Todd Phillips makes ugly movies. Yes, they’re comedies, but they typically have a noticeable lack of empathy and humanity. There’s not a lot of joy in his comedies, mostly misery. The Hangover movies get progressively crueler, and War Dogs and Due Date aren’t much different. He’s cold and displays an appetite for pain, and those qualities are turned up to 11 in Joker.
With Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), Phillips couldn’t have found a comic book character more attuned to his divisively morbid sensibilities. The director never would’ve been right for a superhero movie about one of “the good guys,” because his movies are hardly ever about good guys. A movie about Joker probably should look and sound like an abrasive Todd Phillips’ movie. The villain got the director he deserved, and Phillips, whose movies are largely about nothing, found a comic book character he deserved in Arthur Fleck – a man who believes in nothing.
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Hustlers lives comfortably in the grey. Lorene Scafarai‘s movie shows the good deeds and the bad and the right and the wrong, never telling the audience exactly how to feel about it all. The crimes speak for themselves, but Scafaria keeps the characters and the world messy with more empathy than moralizing. The drama, which is based on a wildly entertaining story by journalist Jessica Pressler, has more to it than strippers drugging and stealing big money from their marks. Starring Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers is about friendship, culture, and people dealt a bad hand in life, hungry for the American dream.
Similar to Scafaria’s previous movies, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and The Meddler, the characters are alive and vibrant in Hustlers. The ups and downs of their complicated friendships are as suspenseful as their life of crime. They’re doing a bad thing, without question, but there’s also a lot of good in these characters.
Recently, Scafaria talked to us about the relationships in the movie, a potentially iconic shot of Lopez, and how we’re all hustling.
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The original Pacific Rim is a giddy and eye-popping popcorn movie. While director Guillermo del Toro‘s lavish Kaiju movie was noticeably divisive online, it was embraced worldwide and became a modest box-office hit. The Legendary Pictures production earned enough cash in China to produce sequel, Pacific Rim Uprising, which didn’t live up to the charm and personality of the first movie.
Recently, we asked screenwriter and Carnival Row creator Travis Beacham what he initially had in mind for the franchise following the 2012 movie, since the sequel went in a very different direction than what was initially planned. A part of Beacham’s hope was to go to another world, and more specifically, to the other side of the rift where all the ‘lil blue creatures are cooking up Kaijus.
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Carnival Row has had a long road to Amazon. The project is what opened doors for its creator, Travis Beacham (Pacific Rim), who for a long time thought his original fantasy script would never get made. Things heated up when director Guillermo del Toro and Hugh Jackmanwere attached to make it, but for one reason or another, the script got never produced as a movie. But now, years after Beacham wrote the original script for fun in film school, it’s now an epic fantasy series starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevgine.
“The world here, brought to life through the characters we spend time with, is a rich one, and one that will draw viewers in and have them eagerly waiting for the next season,” Vanessa Armstrong wrote in her review for the site. A second season is already in the making, which Beacham told us a little about after he explained some of his rules for world-building.
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Writing and directing a Sundance darling that sells for $14 million to Amazon is no small feat. Playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo, who never seriously considered directing a movie until writing Brittany Runs a Marathon, is certainly off to a good start as a filmmaker. Making the success all the sweeter: the movie is a personal story for Colaizzo, who loosely based it on his old roommate and his own experiences in his 20s.
For Colaizzo, Brittany Runs a Marathon is a story about finding self-respect and dignity. Tired of being the funny sidekick and the overall state of her life, Brittany (Jillian Bell) decides to focus on self-improvement and starts running. The experience brings out confidence, insecurities, and an array of feelings Brittany grapples with as she struggles with her sense of self.
Recently, Colaizzo took the time to tell us about how his personal experiences influenced the film, handling tonal shifts, and why you don’t need toxic friendships.
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Director Carl Franklin is no stranger to the crime genre. Before shooting four episodes of Mindhunter season two and his illustrious career directing television, Franklin helmed two of the best damn crime movies of the 1990s, One False Move and The Devil in the Blue Dress. He’s an old pro when it comes to crafting exceptional tension, which there’s no shortage of in his episodes of the David Fincher-produced series.
