Kristen Bell

Veronica Mars Movie 2014

The high school reunion at the center of Veronica Mars is a perfect symbol for the movie. All the swirling feelings that come with blunt-force nostalgia are there, and it’s amazing to slip back into the old rhythms with beloved friends. The entire thing is like returning home to smiling faces and warm embraces. But the prickly awkwardness is there, too. Questions about why we’ve stayed away for so long, why people haven’t evolved as much as they should, whether those old rhythms are really the best ones. Wanting what we’re used to while demanding something more. If ten-year reunions are for people on the cusp of understanding adulthood, Veronica Mars‘ reunion comes with a full on mid-life crisis. A dozen years and a thousand lifetimes after Veronica (Kristen Bell) solved the biggest, most personal case of her young life, she returns to Neptune to help out former/eternal flame Logan (Jason Dohring) when his pop star girlfriend is murdered and he becomes the prime suspect. Maybe more important than what she’s returning to is what she’s leaving behind: a jumpstart job with a law firm before she’s even taken the bar and a stable, steady boyfriend in Stosh “Piz” Piznarski (Chris Lowell). Or maybe what she’s leaving behind isn’t that important.

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VERONICA MARS

Veronica Mars is apparently a very satisfying return of some clearly beloved characters from a TV series that went off the air seven years ago. Fans will love it. In fact, fans do love it, as I witnessed at the packed premiere in the 1100-seat Paramount Theater at SXSW. There’s nothing wrong with a movie catering to fans of a property, and there’s no reason to assume something serving as a continuation of a pre-existing entertainment product should work for those attempting to jump in blind. This certainly isn’t the first feature spun-off from a TV show that expects you to have at least some familiarity, nor is it unlike many sequels throughout the history of film, nor is it unlike a ton of made-for-TV movies offering a reunion of characters (and of cast members that play them) and, more importantly, of reunion of fans with those characters they’ve missed. Veronica Mars, however, is not for me and the majority of people who’ve never seen one episode of the show. Why did I go into something like this without catching up? I was curious to see if it would be worthwhile for others in my shoes. And now I can say that it is not. Maybe that’s all I need to say, but I’d like to offer more, because I believe that fans deserve better than what they get here, regardless of all the direct service they receive in the form of recall references that only exist to make someone feel […]

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Veronica Mars Movie

A long time ago we used to be friends, and then a lot of people pitched in to bring you back into our lives. With Veronica Mars, fandom is going to get an interesting experience because the Kickstarter campaign ensured they’d be both audience and financier. We’re starting to see the fruits of that crowdfunded labor of love with a trailer that looks like it’s for a television show. Which is unfortunate but expected. As cool as it would be to see Veronica and Friends given a cinematic scope, it’s still a fairly low budget movie, and Kristen Bell’s plucky character was never much of a globe-trotter. Still, as exciting as a reunion is, everything about the film’s setup  feels too been-there. Director Rob Thomas was always doomed on that front. Shifting the story outside of the crew’s hometown might have made the whole affair feel alien, but bringing it back to the high school auditorium might ultimately make it feel stunted. The fine balance of delivering enough of the same difference. The good news? The same old energy is clearly there. The cleverness, the dangerous depths and the mystery that explodes all the way to the top. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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FROZEN

The royal family of Arendelle is hiding a secret. The eldest daughter, Elsa, was born with a magical gift that allows her to create snow and ice simply through thought. She uses her power for playtime with her younger sister, Anna, but one day she causes an accident that almost kills the littlest princess. Troll magic is used to wipe the memory from Anna’s mind, and the castle closes its doors to keep Elsa separated both from the public and from her sister. Years pass, and the two now-grown princesses prepare for Elsa’s (Idina Menzel) coronation as the new queen. Anna (Kristen Bell) is excited as the event means not only more face-time with Elsa but also her first exposure to the outside world in a decade. Dignitaries and townspeople are invited in for the celebration, and it’s not long before Anna has met and fallen in love with a young prince named Hans (Santino Fontana). What should be yet another reason to celebrate instead triggers an icy outburst from Elsa that reveals her powers and terrifies her subjects. Accused of being a monster, she takes off into the mountains leaving a town trapped in permanent, crystalline winter behind her. Disney’s newest animated feature, Frozen, is a fun and witty delight from start to finish. Far more of a musical than the studio’s recent releases have attempted to be, the film ties together an unconventional take on princesses, heroes, and villains, with a melodic ribbon of songs both catchy and affecting. […]

