<p>Andy Serkis is one of those guys who always seems thrilled to discuss the work he's doing, which makes sense because it's amazing.</p>

Andy Serkis is one of those guys who always seems thrilled to discuss the work he's doing, which makes sense because it's amazing.

Credit: HitFix

Andy Serkis on slipping back into Gollum's digital skin for 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'

Plus we talk about his new career as a director

Andy Serkis is one of those guys whose influence on the industry is just starting to be fully understood, and I have a feeling we've got a lot of great work from him still to come.

Part of what will make Serkis so significant in any future conversations about performance capture is timing.  He happened to be the guy who had the right skill set at the right moment, just as the technology started to come of age.  But part of it is because he has embraced this moment with a joy and with a sense of invention and adventure, and it seems like other actors are having that experience, too, but that Serkis really is the pioneer.

It's great that he returned to Gollum because it serves as a very stark comparison between the state-of-the-art at opposite ends of a decade, and while you may not see a major leap forward from year to year, if you lay "The Two Towers" Gollum and the "Hobbit" Gollum side-by-side, it's a night and day experience.  More and more of the subtle work that Serkis does is making its way into these characters now, and what was one inspiration is now direct manipulation.

Read Full Post
<p>Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx play an unlikely pair of bounty hunters on a personal mission in Quentin Tarantino's blisteringly funny and righteously angry 'Django Unchained'</p>

Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx play an unlikely pair of bounty hunters on a personal mission in Quentin Tarantino's blisteringly funny and righteously angry 'Django Unchained'

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: 'Django Unchained' sets rowdy and bloody fire to America's painful history

HitFix
A
Readers
A
Tarantino pays homage to a new genre and comes up aces again

I think it's safe to say at this point that Quentin Tarantino's work speaks directly to the sensibilities that shaped me as a film fan, and when I see people dismiss his work as mere pastiche, it is infuriating.  Tarantino is a thoroughly modern film artist, and his way of working is not something that would automatically work for everyone.  But when he throws his various influences into a blender and creates one of his hyper-potent cinematic cocktails, the result is more than just those bits and pieces shuffled into a new order.  His films speak directly to the way iconography works as a shared language for film fans, and he plays both to and against expectation in his work in ways that reveal him as one of the most sharp-witted pranksters working today.

"Django Unchained" is "Blazing Saddles" with a body count, a positively incendiary entertainment about America's greatest shame, the personal and social toll of slavery, and like Tarantino's last film, "Inglourious Basterds," this is a case of history being remixed in a way that makes more emotional sense to Tarantino as a storyteller.  I don't know what instigated this switch in direction for him, but I love it.  The emotional rush that hit at the end of "Basterds" was remarkable, this compelling feeling that we were getting to see something that we needed to see, no matter if it was 100% factual or not.  It was emotionally correct, and that's all that mattered.

Read Full Post
<p>Martin Freeman's busier than he's ever been these days and the audience is richer for it.</p>

Martin Freeman's busier than he's ever been these days and the audience is richer for it.

Credit: HitFix

Martin Freeman talks about how Andy Serkis set the tone for 'The Hobbit'

We discuss carrying the weight of the trilogy with the man who would be Bilbo

I guess it's just a matter of time until they announce John Krasinski as the lead in "Episode VII," right? 

I mean, seeing Jim from "The Office" wielding a lightsaber is just as unlikely as Martin Freeman being the lead in "The Hobbit."  And yet, here we are, and I did indeed sit down with Freeman to talk about stepping into the familiar feet of Bilbo Baggins for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," the first in the three films that will tell the story of the dearly beloved book.

Freeman first came to popularity with his work as Tim in the original UK version of "The Office," and the same qualities that made him perfect for that role have served him well in other roles, like Arthur Dent in "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy," John Watson on Stephen Moffat's outstanding "Sherlock," and of course, the completely out-of-water Mr. Baggins, far from his Shire, doing his best to survive an adventure.

Read Full Post
<p>Anyone else get the feeling Johnny Depp and the horse are going to steal the show?</p>

Anyone else get the feeling Johnny Depp and the horse are going to steal the show?

Credit: Walt Disney Company

Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp go big with a new 'Lone Ranger' trailer

Can they make lightning strike again with a new franchise?

One of the reasons I really like "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" is because the film's existence is such a cheerful, celebratory end zone dance by Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, two men who were in desperate need of at least a solid triple at the box-office.

