Review: 'Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes" is a daring and dazzling accomplishment
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: 'Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes" is a daring and dazzling accomplishment

HitFix
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This series is actually getting better from film to film

One of the words that was used most frequently when describing "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes" was "surprise," and with good reason. After all, the previous attempt to bring the long-running science-fiction franchise back to life was a nightmare, a truly terrible film that is a narrative disaster even among the narrative disasters that mark many of Tim Burton's lesser films. It seemed like Fox had limped along trying to get an "Apes" movie made for so long that they were willing to try anything.

Scott Frank came close to getting a film make called "Caesar," and it sounded like he was on the right track. His basic idea started with a Fox-mandated remake of "Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes," but went in a very different direction. His film was designed to be a hard-science story about what might happen if we made the advance in genetic modification that would lead to apes that spoke and thoughts the same way we do, and he researched the state of the art of motion-capture and character animation.

This was around the end of 2008, the start of 2009, and when he moved on, Fox must have remained excited about the basic idea. Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver pitched their own origin movie, using alzheimer's research as the jumping-off point, and they ended up writing the film that Rupert Wyatt directed. That film, featuring a performance by Andy Serkis as Caesar, wasn't the biggest box-office hit of 2011, but it was a film that was respected and liked and that people were pleasantly delighted by, something that almost always ends up creating more passionate fans. It's one thing when we've all got some pop culture icon jammed down our throats. Even when it's done well, it feels pre-packaged. But when something that we aren't expecting wins us over, we tend to be much more passionate about it.

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Guillermo Del Toro confirms 'Pacific Rim 2' for 2017 plus an animated spin-off

Guillermo Del Toro confirms 'Pacific Rim 2' for 2017 plus an animated spin-off

Can you imagine how many different stories he'll get to try in this world?

Legendary Pictures plans to be in the "Pacific Rim" business for a while, and I couldn't be happier to hear it.

In a special YouTube announcement video, director Guillermo Del Toro announced that there will be an animated series set in the world of "Pacific Rim" that will start soon, and that the comic book series set in that world will also continue to be published. More importantly, Del Toro has now set April 7, 2017 as the date for the release of the sequel to the film, which Universal will distribute in the U.S.

"Pacific Rim" is an important overall property for Legendary. It was developed completely in-house, and they own the rights to everything that was created for the film. They managed to make something like $400 million worldwide with it, and the way the film earned money overseas is one of the reasons it's getting a sequel even if it's not perceived domestically as a success. It's also been a merchandising beast, and Legendary knows full well that there is a fanbase they can use as a foundation when trying to develop a sequel.

I am excited to see what happens with this series and Guillermo. I've known him for a long time, and I've never seen him happier than he was when he was shooting the first film or when he got to show it to people. It delights him. The notion of being able to play with a world where there are kaiju and jaegers and the Drift and all of that is already established and now they can just tell stories that are about more than establishing the rules… it's ridiculous how much fun this is. I love that he has the chance now to build off of the ideas he established in the first film. The worst thing in the world is when Guillermo gets excited because he's sure he's going to make a film and then it doesn't happen. His "Hellboy 3" pitch is amazing, and I'm not sure we'll ever get to see it, which is just plain wrong.

I loved the ambition of "Pacific Rim," and I can't wait to see what story they choose to tell this time. The animated show sounds like an opportunity to really show us a bunch of different perspectives on this world, and I hope they get really daring with some of these various spin-offs.

"Crimson Peak," Guillermo's gothic haunted house movie, is in theaters October 16, 2015.

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Jack Reynor on the chaos of 'Transformers' and the honor of 'Macbeth'
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Jack Reynor on the chaos of 'Transformers' and the honor of 'Macbeth'

The young star talks about the thrills of both of his new films

Greg Ellwood assures me that the buzz about Jack Reynor and his work in "MacBeth" later this year is very positive, and I'm glad I got a chance to ask Reynor about it. When I asked him if there was a culture shock that kicked in going from "Transformers: Age Of Extinction" right into Justin Kurzel's film version of "the Scottish play" with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard starring, he got real serious real fast.

