'Space Jam 2' is really happening and it's all your fault
Credit: Warner Bros

'Space Jam 2' is really happening and it's all your fault

Ah, nostalgia goggles, look what you've done now

You see what you’ve done with your ironic hipster love of terrible movies?

I was 26 when Space Jam was released to theaters in 1996. I’m a big fan of the classic Warner Bros. animation. I’ve purchased Looney Tunes collections on laserdisc, DVD, and now Blu-ray, and I love revisiting the work of Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Maurice Noble, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Frank Tashlin, and Robert McKimson, among others. If you to ask me what televised sport is my favorite, I’ve always preferred basketball to anything else because of the pace and because of the simplicity of the game itself. It’s very pure, and even the worst NBA game is entertaining. And when it comes to Bill Murray… well, he’s on that very short list of my favorite things. Not just favorite people, and not just favorite movie stars, but overall favorite things. That’s a list that includes things like my kids, the Internet, space travel, and the advent of fire. So if anyone should have been an easy target for Space Jam, it’s me, and yet I’d be the first to tell you that Space Jam is a terrible, terrible movie that somehow made all three of those key ingredients almost wholly impossible to like.

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Film Nerd 2.0: When kids ask hard questions about history, does Hollywood help or hurt?
Credit: Orion Pictures/Universal Pictures

Film Nerd 2.0: When kids ask hard questions about history, does Hollywood help or hurt?

'Schindler's List' and 'Dances With Wolves' led to very interesting weekends

“I want to be in the Army.”

That statement prompted a frantic phone call from my ex-wife, and an entire series of conversations. It also inspired a very particular screening of a very particular film, one in a series of recent screenings that have spoken to Toshi’s developing interests in both history and Hollywood.

While movies are very important to Toshi, they are less important than Allen, and I suspect there will come a time where I lose Allen to other interests. That’s fine with me. Whatever he’s interested in and excited by, I’ll encourage him. Right now, his interests are more in games and puzzles and building things. Minecraft is pretty much the perfect intersection of all of Allen’s energies. As a result, when I am picking things that we’re all going to watch together, I find myself going mainstream and populist and easy. Allen will watch a superhero film with us happily. He’s as excited for each new episode of The Flash as Toshi is. If there’s something that has anything to do with Star Wars, Allen is onboard. But when it comes to being challenged by a movie, Allen isn’t really interested.

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'Battle Angel Alita' narrows things down to three actors for James Cameron remake
Credit: Viz Media

'Battle Angel Alita' narrows things down to three actors for James Cameron remake

Who will Robert Rodriguez direct in this big-budget SF action film?

There was a point where it wasn’t clear what James Cameron’s next film would be, and there was parallel development being done on both Avatar and Battle Angel Alita. At one point, it looked like Alita was the project that was in the lead, and the entire art department floor of Lightstorm at their Santa Monica offices was transformed so that the cubicles and the file cabinets and everything else had been transformed into the city of Scrapyard, a massive metropolitan trash heap that was made of all the debris poured off of Tiphares, a floating city people entirely by the rich. The ceiling of that entire floor was transformed into the underside of Tiphares, so the people designing the world could look up and feel like they were living in that world.

It looks like Lightstorm is finally producing a Battle Angel Alita movie with Robert Rodriguez directing, and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens when Robert works this way, taking his time, directing something on this giant scale. Robert has always worked fast and cheap, doing as much as he can himself, frequently hiring people for jobs and then overlapping his work with theirs. He’s been working like that for so long that I think it’s exciting to see him do something like this. Any time you can challenge a filmmaker to bend his own technique to a very different version of the process, you’re asking them to step outside of their comfort zone, and that can be a moment where they do remarkable things.

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Stephen King's 'Cell' finally gets a trailer, so is it better late than never?
Credit: Lionsgate/Saban

Stephen King's 'Cell' finally gets a trailer, so is it better late than never?

It's taken over a decade for this one to reach the screen

This one’s been a long time coming.

Stephen King is a genre unto himself at this point. A “Stephen King movie” can be anything from Stand By Me to Maximum Overdrive, and the only thing they all have in common is him as the original source of the material. It seems like a given at this point that if King publishes something, it will eventually be turned into a film. Some books just take longer than others to make the jump.