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Frozen

When it comes to group movie-going, it’s not always a question of who you can take to see a film (as we previously explored with Blue Is the Warmest Color), but who you should take to see a film. Such is the case with the week’s expanding Disney release, Frozen, which has “holiday weekend crowd pleaser” written all over it. The latest entry in the Disney princess canon (we are still partial to The Little Mermaid, but what can you do) has some familiar elements – Princesses! Dead parents! Fairy tale magic! Singing! – but it’s also nicely rounded out with some sassy humor and the occasional twist on a trope (let’s put it this way, one character very keenly scoffs at another’s chattery depiction of falling in love at first sight and it provides some very welcome respite for Disney’s romantic notions). But does that mean that the film has an appeal that will reach beyond the usual Disney fans? We think so – simply because there plenty of people you should take to see Frozen who will enjoy it immensely, thank you for making a solid holiday weekend film pick, and spend the next five weeks loudly asking strangers if they want to build a snowman. The magic of Disney! And also of getting out of the house and away from leftovers!

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Veronica Mars

It’s been ten years since Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) was the pluckiest crime-solver in Neptune, but that doesn’t mean that the former teen detective can resist the allure of one more major case – especially when it involves her ex-love Logan Echolls. A new featurette goes behind the scenes of Rob Thomas‘ infamously Kickstarted film, giving us the scoop on the important aspects of Veronica Mars, like who she should ultimately end up with: Logan (Jason Dohring) or Piz (Chris Lowell)? You would think that ten years later this debate would finally be over, especially when Veronica is shacked up with Piz in New York City, but things get weird when you visit your hometown. Also, there’s the little detail that Logan is accused of murder, Veronica’s reason for getting back into the detective biz in the first place. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was framed, but maybe all of these very enthusiastic actors should step off the “I heart Logan + Veronica” bandwagon for just a bit while she gathers evidence. Check out the Veronica Mars: Love Triangle Featurette here:

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Still from film Frozen

First came Tangled. Then came Wreck-it-Ralph. Now, Frozen might just be the film to cement Disney’s return to the world of quality animated features. Because these things are decided in threes, apparently. The first theatrical trailer for Frozen has just been released, and it may just be the trailer, but the classic Disney vibe feels a little subdued. Were Frozen not a fairy tale – and it is, being loosely based off Hans Christian Anderson‘s “The Snow Queen” – the emphasis on humor might be a little overwhelming. The set up we’re given for the story is especially hokey, with some boilerplate narration and a whole lot of hokey puns. “Ice Guy” or “Nice Guy”? “Snow Man” or “No Man”? I thought society had already moved past this after the abomination that was Bee Movie.

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Sundance: The Lifeguard

Editor’s Note: Allison’s review of The Lifeguard originally ran during this week’s Sundance Film Festival, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in limited release today. Everyone has those moments when they question where their life is going, but hitting the pause button can end up doing more damage than good. When The Lifeguard‘s Leigh (Kristen Bell), a reporter for the Associated Press, covers a story about a tiger who had been kept in a cramped Manhattan apartment, Leigh’s overly emotional reaction to the scratch marks on the windowsill make it clear Leigh is struggling with her own anxieties about being trapped in a life she did not see for herself. Without a second thought, Leigh hops on a train and returns to her parent’s home in Connecticut, the lush landscape a stark difference to the harsh New York metropolis she is looking to escape.

