LucasFilm via Everett Collection
It might seem like Disney is taking some big risks with its most precious property, the Star Wars universe. Gareth Edwards — slated to direct a yet unspecified standalone character feature for the franchise — turned in an exceptional Godzilla movie, but still only has one additional directing credit to his name. Chronicle's Josh Trank, recently saddled with a similar gig, was an even more surprising choice for the studio. And now, the coup de gracie: Rian Johnson, one of the most interesting filmmakers playing the genre game these days, will take on writing and directing duties for Star Wars: Episode VIII and Star Wars: Episode IX (per Deadline). It's the biggest task that Disney has yet to bestow upon any of its Star Wars folk, with sci-fi frontman J.J. Abrams only earning the one film, but perhaps the lowest risk of the bunch. If you take a look at Johnson's complete filmography, you'll see what we mean.
Johnson's debut feature — a pitch black neo-noir mystery that follows a pre-resurgence Joseph Gordon-Levitt around the underbelly of his high school community looking for the answers to a spiraling mystery. The biggest strength of Brick, beyond some dynamite performances all around (Gordon-Levitt most of all) is a script that reads practically like music. Compare Harrison Ford bemoaning George Lucas' 1977 Star Wars dialogue ("George, you can type this s**t, but you sure as hell can't say it!") with JGL singing the praises of Johnson's poetry ("Brick was a good script just to read. It was like, 'Oh my God, these words feel so good in my mouth.' A lot of movies try to set up a world with cool sets, costumes, camera work. In Brick, the world is born from the words.") and you'll see that maybe a talented wordsmith is exactly what the franchise needs.
TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
Johnson reteamed with Gordon-Levitt in 2012 for his first science fiction feature, and perhaps the first of his movies to earn something close to widespread recognition. Admittedly, Looper got its share of flack for "time travel problems," as any movie that plays fast and loose with the rules of such a delicate sci-fi staple is bound to. But Looper isn't a bastardization of the tradition, it's a celebration of it: of what makes it fun, interesting, a valuable storytelling device, and worth watching a movie about. Instead of being didactic to the impossible logic of timeline continuity, Johnson was devoted chiefly to the spirit of time travel. This is what we want in a Star Wars director — someone who loves that galaxy far, far away but won't let it arrest his imagination.
Johnson directed three episodes of Breaking Bad, each a memorable entry in the series' five season run. The first was "Fly" (represented above, as even those unfamiliar might have guessed), Breaking Bad's take on the small screen tradition of the bottle episode, trapping Walter White literally inside of his laboratory and figuratively inside of his decaying mind. Two years later, Johnson helmed "Fifty-One," famous primarily for the climactic scene in which Skyler attempts suicide by jumping into the family's swimming pool. And finally, "Ozymandias," the third-to-last episode of the series and top contender for most celebrated Breaking Bad episode of all.
The director exemplifies such completely different strengths in "Fly" and "Ozymandias" that you'd have to be startled upon learning they were brought to screen by the same artist. In the former, Walt's turmoil reaches out from in, poisoning him (and Jesse) slowly and steadily over the course of the 45-minute ep. "Ozymandias," on the other hand, is a deep dish of adrenaline. From minute one, things are edge-of-your-seat tense, incurring shoot-outs, killings, high speed chases, kidnappings, domestic chaos, the works.
Both sorts of dramatic expertise are needed for any good adventure piece. Johnson can handle subdued tension, internalized drama, and psychological horror. But he also knows what he's doing when it comes to action, adrenaline, and guttural excitement. If nothing else has convinced you that he's a shoe-in for a good Star Wars picture, Breaking Bad has got to do the trick.
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Sunday nights are generally a good night for television fans – between HBO’s lineup of addicting shows, Downton Abbey’s continued dominance of British dramas, and whatever major sporting event is on, there’s plenty to watch, and usually, it’s relatively easy to space out your viewing schedule for the evening. However, this Sunday was surprisingly packed with must-watch shows and events, all of which you just know your friends and co-workers are going to be talking about all day.
It was impossible to watch everything that aired on Sunday night as it was premiering, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel left out of the conversation. We’ve rounded up the buzziest shows of Sunday night, and given you everything you need to know about what went down, and how to fake it until you’re able to catch up on everything properly. You can thank us later.