Mindhunter isn’t the first time Franklin and Fincher have collaborated; the Out of Time director first worked with him on House of Cards. As he explained to us, Fincher was more involved this time around on Mindhunter. Franklin, who thankfully has a movie brewing he might direct soon, talked to us about his time working with Fincher, the unique style and stars of the acclaimed series, and a nice memory about the late, great Bill Paxton. At the time of the interview, we had yet to see the episodes he directed before the interview, so it’s a broader discussion about the Netflix series.
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Bill Tench looks like he has the world weighing on his shoulders in season two of Mindhunter. The hunch, the looks of worry and distress, you can feel the restrained F.B.I. agent often coming so close to breaking, especially during a stunning scene in which he confronts, not questions, Charles Manson. The character remains endlessly fascinating to watch, as does the rest of Mindhunter.
Season two marks another one of the many collaborations between actor Holt McCallany and director David Fincher, which is a relationship going back to Alien 3. In-person, McCallany is just as captivating as he is on screen. He has such a great voice, so after hanging onto his every word during our interview with him, I left the Mindhunter junket thinking, “No wonder David Fincher loves filming this guy.” Today, he’s perhaps the closest we have to old school actors like, to name an example, Burt Lancaster, sharing a similar combination of authority and vulnerability. McCallany looks and sounds like a movie star straight out of the ’50s, making him all the more perfect for Bill Tench.
I only saw a handful of episodes before speaking with the actor, hence no questions about the scene with Charles Manson, but he discussed with us the Son of Sam sequence, his longtime collaboration with David Fincher, and Bill Tench’s worldview.
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Jason Sudeikis has a real talent for making characters more likable than they probably are on paper. In the case of his new movie, Driven, he plays John DeLorean’s buddy, Jim Hoffman, a guy with a knack for bullshitting. He frequently lies, and yet there’s something oddly charming about the F.B.I. informant – maybe his honesty about being a bit of a phony. That’s not a level of self-awareness DeLorean, who’s basically Jim Hoffman if he achieved great success, shows in the movie.
The two friends are two sides of the same coin in director Nick Hamm‘s critically well-received drama, which shares no relation to the 2001 Renny Harlin movie co-starring Burt Reynolds. Based on a true story involving cocaine, DeLorean’s iconic car, and the F.B.I., it’s a wild true story about friendship and facade. It’s also a bit of a buddy movie with Sudeikis and Lee Pace playing close but distant friends, both comical in their own ways.
Recently, we had the chance to briefly talk to Sudeikis about playing Hoffman and figures from history, lessons learned from SNL and Second City, and his take on the long-gestating Fletch reboot.
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Another Fletch movie has been in the works for around 20 years now. Based on Gregory McDonald‘s novels, the investigative journalist first hit the big screen back in 1985 with Chevy Chase giving one of his most sincere and career-defining performances. Since 2011, a reboot and origin story, titled Fletch Won, has been kicking around in development. Warner Bros. envisioned a comedy franchise when SNL alum Jason Sudeikis signed up to star, but a year later, the reboot landed at Relativity and seemingly never picked up momentum. Since then, Relativity went bankrupt and we’ve heard very little about the project. There are no new major developments to share, but Sudeikis did recently tell us the reboot is still possible and what he has in mind for the role.
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Studio horror movies made for teenagers rarely get much better than Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Based on the books written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell, the horror movie has a more classical than modern approach to its scares. André Øvredal‘s movie relies almost entirely on tension, not jump scares, although it delivers on those, too.
Executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, Øvredal’s movie has a similar handmade quality to its mostly practical monsters: The Pale Lady, the Jangly Man, the Toe Monster, and Harold the Scarecrow. The four of them are as nightmare-inducing as the unshakeable illustrations of the original books. As Hoai-Tran Bui wrote in her review, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark effectively captures the primal horror of campfire stories while doing justice by Schwartz’s creepy designs in a marriage of old-fashioned practical thrills and sleek modern effects.”
Øvredal took some time to tell us about those thrills and modern effects during a recent phone interview, but if you’ve yet to see the movie, you may want to wait to read what he had to say about movie’s scariest scenes. Some minor spoilers lie ahead.
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