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Veronica Mars

Despite all the ballyhooing about whether or not Kickstarter is right for people like Rob Thomas and Zach Braff, people still gave them plenty of money to fund their projects. And now the world has a Veronica Mars movie on the way. Whether or not this is a good thing remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: they are actually making it. And they are showing off footage to the world, beginning at yesterday’s Comic-Con panel. Less than 24-hours later, the rest of the world can get a look at what Thomas, Kristen Bell and a number of familiar faces have been working on. The first look featurette includes some talking heads, a few thanks-yous to fans who contributed to Kickstarter and in the last minute or so, a teaser full of actual footage from the movie. At first glance, it looks just like the TV show.

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The Lifeguard

“You have your whole life ahead of you. You don’t know how lucky you are.” Sage words of wisdom from an elderly, 29 year-old Kristen Bell in the new trailer for The Lifeguard, a summer movie about growing up when you’re already supposed to be a fully functional adult. Bell plays Leigh, a big city reporter who realizes that life is turning out to be a little bit harder than she expected. To cope with her depression, she decides to move back in with her parents in suburban Connecticut, sliding back into her high school persona and living life at a standstill to try to remember being happy. Getting back her old summer job as a lifeguard at the local public pool is just the icing on the cake.

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neil-labute-2

The protagonist of Some Girl(s) is as cringe-inducing as some of playwright Neil LaBute‘s most famous stories. From The Shape of Things and In The Company of Men to (last but not least) The Wicker Man, LaBute has a natural ability to dig under the skin of an audience. He often shows us worlds and characters that are far from pleasant, leading to films and plays which are not the most easily digestible, depending on your sense of humor and threshold for conventionally unlikable characters. LaBute doesn’t use that brand of character to annoy an audience, but to take them on a ride to new places. For some, that ride isn’t one they want to go on, and he has been the target of some heated criticism and outright name calling. The film of his play Some Girl(s), which he adapted himself for director Daisy von Scherler Mayer, doesn’t shock the audience in the way some expect from LaBute, but it has been met with some familiar reactions. I spoke with LaBute when the film premiered at South by Southwest this year, and that was an extensive conversation about his process as a writer and storytelling in general. This time around we discussed the reactions his work tends to draw. Even after an hour in total of interviewing him this year, there’s still plenty of ground to be covered, but for now here’s another round with the writer.

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review some girls

Editor’s Note: Our review of Some Girl(s) originally ran during this year’s SXSW, but we’re running it again as the film opens in limited theatrical release starting June 28, 2013. Any fan of playwright/screenwrtier/filmmaker Neil LaBute‘s honest depictions of cringe-inducing narcissism will be pleased by Some Girl(s). LaBute’s last few films – The Wickerman, Death at a Funeral, and Lakeview Terrace – have shown him going outside his comfort zone with varying results. Some Girl(s), which LaBute scripted (but didn’t direct) from his play of the same name, marks the theatrical return of the LaBute we love. His greatest works often resemble a car crash in motion with the driver smiling through every ding, bone crush, and bump while the victims are left with serious pain. The driver here is simply credited as “Man” and played by Adam Brody. The victims are a few of Man’s ex-girlfriends, all of whom feature distinct personalities and past issues with him. There is the older woman (Emily Watson) he had an affair with, a young girl (Zoe Kazan) he took advantage of, the High School girlfriend (Jennifer Morrison), the tattooed Chicago girl (Mia Maestro) who made him feel cool and the final girl is played by Kristen Bell. He’s doing all this to right any wrongs before marrying his newest girl.

