Review: 'Poltergeist' feels like a half-hearted karaoke riff on the original
Credit: 20th Century Fox/MGM

Review: 'Poltergeist' feels like a half-hearted karaoke riff on the original

HitFix
C+
Readers
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If you're embarrassed to be writing a horror film, maybe you shouldn't write horror films

Director Gil Kenan's work on "Poltergeist" is, like his work on "City Of Ember" and "Monster House," smart and focused and technically adept. He has done about as good a job as anyone would have done with David Lindsay-Abaire's screenplay based on the 1982 film, and the same is true of the cast. Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris, and Jane Adams are all very good at what they do. The various visual effects houses and tech departments on the film all did what they were hired to do, and taken as a whole, "Poltergeist" is professional and slick and entirely fine.

It's also unnecessary in every way.

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Will 'Star Trek Beyond' take the Enterprise 'where no one has gone before'?
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Will 'Star Trek Beyond' take the Enterprise 'where no one has gone before'?

That's the promise, and Simon Pegg explains just how tricky that will be

Simon Pegg has a real knack for saying things I agree with in a way that drives people completely insane.

I've known Pegg for a little over a decade now, and I was a fan for a year or two before that thanks to "Spaced." It's been quite clear in that time that he takes genre very seriously, and that his fandom is genuine. One of the reasons "Spaced" connected to people who saw it was because it was clearly coming from people who spoke that same secret language that we all do as fans, and we could see ourselves in the characters. Edgar Wright's voice as a filmmaker builds off of the visual vocabulary of many of our genre heroes.

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What the 'Transformers' writers room means about the new shape of Hollywood
Credit: Paramount Pictures

What the 'Transformers' writers room means about the new shape of Hollywood

This is going to be a very strange series no matter what

So that's what the Transformers writer's room is going to look like, eh?

While I don't tally the worth of a writer based on how many news stories they break, I will admit that I was deeply irritated when the story was first written about the notion of Akiva Goldsman spearheading a team of writers to develop "Transformers" sequels. I'd been tipped about it a few weeks earlier, and I was trying to get a second source I trusted, either at the studio or on the agency side of things. I pushed, and while I was sure the story was right, I couldn't run it. Excruciating. Part of my hesitance was that I didn't want to be wrong on a story like that because it's a threat more than anything. Goldsman and Bay breaking story together? Holy cow.

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Our second look at 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' digs deeper into the film's flaws
Credit: Marvel Studios

Our second look at 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' digs deeper into the film's flaws

Could anyone have done this any better than Whedon did?

During the heyday of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," I was an active advocate for studios to pick up on the wonder that was Joss Whedon.

Watching "Avengers: Age Of Ultron," it feels like that is exactly what we were asking for when we asked for him to be in charge of our pop culture. And I mean that in both positive and negative ways.

Joss Whedon has a great ear for clever dialogue, and that can be a wee bit of a curse. There is something about the way he writes that can make it feel like he's afraid to fully engage in some of the bigger emotion. When you're doing 22 episodes of a television series, you can take one episode to shift the tone to something darker, more somber, and it feels appropriate. In a 140 minute film, you can only find moments to downshift, and when it's surrounded by non-stop wisecracks, it can feel glib or insincere. That's also true when you have this many characters you're trying to serve. Characters who have had several movies worth of set-up can afford to be given less screen time, sketching in new details quickly. With new characters, though, growth can seem artificial or forced. Whedon knows how to create a character arc, but juggling seven or eight of them in one movie would be a challenge for anyone to pull off with anything approaching grace.

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Joe Wright's 'Pan' goes big with a visually aggressive new trailer
Credit: Warner Bros

Joe Wright's 'Pan' goes big with a visually aggressive new trailer

Garrett Hedlund and Hugh Jackman don't seem shy about big character choices

It takes a certain degree of hubris to sign on to a "Peter Pan" movie at this point.

J.M. Barrie's play/book/beloved cultural icons are enormously malleable as a story, and there are plenty of fans of the Walt Disney animated version as well as Steven Spielberg's "Hook" and even P.J. Hogan's "Peter Pan." All of those films tackle different parts of the iconography in different ways, and there have been some heavy hitters involved.

The Disney film is one of their best features, especially if you're just considering the old school Disney films, and I think it's one of the moments where the Disney animators got everything right. They'd made enough movies in a row by that point to have developed a shorthand, and a style, and a confidence. "Peter Pan" may have some unfortunate moments in terms of cultural sensitivity, but I would argue that the entire world of Neverland should feel like the way children view the world, in big broad strokes. Stylization is fine; insensitivity is not.

