Margot Robbie is the very picture of potential right now.
She made two significant film appearances in 2013. First, she showed up in the under-seen Richard Curtis film "About Time," where she represented missed opportunity. She was a fetching object of desire, and she had a few nice moments, but it was a brief appearance. In Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf Of Wall Street," however, she is unforgettable, and by the time the film's three hours come to a close, she has made such an indelible impression as The Duchess that I would imagine filmmakers all over Hollywood are scrambling to figure out what role she can play for them.
In person, two things are immediately striking about her. First, yes, she is just as stunning in person as she is onscreen. Second, her Australian accent is more pronounced than I would have expected. After all, one of the most impressive things about her work in "Wolf" is how she nailed that specific Brooklyn accent, but in a way that is heightened just slightly, like everything else about the film.
Margot Robbie is the very picture of potential right now.
Since the embargo is up, I can finally announce that I'm going to be moderating a one-hour onstage conversation with Alejandro Jodorowsky during SXSW this year in Austin.
I've moderated plenty of panels and interviews over the years, but Jodorowsky is one-of-a-kind. I think his work is beautiful and profane and surreal and silly and about eighty other adjectives. "The Holy Mountain," "El Topo," and "Santa Sangre" constitute a filmography so grand that even if he'd never done anything else, he would have secured his place as one of the greats. Last year, "Jodorowsky's Dune" played the festival circuit, detailing his attempts in the early to mid '70s trying to get a film version of Frank Herbert's novel off the ground. I was just flattered to have been interviewed for that. But to get a chance to actually spend an hour in conversation with this brilliant artist? And to be able to do it in front of an audience? There are days I can hardly believe this is my job.
I love SXSW every year, and it just seems to keep growing and getting more interesting, more varied. Today's announcement of the first batch of titles is a strong one, but this is all still just the warm-up for the big announcements coming soon.
There's a certain type of movie that I think of as a Harvey Weinstein Oscar Special, and on paper, "Philomena" fits the bill. After all, it's got a starring role for Judi Dench. It's based on a true story that can easily be exploited to create some outrage that can be used to sell the film. And it's directed by Stephen Frears, who is the very model of the kinds of filmmakers that Harvey loves to enlist as he stages his annual march on the Kodak Theater.
While it seems like there's a version of "Philomena" that could have been terribly calculated and cynical, exactly the sort of Oscar bait that it sounds like, the actual film is something very different. Written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope and based on the non-fiction book by Martin Sixsmith, this is a smart, genuinely-felt film that tackles some difficult ideas head-on. I found myself surprisingly moved by the film, and it wasn't at all what I expected.
Philomena Lee (Dench) has spent her life haunted by thoughts of the baby she gave up for adoption when she was very young. It wasn't a choice she made, but one that was forced on her by the nuns at the convent where she was sent when she got pregnant. It's impossible to view what happens to Philomena as anything but an immoral crime, and the idea that it was done in the name of the church is infuriating.
I am an unabashed fan of Ice Cube on film.
Not every film he's been in works, but he's got a presence that I enjoy on film, and when he's got someone to play off of, he can be very funny. I think he's just as much a part of what I enjoy about "Friday" as Chris Tucker was, and frankly, I'm surprised he hasn't done more action-comedies over the years. I think "All About The Benjamins" is a perfectly enjoyable film, and I always root for Cube to make something like that.
"Ride Along" has an incredibly simple premise. Ice Cube plays a hard-assed detective, and Kevin Hart plays the guy who is dating his sister. He wants to prove himself to Cube, and Cube takes great delight in inviting the guy on a ride along with him so he can terrify him. When I sat down with Cube and Hart together, it was the first interview of the year, and it seemed like a nice way to shake off the holiday torpor.
I've seen so many films in my lifetime that it amazes me I can recall things about them even decades after a single viewing. Every year, I add several hundred new films to that list, and I also revisit several hundred old films while also seeing older films for the first time as much as possible. I average three movies a day, and it's entirely likely that between January 1st and December 31st each year, I screen 1000 films or more.
So what sticks? And why? How is it possible that I can retain lines of dialogue or shots or other details about any of those movies, much less something I saw when I was 17 or 18 years old?
More importantly, should I really be able to say that I've got an opinion about a film that I saw over 20 years ago? How much of that opinion do you think would be the same today?
When those films come up in conversation and I say, "Oh, I love that" or "Wow, I hate that film," how can I be sure that I'd feel that way now? There are movies about which I hold very strong positive or negative opinions, and it only recently occurred to me that those opinions might be different now. It's certainly happened. I've seen films and been suddenly struck by some new detail or idea or theme that hits me in some whole new way. It's one of the most important reasons I re-watch any film.