THE WINTER OLYMPICS
You Watched this If: You like bragging about your awesome ski weekend, and you’ll usually talk about the condition of the “powder” on the mountain. What Happened: There were three big medal events on Sunday night: team figure skating, women’s slopestyle snowboarding, and men’s downhill alpine skiing. Russia won their first gold of the Olympics in the team skating, thanks to winning performances from vet Evgeni Plushenko and new superstar, 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya. Gracie Gold took home the silver in the individual women’s short program, and Charlie White and Meryl Davis won the pair’s ice dancing, but neither of those victories were able to help the U.S. earn better than a bronze medal. Meanwhile, Jamie Anderson won the first ever women’s slopestyle gold medal, and her fellow American Sage Kotsenberg did the same in the men’s competition on Saturday; however, gold medal favorite Bode Miller placed a disappointing eighth in the men’s downhill. What Your Friends Will Be Talking About: Ashley Wagner Is Not Impressed, the sequel to 2012’s Olympic meme McKayla Maroney Is Not Impressed. Expect it to appear in your Twitter feed at least once a day for the next two weeks. How To Fake It: “How insane is that 15-year-old skater? Although, I thought Gracie Gold’s score could have been a bit higher. And Meryl and Charlie have that pairs gold in the bag.” “I just really feel like Jamie Anderson and I could be friends. She seems so cool, and she’s super talented.” “Can you believe what happened to Bode Miller?”
THE BEATLES 50TH ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTE
You Watched This If: You don’t listen to the Top 40 drivel on the radio, you listen to “real music.” What Happened: Musicians from all different genres got together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, the Eurythmics reunited, as did Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr for a few of their greatest hits. What Your Friends Will Be Talking About: The return of Pharell’s giant Grammys hat – the event was filmed the day after the awards, in the midst of the hat jokes. How to Fake It: “Doesn’t Dhani Harrison sound just like George?” “Who decided to have Pharell and Brad Paisley sing together?” “I know ‘Hey Jude’ is overplayed, but it was cool to see everyone sing it with Paul and Ringo.”
You Watched This If: You constantly feel as if nobody appreciates your creative genius. What Happened: Hannah took a job in the advertising department of GQ, which prompted her to worry about her selling out, and wasting her talents in a pointless corporate environment. Adam got a call back for an acting gig that he swears he doesn’t want, Marnie and Ray are becoming closer, despite embodying everything the other despises, Shoshanna is missing Ray and is forcing herself into a relationship with a guy she met at school who she thinks is incredibly dumb, and Jessa… didn’t do much of anything this week. What Your Friends Will Be Talking About: How much they can't stand Hannah. Also how Marnie continues to be the worst. Wow, your friends really hate Girls.How to Fake It: “I kind of hate to admit this, because she’s super self-involved, but I kind of get where Hannah’s coming from.” “Ugh, Marnie is so annoying, but Allison Williams is so pretty.” “Did you know that Shoshanna’s new guy is played by Zosia Mamet’s real-life boyfriend?”
You Watched This If: You truly believe that everything from the UK is vastly superior to its American equivalent, and you won't listen to anyone who says otherwise. What Happened: Lady Edith considered terminating her unexpected pregnancy, but changed her mind at the last minute after seeing how the procedure affected other women at the clinic. Lady Mary has decided to be less “aloof,” and fed some pigs with Charles, and she helped secure Thomas the position of Robert’s valet while he’s in America. Anna continues to pretend she was attacked by a random thug, but Bates has figured out who was really behind the assault on his wife, and he’s probably going to kill him. And the Dowager Countess continues to be sassy and wonderful. What Your Friends Will Be Talking About: Can you believe that Downton Abbey actually broached an abortion storyline? How To Fake It: “Oh, poor Edith! I really want something nice to happen to her for a change.” “I’m glad Bates is going to protect Anna, but I don’t know if I can sit through another Bates-is-a-murderer-storyline.”
You Watched This If: You’re just really into the McConaughssance, okay? What Happened: Rust and Marty discover that Ledoux is working for the Iron Crusaders, a biker gang that Rust infiltrated during his time undercover. He decides to go undercover again, steals cocaine from evidence to help sell his act, and he agrees to take part in a robbery in order to win over his contact. Unfortunately, the robbery goes wrong, and Rust is forced to run, calling in Marty for backup. Meanwhile, Marty’s ex-girlfriend showed up at his house and revealed everything to Maggie, who promptly kicked him out. What Your Friends Will Be Talking About: That twist of an ending. Let’s be real, it’s all anyone will be talking about. Be prepared for people to declare it the “hands down, best episode of television ever!” How to Fake It: “How crazy was that ending? I couldn’t believe it when it all went south and Rust was caught in the middle of the whole thing. I can’t wait for the next episode, I need to find out what happens next!”
THE WALKING DEAD
You Watched This If: You are, somehow, still holding out for this show to get good again.What Happened: Rick and Carl hole up in an abandoned suburban house, growing tense over the latter's budding contentiousness. Michonne has acid flashbacks and slaughters an entire herd of zombies. There's a big can of pudding.What Your Friends Will Be Talking About: How much Carl sucks, and Michonne's nightmarish memory of her pre-apocalyptic days.How to Fake It: “F**king Carl.”
David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.