He lit up when it was mentioned. "It's a step in my career that I'm incredibly proud of," he said, "and I am… fortunate to be in a position to do something like that… it was an amazing experience, and I worked with people who I have just the height of respect for."

Discussing the insane on-set conditions of making a Michael Bay "Transformers" film, Reynor was all smiles. "Not doing it is not really an option."

Reynor and his co-star Nicola Peltz discussed the practical effects and stunt work that even the primary actors in a Bay film are called on to do. It's a mark of honor to survive one of his sets with all four limbs intact, I'd even say. Bay likes to create a very real environment for these incredibly complicated effects, and part of what makes me laugh in the theater is seeing how huge the scale is this time of some of the practical builds and mechanical rigs and the way they marry things together. The next-level slick that is on display is ridiculous. That's what I can't really get past with Bay. He's diabolical in the way he stages things. He may well be a madman, and if that's true, then the "Transformers" films are even more important as they document his swing into this kind of wild, over-the-top kinetic destruction, played at a volume and a size that's just not possible for anyone else to do.

"There are things that Nicola and I were called on to do that we will never ever do again in our lives," Reynor said, almost wistful about it, even as he laughed at the memory in disbelief.

For the full video interview, watch the embed at the top of this story.
"Transformers: Age Of Extinction" opens everywhere tomorrow.

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Review: 'Earth To Echo' is a sweet small scale spin on the classic 'E.T.' formula
Credit: Relativity Pictures

Review: 'Earth To Echo' is a sweet small scale spin on the classic 'E.T.' formula

HitFix
B-
Readers
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Strong FX and a stronger kid cast brings this one together

One of the hardest things about the way this generation of filmmakers has internalized the movies that inspired them is that watching their movies can sometimes feel like you're reading a laundry list of the things that they saw when they were younger, rather than watching something where all of those influences have crystallized into something new.

"Earth To Echo" could accurately be described as a "found-footage" riff on "Explorers" and "E.T.", and that description would certainly impart something of the film to someone. But the thing that "Earth To Echo" most accurately reflects from the best of the '80s movies that continue to linger with viewers, even 30 years after many of them first hit theaters, is that sense of something genuine about the kids. When I look at "E.T.", the first thing that strikes me as remarkable is just how right Spielberg got all of the kids in the film. Not just Elliott and Gertie and Michael, but all the kids in that film felt like actual kids who I knew at the time, my friends or the brothers and sisters of my friends, both older and younger. That was one of the huge appeals of Spielberg's early work, that rowdy sense of reality spilling out of the edges of the frame. When you watch the scenes in "Close Encounters" where it's just Roy Neary and his kids at home, there is nothing about those scenes that feels conventionally written. Instead, it's like Spielberg set up a camera in a real house and just captured the sort of chaos that defines family life. It's true of "Jaws," it's true of "Sugarland Express," it's true of "Poltergeist," and in its best moments, it is true of "Earth To Echo."

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<p>Oh my good look at them</p>

Oh my good look at them

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Sarah Polley set to write and direct John Green's 'Looking For Alaska'

Earlier book by the blockbuster author could finally be on its way to theaters

John Green has become something of a big deal since the opening of "The Fault In Our Stars," and more power to him. I am all for anything that gives power to the writer as opposed to basically anyone else in the food chain. Green sold the rights to this novel to Paramount years ago, and my guess is that as soon as "Fault" opened, they got real excited about what must have been a wildly reasonable investment.

Sarah Polley, writer/director of 'Take This Waltz' and 'Stories We Tell,' and Academy Award-nominated for her screenplay 'Away From Her,' is set to write and direct 'Looking For Alaska.' The book, by 'Fault In Our Stars' author John Green, has been in development for years, but is picking up steam as 'Fault' crosses the $100 million domestic box-office mark.

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'Ask Drew' looks up with 'Interstellar' and 'Starman'
Credit: Warner Bros./Paramount

'Ask Drew' looks up with 'Interstellar' and 'Starman'

Plus a very particular match-up in this week's Movie God

I was going to try to shoot an "Ask Drew" a few weeks ago, but it fell right between two week-long trips out of the country, and the Saturday I was poised to come in, I basically just collapsed.

