<p>Hugh Jackman and Rila Fukushima make a fascinating team in 'The Wolverine'</p>

Hugh Jackman and Rila Fukushima make a fascinating team in 'The Wolverine'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Hugh Jackman makes a nice return to form in James Mangold's 'The Wolverine'

There seems to be plenty of gas left in the 'X-Men' franchise

From the very beginning, Fox's "X-Men" series has played fast and loose with the source material, and enjoying the films has required the viewer to set aside any preconceived notions about the characters and the world. When Bryan Singer made the first "X-Men," this current wave of superhero movies was still in early days, and it seemed like the key to making a comic book film was somehow muting the more overtly "comic-book" elements and making things "gritty" and "real." Looking back at that first film now, I'm amazed by just how much it feels like the film just barely holds together, carried along by a certain excited energy and by the charisma of the cast.

The one breakout star from that film was Hugh Jackman, who was not Fox's first choice for the role. I thought it was evident immediately that he was not the same Wolverine that I'd grown up on, but that he brought a great, no nonsense gruffness to the role that made it okay that he's about a foot and a half taller than the character. The attitude was right, and the first time his claws went "SNIKT," it felt like we had turned a corner in terms of comic-books on the big screen.

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<p>Jean Grey returns in 'The Wolverine,' and we talked to Famke Jannsen about how that's possible and how she fits into the still-expanding 'X-Men' universe</p>

Jean Grey returns in 'The Wolverine,' and we talked to Famke Jannsen about how that's possible and how she fits into the still-expanding 'X-Men' universe

Credit: HitFix

Famke Jannsen talks about playing as the conscience to Hugh Jackman as 'The Wolverine'

Plus we talk about what this means for 'The Last Stand'

I had a moment of panic as I walked into the room with Famke Jannsen on the recent press day I attended for "The Wolverine" in New York. I have spent much of the past fifteen years referring to her in print as "The Dutch Treat," and as long as I am just a faceless person on the Internet, I can enjoy a silly way of acknowledging that she has always been a strikingly lovely and intriguing performer.

But I've had several moments recently where I had a conversation with someone and realized that they've read the site and that, more specifically, they've read things I've written about them. I am always pleased to hear that and happy to then dig into the conversation afterwards, but in Jansen's case, I had a sort of mini panic attack because I have no idea what she'd think about that nickname, and since she is seven feet tall when wearing big crazy high fashion heels, as she was that day, I was pretty sure she could kick my ass easily if she didn't like the joke.

Thankfully, Jannsen seemed to in a great mood. It helps sometimes when you're the last person scheduled for an interview that day, because you walk in and they're in this sudden great mood because someone just told them this is the last one. They get that one last blast of energy, but by that point, they're sort of punchy, and that can be the perfect condition to be in for an interview. It also might help that I was a bit punchy myself because of the travel I had just done.
Whatever the case, talking to her about this particular film should be a difficult thing because I don't want to give away too much of what she does in it, but I also wanted to really discuss it as a choice. If you don't want to know how she fits into the film, bookmark this page and then come back to it once the film is out next weekend. If you aren't afraid of a tiny bit of spoiling, then you might enjoy our conversation here.

When we talked about how this builds off of the ending of "X-Men: The Last Stand," it came through clearly that she was frustrated by that film and by the way it wrapped up a storyline in which she was the focal point. We talked a bit about how this film redeems some of that one, and it felt like things wrapped up very quickly. Once the cameras were off, we talked about the film's biggest surprise, and then they told her she was done for the day. Considering the last few films in the series, it was great to talk to her about the way the series seems to be rebounding now.

See for yourself when "The Wolverine" opens everywhere July 26, 2013.

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<p>James Mangold had to get sneaky to win a major battle on his new film 'The Wolverine'</p>

James Mangold had to get sneaky to win a major battle on his new film 'The Wolverine'

Credit: HitFix

Director James Mangold talks about how he approached redeeming 'The Wolverine'

Plus find out how he snuck through all the Japanese spoken in the film

I've never met James Mangold before. I had a great couple of meetings with his producing partner Cathy Woods back around 1995 and 1996, but nothing ever came of it. Mangold at that point was still establishing his voice, and what I've enjoyed about watching his career over the years is that he's never really allowed himself to be pinned down to one thing, but he certainly doesn't seem like an anonymous studio guy, either. That's not easy to pull off.

