<p>I have that exact chessboard.</p>

I have that exact chessboard.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Bryan Singer confirms McKellen and Stewart returning for 'X-Men: Days Of Future Past'

Project shaping up as the ultimate 'X-Men' film so far

Well, imagine that.

Ever since they announced that the newest film in Fox's X-Men series would be called "Days Of Future Past," fans have been waiting to see how one of the most popular and enduring storylines from the comic would be adapted, and how it might unite the first three films in the series with "X-Men: First Class," and now Bryan Singer has revealed some casting news that is very exciting.

Earlier this morning, Singer posted the following to his Twitter account:

"I'd like to officially welcome back James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender & Nicholas Hoult to #XMEN for #DaysOfFuturePast"

Great.  Fassbender and Lawrence are on fire right now career-wise, so I'm glad they've worked out deals to make sure they play Magneto and Mystique again.  I think they were both vital parts of making "X-Men: First Class" work in the first place, and they are important parts of the story moving forward.

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<p>Can you believe this is still the only image we've seen from 'Star Trek Into Darkness'?</p>

Can you believe this is still the only image we've seen from 'Star Trek Into Darkness'?

Credit: Paramount Pictures

An official synopsis for 'Star Trek Into Darkness' offers more hints about the villain

And yet we still know almost nothing for sure

It is amazing to me that we are this close to the release of "Star Trek Into Darkness" and no one has been able to confirm the identity of the bad guy in the film so far.

There was a period of time where everyone was absolutely sure that Khan was going to be the villain again, and even when I got JJ Abrams to state on the record that he was not going to be the bad guy, people insisted that they were sure.  Benedict Cumberbatch, best known right now for his outstanding work in the BBC's "Sherlock," was eventually cast as the film's antagonist, which would seem like very strange casting for Khan.

We're about to start finally getting concrete information about the film, and I am eager to see the nine-minute opening sequence that will be screening in front of "The Hobbit" at every IMAX screening when the film opens next month.  I would imagine that opening will clearly establish the tone of the new film and give us some idea of where things are going to head in terms of story.

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<p>Joseph Gordon-Levitt is set to step in as Batman for 'Justice League,' according to sources close to the production.</p>

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is set to step in as Batman for 'Justice League,' according to sources close to the production.

Credit: Warner Bros/Legendary

Exclusive: Is Joseph Gordon-Levitt already set to play Batman in 'Justice League'?

Warner Bros. appears to be firming up their plans for the future of the character

It's starting to look like Warner Bros may hold Christopher Nolan in the highest possible regard, but that in the end, they own their characters and they will decide what they're going to do with them.

After all, we heard much talk this summer about how the Batman franchise was ending, at least as far as the current version is concerned, and I believe that Nolan was serious when he said that was the last story he had to tell about the character.  But Nolan is working with Warner Bros. on the "Man Of Steel" relaunch this summer, and as we reported earlier today, director Zack Snyder is starting to hint at the idea that his film is part of a larger continuity.

Certainly, the ending of "The Dark Knight Rises" hints at a possible future for the franchise, and there has been much speculation about whether or not they'll work to connect the end of that film to the larger world of DC properties that Warner is so desperate to create.  Over the last couple of weeks, that speculation seems to have turned into conversation, and that conversation seems to be solidifying into a plan.

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<p>I love the single tease we've had so far of this new Superman in action, but there are huge expectations pinned to the performance of 'Man Of Steel'</p>

I love the single tease we've had so far of this new Superman in action, but there are huge expectations pinned to the performance of 'Man Of Steel'

Credit: Warner Bros/Legendary

Zack Snyder confirms 'Man Of Steel' as one step towards 'Justice League'

Now let's hope it's going to be Warner's best foot forward

If I had to pick one movie in 2013 that I hope works, it would be Zack Snyder's "Man Of Steel."

I think it is beyond comprehension that Warner has taken this long to get Superman back on track.  He is not just DC's single most important and iconic superhero character, he is also the single most iconic superhero owned by anyone.  Superman is, for many people, the definition of what a superhero is in pop culture, known pretty much everywhere.  And while almost everyone has some idea of what Superman is, it seems like it has been insanely difficult for the studio to figure out exactly which version of the character they want to see onscreen.

There has been a ton of speculation about how Warner Bros would start to build their way towards "Justice League," and most of the scrutiny is now focused on whether or not we'll see our first steps towards that with "Man Of Steel" next summer.  One of the questions involved has to do with tone.  You look at how Marvel handled their build-up to "The Avengers," and the most important thing they did was set a certain tone that meant you would be able to accept it when Tony Stark and Bruce Banner and Thor and Steve Rogers all ended up in a frame together, no matter how different their individual stories. 