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Film Nerd 2.0 finds the heartbreak at the center of the original 'Bad News Bears
Credit: Paramount Home Video

Film Nerd 2.0 finds the heartbreak at the center of the original 'Bad News Bears

This scrappy comedy led to some very serious conversations

Toshi tends to start a movie night with a sort of weird meditative state he goes into while standing in front of the bookcase full of his Blu-rays. He can stand there for a half-hour reading titles and asking me questions, and it always entertains me to hear him slowly circle in on the thing he wants to see.

Just because there have been some R-rated titles in the mix recently doesn't mean it's become a free-for-all, and there are plenty of things Toshi would like to watch that I still believe he's not ready to see, leading to some tense negotiations. What I find most interesting about those negotiations is how vividly I remember holding them from the other end of the equation. When I wanted to see a film as a kid, if my parents had any problem with it, I would turn into Clarence Darrow. I would bring in evidence to back up my claims, and I'd make emotional pleas, and I'd do my best to convince my parents I only wanted to go because they would enjoy the film. Whatever it took, I'd try. It worked best with my grandmothers, but every now and then I'd just wear my parents down until they finally let me see whatever it was I was obsessed with.

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Even 'Hitman' is getting in on the act as we say goodbye to 'Mad Men'
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Even 'Hitman' is getting in on the act as we say goodbye to 'Mad Men'

Sometimes, you take advantage of a moment, and you do something different with your marketing.

Tonight's final episode of "Mad Men" is a big deal for fans of the show, and even if you're not a fan, you're probably well aware by this point that the show is ending. It's not going to be a cultural event on the same scale as the end of "MASH" or "The Fugitive," but for people who have been with it since the start, "Mad Men" represents a particular voice that will be greatly missed from the larger cultural conversation.

It was very canny, then, of the people behind this summer's "Hitman: Agent 47," to put together this ode to the show's unmistakable opening title sequence:

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Review: 'Tomorrowland' offers a dull and oddly preachy vision of the future
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Review: 'Tomorrowland' offers a dull and oddly preachy vision of the future

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
Considering the talent involved, this one is baffling on every level

This may be the hardest review I've ever had to write.

After all, I think Brad Bird is a certifiably great filmmaker. I have been a fan of his work as long as I've seen his name on things, starting with "Family Dog," the animated episode of "Amazing Stories." So of course, I walk into his films hoping to like them. The year it was released, "The Incredibles" was my pick as best film, and both "The Iron Giant" and "Ratatouille" have also found spots in my top ten lists at the end of the year.

In fact, for years, one of the things I was proudest of in all of the work I've done writing about movies from the early days of Ain't It Cool News to right now involved "The Iron Giant." That film is beloved now, and deservedly so. There was a point, though, when it looked like Warner Bros. was going to be sending the movie straight to video. At that point, the film was still under the radar for everyone, and Warner could have pretty easily killed it if they'd wanted to. Someone who was working on the film got crazy about this idea, and they reached out to me through some mutual friends. As a result, one late night, I drove to a friend's apartment, where I was shown an unfinished work print of the movie on VHS. Parts of it were black and white, parts of it where still just story reel, and then parts of it were finished in full 2.35:1 and color, and it was breathtaking even in that rough form.

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George Miller on unleashing the animal inside Max for 'Mad Max: Fury Road'
Credit: HitFix

George Miller on unleashing the animal inside Max for 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

Our finest action filmmaker discusses the orchestration of his remarkable mayhem

One of the side benefits to the release of "Mad Max: Fury Road" has been the availability of George Miller for conversation.

When I moderated the Q&A with him after this year's SXSW screening of "The Road Warrior," by far the best parts of the evening were when I was standing outside the Paramount or standing backstage with him, chatting. Miller is that rarity, someone who lives up to expectations and then exceeds them. There is an enormous sweetness to him, and not a hint of ego. When you're the director of one of the most imitated action movies of all time and you're returning to your most iconic creation for the first time in 30 years, there might be some justifiable ego, but Miller seems to be sincerely modest about his work.

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Exclusive: 'Batkid Begins' poster promises a big emotional punch
Credit: New Line

Exclusive: 'Batkid Begins' poster promises a big emotional punch

The year's most heart-warming documentary gets a one-sheet

"Batkid Begins" will break you.

Oh, sure, there's a chance you won't have an emotional response to it. You might be a robot, after all. That's possible. You could be the actual Grinch from the Dr. Seuss story. I guess that would be an acceptable excuse. Or you could be Jeffrey Wells. Otherwise, I can't imagine a human being that would not be flattened by the emotional power of the documentary by Dana Nachman.

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