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Olaf Frozen

Channeling DreamWorks’ favorite nut-hunting squirrel, Disney has released a mini-cartoon to serve as the teaser trailer for Frozen from director Chris Buck (Tarzan, Surf’s Up). As the story of a pair of adventurers trying to end a magic-induced winter, it’s unfortunately not an animated remake of Adam Green’s ski lift horror flick from 2010. Hopefully Disney will get on that soon. Kristen Bell voices Anna, the hero who partners with Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) to end Elsa the Snow Queen’s (Idina Menzel) reign of wondrously beautiful icy conditions. None of them are in the trailer, though. Instead, we’re treated to Olaf, a wacky snowman (Josh Gad) who gets in a fight with a reindeer over his delicious, delicious nose. Enjoy the slapstick on ice:

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LaBute

Playwright, screenwriter, and filmmaker Neil LaBute‘s stories aren’t for the faint of heart. They can be grueling in their dark humor, awkwardness and characters who will go as far as they have to for their own gain. Some Girl(s), which LaBute scripted from his own stage play, recently made its premiere at SXSW and sits comfortably in the gut-punching world his fans have come to love. The lead of the film, the Man (Adam Brody), is a selfish, narcissistic writer who isn’t afraid of embarrassing others with his stories. According to LaBute, he himself isn’t that kind of man, and none of his personal life sneaks into his work. The writer and director of In the Company of Men, The Shape of Things, and others creates from his imagination, choosing not to pirate from his own life or others. When we see the protagonist of Some Girl(s) doing so, it makes for an annoyingly oblivious character, but as LaBute tells us, he never sets out to annoy the audience with his conniving. The writer of Some Girl(s) was kind enough to speak with us at great length about those uncomfortable stories he’s famous for, how The Wickerman isn’t based on his life, and more about his process:

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Veronica Mars

Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell raised $2m through Kickstarter yesterday, and they did it in under 10 hours. As of this morning, their effort to score a budget for a Veronica Mars movie has secured their goal with about $500,000 and 29 days to spare. One guy, entrepreneur Steve Dengler, even gave $10,000 to the production to get a small speaking role in the film (and because he’s a big, big supporter of crowdfunding). What they did took a certain kind of courage. Maybe not greater courage than the more-standardized model of getting money from fans when they hand it over at the box office, but absolutely a different type of courage. After all, it’s one nerve-wracking thing to convince studio executives that your idea has an audience, but it’s another to prove it out on the limb without the amount of fan support you thought you had. Simply put, it’s likely we’d all be writing different pieces if Thomas and Bell’s Kickstarter campaign were still languishing at $6,000. Fortunately, fans have proven their overwhelming dedication to seeing Ms. Mars again by breaking records and ensuring that Thomas may actually get to include a big choreographed fight scene amid all the broody talking. With 29 more days to raise funds, who knows how high they might go. Now, all of this comes with a catch: Warners (because they’ve held onto the copyright) will be distributing and making money off a movie that fans are funding. Depending on the deal they have with […]

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Veronica Mars

Three years ago, I wrote a piece about why Warners needed to make a Veronica Mars movie. They didn’t. But now you can. Rob Thomas, the cult show’s creator, has launched a $2m Kickstarter project to bring the plucky young private eye played by Kristen Bell to the big screen. In the twenty minutes since it went live, it’s earned $40,000. Not bad. Obviously this could be huge for Veronica Mars fans, but it’s also a potentially big moment for the Kickstarted generation of filmmakers and for culture in general. Granted, this particular project has a high profile, but that’s the point. With Netflix resurrecting Arrested Development, the tide turned away from the originating channel, and with this, it could go beyond television altogether through a direct fan appeal.  If this proves successful, scorned patrons from Firefly to Jericho could stop mailing angry letters to studios and start electronically sending their very real, very monetary support to bring back a show they love in whatever form the creator sees fit to deliver. If Thomas and company are able to make this happen, and to make it a box office success, won’t Warners (and everyone else) feel dumb. It’ll prove that the audience was there all along, and that for properties like this, maybe we don’t really need the middle man to deliver. Update: In my haste to get this posted, I failed to note that Warners will be the one distributing the film. Which makes sense as they, of course, own the copyright on it. That […]

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hr_Alvin_and_the_Chipmunks-_The_Squeakuel_1

What is Casting Couch? It’s the movie news column that’s easing into Christmas with a cup of coffee and some casting reports. Let’s take this one step at a time. Marvel Studios is on such a roll now that any movie they make that ties directly into their upcoming Avengers 2 is going to be a big deal—even if it’s based off of a comic book that nobody’s ever heard of like Guardians of the Galaxy. So, the competition among young actors to get cast as the Guardians’ leader, Star-Lord, is pretty fierce. According to Variety, that competition has been narrowed down to two guys. The trade reports that Jim Sturgess is the sole survivor of the original crop of five actors the studio screen tested for the role, and Zachary Levi impressed so much playing the smaller role of Fandral in Thor 2, that Marvel is looking to give him a larger role in their universe by maybe making him the half-human, half-alien leader of this ragtag crew. Who would you find more believable commanding a gun-toting space-raccoon?

