<p>If nothing else, Cruella has the best theme song of any Disney villain ever.</p>

If nothing else, Cruella has the best theme song of any Disney villain ever.

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Disney continues their push for live-action versions of animated classics with 'Cruella'

How many of their films do you think they'll do this way?

Considering how long they've been a studio and how strong a brand they've created in the global marketplace, Walt Disney Studios seems to constantly be reinventing themselves. Right now, they are in the middle of what seems to be a major shift in terms of identity, turning into a sort of brand-management superstore.

After all, they've got Pixar, Marvel, and "Star Wars" all under the broader Disney logo these days, and I hear there's another mega-brand that they're possibly going to purchase soon. Disney's production slate no longer offers up original material. Instead, you're going to see those brands and nothing else. Even when Pixar makes a non-sequel, it's all about the "Pixar" brand, and that's what Disney is selling over any of their individual titles.

Now it looks like we're seeing another emerging trend at the studio, live-action remakes of their fairy tale classics. "Maleficent" revealed some footage at this year's D23 Expo, and it's amazing how carefully they've worked to recreate the exact look of the "Sleeping Beauty" world and how much every member of the cast looks like the animated versions of the characters. The studio is also making "Cinderella" right now, with Kenneth Branagh directing what he promises will be a very faithful rendition of the story as Disney told it.

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<p>By far, this was one of the most emotional films I've watched with the boys so far, and not in the ways I expected.</p>

By far, this was one of the most emotional films I've watched with the boys so far, and not in the ways I expected.

Credit: Warner Bros

Film Nerd 2.0 turns a corner during an emotional viewing of 'Where The Wild Things Are'

This one hurt

When I was at the Toronto Film Festival recently, I had a chance to talk to Spike Jonze about his new film "Her" and several other subjects. In particular, I told him a story about sharing "Where The Wild Things Are" with my sons and how it represented a major turning point in the emotional life of my family. He seemed struck by what I said, and I told him that I was planning to write about the experience for my ongoing Film Nerd 2.0 column.

The truth is, I've been struggling to figure out how to write this one for a while now, ever since the screening, and it's been difficult to find the right way in. Even considering how personal much of this column has been, this one has been hard for me to grapple with because, unlike many of these columns, this one isn't all warm and fuzzy. I am well aware that I spend more time talking about my kids in print than some people might like. I have gotten e-mails and comments and direct messages from many people asking me to either scale it back or stop altogether. "I just want to read movie reviews," one guy e-mailed me, "and I don't give a shit what your kids think."

Fair enough.

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<p>Michael, Trevor, and Franklin are the leads in 'Grand Theft Auto V' and you end up playing all three of them over the course of the game.</p>

Michael, Trevor, and Franklin are the leads in 'Grand Theft Auto V' and you end up playing all three of them over the course of the game.

Credit: Rockstar Games

Fifteen memorable moments from one week of playing 'Grand Theft Auto V'

I can't begin to review the whole game yet, but I've definitely got some first thoughts

LOS SANTOS - It seems strange to realize that "Grand Theft Auto V" may well be the final game I buy for the Playstation 3.

Shortly after "Grand Theft Auto III" was released, I was at the apartment shared by my friends Josh and Kevin, and they had the game on. I'd heard the title a few times, but I didn't own it, and I hadn't played it. Once I watched Kevin play for about ten minutes, I left their place, went directly to a store, and bought the game and a Playstation 2. I played it incessantly for a while, and when I finally set it aside, I felt like I'd gotten everything out of the mayhem and the free-roaming lunacy that I could get. It was depraved, it was ridiculous, it was damn near impossible to finish as a game, and I loved every bit of it. The game seemed like the sort of thing that the authorities were going to catch wind of and shut down as soon as possible, and that made it even more fun.

Morality in gaming is a funny thing. When I played "Mass Effect 2" and "Mass Effect 3," I found that I couldn't make the renegade choices, no matter what. The way the narrative worked and the way I played Shepard, I felt it necessary to try to be as moral and as compassionate as possible. It seemed like the only way to navigate the political landscape of the games and come through it with my crew intact. The same was true of "Skyrim" when I played that for a few months. I never even considered playing it as anything but a hero. Even when I digressed to finish missions involving the Thieves Guild or whatever, I found myself overcompensating to make sure I was as far on the side of right as possible.