When I sat down for our interview this past weekend, I was operating on no sleep and a weird case of jet lag, and I had just ridden in from the airport and showered quickly before we spoke. I barely knew where I was, and I thought it was very kind of Mangold to check out the way my shirt buttons were lined up and get up, walk over, and make sure I was camera-ready. He did it unconsciously, like he was setting up a shot, and it said so much about him, and especially in the way he introduced himself at the same time in a very disarming manner.

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<p>Yep. That's a snail versus a race car.</p>

Yep. That's a snail versus a race car.

Credit: Dreamworks Animation

Review: Dreamworks Animation's 'Turbo' offers up a sort of diet 'Ratatouille'

Kids should be entertained, but it covers familiar ground

It seems unfair to compare Dreamworks to Pixar or Illuminated Entertainment or Blue Sky. After all, they all produce family-oriented family entertainment, but that doesn't mean they're chasing the exact same goals… does it?

To be honest, I wish they worked harder to distinguish their product, because it can start to all blur together at times. Even when someone makes an amiable, charming little movie, when you start to see unavoidable echoes from one project to another, it's a bit of a drag. "Turbo" arrives in theaters tomorrow, and while younger viewers are going to enjoy it, most likely, it started to feel very familiar to me to a disconcerting degree.

Brad Bird's "Ratatouille" was one of those cases where Pixar reached a breaking point on a film that wasn't working, and they were willing to strip it down and start again, resulting in a film that carries a powerful emotional charge and a surprisingly smart, adult message. It was not originally Brad Bird's film, but the idea of a rat who loved to cook was enough of a hook that they felt like they had something there to build off of.

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<p>Let's see... Tom Hanks, a pretty European actress, a work of art, and a secret... yep, that's a Robert Langdon film, all right.</p>

Let's see... Tom Hanks, a pretty European actress, a work of art, and a secret... yep, that's a Robert Langdon film, all right.

Credit: Sony Pictures

Ron Howard and Tom Hanks are both back for Dan Brown's 'Inferno' for 2015

Robert Langdon has a new mystery to solve thanks to David Koepp

I am not remotely surprised that they're skipping "The Lost Symbol" completely.

Actually, maybe I am a little surprised. After all, Tom Hanks and Ron Howard both made mountains of cash for the first two Robert Langdon films, "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons," despite the fact that very few people seemed to genuinely like either of the films. Dan Brown's books are pop culture juggernauts, and that combination of talent combined with the omnipresence of the books made the movies as close to a can't miss proposition as you can get in modern Hollywood.

"The Lost Symbol," though, tarnished the brand pretty thoroughly, because it seemed to reveal the mechanical structure behind the franchise too nakedly. It is a formula book to such a deadening degree that it's almost a parody. It's so by-the-numbers, and it covers the exact same ground as the not-terribly-subtle also-ran series of "National Treasure" movies that Bruckheimer made for Disney. Those films seemed to stake a pretty firm claim on the idea of Washington D.C. as a big giant Rubik's Cube ready to be solved, and Brown's book felt thin even by his own standards.

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<p>Kristen Wiig and Darren Criss are both charming, but 'Girl Most Likely' never quite comes together</p>

Kristen Wiig and Darren Criss are both charming, but 'Girl Most Likely' never quite comes together

Credit: Lionsgate

Review: Kristen Wiig's 'Girl Most Likely' definitely doesn't connect

A scattered comedy doesn't really showcase anyone well

When I saw this film at last year's Toronto Film Festival, it was called "Imogene," which is the name of the main character in the movie, played by Kristen Wiig. At that point, the film did not have a distributor lined up, and I decided to wait to see if they were ever going to release it to theaters before writing a review. Since it will actually be seeing a limited release this Friday, I guess now it's fair game to write about it and to try to explain what a frustrating near-miss the whole thing turns out to be.

Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini have a very uneven overall filmography. I think they always seem to be totally engaged with what they're doing, sincere about it, but it doesn't always connect. I think "American Splendor" is pretty great, a lovely variation on the biopic genre, and their early documentary "The Last Days Of Chasen's" was a fairly wise look at the struggle for status in LA culture and the impermanence of Los Angeles. "The Nanny Diaries"? Not so much. Not for me. And I thought "Cinema Verite" was decent, but ultimately felt like a thin version of something much meatier. "The Extra Man" is uneven, but Paul Dano and Kevin Kline are so in tune playing off each other that it pushes it over in the end.

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<p>Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston may be smiling here, but their work in 'The Conjuring' is no laughing matter</p>

Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston may be smiling here, but their work in 'The Conjuring' is no laughing matter

Credit: HitFix

Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor discuss building a family in James Wan's 'The Conjuring'

You need actors this good to ground a movie this scary

Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor aren't really the first names that would leap to mind if you asked me to name horror stars, but that's precisely what makes them such potent casting in James Wan's terrifying "The Conjuring," which opens this Friday.

