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
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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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Part one of our in-depth second look at Joss Whedon's 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'
Credit: Marvel Studios

Part one of our in-depth second look at Joss Whedon's 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'

We're digging into the ways the film does and doesn't pay off the themes Whedon explored

"Ultron thinks we're monsters. This isn't just about beating him. It's about whether he's right."

-- Captain America

When I went back tonight for my second look at "Avengers: Age Of Ultron," I honestly didn't know what to expect. It feels like it's been months since I saw the film for the first time, and most of my personal hard drive has been taken up with thoughts of "Mad Max: Fury Road" since I saw it. That's not a slam on Joss Whedon or his work on the "Avengers" sequel, either. It's just that "Fury Road" pushed a button in me that no other film has in quite a while, and it's easy for me to get full-on obsessed with a film I love.

What struck me most about "Ultron" on second viewing is that the script for the  movie is thematically robust, and my problems with the movie were far less pronounced watching it again. For one thing, I really looked at the details of the big set pieces in the film, and I believe this may be one of the most interesting attempts yet at translating the sort of action that exists in comic books to the bigscreen. It's also the most ambitious film yet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and while I think the film has some problems, I would rather see ambition thwarted than complacency rewarded.

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'Fault In Our Stars' director set to expand Fox's universe with 'New Mutants'
Credit: Marvel Comics

'Fault In Our Stars' director set to expand Fox's universe with 'New Mutants'

This is just one of the ambitious projects the young filmmaker is set to tackle

So confession time: of all of the books Marvel has ever published about any of the characters in the X-Men universe, "The New Mutants" remains my very favorite.

Part of that was timing. I was 13 when the series began publication, and I was already a fan of the X-Men. My best friend at the time was a comic nerd the way I was a movie nerd, and he knew my tastes well enough that when the book was about to launch, he urged me to make sure it was on my pull list. It blows my mind that Chris Claremont was basically forced to create the series under duress. From the moment the book launched, I was all aboard for the story of a group of kids who were recruited to attend Xavier's school. At that point, the original X-Men were all adults, and this was a chance for Marvel to prep the next generation of characters.

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Tom Hardy on reinventing Max Rockatansky for 'Mad Max: Fury Road'
Credit: HitFix

Tom Hardy on reinventing Max Rockatansky for 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

It's hard to believe this is the guy who is such a wild animal onscreen

If you have any questions about how good an actor Tom Hardy is, all you need to do is interview him sometime. Trying to connect the soft-spoken guy who has trouble holding eye contact when answering questions to the wild animal you see in films like "Bronson" or "The Dark Knight Rises" or, indeed, "Mad Max: Fury Road," is nearly impossible.

When we sat down to talk about his work in the film, we were joined by his personal stuntman in the film, and I wish we'd had about five times more time to ask questions and talk about the process. One of the reasons "Fury Road" is such a wild experience is because of the expert use Miller and his team made of CG, using it to simply remove safety rigging. That allowed them to use the actual actors in more scenes than you would expect.

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Luc Besson joins Twitter to announce new science-fiction film 'Valerian'
Credit: Europa Corp

Luc Besson joins Twitter to announce new science-fiction film 'Valerian'

And there was much rejoicing

Now that's how you join Twitter.

Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element" is one of those movies that seems to have grown over the years since it was first released, and I am pleased to see how often it's mentioned these days or referenced in some way. It has been confounding to see Besson's directing career over the eighteen years since it came out, though, because he hasn't even come close to making a film in the same genre. There was a point where he claimed he was completely retired, and he's made movies like "Arthur And The Invisibles" and "Lucy" instead of making the "Fifth Element" sequel "Mr. Shadow" or something else that might scratch that same itch.

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Nicholas Hoult was scared shooting his crazy 'Fury Road' action scenes
Credit: HitFix

Nicholas Hoult was scared shooting his crazy 'Fury Road' action scenes

And based on how they look onscreen, he was right to be

Nicholas Hoult has already had a surprisingly varied career considering how young he is, and I mean it as no small compliment when I say that I think his work in "Mad Max: Fury Road" is among the best he's done so far.

When I look at him, I don't see that kid from "About A Boy" at all. It is safe to say that whatever awkward phase he may have gone through has long since ended. When he appeared on "Skins," he was so good at playing a nearly sociopathic party boy that it would have been easy for him to have been typecast from that point forward. And when he ended up playing Hank McCoy in "X-Men: First Class" and "X-Men: Days Of Future Past," he seemed to have turned yet another corner, settling into his skin in an admirable way. He brought a sweetness and a charm to Hank that made a huge difference in how easy he was to accept in the role.

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Warner Bros. wants 'The Fugitive' to go on the run once again
Credit: Warner Bros

Warner Bros. wants 'The Fugitive' to go on the run once again

Who's going to get framed for murder this time?

There is a purity to the concept of "The Fugitive" that I admire. When the original four-season series ended, almost half of the available audience tuned in to see whether or not Richard Kimble would be able to finally bring the mysterious one-armed man to justice before being captured by the cops who had been chasing him throughout the entire run of the show. I can't even imagine a show so popular that half of the population tuned in at the same time, and I'm not sure TV will ever create another hit with that kind of reach in our world of a million channels.

The 1993 feature film version of "The Fugitive" was unexpectedly huge when it was released. Heading into that summer, the biggest question was whether "Jurassic Park" or "The Last Action Hero" would be the hit of the summer, and while the dinosaurs did indeed prove to be unstoppable, so did Andrew Davis's adaptation, with Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble and Tommy Lee Jones giving an Oscar-winning performance as US Marshall Gerard.

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Review: "Mad Max: Fury Road" is a high watermark for blockbuster action films

Review: "Mad Max: Fury Road" is a high watermark for blockbuster action films

HitFix
A+
Readers
A+
George Miller's return to the Wasteland is as good as action movies get

If "Mad Max" is "A Fistful Of Dollars" and "The Road Warrior" is "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly," then clearly "Fury Road" is George Miller's "Once Upon A Time In The West," the moment when his movies move from the archetypical to the profound.

It seems impossible that George Miller has been away from live-action for 17 years. Then again, nothing about George Miller's career has ever really fit into any typical model. I always think of him as part of the Class of '82, the directors whose work really crystallized in what I maintain is the greatest geek movie line-up of all time. Most of those guys came out of the system, either through the Roger Corman training program or moving from TV to movies, trained at southern California film schools so they all had similar skill sets. Miller was different, though. He was never really one of them. He made his first film independently, and before they'd even release it in the US, they dubbed over the Australian accents. In America, "The Road Warrior" put Miller on the map in a way that "Mad Max" had not, and when he contributed a segment to "Twilight Zone: The Movie," he was definitely the odd man out in terms of process, and his segment stood apart in terms of sheer visual overdrive.

Part of what made "The Road Warrior" so special was that it felt like it really had come from a completely alien culture. The film's Australian origins meant that no one in the film was familiar, and the sound of it was unlike anything made here. Our car culture movies were of the far more redneck variety, and no one here had ever made a film that felt like it moved at the same insane velocity as Miller's movie. These days, I hear people mention Gareth Evans, the director of "The Raid" and "The Raid 2," as a potential candidate for this or that franchise movie, and every single time, I wince. Honestly, part of the reason his movies are what they are is because he makes them in Indonesia with a stunt team that works in a totally different way than anyone here in the US, for both legal and creative reasons. The same was true of "The Road Warrior." Watching those stuntmen throw themselves off those cars and trucks and crashing those giant metal death chambers into each other, it felt like you were watching something forbidden and dangerous and insane.

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