The video team was ready and waiting, though, and as soon as I hit the office this week, they were ready to throw me in front of a camera and shoot a new episode. The great thing about the way you guys have responded to these so far is that we are not hurting for questions. There's always a stack of stuff ready to be answered, and the video guys are always happy to see more submissions arrive at video@hitfix.com.

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Kelsey Grammer on being in this summer's 'Transformers,' 'X-Men,' and 'Expendables'
Credit: HitFix

Kelsey Grammer on being in this summer's 'Transformers,' 'X-Men,' and 'Expendables'

Is he the most unexpected action star of the year?

If you were to ask me who the guy would be who appeared in the most giant action movies this summer, I would have never in a million years been able to call that person as Kelsey Grammar. Never.

It's actually kind of amazing. Sure, it seems natural that he was one of the people who filmed a surprise return in Bryan Singer's "X-Men: Days Of Future Past." It was still a great moment in the theater, and when I sat down with Grammer during my time in Hong Kong for the press event for "Transformers: Age Of Extinction," we ended up talking about it for a moment. In particular, I wanted to ask him about the way Nicolas Hoult has expanded our understanding of Hank as a character, and I thought his response was great.

He's also an Expendable, and even he seems well aware how strange that is. I understand why they would want to add Wesley Snipes or Antonio Banderas or Mel Gibson or Harrison Ford, but Grammer? Fascinating. I'm curious to see if he's a good guy or a bad guy, and how he fits into that ensemble. I have learned not to be too excited about how an "Expendables" movie will actually work, but I can still be curious to see how Grammer fits into the thing.

I was shocked to see he even appears in "Think Like A Man Too," the not-surprising hit sequel. I mean, seriously… everything's coming up Grammer right now. His biggest role in any of them appears to be his role in "Transformers: Age Of Extinction," which is the one I was there to speak to him about. Harold Attinger is a shadowy government dude who seems to have no problem selling out the Autobots or the human race, and Grammer plays him with a withering sense of condescending hatred to anyone in his way. It's a nice way into a fairly pat character, and I think that's just Grammer for you. He plays smart really well, and you add amoral to that mix, and it gets fun real fast.

"Transformers: Age Of Extinction" is in theaters on Friday.

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George Lucas picks a Chicago site for his $700 million pop culture museum
Credit: AP Photo

George Lucas picks a Chicago site for his $700 million pop culture museum

San Francisco seems furious, but they had their chance

Oh, San Francisco, you had one job.

Hold on before you get worked up, though, folks. It's not like George Lucas just threw a dart to pick the spot to open his new museum. It sounds like he made a huge effort at opening a museum in San Francisco, but those efforts ended in frustration, and as a result, there will be a museum designed to hold Lucas's huge private collection of "illustrations, comic art, graphic art, animation, and other popular art forms," as The New York Times put it, and it will be in Chicago.

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Legendary 'The Good The Bad & The Ugly' star Eli Wallach passes away at 98
Credit: MGM/UA Home Video

Legendary 'The Good The Bad & The Ugly' star Eli Wallach passes away at 98

We look back at his amazing legacy

98 years old.

Remarkable. I can't imagine making it to 98. I can't imagine the breadth of life experience you could have in that amount of time. Eli Wallach leaves behind a truly great filmography and a family life that is enviable, having been married to the same woman, Anne Jackson, since 1948. She had a hell of a filmography herself, and they had three children together. I am in awe of anyone who can build a life that solid for that long, never mind someone who works in the film industry, where relationships are, at best, impermanent, and at worst, inconsequential.

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Ridley Scott's Matt Damon-starring adaptation of 'The Martian' may be his next film
Credit: Sony Pictures

Ridley Scott's Matt Damon-starring adaptation of 'The Martian' may be his next film

Simon Kinberg suggests a timeline for the big-screen version of the Andy Weir book

I'm confused. Is Ridley Scott making the "Prometheus" sequel for a 2016 release, or is he making "The Martian," with Matt Damon starring in the Drew Goddard adaptation of the book by Andy Weir? We've heard several possibilities, but according to Simon Kinberg, a producer on "The Martian," it appears that a choice has been made. The comments were made during a podast appearance with Jeff Goldsmith.

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