We held a special screening of the film a few weeks back, and Ron was good enough to come do the Q&A with me after the film. He's a great spokesman for the film and a really easy interview, all things considered. I think of Ron as one of those great utility actors, a guy you can plug in anywhere who will give you a grounded, honest performance. He's having a particularly great summer, though, between this and his work in Joe Swanberg's wise and well-observed "Drinking Buddies," and it's great talking to someone as they're in the middle of a completely deserved victory lap.

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<p>Spike Lee, seen here at a recent Las Vegas event, is set to make some sort of announcement next Monday via Twitter.</p>

Spike Lee, seen here at a recent Las Vegas event, is set to make some sort of announcement next Monday via Twitter.

Credit: David Becker/Invision/AP Photo

Spike Lee postpones a major announcement, but hints at a possible retirement

Let's hope we're reading the signs wrong on this one

On July 12, director Spike Lee took a little time out from whatever he's doing in Marrakech to write the following:

@SpikeLee I Want To Thank One And All For The Love And Support You Have Given Me Over The Course Of My Film Life. Monday I Will Be Making Announcement.

I am absolutely overwhelmingly pro-Spike Lee. I have been fascinated by him and by his work since "She's Gotta Have It," and one of the things that made Spike so interesting in those early days was the books he would publish for each film, very frank books about how he got the movies made that also included his screenplays. It may be hard for younger viewers to understand just how big of an impact he had on independent film. And when I say that, I don't just mean African-American indie films. I mean any indie films. Spike was just as crucial as Steven Soderbergh or Jim Jarmusch or Kevin Smith or anyone you want to point to as a symbol of the explosion that took place in the '80s. Honestly, it never occurred to me to think of Spike as a black filmmaker first because he, like many of the guys who helped blow things up at that point, was just a filmmaker with a big voice. Watching how he got his personal material made was inspirational.

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<p>Looks like Lucas Till is enlisting for 'X-Men:&nbsp;Days Of Future Past' after all</p>

Looks like Lucas Till is enlisting for 'X-Men: Days Of Future Past' after all

Credit: 20th Century Fox

On the eve of Comic-Con, a flurry of 'X-Men: Days Of Future Past' rumors arrive online

Are we excited yet?

If I were a betting man, I'd put a little money down on the possibility of 20th Century Fox featuring "Days Of Future Past" at their Comic-Con panel this weekend.

For one thing, it's the single most important franchise that the studio owns at the moment. They are determined to figure out how to keep "X-Men" movies churning out for the near future, and a big part of that game plan is getting this next movie right. Sure, they're hoping "The Wolverine" is a hit with audiences, but the one that has to work is "Days Of Future Past." After all, it's based on arguably the biggest storyline to ever be published in that series, and if they do get it right, they'll be able to cross their original trilogy with the rebooted "First Class" in a way that means it is all part of one big series.

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<p>Both of my kids thought this was MechaGodzilla at first glance. In related news, my kids are awesome.</p>

Both of my kids thought this was MechaGodzilla at first glance. In related news, my kids are awesome.

Credit: Mondo/Phantom City Creative

A striking new 'Godzilla' poster for Comic-Con raises the question of apocalypse fatigue

At what point have we had enough of the end of the world?

One of the things that filmmakers would do well to take away from this year as an important lesson is that we have reached the point of apocalyptic overload as a collective audience.

It makes sense. One of the things that special effects crews have gotten very good at is destroying cities. At this point, it's such a familiar image that it almost doesn't register in terms of how horrifying it would be if it were real. Last night, my oldest son was in my office and a preview for "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" came on before whatever movie I had put in the player. He hasn't seen the film, but he stopped to look at the trailer, and the big "money shot," if you will, is the total and immediate destruction of London. Looking at it out of context like that, as a thrown-away bit of mayhem designed to get you to buy a ticket, it struck me as really distasteful.

One of the biggest sticking points regarding "Man Of Steel" for many of you appears to be the way the chaos and destruction of the final battle with Zod escalates and the sheer scale of the destruction. As violent as that fight is, what I found upsetting in the film was the effect of the World Engine, the terraforming device that consists of two machines, one on either side of the planet. The destruction caused by that device is truly horrible to witness, and I don't think Zack Snyder downplayed that at all. You see cars and buildings and people sucked up into the gravity field and then slammed back to Earth with such brutality that you know nothing could survive it.

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