For example, Hulu just wrapped up 11.22.63, the eight-part adaptation of King’s time-travel story about trying to stop the murder of JFK from taking place. Co-produced by Bad Robot and starring James Franco, that was not the first attempt at cracking that adaptation. Jonathan Demme was the first director to try to take a crack at that one, and he was going to do it as a feature film. It’s not uncommon for a King property to change hands repeatedly during development. With Cell, for example, Eli Roth was the one first attached ten years ago. He was going to do it for Dimension FIlms at the time. Three years later, King talked about working on his own version of the script and working to take the conclusion of the book, one of his least popular endings, and rewrite it according to the feedback he’d gotten from readers over the years.

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Review: Beyonce's amazing truthbomb turns emotional lemons into 'Lemonade'
Credit: Warner Records/Columbia Records
A

Review: Beyonce's amazing truthbomb turns emotional lemons into 'Lemonade'

HBO and Tidal give us our first look at one of 2016's biggest pop culture moments

Is it okay for a critic to say, “I respect this work of art, and I am not fully qualified to speak to the profundity of the text?”

Because that’s where I find myself with Beyonce’s Lemonade, a remarkable visual album that she released under a cloak of complete secrecy last night. HBO made the one-hour program available twice on their channel during their free-preview-weekend, and it was also available for 24 hours via HBO Now, the app that I have. I don’t have cable, and I don’t like cable. I want the right to consume things a la carte, and anything I can do to support that media model, I do. I will pay providers for content, but I want to do it the way I want to do it. Because it was on HBO Now, I’ve been able to watch the film repeatedly, stopping it, grabbing some stills from it. It may be gone tomorrow, but for now, I’m enjoying it, and part of the enjoyment is realizing that I’m not getting everything it’s doing, and I’ll need help to get there.

I look at this film, this collaboration between Beyonce Knowles Carter and a fistful of filmmakers including Mark Romanek, Kahlil Joseph, and Melina Matsoukas, and I am overwhelmed by it. It is powerful and it is personal, and it is full of cultural touchstones that are not mine. Tonight, I’ll be reading as much as I can about how other people are reacting to it because I’m genuinely curious. I would love to have it decoded and digested by writers who share more common cultural ground with Beyonce, and I am also excited to read how other people in my own position react, people coming at it from the outside. That is one of my favorite kinds of art, art that challenges me to adopt a perspective that is not my own. I can react to it in my way, and I know that my reaction is not universal. And yet, there are things about it that I found immediately moving, immediately pulling me in

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Robert Downey Jr. signs for 'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' surprising no one
Credit: Marvel Studios

Robert Downey Jr. signs for 'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' surprising no one

This makes perfect sense

In a move that will surprise no one after they see Captain America: Civil War, Robert Downey Jr. has evidently closed his deal to make an appearance in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

I hope he spends his entire time onscreen hitting on Aunt May.

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Review: 'Winter's War' looks pretty, but there's no reason for a 'Hunstman' sequel
Credit: Universal Pictures
C

Review: 'Winter's War' looks pretty, but there's no reason for a 'Hunstman' sequel

I don't get this one at all

Last week, I rewatched Snow White And The Huntsman, and then went back to read my review of the film. I think I liked it more the first time. I found myself impatient with it on a second viewing, and while I still think there is some terrific world-building in it, I just don’t care about the story the film tells. The one thing that it most certainly did not do was make me want to see a second part of that story. None of the characters grabbed me as a viewer, and the story wasn’t left in a place that asked any questions that felt like they needed to be answered.

But this is the age of the franchise, and so any story worth telling is obviously worth telling at least twice and hopefully as a trilogy with potential ancillary spin-offs, right? Sure, the original Grimm stories were folklore collected both for their cultural and their literary value, stories with clear beginnings, middles, and conclusions, stories built largely around moral metaphors or social mores, but what really matters is sequels. It’s telling that the director this time is Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, the first film’s visual effect supervisor. This is his debut feature, and I’ll say this much for him: he certainly knows how to make a film look pretty, especially when there are visual effects involved. From scene to scene, there are some beautiful images in the fantasy world where this is set, but frustratingly, it never adds up to something that comes to life. This feels like terrific production design and costuming in search of a story worth telling.

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Exclusive images from the gorgeous behind-the-scenes look at 'Jungle Book'
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Exclusive images from the gorgeous behind-the-scenes look at 'Jungle Book'

This is one seriously pretty film, from design through finished frame

It seems like a lot of you went to see The Jungle Book this weekend. Good decision.