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<p>Hugh Jackman, seen here in 'The Fountain,' is no stranger to eclectic science-fiction films.</p>

Hugh Jackman, seen here in 'The Fountain,' is no stranger to eclectic science-fiction films.

Credit: Warner Bros

Hugh Jackman latest addition to Neill Blomkamp's robot police comedy 'Chappie'

Sharlto Copley's the lead, so what's Jackman playing?

Neill Blomkamp's "Elysium" was met by a far more mixed response than his break-through film "District 9," but that doesn't change my enthusiasm for whatever he's working on. This is one of the few people working right now who has a taste for science-fiction and who is able to get original work produced. In the case of his next film, we're talking about "Chappie," which Blomkamp has described as a "comedy," about a robot policeman who is held hostage by a couple of punks.

Sharlto Copley, who is Blomkamp's go-to guy, will be playing the robot police officer, and the two things were cast a while ago, with Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er from Die Antwoord both onboard.

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<p>Robin Wright gives, quite literally, the performance of her lifetime in Ari Folman's new film 'The Congress'</p>

Robin Wright gives, quite literally, the performance of her lifetime in Ari Folman's new film 'The Congress'

Credit: Drafthouse Films

Review: Robin Wright shakes loose reality in 'The Congress'

HitFix
A-
Readers
n/a
A stunning adult mediation on identity in the digital age

Ariel Folman's "Waltz With Bashir" was a strong use of animation to express something personal, a worldview that tried to paint an emotional picture of what it's like to have gone through something harrowing, tied to both your religious and national identity, something that skews your perception for the rest of your life. I was quite taken with the film when it came out, and I have seen it a few times since on Blu-ray, and find it quite beautiful and sad.

One of several films to premiere at Cannes this summer before playing Fantastic Fest in Austin this month, "The Congress" is something else entirely. Loosely working from a novel by Stanislaw Lem, whose work was also the basis of "Solaris," Folman has made the movie that Andrew Niccol was desperately straining to make with "SimOne." The result is a beautiful, eccentric science-fiction story about the liquid nature of identity in the digital age and what it is that defines performance in the first place. Robin Wright stars as a savagely fictionalized version of herself, facing the end of her career in the form of industry-wide indifference thanks to years of meltdowns, rejected offers, and questionable creative decisions. Her agent, played by Harvey Keitel, comes to her with what is described as "the last offer you'll ever get," delivered by the unflinchingly blunt Danny Huston as a studio head who remembers the promise of the young Buttercup and who is angry at the reality of who Wright has become.

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<p>Yep. That's a Beast.</p>

Yep. That's a Beast.

Credit: Pathe Films

A one-sheet reveals Vincent Cassel and Lea Seydoux in new 'Beauty and the Beast'

Things are getting hairy for the French stars in February

Whoa. I didn't even realize Christophe Gans was working on this one.

"Beauty and the Beast" is one of those irresistible targets for filmmakers, and I would think for French filmmakers, there is a whole different level of expectation attached to anyone who tackles the material. After all, "La Belle et la Bete," the 1946 film by Jean Cocteau, is one of the classic texts of French cinema, and one of the great fantasy films of all time. Jean Marais gave one of the great film performances as the Beast, and the design of the Beast is both memorable and striking.

Over the years, we've seen many takes on the story, and in America, the one that is most defining was made by Disney in 1991. That was more than just a hit for them. If you didn't see the film during that initial theatrical run, you might not understand just what a phenomenon it was. People reacted like they were at a live performance, and it made perfect sense that the film ended up nominated for Best Picture that year. It's still one of the biggest cultural hits they've ever had, and it continues to be an enormously popular catalog title for them.

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<p>Yep. That's the face I'd make, too. That thing is freeeeeeeeeeeaky.</p>

Yep. That's the face I'd make, too. That thing is freeeeeeeeeeeaky.

Credit: Sony Animation Studios

Review: 'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2' is funny but confused about what it's saying

HitFix
B+
Readers
C-
Does a message matter in a crazy comedy for kids?

Thematically confused, but possessed of a manic comic energy that is hard to deny, "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2" is a case of a sequel that will likely please many, but that falls short of the original nonetheless.