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<p>Jessica Chastain does a tremendous job as a CIA analyst at the heart of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in 'Zero Dark Thirty'</p>

Jessica Chastain does a tremendous job as a CIA analyst at the heart of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Review: Jessica Chastain anchors the stark, uncompromising 'Zero Dark Thirty'

HitFix
A
Readers
B+
Kathryn Bigelow bests her Oscar-winning 'Hurt Locker' with her new film

I think two directors this year are following up the movies where they won Best Picture with films that I think are clearly superior to the films they won the awards for.  This is one of the reasons I think this entire season is so strange.  Politics are so clearly part of the process of what gets picked and what gets ignored that if you try to apply the filter of "deserves" or "fair" to the films you watch, you'll go crazy.  In a perfect world, it shouldn't matter what film Kathryn Bigelow made last, or what awards it won.  But because "The Hurt Locker" was the little film that could, and it did, the scrutiny this time around is on a whole new level.  Of course, she's also collaborating again with Mark Boal, the screenwriter of "The Hurt Locker," and this is also a military themed film, so they're basically setting themselves up for the comparison.

I would love for the Kathryn Bigelow who directed "The Loveless" and "Near Dark" to sit down and watch "Zero Dark Thirty," because the huge dissonance between the voices of those works would make her head explode, "Scanners"-style.  She started her career as a filmmaker whose work existed in an entirely artificial movie universe, and with "Zero Dark Thirty," it feels like she has finally reached a place where she has stripped all artifice from her approach, and she's made a film that is pure procedural, the "Zodiac" approach to the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.  I can't tell you for sure that the film has anything to do with the unvarnished truth, but I can tell you that this feels accurate.  It has an integrity to it that is bracing and adult, and it manages to deliver a major visceral experience without ever once bending to Hollywood convention.  This is a film that knows exactly what it's doing, and does it without compromise.

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<p>Anthony Hopkins and Scarlett Johansson co-star in the disastrous 'Hitchcock,' set during the making of 'Psycho'</p>

Anthony Hopkins and Scarlett Johansson co-star in the disastrous 'Hitchcock,' set during the making of 'Psycho'

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: 'Hitchcock' fails on almost every level as drama and biography

HitFix
D
Readers
C+
Only someone who hates the filmmaker would endorse this mess

Just as Fox made it easy for people to mainline James Bond movies in the lead-up to the release of "Skyfall" by putting out that beautiful Bond 50 box set, Universal has made it easy for people to take a crash course in Alfred Hitchcock by releasing their retrospective box of his films on Blu-ray.  Unfortunately, the Bond 50 box set put "Skyfall" in a perfect context to be enjoyed, but comparing even the least of Hitchcock's films to Sacha Gervasi's "Hitchcock" isn't going to do this new film any favors.

If you'd asked me for my reaction to "Hitchcock" as I walked out of the theater, it would have been mildly negative, but the more I've thought about it, the less I like it.  Gervasi was the director of the wonderful documentary "Anvil: The Story Of Anvil," and as a screenwriter, he's responsible for Spielberg's "The Terminal" and a small indie called "Henry's Crime," which I didn't see.  I liked "Anvil" so much that I've been curious to see what he could do as a director with a great script.  And now, the wait continues.

I've read Stephen Rebello's book, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of 'Psycho,' and it's a well-written, well-researched look at the director and the production of one of his most famous films, but Rebello's book doesn't really feel like a story that demands to be told as a film.  It wasn't the most demanding process in Hitchcock's career, nor is it a film that reveals Hitchcock's own inner life to the degree that, say, "Vertigo" does.  So why tell this story as a film?  And if you are going to tell it, why lie about so much of what actually occurred if you can't even come up with a compelling drama with your falsehoods?

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<p>Larry Hagman may be gone, but he leaves behind a well-loved body of work.</p>

Larry Hagman may be gone, but he leaves behind a well-loved body of work.

Credit: TNT

TV's infamous J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, has passed away at 81

Not many actors are able to stay as relevant for as long

Larry Hagman will always be identified with the indelible roles he played on "I Dream Of Jeannie" and both iterations of the series "Dallas," but as we mark the occasion of his passing tonight, let's remember that he was a gifted comic and dramatic actor who had a long and robust career on both the big and small screens.  Born into a show business family (his mother was Mary Martin, a huge star in her day), he endured in a way that few performers ever do.

For my money, his finest work ever was in the Blake Edwards comedy "S.O.B.," and that's the film I'll be throwing on later tonight in honor of him.  It's a blistering Hollywood satire, and Hagman plays a disgusting version of a Hollywood executive, the type of person I'm guessing he had plenty of experience with over the years.  Hagman seemed to be most at home in his work when playing people whose personal moral compasses were somehow poorly calibrated, and maybe that's why he became a pop culture sensation starring as J.R. Ewing on "Dallas."  He enjoyed the work so much that it spilled over to the way audiences would watch him.