My kids were quite taken with it, and when they got to my house on Saturday, they found a copy of The Art Of The Jungle Book on my coffee table. Like I was at his age, Toshi is smitten with behind-the-scenes books and magazines about movies. Insight Editions is one of the companies that consistently produces beautiful, well-written books about the production process. There’s nothing like having an oversized book, allowing you to really take in a piece of production art. And with a film like this, you’re talking about page after page of lush beautiful imagery.

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Review: The Captain America trilogy comes to an amazing close with 'Civil War'
Credit: Marvel Studios
A+

Review: The Captain America trilogy comes to an amazing close with 'Civil War'

Thematically, dramatically, and visually, this is Marvel's finest hour so far

My first political memory is of Watergate. I was too young to truly understand what was happening, but I was aware that the President of the United States had done something wrong, and the country was upset because of it. That may be why I’ve grown up with a healthy sense of skepticism towards authority, particularly when it comes to the idea that authority is always right. I’ve never believed that, and that attitude has served me well.

Truth be told, I wish that was not the case. I wish I could believe that our elected officials have our best interests at heart. I wish I believed that all policemen truly wanted to serve and protect our entire population equally. I wish I believed that the banks were designed to help us all financially. I wish I believed that the system was set up to allow all of us the same chances in this world, and that hard work was always rewarded and that making the right moral choice meant good things would happen. It is a constant effort to teach my children about the world without allowing my own cynicism about things to bleed through, and if anything, they have given me some hope that things can and will be better for them. One of the reasons I am excited to share Captain America: Civil War with my own kids is because I think it fully embodies the struggle I've dealt with my whole life regarding my feelings about authority and government, and it does so in a way that challenges the viewer without offering up easy answers.

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Godzilla's looking a little gassy in the first real 'Godzilla: Resurgence' trailer
Credit: Toho Studios

Godzilla's looking a little gassy in the first real 'Godzilla: Resurgence' trailer

Toho's kicking off their own rebooted franchise, and we've got our first real look at G in action

Hello, beautiful. Haven’t I seen you stomping a city before?

Whoa. Sorry. I forgot myself there for a moment because I was so hypnotized by the sight of Toho’s new Godzilla: Resurgence. I love that Toho retained the rights to make their own Godzilla films regardless of whatever Legendary and Warner Bros. are doing in the United States. Now that there’s an official trailer for this summer’s Godzilla: Resurgence, what’s become doubly clear is that they’re going to keep making Godzilla movies their way, no matter what. Man In Suit forever, evidently.

When I attended the premiere of Godzilla Final Wars back in 2004, I was assured by all the Toho execs I met that they were sincerely ending the series with that movie, and they’ve kept true to their word ever since. This film is meant to be a rebirth for the series, a hard reboot that abandons all other continuity, with Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi co-directing the film. Hideaki, who also wrote the movie, is the co-creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion, one of the most enduring anime properties of all time, and this is a big summer movie for Japan.

It’s interesting to see that they’ve made Godzilla scary again this time. One of the reasons it’s hard to dismiss Godzilla as mere monster mayhem is because you can chart shifts in social attitudes by charting how Godzilla is portrayed at any given moment. In the original film, Godzilla was a terrifying force unleashed on Japan, a direct shadow of the bomb that had just been dropped on them by the U.S. It’s hard to watch that original film and not feel some true horror and sorrow. It’s a remarkable use of pop mainstream filmmaking as a way of dealing with a national trauma. Over time, Godzilla has also played protector, eventually standing as Earth’s safeguard against other far more malicious monsters.

There’s still no real story information here, but come on… it’s Godzilla. He’s very strange looking in this incarnation, with a sort of molten-lava appearance to his skin. When they started work on this film, Toho put together what they called the “Godzilla Conference,” a number of creatives working together to plan an overall approach to future Godzilla movies. They’ve got a plan. There are rumors that Anno might be planning to collaborate with Toho, somehow combining Evangelion with the Toho kaiju-verse, but nothing confirmed.

What that overall plan is remains a mystery so far, but it’s good to see that they’re definitely starting with Godzilla as something to fear, a terrifying monster in the tradition of the original film.

Godzilla: Resurgence opens in Japan on July 29, 2016.

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