The original "Cloudy" was a bit of a miracle, a very loose adaptation of a sweet children's book that cranked up the funny and ended up working as a totally different thing than the book. The father-son story grounded the film with a nice sense of heart, but it was packed with almost non-stop jokes by Chris Miller and Phil Lord and their excellent story team. While Miller and Lord are busy finishing "The LEGO Movie" right now, Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn have stepped up to direct the sequel, and it maintains much of the energy that made the first film fun.

Still, it raises the question of how important it is that a film present a singular message, because it feels to me like "Cloudy 2" is deeply confused in many ways. The script by John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein and Erica Rivinoja certainly seems unfettered in terms of invention, but they set up some things that it feels like they don't fully explore. In particular, the questions it raises about scientific curiosity versus scientific responsibility are never answered, or if they are, the answers are far from considered.

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<p>Meryl Streep ventures 'Into the Woods' as the Witch who wishes to  reverse a curse so that her beauty may be restored.</p>

Meryl Streep ventures 'Into the Woods' as the Witch who wishes to reverse a curse so that her beauty may be restored.

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

First 'Into The Woods' image reveals Meryl Streep as The Witch

Production is underway in London for a December 2014 release

Right now, construction is underway at Shepperton Studios outside London for the film adaptation of "Into The Woods," the long-running musical hit by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, and with the film due in theaters for the holiday season in 2014, they're already starting the promotional push.

Meryl Streep is set to play The Witch in the film, one of the central roles in the piece, and Disney sent over the first photo of her in costume today. If you're not familiar with the musical, The Witch lives next door to The Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt), who are desperate to have a child. The Witch has cursed them, though, so they will never have a child unless they help her find the ingredients that she requires for a spell that will restore her former beauty. She sends them on a quest to find "the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold."

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<p>Olivia Wilde's been having a very good year on film, and seemed excited to discuss her work in Ron Howard's new film 'Rush'</p>

Olivia Wilde's been having a very good year on film, and seemed excited to discuss her work in Ron Howard's new film 'Rush'

Credit: HitFix

Olivia Wilde on why her character is attracted to danger in 'Rush'

Plus she discusses the difficulty of researching her role

One of the things that defines the men of "Rush" is the way they relate to the women in their lives.

Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) is reluctant to open his life to Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara), but once he does, it's obvious that she is important to him, and she changes the way he thinks about life and death for the first time. James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), on the other hand, may love the idea of being married to Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde), a famous model who looks great on his arm, but he isn't wired to put anyone else's wants or needs before his own.

When I sat down with Wilde in Toronto to talk about the film, she was excited to discuss how she researched Miller, who wasn't really much of a public figure. It was a different time, and people were actually able to have private lives even if they worked in a field like modeling. It made it hard for her to track down much material about Miller, but she was able to at least tap into the way it would feel to be married to someone who risked their life every time they went out the door.

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With 'Gravity' on the horizon what are the greatest space movies of all-time?
Credit: Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, MGM

With 'Gravity' on the horizon what are the greatest space movies of all-time?

'Star Wars'? 'Alien'? '2001'? Which film tops our list?

With "Gravity" set to hit theaters next week, we decided to look back at some of our favorite space movies. When discussing it, we set the game up like this: in order to be on the list, the film needed to feature important and pivotal sequences set in space. Not on another planet, mind you, but in space.

There's always been something mysterious and beautiful about the notion of outer space, and it's easy to understand what drove us to look up into that vast expanse overhead and decide we had to go there. Even today, as we continue to learn more and more about what's out there, we still seem to have only taken baby steps into what I believe is our eventual destiny. We make so many movies set in space because it continues to gnaw at us. I feel like there is a race between us ruining this planet and us leaving it, and I pray we make the right choice.

We sifted through dozens of films that fit the basic description here, and then the HitFix staff voted on what they felt the ten best were. The results were, as always, surprising in some ways, totally expected in others. It seems like we have a lot of love for "2010" here at HitFix, for example, something I wouldn't have predicted, and the films that almost made the list are tons of fun, like "Galaxy Quest."

One common thread that runs through most of these films, aside from setting, is that they seem to celebrate the potential of space. Sure, it can be terrifying at times, but beyond that, space seems to speak to the best in us, and these ten films are all worth your time and attention, and are sure to set the stage for when you get to see the remarkable "Gravity" starting next Friday.

Check out our picks here:

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