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<p>Suraj Sharma shares most of his screen time with the remarkable Richard Parker in Ang Lee's adaptation of 'Life Of&nbsp;Pi'</p>

Suraj Sharma shares most of his screen time with the remarkable Richard Parker in Ang Lee's adaptation of 'Life Of Pi'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Ang Lee's ambitious 'Life Of Pi' dazzles and frustrates in equal measure

HitFix
C+
Readers
B+
Can ten minutes unravel an entire film?

I have been an ardent supporter of Ang Lee's work over the years, and if nothing else, "Life Of Pi" demonstrates just how much control he maintains over his craft, both technically and artistically.  In 1997, when most people were arguing over whether "Titanic" or "LA Confidential" was the best film of the year, I was of the opinion that the sadly-underseen "The Ice Storm" was better than either of them.  When his "Hulk" came out, I loved it precisely because it was such a left-of-center take on the material, and there are images from the film that are still among the most beautiful in any superhero film so far.  And when I posted my article about the 50 Best Films of the last decade, "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" landed right on top of my list.  It is safe to say I am a fan of his work.

I am not, however, a fan of "Life Of Pi."

I believe that David Magee's screenplay is the best possible adaptation of Yann Martel's novel, but the problems I have begin with the book, and they've been carried over to the movie, completely intact and just as problematic.  This is one of the most striking cases I've ever seen of the craftsmanship of a film being at total odds with the text itself.  I love how the film tells the story, but I don't like the story.  It is almost purely metaphorical, and for much of the running time, it is an overwhelming visceral experience.  Lee's use of 3D in the film is remarkable, and as a theatrical experience, it's hard to argue with the impact.  But it is also hard to argue that the film isn't also frustrating and flawed on a fundamental level, one that bothers me far more than the visuals dazzle me.

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<p>Jesse Eisenberg heads up a team of stage magicians who use a series of heists to play Robin Hood in 'Now You See Me'</p>

Jesse Eisenberg heads up a team of stage magicians who use a series of heists to play Robin Hood in 'Now You See Me'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

An all-star cast pulls off a magic heist in the first trailer for 'Now You See Me'

Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, and Woody Harrelson headline a strong ensemble

Are you ready for Hollywood to go crazy about magic?

In June, we saw the first images from the set of "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," which stars Steve Carrell as a Vegas magician who tries to get back together with his former partner Anton Lovecraft (Steve Buscemi) so that they can work together to destroy Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), who seems like a cross between Criss Angel and David Blaine.  That is obviously the big comedy version of doing a film about the world of magic, but since Hollywood can't do one version of something without also doing a ton of similar films at the same time, we can also look forward to the slick stylish heist movie magic film, and if the first trailer's anything to judge by, "Now You See Me" looks like it could pull off a major trick at the box-office.

It has traditionally been very different to do a film about stage magic that works, and part of that is because the thrill of magic comes from seeing it live, with no edits, and still being fooled by what you see.  On film, anything is possible because it's film.  When Christopher Nolan made "The Prestige," he made the entire notion of misdirection and lies part of the thematic structure of the movie, and he shot the magic scenes in a way that made all of it seem possible, even when the film took a turn towards the surreal.  It looks like director Louis Leterrier is going in the exact opposite direction with "Now You See Me," which appears to have gone through a whole lot of hands on its way to the screen.

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<p>Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Taran Killam, and Jeremy&nbsp;Renner all made fun of 'The Avengers' this weekend on 'Saturday Night Live'</p>

Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Taran Killam, and Jeremy Renner all made fun of 'The Avengers' this weekend on 'Saturday Night Live'

Watch what happens when Hawkeye runs out of arrows on SNL's 'Avengers' parody

Jeremy Renner sends up his own blockbuster role for NBC

I'm in London right now, so I had to hunt down a YouTube version of the "Avengers" sketch that Jeremy Renner did last night on "Saturday Night Live."  I was curious to see how Renner did with live comedy, something that is totally outside his comfort zone so far, and I also wanted to see what they did to make fun of the film.

The sketch is very silly and very short, and more than anything, I'd love to see the reaction at Marvel Studios when they saw it.  It's one thing when it's the SNL cast making fun of your film, but to have one of your actual franchise stars playing the same part in the sketch, that hits kind of close to home.  And on top of it, Taran Killam played Captain America in the sketch, and in real life, he is of course married to Cobie Smulders, who played Maria Hill in the film.

I think the best things in the sketch are Jason Sudeikis as Iron Man saying "You've been quipped!" and Renner's exasperated "Yes, and I killed 11 of them. You're welcome."

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