a solid film and a great performance, and I wanted to talk to him about the work he did in the film and the research he did on the real guy.
When I sat down to talk to Sir Ben Kingsley, the first thing I told him was that I would hold the interview until after the release of the film if we ventured too far into spoiler territory. It's one of the first times I've ever said anything like that to an actor, but then again, not everyone plays a role like the one that Sir Kingsley plays in "Iron Man 3."
In the end, I think we were careful enough that you can watch and we don't give the game away. If you've seen the film, though, I think you'll appreciate how we talked about the film and his role in it. He doesn't dodge the questions, and he's not playing coy. He's just very careful about how he says things.
By far, the most controversial part of "Iron Man 3" fans is going to end up being The Mandarin and the choices that Shane Black made about how to depict the character. One of the reasons I think the movie works so well is because Shane Black and Drew Pearce took some chances in the script and they made some big choices about how to portray certain events and certain characters.
There are a number of outlets that I would argue do a good job covering the oh-so-broad world of entertainment, and I certainly hope HitFix is one of those sites. But for some writers, having a much more narrow focus allows them to do one thing very, very well, and a great example of that would be Red Vines & Cigarettes, a website devoted to the work of Paul Thomas Anderson.
It should surprise no one that the first firm word of what's going on with "Inherent Vice," the next film from the writer/director of "The Master," "There Will Be Blood," and "Boogie Nights," would come from this particular source, but the news itself is somewhat surprising, if only because it looks like a very different process for the filmmaker this time.
Anderson has always been independent-minded, even if he did make "Punch-Drunk Love" for Revolution and even if he had the support of New Line as they were trying to make the jump from mini-major to major-major. His first film, "Hard Eight," was something he put together himself, and on his last movie, he had Megan Ellison and the very deep pockets of her Anapurna Pictures to help him realize his vision.
I'm curious… does anyone think it actually matters what human cast they put together for a "Transformers" movie at this point?
After all, even though I gave the last film a positive review, that was for the Bayhem and the hour-long siege in Chicago, which I still think is a dazzling extended bit of action filmmaking. Everything that is wrong with the "Transformers" series can be traced to every scene in the films that does not involve giant robots bashing the hell out of one another.
You can't blame them, really. The first film told a small-scale and somewhat charming variation on a "boy and his car" story, a coming-of-age piece that also happened to involve giant extraterrestrial shape-shifters. Each of the sequels has added an unnecessary sense of bloat to the proceedings, though, and even as they've gotten more bizarre, they've grossed more and more money. It's become harder to sit through long stretches of "character comedy" that is often filled with some of the strangest choices you'll ever see in a mainstream blockbuster.
At this point, I'll bet even Hugh Jackman is wondering just how much Wolverine is too much Wolverine.
Right now, they aren't even done with "The Wolverine," the Japan-set stand-alone film by James Mangold that's coming out in July, and Hugh Jackman is already doing wardrobe tests for the about-to-start-shooting "X-Men: Days Of Future Past."
Bryan Singer, returning to the world of "X-Men" for the first time since he left Fox in turmoil so he could go direct "Superman Returns," seems to be enjoying every single part of the pre-production process, and he's being fairly open with imagery via his Twitter account. I ran a photo last week that he sent out from Storm's wardrobe test, showing off Halle Berry's new look, and yesterday, he had a little fun with the way fandom is freaking out over every little thing he releases by putting out the first image of Wolverine from "DOFP."
I love watching a long-term artistic collaboration come into focus. When Neill Blomkamp released "District 9," one thing that was obvious was that Blomkamp and his star Sharlto Copley had a great chemistry, and that they were both equally important to the way that film worked.
A few weeks ago, when I went to the special event for "Elysium," both Copley and Blomkamp were present and they were talking about how they adjusted their method of collaboration for this new film. What was evident was the kinship they feel and the connection they have. They have that thing you need in a constant collaborator, that ability to not only know what the other guy is thinking but to throw things at him that he might not expect. There is a trust that is inherent to the way they communicate, and as a result, I hope they continue making films together for as long as they're both interested.
One of the ways I feel like I'm disconnected from the way a lot of people digest pop culture is the way I tune out celebrity gossip almost completely. When I hear someone say that they "hate" a celebrity, I wonder what gets them to that point. There are no celebrities who matter enough in my world for me to hate any of them, and certainly not because of the way they live.
Case in point: when I think of Gwyneth Paltrow, I think of her onscreen work. I think of the first time I saw her in the largely unseen gem "Flesh and Bone," where she was captivating and carnal and impressive. Over the years, I've liked much of her work, and she's made her fair share of films that did nothing for me. Through it all, it never occurred to me to hate her.
Is it because she's married to a rock star and because she runs a lifestyle blog? Because I've never visited it, and I'm not even sure what it's called, and I certainly don't think there's any chance anyone's going to force me to read it any time soon. And who cares who she's married to? I think the reason many people love gossip is because it gives them something to compare their own life to, and when they see someone living better than them, it gives them a specific target for their anger.
Is it because she was just picked as "The Most Beautiful Woman Alive" by People magazine? Because that's another thing that seems very silly to be upset by. It's not like she demanded that they run the headline, like when M. Night Shyamalan insisted they call him "The New Hitchcock" in a story. I doubt she campaigned for it at all. She's got a big new high-profile film coming out, so it makes sense that they'd pick her.
When we sat down, all I knew was that I wanted to talk about the way her role in "Iron Man 3" has evolved. I think I accidentally offended her a bit when I asked her how it was to step into the energy between Robert Downey Jr. and Shane Black, because she made a point of explaining that Shane was the newcomer, and that he was the one joining their family. That's totally true, of course. She's been part of the Marvel Universe since "Iron Man," and now that her contract is up, it's time to reflect on the experiences she's had so far and decide if she's going to stay involved moving forward. The things they have her do in this film definitely shook up the sense of sameness that can set in after playing a part four or five times, and she sounded like it was a good experience.
Will we see more of Pepper and Tony? I'd bet on it. Right now, these people have a real sense of ownership over the characters they've established on film, and I think money is only one small part of the decisions they'll be making about the future.
And if you seriously feel like you need to say terrible personal things about Paltrow, do it elsewhere. I would rather have a conversation about her work than about any weird baggage you've picked up because you spend too much time reading about her personal life. Everyone I've ever known who worked with her has great things to say about how she is on a set and what she brings to the table in a collaboration, and those are the things that matter here.
"Iron Man 3" will blow the back wall out of your local theater starting Friday.