It's hard to remember at this point a time in which Johnny Depp was thought to be box-office poison.  It's true, though.  He had a long and fascinating string of good choices that did nothing to help make him a movie star.  They made him a better actor, and I think his natural talent has mainly to do with the way he would approach his roles.  He made big decisions, risky decisions about voices and make-up and physical traits.  In "Cry-Baby," "Edward Scissorhands," "Benny and Joon," "Ed Wood," "Dead Man," "Fear And Loathing," and more, he did really good work.  The films just weren't hits, though, and it was starting to look like he'd used up his 23 chances.  Tim Burton seemed to be the one collaborator who he could turn to for even a glancing chance at commercial relevance.  I don't think that is the goal of someone's career, but it is a requirement if you're going to keep getting the opportunity to star in interesting and exciting films.

Read Full Post
<p>I&nbsp;have to say, I'm not really sure about the all-fire version of the costume they designed for Superman in Zack Snyder's 'Man Of Steel'</p>

I have to say, I'm not really sure about the all-fire version of the costume they designed for Superman in Zack Snyder's 'Man Of Steel'

Credit: Warner Bros/Legendary

New 'Man Of Steel' trailer reveals a sadder but stronger Superman

Could Zack Snyder successfully redefine the character?

Wow.

That is, of course, the exact word that Warner Bros. wants to hear in response to their new trailer for "Man Of Steel," and while I guess I thought we'd be seeing more action, what with Zack Snyder describing the trailer as "crazy" a few weeks ago.

What we see here instead explains a lot about the approach that the film is taking, and it uses much of the footage we saw at last year's Comic-Con, but with new footage as well.  There's an early beat where we see Clark fleeing from a classroom, upset, and Ma Kent (Diane Lane) has to talk him down, asking him to focus on her voice like it's an island.  Is this where he first gets his super-hearing and he is suddenly overwhelmed by voices around the world?  We also see that he is haunted by an early incident in his life where he saves a bus full of kids from drowning, and that he seems to be running from who he is.

Read Full Post
<p>'Would you believe we built that room for a Hulk?'</p>

'Would you believe we built that room for a Hulk?'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

A day at Bad Robot gives us a better look at 'Star Trek Into Darkness'

Plus we share a crazy theory about the secrets JJ Abrams is hiding in plain sight

The Bad Robot offices occupy a large building in Santa Monica that you would never notice just driving by.  I missed it the first time around the block, and had to circle back before I was able to hand off my car to the waiting valet.  I was afraid I'd missed the start of today's "Star Trek Into Darkness" event, but ended up making it in just enough time to get my green wristband, join my group, and start the tour of the building, designed to give us a look inside one of next year's most anticipated sequels.

To be clear, there was one point in the day where we saw something we had to promise not to disclose.  I wouldn't say it radically changed anything I'm going to share with you, but instead simply served to amp up my own enthusiasm because it was really, really, yes, I'm going to say it three whole times, REALLY cool.

If you're curious about the identity of the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch, Paramount took care of that earlier today, and they're not lying to you.  They released an image of Zachary Quinto as Spock, Cumberbatch in the cell that held Loki and Silva, and Chris Pine as Captain James T. Motherscratchin' Kirk, and in the caption, they named him as "John Harrison."

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Look, it's the bad guy for 'Star Trek Into Darkness'!&nbsp;I can't believe it's...&quot;&nbsp; &quot;SHHHH!&nbsp;Not one more word, Uhura!&quot;</p>

"Look, it's the bad guy for 'Star Trek Into Darkness'! I can't believe it's..."  "SHHHH! Not one more word, Uhura!"

Credit: Paramount/Bad Robot

IMAX prologue to 'Star Trek Into Darkness' teases expertly and answers nothing

One thing's for sure: the chemistry is definitely in full force for the sequel

Earlier this evening, I took the biggest "Star Trek" fan I know to see the nine-minute prologue that will be screened in IMAX venues in front of the release of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," and based on his reaction, I'd say JJ Abrams and crew have absolutely nothing to worry about when the film hits theaters in May of 2013.

Even now, at the end of the nine-minute presentation, I cannot conclusively tell you who Benedict Cumberbatch is playing.  We do meet him very early in the footage, though.  The film starts with an alarm clock going off, waking a married couple played by Nazneen Contractor and Noel Clarke.  They quickly get ready, peeking out their window at the rainy cityscape of London in the year 2259.  They drive to the London Children's Hospital to visit their little girl, who appears to be aging prematurely, sick and near-bald, completely unresponsive.  Clarke walks outside to catch some air and try to pull himself together, and someone steps up behind him to say, "I can save her."  Clarke turns around and we get our first look at Cumberbatch.