When the last episode of "Marvel's Agents Of SHIELD" aired, it seemed like a natural and intriguing place to hit pause for the season, and they promised that they'd be offering answers when the show finally returned.
So… did they?
Starting with the "previously on" clips package, there is an admirable sense of urgency to the episode. It felt like they took the mid-season break into account, using the entire pre-title teaser to re-introduce the team in action. We get May and Ward breaking up a deal to sell "100% premium grade Chitauri metal," and one guy gets away and takes off running. We get to see Fitz/Simmons and their drones head him off in one direction, we see Skye hacking the building's security network, and when the guy finally reaches the roof, there's a full SHIELD team waiting there with Agent Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) at the head of it.
Picking up 36 hours after Coulson's abduction, things have definitely changed a bit. Agent Hand has taken over The Bus, which is now packed with agents, and it seems that there are two different agendas in play. Hand is looking for Centipede, and the team is worried about Coulson.
I have no doubt that Peter Berg genuinely idolizes the US military.
Every detail in "Lone Survivor" feels carefully considered and deeply felt. Berg's script is lean and rings authentic all the way through. Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch and Taylor Kitsch all seem dedicated to telling this story as truthfully as possible. It is obvious that Peter Berg considers this an important story and that he took the responsibility of bringing it to the screen as something important and urgent.
Despite that, my primary reaction to "Lone Survivor" as a film is "And?" While I can admire the way the story is told, as a story it does nothing for me. We watch a team of SEALs get sent on a mission that, even if it had succeeded would have accomplished nothing of any importance, and then we watch them die one by one. That's pretty much it. I've seen the film twice, looking for something more in it, convinced that I simply hadn't connected with it the first time. Despite the profound sense of respect the film obviously has for the people it depicts, it ultimately strikes me as a hollow exercise.
One of the benefits of living in Los Angeles and covering the film industry is that there are plenty of invites in any given year to premieres and special screenings. While I'm perfectly happy seeing a film under pretty much any condition, it's fun to take the family to a premiere so they can enjoy the party and see a movie in the best possible conditions.
The big winter premiere for the family this year was "Frozen" at the El Capitan, and my kids had a tremendous time with the film and with the party afterwards. They got to meet Josh Gad in the lobby of the theater and when they realized he was Olaf the Snowman, they practically hoisted him onto their shoulders for a victory lap around the room.
It's uncommon for me to get excited about saying hello to someone at a premiere, if only because I've met so many people at this point that there's no real novelty to it. At the "Frozen" premiere, though, I had two people I wanted to speak with, and when I was introduced to them, I gushed. I gushed, and I don't care who knows it. I gushed because I think Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are really, really good at what they do, and between "Avenue Q," "The Book Of Mormon," and "Frozen," I think they've staked a claim for themselves as both hilariously funny and also able to do traditional show tunes as well as anyone working.
There are at least three radically different versions of "Wonder Woman" that I've read over the last fifteen years, all developed by Warner Bros. with different teams of talent attached, and one thing has been painfully evident the entire time.
Warner Bros. does not want to make a Wonder Woman movie.
They think they do. After all, they keep paying people to write scripts, and they keep reassigning the character to different producers. As anyone even remotely interested in the character knows by this point, Gal Gadot was recently hired to play Wonder Woman for the "Man Of Steel" sequel, and there's been a lot of speculation about how the balance of characters is going to be handled in the film.
There are a number of big movies in production right now that I can honestly say I know pretty much start to finish, but the "Man Of Steel" sequel isn't one of them. I know what they've announced so far, and everything else I'm hearing would have to be considered pure rumor. Reports from one person totally contradict reports from another person, and a lot of what I've heard doesn't really make sense. I'm going to try to sort some of this out, and the new Wonder Woman rumors seem like a good place to start.
One of the reasons I've been so excited about "Ant-Man" for so long now is because the premise for the film, as explained years ago by Edgar Wright, sounds like it won't be like any other superhero film we've seen.
The other reason, of course, is because Edgar Wright has one of the most distinct voices in film right now. I'm excited to see how his aggressive visual style fits into the Marvel cinematic universe, and the test footage that was revealed at Comic-Con a few years ago was a tremendously encouraging first look at how Ant-Man's powers could be used in a fight.
Wright's been working on the script for several years now, on and off, with co-writer Joe Cornish, and when I was interviewing Cornish about "Attack The Block," I happened to mention the "Ant-Man" plot I'd heard, and he went a little pale. "You're not going to print that, are you?" he asked, and I assured him that I wasn't going to be the one to ruin all the surprises.