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Jennifer Lee

Seeing as Wreck-It Ralph was Disney Animation’s most well-received movie in quite a while, the studio has wasted no time in getting one of its main creative talents to work on a new project. Today they announced in a press release [via ComingSoon] that Ralph co-writer Jennifer Lee is not only going to be handling some writing duties on their upcoming animated feature, Frozen, but that she will also be serving as co-director alongside studio vet Chris Buck (Tarzan, Surf’s Up). Frozen is an adventure tale about a magical kingdom that’s suffering under a spell that keeps it trapped in a perpetual winter. Its main characters are a brave young girl named Anna, a burly mountain man named Kristoff, and a reindeer sidekick named Sven. The main thrust of the film’s narrative is said to be this trio’s journey to find the Snow Queen and find a way to reverse her spell, which of course leads to them encountering treacherous mountain passes, all sorts of magical whatsits, mystical trolls, comical snowmen, and who knows how many other examples of weirdness along the way. Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s Kristen Bell and Enchanted’s Idina Menzel are already on board to supply voices.

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Hit and Run Movie

Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard) has something of a troubled past. For starters, his real name isn’t even Charlie Bronson, that’s the one he chose after he was put into witness protection for ratting out the bank robbers he was working for as a getaway driver. All of that unpleasantness is behind him now though, as he’s built a nice, quiet life in a nice, quiet town, and he has a girlfriend that he’s very much in love with (Kristen Bell). Problem is, his girlfriend doesn’t know about his past, and she’s just gotten a new job that’s going to force Mr. Bronson to move back to the town where his ex-partners (led by a dreadlocked Bradley Cooper) are waiting to kill him. Wacky situations, fast-driving, and a dangerous game of cat and mouse that also involves his witness protection officer (Tom Arnold) and his girlfriend’s crazy ex (Michael Rosenbaum) ensue. The best thing about Hit & Run is how likable the performances are. But the strongest of them aren’t coming from the actors who you may expect. Shepard and Bell get most of the film’s focus, and they’re largely enjoyable as the protagonists, but they’re playing the most boring characters who appear. True, they’re dealing with career stuff, clingy ex-boyfriends, and attempted murders that all act as big stumbling blocks in their path to potential happiness, but they’re never all that vexed by anything that they’re going through. They’re too thoroughly the perfect guy and the perfect girl to be […]

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If you’ve ever wanted to see Kristen Bell get it on with a teen delinquent, have we got a project for you. Deadline Denver reports that Bell will star in Liz W. Garcia‘s The Lifeguard, which centers on “a reporter on the verge of 30 who abandons her life in New York City, returns home to get her high school job as a lifeguard, and starts a dangerous relationship with a 16-year-old delinquent.” Oh, yeah! The Lifeguard sounds a bit like the soon-to-be-released Hello I Must Be Going, but considering how often audiences are subjected to films about older men going through quarter- and mid-life crises that involve a relationship with a younger lady, seeing the story flipped to be female-centric is a nice change. The film will also star Mamie Gummer, Martin Starr, Alex Shaffer, Joshua Harto, and Amy Madigan. While none of their roles have been specified, that’s a pretty solid supporting cast, so The Lifeguard already sounds significantly more swim-y than sink-y. We’ll also hazard a guess that perhaps Shaffer (Win Win) will play the delinquent teen, as he’s the youngest cast member named here, and while he’s nineteen years old, he has a young enough face for the role.

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