Read Full Post
<p>This can't end well.</p>

This can't end well.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Tom Cruise fights humans and aliens alike in the first trailer for science-fiction epic 'Oblivion'

Looks like Will Smith's got some 'After Earth' competition next year

I may not have cared much for "TRON: Legacy," but my problems were primarily with the script.  Joseph Kosinski's work as a director was meticulous and often quite beautiful, and I walked away curious to see what he could do with a different (and better) screenplay.

Maybe "Oblivion" is that screenplay.  I certainly hope so after seeing the first trailer for the film.  I always root for big-budget original science fiction, and I would love for this to be a smart action film that uses its impressive backdrop as a way to tell a story that really means something, a film that is more than just empty calories.  The reason I fell in love with science-fiction in the first place is because of the way it can tell universal stories about who we are and where we're going and how we relate to each other and the world around us, but one step removed, which often makes even the most difficult message more palatable.  It helps that two of the credited writers on the film are Michael Arndt, who is of course currently hard at work on "Star Wars: Episode VII," and Oscar-winner William Monahan.  Not too shabby.

Read Full Post
<p>Paul Williams, profiled so memorably in 'Paul Williams Still Alive' this year, is collaborating with Guilermo Del Toro, who we will now refer to from now on as 'The Happiest Mexican On Earth'</p>

Paul Williams, profiled so memorably in 'Paul Williams Still Alive' this year, is collaborating with Guilermo Del Toro, who we will now refer to from now on as 'The Happiest Mexican On Earth'

Credit: Abramorama Films

Guillermo Del Toro and Paul Williams join forces for a 'Pan's Labyrinth' musical

I may die of joy just from typing that headline

It does not remotely surprise me that Guillermo Del Toro is finally working with Paul Williams.

The idea of turning "Pan's Labyrinth" into a stage musical is intriguing.  It's a lush dark fantasy world, and I would imagine it gives the production team some great opportunities to build a gorgeous world on the stage.  It also deals with sweeping emotional arcs, and when you're creating a musical, I think the bigger the emotions, the better the piece.

Gustavo Santoallala is the composer of, among other scores, "The Motorcycle Diaries," one of my personal favorite scores of the last ten years.  I've played that soundtrack hundreds and hundreds of times while working, and I think he's got a very fresh and interesting musical voice.  His music with Williams writing lyrics sounds to me like an incredible marriage of talent.  Williams, of course, is known for his work with the Carpenters, his songs for "The Muppet Movie," and the absolutely incredible score for Brian De Palma's "Phantom Of The Paradise."

Read Full Post
<p>Anne Hathaway will break your heart. Period.</p>

Anne Hathaway will break your heart. Period.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: Long-awaited film version of 'Les Miserables' delivers huge emotion

HitFix
B+
Readers
B+
While not everything works, there is real beauty and power to the film

Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg certainly did not need for a film adaptation of "Les Miserables" to happen to validate the work.  After all, this is one of the most successful stage productions of all time, omnipresent for over over two decades, beloved and still relevant.  There was a point in Hollywood history where any successful stage musical was automatically brought to the screen in the most lavish possible fashion, but that hasn't been true for many years now.  Musicals, like Westerns, are increasingly rare, and Hollywood is no longer turning out performers who are automatically at home singing and dancing in front of the camera.  For Tom Hooper, following up "The King's Speech" was going to be tough no matter what, and I'll give him credit for ambition.  He called his shot and swung for a home run, and while he didn't knock it out of the park, the material itself is so strong, and the film's cast is so game, that it doesn't matter.

The script by Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel, James Fenton and William Nicholson is very faithful to the original stage production, which plays almost as a highlights reel of Victor Hugo's novel.  There is a sort of runaway train quality to the narrative, and the film maintains that same breakneck pace from the visually arresting opening moments to the final haunting moments. There is a feeling at times that things move so quickly and with such unrelenting pace that it's hard to catch your breath, hard to let yourself fully experience a beat emotionally, but that's the production itself.  It's just inherent to how they've told the story.  And while there are certainly things about the film that make full use of the difference between stage and screen, this still feels like a fairly intimately scaled story considering the time span it covers and the huge cast of characters involved.

Read Full Post